Guest Blog Post: How Cats are Like Teenagers – What I’ve Learned the Hard Way By T. C. LoTempio

9780425270226I’ve been a proud human to many cats since I adopted my first one, Zee, in 1996.  Cats as any cat-human will tell you, are a force unto themselves.  I have noticed over the  years, though, that owning a cat is similar in many ways to raising a teenager (even though I do not have children, I was once a teenager myself, LOL).

Here are the top ten similarities between cats and teens I’ve noticed over the years:

  1. They both like to hide – conveniently: ever notice when you want a teen to do something, like daily chores, they make themselves conspicuously absent?  The same can be said of cats. I know that when the maintenance man comes into my apartment to do work, the only evidence that I even have a pet are the catnip mice scattered all over.  A cat can hide just about anywhere.  Sometimes it amazes me the places they can get into
  2. Computer love: Teenagers today spend most of their time on the computer, and trust me, that’s where my cats spend most of their day too. If I had a nickle for every piece of cat hair I’ve plucked out of my keyboard I could retire tomorrow.
  3. “I vant to be alone” – Teens require a great deal of “alone” time – as do cats. Don’t’ think that a cat will want to play a game of fetch with you like a dog, because you’re barking (or rather, meowing) up the wrong tree.  A cat will pay attention to you when he or she is darn good and ready to.  And unlike dogs, who thrive on attention, cats seem to shun it. The longer you leave them by themselves, the better they like you.
  4. Immovable objects – ask a teen to do something and they take their sweet time getting off the couch. Same with a cat.  Cats plop themselves in a spot and it usually takes nothing short of a bomb (or refilling the food bowl) to get them to move.
  5. Rip Van Winkle Syndrome – Teens like to sleep…a lot. Some till one in the afternoon if you’ll let them.  Cats like to sleep…a lot.  Usually all day if you let them.  And who argues with a cat?
  6. Evil Eye reflex – When you say something – doesn’t matter what it is – you usually get a blank stare from a teen. Same with a cat, only it’s a slitted stare that makes you feel like you’re on the witness stand and the cat is Perry Mason (or should I say PURRY Mason??????).
  7. Make me laugh – Do teens ever laugh at your jokes? The ones that I have contact with usually give me indulgent smiles. My cats are also super unamused by my humor as well.
  8. Lovin the John – I know when I was a teen I spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom, and I imagine it’s no different today. My cats also love the bathroom.  They especially like to lay in the tub and lounge there until I turn the shower on, and then it’s like I lit a fire under their tail.  They get hair in the sink like a teen and make no move to help unclog the drain, and just like a teen they also make no move to help clean it!!!!!!
  9. Needful Things: For the most part a teen will ignore you UNLESS they need something from you: a permission slip signed, borrow the car, new sneakers, prom dress, etc. THEN all of a sudden they’re your best friend and can’t wait to do all the chores in the world to assure they get what they want.  Cats also only care about your presence if they need something from you as well – mainly food.  My cats sound the food alarm early, and I never receive so many head butts as when I’m opening a can of Fancy Feast.  I’m fairly certain, though, that if they had opposable thumbs and knew how to operate a can opener I would find the door locked and they’d get on very well without me.  True story:  I came home from work one afternoon to find the can of catfood in the middle of the kitchen floor with the can opener propped up next to it.  I rest my case.
  10. Grudge Match: OH, yes.  Cats and teens both ABSOLUTELY hold grudges.  Put a teen on curfew and they don’t talk to you for weeks.  Go away on vacation and see how much love your cats give you when you return home.  The best is when you take them to the vet.  I’m lucky if I get as much as a headbutt or a casual meow for weeks afterward.

Okay, those are my top ten! What other similarities between cats and teens do YOU notice?

 

ll parents know that having a teenager can be a tricky thing. If you think about it, though, living with a cat is actually quite comparable to living with a teenager. So much sass. Here are just a few similarities between teenagers and cats.

  1. A teenager hides in her room all day, while a cat also hides … everywhere.

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  1. Both are creatures with a lot of pent-up angst.

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  1. Teenagers are always on the computer … and if cats had their way, they would be too.

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  1. Both cats and teenagers just want to be left alone … almost always.

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  1. Neither cats nor teenagers ever usually feel like moving.

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  1. Both teenagers and cats like to sleep … a lot.

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  1. When you say something, instead of responding, both teens and cats will just stare at you …

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  1. Teenagers are super unamused by you, always. So are cats.

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  1. Teens spend a lot of time in the bathroom, and cats do too … or they try to, at least.

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  1. Both cats and teenagers only really care about your presence if they need something from you.

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  1. Both teenagers and cats will ABSOLUTELY hold grudges.

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  1. Really, cats and teenagers would all just rather be in bed.

