Friday, August 31, 2012


by Nancy Jill Thames

I promised to do an article on tea cozies so here we go! 

Some friends of ours were stationed in England and lived there for five years. When they returned to the U.S. they were hooked on serving tea. Once Pat McLatchey poured me a cup  from a cozy covered teapot, I was hooked too!

Over the years my friends and I even made tea cozies, along with other crafty pieces like pillows and aprons, but none of the cozies compared to the ones from Thistledown.

Now, meet the girls. In the photo you'll see my line-up of tea cozies next to a custard pie I baked for my husband.  Perhaps some of you may already have a cozy, or you may want to get one. I know just the place! After searching online and speaking to a few tea shop owners, I landed at the Thistledown Tea Cozy site and placed my order. The cozies come in all sizes, shapes and patterns - and at reasonable prices.

This little lady was the first cozy I bought from a small restaurant, nestled in the Gold Rush hills of the California. The name of the cafe was "The Jug and Rose" located in the tiny town of Volcano. One year, roads leading into the community were washed away by a flood, and due to a lack of business the restaurant closed. I won't tell you about the breakfasts they served -  sourdough pancakes with hot cinnamon syrup and fresh blueberry syrup, ham steak, scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, fresh fruit parfaits with rainbow sherbet and of course, lovely, lovely scones. The Jug and Rose also featured delicious teas; choosing one took several moments. I still miss that place. And the friends who went with us were the same people who introduced me to afternoon tea. Whenever I look at this crochet cozy and pad, I think of them. The tea pot was a house warming gift from a garden club friend, Vindya Seshadri.

This is a Thistledown cozy holding a teapot from my everyday Abundance pattern, by Corelle. I use this cozy in the fall and winter. The burgundy ribbon tie matches my decor.

This cute pink and green cozy matches my rose topped teapot. This was a Mother's Day gift I ordered for myself and signed my children's names on the gift card. The cozy is also from Thistledown.

These cozies really do keep the tea warm and add such a nice touch to my tea parties. When I use them to serve friends and family, my guests feel special. And so do I!

I hope you'll visit the Thistledown site and check out their array of cozies.The site will take you to the retail stores where you can buy one of your own. Cheers!

Dark Chocolate Rice-Krispy
You may also want to visit the Cozy Kitchen and take a peek at S. Dionne Moore's recipe for Dark Chocolate Rice-Krispy.  Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

~Nancy Jill Thames
Author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries
"Queen of Afternoon Tea" Celebrity Author Interviews

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review Time

 Okay, it’s another review of a book maybe not so well known, but definitely entertaining, mystery. It all revolves around game of bridge, and wouldn't you know there's a Joker in the deck.
A woman shot in her bedroom while powdering her nose (no kidding), a house full of the social elite playing bridge and drinking cocktails at the time of the dastardly crime (suspects one and all), throw in possible blackmail, marital ambiguity and a Special Investigator to the District Attorney named Bonnie Dundee (it’s a guy) and you have a mystery set in the roaring 20’s called Murder at Bridge.
This book was written by an author named Anne Austin, who I admit I’d never heard of before. But hey I’m pretty much an unknown author myself so I don’t hold that against her. Still it’s too bad she isn’t better known because she writes a darn good mystery. Which is a good thing because she’s got a lot going on in this story, but thanks to her skill as a writer the reader manages to keep track of all of it.  A minor miracle. What do I mean? You’ll see.
Okay here’s the plot. Our hero, Bonnie Dundee, is called to the scene of the crime to investigate the murder of Nita Selim, a Broadway dancer currently residing in the prosperous town of Hamilton, much to the delight of the men and the dismay of their wives. Of course once she’s murdered the elite all circle the wagons to protect each other making solving the crime more of a challenge. Just as well as in the 1920’s the police are leery of offending the higher class by arresting them for murder.  Of course there are the outsiders would be more convenient, a disfigured maid (the victim was responsible for that) and the murdered woman’s male “friend” (friend, right), or the better yet the theoretical Hit Man from New York (a police captain’s favorite). But you know it’s not going to be that easy.
During the course of his investigation Mr. Dundee theorizes as to of the motivations and methods of each of the suspects. Most of them wrong. Fortunately, he’s got a lot of suspects to choose from and just as many assumptions. Besides the maid and the friend there is an elderly judge and his young wife (happily married believe it or not), a banker and his wife (not so happily married), a socialite and her husband (yes that was on purpose), an architect and his fiancĂ©e (engaged for over a year, what’s up with that?), the leader of the social group who seemed to like the victim (about the only woman who did) and her husband (although he wasn’t even there so why is he a suspect?), the secretary to the District Attorney (Dundee is sweet on her) and her young man who was madly in love (maybe) with the victim. Each time Dundee thinks he’s got it all figured out a monkey wrench get thrown into the works that throws proves him wrong and someone is exonerated. Until they’re a suspect again.
Sound complicated? It is, but don’t worry, Dundee’s got persistence, he’ll figure it out, and he’ll keep you entertained all the way.

Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories with just a bit of whopper in them. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.
Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Tis a New Day for the Kiddies

What mystery are you reading this week?

For moi, I'm reading "Davey the Detective" a brand new children's book by Emlyn Chand. Can't wait to share it with my grandchildren on my iPad! They love reading stories (and watching movies!) this way. Anyone else doing this now? I love the way the pages can expand when I'm pointing out a detail.! Have a good day.

~Nancy Jill Thames

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Have To Do What - Part Two

We talked about marketing last time I posted and how important it is in this day and time of writing. Even if you are a well known author you have to continue to market so you will keep your name out in the public. We talked about things you could be doing while you are waiting to be published.
Now we are going to discuss what happens after you are published. I want to mention a great book that is simple to read and gives very resonable advice on marketing: "Stress-Free Marketing" by Renea Winchester.

Frist I'm going to talk about a few things you can put into your marketing toolbox. You can get these very inexpensive from Vista Print. Order your cards first (free cards) and then they will send you a 70% coupon for your next order. I made my own bookmarks because I couldn't find any that were inexpensive. Here is a picture of a few things I've gotten from Vista Print.

These are just a few things - there are many, many things to choose from. But if you are out you always want to have a card to hand out. The big ones are postcard size and the next ones are regular business cards. On your business card be sure and put you picture on it. When we don't remember names we do remember faces!
Now that you've got your marketing toolbox filled with goodies it's time to hit the road. There will be many opportunities where you can market your book. Here I am at a book club (one of my favorite things to do) there are conferences (you can usually sell your books there) book fairs, and just about anywhere you can get an audiance interested in books. Because mine are regional I have them in gift shops and stores. IMPORTANT FACT: Always carry books with you wherever you go. I've sold books while waiting to get my car worked on, in Staples, downtown talking to people, etc. You never know when someone might want to buy a book. Be sure and keep your cards with you, too.
Okay, these are just a few tidbits about marketing. I hope they've given you some ideas about what you might be facing after you've been published. Now don't let this scare you off - really it can be fun! Now get out there and market!!!!!
Deborah has worked as a freelance writer and photographer, since 2001, for the historical magazine “Georgia Backroads.” She has had many articles and photographs published during this time. Her writing is featured in “Tales of the Rails” edited by Olin Jackson. She has also had a showing of her photographs at Floyd Medical Center Art Gallery as well as winning several awards. Her debut cozy mystery "Death in Dahlonega", a winner in the ACFW Category Five Writer's Contest, is now available.
She is a current member of the Georgia Writers Association, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Deborah has been nomiated for Georgia Author of the Year 2012. She has an established blog, Butterfly Journey, where she reviews Christian Fiction. You can also catch her at
Sleuths and Suspects, where she reviews mysteries. She also contributes to the Cozy Mystery Magazine every other Tuesday

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strands of Fate--By Linda Kozar

Strands of Fate, the first in a brand new cozy mystery series for Annie's Attic Mysteries releases TODAY in ebook format and will release as a beautifully-bound boutique style book in October.

