Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why A Cozy Mystery Author’s Giving Away A FREE Writers’ Police Academy Registration

By Linda Lovely

I’m celebrating the June 5 release of PICKED OFF, the 2nd humorous Brie Hooker Mystery, with a drawing for a FREE Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) registration. You can enter the drawing anytime before noon June 9. Rafflecopter will randomly draw the winner. Here's the link.

So why this giveaway?  I dedicated PICKED OFF to my Writers’ Police Academy “family.” Since I started attending the annual WPA six years ago, each mystery/thriller I’ve written includes insights, inspiration and information gleaned at the Academy. Though PICKED OFF is a cozy mystery, it’s no exception. The WPA inspired its exciting drone chase and other scenes. (Want to read it? Here are e-book pre-order links. 

This August will be my sixth WPA—five as volunteer staff. The WPA is a fabulous resource for anyone who writes or reads mysteries, thrillers or suspense. It’s the WPA’s 10th anniversary and Lee Lofland has pulled out all the stops to make it the best ever. 

As usual, it will be held at a real, internationally-accredited police academy. Instructors are the same folks who train law enforcement and EMS pros. WPA attendees can choose from dozens of courses and High-Intensity Training (HIT) hands-on training options that offer insight into the emotions law enforcement professionals experience in stressful encounters. Emotions you can share on the page to make your characters more real.


For example, in Shoot-Don’t-Shoot scenarios, I had to make split-second decisions on whether I should fire my gun, knowing my action or inaction could cost lives. On a mock SWAT raid to clear a building, my adrenaline pumped knowing an armed suspect could lurk behind any corner.

I’ve asked questions of a former Secret Service agent, an undercover cop, a psychologist who’s interviewed some of the scariest serial killers ever caught, plus experts in bioterrorism, gang violence, constitutional law…and the list goes on. To see the full WPA schedule for 2018, click on this link

The 2018 WPA will be held in Green Bay, Wisconsin, from August 9-12. My FREE registration prize does not include hotel or travel and must be a NEW registration.

(This blog first appeared as a guest post on Lee Lofland's blog)


Friday, March 16, 2018

Babies & Books!

By Linda Lovely

My kind of baby shower! Kay Barrett's invitation suggested that attendees who wanted to bring gifts opt for children’s books. No worries about colors or sizes.

But I had one teeny problem with the invitation. It invited us to bring one of our favorite children’s books. Uh oh. Despite the fact that I have no recollection of it, I’m willing to bet Mom read to me. It troubles me sometimes that I have very few memories before about age eight. They say folks afflicted with dementia often can’t remember anything in the present but have great recall of childhood events. If I fall victim to Alzheimer’s, will my mind be totally blank?

When I confessed my lack of early memories to one person, she looked at me with pity.
“You must have had a traumatic childhood,” she said. “You’ve repressed those horrible memories.” Wrong. I’m convinced the opposite is true. My childhood was extremely pleasant and therefore somewhat boring.

Now from we’ll say age eight on, I do have memories. One of them being the bedtime stories Great Aunt Kate told us when Mom was out for the evening and it was her job to tuck my sister and me in. A former English teacher, Aunt Kate decided her memorization of Shakespeare shouldn’t be wasted. So she often recited Macbeth to send us off to dreamland. Actually Aunt Kate acted it out in her nightgown, shadows dancing on the bedroom wall, fake dagger and all. That may explain a lot.
In grade school, I also remember LOTS of books. As a latch key kid, I spent a lot of time at the library. My favorites usually included horses and distant lands. I remember the first time I saw a fjord pictured in a book. It was about the coolest thing a kid who lived in Iowa could imagine.

But, I digress. Back to the baby shower.  Before venturing to a local bookstore in search of a cool baby or children’s book, I chatted with several of the other folks who’d be attending.  In doing so, I think I discovered why I couldn’t recall any children’s books. As mothers, they’d all read books to their children. So their favorites were ones they’d loved sharing with their kids. Since we never had children, I’d not had that experience though I like to think I’d have been a big reader if I’d had little ones to tuck in bed.