Flickr/Tracey Adams (CC by 2.0)

 

Crime and Catnip

 

 

New Title: Dead, Bath and Beyond

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Dead, Bath, and Beyond

Dec 06, 2016 | 304 Pages

ABOUT DEAD, BATH, AND BEYOND

The New York Times bestselling series is back, as Katie Bonner—owner of Artisans Alley in the quaint shopping district of Victoria Square—attempts to solve a murder at a nearby B & B.

Katie Bonner—owner of Artisans Alley in the quaint shopping district of Victoria Square—feels like nothing can spoil her perfect day off, sailing Lake Ontario with her good friend and lawyer Seth Landers. Then she runs into her ex-boss Jake on the dock. It was never smooth sailing with Josh, and Katie is only too happy to get away from him as he makes a scene.

Unfortunately, the next day her unpleasant former employer is found drowned in a bathtub at a bed-and-breakfast in Victoria Square. Who would pull the plug on Josh? When an autopsy reveals lake water—not bath water—in his lungs, Katie quickly finds herself in over her head. She’ll need to race to find the killer before her business and her freedom both go down the drain…

Female Friendship in EGG DROP DEAD by New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs

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I’m a huge fan of women over forty. Not just because I hit that milepost myself, but because women this age generally possess a certain type of sassy smarts. Before I sold my marketing firm and took up mystery writing, I worked with a lot of high-test forty-plus women. These were women who ran companies, served as communications directors, and knew their way around the media. They were savvy business people and forward thinkers who didn’t get rattled by deadlines, details, and decisions.

Those are pretty much the same attributes I imbued in my characters, Suzanne, Toni, and Petra, the major protagonists in Egg Drop Dead, my newest Cackleberry Club Mystery. This tale of female friendship entwined with a nasty murder takes place at the Cackleberry Club, a small café set in the fictional Midwestern town of Kindred. Eggs are the morning specialty – fluffy omelets, slumbering volcanoes, and foggy morning soufflés – but my entrepreneurial ladies also work a double shift as amateur sleuths.

Suzanne is the ringleader, a woman who lost her husband but found love again with the town doctor. She’s a hopeless romantic, yet level-headed businesswoman. Toni, one of her partners, is a self-proclaimed hottie-potottie who favors tight cowboy shirts, tighter jeans, and hot pink extensions in her hair. Petra, the third partner, is the café’s chef. She’s a big-boned, big hearted woman who’s the most spiritual of the bunch. (Think Eat Pray Love with a touch of Steel Magnolias).

Along with a gritty chapter one murder that jumpstarts a crazy investigation, I also made a special effort to intersperse pulse-pounding action scenes (chases, robberies, stolen horses, explosions) with some genteel moments that include knitting, tea, and scones. I figured we could all use a little comfort these days and that so many readers enjoy returning to old-fashioned basics, such as homemade breakfasts, cookie recipes, and neighbors who are quirky but pull together in a crisis.

Of course, I had great fun springing this murder mystery on my forty-plus Cackleberry Club ladies. With their entrepreneurial spirits and rich life experiences, you really can’t find a better model for an amateur sleuth!

All my best,

Laura Childs

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Laura Childs is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Tea Shop Mysteries, Scrapbooking Mysteries, and Cackleberry Club Mysteries. In her previous life she was CEO of her own marketing firm, authored several screenplays, and produced a reality TV show. She is married to Dr. Bob, a professor of Chinese art history, enjoys travel, and has two Chinese Shar-Pei dogs.

Find out more at http://www.laurachilds.com

 

Egg Drop Dead

 

 

Cheesy Cherry Crumble, a Christmas Recipe from Kate Carlisle

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New York Times bestselling mystery author Kate Carlisle is a native Californian who worked in television production for many years before turning to writing. Kate also studied acting and singing, toiled in vineyards, collected books, joined a commune, sold fried chicken, modeled spring fashions and worked for a cruise ship line, but it was the year she spent in law school that finally drove her to begin writing fiction. It seemed the safest way to kill off her professors. Kate’s latest book, DECK THE HALLWAYS (a Fixer-Upper Mystery), is available in paperback and ebook wherever books are sold.

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Visit Kate online at www.KateCarlisle.com, and be sure to pop into the Secret Room, where she’s giving away a DECK THE HALLWAYS Christmas ornament every day in November!

DECK THE HALLWAYS is my first Christmas mystery, and I dove headfirst into a big pile of the holiday spirit! Small-town Christmas parade, neighbor with crazy lights, a community pulling together to help others, and even a whole volunteer crew of somewhat naughty Santa Clauses.

“Did you know you’ve got a bunch of . . . of Santa Clauses out there?” Sean let out an exasperated sigh. “Never mind. It’s too bizarre to explain. Just come with me.”

 Sean took off at a run and I hurried to follow him. Whatever was making him freak out had to be important. He was usually so calm. We turned the corner and that’s when I saw what he was talking about. Yes, there was Steve and his buddy Mitch, but in addition to those two, there were at least eight or ten more men dressed exactly like them. Like Santa Claus.

 They were everywhere.

 This wasn’t a Santa Brigade. This was a Santa Army.

