Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Moving, Moving, Moving
By Lois Winston

The movers come tomorrow. After twenty-three years of living in my current home and most of my life spent as a Jersey Girl, my husband and I are heading south. Not to Florida like so many former Jerseyites but to Tennessee.

Truthfully, I still have trouble wrapping my head around that. I never thought I’d be spending my Golden Years anywhere other than the Garden State, except maybe for Manhattan if I’d been so lucky as to win Mega Millions or Powerball. I never did. The most I’ve ever won on a lottery ticket is a measly seven bucks!

Throughout the time I lived in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t wait to get back to my home turf. But at least I was only a short car ride away. Not so from now on. We’re moving to the Nashville area because one of our sons and his family moved there two years ago. It’s not a bad drive back and forth, especially since my brother-in-law and sister-in-law live exactly halfway in-between, providing us with our very own private B&B, complete with my sister-in-law’s fabulous cooking.

However, recent events have made us realize that as we age, it’s best to have family nearby, family you can rely on in emergencies. Hence, the decision to move. It turns out we’re not alone. A lot of people are moving to the Nashville area, thanks in part because many companies are relocating there. That’s why my son and his family moved two years ago. And because so many people are looking for homes in middle Tennessee, there aren’t many available. Those that are get snapped up within hours of going on the market and well-above asking price.

Originally, we had figured we’d wait until the pandemic was behind us, but a few months ago, thanks to the real estate market, we realized we’d better not wait any longer. So, in the middle of a pandemic, we decided to move. At least we’re both vaccinated now.

The house we bought was listed on a Friday. We had an appointment to view it the next day at 2pm. By the time we arrived, the owner already had five offers. She was deciding at 3pm. And I thought real estate in the NY metro area was crazy!

I’ve been on a rollercoaster ever since, but I think we’re coasting to the end of the ride. At least I hope so! Although, we still need to redo the floors, buy a washer and dryer, a new sofa, some outdoor furniture and a grill, paint, and unpack after the movers arrive with all our stuff…

I guess we still have several more loop-de-loops on that rollercoaster before we can kick back and enjoy our new home.

Moving is one of life’s big stressors. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t always handle stress as well as I’d like, or even as well as my amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, but I keep trying. How about you?

Let’s Talk with Diane A.S Stuckart

Father Knew Best
By Diane A.S Stuckart

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day, but I won’t be visiting my dad to celebrate, considering that he has been gone for more than twenty years now. Still, I think of him often and even have a picture of him at my desk. To be totally honest, however, my siblings and I had something of a contentious relationship with him growing up; he came from an old-school way of raising offspring that included corporal punishment and not much in the way of praise. But Eugene P. Smart, a/k/a Gene was a hard-working, social, joke-telling kind of man who could fix almost anything mechanical and had a penchant for inventing. In fact, following my mother’s death I found in the family papers a draft of letter he’d written to President Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War. It included a sketch of a Leonardo da Vinci-esque armored shell designed to protect soldiers in the field from explosives. I’m not sure if that letter ever got to the President, but I suspect Dad’s invention would have worked if it had.

And, just so the Kardashians and their fellow influencers know, my dad actually invented the selfie. Yep, years ago my sister showed me a close-up photo that he’d taken of himself with his ever-present Polaroid camera sometime back in the 60s. Dad also came up with the idea of adding a level to a cordless drill to make it easier to drive a screw in straight. He tried to register his invention via a patent attorney who listened to his pitch and then inexplicably blew him off. And then, a couple of years later, Black and Decker began putting out drills with built-in levels. Coincidence? He didn’t think so.

In fact, one of Dad’s catchphrases had to do with keeping one’s eyes open for a million-dollar idea. He tried to pass on a couple of those to a younger me, but I’d not yet reached the stage in my life where I finally realized that the man was always right. And so, I declined an idea of a cookbook for men that was based on taking canned foods like Spam or baked beans and adding a couple of ingredients to them to make a meal. Of course, a year or two after I saw that exact cookbook in the local Barnes and Noble.

