Home Again, Jiggedy-Jig

I’m back from Malice Domestic in Bethesda, Md., and from the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa.. If someone asked me to choose between the events, I’m sure I couldn’t. They are very different from one another, but both are wonderful for writers and readers alike. Both are well-organized and staffed by helpful, friendly sort who love to chat with writers.

Scrapbook of Secrets didn’t win the Agatha for best first novel. I know everybody says this—and so it appears a little cliche and maybe fake—but truly, I was honored to be on that very short list of authors.

Here they are— with apologies to the photographer for no credit. This picture was going around on Facebook and I could not figure out who the original belonged to.

From left to right: Stephanie Jay Evans, Erika Chase, Duffy Brown, Me, and Susan Boyer

In fact, I was just thrilled to be in the same space as Louise Penny, Laura Lippman, and so many other writers whose work I’ve admired through the years. Besides the writers, the readers make the event really magical for me. Imagine someone knowing your characters and your plot and coming up to you and saying “I think Beatrice should do so and so.” I mean, really? You can’t ask for more than that as a writer.

At Malice, I participated in the famous “Malice-Go-Round.”  Authors go from table to table and pitch our books to readers. We are timed and have to keep it within 2 minutes. I had a fabulous partner in Linda O. Johnston, who was also my roomie at the hotel. They say to think of this event as “speed dating for writers” and it is really like that.

Here we all are (once again, I have no idea who this photo really belongs to) :

The Festival of Mystery is Pittsburgh is a bit like that , too. It’s organized and hosted by the fabulous Mystery Lover’s Book Store in Oakmont, Pa. Readers are already lined up to get in to the festival when we arrive. Here’s some shots of the crowd waiting outside the building:

And when they enter, they are eager to chat with writers—and to buy our books. The other part of the festival is that the authors are interviewed on a stage where they, of course, get to talk about their books.

Here’s a shot of the audience:

By that time, I was a bit pooped, I must admit, and forgot half of what I wanted to say. But I think I did well—because I signed some books and talked with readers after that.

Connecting with readers is really what events like this are all about. Next on my schedule is a reading with two other mystery authors in Staunton, Va., a neighboring town. Hope to meet more readers there. And after that, New York!

Off to Malice Domestic and the Festival of Mystery

In a few days, I’ll be heading to Malice Domestic, a mystery fan conference in Bethesda, Md. Last year was my first conference and I was blown away by the organization of it, the fabulous panels, and the community of writers and readers.

This year, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS is up for the Agatha Award for the Best First Novel of 2012, so I will be attending the awards banquet on Saturday night. Of course, I’m extremely honored to be included on the list of nominations and I’m humbled by the group of writers that are also on that list.

After Malice Domestic on Sunday, I’ll be driving a group of writers up to the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, Pa., which takes place on Monday, May 6.

If you are attending Malice, I hope to see you there. Here’s my schedule of events —but I will be attending as many panels as possible.  By all means, if you spot me at a panel in the audience, or in the hallway, or at the bar, introduce yourself. I love chatting with readers!

 

Friday

Malice Go Round at 10

Opening Ceremonies at 5

Reception at 9

 

Saturday

Panel at 2 “New Kids on the Block: Our Agatha Best First Novel Nominees”

Book signing 5:00 in the atrium

Awards banquet: 7:00

 

Monday: The Mystery Lover’s Festival, Oakmont, Pa.

My Journey Book—a Very Special Giveaway

Last year, I was totally blown away by the gratitude I felt by so many readers contacting and telling me they loved my book. In fact I wrote a post “Love Note to Readers”  about how honored I felt. And I still do.

So I knew I wanted to do a special giveaway with the publication of SCRAPPED. Something I felt my readers would truly appreciate.  After giving it a great deal of thought, I made what I’m calling a “Journey” book. The idea is that it’s an empty, already (somewhat) embellished, prepared scrapbook or journal.  In other words, it’s  book full of templates.

You can put your own photos and writing on the pages I’ve already prepared or use some of the many blank pages I left in the book for your own creative expression. One of the pages has a pocket that’s full of embellishments to help you create your own pages, if that’s what you choose.

The book also lifts quotes from SCRAPPED and uses some of the visuals from the book, like Tarot cards and moons and so on.