In DECK THE HALLWAYS, Shannon Hammer is heading the most ambitious project the Holiday Homebuilders have ever undertaken—transforming a Victorian mansion into individual apartments for deserving families. The only sour note in this Christmas carol is Mr. Potter, the obnoxious banker with more enemies than Santa has elves. And enemy number one is Shannon’s own dad, who’s heard threatening the banker just hours before he’s killed. What with the project, helping to plan the Christmas parade, and oh yeah, clearing her father’s name, she doesn’t have a whole lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Here’s what she’ll be bringing to this year’s potluck:

Cheesy Cherry Crumble

(The full recipe is written out at the end of the blog.) Preheat oven to 350. Cut ½ cup of cold butter into 1-1/4 cups of flour until the butter pieces are about the size of lentils. Stir in ½ cup of chopped pecans

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Pat mixture into an ungreased 13×9-inch cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Unlike in this picture, which is darkly golden (dare I say brown) at the edges. Cool to room temperature.

Mix together 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and six ounces of Cool Whip. Spread over the crust. Leave the oven on.

Spread two cans of cherry pie filling over the cheese mixture. Refrigerate.

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Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Remove from heat. Stir in ½ cup of rolled oats (not quick oats), 1 cup of flour, ¼ cup of brown sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Put in an oven-safe cake pan and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes.

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Cool completely, then sprinkle over the cherry mixture. Refrigerate until serving. This dish, like murder, is best served cold.

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Kate Carlisle’s Cheesy Cherry Crumble

Ingredients:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons of butter, divided

2 ¼ cup flour, divided

½ cup chopped pecans

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

6 oz Cool Whip

2 cans of cherry pie filling (or any pie filling you prefer)

½ cup rolled oats (not quick oats)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Cut ½ cup of cold butter into 1-1/4 cups of flour until the butter pieces are about the size of lentils. Stir in ½ cup of chopped pecans. Pat mixture into an ungreased 13×9-inch cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Unlike in this picture, which is darkly golden (dare I say brown) at the edges. Cool to room temperature.

Mix together 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and six ounces of Cool Whip. Spread over the crust. Leave the oven on. Spread two cans of cherry pie filling over the cheese mixture. Refrigerate.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Remove from heat. Stir in ½ cup of rolled oats (not quick oats), 1 cup of flour, ¼ cup of brown sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Put in an oven-safe cake pan and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Cool completely, then sprinkle over the cherry mixture. Refrigerate until serving. This dish, like murder, is best served cold.

 

 

 

Agatha Christie’s Holiday Home on the English Riviera Exceeds Expectations

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Robert Hurns stands in Agatha Christie’s Greenway home library famous for the mural painted on the walls by U.S. Coast Guard stationed there during WWII.                                   (photo by Diane Turner-Hurns)

(Editor’s note: This wonderful article was written by my co-worker, Diane Turner-Hurns, at the Journal and Topics Newspapers in Des Plaines, IL. Diane and her husband visited Dame Agatha Christie’s summer home. Diane thought it would make an informative travel article for the Journal. It was recently published in the travel section.  I asked her if I could reprint it in my blog because I know how much it would mean to Agatha Christie fans. Thank  you, Diane,  for this wonderful contribution.)

 

By Diane Turner-Hurns

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Photo reprinted from Biography.com

It’s no mystery Agatha Christie, the queen of crime, and her Greenway, UK estate remain so popular today. Thousands of people trek by train, bus, foot, bicycle, wheelchair and car every year to the author’s favorite home, Greenway, located high on a hill on the banks of the River Dart in South Devon, England, fondly known as the English Riviera.

This was the summer and holiday home of the beloved Dame Agatha Christie, a native of nearby Torquay, and world-renowned author of mystery novels, plays, poems and short stories. Christie died at 85 in 1976 and her family later gave the home and immense grounds to the National Trust charity for safekeeping and to open to the public.

We traveled from Torquay to Greenway, walking through the entrance way, past the restaurant, book store and gift shop and around a corner where we were in awe of the three story, white home sitting at the top of a grassy green hill with sweeping views of the Dart River, boats sailing by and rolling green hills across the way, all with the warmth of home.

The house at Greenway is a treasure not only for the place, but for the contents.

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The sign to Greenway, UK, Agatha Christie’s holiday home. (Photo by Robert J. Hurns)

Walking through the front door takes one into a Poirot mystery novel, which is not far from the truth.  Last December’s (U.S. showing) ITV’s ‘Dead Man’s Folly’ starring David Suchet as Christie’s famous Hercule Poirot detective was filmed at Greenway. It was featured in many of her novels.

Every item in the home belongs to either Christie or her family. As you walk through the many cozy and lived in rooms it seems as if the house is full of Christie’s novel characters and family members; so much so that you expect Christie to come bounding around the corner at any time.

Couches with flower patterns and puffy upholstery beckons one to sink next to the tables filled with framed family photos, fly fishing gear and games strewn in the main living areas.