When he became ill in his final years, Dad suggested that I could haul in the dollars if I started a home healthcare company. Not having any training in the field, I let that one pass…and not long after all sorts of home care companies such as Visiting Angels became a booming industry.

But what I most recall about Dad was that even though he wasn’t much of a reader, he always supported me in my writing career. Once, back in my historical romance days, he came to one of my bookstore signings and bought ten books to give away to his friends. The store manager and my fellow authors at the event were more than a little impressed. I hope that if he were still with us, he’d be proud of my move into cozy mystery. Though, come to think of it, during the O.J. Simpson trial he told me I really should switch over to writing true crime if I wanted to make the big bucks! And, you know, he probably was right.

Do you have any special memories of your father or father figure growing up…or, for the dads out there, do you recall a memorable Father’s Day?

Also, while you’re here, check out our new contest for June! One winner may select one book from our vault of prizes. Print books must go to US mailing addresses. The contest runs from June 1-18. Click here to enter.

Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Forget Me Not
by Nancy J. Cohen

The forget-me-not flower has had a symbolic use throughout history. I think of it in a different manner. As I’m revising book #17 in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries, I look for repetitions so as to eliminate them. My first draft is basic storytelling. I rush through, writing the story as it comes and focusing on getting the mystery elements down. I can’t remember what dialogue I’ve written from one chapter to the next.

My next pass aims to correct any inconsistencies and repetitions along with tightening the pacing and sentence structure. It’s hardest to remember what my characters have talked about and to whom. One clue in this story is a man’s tie. How many times has my heroine mentioned it? Has she realized it’s a clue and if so, when? With whom has she discussed it? The only way for me to track this is to do a search for “tie” and find those conversations.

I expect to be forgetful in this manner when writing a novel. But I’m not happy when this mental state applies to my personal life. We all become forgetful to an extent. Where did I put my cell phone? Did I turn off the light in the kitchen? I can’t find my … You name it, we lose it.

Moving has taken a greater toll on me. Five months after our intrastate move to be near our kids, I am still missing stuff. I thought I knew what those few items were but after inventorying one of my collections, I realize I’ve misplaced much more than I’d gathered. Had I packed these things in a suitcase or in a box? Were they given to the movers or did I bring them to town beforehand? If I’d brought them, where did they go? Were the goods lost, stolen, or thrown out by mistake?

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it much harder to keep track of things these days. As we age, it’ll be us at risk for being forgotten. And so I say, forget me not. In the meantime, let’s apply these words to our worldly goods. Take photos and make lists of your valued possessions so you have documentation. Otherwise, when they’re gone, they are gone for good except in your memory.

How forgetful are you these days?

Also, while you’re here, check out our new contest for June! One winner may select one book from our vault of prizes. Print books must go to US mailing addresses. The contest runs from June 1-18. Click here to enter.

Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

Once Again
by Debra H. Goldstein

I did it again. I don’t mean being the proud mama of the fourth Sarah Blair book, Four Cuts Too Many, which Kensington released on May 25. Nope, I managed to have another kitchen disaster. Only this time, I wasn’t the only one who knew about it. It was a neighborhood affair. You see, four of my neighbors, who were either sitting on their front porches or walking their dogs by the house when they heard the blaring of our fire alarm (made louder by my flinging open the front and back doors to help the smoke escape), rushed up the walk to see if we needed help getting out safely.

Luckily, we didn’t. In fact, we didn’t need to go anywhere because the house wasn’t on fire. Turns out, letting a steak char while distracted by a phone call isn’t a good idea when the fire alarm is close to the oven and the cook forgot to turn the fan on.

Seeing everyone’s faces, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. What I did know is that the scenario with the neighbors and the screeching alarm would be perfect in a Sarah Blair book – after all she is a woman who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder.

Do you have any kitchen disaster stories to share? For a chance to win either an e- or print version of the hot off the press Four Cuts Too Many (U.S. only), leave a comment below telling me about your kitchen disaster.