In order to win the book, just follow this link to Kensington’s Facebook page. You’ll have to hit the LIKE button. Fill out the form and, voila, you are entered.

As for me, I enjoyed crafting the book and hope that whomever wins it will love it as much as I do. In the mean time, keep reading, my friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Men of Cumberland Creek: A Brush-Up

This blog post is a reposting from the launch of my first book SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. As I am launching my second one, SCRAPPED, I’ve been reposting to remind you about my characters before we go into the next book. Soon I’ll introduce you to Cookie Crandall, my newest character.

Okay, so I’ve gotten you up to speed on all of my main characters and some of the secondary characters—all women. But not any of the male characters.  So, I thought I’d introduce them to you.  Yes, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS is a mystery novel, but it’s a traditional mystery, which (among other things) means the characters and their relationships are important to the story.

Mike Chamovitz (Annie’s husband) is a pharmaceutical sales rep and is away from home for a few days at a time. Have you been following my Pinterest account? (Here’s link to that.) If you are, then you know that I imagine him as a Johnny Depp look alike. At first glance, Mike and Annie have a wonderful relationship. He is a much more patient and settled person than Annie is, though.

Here is a bit from the book about them:

“Annie’s memories of their time together before the children helped her to cling to the hope they would get there again someday. They met at a book fair—and their conversations were often about literature, politics, philosophy. Mike’s mind was a beacon that lit a fire in her. She always found something he said sparked the desire in her to learn more. Do more. Be more.”

Bill Ledford (Vera’s husband) is a lawyer and I imagine him as David Duchovny, but balding. Bill is smack in the middle of mid-life and thinks he has it all figured out. Turns out, he doesn’t. (In facts, she still thinks a lot about her old boyfriend Tony.) Here’s a little about Bill and Vera:

“For all intents and purposes, Vera thought, Bill was the perfect husband—always kind and polite, cleaned up after himself, and he was an attentive lover, for which she had always been grateful. But lately, she just didn’t want to be bothered. Sex was more trouble than it was worth—so more often than not, she told him no, she was tired, or not feeling well. And he would never question her. But sometimes the thought of making love with him absolutely just filled her with dread.”

Detective Adam Bryant is the only detective in the small town of Cumberland Creek, yet he is Harvard-educated, and smart as a whip. The trouble with Adam is he is socially inept and comes across as sexist on several occasions. He is in  good shape and a very attractive man, even if he has a bit of a swagger. (In truth, maybe that swagger is part of his appeal.)  Check out Pinterest to see who I’d cast as Adam. Heh.

Here’s the scene in which many of the scrapbookers first meet Adam:

“Greetings exchanged, the detective walked into the room filled with pretty scrapbooking doodads, paper, and food. He was a large man, tall, about six feet, five inches in height and broad at the shoulders, narrow at the hips. He was manly-looking enough to look out of place in this group of women, who were all sitting there gaping—a decent looking, clean-shaven man in a blue suit with eyes to match. Shoes polished to a shine. Spiffy. Maybe an ex- military man? Hadn’t Vera seen him at the funeral?

“I’m Detective Bryant,” he said flashing his badge. “I just have a few questions for you. Now what’s going on here?” He gestured at the table.

Vera cleared her throat. “Dinner,” she said, with a smile. “Would you like some?”

All three of those men play important roles in all three of my books—even though they are secondary characters. The focus is on the women. But it the first book SCRAPBOOK SECRETS, there is another man that’s key in the story—Robert Dasher, Maggie Rae’s grieving husband. Here’s a bit of Annie’s observing him:

“Robert was a devastatingly handsome young man. He looked like he stepped right off the pages of GQ. His clothes hung on him just like a model’s, clung in the right places, showed off his thin, but muscular physique, Those blue eyes, though, held very little emotion. Annie could not read anything in them—even in the wedding pictures. He was smiling, but his eyes looked the same as when he wasn’t smiling. Odd.”

Just a note here: We see Robert Dasher from afar in SCRAPPED and HYBRID (Book #3).

 

Cumberland Creek: A Brush-Up

At the end of the month the second book in my Cumberland Creek Mystery Series will be published. SCRAPPED takes place a full year after SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. I think a lot of series are spaced closer together and maybe the others in my series will be. But in the mean time, I went back and looked at some of my old posts where I introduced you to my characters and thought it would be fun for you to revisit before the next book comes out. And who knows…maybe some new reader will happen on this post and decide to pick up both books.  Next post: The men of Cumberland Creek.  Stay tuned for more on Cookie Crandall, my new character.

