You cannot capture a dream until you reach for it.

Design Duo Top Tips

DD metal-fireplace-

Cara Fazio & Maggie Ross of my Design Duo mystery series offer these interior decorating tips:

Whether you live in a tiny apartment, a sprawling house or a penthouse loft, surround yourself with things you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a flea market bargain, family heirloom or a designer chair, decorate with what inspires you, feels comfortable and makes you smile.

#1   Combine things you love and they will go together.

DD dining room

#2   Avoid going overboard with themes, matchy-matchy or collections.

#3   Dare to blend styles, as well as woods & metals.

#4   Color & texture add depth to a room.

#5   Furniture appears smaller in the showroom.  Always check dimensions before buying.

#6   Bold colors, patterns or prints in fabrics, pillows and accent pieces are more easily switched out than an expensive sofa.

#7   Create vignettes. We call it spot decorating. Imagine each area as an artistic snapshot.

#8    Weave beauty with the W guide.  Vary height and size whether you are hanging a wall grouping, arranging flowers in a vase or decorating a fireplace mantel.

#9    Capture the magic of three.  Cluster a trio of candles. Three of something adds an artistic touch.

#10   Build your decor around an object that enchants you.  It can be a painting, a fabric swatch, a Tuscan wall hanging or a flower pot from the garden.  Maybe your favorite mug or toss pillow? Use the colors and design to guide your choices.

DD Tuscan urn trio

DD corner crop

DD bed

DD ken's shelves

DD fireplace & logs

Make your home the place you belong, a place as unique and special as you.

sculpture

DD hall sculpture

CAPTURING CHRISTMAS

blue ornament

Someone asked if I was dreading Christmas season this year. I think they were joking. 

Maybe not.  Last year I got the flu, was ill through much of the holiday season and the year before I fell & broke my ankle curtailing many holiday activities.   Both still were very special Christmases full of blessings.

tree with star

Many times over the years the holidays have been bittersweet missing lost love ones and facing life challenges.  Yet the eternal spirit of Christmas always shimmers through– whether it’s a choir singing like an angel chorus, or wonder sparkling in the eyes of a child, or the joy deep within as we listen once again to the story of baby Jesus.

star above

So I intend to celebrate the holiday season this year  and will try to share a few moments with you,  family & friends.

WHISPER of MAGIC

magical-sunset-marina-likholat by Karen Elizabeth Rigley

Magic exists. It’s not just in the pages of story in once upon a time or happily ever after, sparking imagination of riding upon wings of a dragon, finding leprechaun gold or chasing a unicorn.

Every day magic surrounds us. Hear it in the whisper of butterfly wings, the snick of a door at midnight or the sigh of a baby dreaming. Discover magic in communications at your fingertips, the glory of a sunset or music that lifts your heart. Revel in the magic of a kiss, the purr of a kitten, or the timely call of a friend when you’re feeling blue. Savor a pine-scented breeze or ocean waves swishing your toes, or share wonder through a child’s eyes.

Our world teems with magic – we only must look for it. I wish you magic!

pink & blue sunset

Butterflies_wallpapers_136

rainbow lightning

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REBOOTING MY FLOWERS

flower images
Grass and weeds won the battle, tangled with flower roots so badly in my front flower bed, all plants had to be completely dug out. Now I need to start over. Reboot with new plants and bulbs. Only a few old-fashion daylilies and iris survived. I’m going for easy care perennials hardy enough to handle the cold snowy winters and hot dry summers in my area. To my delight there’s a potpourri of choices, restricted somewhat by price, time, energy and planting zone.

So far I’ve planted snow-in-summer, columbine, lavender, purple sage, basket-of-gold, plus the bare roots of daylilies, dwarf lilies & oriental lilies. I want to get balloon flowers, Cupid Darts, and something fragrant. Also planting anemone Grecian windflowers, hardy gladiolas, and bleeding hearts. Waiting until after Mother’s Day to plant tender flowers. The Rockies are notorious for sudden spring freezes or snowstorms hitting after a sunny seventy degree day. ;-)

My goal is add a potpourri of color with coreopsis for cheerful yellow next to feathery blue flax, some pink evening primrose, purple Liatris (feather flowers) and coral bells. It’s fun to cluster color together the way Nature paints a meadow.

Right now my garden looks sparse and a bit sad, but hopefully someday it will bloom like these:

flowers 2

PerennialsPhoto

Is It Spring, Yet?

On the doorstep of springtime, I’m staring out the window at piles of snow. Under there somewhere crocus, hyacinths and anemone windflowers struggle to sprout.

