A Day in the Life with Dixie Hemingway by John Clement

The Cat Sitters Nine LivesHere’s how they make a spicy grapefruit margarita at Colonel Teddy’s Tiki Bar on Siesta Key:


1 fresh habanero pepper, halved
3 ounces Pueblo Viejo Tequila
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1 ounce simple syrup


In a cocktail shaker, steep one half of the habanero pepper in the Tequila for half an hour (or more if you want to abuse your taste buds). Then remove the pepper and add the lime juice, the grapefruit juice, and the simple syrup. Cover and shake for no less than thirty seconds, pour into a Mason jar with a salted rim, and serve immediately with a thin wedge of lime.

And now, here’s how to drink a spicy grapefruit margarita at Colonel Teddy’s Tiki Bar on Siesta Key:

As slowly as possible, preferably with your toes in the sand and your face turned to the sun as it descends into the ocean in a glorious orgy of scarlet, cerise, violet and lavender. It’s traditional to wait until at least five p.m., but here in Siesta Key things are a bit laid back, so it wouldn’t be a crime at three.

I’m Dixie Hemingway — no relation to you-know-who. I’m a cat sitter. I live on a tiny sliver of an island off the coast of Florida. For the most part, my life is pretty damn boring. I mean, it’s not every day I’m at Colonel Teddy’s at three in the afternoon cradling a spicy grapefruit margarita in my hands, but this morning I opened the front door of my first client to find a dead body lying on the marble floor in the middle of the foyer. It was a man I didn’t recognize. He was flat on his back in a dark suit, his bare feet poking out of the pressed cuffs of his pants at odd angles, his eyes frozen in astonishment, and there was a small white envelope pinned to his lapel.

You’d think I would’ve screamed, but I didn’t. Instead, I raced through the house and found Winston, the green-eyed Abyssinian I was there to take care of, and then I carried him right out of the house and down to the street to call 911. I may look like a ditzy blond, but I’ve seen more than my share of bad stuff. I’m a sheriff’s deputy. Or at least I was until about five years ago, when my whole world came crashing down around me… but that’s a whole other story.

For now, all I want to do is forget today ever happened, which is why I’m guzzling this margarita instead of sipping it, and why I’m seriously considering asking the bartender for another. Problem is, there’s not enough tequila in the world to make me forget that poor man, or for that matter, the envelope on his lapel. It was attached with a six-inch hat needle, at the tip of which was a white, pea-sized pearl. In the upper left corner of the envelope, in perfectly careful hand-writing, was a name written in dark blue ink: Ignacy Horrocks.

Now I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard that name before. It’s not exactly the kind of name you’d easily forget. But the name the envelope was addressed to? Even as flustered as I was, I recognized that name right away…

It was Dixie Hemingway.

You can read more about Dixie in The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives, the 9th book in the “Dixie Hemingway” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on August 1 for the chance to win a copy of The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
John Clement is the son of Blaize Clement, author of The Dixie Hemingway Mysteries. John lives in New York City and is currently at work on the next Dixie Hemingway mystery.

You can also find John at dixiehemingway.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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A Day in the Life of Pish Lincoln by Victoria Hamilton

Muffin But MurderFirst off, only my dearest friends call me Pish. My given name is Percival Ishmael Lincoln. When I was little I couldn’t even say my own name and introduced myself as Pish, and it stuck. Let me tell you, Pish was way better in the school I went to than Percival or Percy would have been.

And a day in the life? Back when I was working I could have told you at any hour of the day what I was doing. As an investment counselor or financial advisor, whatever you want to call my past profession, I was up at five, then shower, shave, etcetera, and coffee at the table by the window in my condo overlooking Central Park, or on the terrace balcony if the weather was suitable. Then, dressed in a proper suit and tie I would walk to work.

I spent my days reading the business news, meeting with clients, doing statistical analysis of the day’s stock sales, and so on, until it was time to go home, around six or so. Most days I had dinner out with friends and on the weekend I would go to parties: the Hamptons, Manhattan, Cape Cod… wherever there was a party, I would go. Or the opera; I adore the opera, everything from light operettas, like Gilbert and Sullivan to heavier pieces, like Mendelssohn.

What about a love life, you ask? I don’t talk about that; it’s intensely personal. In my line of business discretion was everything.