Anyway, I had great fun looking through options at Fiction Addiction, an independent bookstore in Greenville, South Carolina. Since I’d already heard several friends mention the titles of children’s books that had been staples for generations, I decided to pick some new additions. The ones I chose actually were made of non-toxic materials that kids could chew on, giving new meaning to the phrase ‘eat your words.’ You could even wash them. Cool. And the illustrations were sweet and full of life and color.

I’m sure once Louise Barrett arrives in the world, she will have a wonderful time reading with her parents, Jesse and Lisa. Welcome to a wonderful world of books.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Hank the Horse--Aunt Eva's Ride

By Howard Lewis
Critique Partner Extraordinaire!

Since Rita the Mule had her day in the sun, I felt the need to speak up for Hank. He knows Rita and knows she thinks a lot of herself, but he doesn’t understand why. Okay, the mule considers herself a “hybrid.” Hank considers her a mutt. If you take away horses there would be no mules. Rita wouldn’t exist. But if you take away mules, Hank’s life would be better.
Rita made so much fuss about her being willing to fight. So what. Horses could fight if they wanted to. They just don’t want to. They’re pacifists. Nobody ever complained because Gandhi didn’t fight. Why would they worry that horses avoid battles.
Admittedly, on occasion, sometimes horses get scared, and innocent people get hurt. Most of the time it’s an accident. Hank’s relatives have helped people for 5,000 years. Horses and humans have been friends over twice as long as we’ve been counting years. That’s a long time. Why would his kind intentionally want to hurt people now?
Humans need to understand that horses are a little skitzy. You see, a lot of the animal kingdom considers them food. Understandably, this makes them a little nervous. They’ve learned to sleep standing up so they’re ready to run. Most horses only sleep lying down about 20 minutes a day. Then Hank won’t sleep at the same time Rita sleeps, so somebody is standing guard.
Maybe once or twice a person got accidentally injured, but Hank has never intentionally hurt a person. There was that individual who snuck up behind him and he kind of kicked her. Maybe she ended up on the ground. But he immediately tried to apologize. She shooed him away like she was scared of him. He was the one scared. All she needed to do was talk to him so he knew she was coming, and it all could have been avoided.

Then there was the time Eva ended up on the ground. She and Hank were having a wonderful ride through the woods, when Hank saw a rock. But it didn’t look like any rock he’d had ever seen. It looked really menacing. Turned out to be okay, but what if it had been one of those horse-eating rocks? He would have been a hero. All he did was spin and run.  That’s it. And he wanted Eva to go with him. Instead, she fell off. As soon as he realize she was no longer aboard, he went back to get her. Instead of being mad, she laughed and told him he was a very brave horse. That’s why he loved Eva, his own personal human.
If mules are so great, why are there 60 million horses? There’s not 60 million mules. At least Hank hopes there aren’t. One makes his life miserable enough. It’s not that he doesn’t like her. He does. It’s just that she ignores the rules. She’ll sashay by him, just a little too close so it makes him mad. But just far enough away that it’s not worth getting in a fight. He doesn’t want to fight her. She kicks really hard. Not as hard as him. But it still hurts.
For hundreds of years, horses have been bred for certain jobs. There are thoroughbreds who are born to run. Walking horses whose gait keeps their humans comfortable riding for miles. And then Hank’s breed, the quarter horse. Bred to handle cattle, Hank can stop, turn, and take off in the blink of an eye. That’s probably why Eva ended up on the ground when he got scared.
And even with all of their bragging, mules didn’t conquer the West. Hank’s kind conquered the West. Cowboys rode horses not mules. Indians rode horses not mules. The Pony Express rode horses not mules. Horses can make baby horses or mules. Mules can’t make baby anything.
Howard Lewis with his horse McKenzie
In Hank’s opinion, Rita’s role in Linda’s book is way too big. If any animal has a speaking role, it should be Hank. And don’t even get him started on Tammy the Pig. How in the world did she get a bigger part than him?
Let’s start a write-in campaign for Hank. Send Linda a note explaining that Hank deserves both Rita's and Tammy’s roles. He is perfectly capable of carrying both their loads. For that matter, it’s okay with him if Linda loses the goats. Support the horse. Make it Hank’s farm. Horses rule.
I hope you consider this appeal for Hank, and I hope this gets me out of hot water with McKenzie, my horse. He holds a grudge.