Usually by now they are already up and possibly blooming in violet, yellow or white.  Hardy, yet too delicate to battle this much snow, it temps me to shovel out the front garden.  Hmm, maybe not.

Spring promises us rebirth and renewal from tiny seeds to leaf buds on a giant oak, from baby lambs to robin eggs of blue, and from snow and ice to warm fragrant breezes and sunshine.

Here are a couple of my poems to celebrate the coming season:

SPRING

Nature

buds

with

promise

of

life,

beauty

and

renewal.

FAREWELL WINTER

Exploring tulip pokes shoots out

of melting ice and snow frosted ground,

daring winter dangers to scout

promise of springtime coming ‘round.

Proving to be one brave fellow

crocus blooms purple, white or yellow.

Sunshine!

Snowmelt! Birdsongs! A thaw to last.

Earth liberated from arctic blast.

Jonquil unfolds her lemon skirt;

leaves bud on branches too long bare;

March showers splatter garden dirt;

hyacinth blossoms scent the air.

Azure skies romance cloud puffs high

while all nature is heard to sigh,

Sunshine!

Snowmelt! Birdsongs! A thaw to last.

Earth liberated from arctic blast.

                                                                                           Karen Elizabeth Rigley

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Leann, I was a fan even before you began your Cats in Trouble series, so this is special to interview you for MMC.

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary.  What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what and why?

I believe Mystery Most Cozy has always been so wonderful for reader interaction and fan support.

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I searched for groups a long time ago that brought together those who love the cozy genre and I joined as soon as I found this group. I’ll be a member as long as the group continues!

How did you know you were meant to write?

I started writing mysteries when I was in the 4th grade so I believe I was always meant to write. It just took me a long time to get up the courage to learn what I needed to know to create a coherent story and to get published. It’s tough putting your work out for criticism and rejection, but I survived and persisted.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I love puzzles and I love human motivation. What makes a person a killer? What puts a person in harm’s way? I always look at mysteries from both sides of that equation. I do like a juicy secret.

What inspired you to write your mysteries?

First it was Dame Agatha. But then, I think the first truly awful mystery I read was the final motivation, as strange as that may sound. I thought, “If this can get published, then I can do better.” Of course I was quickly humbled by the gigantic learning curve involved in becoming a published writer. It took eleven years from the time I finished my first book to its publication. That’s persistence!

What intrigues you about writing a series?

I love making sure that my characters grow from each crime they become involved in. In reality, no ordinary person would find he or she stumbling over one murder victim after another, but oh, the fun. But I have to bring a touch of reality and that means, character evolution.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

For me, unfortunately, it is the challenge of the several “invisible” illnesses I deal with on a daily basis. That means I need to manage my time and energy. Who knew the complexities of creating something out of nothing? That a “what if?” question would consume so much energy? But it does.

What do you enjoy reading?

At this stage, I only read mysteries and an occasionally true crime. I don’t have time for anything else.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Earl Stanley Gardner, Dorothy Sayers, Gillian Roberts, Carolyn Hart, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Ruth Rendell—but there are more. I could go on and on!

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I begin a new book with a synopsis—I am an outliner—so the start of a synopsis is always a “what if” question. For example, I began the synopsis of my first Cats in Trouble mystery with the “what if?” question “What if a cat was allergic to people?” I like to turn things on their head and that was something I hadn’t seen done in any cat cozies before.

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

I love Abby Rose in my Yellow Rose Mysteries. She is completely fearless, confident and fun. I love Jillian Hart in the Cats in Trouble Mysteries because she is so kind, forgiving and curious—rather like a cat in many ways. Speaking of secondary characters, I loved Ritaestelle in The Cat, The Lady and The Liar. She is such a strong lady. I also admire teenager Finn in The Cat, The Wife and The Weapon. He chose to remove himself from a difficult life at a young age. I can relate to that and it was the first time I consciously dealt with family dysfunction in a book. I’d done it before on a smaller scale, but in that book, my goal was to confront it head on. It was very cathartic.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

I cannot thank my readers enough for their support and for helping me make that coveted NY Times list. Never in a million years when I first started writing did I ever think that would happen. And twice? Wow! Thank you so so much!

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

Learn your craft. Read. Take classes. Enter contests. Submit. Learn to accept criticism and change what you’re doing that’s NOT working—listen to what is being said. Find a writer’s group with like-minded people who are writing what you like to read. Know your goals. Do you want to write for pleasure? Or do you want to be published? Neither goal is better than the other. Persist!

