Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 5 Places to Visit in a Cozy Town with Edith Maxwell

I’m Cameron Flaherty, a gawky former software developer missing the social-skills gene. About a year ago I lost my job in what the company called a reduction in force. My Great-Aunt Marie passed away a few years ago and Great-Uncle Albert had to have his foot amputated last summer. He called one day and offered me Attic Hill Farm in Westbury, Massachusetts. It's a little town nestled in the northeastern corner of the state. Formally rural, it now also houses a number of higher-income families whose wage earners travel an hour south to Boston's financial district every day. But the character of the farming village hasn't changed much. I grew up spending summers with Albert and Marie. I love the antique farmhouse and the fertile land. My Norwegian Forest cat, Preston, and I settled in on the farm last fall.

My farm in the early summer looks something like this one, with the woods behind it and the greenhouse that lets me extend the growing season. Too bad the greenhouse was also the site of the murder in A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die.

When I need to pick up a few groceries along with some local gossip, I head down to the Food Mart. One of my farm subscribers, Stuart Wilson, works at the butcher counter. One day he was waving that bloody knife around a little too close to my face and I got the heck out of there.

Mill Pond is a lovely non-motorized body of water in town. I go there to walk and clear my head, and to cross-country ski in the winter. After I'd had a walk that turned into kind of a date, I was surprised to hear my Ellie, my fourteen-year-old Girl Scout volunteer say that she and her friend, Vince, had also had walking dates there. Who knew?

Westbury borders the wide Merrimac River, which joins the Atlantic Ocean one town further east in Newburyport. That's where tall, hunky chef Jake Ericsson has his restaurant, The Market. After he arranged to buy produce from my farm, a romance started up between the us. But that guy has a temper issue, I can tell you.

St. John's Hall, while attached to the Episcopalian church in town, is also open for public functions. The Westbury Locavore Club, most of whose members are my faithful customers, held a Local Foods festival there one evening. My volunteer Lucinda DaSilva started acting very strangely during the contra dance that followed. And then she disappeared.

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The first book in my Local Foods Mystery series, A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die, features organic farmer Cam Flaherty, a colorful Locavore Club, and locally sourced murder (Kensington Publishing, 2013). 

My first completed murder mystery, Speaking of Murder, features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau, murder on campus, and small-town Massachusetts. It was first runner up in the Linda Howard Award for Excellence contest, and is published under the pen name Tace Baker (Barking Rain Press, 2012). 

My short stories have appeared in Fish Nets (Wildside Press, 2013) Thin Ice and Riptide  (Level Best Books, 2010 and 2004), Burning Bridges, the Larcom Review, and the North Shore Weekly, with one forthcoming in Stone Cold (Leve Best Books). I am active in MWA and SINC Guppies,and am on the board of SINC New England.

I have two grown sons and live in an antique house north of Boston with my beau and our three cats. For my day job I write software documentation. Look for me as Edith M. Maxwell on Facebook and @edithmaxwell on Twitter. I blog weekly at www.edithmaxwell.com. Tace Baker can be found at www.tacebaker.com, @tacebaker, and www.facebook.com/TaceBaker

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Top 5 Places to Visit in a Cozy Town with Stephen Kaminski

Top 5 Places to Visit in Hollydale by Lynne Lassard-Brown from the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective Mystery Series by Stephen Kaminski

When my son Damon moved back to the States two years ago, I was thrilled that he decided to settle near me in Hollydale. Since relocating here with my second husband—rest his soul—I’ve just adored this charming little community. I used to use the word “quiet” to describe Hollydale, but I won’t do that again—not since the recent spate of murders. Thankfully, Damon’s been on hand to help tidy those up. Without further ado, here are my five favorite places in Hollydale.

The Cookery. It’s a gem of a cooking school in the heart of Hollydale. Fresh dough, apple-rhubarb pie, lamb cassoulet—the smells coming from The Cookery are to die for. The owner—Rebecca Leeds—is such a pretty and vibrant young thing. I wish that Damon would fall for her. Instead, he’s cast Rebecca in the role of his best friend as he wastes his time pining over Bethany Krims, the local weather girl.

Overheard in The Cookery. Rebecca: “I was going to buy a book on phobias … but I was afraid it wouldn’t help me.”

