Recipes Inspired by The Worst Noel

As you may know, I have a new book coming out on December 5th. It’s called The Worst Noel and it’s part of a 12-ebook set featuring Christmas-themed cozy mysteries. This is my first cozy mystery, and I have to tell you that I really enjoyed writing it.

One of the characters in my story, Noley Appleton, is a recipe developer for a magazine. Her job requires her to do a lot of cooking and Lilly (the main character) and her family are Noley’s happy guinea pigs.

This week I’d like to share some of the recipes that you’ll see mentioned in the book and a couple you won’t. The 12-book set comes with a bonus recipe book, but if I remember correctly, I only submitted one recipe–the rest I figured I could post here.

These are recipes that my family enjoys throughout the holiday season. I hope you enjoy them!


Maple Butternut Squash (adapted from The Red Lion Inn Cookbook)

3 lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped (if you cut the squash in half and microwave it for a few minutes it’s easy to chop)

1/2 c. butter, at room temperature

1/4 c. brown sugar

2 T. maple syrup

1 t. salt

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Boil the squash until tender, about 20 minutes; drain well.

While still hot, beat the squash with the remaining ingredients until smooth.

Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish; cover and bake for about 15 minutes.


Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

2 lbs. 16-20U shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on

1 T. olive oil

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray foil lightly with cooking spray. Toss shrimp with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them on the foil in a single layer. Roast for 8 1/2 minutes until just-pink and cooked through.

Serve at room temperature with your favorite cocktail sauce.


Sausage Bread

1 loaf frozen bread dough

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage

1 egg, divided

handful grated Parmesan cheese

Thaw dough in microwave or in refrigerator; bring to room temperature. While doing that, brown sausage in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a floured surface roll out the dough into an oblong shape, about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide (these are just approximations). Sprinkle with the sausage. Smear with egg white (this works best if you use your hands). Sprinkle with cheese.

Roll up the dough starting with a long edge. Cut in half and place each half on a greased baking sheet. Brush each half with the egg yolk.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.


Cranberry Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 envelope onion soup mix

1 can whole cranberry sauce

French dressing to taste (I use about 1/3 of a bottle)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Place chicken pieces in baking dish. Sprinkle the soup mix over the chicken. Spread the cranberry sauce over the chicken. Drizzle with French dressing.

Bake, uncovered, for about 90 minutes.


Enjoy! Until next time,


P.S. If you’d like to pre-order a copy (or ten) of The 12 Slays of Christmas for just 99¢ (and ALL the proceeds from the sale of the set go to animals in need), visit and click on your reader of choice to order!


Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Write and Change the World by D. Wallace Peach

This is a lovely post by Diana Wallace Peach about the importance of small, random acts of kindness.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

A new contributor joins us today for the next few weeks. Author Diana Wallace Peach shares some posts from her archives on Myths of the Mirror.

Today Diana shares her thoughts on random acts of kindness and explores if they can make a difference in this world that is struggling with so many disenfranchised and poverty stricken people. Is there a ripple effect of our efforts closer to home?  Read on…..

Write and Change the World by D. Wallace Peach

Most of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our…

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Bouchercon 2017: It’s In the Books (so to speak)

Bouchercon 2017

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Bouchercon, here’s a quick primer: it’s the annual convention for mystery and thriller readers and writers from all over the world. Named in honor of Anthony Boucher, an acclaimed mystery critic, editor, and author, it bills itself as the “World Mystery Convention” and it attracts over a thousand attendees each year. This year, in fact, I heard the number was close to seventeen hundred.

Bouchercon 2017 was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is just a memory at this point, but a good one and I would like to share some takeaways I gleaned while I was there.

  1. I do not work hard enough.
  2. I do not read enough.
  3. Another standalone novel might be in my near future (or as near as possible in the writing world) (and, yes, I have an idea for a story).
  4. There are way too many great authors out there whose books I haven’t read yet (more on that below).
  5. Bouchercon seems geared more toward thrillers than the types of mysteries I write, but I still learned a lot and I hope to apply that knowledge in my work.
  6. Bouchercon is a great place to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
  7. When my son uses all our cellular data for the month it is impossible to send photos to my email from my phone, hence the absence of photos in this post.
  8. My husband is awesome (this is not news to me, but I was reminded of it). He made reservations at the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower and took me there for a surprise dinner.

I always come away from conventions with a curious mix of feelings: inadequacy and inspiration. I spend my days meeting authors who are far more prolific than I, but I go home with an urgency to get to work with new ideas and renewed energy. All in all, it’s a good feeling.

Here are some authors whose books I have resolved to read asap: Ruth Ware, Linda Landrigan, Ragnar Johasson, and Kelly Armstrong.

And here are some titles I’ve added to my TBR:

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (no, I haven’t read that before {hangs head in shame})

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Green for Danger by Christiana Brand

The Last Child by John Hart

Have you read any of these books or authors?