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I enjoy creating characters others can relate to. DEADLINES drive me crazy.

If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select?  What would you discuss?

I would choose Agatha Chistie because she was brilliant, but I doubt she’d talk about her process. I would choose Rex Stout because I absolutely loved the fact he created a main character who was NOT the narrator (Archie Goodwin was the narrator) and I want to ask him why he did that. Third would be Daphne DuMaurier. I’d ask her what the main character’s name was in Rebecca. It’s a secret we will never know. J

Do you like a touch of romance woven into your mysteries?  Do you add it into your own stories?

 

Yes. But the mystery has to be paramount. I do add romance. It’s part of life, after all!

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Jeans and a t-shirt.

As author you create magic offering readers an escape into your story.  As you write how deeply do you submerge into your own characters, setting and plot? Do you dream any of your scenes?

I don’t submerge, I observe. I ask myself, what does s/he look like? Sound like? What secret is s/he keeping? What’s his/her greatest strength and greatest weakness? What does s/he want? What’s stopping him/her?I never dream about scenes, but right before I go to sleep or right when I wake up, I often work through plot issues. The shower seems to be another hotbed of creativity! J

Why did you choose cozy rather than thrillers, intrigue or true crime?

It was what I wrote best, probably because it’s the genre I grew up reading.

 Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?

I cannot read cozies while writing. They influence me too much. I read much darker stuff, but still mystery or thrillers.

Do you feel you must write your cozies in a series? If so,why?

 Yes, because cozies need the luxury of time. The books are shorter than say a thriller or literary mystery. In cozies, characterization develops over time as I mentioned earlier. My story people are affected by the crimes in their small town. (Although my Yellow Rose Mysteries were set in an urban environment, which I thought made them a little different).

What are you writing now?

I just finished the 5th Cats in Trouble book. I am thinking about the 6th book in the series.

Tell us about your newest mystery:

 The Cat, The Mill and The Murder comes out in May. I can tell you that it the most researched book I have ever written, it involves a cold case and it also involves an element that is very different than anything I have ever written before.

 Where can we find out more about you and your books?

 I’m on Facebook as Leann Sweeney and Author Leann Sweeney, on twitter @leannsweeney, on Author Central on Amazon and my website is www.leannsweeney.com

There are bios on each book you pull up on B&N.com and Amazon.com

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

 

Cathy, I’m so pleased we could squeeze you into our interview schedule before the celebration ends next week.

2cathy

Hello there Fellow MMC-ers…it’s great to have this chance to talk to you all, but I have to admit it’s a bit scary too. Here goes anyway!

Mystery Most Cozy is celebrating their tenth anniversary.  What is your favorite thing about the group: reader interaction, fan support, being able to connect with fellow authors or what and why?

I’ve really enjoyed reading the comments and input that folks take the time to put up on the FB page: I like finding out what it is that readers take to and, sometimes, what they don’t care for so much. For example, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in being bugged by un-resolved red-herrings!

When and how did you discover the Mystery Most Cozy group?

I’m a newbie! I only discovered MMC last year, but I’m so glad I did. I found it on one of my wanders through the online universe…somehow!

How did you know you were meant to write?

To be honest, I think I was born to talk…but writing allows me to chat with others in a different way, even if the people I’m talking to, or through, are those I’ve created myself! That said (you see?!), I was always a child who enjoyed journeying in the worlds made real for me by writers. I suppose I wanted to try to do what they had done. I was fortunate enough to have the chance to study English at University, and did so for a year, but then decided that instead of studying how others had described the human condition, I’d rather gain a better understanding of it for myself, so I switched my studies to psychology.

What fascinates you about mysteries?

I’m naturally very solution-orientated: give me a problem or a puzzle and my instinct is to come up with the answer. Whatever the sub-genre, all mysteries are about puzzles…solving them is what draws me in.

What is the most challenging facet of writing for you?

I wish I could type as fast as the words come into my head. I’m the classic three-fingered typist: I never had lessons, I just hammered away at the keyboard and got faster as time passed. I can’t touch-type: I have to look at the keys as I go, so the screen isn’t a part of my writing experience, until I look up to see the typing mistakes I’ve made. Maybe that’s a good thing: it means I have to read what I’ve written straight away, put the punctuation right as I go along, and I have the chance to reflect on sentences as I build them.

What do you enjoy reading?

