Cozy Dust

In December I was hurrying to put together a proposal for another cozy series. I wanted to send it to my agent so she could get it out to editors while I was doing copyedits for FOUL PLAY ON WORDS, which I was expecting to receive any day. I didn’t want to get stuck in copyedit hell for a month, and have this shiny new proposal just sitting here with nobody to admire and fawn over it.

I rushed and rushed and got it emailed off. Whew. The proposal package contained a 6-page synopsis of the book, the first 50 pages of the story, and a page or so about how I envisioned the next few books in the series.

The next day I got an email from my agent. She didn’t much like what I sent. She told me in broad strokes where she thought the proposal was lacking. I was crushed and confused. We’d been talking about this for a long time. I thought we were on the same page!

Freaking out to a couple of writer pals, I told them what had happened and asked their advice. They, of course, hadn’t read the proposal, but I ran down all the pertinents. They were confused too, but helped me formulate my thoughts.

I replied to my agent, discussing each of her concerns in turn, pointing out that I did indeed do what I was tasked with. I ended by asking her for specifics about where she saw that I had fallen short of my goal, which she quickly and generously gave me.

That lightbulb flashed over my head and I understood what I had forgotten.

The cozy dust! I forgot to sprinkle the pages with cozy dust!

My agent was absolutely right. I had an interesting premise with funny, solid writing, but I did not do justice to the cozy mystery genre. My setting wasn’t somewhere marvelous that readers would want to inhabit. It was generic and dull. Some of my characters were quirky, but not one of the main characters. He was just, yanno, a cop, nothing special about him. And the crime didn’t have that eccentric, cozy spin on it.

I was in such a hurry to get words on the page that I forgot who my readers were and what they expected from me.

So, I set it aside, took a few weeks to finish my copyedits on FOUL PLAY ON WORDS, and sent them off.

Then I started over with the outline and beats for my new book.

Lesson learned. You can rest assured I’ll never again write without a full bottle of cozy dust next to me.

Have you ever dropped an important ball while you were in a hurry? Please tell me I’m not the only one! 


I Love a Parade

Here’s a secret. Two actually. Well, only one secret. The other is a little-known fact. The secret. I’m one of those people doesn’t know right from left unless I salute. The little-known fact. I was a drum majorette in my elementary school band. If that doesn’t scare you, let’s go for a drive.

Photo Santa Claus by Tweberl

It stands to reason that with my drum majorette past, I love a parade, and I do. Except there’s not many parades these days. That’s why I love the holidays. For a parade-a-holic like me the holidays kick off with the Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day. Since I lived in greater New York as a child that’s a double dip. I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders in the freezing cold watching balloons glide past. In those days it Popeye and Olive Oyl flew overhead, and now it’s cartoons I don’t recognize, but the big guy still arrives at the end. You know who I mean.

Things got slack parade-wise until New Year’s Eve brought the Orange Bowl Parade. Unless you lived in Miami. Then you had the Junior Orange Bowl parade too. If you worked in an office and anyone had kids, you ended up joining them at the Junior Orange Bowl Parade. Who could resist? It’s still held in Coral Gables and the last time I attended it was a classic parade with marching bands, twirlers, and yes, floats, and a Junior Orange Bowl Queen.

New Year’s Eve rang in with the Orange Bowl. Little compares with the spectacle of a nighttime parade. Animated lights covered the floats. The themes were creative and of course, there was the perk of a winter parade in steamy South Florida. I was lucky enough to work in One Biscayne Tower during much of the early 1980s. That meant not only did the Orange Bowl march under my office windows, the Big Orange dropped down the side of my building. Talk about a million-dollar view! Who needed Times Square! In true Latin style the party and the dancing went on until the wee hours.

Morning came soon enough and just in time to catch the Bluebonnet Bowl Parade. Televised from Houston. The Parade was small and sweet. Most of the floats that I remember featured Texas themes. Many were decorated with flowers. It sported lots of marching bands and it was one of my favorite parades. I remember it being short, but that could have been a programming issue. Any Houstonians out there to set me straight? I’d love more information.

The grandmama of all parades followed and besides the Macy’s Day Parade, the only one left standing today. The Rose Bowl Parade. Don’t tell my husband, but the only reason I keep signing up for cable service is to be certain to have the Rose Bowl Parade. He wouldn’t object. His mother actually travelled from Arizona to Pasadena to see the parade and splurged on bleacher seats to do it right.

rose bowl
Photo New Orleans CC by erinbrace

The Rose Bowl Parade is the highlight of my New Year’s Day. The music, the beauty. I cannot imagine the patience it takes to put the floats together, the artistry, or the creativity. When I hear that each of the roses are in individual vases, I am awed at the thought of the individuals with that depth of dedication. When the last float or band rounds the corner and the presenters sign off, I’m left with the energy that comes from watching someone do what they love. The satisfaction that comes when you reach the end of a great book or movie.

I love a parade. How about you?

Happy New Year!