The Hollydale Branch Library. Damon volunteers at the library in town and it’s the coziest of cozy places. There’s nothing more comforting after a long day than snuggling up on a sofa surrounded by cluttered bookshelves in the company of fellow bibliophiles. The county tried to close down this branch a few years back, but the good people of Hollydale refused to let that happen.

Overheard at the Hollydale Branch Library. Damon, as he pours me dregs of coffee from behind the librarian’s desk: “Sorry the coffee looks like mud … it was ground just a minute ago.”

Cynthia’s Salon. Cynthia’s is Grand Central for the ladies in Hollydale. You can’t do a thing in town without the gossip mill at the salon churning. Cynthia Trumbell—Damon’s second-in-command in the Hollydale citizens association—owns the place but Mrs. Chenworth is the resident Grande Dame.

Overheard at Cynthia’s. Not much—my ears are still protesting after listening to Mrs. Chenworth prattle on incessantly.

The Fish Barrel. A local bar and grill with an open architecture and tables made from a charming variety of finished knotty woods. The walls are decked with a mix of antique farming equipment and photos of Hollydale from the 1930s. It’s neither pretentious nor tacky—a great place for dinner with friends.

Overheard in the Fish Barrel. Mrs Chenworth (who brought a dessert to her own surprise party): “Apple pie and meatloaf are my two best dishes.” Me (looking down at her flaky, lopsided pie crust): “Which is this?”

The front porch of Damon’s duplex. My son shares a duplex in town with David Einstaff. David’s going through some hard times these days, including a recent divorce and bouts of depression. He drinks on the porch almost every night (and sometimes during the day, too). So why is it one of my favorite places? Because it’s where I see my son’s compassion shine—Damon has been helping David by spending hours talking with him and replacing his whiskey tumblers with mugs of coffee and fruit smoothies.

Overheard on Damon’s front porch. Mostly conversation trying to lift David’s spirits. But a while back, Damon did see someone poking around on the porch with a pen-sized flashlight in the wee hours of the night.

Synopsis of the latest book in the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective Series: Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk (published by Cozy Cat Press):
Jeremiah Milk lived a life filled with emotional extremes. Amniotic band syndrome—a congenital condition—left his fingers and toes malformed. Ridiculed as a child, he became an adolescent hermit. As an adult, Jeremiah’s wounds healed when he landed a position as a park ranger and married a woman who loved him despite his physical appearance. But fate ripped his life to shreds when his wife and infant son died on the same night in separate calamities. Shortly thereafter, the tides turned once more as an act of Jeremiah’s ostensible benevolence translates into a financial boon. The book on Jeremiah’s life closes without mercy when he’s found murdered at Tripping Falls State Park.

Damon Lassard—Hollydale’s loveable civic leader, amateur sleuth, and Jeremiah’s neighbor—springs into action. He’s obstructed by a prickly lieutenant, but wriggles information unknown to the police from a colorful bevy of suspects. Aided by his best friend Rebecca and his reluctant ally Detective Gerry Sloman, Damon engineers a deep dive into Jeremiah’s past to solve the crime. Along the way, Damon strengthens his relationship with the breathtaking Bethany Krims, cracks a local horticultural mystery, and tries in vain to tame his wickedly sarcastic mother.

Stephen Kaminski’s first book in the Damon Lassard series (It Takes Two to Strangle) won the 2012 Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

For more information, please visit: www.DamonLassard.com
Amazon | Goodreads

Cozy Mystery Giveaway

Hi cozy readers, it's Saturday and that is a perfect day for a fabulous cozy mystery giveaway. Today I'm giving two readers a choice of two 2013 releases:

The aptly named Crystal Haven is the destination for tourists seeking psychics, séances, and the promise of contacting the spirit world. In this small western Michigan town, everyone knows the Fortune family. Rose is gifted with tarot card readings. Her sister, Vi, is a self-proclaimed pet psychic. And Rose’s daughter Clyde is…

A cop. A cop on leave from Ann Arbor, more specifically, who’s come home to kooky Crystal Haven to reevaluate her life. Mom and Aunt Vi can’t wait for Clyde to finally embrace her own psychic gifts and join the family business. Clyde would prefer the low-stress lifestyle of a dog walker and the low-key company of her nephew, Seth.