There are no velvet ropes keeping guests from admiring the Christie family’s belongings which also included family knick knacks, artwork, rare Meissen porcelain, snuff boxes, books, clothes, rare mideastern finds from past archeological digs and more. Even one visitor, a Chicagoan, was allowed to play Christie’s Steinway grand piano, learning in the process that Christie had achieved the level of concert pianist, but withdrew from the concert stage due to her shyness.

“We encourage all guests to play the musical instruments at our National Trust homes. It not only gives the property a homey feel, but keeps them in tune,” one docent said. “Especially the piano here at Greenway.  Many people do not know Agatha Christie not only wrote novels, plays, and poems, but music as well. Her music was published under an assumed name.”

In each room are printed brochures with brief descriptions of the room’s items.  The home looks like the family never left.  Christie’s writing room on the second floor is filled with photos and books next to a writing tablet. Books from other mystery writers and histories of the Mideast sit next to vinyl albums including one of Disney songs. Her typewriter is on a desk next to the window where one can look out to the River Dart and the boats sailing along as well as the sweeping green hill leading to the boathouse, beach and gardens.

Christie, who wrote more than 80 detective books, plays and more, was born in Ashfield in Torquay, not far from Greenway.  Christie sold the Ashfield family home while in her 50s and bought Greenway with her second husband Max Mallowan just before WWII, in 1938. Her daughter, Rosalind Hicks, who died in 2004, gifted Greenway with the home, gardens and property to the National Trust. Rosalind and Anthony Hicks lived at Greenway until their deaths in 2004 and 2005.  It opened to the public in 2009 after a multi-million dollar/pound renovation by the National Trust with monetary gifts from members worldwide. Access to Greenway is free for National Trust members, as this writer is, and for others it is a nominal fee.

National Trust, founded in 1895, preserves UK open spaces and historic homes and properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland including coastlines, forests, woods, fens, beaches, farmland, moorland, islands, archaeological remains, nature reserves, villages, historic houses, gardens, mills and pubs.

This year is the centenary celebration of the year Christie wrote her first detective novel, ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’, which introduced detective Poirot to the world.
Since it opened to the public in 2009, Greenway has seen record crowds. In addition to the home, there are miles of gardens complete with a boathouse, pet cemetery, and camellia gardens along with a croquet lawn, tennis courts, greenhouses and more.

“This year we’ve been so crowded that we even ran out of Greenway guidebooks in July,” local Trust Volunteer Ann Emby told this reporter in early September.  “The Christies were great collectors, and the house is filled with archaeology finds, Tunbridgeware, silver, botanical china and books.”

During WWII, the U.S. Coast Guard was stationed at the house. In the first floor library one can still view the beautiful frieze painted on the walls and ceiling of war events by U.S. Lt. Marshall Lee. He was stationed at the house in the run up to the D Day landings.

It is said Christie and the nearby English welcomed American soldiers with open arms and they too enjoyed being posted to the home of one of the world’s most talented mystery writers. During WWII, the house was used first to house child evacuees and from 1944 to 1945 by the U.S. Coastguard.

The grounds of Greenway are as spectacular as the home. The property includes a large, romantic woodland which drifts down the hillside towards the sparkling Dart estuary. The walled gardens are home to a restored peach house and vinery, as well as gardens cared for by local school children.

As you walk the grounds, your breath is taken away by the views, the quiet, the smell of roses and other gorgeous flowers near benches along the well maintained walkways, which take you down to the river and around the gardens. The boathouse sits at one end of the trails. It has a pool and also a sign stating that the area is a ‘Bat Roost’ meaning that in order to save bats from distinction, Greenway has become their sanctuary.

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Robert Hurns stands at the Greenway boat house on the river Dart and the scene of the murder in Christie’s book “Dead Man’s Folly.”  (Photo by Diane Turner-Hurns)                                                   

The boathouse is the scene of the crime (both in the book and the recent ITV show) in ‘Dead Man’s Folly’ filmed on location in Greenway in 2013 for ITV. It features David Suchet playing Poirot.

“David Suchet is amazing. When he was here he was never out of character,” Emby said.
Suchet is the celebrated English actor who has played Poirot in most of the recent Christie murder mysteries movies and TV series.

When visitors leave the boathouse to walk back up to the main house they come across an overlook complete with its own cannon battery. As one continues up, and we mean up, you pass the beautifully manicured croquet court area and find yourself again at the front door of the home.

Passing the home back toward the entrance and to the right are the formal gardens and greenhouses. The grounds are home to over 2,700 species of trees and plants.

“Throughout the year we have garden sales where people from the area come to buy flowers, vegetables, shrubs and trees,” a Greenway gardener told us. They are extensive and in a pristine state. Christie was known for her prowess with poisons so the gardens served as a hunting and experimental ground for her and her novels as well as her past as a nurse during the war.