I’m a very mood-driven reader: I read widely, but often have two or three books on the go at once, so I can pick up something light or dark, factual or fiction, as the mood takes me. I have a room full of books, which is where I write, and every other room in the house also has a bookshelf, or three! If you looked at what’s on my shelves you’d find pretty much every subject and genre covered, but what would really stand out would be my dozens of red and gold, leather-bound volumes of Agatha Christie’s complete works, into which I enjoy dipping – whatever my mood.

Which authors have influenced you?

Agatha Christie’s works have been a part of my life since I was ten years old, so her structure and plots, as well as her ability to mould our expectations of what a traditional murder mystery should be, are engrained in my psyche. I admire the way she made the rules, then went on to give us what we expected, in unexpected ways. I try to do the same. In my chosen genre, amongst living authors, I would say that PD James inspires me the most, and I always look forward to a new Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Tamar Myers or Louise Penny. I’m especially sad that there won’t be any new books from Reginald Hill, Robert B Parker or Tony Hillerman, but am glad I can re-read their work at will.

How much of a story do you have in mind when you begin a new book?

I’m not just one of life’s problem-solvers, I’m also highly goal-oriented and process driven (okay then, I’m a bit of a control freak!), so I know pretty much all my story before I begin writing.

I prepare very detailed notes about my characters – their entire life-history, my chosen, or imagined, locations, and about the method/s and means of murder I have chosen. Even though Cait isn’t a forensics person, and I certainly don’t write about forensics, I need to know how a body would present under certain circumstances, or how the means of murder work/s in minute detail. I’ll spend time talking to medical specialists, coroners or cops, amongst others, to make sure I get this right.

I also have the outline of what needs to happen within each chapter. Quite often a character will say or do something I’m not expecting – yes, I know that sounds nuts but, honestly, it’s how it happens. So, sometimes, I achieve what I need to happen in a chapter, but in an unexpected way.

When I’m writing, so long as I feel the characters are acting in a way that would be right for them, and the book, I let it play out. That means I update my outline notes as I go along, so that I remember all the clues and red-herrings I have to tie up!

Part of the magic of writing is creating memorable characters. Who are your favorite characters, why, and which of your mysteries feature them?

My protagonist, criminology professor Cait Morgan, is very much like me: she’s my height, my weight (or thereabouts – there are some things you really don’t need to know about me!) is Welsh-Canadian, had the education I had, where I had it, and, up to a point, she followed a similar career path to myself. Do I like her? Absolutely. Is she perfect? Oh, good heavens, no! But that’s why I like her. Brilliant, judgmental, sharp-tongued and over-indulgent, she’s still quite insecure. In other words, she’s very human. Bearing in mind that the series is called the “Cait Morgan Mysteries” you can bet she’ll be in each one. Truthfully, I enjoy all my characters, however small their role, or rotten they might be. But as for “memorable”? Well, that’s something that only those who’ve read my books can comment upon.

What would you like to say to your readers & fans?

“Thank You for choosing to include my books, and Cait Morgan, in your life. I hope you enjoy her company as much as I do!”

What advice would you offer a beginning writer?

This is a tough one. Other than the general advice that, in order to be a writer you have to actually write, rather than just thinking or talking about writing, I’m not sure I’m well placed to give much advice. I’ve had a bizarre path to being published, and I’ve been fortunate, I know.

There are lots of platitudes about “The harder you work, the luckier you get”, but I honestly believe that, with the work under your belt, there is a certain amount of luck involved in things. Maybe it’s about being prepared to step up and take a risk, which then becomes an opportunity. If you’re working on your writing skills, reading as widely as possible (and I don’t just mean reading books about writing, but books that challenge you and help you understand the way that words work well on the page) then you are better prepared when the opportunities come along.

So: write lots, read even more, and good luck!

I’m sorry if that’s not very constructive or original, but I suspect it’s the best advice I’ve got.

What do you enjoy most about being an author & what drives you crazy?

I’m delighted to say that I haven’t (yet) found anything about being an author that drives me crazy, in fact, just saying or writing the words “I’m an author” makes me glow with joy. There – I’m glowing right now!

As for what I enjoy the most? When I’ve been weeding or planting in the garden all day, aided and abetted by the dogs of course, and I’ve been plotting: multi-tasking at its best!

If you could meet three people (living or dead) and chat mysteries with them, who would you select?  What would you discuss?

1)   Agatha Christie – I’m not sure I’d have the guts to discuss mysteries with her, but I’d enjoy listening to her talking about her time with her second husband, Max Mallowan, on his archeological digs. I enjoy ancient cultures, history, art, gardening and family, as did she, so I might find something I could contribute to the conversation.