Intro to my characters

My Cumberland Creek Mystery series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders.

The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” I thought I’d introduce you to the main three characters and next week I’ll tell you more about the secondary characters. The third group of characters shifts from book to book.

Annie

Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a posh suburbanish city.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

A narrative bit about Annie:

The first time Annie was asked the most popular question new residents were asked, which was “What church do you attend?” she grimaced. She felt violated. She was used to moving in an urban community in which such questions were not asked.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.

Vera

Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So, among other things, she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill Ledford. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in New York City, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

A narrative bit about Vera:

It wasn’t as if she kept secrets from her dearest friends. Some things were too private to talk about at a crop. After all, crops were primarily for scrapbooking. Oh yes, there was the social aspect that one couldn’t deny. But nothing deep or heavy should be broached.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby. For godsakes. Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

A narrative bit about Bea: Now this knife in the neck business concerned her. Who would do such a thing? And what would have happened if it had not been lodged just exactly where it was? She could have died—or worse, been paralyzed, at the mercy of the likes of Vera and Sheila, two mid-life fools if ever there were.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “Your Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and Leaves of Grass  in the other,” Beatrice said.

 The Second Tier of Characters

Three other regular croppers meet every Saturday night—DeeAnn. Paige, and Sheila, who is the scrapbook consultant in the group.

Since my last post was a bit long, I thought I’d keep it short this time and tell you a bit about DeeAnn.

DeeAnn has been in Cumberland Creek for twenty-five years—and she’s still considered a newbie. She married a local man—her college sweetheart—who is the high school principal. She’s got two daughters, both in college. Fair skinned and freckled, she’s a large, muscular woman—with a baker’s arms and heart. There’s nothing she likes better than feeding people. She brings the most delicious snacks to crops. Her bakery is the only one in town. There are others on the outskirts of Cumberland Creek. As a baker, her focus has always been on bread, cake, and cookies. (Pamela’s Pie Palace has the pie market cornered.) In the first book, DeeAnn hires an intern who has a way with muffins.

A quote from DeeAnn:

“Classical tonight ladies?” Sheila asked.

“Hell no,” DeeAnn said, getting up to head for her bag, pulling out a CD.  “Let’s hear some Stones.”

Paige

Paige Swanson grew up just outside of Cumberland Creek proper—sort of between Jenkins Mountain and the town. She grew up in the modern Mennonite church, which means that to look at her, you’d never know she was a Mennonite. In fact, you might think “aging hippy” when you first see Paige, even though that is not what she is at all.  She is fond of tie-dye shirts and dangly earrings.  In fact, when Annie first meets Paige she thinks her name doesn’t suit her at all. “She looks more like a Willow or Moonbeam.”

Paige is the high school history teacher. She’s the mother of one son—Randy, who is a chef living in Washington, DC, with his partner. She has not spoken to him in years. This issue is a dark cloud hanging over her that bursts from time to time.  His homosexuality goes against everything she believes in—or so she thinks.

Like all Cumberland Creek Croppers, Paige is a pretty good cook, but she loves to make cakes and cupcakes. Her specialty is red velvet.

Sheila

Sheila is one of the most interesting characters in the book—she is the scrapbook consultant who refuses to allow her children into basement, where she holds her weekly scrapbooking crops. She is also an avid runner, rarely missing a day.

Sheila and Vera grew up together—their mothers were best friends. Sheila’s mom passed away years ago from breast cancer—and so this is an issue that is near and dear to Sheila’s heart. She runs in a lot of breast cancer awareness marathons and so on.

Sheila’s scrapbook room, house, and scrapbooks are immaculate—but Sheila herself rarely is. She wears wrinkled mismatched clothes at times and hardly bothers brushing her hair—or wearing lipstick.

She and Beatrice pick on each other incessantly—but underneath, Beatrice and Sheila care for one another. One of the ways Sheila endears herself to Bea is by making sure she’s well-stocked in pie.