Christie, born to an American father and English mother in 1890 died Jan. 12, 1976.  She is also famous for writing the world’s longest-running play, The Mousetrap. The Mousetrap opened in the West End of London in 1952. It has had more than 25,000 performances.
In 1971, Queen Elizabeth named Christie a Dame for her contribution to literature. Her Dame credentials and jeweled pin are among several treasures on display in a cupboard in a small room between the living room and the large kitchen at Greenway.

Each room at Greenway is filled with history. The rooms include the morning room, drawing room, expansive and bright kitchen, comfy and bright library filled with first editions, the long dining room with rich wood furniture and hutches and upstairs the sitting room filled with archaeological finds, vinyl albums and books; the bathroom, her writing room and Christie’s bedroom filled to the brim with her clothes and other personal furnishings.

So how do you get there?

The GWR train from Paddington Station in London to Torquay takes about three and a half hours. It’s a comfortable and scenic ride. We stayed at the ‘Grand Hotel’ in Torquay,  across the street from the train station and Torquay Bay. Christie spent her honeymoon night at this hotel in room 216.

The view from our room was wonderful, but lacking. It looked out over a veranda roof full of moss and unknown plants growing out of unmanaged water pools with country flags in rags posted. There was no artwork on the walls and the furniture looked to be throwaways. However, the location was great. Downstairs the glass enclosed restaurant and bar area near the pool and overlooking the Bay was nice.

When the fire alarm rang one morning, we called down to the hotel operator. It went unanswered. Somehow we thought that our coffee brewer may have set it off. When we left the hotel that morning we told the manager about it and he said, “No worry. Someone burnt toast in the kitchen at breakfast. That caused the fire alarm to go off. So you can spend your day guilt free.”

We’re thinking ‘Fawlty Towers’ (the English comedy TV series) reboot. And, yes, ‘Fawlty Towers’ was based in Torquay, but at a hotel across the road.

There were no Agatha Christie maps or Greenway info at the Grand Hotel. When asked, the clerk was unaware of whom the author was, despite Torquay being the celebrated author’s home town and that the hotel was listed as the start of the “Agatha Christie Memorial Mile’.

Not to worry. Torquay was full of Christie information including a Christie sculpture in the middle of town near the harbor, a full map of the ‘Agatha Christie Mile’ which retraces Christie’s earlier life such as where she helped wounded WWI soldiers at the ‘Dispensary’  and much more.

To get to Greenway we hopped, bought round-trip tickets (4.90 pounds each), on the local bus which stopped across the street from the Grand Hotel to the Paignton train station, several stops away, but the final stop. Exiting the bus we walked across the street to the Paignton train station where we caught a Dartmouth Steam Railway train, powered by coal, to Greenway.  Cost for two for the steam train and bus shuttle to Greenway roundtrip was 17 pounds.

One could get off before Greenway at Churston and take a free shuttle bus to Greenway or get off at Greenway and walk a hilly, but beautiful path, of about 20 minutes to Greenway. We did the walk.

The return train runs are limited as are the shuttle buses. We were able to catch the last shuttle bus to return to Torquay at exactly 5:05 p.m. at the front gate at Greenway beyond the parking area. It was on a deserted country road, but luckily two other visitors joined us to wait for the bus.  The bus took us to an almost empty Churston train station where strangers told us what side of the tracks we needed to be on. The steam train came right on time and took us to Paignton where we got off, crossed the street and hopped on the bus to return to Torquay.

For more Christie history, the Torquay museum is a gem. Located off the beaten path on Museum Street, it has an excellent display of local explorers including that of Percy Fawcett, a boy mummy, an ancient Egyptian presentation and “the only permanent Agatha Christie gallery filled with iconic works, props and costumes.” It also had the cane David Suchet presented to the museum and used while playing Poirot in the TV programs and Poirot’s complete study and lounge from the TV set.

The clues were always there to unearth Christie’s hometown history. It’s hard to leave the comfort of Greenway, but one can always return by reading one of Christie’s many crime mysteries featuring, yes probably an unpleasant murder, but also the irrepressible detectives Poirot and Ms. Marple and her beloved summer and holiday home, Greenway.

 

 

Guest Blog Post: A Glimpse Into the Future By Lena Gregory

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Death at First Sight, which released on November 1st, is the first book in the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries series. At present, there are three books written in the series. I’ve written many blog posts and answered many interview questions about the first book in the series, but I haven’t discussed the later books. That being the case, I thought it might be fun to take a peek into the future and see where the series is headed.

Cass Donovan should have dusted off her crystal ball and taken a peek before leaving her psychiatric practice in New York to open a psychic shop on Bay Island. Maybe then she’d have seen trouble coming her way and nipped it in the bud before it got out of hand. As it is, she foresees the problem a little too late to intervene and ends up the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Now, she has to prove her innocence if she wants to have any hope of making a life on Bay Island.

Death at First Sight raises the question of whether or not ghosts exist, and it’s often a debate—argument, whatever—between Cass and her two best friends. Stephanie is a firm believer in something beyond the normal. Bee, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in anything otherworldly, or so he claims. For someone who insists there’s no such thing as ghosts, he goes out of his way to steer clear of anything to do with them. And Cass, well, Cass doesn’t know what she thinks.

