Reads

January Reads

We’ve had a whole lot of weather here in Connecticut – frigid cold, snow, rain and record warmth. We’ve gone from below zero temps right up to 50 degrees that included two days of rain and fog and ice. That old saying about New England weather, “wait an hour” has never been more true.

I rarely need an excuse to curl up with a good book but I think this month I have a few good reasons. 🙂 Making time to read for pleasure has been a top priority since the new year. Looking back at December I didn’t get much reading done between finishing the second draft of Murder Wears a Little Black Dress and doing a final read of The Hidden Corpse, both had a deadline of December 31st (note for future self – don’t ever do that again) and all the Christmas stuff that needed to be done. Yeah, I think there was a little burnout by January 1st.

In hopes of not repeating last month, I’ve carved out time in the evening to read a book rather than check my iPad for Facebook and Instagram updates or see if I’ve gotten a new email. Step away from the electronic devices, Deb. So far, it’s been going well and I’m sleeping better too! Win-win, I think. Okay, so what’s on my reading list this month? I felt like more supense rather than cozy or romance. Luckily, I had a few books on my shelves that fit the bill.

 

The Woman In Cabin Ten by Ruth Ware

I haven’t read her first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, butit’s on my to-buy list. I read a sample on The Woman in Cabin Ten on my iBooks app and knew I had to buy the book and while browsing in a local bookshop there it was! The opening of the book immediately drew me in and I’m curious to see how the story unfolds as Lo Blacklock embarks on an assignment of a lifetime that turns out to be a nightmare.

Even If It Kills Her by Kate White

The Baily Weggins series is one of my favorite series and I was so excited when I learned Kate White was writing another one after writing a few stand-alone titles. I devoured the book in a matter of days and loved the twist at the end. I’ve read there’s another Bailey Weggins book is coming soon. Can’t wait!

Where All The Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

The book description sounded so interesting for this book that I just had to buy it. A mystery set in a castle in the Scottish Highlands. Done! Had to have the book and I’m so looking forward to diving into it.

There you have it, my choices for this month. What are you reading this month?

 

Life, Writing

Welcome 2018!

Happy New Year! 2018 is finally here! Can you tell I’m excited?

Too be honest, I didn’t ring in the new year instead I woke to it bright and early this morning. Considering what 2018 is bringing me, getting a good night’s sleep seemed to be the responsible and smart thing to do. It’s been a busy time here coming off of the holidays and preparing for 2018. I’ve had to take a good, hard look at my organization process I’ve been using because 2018 is going to be a year full of new demands on my time and energy. What has worked well for me in the past isn’t going to cut it this year because I’m no longer just writing.

No, it seems once you’re published writing competes with dozens of other tasks and it’s so easy to not write. While everything else that needs to be done is important, writing is the most important thing because writing is the reason why I have to do all these other things. I think the word of the year will be FOCUS.

I will be promoting the release of The Uninvited Corpse with a blog tour and some in-person events while writing the third book in the Food Blogger Mystery series. Come the middle of the year I’ll be promoting the release of Murder Wears a Little Black Dress, A Resale Boutique mystery, and writing the second book in that series. In addition to the writing and promoting for both releases this year I’ll be joining the group blog, Writers Who Kill where I’ll be writing a post a month. Early in 2017 I joined with a fabulous group of 2018 debut authors and together we work to support each other through social media. I’ve also just joined the International Thriller Writers Debut Author Program and I’m looking forward to all the program has to offer this author.

There’s a lot on my plate this years and it can feel overwhelming (I just need to remember to breathe) but the truth is I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Besides, what’s a little hyperventilation? 🙂

I’m confident (or blissfully ignorant) that I can tackle whatever 2018 throws at mebecause of my revamped organization/time-management processes. I’ve taken what has worked for me in the past and added a few new tools that I think should meet the new demands on my time. I’ll be sharing all the details on those upgrades to my organization process with you in my next post and maybe there’s something that can help you and maybe you have a tip or two you could share with me.

I hope you have a great New Year’s day!