But to the present: one day my special friend Merry Wynter, widow of the most talented photographer I have ever known, Miguel Paradiso, packed up and disappeared from her tiny Manhattan sublet. I was worried, but when she phoned me a couple of weeks later and told me she had finally gone to visit her inherited castle and had some questions for me, I was relieved. Merry is a doll, but she does tend to avoid trouble instead of facing it head on. Her tackling her inheritance at long last was refreshing. I was so intrigued I showed up on her doorstep with information, and a request… I desperately wanted to stay in the castle for awhile.

And that’s where I’ve been ever since, in a wonderful old castle, surrounded by kooky Autumn Valers and with ideas teeming for a new book on financial scams (I forgot to mention; I write books, too) based on the trouble at the Autumn Vale Community Bank, and just having a grand time! I wasn’t here when the murder occurred, thank heaven. Poor Merry… she had her hands full. I expect things will settle down now, though she is insisting on trying to have a party to promote and sell the castle.

But as for me… I no longer have a ‘normal’ day, and that’s wonderful! I have found a surprisingly simpatico soul in Janice Grover, wife of the troubled bank’s manager. Janice, a zaftig cutie who favors muumuus and mai tais, is funny and smart and delightfully odd.

Merry is desperately trying to avoid falling in love with the deliciously handsome sheriff, whose mother, Gogi, has become her new best friend, and Shilo, both of our adored little ‘sister/daughter’ is falling for the attractively plain Jack McGill, real estate agent and Jack of all trades. I think you can tell I’m having the time of my life, though Merry keeps trying to thank me for staying. Thank me? Heavens, she couldn’t bust me out of the castle with dynamite, and if I can figure out a way she can keep her inheritance, I will.

Thank you for letting me talk about life in Autumn Vale, and Merry Wynter. I hope you all visit! Come see the castle. I guarantee you’ll never want to leave!

About Muffin but Murder
When Merry Wynter unexpectedly inherited a castle in the wilds of upstate New York, she took some time to adjust. After living in New York City it was culture shock to wind up in a castle a few miles away from small town Autumn Vale. However… far from being lonely, as she first feared, her best friends Shilo Dinnegan (a former model) and Pish Lincoln, (a retired financial advisor who now writes books on financial scams and con artists) have joined her at Wynter Castle.

It is clear that she can’t afford to keep such a huge building, even if it is her ancestral home. It must be sold! She has an upscale party to promote Wynter Castle to would-be buyers who may be able to take the place and turn it into a hotel or inn, but the post party clean-up reveals an awful discovery; one of her ‘guests’ turns up dead in a most gruesome fashion. With Pish holding back secrets, her exasperated attraction to Virgil Grace, (the broodingly handsome sheriff of Autumn Vale) growing stronger, and a supposed cousin with a possible claim on the inheritance plaguing her daily, Merry has her hands full.

But murder comes first. Who is the guest, who killed him, and why? And how is she going to keep Virgil from arresting Pish?

You can read more about Pish and his friends in Muffin but Murder, the second book in the “Merry Muffin” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Bran New Death. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 31 for the chance to win a copy of Muffin But Murder. (US entries only, please.)

About the Author
Victoria Hamilton, nationally bestselling author of the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series, is the pseudonym of Donna Lea Simpson, bestselling author of romance and historical mystery novels.
Victoria starting reading mystery novels at the age of 12 and devoured Agatha Christie mysteries, as well as those of Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She still adores mysteries, especially the cozy mysteries of Janet Bolin, Krista Davis, and others.

She loves to cook, and collects teapots and teacups, as well as vintage kitchen utensils and bowls. She also enjoys crafts, especially cross-stitching and crocheting, and spends summer days in the garden, drinking tea or wine. Besides the Merry Muffin Mystery series, Victoria writes two other mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, the Vintage Kitchen Mystery series (Book 4, No Mallets Intended debuts November 4th) and the Teapot Collector Mystery series (written as Amanda Cooper) which debuted with Tempest in a Teapot, June 3rd, 2014.

Check out the Merry Muffin Mysteries on Facebook!
And find Victoria online at: victoriahamiltonmysteries.com

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Weekly Roundup* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This week’s guest on dru’s book musings

July 28: Muffin but Murder by Victoria Hamilton
July 29: The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives by John Clement
July 30: Be Careful What You Witch For by Dawn Eastman
July 31: Mission to Murder by Lynn Cahoon
August 1: Death, Taxes, and Silver Spurs by Diane Kelly
August 2: The Perfect Stranger by Wendy Corsi Staub

Last week’s guest on dru’s book musings

Recent contest winners

  • Crime Rib by Leslie Budewitz – Joan M.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews – Susan T.
  • Three Deuces Down by Keith Donnelly – Deanna S.
  • Dead in the Water by Lesley A. Diehl – Melissa L.
  • Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson – Mary B.