Can you believe it’s nearly the second week of January 2019 already?!  The weather here in New England is a bit cold and gloomy, but there’s something shiny about starting a new year, even when the weather is a dull gray, a degree of excitement that’s unique to this time of year.

My year is starting off with a fascinating array of “new”:  new health insurance, payroll schedule, and company name as my company continues on its path of merging with another; new master bathroom (our current one had a bit of an accident over the holidays – a bad ceiling fan caught fire, and thus. . .new bathroom); new adventures! I’m traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico this month, a city/state I’ve never visited, and to Miami, Florida in February. (I’ve only been from the Miami airport to the cruise ship dock, so I don’t think that counts as having visited before!) Both are work trips, but I’m excited to see new places.

And perhaps best of all, new books! Santa brought me a couple of good ones, and I might have accidentally picked a couple out for myself when I was holiday shopping. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.)

Today I finished City of Endless Night, by Preston & Child.  This mystery thriller was released in January 2018, but I picked it up last week. It was fantastic, as all the books I’ve read by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have been. The multiple points of view were woven together beautifully, and the plot was delightfully twisty. The authors kept me on the edge of my reading chair!

Last week I read A Deadly Feast, by Lucy Burdette. (I received the book through Net Galley.) This most recent entry in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries series is possibly Burdette’s best work yet. I absolutely loved the plot, and the story kept me guessing. The strongest attributes of all the books in this series are the characters, including the setting. When I read one of these books, I feel as though I’m in Key West, walking or scootering along with the characters. The place and the people are so tangible, you can’t help but be drawn in. (Also, I’m always hungry when I finish her books.)

In the TBR pile, my newest additions include Michele Obama’s book, Becoming; Dare to Lead by Brene Brown; Suspect, by Robert Crais; and If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino. An eclectic mix, to be sure!

What’s new and/or exciting for you in the new year? Is the TBR pile ready to topple over? I hear a few of our own Mysteristas may have amazing books to add to your reading list this year.

Wishing you health and joy – and plenty of great mysteries to read – in 2019!

Guest Post: Debra Goldstein & Barbara Ross

On the last day of 2018 we have a two-fer of great writers! Please welcome Debra Goldstein, author of the Sarah Blair Mystery series, and Barabara Ross, author of the Maine Clambake Mystery series, as they send us into our annual holiday break!

An Unexpected Meeting by Debra H. Goldstein and Barbara Ross

 Debra H. Goldstein and Barbara Ross both recently released mystery novels. Debra’s One Taste Too Many, the debut of her Sarah Blair Mystery series, is set in Wheaton, Alabama. Barbara Ross’s Steamed Open, the seventh in her Maine Clambake Mystery series, takes place in Busman’s Harbor, Maine. Debra and Barbara wondered what might happen if their characters bumped into each other shortly before their new books began.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One Taste Too ManySarah Blair examined the Atlanta Merchandise Mart map figuring out where she could get a cup of coffee. She had an hour until she met her twin, who was browsing the restaurant wares displays. Deciding the coffee shop was behind her, Sarah turned and collided with another woman, knocking a package from her hand. Both tried to retrieve it, bumping heads.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you.”

“No problem.” The other woman stepped around Sarah.

“Wait, aren’t you Julia Snowden, from that venture capital firm in New York?” Without giving Julia a chance to respond, Sarah continued.  “I’m Sarah Blair. We met when you came to Wheaton, Alabama to look at investing in my husband’s business.”

Steamedopencover“That was a long time ago. I was on the road forty weeks a year, I remember, though, I went to dinner with you and your husband, Bill. How is he?”

“That’s right. It was a long time ago, though. We’re divorced and other than happy with his new bimbo, I can’t tell you how he is.”

Julia smiled, happy to connect with a familiar face in the crowd. “And instead of New York and the financial world, I live in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and manage my family’s business, the Snowden Family Clambake.” She held her package up. “I’m here looking for new supplies. And you? Are you in the food business, too?”

“Oh, no. The only time I’m in the kitchen is when I bring my take-out in or make a recipe of convenience. I work as a law firm receptionist, but my sister, Emily, is a gourmet chef. She recently came back to Wheaton to work with Chef Marcus at Southwind, a fine dining restaurant, so Emily is here getting a few ideas for that. Because she was driving from Alabama and already had the room, she insisted I come play with her in Atlanta for the weekend. You know how hardly anything exciting happens in small towns. She thought I needed a break from waking up, going to work, and coming home to my cat, RahRah. I can’t imagine what a change moving from New York to Busman’s Harbor was for you.”

Julia laughed. “Tell your sister moving back to your hometown will turn out okay in the end. At least it did for me. I fell in love with my middle-school crush, for one. And it’s great being so close to my mother and my sister and her family. You’d think small town life would be dull, but…” Julia’s voice trailed off. She looked around to make sure they weren’t being overheard in the noisy convention center. “The most peculiar thing has happened. My very first opening day, there was a body hanging from the staircase in the abandoned mansion on the island where we run our clambakes. The police shut us down and I thought we’d lose the business for sure.” Julia shrugged. “But the weird thing is, it wasn’t a suicide, it was a murder, and I helped identified the killer. Since then, I’ve helped the state police solve half a dozen murders.”