Here's a description:

Shannon McClain is struggling to make ends meet since her husband died three years ago. A mother to 18-year-old twins, she started an online business to showcase her high-end handcrafted jewelry and knitting designs. Raised in Scotland by her father, Shannon's mother disappeared from her life when she was four, so she is surprised when a registered letter arrives at her door from an Oregon law firm representing the estate of a women she's never met--her maternal grandmother. Shannon must travel to the United States to claim the sizable portion of the estate willed to her, which includes a mansion and the family business--an arts and crafts mall in the small town of Apple Grove. But a series of sinister warnings and close calls prove that someone is knitting together a sinister plan of their own.

Strands of Fate is the first book in the new series which will feature a Who's Who of talented, multi-published authors. I received the contract with a two-month window to complete this book--a real challenge. But the characters and settings in this series are so complex and compelling, I found my fingers flying over my laptop keyboard, eagerly desiring to find out what would happen next!

I thoroughly enjoyed writing Strands of Fate. I hope you will enjoy reading it with as much enthusiasm. The best part about the Creative Woman Mystery Series is the fact that it is a series! And with a series as engaging as this, every end is a new beginning. . .

Check out the Creative Woman Mysteries page:







Friday, August 24, 2012


by Nancy Jill Thames

Sat next to an Irishman on a plane trip once and learned his opinion on several issues - one of which was book covers.  To him, the cover wasn't as important as the contents. By reading a summary on what the book was about, he could judge whether he would read it or not. Nowadays, summaries appear either on the back covers or found in online descriptions. Readers searching for new material may even peer into the books first few chapters and random pages with Amazon's Search Inside feature. For me, the cover is the first thing that draws or repels my attention. Let's take a look at several examples. 
In WHOSE BODY? by Dorothy L. Sayers, the author's name is most prominent, followed by the title. But notice at the top the word MYSTERY appears under the sleuth's name - Lord Peter Wimsey. Under the title is an endorsement and the illustration reveals the scene of the crime. 

The cover for AFTER THE FUNERAL by Agatha Christie is not unlike the first cover, but uses a different approach. The illustrations include actual clues. I for one don't like the clues displayed on the front for one simple reason: If I choose to reread the story, the clues give everything away and ruins the suspense. What I do is ignore the cover (difficult to do) and begin the read.

Another favorite mystery series is MURDER, SHE WROTE which I discovered in book form and own 25 of the fun reads. This is my favorite cover style for three reasons: 
1. Brand recognition of the TV series and it's star, Jessica Fletcher played by Angela Lansbury;
2. The story setting always appears. In this case a train depicting the title DESTINATION MURDER; and 
3. If you look closely on the hill above the train to the left of Jessica's face, there's an image of a skull - so cool!!

Janet Evanovich" cover for WICKED APPETITE uses bold color and appropriate font for her title. The credits and hook are interspersed in between the author and title enticing the reader to buy. 

As a novice, I created the cover for my first book MURDER IN HALF MOON BAY using my publisher's free resources  and  obtained permission from the photographer to use the photo of the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. By looking at the cover, a reader can expect a murder taking place in Half Moon Bay, a female sleuth, and see that the genre is a mystery series. The layout gives continuity to the series by only needing to change the photo and color scheme. 

I love books! To me, the stories are like servings of delicious cake -  but the covers are the icing. How important are covers to you when selecting a book to read? Do you always read the summaries, descriptions and author information before you buy?

This week's featured recipe in our COZY KITCHEN:


Nancy Jill Thames is the author of the Jillian Bradley Mysteries - stories often set in exclusive hotels and resorts, based on real life travel adventures with her husband of 44 years. Her mysteries incorporate her love of afternoon tea, which has earned her the title of “Queen of Afternoon Tea.” She holds a music degree from UT Austin and lives in Leander, Texas where she is a member of the Leander Writers Guild. She has won awards for her blogs,  a pie contest for her Chip Chocolate Cream Pie, and has been on the Author Watch Bestseller List numerous times. Nancy Jill is busy working on book 6 Waiting for Santa, a murder mystery taking place on Christmas Eve near Jillian Bradley’s home in Clover Hills.