At The Request Of…For Review

  • Expedition Indigo by Stacy Allen
  • Hard Return by J. Carson Black

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A Day in the Life of Amy Ridley by Janel Gradowski

Pies and PerilHello! My name is Amy Ridley. Welcome to my kitchen. Since it’s only 6:30 a.m., I’m willing to bet you haven’t had any breakfast yet. So, have a seat in the breakfast nook. There are applesauce muffins in the oven, a cream cheese coffee cake is almost cool enough to eat and the second pot of coffee just finished brewing. Welcome to my world of recipe testing and stress baking.

You may have guessed, I’ve been awake for awhile. It’s kind of hard to sleep when you keep receiving threatening notes. I prefer to collect cookbooks instead of death threats. Cookbooks are treasure chests full of tips and techniques that I can use to win a contest. You see, I love entering culinary competitions, from national recipe searches for the best brownies to the Kellerton Summer Festival baking contests. Competing in my town’s contests has always been fun. I’ve won quite a few trophies, but this year’s competition had a nasty surprise. As in a dead body nasty surprise. It was worse than tasting a rhubarb pie where salt had been used, instead of sugar.

The person that was murdered wasn’t exactly likable. The number of people that didn’t like her is longer than the ingredient list for an Oaxacan black mole sauce (about 25 ingredients). I may not be quite as sweet as buttercream icing, but I just can’t figure out why someone would want both of us dead. I take that back. I can figure out how we’re connected, but my ideas keep getting shot down for being too far-fetched. What can I say? My theories are as creative as my recipes…and I’ve made things like jalapeno corn bread with candied pecans. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the notes and I think best when I’m cooking. So here I am watching the sun come up and nibbling on my newest, potentially-contest-winning creations.

My best friend, Carla, will be here soon. She often stops in after working third shift in the emergency room. We have breakfast and chat, but usually about things much more mundane than murder suspects. She’s helping me figure out this mess. A big part of her help involves hanging out with a guy that is so hot I think he’s rated on the Scoville scale, the chart used to determine the heat level of chile peppers. At least I can be happy for her, even if my life is crumbling like an over-baked shortbread cookie.

Thank you for stopping in to chat with me. Here’s a mug of coffee. Let me get you a slice of coffee cake. The muffins will be done in a few minutes, so you can try one of them soon. Once Carla gets here, maybe you could help us brainstorm suspects. I really would like to stop stressing out and get back to normal. Remember how I said I cook when I’m under stress? There is so much food in the house right now I’ve been giving it away to visitors and neighbors. When you’re ready to leave, please remind me to give you a bag of oatmeal cookies and a loaf of date bread.

You can read more about Amy in Pies & Peril, the first book in the new “Culinary Competition” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 30 for the chance to win a copy of Pies & Peril. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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A Day in the Life of Dani Greene by Jessie Crockett

Maple MayhemMost of the time my life in Sugar Grove, NH is pretty sweet. My business is thriving, my family is happy and I enjoy great health. Generally, life here is pretty low stress. There aren’t really any traffic jams. Our idea of a crime wave involves too many people disregarding leash laws and letting their dogs roam loose. Even trips to the post office are free of the sorts of aggravation and strife I’ve heard people from other towns complain about.

So when I have a day or a week when nothing seems to be going my way I can’t really complain. Like my grandmother always says, if life were fair, I’d have a whole lot less. Even though I bear her words of wisdom in mind and do my best not to gripe, I can’t help but say this week has been a doozy. It started with a parking ticket courtesy of my former boyfriend Mitch. Before he could even hand me the citation, I noticed someone had keyed a threatening message into the paint job of my car, which had just come back from the repair shop.

From there, things went down hill like a runaway toboggan on an ice-covered slope. Faster than you can say “pass the maple syrup” I found myself threatened by the local curmudgeon, got lectured on my love life by my older sister and received a disturbing phone call from my mother who claims to be psychic.

I’d like to be able to honestly report that things got better as the week went on but that would be a lie. And I try not to lie. Whenever I do I end up overtaken by primness, like a Victorian spinster who suddenly comes upon a group of skinny dippers.

