featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, April 24, 2015


Today Dee Ann Palmer sits down for an interview. Dee Ann writes romance in several subgenres, some with a touch of murder or suspense. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’d sold shorter pieces of fiction and non-fiction, had won awards, but I had this idea that real writers wrote books and sold them. So I began one. I had no idea what I was doing, didn’t know about genres. When an author in my critique group mentioned my “romance” novel, I was surprised.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

The first thing I wrote and mailed -- cold -- to a magazine was purchased and published. I had no idea that writers were paid for their work!

It wasn’t as easy to sell my first novel. It was rejected by 27 literary agents, but purchased by the first e-press publisher who read it.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

Hybrid. My romances have been published digitally and in print by Amber Quill Press, LLC, since 2004. I’ve recently regained rights to my male/female erotic romances, reduced the sex level to sensual, and have been indie publishing them.

Where do you write?

I work on a PC in a room where my husband is too often working on his laptop at the same time, and he interrupts me at times. Until she passed away on April 7th this year, Ella, our adored older cat, often slept on the shelf above me.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

Music’s an important part of my life, but it demands my full attention, so I usually write in silence. I did listen to Native American music while writing the final draft of Where Eagles Cry. However, turbulent Rachmaninoff and Brahms concertos set the pace when I composed some hot sex scenes for two recent erotic stories, written under a pseudonym.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

I may use snippets of experience from something in my life, such as setting this particular novel in the valley and state where I live, but my characters are usually fully fictional. My plots are born when I put my main characters together and put them in motion. I’ve tried to plot ahead, but my brain defies me in this. I can’t do it until my characters are in motion. And my characters don’t fully develop until I’m into the story.

Describe your process for naming your character?

I research popular names for the period and/or country. To assist my readers in keeping my main and secondary characters straight, I choose names that don’t sound alike, begin with different letters and have different numbers of syllables. Matching the names to the characters is important to me. A strong hero named Wilbur is not believable, but a nerd might be. Can you imagine Scarlet O’Hara with her original name of Pansy?

Real settings or fictional towns?

I use both, but if you’re using a real town you need to be sure you get it right. Saying you turned left onto Mountain avenue from Third street while traveling south will throw some people out of the story if they know you should be turning right.

Actually, a fictionalized area of the valley in which I live is the setting for Where Eagles Cry. I have a writer friend who, no matter what I say, is absolutely certain she knows exactly where it is.

“No, Pat. I’m telling you…I made it up.”

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

Probably Ivanhoe. It’s a classic, and one of the time periods I love. It’s why I wrote Christiana’s Choice. And I used that time period for a shape-shifter fantasy called How to Seduce a Knight.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

I just got to do one! After Knight Of The Captive Heart was released, I realized it had an error of history in it. I had to wait several years before getting my rights back. It’s now the indie book How to Seduce a Knight…with the error corrected. Whew.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Heroines or heroes who do something stupid.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

Fresh water, food and shelter. Dull, isn’t it? I know. But you asked.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

Working under a bully. A mean girl grown up. Fortunately, I was able to resign and get a better paying job under a much nicer supervisor. Later, I contributed to a book by a psychologist about girls who were bullies on the playground and still are. All grown up.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Can’t pick one out of the thousands of books I’ve read over my lifetime.

Ocean or mountains?

I prefer both and, luckily, we’re within an hour of each, plus the beach.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

I was raised in San Diego, went to college in San Francisco. Love big cities. Live in a medium size one now.

What’s on the horizon for you?

My WIP is extending A Night to Remember—my 2K contemporary romance included in Exquisite Quill’s 2014 A Holiday Anthology, Volume 2—to 38 or 40K. Watch for Savage Lust, the 5K Amber Allure prequel to Night Train, my vampire series.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

Right now you’ll only find historical romances on my website. I’m hurrying to post some previously released contemporaries and time travels.

Where Eagles Cry
Jilted by love in 1834, Cara, a young Bostonian woman, sails to Mejico’s rugged California to make a new life for herself. She takes a position as companion to the wife of Don Miguel Navarro, the tough and irresistible owner of a major inland rancho, and finds herself as deeply drawn to him as he is to her. Love may break her heart again for even though his wife has the mind of a child due to a mysterious fall, Cara would never be mistress to a married man.