Years of psychiatric training give Cass Donavan a unique glimpse into the minds of her customers. The fact that she is very good at interpreting the subtle tells people give away all the time without realizing it, only enhances her ability to give fairly accurate “readings” and convince most of her customers she is psychic. Of course, Cass doesn’t consider herself psychic. At least, not at the beginning of the series.

In Occult and Battery, the second book in the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries series Cass has to find a way to generate income for the winter months. Bay Island is a tourist town, and few tourists want to brave the elements to visit a beach town in the dead of winter. But the psychic weekend she decides to host in a haunted house, complete with séance, backfires when a real ghost—or maybe mass hysteria—and a real body turn up. When a blizzard blows in and traps Cass and her guests overnight with a killer, even Cass can’t predict what will happen.

The third book in the Bay Island Psychic Mysteries series is not yet titled, but it delves a little more into the paranormal. Either that, or Cass has gone completely crazy, because a woman has started appearing in her dreams. That in itself might not be so unusual, if Cass didn’t stumble upon a portrait of the woman in the new art gallery window. And if a woman didn’t turn up missing.

So, what do you think? Do ghosts exist? Is there really a world beyond our own, and can some people communicate with the spirits that dwell in that world? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Death at First Sight

Nov 01, 2016 | 304 Pages

Guest Blog Post: Too Much Christmas? Not in Rudolph, New York.

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By Vicki Delany

Most of us would agree that Christmas can come too soon. We complain (I certainly do) about decorations in the stores and seasonal ads on TV before summer’s even over, never mind before Halloween.

But still, a lot of us do our shopping ahead of time. I know people who buy decorations for next year the week after this year’s Christmas, and who start shopping for gifts around the time they put away the New Years’ decorations.  It’s a wise woman (or man) who starts her baking in plenty of time. A traditional Christmas cake or old-fashioned English pudding, full of rum or brandy, or sometimes both, needs to be started months ahead to be perfect for the big day.

It’s precisely to help out those early birds that the town of Rudolph, New York celebrates Christmas all year round.

Don’t rush to your atlases or Google maps looking for Rudolph because I made it up. It’s the town at the center of my new series, The Year Round Christmas mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime.

Rudolph wants to be known as America’s Christmas Town and everything in Rudolph is about celebrating the holidays. All year round. They have a Santa Claus parade twice a year.  The usual one the first Saturday in December, and then another for Christmas in July.

In Rudolph everyone gets into the spirit of the thing.  Victoria’s Bake Shoppe is famous for its gingerbread.  There’s Candy Cane Sweets, the North Pole Ice Cream Parlour, The Elves Lunchbox, Cranberries Coffee Bar, Touch of Holly Restaurant, The Yuletide Inn, the Carolers Motel. (Looking at this list it seems as though the residents and visitors to Rudolph like to eat a lot.)

The series protagonist is Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures. Merry’s dad, Noel, is Santa Claus. Yes, Merry knows that he isn’t really Santa, but she does sometimes wonder. He has a way of knowing exactly what someone wants before even they do.

But presents, decorations, ornaments and even food isn’t what the holidays are about. Or it shouldn’t be.  In Rudolph they know that.

They know that Christmas is about friendship, family, and love. What we sometimes call Christmas magic.

“Ho, ho, ho,” said the deep voice from the shop doorway.

“Look who’s here,” A woman said to the restless six-year-old tugging on her coat. “It’s Santa!”

The kid, who’d moments before been whining and stomping his feet with such vigor I feared for the more delicate of my ornaments, stood stock still, wide-eyed and open mouthed.

“Have you been a good boy?” Santa asked him.

The child nodded, struck dumb.

“Santa’s going to the park,” the head toy-maker said. “For games.”

“We’ll be right there, Santa,” the mother said.

My dad nodded to the music box resting in her hand. “Your great-grandmother will get a lot of pleasure out of that.” With a wink and another wave to the child, he left.

The woman’s eyes were as wide and delighted as her son’s. “How did he know my great-grandmother’s still alive? This will be her one hundred and seventh Christmas, and she looks forward to it as much as she did when she was a child.”

“He’s Santa,” the toy maker said.

“Are you Santa’s wife?” the child asked me.

“Yup,” I said. Normally I might be offended if someone suggested I was old enough to be married to my own father. But I was in my Mrs. Claus getup and today everyone would believe what they wanted to believe. The air over Rudolph was chock full of that special Christmas magic.