Baking, Holidays

Mini-Eggnog Cranberry Pound Cakes

Once upon a time there was a writer who was in the midst of writing a manuscript while working a full-time job and caring for an injured dog at Christmas, and just when she didn’t think her to-do list could get any longer, it did. She had to bake for her 20-plus co-workers. She needed something quick, easy and had a high yield because she was short on time. The countdown to Christmas day had begun and she needed her own little baking miracle. Then a flash of inspiration hit and within a couple hours she was packing up the cargo space in her SUV with treats for her co-workers. What saved the day? Cranberry Eggnog Mini-Pound cakes.

That is the year I traded my made-from-scratch pound cake batter for a box mix and it was the best decision I made that holiday season. Billy has major surgery, he’d fractured his jaw and he needed care 24/7. He was droggy from the pain meds, he really couldn’t eat so I had to serve him pureed pumpkin with water (a soup only a pup could love) several times a day to keep him hydrated. And it was Christmas!

I looked through what I had on hand and that’s when the inspiration sparked and I quickly gathered all the ingredients—eggs, vanilla, eggnog, cranberries. I used the eggnog in place of the milk. Add in some chopped cranberries and a plain pound cake became festive. Bake them in pretty molds and they become giftable (is that a real word? probably not but you know what I mean).

I always have a large roll of cellophane on hand and various ribbons stashed away for any occasion. I did have a stack of cake boards that I cut into small discs for the cakes. But that was a little time-consuming so now I just wrap the cakes in the cellophane. If you’re really short on time you can bake one large cake or a couple of loaf cakes according to the directions on the box. I do love the smaller cakes though. They’re just so pretty.

These little cakes showed me that simple sometimes is the best thing we can do. We get so caught up in all the things we think need to be done for the holidays and yet these very easy treats have become one of my most requested desserts and I’m happy to whip up a batch.

Ready for the recipe? There really isn’t one. But here are the basics and don’t be afraid to experiment. I’ve made mini-petite cakes and added Bailey’s Vanilla Cinnamon to the batter.

You’ll need: 1 box of pound cake mix along with the ingredients listed on the box but you’ll replace the milk with eggnog and you’ll add 3/4 cup finely chopped cranberries to the batter along with a dash of vanilla. In addition, confectioners’ sugar to dust each cake.
Tips:
For the mini-cakes pictured above I bake them for 18-22 minutes, it all depends on your oven.
I typically get 6-9 mini-pound cakes from each box.
If you’re using mini-bundt pans be sure not to overfill each mold with batter or else you’ll never get the cake out. (Been there and it wasn’t pretty.)

Merry Baking!

 

Baking, Recipes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s finally starting to feel like autumn. There’s a cool breeze, no humidity (thank you! thank you! thank you!) and the leaves are starting to become more intense in their color. Thanks to a storm on Monday night the walkway is covered with fallen leaves so when I walk to the street, there’s the comforting sound of rustling leaves.

Awe. Fall.

I had the urge to bake the other day and I wanted to make cupcakes. But I didn’t want to make the usual. I wanted something different. When I was in the grocery store I saw boxes of Pumpkin Spice cake mix and I thought “that’s it! I’ll make Pumpkin Spice cupcakes and the perfect frosting would be cream cheese”. I bypassed the boxes of mix because I’d make my own when I got home after putting the groceries away. And I did!

Biting into these cupcakes was like taking a bite out of autumn. Everything I love about the season was packed into this tiny little package of yumminess. The spices swirled with the pumpkin and the flavor burst in my mouth as the cream cheese frosting added a creamy richness. In a nutshell, these cupcakes were sweet, simple and very seasonal.

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
These moist, simple and seasonal cupcakes are perfect for cozy days.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⅓ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temp
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Cream Cheese frosting:
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F and line 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl combine pumpkin, molasses and vanilla.
  4. In a large bowl beat sugar and butter with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and beat in eggs, one at a time. Then, alternating, add flour and pumpkin mixtures, beating until just combined.
  5. Divide batter among muffin-pan cups and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to wire rack for 5 minutes to cool, then remove cupcakes from pan to completely cool.
  6. Frost with Cream Cheese frosting.
  7. Cream Cheese frosting:
  8. Combine cream cheese and butter in bowl and beat until light and fluffy with electric mixture. Add in confectioners' sugar and vanilla, combine until light and fluffy.

 

Friday Faves, Holidays

Friday Faves – Cozy Reads Halloween Edition

Happy Friday!