Also, while you’re here, check out our new contest for June! One winner may select one book from our vault of prizes. Print books must go to US mailing addresses. The contest runs from June 1-18. Click here to enter.

Let’s Talk with Terry Ambrose

Scam tip savvy
by Terry Ambrose

The phone call. This afternoon, my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize. I almost didn’t answer, but I had sent my doctor a request for a prescription refill, so I felt compelled to take the call. Cautious, I answered.

A pleasant, male voice greeted me. “Hello, I’m calling from Member Services. Who am I speaking to?”

My first thought was that this wasn’t who I thought might be calling. But, I’d already answered and, at least in my generation, you didn’t hang up abruptly. So, I gave the caller my first name and asked who he was.

“I’m from Member Services, and I’m calling about the insurance information you requested.”

Well, rats! I had requested insurance information from an organization, so when he asked for my full name, I gave him first and last. Then he wanted to ‘verify’ my address.

The dilemma. By this time I had alarm bells going off in my head. For all I know, the call was perfectly legitimate, but I write a scam tip about this sort of thing every month. And when someone wants to ‘verify’ my information and I have no way to confirm their identity, I draw the line. I asked him to give me the address he had on file. No go. He couldn’t do that because he was calling to verify, not give out.

Sorry, Charlie, but that’s Strike 3 and you are so out. My response was terse (okay, very nasty schoolteacher-ish). I told him I wasn’t giving him anything because I couldn’t verify who he was, then hung up.

These days, we have Caller ID. It isn’t perfect and scammers can get around it, but at least it’s close. Prior to the days of Caller ID, my mother would answer the phone, listen politely to the caller, then tell them she wanted to make notes because the call was so important. She’d then put down the handset and walk away. Once she heard screeching on the line, she’d hang up the phone.

My mom was good about avoiding scams, but my dad got caught once. He received a check in the mail for a few dollars. He happily cashed the check, thinking he was getting free money. The next month, a charge hit my parent’s bank account for a service they didn’t want, but that had been disclosed in the fine check’s print.

A roll of the dice. The lesson here is that scams are everywhere. When that phone rings or a windfall, no matter how big or small, shows up in the mail, do not trust. I may have made a mistake today and missed out on some great insurance options, but I’m okay with that loss.

Let’s talk about Scam Tip Savvy. Have you ever fallen for a scam? Had a narrow escape? Or can you spot a scam from across the room?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of TREASURE MOST DEADLY, the fifth Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery. Comment by midnight Sunday, May 30, to be entered in the drawing.

Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

It’s World Bee Day
By Cheryl Hollon

In 2014, the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association proposed the idea for World Bee Day. Instantly, a resolution was proposed to the United Nations for the project. All UN countries adopted it unanimously and 115 countries signed on as co-sponsors. The day was designed “to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustained development.

I’ve recently moved to another section of downtown St. Petersburg, FL overlooking bee hives. Yes, that’s right. There’s a secluded garden plot near me that has about fifteen hives that are carefully managed by a white-suited beekeeper.

The bees have access to the flowers nearby in Mirror Lake Park.

How are the bees faring in your part of the country this spring?

If you’re looking for a Florida cozy mystery, my Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries are set along Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. Independent bookstores need your help during this challenging time. Buy Local.

Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

History, Mom, and Seafood
By Maggie Toussaint

Some days are more monumental than others. For instance, May 13 is the 133rd day of the calendar year. 232 days remain. How is that possible? This year is going by at record speed. If I blink my eyes it might suddenly be November!

Looking at history, numerous Preakness and Kentucky Derby (horse races) occurred on May 13. Baseball greats Willie Mays, Darryl Spencer, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Reggie Jackson, and more set records on this day in various years. In 1934, the great dustbowl storm sweeps across US prairies, and a major earthquake hit Greece in 1995. Leaders came and went, awards were given. In 1996 O.J. Simpson appeared on British TV discussing his not guilty verdict.