Undercurrents she doesn’t understand swirl through the ranch. Native superstition says that when the bells ring and an eagle cries, someone will die. Several people have. Will the next death be hers?  Until ships sail again for Boston, she’s trapped between danger and an impossible love.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Romance Super Bundle III: Always & Forever, the follow-up to the USA Today Bestselling Romance SuperBundle II: Second Chances is now available for pre-order.

SKIN (book 1 of Broken but… Mending), Dale Mayer
A journey of exploration...
A journey of healing…
A journey of love…
Two people are forced by circumstances into a therapy class to help them deal with their problems. They are strangers. Forced to be partners. Naturally opposites.

EVIDENCE OF TRUST, Stacey Joy Netzel
Sparks fly when a headstrong wrangler & an alpha park ranger are thrown together while he's searching for evidence to stop a poacher killing animals in RMNP. When the monster turns his sights on Brittany, Joel discovers he'll do whatever it takes to protect her.

Living the 'no strings' attached lifestyle has always worked for Leslie until she arrives in Phoenix and meets Chris Matthews. She doesn't like bad-boys, so why can't she keep her hands off her new neighbor? Can she let him lead her places she's never been before?

Tori Henderson has never forgotten her teenage crush, Gabe. When her mother gets engaged to Gabe's father, Tori assumes Gabe will be at the wedding and hatches a plan to get him back. But Gabe also has a half-brother, Jed, with plans of his own to snag Tori himself.

James is furious when his shiftless brother sells half their horse ranch to match a bet. When a golden opportunity falls into Angela's lap, she takes it and sets out to prove she has what it takes to help James run the ranch—and ends up losing her heart to both.

Take two cats, a dog, a determined woman and her teenage sister… Add a businessman trying to do the right thing and a six-year-old girl with a damaged heart… And it's hard to tell who is rescuing who...

One night of passion turned into a crazy, unforgettable month—until Serena McGregor walked away from undercover FBI agent Nick DeMarco. Six months later, her elusive scent still haunting him, Nick risks his career to prove Serena is innocent of a million dollar theft.

A terrorist's twisted need for revenge has claimed the lives of Sarah Montgomery's entire family. One more kill will fulfill a promise made long ago. Can a woman who can't remember and a man who can't forget stop the assassin before Sarah becomes the final victim?

ALL FOR A GOOD CAUSE, Barbara Phinney
Comedy, romance and a meddling family: Former beauty queen Janet Jemseg is asked to raise money for charity and 'marry' hunky, annoying Devon Kidder? No way! But it's for a good cause.

Lady Elinor Ashworth longs for adventure, but when she runs away from her abusive aunt, she finds more than she bargained for in Stephen Chaplin, a curious barrister determined to ferret out her secrets. Cinderella meets Mr. Darcy in this sweet Regency romance.

The night Victoria Conrad runs away doesn't turn out at all like she planned. After being accosted by two ruffians, she is rescued by the horribly scarred Earl of Carlisle—only to discover she is his prisoner!

This boxed set features romances by eleven NY Times and USA Today bestselling, award-winning authors. And it’s available for only .99 cents! The set will go onside July 6th, but you can pre-order yours today from these vendors:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


courtesy of TheOriginalSoni,
based on the fixture File:NASA Earth America 2010.jpg

Happy Earth Day! Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to promote environmental awareness. 

Here are some easy things you can do to help preserve our planet:

Educate yourself and your family about the environment and why it’s important to take care of our planet.

Use as many locally grown foods as possible. 

Use eco-friendly cleaning products.

Plant trees and plants native to your area.

Encourage children to make nature crafts.

Hold a garage sale or donate household items and clothing you no longer use or need.

Walk or ride your bike instead of driving everywhere. It's not only good for reducing your carbon footprint, it's good for reducing your waistline.

Keep your neighborhood clean. Never litter, and if you see litter, pick it up and toss it into a trashcan.

Recycle everything you can. Many communities now pick up recyclables at your curb. These include newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard, metal cans, glass, and plastics. It's just as easy to put out the recycling as it is to put out the trash. Just use separate receptacles.

Use both sides of the paper. This cuts down on paper waste by fifty percent. The reverse side of mail, homework, office memos, etc. can be used for scrap paper, shopping lists, or your kids' arts & crafts projects. The Sunday comics section of the newspaper makes for fun wrapping paper.

