Category Archives: Florida

On Tour Again

I am joining the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour on June 28 to promote Bamboozled, the second book in my Mah Jongg Mysteries series. The schedule follows below. My tour includes several original blog articles I’ve written, interviews, even a character interview and reviews from others. Each day, I’ll be posting the specific site(s) where I can be found that day on my Facebook page, but if you don’t receive it, feel free to return here.

Most of these appearances include a lot of information besides the featured piece, like my bio or the blurb for the book. But if, after reading that stuff, you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see a comments section. If so moved, I hope you’ll leave one, just so I know others are finding these articles and learning more about me and the book.

I’m building a reader list for my newsletter. If you haven’t already subscribed, I hope you’ll do so. Just click on https://www.subscribepage.com/BBCozies.

June 28 – Valerie’s Musings
June 28 – Babs Book Bistro
June 29 – The Power of Words
June 29 – Laura’s Interests
June 30 – A Blue Million Books
June 30 – FUONLYKNEW
June 30 – The Book Diva’s Reads
July 1 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog
July 1 – cherylbbookblog
July 1 – A Holland Reads
July 2 – Ruff Drafts
July 2 – My Reading Journeys
July 3 – Teresa Trent Author Blog
July 3 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies
July 4 – Varietats
July 5 – Mysteries with Character
July 5 – Island Confidential
July 6 – StoreyBook Reviews
July 6 – Fiction Obsession
July 6 – Christa Reads and Writes
July 7 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews
July 7 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
July 8 – Cozy Up With Kathy
July 8 – Lisa Ks Book Revie

Getting Cozy

I started reading cozy mysteries during the latter months of pregnancy with my first child. Though still working on my thesis and preparing to take my comps for a master’s degree in history, I needed something else to keep my mind active while I waited for the arrival of the little one (girl, who’s now in her mid-forties). What better exercise of the brain than an Agatha Christie mystery? Soon after, when I’d read all the Christie’s in the library, I branched out to Ellery Queen.

Several years later, when I started writing fiction, I considered writing my own cozy mystery but decided instead to focus on romance novels since there seemed to be more opportunity in that field.

Jump ahead several more years to 2012, when my first contemporary romance, The Sleepover Clause, was published. Since then, I have added ten more full-length novels and one novella to my repertoire. The last three novels have been self-published.

I’ve enjoyed writing contemporary romance, because it forced me to deal with conflict in human relationships and develop credible resolutions. But I’ve never forgotten my love for cozies. This year, I decided to try my hand at writing one. It wasn’t something that came to me overnight. I fast discovered that murdering a victim is one of the last parts of the set-up. Several other questions had to be settled first. Where is the story set? Who is the protagonist and what skills and limitations does she or he bring to the story? What is the world of the protagonist and how do they get pulled into the vortex of murder?

The heroes and heroines of my romances are typically in their early to mid-thirties. The stories have been located in central Iowa, on an island on the coast of South Carolina, or in New York City or Los Angeles. I employed my background in human resources to develop my characters’ occupations, using the catch phrase “Romance at Work.”

Now that I have retired and live the better part of the year in central Florida, I wanted my first cozy series to reflect that. So the setting became a small town not too much unlike my new home. I made my protagonist a woman  slightly younger than me (I don’t specify her exact age) and also retired. I gave her three friends who play mah jongg with her.  I liked them and their relationships so much, I decided to stray slightly outside the typical cozy model and made them all the protagonists.

As the one who tends to be the ringleader, Sydney Bonner takes the lead in the first book, Craks in a Marriage. Like many amateur sleuths in this genre, she doesn’t do so on her own initiative. She is pulled into a murder investigation by another mah jongg player who fears she’ll be arrested for her husband’s homicide if the real culprit isn’t found. Having no investigative experience, Sydney prevails upon her three friends to help her. Besides their belief in their friend’s innocence, their efforts differ in two key respects from the authorities’: their social connections in town and ability to glean information from locals without it being detected as part of the investigation.

It was a challenge developing four different characters but also great fun. None of them is based on an actual person, but each reflects bits and pieces of people I know or have known. And myself.  The real fun has been developing the world of Serendipity Springs, their fictional town. This gave me the opportunity to portray and comment on my life as a retiree.

I haven’t stopped writing romance novels; I’ve just put them on hold temporarily. I still have at least two more books in the UnderWright Productions series to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Time in Central Florida

Barb and blueberry fieldAfter hearing several friends rave about picking blueberries and sampling some of the wonderful food that resulted from their excursions, my husband and I set off to do the same. Southern Hill Farms, southwest of Orlando, Florida in Clermont has been offering customers the chance to pick their own blueberries or purchase what others have gathered for a little over four years. The first crop was planted in 2010. Eight fields offer ten different varieties. Customers set out to pick with gallon buckets provided by the Farms and a map describing the sizes and tastes of each variety. Pickers can eat as many berries as they want as they go.

blueberries

Blueberries in varying degrees of ripeness

 

The Farm also offers blueberry snacks, a gift shop (I bought a blueberry-scented candle crafted on-site), a hay rack ride, another ride called the Blueberry Express, and a small playground. Their season extends from mid-April to around Memorial Day, although not all varieties are available that long. In fall, they offer pumpkins and gourds. Around Christmas, they do an outdoor showing of “The Polar Express,” complete with hot chocolate. rocking chairsblueberry field

I ventured into the fields long enough to snap shots for this article, then retired to my own rocking chair in the open air picnic area. It was one of those glorious, sunny Florida days with low humidity and a gentle breeze. My husband picked for about forty-five minutes and returned with about three pounds of blueberries.

blueberry field 2

The rows of bushes are aligned in straight rows. Note the irrigation equipment throughout.

 

For more information about the Farms, visit SouthernHillFarms.com/blueberry-u-pick.

I have big plans for making blueberry pancakes, blueberry muffins and a blueberry pie in the days ahead. Included here is a modified recipe I received from a friend years ago for Blueberry-Grape salad. Enjoy!

Blueberry-Grape Salad

 

Use a 13x9x2” pan or dish

Dissolve 2 boxes (large) grape gelatin in 2 c. boiling water

Add: 1 large can crushed pineapple, drained, 1 can blueberry pie filling (okay, so this doesn’t quite work with fresh or frozen blueberries; if you want to be a purist, there are several recipes for blueberry pie filling online)

Let this set in refrigerator until firm.

Once set, mix together until lump-free, 1 c. sour cream, 1 large package cream cheese, ½ c. sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla. Optional: 1/8 tsp. lemon juice.

Optional: sprinkle top with finely chopped walnuts and/or shaved blueberry chips (don’t go overboard on these; the bottom layer will already be sweet.)