I’ve heard people say that they’re looking forward to taking it easy after they retire. I’m not sure what makes them think it’s going to be like that. Goodness, it seems like most of the time I’m busier now than when I was teaching American History in eighth grade.

I’m Phyllis Newsom, by the way, and I live in a big, old house in Weatherford, Texas with three of my closest friends, all of whom are also retired teachers: Sam Fletcher, Carolyn Wilbarger, and Eve Turner. When my late husband Kenny passed away a few years ago, I gave some thought to selling the house where we lived and raised our son Mike, but I’m glad I didn’t. My friends were alone like I was, and we’ve been able to band together and form what’s become a second family.

My day usually begins with getting up early, enjoying a cup of coffee, and making something good for breakfast, like blueberry muffins or pumpkin pancakes. Often Carolyn is up, too, and joins in the breakfast preparations, because she enjoys cooking and baking as much as I do. That’s led us to become friendly rivals in numerous baking competitions.

As the day goes on, I clean, run errands, do volunteer work, and sometimes go shopping with my friends. There are always meals to prepare, of course – that never stops, does it? – and during the evening I like to read or watch television, usually with Sam, who, I have to admit, has become something more than just a friend to me, although neither of us is in a hurry to make things more complicated.

This is the sort of thing that goes on during a normal day. As it turns out, though, I really don’t have too many of those. Take the things that have been going on recently, for example. My friend Eve is getting married to a man she met on-line, and not only is she having her wedding shower at my house – on Christmas Eve, no less – but the actual wedding will take place there as well, on New Year’s Eve. An abundance of Eves, I call it, and while I’m certainly thrilled and happy for her and Roy, her fiancé, there’s a lot of planning involved in such things. Having them going on while the holidays are taking place just makes things more complicated.

Then there’s the matter of the Christmas Jingle Bell Tour of Homes, in which a local civic group puts together a tour of elaborately decorated homes to raise money for charity. I’ve gone on that tour in the past, but I probably wouldn’t have ever taken part in it if I hadn’t done it as a favor to an old friend. Luckily all my friends pitched in to help, or I never would have gotten everything done.

But that was where the luck ran out, because on the very night of the tour, someone committed a murder right on my front porch, using a ceramic gingerbread man dressed up like Mrs. Santa Claus as a deadly weapon!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first murder I’ve gotten involved with, and like the others, I’m sure I’ll be right in the middle of the investigation. It seems like there’s always some reason why I can’t just sit back and let the police handle things, and this time . . . well, if somebody murdered a friend of yours right on your very own front porch, wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to make sure the killer was brought to justice?

So that’s what passes for a typical day with me: baking, spending time with friends and family, solving murders. It’s certainly not exactly what I thought retirement would be, but it’s never boring!


You can read more about Phyllis in THE GINGERBREAD BUMP-OFF, the sixth book in the “Fresh-Baked” mystery series. The first book in the series is A PEACH OF A MURDER.

Livia J. Washburn has been a professional writer for thirty years. Her first story was published in 1978 in Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. She received the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award and the American Mystery Award for her first mystery, WILD NIGHT, and was nominated for a Spur Award by the Western Writers of America for a novel written with her husband, James Reasoner. She lives in a small town in Texas with her husband and her mutts and is very proud of her two grown daughters who are teachers in her hometown. Livia’s website is at www.liviajwashburn.com.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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