Purchase paper towels that allow you to tear off smaller sheets. Not every spill needs a full sheet of paper towel. And use sponges instead of paper towels whenever possible.

Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth and floss.

Showers use less water than baths.

If you have in-ground sprinkles, turn them off when it's raining or if there's been rain recently.  I can't tell you how many times I see sprinklers going on a rainy day or the day after we've had storms.

Turn off lights when you leave the room, and switch out your incandescent bulbs to energy efficient ones.

Don't stand in front of the open refrigerator, contemplating the contents.

When washing your car, use a bucket instead of the hose.

Remember, only you can save the planet. Happy Earth Day! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Today I’m featuring a recipe for Rhubarb Meringue Cake from one of the authors showcased in Bake, Love, Write: 105Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing.

Barbara Phinney is a multi-published USA Today bestselling author who retired from the military to raise her two children and soon turned her creativity toward writing historical and contemporary romance under her own name and mystery and science fiction under her Georgina Lee pen name. Read more about Barbara and her books at her website. 

Rhubarb Meringue Cake

1-1/4 cups all–purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chopped rhubarb*
5 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

*Only use the fleshy red stems. Some rhubarb is sold with the leaves still on. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous.

Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, shortening, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat on low mixer speed, scraping bowl constantly, for 30 seconds. Beat again at high speed for three minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Pour batter into a 9-10” cake pan. Do not use an 8” pan as the addition of rhubarb will make it overflow. Spread the rhubarb on top of the batter. Do not mix. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean from the center. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add remaining sugar. Beat until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar and remaining vanilla extract. Beat until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue on top of cake.

Brown meringue in 400 degree F oven until peaks and edges are brown. Cool before serving. Meringue can weep after a day or two, but it still tastes good!

Hard Target
Military policewoman, Sgt. Dawna Atkinson, is trained to keep her South American embassy safe, but when a bomb is detonated out front one morning, her home unit sends her old instructor, Tay Hastings, to assist with the investigation.

Tay is the one person who can ruin all she's worked so hard for. He's also her one weakness, thanks to a night of shared indiscretion that still haunts her dreams.

Tay wants to tell her how he fought to take the blame for that night, and how she makes him feel, but circumstances prevent that. As the investigation heats up, they find that it's one thing to guard the embassy, but another, much harder thing to guard their own hearts.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Santa Fe, New Mexico
Vanessa A. Ryan is an actress, author, and artist whose paintings and sculptures are collected worldwide. At one point, she performed standup comedy, so her writing often reflects her love of humor, even for serious subjects. Learn more about Vanessa and her books at her website. 

Navajo silver and turquoise bolo
photo by Markus Barlocher 
The Art World Of Santa Fe

The Santa Fe art scene means different things to people. For some, it's all about American Indian art. Their weavings, pottery, paintings and jewelry. In August, people flock to Santa Fe for Indian Market week, an outdoor celebration displaying contemporary, traditional and antique Indian art. The city also has a similar art week for Spanish art, held in July. In addition to these two cultural events, many art galleries in the city deal exclusively in Indian or Spanish art year round.

Santa Fe is also known for contemporary art galleries that exhibit work of artists who are not working in the Native American or Spanish traditions. In the early twentieth century, many artists from other states came to New Mexico because of its scenery and simplistic way of life. They formed art colonies, which led to Santa Fe and Taos attracting tourists who wanted to buy their art. Who hasn't heard of one of the most famous of these artists, Georgia O'Keefe?

Today, the city has a contemporary art scene that rivals New York and Los Angeles.
Navajo Blankets
photo by Matthew A. Lynn
Because Santa Fe occupies a small geographic area, it's easy for people to visit a multitude of art galleries in a short amount of time. While there are shopping areas outside the downtown districts, you won't find art galleries there, since most of the tourist trade is closer to the center of town.

As you can imagine, galleries pay a premium to be in these downtown areas. Because of that, they tend to exhibit world-renown artists rather than the local artists. However, the local artists who can afford the high rents often operate galleries exclusively for their own work. But regardless of whatever art market people are interested in, it's the quaint streets and enchanting landscape of Santa Fe that attracts them.