My mom with me

However, the date of May 14 has always been more auspicious in my life as that was my mom’s birthday. She never wanted a big fuss, and she loved hearing from her children on her special day. I think of her on her birthday, and other days of course. She was a Force of Nature.

Mom got things done in the community for whites and blacks alike. Once when I couldn’t get a tree trimmer’s attention, she called his mom, and he arrived in ten minutes. True story. She started an awareness campaign of a business wanting to locate a sawmill in a historically black community and helped get that stopped.

Mom loved to read

She raised us to be strong, educated, kind hearted, and aware. One of her granddaughters came fully endowed with her personality, and it’s a joy to watch her navigate life.

In essence, we are who we are, and we do what we can. None of us may end up as legends or even a notable event in history trivia. Heck, Mom would say she wasn’t a legend, though she was to us, and I suspect your mom was/is to you.

Low Country Boil

As for seafood, it has always been a part of my coastal life as a shrimper’s daughter, and now I’ve created a 3-book series featuring coastal life and recipes. The deaths are fictional, with challenging clues parsed out along the way. I love to keep readers guessing! I hope you’ll check out all 3 Seafood Caper Mysteries.

Share a kindness about your mother for a chance to win my latest book, SHRIMPLY DEAD in ebook or print. (Print book winners must have a US mailing address). The winner will be announced on May 20.

While you’re here, enter our group’s monthly giveaway which runs through May 18. The winner will be announced on May 19. CLICK HERE. 

Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Could Life Get Any Crazier?
By Lois Winston

My last Booklover’s Bench post was seven weeks ago, and right now my head is spinning over everything that has happened since I last posted. First, the good news:

My husband and I are now fully vaccinated. We’ve even ventured out to a restaurant for the first time in thirteen months and also visited with friends we haven’t seen in more than a year.

Also, those of you who read my March post will remember my ongoing refrigerator saga. After a year on order, the fridge still hasn’t arrived. We recently cancelled the order because last month we decided to sell our house and move out of state to be closer to family.

Deciding to move during a pandemic sounds crazy and is not something I would recommend. The funny thing is, though, of the seven authors on Booklover’s Bench, I’m the fourth member to pull up stakes in recent months. We had been toying with the idea for some time now. We’re getting older and no longer have a family support system nearby. But when the pandemic hit, I figured we’d hold off until life was back to normal.

The universe had other ideas. My husband recently became ill and landed in the hospital for several days. Luckily, his condition is correctable, and he’ll be fine once he has surgery in a few weeks. But this episode made it clear to us that waiting another year or two before moving was no longer an option.

Pandemic aside, much has changed in real estate since we last sold a house. For one thing, HGTV didn’t exist. Now it seems like everyone is staging, renovating, and flipping homes, and they all have their own TV shows. Joanna and Chip Gaines even have their own network! Thanks to HGTV, home buyers are brainwashed to demand Carrera marble kitchen islands the size of my bathroom and walk-in closets the size of my bedroom.

Our charming 1600 sq. ft. 1935 Craftsman bungalow is ideal for first-time buyers looking to find a reasonably priced home in a town with a great school system and an easy commute into NY. After only thirteen days on the market, a young couple fell in love with the house, despite the lack of an enormous kitchen island and walk-in closets.

However, we still have weeks of craziness ahead of us. We have to get past the surgery and recovery, as well as buying a new home, settlement, and moving. I’m looking forward to the day I can settle into my new office and return to the craziness of the murder and mayhem of my imagination. I’m only about 20,000 words away from finishing the tenth Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. I’m not happy about having to put my writing on hold, but I’m certain Anastasia is enjoying the reprieve.

So, readers and friends, please share your moving tips. I’d love to hear them!

And while you’re here, visit our contest page to enter for a chance to win a free book. The contest runs from May 1-18. Click here.