About the Author: Howard Lewis is a talented writer, martial artist, and a marvelous critique partner. He lives in the "suburbs" of Salem, SC, with a mule, two horses, and multiple dogs. He's the past president of the Upstate Chapter of Sisters in Crime and he's part of the Writers' Police Academy "family." He's provided tons of information on his equines for my new Brie Hooker Mystery series published by Henery Press. Hank the horse is one of the animal "characters" in B0NES TO PICK, now available for preorder. THANKS Howard!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Brie's Vegan Tomato Basil Soup

By Linda Lovely
I adapted this Barefoot Contessa recipe that appeared on the online foodnetwork site. Here's the link to the original recipe. I changed the recipe to make it vegan, e.g. no butter or chicken stock. I also have never used plum tomatoes, just whatever I happen to have--often from my own garden, especially when all the tomatoes seem to ripen at once. I LOVE this soup, and I'm sure it would be one of my vegan heroine's favorites. Hope you'll read BONES TO PICK so you can learn more about Brie Hooker and her friends in my new humorous mystery series.

Brie's Vegan Version Of Tomato Basil Soup

3+ lbs. fresh tomatoes, sliced like an apple (leave skins on)
¼ cup + olive oil
1 Tblsp Kosher salt
*****
2-3 Tbl olive oil +2 Tblsp coconut oil (can just use olive oil for all)
2 large onions chopped
*****
4 small (16 oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
1 pkg (6 ind. Cubes) Vegetable Cubes softened in 2 cups water
3 Tbls Agave
4 cups fresh or handful of dried basil
1 tsp thyme
·        Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss first 3 ingredients and spread on nonstick cookie sheet. Roast 45 minutes.
·        Put the Vegetable Cubes in two cups of water to soften.
·        In large stock pot, sauté onions in olive and coconut oil.
·        Add the fresh roasted tomatoes and all the juice, then add everything else including the veggie cubes and water. Bring to a boil
·        Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for 40 minutes. If you're in a time crunch you can shorten this time to about 10 minutes--still great.
·        Ladle small batches into food processor and puree.

Hints: You can use any tomatoes. This is an ideal way to use excess from your summer garden. You can roast the tomatoes, freeze them, and then use them to make soup in the fall or winter. You can serve the soup with croutons or crusty bread.

Not a vegan? Add grated or hunks of sharp cheddar cheese to melt in the hot soup. You can also use chicken bouillon cubes rather than veggie cubes if you’re not doing vegan.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Rita the Mule