 

Scrapped, Chapter Three

This is the last free chapter of SCRAPPED I can offer you. If you didn’t see the first two, scroll around on the blog and you will see them. They are also printed all together in the back of the first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. SCRAPPED will be published December 31 and I am counting the days. You can pre-order on Amazon. If you hit the like button, I’d surely appreciate it. Enjoy!

 

Vera’s back twisted in pain as she placed a sleeping Elizabeth into her crib. After all the years of dancing, who would have thought parenting would be the most physically taxing thing on her body?

“She’s down for the time being,” she said to her mother, who was sitting next to the fireplace, wrapped in a quilt.

“Go and have a good time,” Beatrice said. “This fire is so nice. Think I’ll stay right here. Be careful, Vera. It’s not safe out there.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

It had been almost a week since the mysterious body washed up in their park, with nobody claiming it. How sad to think that nobody missed this woman enough to report her absence—or to claim her body.

But still, Beatrice was acting a little more concerned about her safety than usual. Vera wondered if Beatrice would ever be the same. After she returned from her vacation in Paris, a general malaise hung over her, and no matter what Vera said or did, it was clear Beatrice didn’t want to talk about this trip, which she and her long-gone husband had dreamed about taking for years. Vera had thought she would return home with countless stories about the city, its food, and its people, but she didn’t. Instead, she’d shared a few photos and thoughts, said she was glad she went, but that was it. Vera mused over this as she opened the door to Sheila’s basement scrapbooking room.

“How’s Lizzie?” Sheila said after Vera sat down at the table and cracked open her satchel of scrapbooking stuff. She was still working on chronicling Elizabeth’s first birthday party.

“Rotten, but asleep for now,” Vera said, feeling a wave of weariness, reaching into her bag for chocolates. She had found a new chocolate shop in Charlottesville the other day and was smitten with the handmade dark chocolate spiced with chili pepper. Who would have imagined? She sat the box on the table. “Chocolates,” she said.

“Have some pumpkin cranberry muffins,” DeeAnn said, shoving the plate toward Vera.

“Thanks,” Vera said.

“God, these are so good,” Annie said, taking another bite of muffin.

“Thanks. We’re selling a lot of them at the bakery,” DeeAnn said and sliced a picture with her photo cropper. “Business hasn’t slowed down a bit for us, thank God.” She made the sign of the cross across her ample chest, even though she wasn’t Catholic. She was the town baker, and her place was always busy, particularly in the mornings.

“Wish I could say the same thing,” Sheila said, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. “Digital scrapbooking is all the rage. I’m losing business with it being so paper based.”

“My business is going through a rough patch, too,” Vera said. “This darned economy.” After a few minutes of silence, Vera brought up the subject of the mysterious body. “You know, I just can’t get the dead woman out of my mind,” she said. “Any word yet on who she is?”

“Not that I know of,” Annie said. “I’ve called the police a few times. Bryant’s supposed to let me know.”

“I wouldn’t trust that,” Sheila said, placing her scissors on the table with a rattle and a clunk.

“Don’t worry,” Annie said. “I have his number. I’m already researching these symbols carved into her body.”

“Symbols?” Cookie asked.

“A first I thought it was Hebrew, but it’s not.”

“Ooh,” DeeAnn said. “That just gave me the chills.” Her blue eyes widened, and she leaned on her large baker’s arms. “I’m thinking Satanists . . . or witches. . . . Sorry, Cookie.”

“Witches don’t do that kind of stuff,” Cookie said. “We are gentle, earth loving, people loving. I’ve told you that.” She grinned.

“I would assume you are not all the same, though,” Annie said. “That there are bad witches, just like there are bad Jews or Christians.”

“Well . . .” Cookie shifted around in her chair as it creaked. “You’re probably right about that.” She turned and asked Sheila, “Now, how do I use this netting?”

Sheila happily showed Cookie the technique. She unrolled the netting from the packaging ball. One side of it was sticky. She placed it on the page at a diagonal and pressed down, then cut it with her scissors, giving it a rough edge, which added to the textured page.

“I honestly still don’t know why you call yourself a witch,” Vera said.

“Oh, Vera, would you just please leave it alone?” Sheila said. “Good Lord. We are having a crop here, not a trial.”