The truth of it was that I ended up being volunteered to chaperone a group of elementary schoolers on a winter camping trip and tracking a saboteur bent on ruining my plans for an agricultural cooperative. I wish I could say the worst thing that happened was finding a fellow sugar maker’s dead body but that wouldn’t be true either.

In the end though, I was grateful to be alive and living in my favorite place in the world surrounded by my favorite people. Because, despite the unusual week I had arguing to the contrary, my life really is pretty sweet.

You can read more about Dani in Maple Mayhem, the second book in the “Sugar Grove” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Drizzled with Death.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 29 for the chance to win a copy of Maple Mayhem. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
A nearly life-long resident of the Granite State, Jessie naturally adores black flies, 98% humidity, killing jessieCfrosts in August and snow banks taller than the average grandmother. When not working on her next murderous adventure she enthusiastically combs the beach, designs bento lunches and throws parties. She delights in mentoring young writers at local schools. Jessie lives with her dark and mysterious husband and exuberant children in a village so small most other New Hampshire residents have never heard of it. Her debut mystery, Live Free or Die, was the 2011 winner of the Daphne DuMaurier Award for Mainstream Mystery.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Wicked Cozy Authors | Killer Characters

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A Day in the Life of Robert “Don’t call me Bobby” Brixton by Donald Bain

Undiplomatic MurderRobert Brixton, private investigator here, sitting in my small office suite in Washington, D.C. next to the one occupied by my friend, the attorney Mackensie Smith. When Mac resigned his post as law professor at George Washington University to return to private practice he convinced me to return to D.C. to handle his investigations, along with assignments from others. Mac Smith is one of the good guys in my life since I came back to our nation’s capital. There aren’t many. As President Harry Truman once famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” He knew what he was talking about.

I’ve been accused of being a perpetual malcontent. But that’s just the way I am. I was once a cop in D.C. That lasted four long years, enough time for me to get married, have two daughters, and get divorced. I split and headed for that allegedly genteel southern city, Savannah, Georgia, where I put in twenty on its police force and retired with a paltry pension and a bad knee. From there, I went back home to Brooklyn where people don’t say “ya’ll” when you’re the only other person in the room. I intended to stay, but an old friend lured me back to the District. A big mistake. While working for a private security agency connected with the State Department I lost my youngest daughter, was accused of murdering the son of a prominent politician, and found myself knee-deep in lying politicians and international arms dealers. I’ve been the target of a crazy paid assassin, nailed a conniving congressman from Tampa whose pretty young intern was found murdered, and used my Savannah connections to make a first lady and D.C.’s leading social hostess sweat bullets. Not your run-of-the-mill way to make a living, but it could be worse, like being a member of Congress and having to sit through the never-ending drone of speeches that say nothing.

Fortunately I have Flo Combes, “mah honey”—notice my southern accent?—who puts up with me when she isn’t chastising me for acting like a jerk. She understands me because she’s from New York, too. My receptionist as well as my lover and constant companion, Flo never hesitates to hold a mirror up to me, although I don’t always like what I see.

While I may never win any Miss Congeniality awards, I do have attributes that are invaluable in my job. I easily spot phonies, blowhards, hypocrites, and other D.C. denizens who rise from the swamp this city is built on. I know how to run down a perp and gather evidence against him without tipping off the suspect. I can size up witnesses and figure out how best to approach them. I know the rules and when to break them.

I also know that I carry to extremes my jaundiced views of people and the stupid things they do. Men who wear baseball caps backwards annoy me. Don’t they know that the visor is designed to shield their eyes, not the nape of their necks? People who are oblivious to their fellow pedestrians and walk down the street peering into their cell phones ought to be locked up, along with morons who text while driving. I don’t like jellybean drinks with little umbrellas or martinis made with anything but gin. I don’t go to the movies because I’m not interested in how many explosions and car chases the special effects guys can come up. I want real stories with real characters, like in Casablanca or Brief Encounter.

Okay, so I’m a pain-in-the-neck sort of guy. But Flo Combes loves me so there must be something salvageable here. And Mac Smith puts up with me because he knows that I’m a damn good private investigator who doesn’t fudge the truth, and who will put his hide on the line when the cause is worth it.