By Howard Lewis
Critique Partner Extraordinaire & Mule Owner

I feel the need to write on behalf of the mule, Rita. Somebody has to support her because she has a bone to pick. The mule doesn’t get near enough respect in Linda’s book.
You see, Rita’s not just some other animal. She’s a hybrid. Her mamma’s a horse, and her daddy’s a donkey. Receiving the best from each, she knows she’s better than either.
This means that she’s braver than donkeys and smarter than horses. Her intelligence is why some people consider her stubborn, but it’s pretty simple. If it doesn’t make sense to Rita, she won’t do it. Before she came to live with Lilly, her human sent her to a local horse trainer with 25 years
of experience and a great reputation. Rita had a lot of fun with him before he gave her back saying, “Mules are different.” The trainer was used to pestering horses into doing what he wanted. It didn’t work with Rita. Of course, once she got Lilly trained, she gave in a lot so she could spend time with her human.
Rita loved Lilly. This human made her feel like a friend instead of a servant. Rita grieved terribly when she lost Lilly. Unfortunately, when Brie met her, the mule wasn’t in the mood to meet another human. The first time Brie tried to put Rita in the trailer, she led the mule up as if she were a horse and asked her to climb in. Rita’s not a horse so she just stood there. Brie pulled on the lead, offered her a treat and slapped her on the butt. Rita just stood there. Brie stamped her feet and screamed her cheese curses. Rita just stood there. Eva finally said something to her. Brie rubbed Rita’s nose, hugged her face, and told her she was most beautiful mule in the world. Rita walked into the trailer.
Around the farm, Rita lets Hank, Eva’s horse, be boss. It’s not that she couldn’t whup him. Of course she could. It’s just that being boss isn’t as important to her as it is to him. Even though she lets him think he’s the leader, she does take great pleasure picking on him. She’ll creep up beside him while he’s grazing so he has to chase her off. When he’s on the other side of a fence, she’ll walk close enough to make him mad but far enough away so he can’t touch her. When in the barn, she’ll pee right next to his stall so he has to smell it.
Just like all equines (horses, mules, donkeys, zebras, etc.) Rita’s a prey animal. Other animals want to hunt and eat her. Unlike those stupid horses who always run away, sometimes Rita wants to fight. Especially if she’s mad. With a half a ton of muscle and bone, a quick, intelligent mind, and a tenacity that won’t quit, she’s never lost a fight.
The mule has an impressive heritage. Rita can do anything horses can do: drag plows, pull carriages or even carry people in saddles. George Washington believed that her kind were better workers than horses and wanted one. Being a picky man, he wanted a mule sired by a Spanish donkey, considered to be the superior asses of the time. After spending years trying to procure the donkey, King Charles III sent him two. Only one survived the trip. George immediately put him to work breeding a series of donkeys and mules. George even rented him out for stud running
newspaper ads describing his outstanding qualities. Mares and Jennies lined up for his service.
Rita and her brothers are sterile. It has to do with chromosomes. People have a standard set of questions when they discover this. Mostly dealing with Rita’s sex. Yes, Rita has brothers and sisters. Yes, even though she can’t reproduce, Rita goes into heat and her brothers want to have sex. Yes, most of the time, Rita’s brothers are “cut” or fixed. There’s no reason to keep them intact if they can’t have babies and removing certain male parts make them much easier to deal with.
Rita knows she’s beautiful, but she was made for function as well. She has a longer face, than horses and her eyes are further around her head. With just a small movement, she can see behind her with one eye and in front of her with the other at the same time. Rita has huge ears that she can independently turn toward whatever she’s listened to. While her right ear listens to her rider, she can turn her left ear to listen to whatever’s up ahead. 
Have I made it clear yet that Rita’s right? She deserves a bigger part in Linda’s book. Let’s start a campaign. Readers for Rita. Give Rita the Part She Deserves. Rita for President.

About the Author
Howard Lewis is a talented writer, martial artist, and a marvelous critique partner. He lives in the "suburbs" of Salem, SC, with a mule, two horses, and multiple dogs. He's the past president of the Upstate Chapter of Sisters in Crime and he's part of the Writers' Police Academy "family." He's provided tons of information on his equines for my new Brie Hooker Mystery series published by Henery Press. The first book, BONES TO PICK, is now available for preorder. THANKS Howard!  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Aunt Eva's Turn in the Kitchen-Making Toffee

By Linda Lovely

My great nephew, Duncan Nowling, and a friend recently visited. In addition to spending time enjoying the lake, Duncan had an in-the-kitchen request. He wanted to learn how to make my mother's (his great-grandmother's) toffee recipe, primarily because it's a key ingredient in our family favorite version of Death By Chocolate.

I'm pretty sure this recipe would also be a favorite of Aunt Eva, a main character in my Brie Hooker Mystery series, since it includes large quantities of her favorite food group--dairy. In this case, the dairy comes in the form of butter. Here's the seemingly simple recipe, since it only has four ingredients:

Two sticks of Butter (plus a pat of butter to grease a nonstick cookie sheet)
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
4 Hershey Milk Chocolate bars (1,55 oz bars)
Finely chopped pecans

There are three prep steps before you start cooking.