Cookie smiled slightly. “Thanks, Sheila, but I don’t mind answering. I call myself a witch because I feel I’m honoring the women who were burned at the stake in the name of witchcraft. I reclaim it. That’s all. And if people have a problem with it, they can either educate themselves or not. But I don’t dwell on their issues with it.”

“Humph,” Vera said and laughed. “I guess she told me.”

Cookie smiled. “Well, you asked.”

“Indeed,” Sheila said. “I’d much rather talk about your sex life than Cookie’s witchcraft.”

“Oh yes, me too,” Annie said. “What happened last week? What kind of kinky sex did you have last weekend?”

“Good Lord,” Sheila gasped, red-faced, clutching her chest. “The way you just blurt those things out.”

Paige, the other steady scrapbook club member, entered the room with a flourish. Paige, DeeAnn, Sheila, and Vera were the original crop. Annie came along last year; then came Cookie.

When Vera thought about how things had changed over the past year, it almost gave her vertigo. She was now the mother of a sixteen-month hellion of a baby, who refused to take naps and didn’t want to be weaned. Annie was going to be a published author. Sheila’s daughter Donna was now in her senior year of high school—which set Sheila all atwitter from time to time. Paige had announced she was going to take an early retirement from the school system—this year, her twenty-fifth, would be her last. And DeeAnn’s bakery was just becoming more and more successful.

Paige’s breezy pink silk shirt almost caught on the corner of the ragged table as she waltzed by. “Sorry I’m late.” She placed a scrapbook on the table and opened the pages. “I had a flat tire, and it took a while for my husband to get it changed. I mean, Jesus, it’s not as if he hasn’t changed a tire before. What kind of muffins do you have there?”

“Pumpkin cranberry,” Annie answered, holding her page up and eyeballing it. “We were just going to talk about Vera’s sex life.”

“Oh, really? What did he do to you this time?” Paige asked.

Vera just laughed and waved her hand. They wouldn’t believe her if she said that there was absolutely no sex between them the last time she went to the city. They just laughed a lot and talked even more. They had so much to say to one another. She would never tire of hearing Tony’s Brooklyn accent as he told her stories about going on tour with this or that dance company. His voice soothed her—it felt like home. And his touch burned her skin with a passion she hadn’t known since they were together all those years ago in college, as young dancers. Maybe it was time he visited Cumberland Creek. But how would Bill feel about that? Would he make trouble for them? God knows she couldn’t keep his coming a secret. He’d be arriving on a Harley, and if that wasn’t enough of an attention getter, he was a beautiful dark man. Not many of those around Cumberland Creek. He’d stick out no matter where they went.

“Yoo-hoo.” Paige waved her hand in front of Vera’s face. “Where are you? I was asking about the dead body. Did you say she had red hair?”

“Yes,” Vera said. “Long red hair. Annie saw her.”

“You know, I was just thinking about this the other day. There seems to be a bunch of redheads that live up on the other side of Jenkins Hollow,” Paige said, twirling her own wavy blond hair with her slender finger.

Vera looked at Annie, who, at the mention of Jenkins Hollow, coughed on her wine.

“I’m just going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Annie finally said.

 

 

Making a SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS at Bouchercon

I’m so excited to be attending “Bouchercon, The World Mystery Conference” next week in Cleveland, Ohio. I’ll be moderating the Crafty Sleuth panel, hosting a table at the Mystery Writer’s of America  Librarian breakfast, and attending the Kensington author reception, of course.

When the organizers of the conference asked me to teach a craft class, I said YES because I love scrapbooking and I love to spread the love. My class is called “How to Make You Own Scrapbook of Secrets.” For those who haven’t read my book, it will be a good intro to it, as well.

The actual scrapbook part of it is a paper bag. Yep. Just fold paper bags, punch holes along the  “spine” and voila, you have a little book. Now the really cool think about this little book is that the paper bag openings give the scrapbooker little “secret” slots for notes, pictures, and so on.

I’ve already made up the kits and sent them off to the hotel. (I’m so organized about some things that sometimes I scare myself.) Among the other goodies, each crafter will get a full-color cover flat of SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. Now they can use it however they want, of course. But this is how I used mine.

Now this is just a prototype. I hope that the attendees will have fun with this and take off in their own creative ways with the class materials. But I had a blast incorporating some of the things from the book into this little scrapbook.  