A Palette For Murder (A Lana Davis Mystery)

Lana Davis arrives in New Mexico from Los Angeles, planning to look up a former boyfriend and take in some sightseeing. But this all-expense-paid trip is not a vacation. She's here to find Antonio Chavez, last seen in Santa Fe. He's the missing beneficiary of a large life insurance policy her company issued. The heat is on because a disgruntled heir insists he should receive the proceeds instead. However bogus his claim is, the public relations nightmare he causes for her company is real. If Lana doesn't find Antonio, her job is on the line.

Lana's search for Antonio brings her into the inner circle of a powerful art gallery in Santa Fe, owned by the daughter of a wealthy family. Although Lana's knowledge of art is limited to the one art history class she took in college, she soon discovers, when art and greed collide, the result is deadly. But her knack for finding dead bodies makes the police nervous. And finding herself a target for murder is more than she signed up for. 

Friday, April 17, 2015


Award-winning author Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock traditional mystery series. The fourth in the series, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, was released this month. Learn more about Terry and her books at her website and her two blog, Terry Shames Books and Subject to Change.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
First of all, thanks so much, Lois, not just for having me as your guest, but for all that you do for other writers. It seems like you never stop thinking of ways to celebrate authors.

Now to your thoughtful questions:

It must have been before I started college that I realized I wanted to write novels, because I remember my freshman English teacher telling me that if I wanted to write books, I should major in something other than English Literature so I could have some experiences to write about. I ended up majoring in Political Science. I can’t tell you whether he was right or wrong. All I know is I love politics and am glad I have a strong background in the American political system. I doubt it helped me with my writing, but it’s possible English lit wouldn’t have either.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It took a long time. One of my fellow writers said that the average number of books someone writes before they get published is seven. I’m not sure where that number came from, but if that’s the case, I’m the poster child for that. My first effort was a science fiction book and screenplay (imagine that!) basically for fun back in the ‘80s. I never tried to sell either one, because by the time they were written, I felt like I had learned a tremendous amount and moved on.

Then I wrote a mystery and quickly got an agent who couldn’t sell it. I kept getting very encouraging rejections—that is to say, no one said, “Please don’t ever write another book. You’re terrible at it.” But also no one gave me a contract. I repeated this process several times until the early ‘90s. Then for about 10 years I did a lot of parenting and although I kept writing, didn’t work to get published. Finally in 2005 I decided it was time to either get serious or quit. Happily, I didn’t quit and finally realized the dream.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m traditionally published by a small publisher, Seventh Street Books. I love the books they publish. I think the acquiring editor has fine taste in mysteries. I have also written a couple of books that I may end up going the indie route on. At present they are not being shopped. We’ll see.

Where do you write?
Anywhere. I’m writing this sitting in my husband’s easy chair because he’s away. I have a perfectly good office and I often write there. But honestly, I can write anywhere—in cafes, in bed, at the beach…

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I don’t really write to music, but not because I need quiet. It’s just that I never think of it. If there’s music playing, I don’t care. It doesn’t inspire me or distract me, unless it’s a song a really love and then I might stop to listen to it. I would have trouble writing to the Beethoven or Bruch violin concertos because the music is so visceral to me that I would have to stop and experience it.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Often my plots and characters begin with something or someone from real life, and it’s hard to say where the real life moment ends and the fantasy begins. I’m very lucky to have been brought up with an extended family that told stories. The only problem was I realized as I got older that some of the stories were quite suspect. Maybe that’s where I got my storytelling genes from. When I need a character, one from real life often crops up. But that doesn’t mean the character is actually that person; it just means the real person has a trait that seems to fit a character I need for the story.

However, sometimes people think they recognize a character, and that’s not who I had in mind at all. At times that can be really funny. In my first Craddock novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill, my sister gleefully said that she knew whom I had in mind for one of the characters. I had to break the news to her that I had never even considered the similarity between the two.