Let’s Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart

I’ll Never Leaf You!
By Diane A.S. Stuckart

Tomorrow is Arbor Day, celebrated annually on the fourth Friday of April here in the US. The holiday has its roots (pun intended!) in Nebraska, where the 19th century pioneers who first settled there lamented the territory’s lack of trees. According to the Arbor Day Foundation’s website, Nebraska newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton (later secretary of the Nebraska Territory) led the call for an official day of tree planting in what would eventually become the Cornhusker State. The result of that first holiday was almost a million trees put into the ground. Morton’s idea swiftly branched out (hee hee!), and by 1920 Arbor Day was being celebrated by more than 45 states and territories.

And, why not? What’s not to like about Arbor Day? It’s an unassuming holiday that requires no gifts, no greeting cards, no decorations. Moreover, it promotes a cause that anyone can get behind. If you choose to celebrate (and countless schools and communities do), all it takes is planting yourself a tree. Which I’ve done on more than one occasion over the years, though not necessarily on Arbor Day. (The accompanying pics are from my property…by the time this blog entry is posted all the trees should be fully leafed.) But lovely as the results are, landscaping is a lot of hard work…and even more so when you must keep up an image just as my cozy sleuth, Nina Fleet, has to do in my Georgia B&B Mystery series.

Fortunately for Nina, she has the services of the foul-mouthed gardener, Hendricks, whom she “inherited” along with the Queen Anne house which she has converted into a bed and breakfast inn. Hendricks never actually appears in any of the books—at least, not so far. But he is mentioned in each story, and his unseen presence allows me, the author, carte blanche to landscape my fictional property as elegantly as I want to without having to show my protagonist doing all the upkeep. So, what will we find in Fleet House’s gardens?

In addition to the requisite magnolia in the front yard, one outer wall of the rear detached garage is covered in climbing heritage roses. Those blowsy, fragrant blooms played a part in book 1, PEACH CLOBBERED. The property also features a fabulous Shakespeare garden…a large, circular raised bed with walking paths and a three-tiered fountain in its center. The garden itself is divided in quarters, each section devoted to plantings found in various of Shakespeare’s work. That garden was featured in book 2, PEACHY SCREAM. Of course, the peach tree in Nina’s backyard (quite possibly a holdover from a long-ago Arbor Day) gets mentioned in each story, mostly because Nina harvests its fruit to serve to her B&B guests whenever it is in season.

How do YOU celebrate Arbor Day? Do you eagerly plant trees, yourself, or would you prefer to have your own Hendricks to handle the landscaping while you kick back under the magnolia with a glass of iced tea? Anyone who comments will be entered to win a signed hardback copy of PEACHES AND SCHEMES. Comment by midnight Sunday, May 2, to be entered in the drawing. 

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

Let’s Talk with Nancy J Cohen

Box Sets
by Nancy J. Cohen

It’s exciting to try something new. I love to read series. I’ll get hooked on the characters and their world and devour the stories, like I’m doing now with Lindsay Buroker’s Star Kingdom science fiction world. When I turn the last page in this eight-book series, I’ll be sad to leave those people behind. Do you feel this way when you finish reading a series?

Now that I have sixteen books in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries, I’ve decided to bundle them together into sets of three. I’m excited to offer my series to fans in this format. New readers might be more tempted to try the stories, considering the savings involved, and then they’d have the next set shortly thereafter for binge reading.

How much work was required? Not a whole lot, except for reading other authors’ advice on the subject. I had to strip out all the front and back matter from each individual title and recreate these materials specifically for each volume in the box sets. The copyright page is where the data for the box set goes along with each title’s copyright dates and ISBNs. I’d also added a page in front with blurbs for each included book. My cover artist and formatter did the rest.

Marketing these bundles will be different. I’ll be promoting the entire series and releasing these as early as two months apart. Getting word out there will be the biggest challenge. The first set releases on May 1st but is available for pre-order now.

Do you like box sets? Have you found new authors this way? When you get hooked on a series, do you buy individual titles or look for book bundles?