Are you ready to get your spook on? Halloween is just a few weeks away and it’s the perfect time to curl up with a Halloween-themed book. Nightfall is coming earlier, it gets dark here about 7pm and that’s when I usually make a cup of tea, gather the pups on the sofa and settle in with a book. This month I’m reading spooky cozies mysteries. 🙂

Go grab a cup of your choice of hot beverage, dim the lights (but not too dim) and sink into a deliciously spooky cozy mystery.

Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber (A Cookbook Nook Mystery)

Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster…

Jenna Hart has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder.

When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead under mysterious circumstances, there’s no logical answer and plenty of blame to go around. With her aunt, Vera, unable to call on her ability to foresee the future, Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand and a few magic tricks to conjure up the truth…

Dial Meow for Murder by Bethany Blake (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery)

Even an experienced pet sitter like Daphne Templeton can be fooled by animal behavior: how can an adorably tiny fuzz ball named Tinkleston be capable of sudden flying leaps with cat claws bared? But human behavior remains even more mysterious, especially when Tinkleston’s owner is murdered on the night of a gala fundraiser for Fur-ever Friends Pet Rescue.

Accompanied by her unflappable basset hound, Socrates, Daphne plans to take charge of Tinks the Terror and leave the crime-solving to handsome detective Jonathan Black. But while luring the prickly Persian out of hiding, she uncovers clues that might take suspicion off her own mother. Maeve Templeton already has a reputation as a killer—in real estate. How far would she go to bag Sylvan Creek’s most coveted property, the Flynt Mansion?

To expose the truth, Daphne finds herself donning a deranged clown costume on an autumnal adventure that might just be crazy enough to work—if it doesn’t get her killed.

The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer by Krista Davis (A Paws & Claws Mystery)

Wagtail, Virginia, the top pet-friendly getaway in the United States, is gearing up for a howling good Halloween—until a spooky murder shakes the town to its core..

Holly Miller doesn’t believe in spirits, but the Sugar Maple Inn is filled with guests who do. The TV series in development, Apparition Apprehenders, has descended on Wagtail’s annual Halloween festivities to investigate supernatural local legends, and Holly has her hands full showing the ghost hunters a scary-fun time.

But the frights turn real when Holly’s Jack Russell, Trixie, and kitten, Twinkletoes, find a young woman drowned in the Wagtail Springs Hotel’s bathhouse—the spot of the town’s most infamous haunting. The crime scene is eerily similar to the creepy legend, convincing Holly that the death wasn’t just accidental. Now she’ll have to race to catch a flesh-and-blood killer—before someone else in town gives up the ghost…

Grave Errors by Carol Perry (A Witch City Mystery)

For residents of Salem, Massachusetts, the day after Halloween brings empty candy wrappers, sagging pumpkins, and a community-wide identity crisis. That is, until Lee Barrett’s TV production class suggests extending the spooky season with the traditional Mexican celebration Dia de Los Muertos. But when the students discover not all of Salem’s dead are resting in peace, the post-October blues don’t seem so bad after all . . .

As if a series of haunting graveyard visits isn’t disturbing enough, Lee and her policeman boyfriend connect the crime to an unsolved missing person case. Driven by a series of chilling psychic visions, Lee calls on her cleverest allies—including her shrewd cat, O’Ryan—to go underground and dig up the evidence needed to put a lid on a cold case forever . . . before the latest headstone in town has her name on it!

Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney (Dewberry Farm Mysteries)

It’s Halloween in Buttercup, Texas, and reporter-turned-farmer Lucy Resnick is up to her ears in more than goats and wayward cows. Not only has her well dried up, but it turns out the old house Lucy recently moved to the farm has a reputation for spooks… and they are disturbingly active. Then a tarot card reading at a local mead winery foretells death… only to have exotic game ranch owner Bug Wharton turn up dead. Cause of death? Murder, by a fatal dose of bee venom. When the dimwitted sheriff fingers local witch and mead winery owner Seraphine Alexandre, Lucy gets involved… and soon discovers that all kinds of things are brewing in Buttercup. And some of them are deadly.

There you have it, a few good books to take you through the month of October. When I curl up with my tea I’m now using a new mug, perfect for fall and for a mystery author.

What’s your favorite book to read this time of year? Are you currently reading a Halloween themed cozy that’s not on this list? If so, what is it?

Happy Reading!

Debra