Describe your process for naming your character?
Names were always a problem for me with characters until I started the Samuel Craddock series. For some reason every character in the stories arrives in my head complete with a name. Even if the name is made up, it fits the character. I don’t know how this happens, but I’m very grateful for it.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Oh, fictional! I like to be able to move places around at will within a town, and move the town around a bit geographically to serve the story. But that doesn’t mean the town of Jarrett Creek isn’t grounded in reality, as are some of the places in the town. The real town that Jarrett Creek is based on, smack dab in the middle of central Texas, has a café very much like Town Café, and has a railroad track and a state highway running through town. It also has a real lake with a dam road and a Dairy Queen and a cemetery north of town. And it also has an art gallery/studio where the owners give art lessons. And it has the very football stadium described in The Last Death of Jack Harbin. But alas, the Two Dog Bar is a figment of my imagination—although I’m convinced it could show up there next time I visit.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk that Samuel likes modern art. He gained an appreciation of it from his wife Jeanne. He’s a little snobbish about art, too. He doesn’t like what he thinks of as the 3 C’s—cactus, cows and countryside. He also doesn’t like horses, although in the latest book, A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, he gains an appreciation for them.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I think I’d have to ask one of my friends that, and I’m afraid to, because I might not like the answer. One little quirk I have is that I’ll talk to anybody. I’ll strike up conversations anywhere. I don’t push it. If someone seems uninterested, I shut up fast. But I have had some amazing conversations with people standing in line or sitting by myself in a café. I basically like people—maybe that’s quirky for a writer!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Too many to count. I was talking about Cloud Atlas last night with someone. I think it’s brilliant. I would like to have written it, but that means I would have to have the kind of mind David Mitchell has. I think my head would explode, so I have to leave it to him. Thank goodness he writers books, because that means I get to read them.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I could go back and take writing more seriously early on. For some reason, I thought writing mysteries should be easy and that “good enough” should be good enough to get published. Now I know that you have to write the best book you can write—every time.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
You know that the word “pet” in that sentence is only two letters away from “petty.” I have some real doozies. I don’t even know what would be my biggest one. They are almost all language peeves, and unfortunately, I think some of them are now settled into the standard way people talk. I can’t stand it when someone starts a sentence with the word, “myself.” I think it sounds ignorant. Dates me, doesn’t it? Even worse, I can’t stand the way so many younger people have adopted the affection of ending a sentence as if it’s a question. Instead of saying, “We thought we could get there in three hours,” they say, “We thought we could get there in three hours?” As if somehow the listener is not going to grasp what is being said. It makes people sound anxious and unsure of themselves. There are others: “Besides myself” instead of “beside myself,” “often” said with the “t” sounded. “A WAYS to go instead of a way to go.” (Terry Gross does this for heaven’s sake!)

Lois, look what you started with that question. Sorry. Soapbox is put away now.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
A boat, drinking water and a rod and reel. Yeah, I know, I’m too practical. Where’s the magic in that?

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I’ve had jobs that I suppose some people would think are awful, but I’m always open to new experiences and usually find something to enjoy. I was a maid in Yellowstone Park one summer—could be a bad job, but I’ve always had a lot of energy, so it was highly entertaining. Worked as a waitress a few times to get myself through college—loved it. Worked in an office for a guy no one could stand. I laughed at him, teased him unmercifully, and he straightened right up. Maybe it’s the writer in me, always finding something interesting in the process.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Best in terms of what? Literary value? Value to my life? Value to the world? It’s impossible to pinpoint. It depends on the age I was when I read things. I’ve read One Hundred Years of Solitude four times, so it probably is right up there. But I have also read Jane Austen’s books numerous times. I don’t care how often I read Pride and Prejudice, something new and wonderful always strikes me. The above-mentioned Cloud Atlas. In terms of my craft in mystery writing, I’d have to say Judgment in Stone by Ruth Rendell made a huge impression because it taught me that rules could be broken and a book could still be great. Character was everything in that book.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. I love the mountains, and happily living in California I can have both within a very short drive.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Twenty years ago my family lived near Florence, Italy for 18 months. We lived in the country, but could easily reach the city. It was bliss. I had always had the fantasy of going back and living in the city itself. So one year we rented an apartment in the city for a few weeks and I realized that being in the country worked better for me, as long as I could visit the city as often as I liked.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on Craddock Book 5, which is due May 1. And I’m also working on a thriller. Much harder book to write because the plot is intricate. In a thriller villains are very different from the ones in traditional mysteries. In traditional mysteries they usually commit crimes because they are trapped one way or another. (Yes, I realize there are exceptions, but I think that describes many “normal” criminals). But in a thriller, a villain is larger than life. He or she is someone who has a big vision that s/he wants to achieve and will stop at nothing to get. For me that means getting to know how someone like that thinks, which is harder than just imagining someone who is desperate.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’m deeply grateful for my readers. I have been surprised and gratified by the number of people who write to me to tell me how much Samuel Craddock means to them. The fact that they have to find my email address (and in one case my actual address to write a real letter) and then compose an email and send it off blows me away. Never expected that. I feel a real sense of responsibility to readers to write a good book. I don’t want to disappoint!