 

 

If you haven’t read it, you should know that scrapbooking is how my croppers find out some secrets about Maggie Rae, the woman who has died. So the secret slots relate very well to my book.

Side view of the secret slots.

 

This been great fun to plan and I hope to see many of you in Cleveland at the Marriott in the craft room at 2 on Friday, October 5. Be there, or um, ya know, be square.

Two Events Coming Up!

I have a pretty busy fall in front of me and thought I’d let you know what I’m up to. I hope to catch some of you at one of both of these places.

1. I’ll be in Cleveland October 4-7 at Bouchercon, which is a huge mystery fan conference. On Friday, I’ll be moderating a panel “Those Crafty Sleuths” and I’m teaching a class in the craft room “How to Make Your Own Scrapbook of Secrets.” (I’ll post more about that here later this month.)

2. On Saturday, November 10, I’ll be teaching a “How to Write a Cookbook” class at the WriterHouse in Charlottesville, Va.

Along with these two appearances, I’m gearing up for the next book release. SCRAPPED will be out at the end of December. Stay tuned for more recipes, information on a blog tour, exciting contests, and other various and sundry events.

Fabulous New Review on the Examiner

What a thrilling review written by Lynn Harris of the Examiner!

Here’s part of what it says:

“I assumed when I started ‘Scrapbook of Secrets’ that it would be a fun whodunit and I would learn a little about scrapbooking along the way.  I seriously underestimated the book I was about to read. ‘Scrapbook of Secrets’, the first in “A Cumberland Creek Mystery” series by Mollie Cox Bryan examines a variety of the secrets that people hold.  Secrets that cause guilt, shame and possibly murder.  Exploring how the characters and society deals with these secrets provides the reader with an extremely thought provoking book. ”

For more of the review, click on “review” and enjoy!

A Real Happy Ever After in My Cozy Mystery

So many mystery writers do a great job of adding a little romance into their stories. As came up in one of the panels I was on at the Virginia Festival of the Book, readers love those relationships. I like them, too. In the my next book, SCRAPBOOK OF SHADOWS, there are some surprising new romances. But if you are looking for that kind of romance in a mystery, you should definitely steer clear of my first book, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS. Most of the women in my book are married and more of the focus is on the women and the relationships between them, rather than their marriages, although that does sneak in from time to time.

It’s that “sneaking” that has gone over a particular reviewer’s head. (And while I don’t respond to most negative reviews, I felt that I should address this issue.) This reviewer said my book wasn’t a cozy mystery because there was no romance. A lot of cozies DO have romances, but if it’s a prerequisite, it has completely escaped my study of the genre—as well as my editor’s. That said, there IS a little bit of romance in my book. It just happens to be between married people. Imagine that.

Annie and Mike Chamovitz have obstacles to overcome in their relationship because they have money problems and they have two toddler boys. Parenting can wreak havoc on relationships. Annie and Mike find time for each other—even after their evening is interrupted by a child who needs to be rocked to sleep, for example. Mike is still waiting for Annie in their bed when she returns, tired, but still wanting her husband.

This is the real stuff.

It’s also in the memories they’ve built as a couple, the way he told her when they dated: “We are about so much more than sex.”

It’s also in the way he not only ignites her body, but also her mind, making her want to be more.

It’s also about the way she pours herself into making his favorite spaghetti sauce, preening over it just to make sure it’s good enough for the man she loves.

It’s also about the way in which he calms her when she almost loses her temper with the boys and tells her that she should get out of the house by herself.

And the way he manages his work schedule so that she can work on her articles.

But it’s also about the little bumps that they have in their marriage. She has agreed to stay at home with the boys and give up her journalism. Yet, she finds herself pulled back in. Mike grapples with this, tries to support her, yet isn’t happy about it.
They find their way in the muddle of their lives—standing beside one another through the money struggles and the daily weariness.

Once again, this is real stuff. This is what the years of dating, hearts and flowers, and passionate embraces gets you. This is what we all want. This is a real happy ever after. Even with the messes and joys of parenthood, the struggle to find time as a couple, and the wondering if bills will get paid, there is love and yes, a bit of romance.

So while when it comes to reading, I will agree that some things are in the eye of the beholder, but this one thing is not. Look again. Readjust your glasses. You will find not only romance, but also love.