Since settling back in Washington I’ve come to appreciate its positive points. It’s a pretty city, with its cherry blossoms, monuments, wide boulevards and low buildings. Summers are tough (but Savannah was no Garden of Eden either), when the heat and humidity (and odors) of July and August settle over the city like a soggy blanket.

All in all, things could be worse. At this moment I’m nibbling on shrimp toast that Flo whipped up and brought to the office, and sipping a perfectly shaken martini. A client just paid me, the humidity outside has dropped a few points, and we have a reservation at a chi-chi watering hole where we’ll meet up with Mac and Annabel Smith. So life is peachy—just as long as some clown at the next table doesn’t have his baseball cap on backwards.

Robert Brixton made his debut in Monument to Murder in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series, joining recurring characters Mac and Annabel Smith. Brixton has gone on to appear in Experiment in Murder, Undiplomatic Murder (published in July 2014 by Forge) and Internship in Murder (July 2015).

Meet the author
Donald Bain worked closely with Margaret Truman on all her Washington-based mystery/thriller novels, and has continued the series after her death. He’s the author/ghostwriter of more than 115 books, including 43 in the bestselling “Murder, She Wrote” series, on which he collaborates with his wife Renée Paley-Bain. His caper novel, Lights Out! was published in May.

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A Day in the Life of Casey Feldstein by Betty Hechtman

Silence of the Lambs WoolMy name is Casey Feldstein. Generally the next thing people mention is there profession. I’ve had a few, well, really that’s quite a few professions. You could say that none of them have stuck, or that I haven’t stuck with them.

As my mother, a successful Chicago cardiologist, likes to remind me, when she was my age (35), she was a doctor, a wife and a mother – and I’m a what?

When I relocated from Chicago to my aunt’s guest house in Cadbury by the Sea, California, I was hoping to make a fresh start. The atmospheric town on the Monterey Peninsula was certainly a change from Chicago. Aunt Joan was great and helped me turn my baking skills into a job as the dessert chef for the Blue Door restaurant. I also became a freelance muffin baker, providing the chewy treats for the assorted coffee spots around town. With all those clouds and fog, Cadbury is definitely a coffee town.

Who knows what would have happened if my aunt hadn’t been killed in a hit and run accident. It was certainly a surprise to inherit her Yarn Retreat business. To be honest, while I admired all of my aunt’s handiwork, I was clueless about yarn craft. Was there really a difference between crochet hooks and knitting needles?

Putting on the first Yarn Retreat at the moody hotel and conference center located on the edge of town changed all that. I now know a lot more about knitting and murder.

I’m glad to have my former boss Frank to turn to for advice, even if it is just over the phone and he always acts grumbly about giving it. Frank runs a detective agency in Chicago and working for him was my favorite temp job. And probably why I seem to keep investigating murders.

There is definitely some kind of spark between me and the cop who lives down the street. It’s so embarrassing, but even my mother noticed it. Should I do something about it, or leave things as they are? Then there is my ex, Dr. Sammy. It wasn’t my idea for him to relocate to Monterey. He insists it is just because he likes the area and there are places for him to perform his magic act and that it has nothing to do with trying to win me back. But that’s not how he acts. If only he wouldn’t wear his heart on his sleeve.

And now I’m up to my elbows in wool as I get ready to put on my second Retreat. It’s called “Sheep to Shawl” and just like the name implies means getting the fleece from a sheep, turning it into yarn and then knitting it into a shawl.

Some of my first time retreaters are coming back. My BFF Lucinda is going to be there, too. I have an expert helping with the technical aspects. What could possibly go wrong?

You can read more about Casey in Silence of the Lamb’s Wool, the second book in the “Yarn Retreat” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is Yarn To Go.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 28 for the chance to win a copy of Silence of the Lamb’s Wool. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
Silence of the Lamb’s Wool is the second book in the national bestselling Yarn Retreat series that features dessert chef Casey Feldstein who puts on yarn retreats at a slightly sinister hotel and conference center on California’s Monterey peninsula. Betty Hechtman also writes the national bestselling Crochet mystery series. All books in both series include patterns and recipes. She says it is like a dream come true to be able mix her love of mystery with her love of making things. She grew up in Chicago and has a degree in Fine Art. In addition she has studied everything from improv comedy to magic. She has written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and scripts. She lives in Southern California and Chicago and has yarn stashes in both cities.

For more information check out BettyHechtman.com, Facebook and her Friday blog for Killerhobbies.blogspot.com

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