A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge
In the course of their developing friendship, Samuel Craddock has learned to accept that his neighbor Jenny Sandstone’s personal life is strictly secret. But when her dying mother tells Craddock that Jenny is in danger, he is confronted with a dilemma. He wants to respect Jenny's privacy, but he is haunted by the urgency in the dying woman's voice.

When Jenny is the victim of a suspicious car accident, Craddock has no choice but to get involved. He demands that she tell him what he needs to know to protect her and to solve the mysteries surrounding the strange events that began taking place as soon as Jenny’s mother passed away.

Forced to confront the past, Jenny plunges into a downward spiral of rage and despair. She is drinking heavily and seems bent on self-destruction. Craddock must tread lightly as he tries to find out who is behind the threats to her. But only by getting to the bottom of the secrets buried in Jenny’s past can he hope to save her both from herself and from whoever is out to harm her. 

Buy Links

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme, CT
Ann Blair Kloman is the author of three mysteries and is currently at work on her fourth book. Learn more about Ann and her books at her website

The Mystery of Old Lyme, Connecticut

I’ve been reading murder mysteries since my teens, planning on writing my own novels. But, raising four rambunctious children and welcoming ten equally wild grandchildren seemed to force continuing postponements, until my husband and I retired in 1994, moving east to Lyme, Connecticut.

I volunteered at our local art establishment, the Lyme Art Association, located in Old Lyme, just a few miles south of our new home, and became fascinated with the artists and their techniques. There are an amazing number of artists of all genres living in the area, some poor and others definitely nowhere close to starving, And I finally had time to construct my first mystery, located in the fictional town of Elmore Harbor, Maine, clearly modeled after the town where we spent some of every summer, Tenants Harbor. It was published in 2005.

My second featured a series character from the first who traveled from Maine to Wyoming, Stockholm, and Bermuda, places I had visited and enjoyed. When I started my third book, I naturally considered Old Lyme as a possible murder scene. So not set one in the Lyme Art Association?

Old Lyme is a relatively tiny village, of some 7,600 residents, enlarged each summer by vacationers. Created in 1665 when its settlers split off from Saybrook, across the Connecticut River, it features shorelines along that river and Long Island Sound and many examples of fine architecture. Its flourishing art colony includes not only the Art Association, but also the adjacent Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts (now apart of the University of New Haven.) The towns of Old Lyme and Lyme (five miles up the river) are also known as the place Lyme disease was first detected in 1975.

Here I arranged for a local artist to be nastily stabbed in the eye with a paintbrush and had my protagonist just miss her own demise at an old house above the Sound where I spent many mornings with a writing group.

Many moldering old mansions cling to the shore of Long Island Sound . The one where I set a murder is also reputedly haunted. It is a huge shingled warren of rooms full of Dickensian atmosphere, and home to an eclectic jumble of valuable antiques.  A circular dumbwaiter rises from the old basement kitchen to the second level pantry off the dining room. The house is structurally bizarre but solid. It survived the Hurricane of Thirty-Eight, and, despite heavy damage from other storms along the northeastern coast, still reigns intact on a hill above the shore. One’s first sight on arriving, after winding up the long drive, is eerie. The shingles have darkened with age and there’s a conical eighteen thousand gallon water tank rising over one corner of the roof like a giant witch’s hat.

And it was in that water tank where I tried to dispatch my heroine!

A Diamond to Die For
Do painters often resort to murder?

This question is posed in A Diamond to Die For, Ann Blair A woman, a hand, a diamond? Mystery! At least for Isobel Van Dursan, the peripatetic "hit-woman" who continuously finds herself embroiled in murders, by both her own hand and others. A diamond ring is the focus of this new novel which carries the reader from Newport, RI, to Bainbridge Island, WA, and Old Lyme, CT, before returning to Isobel’s home base of Elmore Harbor, Maine.
Buy Links