2)   Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – again, it’s a bit of an alarming prospect to discuss plotting and deductive reasoning with the man who made these elements his byword, but I’d take a chance! I’d be fascinated to get his take on the technology that now surrounds us in our daily lives.

3)   PD James – I adore her books: the places and people she creates are real to me, and will live with me forever. That’s magic! Over the years she’s generously given many interviews and written a great deal about her writing process, so I think I’d take the chance to talk to her about what she’s read and how it’s touched her, find out what her private passions might be, walk through London with her discussing art and architecture, and find out more about what makes her the person she is, which, of course, is what makes her the writer she is.

What are your favorite “writing” clothes?

Oh dear, this is a bit weird, but I’ll confess all: I wrote my first novel wearing a silk dressing gown that’s heavily embroidered with dragons. I know. How pretentious, right!? But it was fun! I also had a chocolate Labrador on each foot – puppy slippers. That was “winter writing”. For “summer writing” I tend to wear light, comfy clothes, and the dogs lay on the tile in the hallway outside my study to keep cool.

As an author you create magic, offering readers an escape into your story.  As you write how deeply do you submerge into your own characters, setting and plot? Do you dream any of your scenes?

When writing, I am each of my characters in turn, in situ. Total immersion. I move, turn, “look” about at my surroundings, make gestures…the lot. I dare say that, if anyone could see me, they’d think it a bit peculiar. Before I start writing I’ve “seen” the entire movie of the book. When I’m writing, I’m in that movie, trying my best to get onto paper everything that Cait sees, feels, hears, touches, smells, says, thinks and, yes, senses or suspects. The Cait Morgan Mysteries are written from Cait’s point of view, so that’s who I am when I write. I haven’t dreamed any scenes yet, but, in that fog between sleeping and wakefulness, I’ll often be visualizing the movie in my head and something will shift or come into focus…a detail, a clue or an extra complication will present itself to me: that’s when I have to get up and write it down. So long as I don’t disturb the dog on the bed when I get up, I can creep back when I’m done and get off to sleep. If the dog wakes up, then that’s quite a different matter!

Can you read cozies while writing? Or do they influence your own too much?

I can’t read any books at all when I’m writing. Even if I’m watching TV, I know that what’s on the screen is pretty much just washing over me. I’m totally zoned out – or zoned in, depending on your point of view.

What are you writing now?

I’m on the cusp between finished style sheets and outlines, and starting to write my third novel. It will be published in Spring 2014. It’s set in Mexico. I’m not allowed to say more than that right now, but I can tell you that it will pick up where my second novel finishes…oh, and I’ve really enjoyed the research!

Tell us about your newest mystery:

My second Cait Morgan Mystery, “The Corpse with the Golden Nose”, will be launched in March 2013. It picks up Cait’s life a few months after the end of my first novel, “The Corpse with the Silver Tongue”. Here are the jacket notes for the book:

“A world-famous vintner is dead. And when a heartfelt plea to look into the matter is paired with an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country, overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan cannot resist. Cait is sure the owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered. Bud Anderson, Cait’s companion for the weekend, is convinced the woman took her own life. That is, until death strikes once again, between the neat rows of grapevines on the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan. Uncovering obsessions and murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbors is a start. But, Cait soon realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to prevent another death?

The second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries, The Corpse with the Golden Nose is a classic whodunit featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.

Praise for The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

 

“[A] smooth debut . . . Cait’s enjoyable first outing should earn

her a well-deserved encore.” —Publishers Weekly

“In the finest tradition of Agatha Christie, debut author Ace

brings us the closed-room drama, with a dollop of romantic

suspense and historical intrigue.” —Library Journal

“[Ace is] a writer to watch.” —The Globe and Mail

“A sharply paced cozy.” —The Hamilton Spectator”

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

You can find out more about my books, click-through to read from/buy them, read some interviews I’ve given in the past, learn about events I’ll be attending, and find my e-mail address, at: www.cathyace.com

The Cait Morgan Mysteries are available in paperback through your local bookstore or library, and are offered in every major e-reader format.

Please consider being my Friend on Facebook? You’ll find me here: Cathy Ace (Cait Morgan Mysteries)

Alternatively, you could Follow me on Twitter: @AceCathy

cathy cover 1

cathy cover 2

Visit Mystery Most Cozy to find out how to enter the drawing for one of her mysteries.

MYSTERY MOST COZY links:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/188620978695/?fref=ts

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MysteryMostCozy/?yguid=482689562

My links:

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