To check out her books please visit the Cozy Book Store and her blogs: 
Cozy Mystery Author, Nancy Jill Thames
"Queen of Afternoon Tea" Celebrity Author Interviews

 Murder in Half Moon Bay 
The Ghost Orchid Murder 
From the Clutches of Evil 
The Mark of Eden and 
Pacific Beach

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Do You Love Surprises?

You may be wondering what does the embroidered peacock have to do this with this post. Nothing. 
I embroidered it, I like it, so I'm using it.
Surprises are funny things. Some I could defiantly do without. Like when my car won't start in the morning. Others aren't so bad. Such as with literary surprises, especially the unexpected surprise.
Now  mysteries rely on the surprises. A dead body, an unexpected sleuth, suspects galore, red herrings everywhere! It is after all how we mystery writers keep readers interested. If we made it obvious from the beginning who done it where would be the fun be in that? But you expect all that. It's when you can manage to give the reader what they don't expect, and they like it, that's really rewarding.
One of my favorite literary unexpected surprises wasn’t in a mystery, but it was fun. It’s all starts with this opening line:
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
That’s right, my favorite literary unexpected surprise is Eustace Clarence Scrubb from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series The Voyage of The Dawn Treader. Now don’t get me wrong, I liked the other Narnia children, The Pevensies, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer, Shasta and Princess Aravis. However, for the most part they tended to have a just a bit too good to be true quality about them, although they did have their moments of unpleasantness (especially Susan, read the books if you want to know more). I know you are going to bring up Edmund, but although I loved the allegory of the salvation of a sinner, you knew he was going to reform eventually. It was good, just not a surprise.
Eustace, on the other hand, was another kettle of fish all together and at first he stank just as bad. He wasn’t evil. He was nasty, selfish and major pain in the…neck to everyone else stuck on that boat with him. He was a drag on the whole story of adventure and friendship and I couldn’t stand him. I actually hated it when he got page time. And what was the explanation as to why he was so bad? Because he had been spoiled rotten by his parents. 

Now that's great writing for you. Easy to understand, and easy to buy into. 
But still it's not a surprise.
The first time I read this book I couldn’t wait for him to get the comeuppance I knew was coming his way. I mean this is a Narnia book, and unpleasant people always got theirs eventually.
But then the unexpected surprise came along.
Not the getting what he deserved part, he did, but when it finally came, I didn't feel any sense of satisfaction. Instead I found myself feeling sorry for the little creep. There’s just something about a crying dragon that tugs on the old heartstrings I guess. Don't expect me to explain, it's a surprise after all. Read the book!
Even more surprising Eustace actually reforms and becomes a good guy. I really didn't see that one coming, but I ended up loving him.
Through the rest of the story (major shout out to the Duffers, absolutely hilarious) you knew this kid was going to be a great force for good. In his other adventures in the Silver Chair and the Last Battle with Jill Pole, another complex child character, the stories were engaging and you really had to pay attention or you were going to miss something. I mean he rescued a lost prince and defended Narnia in what was, and was not, a lost cause. Don’t worry it makes sense when you read it.
Every writer has their own way of including the unexpected surprise. I’d tell you more about our stuff, but we are mystery writers on this blog after all, and you wouldn’t want me to spoil the surprise.Would you?

Mystery writer C.L. Ragsdale is the author of The Reboot Files a Christian Mystery Series. A California native, she loves to "surf" the web to research plot details for her fun, quirky stories with just a bit of whopper in them. She has a degree in Theatre Arts which greatly influenced her writing style. Working in various fields as a secretary has allowed her to both master her writing skills and acquire valuable technical knowledge which she uses liberally in her plots. She loves to embroider and knit and is a big fan of the old Scooby Doo cartoons.

Current E-Books
THE REBOOT FILES:  The Mystery of Hurtleberry House, The Island of Living Trees, The Harbinger of Retribution, and The Wrong Ghost.