Sarah’s mouth fell open. “You’re kidding. That is weird. Maybe you should go back to New York. Things sound a bit too exciting in Busman’s Harbor. At least RahRah and I will never have to worry about murder in Wheaton.”


Debra HeadshotJudge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Find out more about Debra at

Barbara Ross is the author of seven Maine Clambake Mysteries. The latest, Steamed Open, was released December 18, 2018. Barbara’s novellas featuring Julia Snowden are included along with stories by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis in Eggnog Murder and Yule Log Murder. Barbara and her husband live in Portland, Maine. Visit her website at http://www.maineclambakemysteries.comBarbaraRossheadshot

One Taste Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein           
Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!


Barnes & Noble:




Steamed Open by Barbara Ross

It’s summertime in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, and the clamming is easy—or it was until a mysterious new neighbor blocks access to the beach, cutting off the Snowden Family Clambake’s supply. Julia Snowden is just one of many townspeople angered by Bartholomew Frick’s decision. But which one of them was angry enough to kill?


Barnes & Noble: – /







Expectations, Great and Otherwise

“A run, huh?”

The man behind me in the supermarket checkout line frowned, his eyes roving over my Lycra-encased hips for evidence of miles logged and target heart-rate achieved. “You don’t look like a runner,” he continued. “More like someone who likes running clothes.”

The conversation had started out on the right foot, the stranger and I exchanging pleasantries about the weather (cold but gorgeous) and milk prices (too high). It took a turn when he asked where I was going in my moisture-wicking clothes.

Evidently I didn’t fit his idea of what runners look like. (It should be noted that I WASN’T wearing this oft-loved running ensemble.)


The comment was rude, absurd, and momentarily took the wind out of my sails and from beneath my New Balance shoes. But it also got me thinking: how often do things turn out differently than expected?

The answer (for me, anyway): a LOT.

I expected to go for a run, comment- and judgement-free.

I also expected that getting babies to sleep through the night would be the hardest part of parenting, and that nearing the big 5-0 would mean finally feeling like a grownup.

I was wrong about all of these (HUGELY wrong on that second one) and continue to chalk up nopes about various and sundry experiences that turned out differently than predicted (or, perhaps more accurately, than hoped for).

Of course, my adventure in novel-writing has a list of its own.

My expectation that, three books into my series, writing a book would become second-nature? Not so much.

My belief that writing would be the hardest part of the book business? Huh-uh.

My assumption that my advertising background would help me with marketing? Uh…no.

I went into the author gig with starry eyes and grand plans. I soon found that as lovely as things are and as wonderfully as they go, the schism between expectation and reality exists in the book world, just as it does in the world at large.

No surprise, really. It just means more opportunities to practice resiliency. It means re-calibrating expectations. It means balancing what-if and why-not. It means figuring out what’s worth dreaming about and what’s worth fighting for.

So as the year winds to a close and I consider the gap between expectation and reality, I’m excited about the prospect of what lies ahead. Whether it’s changing the world or changing my mindset, I look forward to new challenges and fresh realities-to-be.

Please tell me: What realities paled against expectation? How did—and do—you handle the gap? And what would you say to the man at the checkout line? Unfortunately, he left before I could think of a comeback, leaving me feeling like George Costanza.





There are a lot of differet ways to establish goals. There are lists and calendars and spreadsheets and color-coded plans and… you get the idea.

One popular way to create goals is based on the word SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely or Time-Bound. Here’s a site that might be  helpful if you’re interested in learning more, or getting a refresher: Writing Smart Goals.

Regardless of how you determine your goals, it’s important that you write those things down that you want to have happen. Your possibility of actually achieving them increases dramatically if you write them down. That’s a given. And you might want to schedule periodic reviews on your calendar. Are you on target? Is that goal still relevant?

But what I think a lot of people forget to think about this time of year are their core values.

Before you set goals, clearly identify your core vales. Those things don’t change. What’s a core value? Here’s a list. If you want to try and get a better bead on yours, try this.

Here’s why understanding your personal core values is important before you start setting goals: if a goal is in conflict with a core value, there’s going to be pain involved. If, for example, family and spending quality time with them is a core value of yours, setting a goal that’s going to require you to work a gazillion hours a week in order to accomplish it will be a problem. Even if the goal sounds good. Get the conflict? Keep the goal, just make sure it can be managed so you have the time for your family, or write your family out for the next six months. (And that’s not likely to if you were honest about what’s important in your gut).

Sometimes a review of previous goals that weren’t met can help pinpoint conflict, especially if they met every other aspect of a SMART goal.

What’s your advice regarding goals?


It’s all better with friends.