Monday, April 3, 2017

You CAN Judge a Wine by its Label

A perfect pairing!
     My dear friend and fellow writer, GinaWarren Buzby, served a bottle of tasty 19 Crimes 2015 Red Wine when I visited her home a few weeks back. The label spoke to me (as labels often do), and somehow that just seemed such an appropriate blog topic for a mystery writer who loves all things vino!  So here goes…
     As readers, we read everything we can get our hands on.  That means at breakfast we peruse the back of the box of cereal. (That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to look up pyridoxine hydrochloride. It sounds positively toxic!) So it seems to follow that when we sit with a bottle of wine in front of us, we read that label, too.  This is on the back of the 19 Crimes wine:
     “NINETEEN CRIMES turned criminals into colonists.  Upon conviction, British rogues, guilty of at least one of the 19 crimes, were sentenced to live in Australia, rather than death.  This punishment by ‘transportation’ began in 1788, and many of the lawless died at sea.  For the rough-hewn prisoners who made it to shore, a new world awaited.”
     That got me to thinking (as wine often does), what were the 19 crimes?     I expected a list of serious crimes, such as murder or rape, but those were handled in Britain and punishable by death. Add “impersonating an Egyptian” to that list, too.
     So what 19 types of crimes were punishable by “transportation”?

Monday, March 27, 2017


     Way back when I was a young girl, my parent’s would park us in front of the TV on Saturday morning and toss us a box of Cap’n Crunch or Fruit Loops cereal (both great for leaving a “trail of crumbs” a lá Hansel and Gretel.)  Mom and Dad would then slink off to the kitchen where they could enjoy a morning of peace and quite with their coffee and paper.  I know your first thought is quite possibly, “Why didn’t anyone call Child Protective Services?” But let me explain that 1) the cereal was fortified with 14 vitamins and minerals (I think) and 2) there were some teaching moments on Saturday Morning TV back in the day.  Like Aesop’s Fables.  I can almost hear the music now as a cartoon fairy flies onto the screen and opens a voluminous book of Fables, and I would watch with rapt attention as I learned my moral lesson.  You might remember the classics such as “The Tortoise and the Hare” or “The Ant and the Grasshopper” or “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or “The Fox and the Grapes” (from whence we get the phrase “Sour Grapes.)  Classics, all. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Beach Season is Right Around the Corner: Time to Get (Your Novel) In Shape

As I learn more about the craft of writing, I'm happy to share with anyone willing to listen.  I've given a few workshops, and written a slew of articles, and often talked the ear of anyone who asks a simple question about the writing life.  The things I've formalized are sitting in a bin under my desk, where it is dark and they are not seen by anyone.  The purpose of writing is, of course, to share with the world.  After much thought I decided I'm going to start sharing these musings more freely, hence the new "Writer-ly Advice" tab on this blog.  My first post is up.  You can read it by clicking here
     Write on, my friends! 

Friday, March 17, 2017


Despite the unseasonably frigid temperatures this St. Paddy's Day, we're back at the beach, this time talking to mystery writer Teresa Inge. You've met her before, as she and I have been in the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies together.  But today, in conjunction with our new 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology, we're talking about wine as well as the beach.

Q. What kind of stories do you write?
A. Short stories with a strong female protagonist who always owns a small business. This way, she can move around to solve the crime and not be straddled to a desk job. My recent story “Love the Wine You’re With,” Jules Riley owns an event planning business and is always on the go.

Q. What is your writing routine?
A. Since I work full time and have a family, I write during lunch, evenings, and weekends.

Friday, March 10, 2017

JUST BEACH-Y an Interview with Douglas Lutz

It’s Friday, so you know what’s coming...another soft-hitting interview with a 50 Shades of Cabernet contributing author.  Douglas Lutz’s story, “Wyld Women and Wine” is set on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  So if you are looking for a virtual vacation, I suggest you read this one first. BTW, have I mentioned the book releases on March 20, 2017?  Pre-orders can be placed now to ensure you get your copy hot off the press.  But until that arrives, let’s get to know Douglas a bit better.

Q.  What kind of stories do you write?
A.  I write culinary mysteries and thrillers of all flavors.

Q.  What is your writing routine?
A.  With a full time job, a wife who is on call 24-7 with her job, and two dogs and two cats, I can only write one hour a day. This usually begins at 5:30 AM and is inevitably at a Starbucks.

Q.  Do you use real or fictional settings in your stories?
A.  Yes. My short story “Wyld Women and Wine” is set in the real-life Cape Charles, Virginia. For my Winnie Kepler Culinary Detective Series, I use Seaview, Virginia. This is an unincorporated area on the Eastern Shore, yet the scenes will be strangely reminiscent of Cape Charles.

Monday, March 6, 2017


It is possible that you have been hiding under a rock.  That is the ONLY excuse for not knowing that 50 Shades of Cabernet is being released on March 20, 2017.  This new anthology combines my two favorite things, mystery and wine! It's a collection of 17 stories, some by award winning authors.  I'm honored to be in their company with my short mystery titled "Life is a Cabernet." It's set at a Mahjongg convention, so this story combines THREE of my favorite things!   Here is an excerpt:

“Okay gals.  Time to wash the tiles,” Daisy called out in a singsong voice. She was our instructor for this afternoon’s Novice Mahjongg class, part of the first annual Mahjongg Maniacs Convention held in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Daisy was a character if I ever saw one, with a mop of unruly blond hair (I wish my own could be one tenth so voluminous!) and dressed from head to toe in mahjongg couture. From earrings to bracelets to Keds painted with Chinese characters, her passion for the game was obvious.  But what really cracked me up was her T-shirt, which read, If you think sex is better than mahjongg, you’re playing it wrong.
“Wash ’em good now,” she sang.
By “wash the tiles” she didn’t mean take them to the sink and give them a good Ivory-soap scrub.  Washing the tiles in mahjongg lingo means to turn them face down and scramble them around on the table. It’s the equivalent of shuffling a deck of cards. And so far, that’s the only part of the game I understood.
“Because of the sound the tiles make when hitting each other,” our instructor said, “some groups call it ‘Chirping the birds.’”
The tiles resembled thick dominos, and when knocked together sounded more like a click than a chirp to me, but I am no expert on bird sounds.
My best friend Charlie leaned towards me. “Having fun yet, Randa?