About the book:

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas

Nov 01, 2016 | 304 Pages

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray

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Book Review – Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray

By Dorothy Love

Thomas Nelson

June 14, 2016

Historical set in 1870s, Virginia

400 pages

print and e-book format

received e-book from Netgalley for an honest review

 

Mary Anna Custis Lee was born into a family with a rich patriotic history in Virginia. She was a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and could proudly share tales of battles during the American Revolution and she spoke to those who came to dine with her father, George Washington Parke Custis, at Arlington, their home. Her education soared into exciting lessons of various languages, botany, history and poetry. Because of her fathers’ inheritance, she also knew the 60 slaves that resided in their quarters behind Arlington. She and her mother educated seven servant children for they wished to make a difference. Mary and her mother were  committed to the colonization society which focused on freeing slaves and paying for their travels to Liberia.

When she was 19, she visited her mother’s cousins in Fauquier. It was there that her cousin, Robert Edward Lee, rushed to spend time with her while on leave from West Point. Robert informed her, and her cousins, about his desire to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Four years later, he proposed to Mary.

For Selina, Mary’s upcoming marriage meant the end of the outdoor chores she enjoyed. She was now expected to sew clothes for Mary (she was a child) and later caring for her home. She, her entire family and peers, having been born slaves have lived as others have sought fit, were considered little more than property. The only exception is that Mary taught Selina and several other servant children how to read, which at the time was considered a sin. Perhaps, because, if you educate a man, woman or child it gives a soul life and worth and leads to rebellion. Selena and her loved ones are cold, hungry, exhausted, while Mary’s family lives in comfort and barely knows how to care for themselves or their children without their servants’ assistance. But because Mary and her mother are working to liberate slaves by sending them back to Africa, Selina, as the years pass, continues to harbor a veiled friendship for Mary. Though Selina must always consider her standing in society, be aware of unacceptable actions and punishment.

Love informs the reader about Mr. Lee’s continued elevation in the military and how Mary and their many children are often moving where he serves, when it is allowed. Mary was also responsible for being Arlington’s caretaker after the death of her parents. At the same time, she had to balance her responsibilities as wife and mother. When her husband has to make a choice between serving the North or the South, she then has to flee her home as the Northern Army advances. She relies on both Selina and a hired man to see that it continues to exist in her absence. Which is nearly impossible.

It takes years of research to understand this time period. I’ve only begun to tap into historical novels having read romance, paranormal, and cozies for 30 years. I want to learn. I hunger for truth. It seems well guarded or covered in layers and lies so it is nearly undecipherable.  I chose to read this novel to learn more about “why” there was a Civil War. What the key individuals that drafted their strategies in the art of war believed they were fighting for. And, could it be possible that a land owner in Virginia could befriend a woman who is a slave? Before I ever read the e-book I knew it would focus mainly on Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray’s friendship. But for 400 pages, it should have touched upon so much more. It seems like all the details of the war were left out. I know that Mr. Lee could not have mentioned advancements in letters to his wife for fear that the enemy could use it to their advantage.

There were newspapers that Mary could have discussed articles with her father or female relatives. They visited their cousins often. Then there was great loss: loss of children to terrible illness and sons to war. That alone should have greatly impacted the readers. Describing in great detail the emotional reactions to the difficult challenges in their lives could have pulled me, and other readers, closer to both women. I wanted to feel what they felt. Stand beside them in their experiences. There was more to Mr. Lee’s riding a horse home after the end of the war. It was either edited out or not written. The book has potential, but didn’t dig deep enough.

It was worth reading because I will look for future books that focus on this time period. Every book has a purpose. It didn’t strive to be the next “Gone with the Wind,” it merely wanted to say that a special friendship was kindled and survived even in the household of Robert E. Lee.

Three Washington heirlooms out of five

Denise Fleischer

gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

November 19, 2016

 

Guest Blog Post: How I Became a Writer

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betty-hechtman-15-2By Betty Hechtman

It all started when I was a kid.  When it was summer and the weather was perfect without a cloud in the sky, we would go to our very, very rustic cottage in Indiana.  When I say rustic, I mean like no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no telephone, no heat beyond a fireplace and when we got there, we were pretty much stranded because we also had no car.  We’d take the train from Chicago and one of our neighbors would picked us up in his ancient truck.  We’d stop at the dairy and pick up a block of ice for our ice box (remember no electricity).

With all those nos you might think I was upset.  I didn’t even notice them because I was so happy to be there.  It was like magic to me.  There were wild strawberries to pick for breakfast, wild flowers to pick and make a bouquet, a mysterious forest and if you could get through all the waist high grass and brambles, wild blackberries.  But best of all I was free to roam.  I started what would become a life long habit of going for walks and telling myself stories as I did.  I would walk along a sandy road with butterflies as my escort and go past a 1000 acre farm on one side and wild fields on the other.  An irrigation ditch went through the farmer’s field and under the road.  The bridge was just the right size to lean on and look over.  The way the water made tiny waterfalls made me think it would be a perfect place for fairies to live.

And on the wild side of the road there were purple flowers that smelled like peanut butter.  I would walk and think about the possibilities for fairies.  I thought the loaf shaped rural mailbox I saw would make a perfect house for them.  I decided on names for them – Lily and Violet and I came up with an adventure for them.  Finally I wrote it down and it became my first actual story.  I was eleven.