But when a local psychic is killed, leaving behind a traumatized Shih Tzu, it seems to be in the cards for Clyde to get involved. With her old flame Mac leading the investigation, that may prove awkward. Whether she uses her skills as a cop or her long-denied psychic abilities, it’s up to Clyde to divine a killer’s identity before someone else suffers more misfortune. [summary from Amazon]

A retired schoolteacher—and yes, daughter of an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan—Daisy Buchanan has finally found her calling in the quaint village of Millbury, Pennsylvania. While her husband endlessly renovates their old house, Daisy happily presides over Sometimes a Great Notion, a quirky shop that sells sewing bits and bobs, antiques, and jewelry. 

Daisy has her eye on an antique dollhouse and a classic Singer Featherweight at the local auction—until her friend and mentor, auctioneer Angus Backstead, is led away in handcuffs. It appears he bashed in the head of a drinking buddy who stole a set of fancy fountain pens. Daisy’s sure the sprightly old-timer couldn’t have done it. But if Daisy can’t stitch together the bidder truth—and soon—Angus will be going once, going twice… gone forever.[via Amazon]

To enter: 
1. Two winners will win one copy of Pall in the Family or Going Through the Notions. 
 2. Leave a comment below to enter. Please make sure you include email/social media contact details and your book choice. 
3. Giveaway closes on Wednesday October 9, 2013 at midnight. The winners will be contacted via email. 
4. Giveaway is open US/Canada only.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top 5 Places to Visit in a Cozy Town with Juliet Blackwell

Top 5 Places to visit in Haight-Ashbury

When you’re a witch not totally “out” to the world, a good place to hide is the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. And while there, you might as well own a vintage clothing store…especially if you’re the kind of witch who picks up on vibrations from textiles. Let’s visit the neighborhood where Lily Ivory passes her days, with Oscar, her miniature Vietnamese potbellied pig, by her side:

1. Aunt Cora’s Closet—this is about the best vintage clothing store out there, and that’s saying a lot for the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, where there are quite a few. Stop by Aunt Cora’s Closet and say hi to Oscar, Bronwyn and Maya. You just might find the perfect vintage outfit, or get Bronwyn to mix you a custom tea blend, or ask Lily for a bit of a love spell…
2. Wax Museum – The San Francisco Wax Museum is actually closing, and I feel responsible! Seriously, I made something happen there at the end of Tarnished and Torn, and I’m afraid I might have had something to do with its demise. But it’s still worth going by and taking a look – located in San Francisco’s tourist mecca of Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s sandwiched between Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and one of a thousand shops selling Alcatraz souvenirs. Buy some crab and sourdough, check out the sea lions, visit the arcade at the Mechanical Museum. Even though it’s a tourist trap, I have a long and abiding fondness for Fisherman’s Wharf.
3. Taco Truck -- Lily is often stopping for tacos in the Mission or at a Taco Truck – and if you try one, you’ll see why. These are served the real Mexican way: two or three tiny fresh corn tortillas laid together and loaded with grilled meats, veggies, etc. Lily doesn’t eat pork now that she has a pig as a pal, but the chicken and veggies are amazing. The taco truck that sits outside the Best Buy on Harrison is delicious—but there are lots of favorites. Just ask the locals, they’ll know.
4. Coffee to the People – this is a real name! I couldn’t make this stuff up. Coffee to the People is a Haight Ashbury institution, and harkens back to the Haight Ashbury’s famous Summer of Love in 1967. The coffee’s wonderful, the patrons are…interesting, and the art is wild. It has to be seen to be believed.
5. Booksmith – what could be better than an independent bookseller? How about an independent bookseller that carries a great collection of books, has a friendly and intelligent staff, and stays open late? The Booksmith on Haight is a real bookstore, and it’s a great one!

Author’s note: All these places, with the exception of Aunt Cora’s Closet, really exist! San Francisco’s such a fun place to base a book…it’s easier to use the existing wonderful locales, rather than making them all up. I might, however, use artistic license from time to time…

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Visit Juliet Blackwell at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter. Her latest Witchcraft Mystery is Tarnished and Torn and is in stores now.


All reviews are copyrighted by Tina Diamond and Marlene Patterson. Tina Diamond's reviews also appear at Amazon.com and Goodreads.com.

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