Friday, December 23, 2016

Eating Christmas

Traditional Turkey - Alison style
It Ain't Christmas Without the Turkey...

...Not in our house. Not for as long as I remember.

We are a very traditional family, at least where holidays are concerned. My mother's family emigrated from England in the 50's, though bringing Anglo traditions to Anglo-Canada was a bit like taking coals to Newcastle back then. The biggest change in the traditional meal was switching from goose to turkey.

Christmas was spent with my mother's sister's family in Beaconsfield, Quebec. We'd make the seven to ten hour drive from Toronto every year in a car laden with presents, potables and comestibles for the holiday. We left a house which never got decorated beyond a few coloured lights in the window and arrived to place where the halls were decked along with every other room in the house. Decorations notwithstanding, my aunt always said it wasn't Christmas until we arrived.

Besides the turkey, stuffed with dressing my mother always made, there were always peas and corn, roast and mashed potatoes and gravy which I got to make under the supervision of my aunt, I was also the tea maker. My sister and younger cousins had the job of setting the table. I don't remember my older cousin being in the kitchen much. I think this was because they were always busy with the last minute wrapping of tree presents.

Dessert was my aunt's specialty. She made fruit pies and mince tarts, shortbread and iced sugar cookies, two kinds of Christmas cake with marzipan and royal icing and, of course, the figgy pudding. The cakes didn't come out until tea time, however. That's when we gathered in our Christmas finery and exchanged tree presents. Up until then, from opening stocking to Christmas dinner, a significant number of us stayed in pyjamas.

On Boxing Day we always had cold turkey, hot fries, salad and bubble and squeak, the traditional English answer to "what do we do with all this left over veg?" For dinner we always had tortiere, a traditional French Canadian meat pie made by my aunt's traditional French Canadian cleaning lady, Rose.

A lot of the traditions I grew up with had to be adapted when I began to host our holiday meal. For one thing, I wasn't feeding as many as my aunt did. I'm not the baker my aunt was and neither is the one baker in the family. He's very good, don't get me wrong, but has a different repertoire which does not include mince tarts or fruit cake.

We still open stockings first thing, but first thing is around noon when I've picked up my kids from their dad. We still have tree presents, but earlier, often with dessert and coffee. We can't go too late because my nieces have other family to visit.

This year I'm going to try to revive one old family tradition, tortiere on Boxing Day. Since I'm making the pie, it may be a short-lived tradition.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Let's Get Cozy

"The weather outside is frightful..."

Does anyone besides me feel like hibernating in the winter?

I don't feel that way all winter, just on the frigid grey days. I don't even mind that the weather is frigid and grey... as long as I don't have to go out in it. Give me a hot cup of tea, a comfy blanket, a good book and a working furnace and "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Naturally, if you're reading this, I hope you also read my books. My books don't quite fit the cozy genre but I enjoy reading the odd cozy (especially the odd cozies). In fact, I feel a sudden need to read Rest You Merry by Charlotte MacLeod. (It's still available in print and ebook but shown here in it's well-worn glory with the original cover.)

The set up alone is worth the price of the book. Professor Peter Shandy's idea of holiday decorating is hanging a wreath on the door. That isn't good enough for the powers that be at his college. The annual winter festival is a big fund raiser and he's letting down the side. So he gives in with a vengeance then goes off on a cruise. The result is deadly.

Charlotte MacLeod has the distinction of being one of the few mystery authors that I introduced to my mother. Two of my regrets are that my mother died before I was published and before I could introduced her to a whole gang of mystery authors from Crime Writers of Canada, including a few cozy writers I know she'd enjoy.

My mother would have got a big kick out of the Threadville Mysteries by my fellow Deadly Dame Janet Bolin. If you have an interest in needle craft, as my mother did, this is a great series. I'm looking forward to Janet's next series that revolves around a donut shop.

The Deadly Dames have something for everyone from the dark and psychological suspense of Catherine Astolfo to the comic capers of Melodie Campbell, Joan O'Callaghan's awards winning shorts to my award finalist whodunits.

Enough. The kettle is calling. Time for tea and a cozy... or coffee and writing.

So, what is your favourite Christmas themed book?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Coffee and a Good Read

Scene by a campfire...

"I see a sock in that pot."


"You doin' laundry or makin' coffee?"


"Good. Can't drink laundry water."

"Did last week."

"But it smelled like Cookie's soup."

"That it did."

"There are many things that a cowboy can do without. Coffee is not one of them."
("Cowboy Coffee", American Cowboy.)

I may be allergic to horses and other livestock. I might not be able to throw a rope or hit the broadside of a barn, I have a cowboy's need for coffee. I'm practically famous for being a serious coffee drinker. Imagine my chagrin finding out there was a method of brewing I hadn't heard about - Sock Coffee.

"Also known as “hobo” or “open-pot” coffee, this calls for putting the grounds into a (clean) sock and chucking it into the coffee pot... If you’d rather not use one of your socks, use a muslin bag or a commercially made coffee sock. Let steep until desired strength is achieved."
("Cowboy Coffee", American Cowboy.)