  1. Grease the nonstick cookie sheet (you'll be glad you did later when it's time to lift the toffee off the sheet). 
  2. Finely chop the pecans so they'll be ready when you need them. I never measure but I'm guessing 3/4 cup.
  3. Open all four Hersey bars and separate the individual squares so they're ready for later use.
Okay, now comes the tricky part, the cooking. Put the two sticks of butter and the light brown sugar in a heavy skillet on a stove burner set to medium heat. Stir CONSTANTLY. When the mixture is nicely mixed and is starting to get hot, you may want to set a timer for 10 minutes. That's about how much longer you'll need to keep stirring the mixture as it bubbles and starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. The trick is to make sure it does pull away from the pan's edges but doesn't burn.

At the end of your stirring vigil, you'll pour the toffee mixture onto your prepared cookie sheet in two ribbons. Now wait about 1 minute and then start placing the individual Hershey squares on the toffee. By the time you have them all on, the first squares you place will have melted enough to spread with a butter knife. Once the chocolate is evenly spread over the entire toffee surface sprinkle the top with the pecans.

Next, put the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. If you put it in the ice box immediately, it increases the risk that the chocolate layer will separate from the bottom toffee layer. But do put the tray in the fridge when it's cool to the touch. After an hour or two in the refrigerator, it will probably be fine to separate it from the cookie sheet with a spatula and then break it into pieces, which you'll need to keep stored in the refrigerator until they're gone (maybe the end of the day).


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Writers Beware--Kill An Animal, Risk a Reader

By Linda Lovely

I promise. No dogs (or horses or cats or mules or goats or pigs) will cross over the rainbow bridge in my new Brie Hooker mystery series. The easiest way for an author to offend (and lose) readers is to allow a character in her book to kill an animal. Well, maybe a poisonous snake would be okay, and, if you're Stephen King you can cast a rabid dog as a villain as he did in Cujo.

As an adult, I developed serious allergies to dogs and cats. So I haven’t had a really close relationship with a pet since Brownie, the Heinz 57 mix dog I loved as a kid. In adulthood, I’ve been bitten by a dog while walking and minding my own business. I’ve also been chased by growling hounds who appear to lust after bicycle tires. These encounters led me to make one of my animal characters a villain in Dead Line, the first book in my Smart Women, Dumb Luck romantic thriller series. The villain dog died.

In my defense, the deceased canine is the villain in a brief subplot, essential in providing insight into the snarling attack dog’s far more villainous owner. What’s more, the subplot also features a tail-wagging hero dog who saves my heroine. Any further explanation could act as a plot spoiler. So here’s what these two dogs might say if they could talk.   

  • The Villain Dog
I’m only following orders. I was abused as a puppy, and I was trained to fight other dogs. When I growl and savage other dogs, people cheer, and I get food and praise. I’ve been chained up and beaten. I do what I’ve been trained to do in order to survive.  

  • The Hero Dog
I love people. Haven’t really met one I wouldn’t lick. They scratch behind my ears, give me yummy treats, and help rid me of annoying fleas. Sometimes they talk baby talk to me even though I’m fully grown. Guess they still think of me as a puppy even though I’m a hard-working adult. Don’t I chase all those obnoxious squeaky squirrels out of our yard? I’m brave, too. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my humans safe.

Okay, I’ve given my dog characters a say they didn’t get in Dead Line since they weren't afforded speaking parts. Nonetheless, I renew my pledge to avoid any future canine (or other animal) deaths in my books. I’ll stick to killing off literary stand-ins for the people who have seriously annoyed me.

So readers why is it that mystery/suspense/thriller authors can kill kindly, wrinkled grandmothers and clueless, fresh-faced teenagers as often as their plots and murder counts require, but they should never, never, ever kill a dog on the page of a novel?

Why do you think the death of a fictional animal seems more offensive to many mystery readers than the death of a fictional human being?  Like the villain dog in Dead Line, human villains also may have been abused in their youth and rewarded for bad behavior, but we can handle their deaths. Is it because dog is man’s best friend and we have an emotional bond with the species? Is it because humans are supposed to be the protectors of helpless animals? What’s your opinion?