Friday, March 3, 2017

JUST BEACH-Y An Interview with Ken Wingate

We're back with another 50 Shades of Cabernet author today, Ken Wingate, as he shares a little about his writing life and his beach life.  His story in the anthology is "Friday's Jewelry". Have I mentioned that the release date is March 20, 2017?  Be sure and mark your calendars.  But until then, let's get to know a little more about Ken.  

Q. What kind of stories do you write?
A.  Life Non-Fiction, Mystery Fiction, and Action/Thriller Fiction

Q.  What is your writing routine?
A.  My first draft is always totally completed in my head. I have to know the story from start to finish in my head. It has to amuse and entertain me in thought before I sit down and draw up my first typed draft. I will then type my first draft and from there refine it.

Q.  Do you use real or fictional settings in your stories?
A.  I primarily use real settings, but on a couple of occasions, I have used fictional.

Monday, February 27, 2017

COMING SOON: 50 Shades of Cabernet

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes a writer's heart flutter more than the announcement of the release of a new book! So you can imagine how I feel when i share the news of my participation in anthology which combines two of my favorite things: mystery and wine!  50 Shades of Cabernet is scheduled to release on March 20, 2017, in hardcover, trade paperback and electronic versions. Here is a little bit about our book:

APPELLATION—What it’s all about
In vino mysterium is the theme for this collection of short stories, each blending a baffling mystery and a glass (or more) of cabernet. When eighteen mystery writers combine their talents, the result is the perfect “flight” of stories that range from the light-bodied puzzles to sparkling cozy mysteries to darker, heavier tales of deceit and murder. While cabernet is the featured wine, this anthology will appeal to connoisseurs of all varietals—in both wine preference and mystery style.   

VARIETAL COMPOSITION—List of stories and authors  
“Whose Wine is it Anyway” by Barb Goffman ö “Love the Wine You’re With” by Teresa Inge ö “Wine and Prejudice” by Kristin Kisska ö “Life is a Cabernet” by Jayne Ormerod ö “Name Your Poison” by Maria Hudgins ö “A Little Thunder in Smithfield” by Lyn Brittan ö “Wyld Women & Wine” by Douglas Lutz ö “World’s Greatest” by Alan Orloff ö “Par for the Course” by Heather Weidner ö “Waiting On Wine” by Debbiann Holmes ö “Midnight in the Church of the Holy Grape” by Betsy Ashton ö “And Wine to Make Glad the Heart” by James M. Jackson & Tina Whittle ö “Wine, Women, and Wrong” by Maggie King ö “Blown Away” by Nancy Naigle ö “Home Tour Havoc” by Rosemary Shomaker ö “Cobblestones and Cabernet” by Jenny Sparks ö “Friday’s Jewelry” by Ken Wingate

Friday, February 24, 2017

JUST BEACH-Y, An interview with mystery writer Heather Weidner

Today we begin our quest to learn a little more about the writing habits and favorite beach things of authors contributing to the soon-to-be-released 50 Shades of Cabernet  anthology, featuring a mystery, and a glass (or more) of wine. Today’s guest is Heather Weidner, whom I met via our Virginia is for Mysteries, volumes I and II association.  Her entry into the 50 Shades anthology is “Par for the Course.”  

Q. What kind of stories do you write?
A. I write mysteries with humorous elements.

Q.  What is your writing routine?
A.  I’m a binge writer. I work full-time, so I write early in the morning, on my lunch break, and evenings and weekends. I try to write something every day, but I’m not always successful.

Q.  Do you use real or fictional settings in your stories?
A.  All of my settings to date are real places. I usually write what I know. I’ve lived in Virginia all my life. I love that the beach, mountains, and metropolitan cities are all within driving distance. Though my stories are set in real places, if something gruesome happens, I always make sure that it’s a fictional place.

Monday, February 20, 2017


In my interview last Friday, one of the questions was, "Suggest a snack that pairs well with your latest release."  This is a no-brainer for any of you who know me, or have read any of my Blonds at the Beach Mysteries (The Blond Leading the Blond; Blond Faith). My go-to snack (for both me and my characters) is Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies!  Any flavor!

A few months back when I needed to develop a promo item that tied in with my books, I came up with a rack card that had a recipe for Cannoli Dip on the front (best served with Milano Cookies as dippeers), and a complete list of titles on the back, and a small pack of cookies stapled to it.  I prepared 400 of them. Presentation was key.  How's this for a WOW! factor?

Friday, February 17, 2017

JUST BEACH-Y, an Interview with cozy mystery author Jayne Ormerod

We’ve got a new author interview format, one that asks an author about the writing process, and some insights into a few of their favorite beach-y things. I volunteered to “test the waters”, so to speak, so here’s a little bit more about me.

Q.  What kind of stories do you write?
A. Most of my stories fall on the cozy end of the mystery spectrum, but I do branch out sometimes into women's fiction.

Q.  What is your writing routine?
A.  Stare at the white screen on the computer until my eyes bleed? 
There are days when writing comes easy, and then days when there’s just nothing, so I play Solitaire.