It struck me as funny and maybe a bit desperate, but it makes sense. It's the mama of the drip coffee filter and close cousin to the teabag. I just hope they used clean socks.

Here's the recipe:
Step 1 - Put cold water in the cup and medium to coarse ground coffee in the sock. Use 2 scoops of coffee to every 12 ounces of water. You can do this in individual mugs. Just buy a commercial coffee sock (see above) or maybe a baby's sock will do the trick. 
Step 2 - This part is so controversial, I couldn't find any real cowboys to demonstrate.
You either put the sock in the cold water and bring the water to a boil. then you take the pot off the stove and let it sit a while. OR...
You boil the water. Let it come off the boil, then pour the water over the coffee in a sock which is in a second pot (or mug). You let it steep for five minutes or until it's as strong as you like it. (I Need Coffee.) 
Everyone agrees on Step 3 - Pour the coffee and enjoy with a friend.
 (Originally published 2015 Cowboy Kisses.)

Also available with Kindle Unlimited

Also available at other retailers

Sunday, December 11, 2016

History, Mystery and Romantic Suspense

Gift giving was easy in my family. Give a book.

I have never asked for a Western or Historical Romance for a gift. I've never had to. If there was a Western I wanted to read, I'd give it to my father for Christmas. My mother was the go-to person for historical romance. I'd never gift them to her, however. She would have bought the books she wanted as soon as they came out. I had an in-house library of paperback fiction with two "librarians" who would direct me to the kinds of books I would enjoy.

Under A Texas Star would never have been written but for my parents... and not just because I wouldn't have been born. The story was influenced by the books of Georgette Heyer (her historical romance) and Louis L'Amour (his westerns). (I never really got into Heyer's mysteries or L'Amour's contemporary adventures.)

Hazardous Unions was a collaboration. Kat Flannery and I created the sisters and their back story together, then took them off on their own adventures. In the writing process, it was also a collaboration between the novels I grew up loving and the history grew to love.

UNDER A TEXAS STAR "It's a love story and an adventure that anyone can enjoy."

HAZARDOUS UNIONS: "Love never fails even in war time."
Google Play

Check out for all the sale books. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

I Love a Mystery

Books have always been at the top of my Christmas list. I remember the year I put Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe and Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov on my list and got both... in hardcover. I also remember my boyfriend borrowing the books and never returning them. (I still want them back, Dan!)

When I didn't get any books for Christmas (or I finished them) I'd check out my aunt's paperback collection of mysteries. There was some overlap with the authors my mother collected, but not a lot. I discovered new authors. Unfortunately, they were only new to me and I couldn't always find their books in print. That made it difficult to put them on my next gift list.

I've always loved a good mystery, even if book's genre wasn't Mystery. Having been brought up on Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Nero Wolfe, I wanted all the authors I read to play fair in the tradition of a Whodunit, whether it was a detective novel or science fiction adventure. 

I also want to like at least one of the protagonists. After all, I don't want to spend a few hours to a few days hanging out with someone I can't stand, or at least understand. 

That pretty much sums up my writing aims: playing fair with the readers and having characters they'll want to spend time with... especially at Christmas.

DEADLY LEGACY "a fast-reading, fun whodunnit"

DEADLY SEASON "... a great mixture of humor, clever quips and mystery."
Google Play

Check out for all the sale books. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Daft, Obtuse, and Hapless

Thank you Matt Groening, wherever you are. 

You created the perfect word for those moments when you realize you've done something totally daft, been ridiculously obtuse or generally hapless. (The acronym was my idea, by the way.)

He, or one of the other writers working on The Simpsons, also came up with one of my favourite word plays when Homer almost hits a deer.

Homer: D'oh!
Marge (screeching): A deer!
Maggie (pedantically): A female deer.

 I've had a few "D'oh" moments this week. The daftest was when I thought the house phone was broken.

My son Kit is painting the kitchen. His prep work was amazing since he cleaned everything, not just the walls. Of course, this has created a new (but temporary mess) in the dining room and pretty much made the kitchen useless for food prep.

Note, in the picture on the right, the coffee maker is set up. The microwave is also plugged in. What wasn't plugged in until a few minutes ago was the phone base, the part that connects all the portable phones to the phone line.

A close second for daftest and the winner of hapless is my inability to remember to post on my own blog site. Maybe it's because I have so many other schedules to keep. Or maybe I don't want to bore you with forced posts. (Yeah! That's the answer... or so I shall maintain from now on.) Nevertheless, it's pretty daft to forget to use your blog to promote a big sale of your ebooks.

D'OH! I still haven't.

UNDER A TEXAS STAR "It's a love story and an adventure that anyone can enjoy."

HAZARDOUS UNIONS: "Love never fails even in war time."
Google Play

DEADLY LEGACY "a fast-reading, fun whodunnit"

DEADLY SEASON "... a great mixture of humor, clever quips and mystery."
Google Play