Until next time,


Now available – The book that started it all is now an audio book.

Congratulations to Don Massenzio! He’s a great supporter of authors and readers…and now you can listen to the audiobook of his first Frank Rozzani novel!

Author Don Massenzio

Frankly Speaking - CoverI’m excited to announce that my first book, Frankly Speaking, is now available as an audio book. You can find it on Amazon, Audible and Apple Books.

A Bit About the Book

A 16 year old girl has disappeared. The police believe she is a runaway. Her parents believe she has been taken and is being held against her will. When the parents enlist the services of Frank Rozzani, a former police officer turned private detective, a series of events begins to unfold that implicates a popular local pastor and the religious stronghold of the ultra-conservative community.

Frank Rozzani, a transplant to Jacksonville, Florida from Syracuse, New York, must find the young girl despite the obstacles launched at him from the local police and others whose interests may be compromised by his investigation. Frank enlists the help of his associate Clifford “Jonesy” Jones to find the girl, uncover the…

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Author Spotlight: Susan Toy

Waaay back in April, 2015, I hosted a guest blog by Susan M. Toy, a multi-published and talented writer (if you’d like to read the post, you can find it here).

Susan is back today, this time answering my questions about her writing and her lifestyle, which consists of dividing her time between Canada and the Island of Bequia, which is a Caribbean island and part of the Grenadines (pronounced “Bek-way”). Susan is the author of Islands in the Clouds: A Bequia Perspectives Novel 1; One Woman’s Island: A Bequia Perspectives Novel 2; and That Last Summer: An IslandShorts ebook.

Welcome, Susan!

I know I’m not the only person who’s envious of your lifestyle- dividing your time between your home in Canada and your home in Bequia. I’d never heard of Bequia before I started reading your blog. Tell me about the first time you visited the island.

The first time we arrived on Bequia was by ferry (and I was feeling quite unwell after a rather rough hour-long crossing from St. Vincent, the mainland). We were staying at a hotel that was, at that time, the largest on the island, with 25 rooms. The hotel management sent a water taxi to take us to their pier – getting into another boat was NOT something I wanted to do! But it proved to be a very short trip that we could have actually walked, had we known. We came into the island on New Year’s Eve Day (what is known there as “Old Year’s Night”) and we hadn’t realized what a big deal that night is to Bequians. We crashed early, because we’d already been travelling for two days to get there, so we were abruptly wakened at midnight by, what we later discovered to be, boat flares being shot off in lieu of fireworks. We had thought they were gunshots at the time …

We spent three weeks on Bequia, walked a lot, tried as many restaurants as we could, went out on a day charter boat, met many people (some of whom we still know and are friends with to this day), and discovered that we were on to something pretty special when we chose to go there for a holiday. We hadn’t been back home in Calgary for more than an hour before I was faxing back to someone on Bequia, making arrangements for another holiday the next December.

Do you find either of your writing locations to be more inspiring than the other?

Not really, as I tend to write about the characters first and an incident and then see where that leads to as far as location is concerned. As for where I’m able to write best, the stories seem to come to me no matter which location I’m actually situated in. Right now, for instance, I’m sitting in the trailer park Laundromat washing my clothes. I’ve always enjoyed writing in coffee shops and libraries, i.e. public places, and can pretty much tune out everything around me whenever I’m in writing mode. Editing, though, needs to be done in private, for concentration purposes.

Are there places you love to visit besides Canada and Bequia?

I really haven’t been to many other places besides the two. That’s one of the reasons I read … so I can visit places all over the world without having the expense of travelling to them!

I find that weather can play a huge part in many stories. Given the huge differences in climate between your two homes, do you use weather as a plot tool? Which climate do you prefer, or do you like both?

I haven’t used weather as a plot tool, but definitely as a way of describing the place and time when and where the stories are set more accurately, and to make the setting more believable. My novella, That Last Summer, takes place at a cottage in Ontario during the summer of 1965, so I did mention the weather I remember we experienced when we spent summers at a similar cottage. And Island in the Clouds takes place on Bequia over one week during July when the rains haven’t yet started (usually, rainy season begins on June 1st), and the characters comment on how dry the island is for that time of year. Otherwise, the weather does not play, or has not so far played, a big role in my writing.

Can you give us three blurbs about your books Island in the Clouds, One Woman’s Island, and That Last Summer?

Island in the Clouds

Island in the Clouds is a wondrous mystery, set on the lush island of Bequia in the Caribbean. A Canadian with a secret past becomes both suspect and investigator for two murders on the island. Along the way, he shares sharp insights into the history and life of this gleaming gem of a place. Susan M. Toy is a keen stylist who never fails to drive her story forward with a sure hand. As in all well-crafted mysteries, the solution to the crimes is both thoroughly surprising and perfectly logical. Toy shows us the sights and lets us hear the rhythms of the islanders and, cunningly, allows us to peek into the lives of a sexy set of expats.
~ Michael Fay, founder of the Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (I have also published 5 of Michael’s longform short stories under the IslandShorts imprint.)