I realized how much I liked writing mysteries when I wrote my first mystery short story in high school.  It was about jewels being smuggled in some birds’ feathers who were on their way to a zoo.  The teacher actually read my story in class.  It was a bright moment in a bleak time of my life.

9780425279458I went to a commuter University and working on the student newspaper was a wonderful experience.  I learned all about putting together a newspaper.  We did it all, the writing, layout and paste up, along with rushing to take it to the printer on Thursday nights to make our 2 a.m. deadline.  After doing reporting and writing news stories, I eventually wrote a weekly column that managed to cause a ruckus a number of times.

To me, being a writer meant writing everything and anything and so, many years later when I taught myself how to crochet, I thought it would be great to mix the craft with mystery.  And Molly Pink and the Tarzana Hookers got their start crocheting and solving mysteries. HOOKING FOR TROUBLE is the eleventh book in the Crochet Series.  Molly has a rear window moment when she thinks she sees a murder, but when there’s no body, nobody believes her.

I’ve come a long way from that sandy road (which is now paved), but I’m still finding story material wherever I look. I found the current one literally in my own backyard.

About the Author:

Betty Hechtman writes two national best selling yarn related series. HOOKING FOR TROUBLE is the eleventh in the Crochet series and GONE WITH THE WOOL is the fourth in the Yarn Retreat series. In addition, she is the author of STOLEN TREASURE, a Y.A. mystery with recipes.

She has a B.A. in Fine Arts and has written newspaper and magazine pieces, along with short stories and several scripts.  She splits her time between Southern California and Chicago and has yarn stashes in both places.  Website:  BettyHechtman.com  Facebook: Betty Hechtman Author Twitter @BettyHechtman

About the Book:

Hooking for Trouble

Nov 01, 2016 | 304 Pages

Book Review – Engaged in Death by Stephanie Blackmoore

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Engaged in Death

A Wedding Planner Mystery #1

By Stephanie Blackmoore

Kensington

July 28, 2016 published

Cozy paperback 347 pages…….Spoiler alert

 

Nothing Mallory Shepard planned for her wedding was going her way. An overbearing future mother-in-law changes every detail of Mallory and Kevin’s wedding plans, everything from the style of her dress to the reception menu.  One thing Mommy-in-law didn’t plan was that her perfect lawyer son would have an affair with a young woman in his office. When Mallory learns the truth, and I’m not going to tell you how, she calls off the wedding and puts an end to their relationship before her life goes spiraling out of control.

There was one good thing that came out of that relationship and that was Kevin’s grandmother Sylvia. She is the one member of their upper-class family that actually had a heart.  Mallory loved her and visited her often in the nursing home. Sadly, Sylvia dies. Now there are two losses. Heartbreak morphs into shock when Mallory learns that Thistle Park, Sylvia’s home, was left to her in Sylvia’s will. This causes another round of trouble for Mallory as Sylvia’s heirs don’t accept it. Neither Kevin or Sylvia feel she’s entitled to the inheritance.  What they don’t inform Mallory was they were eager to sign a contract to allow a company permission to do what Sylvia would never agree to. Mallory owning the property is a big obstacle in her way.

Shortly after Mallory and her sister move in, they find a familiar body on the lawn. The same man Mallory told to leave the night before. That she wasn’t going to sign a contract to allow them do what Sylvia was totally against. The sisters were sleeping and didn’t hear a thing. Not only do they have to deal with Sylvia pressuring them to leave, but a new find…a diary deepens the plot. It mentions that three items in an expensive art collection may still be on the property. The question now is could they have been destroyed, sold, or are they still hidden? Is that what Sylvia and Kevin are looking for?  Who killed Shane Hartley, the energy representative and why? Will Mallory be able to solve the mystery and get her life back on track? Read the book to find out.

With the very first line of Engaged to Death, I could understand Mallory’s situation of trying to co-exist with an interfering future mother-in-law. One who literally took over all her wedding plans. Red flags flashed before my eyes. Mallory recognized the signs, but it took someone else far wiser to push her in the right direction. Maybe love blinds us all. The book also takes on some serious issues, for one, fracking, “the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc., so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.”   Read this when you have a free moment: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/issues/fracking/environmental-impacts-water/ Another issue Blackmoore addresses is infidelity. I’m not going to name the guilty party, but feeling guilty isn’t enough. One word says it all “commitment.” Inheritance, there’s another powerful word. Engaged focuses on Sylvia leaving Mallory her home. “Of sound mind,” she knew exactly what she was doing as Mallory is a good hearted individual more in line with Sylvia’s beliefs and wishes then Sylvia’s grandson and daughter-in-law. “Trust” is another human and animal intuitive understanding. One which is very difficult to determine in any time period. Who do we trust?  Blackmoore has my attention and I’m eager to read “Murder Wears White,” which should be available at the end of Jan. 2017.

Four and a half homes worth saving out of five

Denise Fleischer

Gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com

November 19, 2016