One Woman’s Island

One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. The author’s ear for local dialogue is faultless. Besides its lush and exotic setting, however, the book accurately and with pathos reflects the end of an unsatisfactory marriage for main character Mariana who is constantly searching for something meaningful to take its place. She takes a young girl Verity and her two children under her wing and hears about her folly in no uncertain terms from one of the die-hard ex-pats who lives there. With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and the underlying seriousness of the questions it so skillfully raises, One Woman’s Island is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are familiar with Bequia. ~ Felicity Harley, author of The Burning Years (Felicity is a fellow-Bequia author)

That Last Summer

In the summer of 1965, Rachel Wainstaff is uprooted from her life in Toronto and her boyfriend to spend a reluctant summer with her family at their secluded cottage at Lone Pine Lake. In this story of self-discovery and young love, Rachel’s joys and disappointments are inextricably tied to making new friends and meeting a special boy, all while dealing with the irritation of her younger sister. Still, the true heart of this piece lies in the complicated relationship the teenaged Rachel has with her mother and father. That Last Summer is a poignant love letter to the lazy, sun-soaked days of an Ontario summer at the cottage.
~ Kim McCullough, author of Clearwater (Kim is a Calgary author I first met at the Fernie Writers’ Conference)

The Bequia Perspectives Novels

There seems to be a huge character quietly looming across your book series: Bequia, the island herself. Each book, even though different, reveals more and more about her as a character and a force. Quite cool.
~ Karen Parker, Galveston, TX (Karen is a blogger I met online – Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge)

Of the recipes that you’ve included in One Woman’s Island, do you have a favorite?

Two, actually, but only because I created them myself: Sue’s Cinnamon Buns and the Island in the Clouds Cocktail.

Which came first for you: novels or short stories? I’m curious because I gave myself a goal of finishing my first short story by July 1st and I found it very hard to write.

I first began writing a novel, but only because that’s what the story I wanted to tell had demanded it to be. I’m a great believer in the story dictating its terms to the writer. I did enter many writing contests early on though, and took classes in short story writing, and have a slew of short stories and novellas to show for all that. Two of those novellas have since morphed into novels (that I have yet to publish) and a couple of the short stories have been published. One of the contests I entered a number of times was the 24-hour short story contest in which we received a prompt at noon on a Saturday and had 24 hours to write and submit a story that was within the required number of words (sometimes 800, sometimes 1200, usually no more than 1500). I found that was a great way to focus my storytelling in order to produce something within the contest parameters. My stories never won anything, but this way of writing trained me to concentrate and just tell the story with as few characters and side-plots as possible. Also, I entered the 3-Day Novel Contest four times and finished and published That Last Summer as a result.

What do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?

I have ALL spare time now, as I am officially retired from paid work. I’ve always been a big reader, but now I am reading even more than ever, and using the libraries as much as I can (the bonus of being able to borrow books online, even during the winter when I’m living in the Caribbean). And I continue to promote other authors. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but that’s not just a hobby, because I love to eat and figure that, since we have to eat to live, we might as well eat the best meals we can all the time. I’m catching up on watching DVDs while I have access to the local Ontario library’s collection of movies. So that’s not really spare time as much as … my entire life right now!

What’s the best thing about Alberta/Ontario?

Alberta – the mountains and those long vistas looking towards the mountains from Calgary. And I would be remiss not to include all my book pals I met while living there, and whom I miss incredibly whenever all I want to do is just sit down with a like-minded friend, enjoy a coffee, and talk books.

Ontario – the memories of having grown up here, and the physical access to libraries, as well as the sanctuary my trailer provides me with. It’s a great place to read and think and write.

But not the snow or winter, in either province! They never were the best things for me!

What’s the best thing about Bequia?

My cats, and the house, and Dennis are there! And that view of the ocean to the west of the island is really pretty incredibly stunning from our verandah. That’s why our house is named “The View.”

Living within a completely different culture has given me a better understanding of the world and other people. (And I believe everyone should step out of their comfort zones and live somewhere different, even if just for a short while. Not as a tourist, but an actual resident. I think this could change everyone’s attitude for the better and would go a long way towards acceptance of different ideas and ways of living.)

And no snow or winter – ever!! Bonus points for Bequia on that!

If you’d like to learn more about Susan, you can find her blog and purchase her books here.

Until next time,





Author Spotlight: George Nagle


Good morning! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you may remember that I am part of a group called Mystery Authors International. Today another member of the group is here to tell us about his upcoming release, The Life We Live: Ascending. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s garnering some great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and it’s just 99¢ right now. Welcome, George Nagle!

What is The Life We Lead: Ascending all about?

The DEA, FBI, and CIA have failed for years to bring down the Spara family, who control the world’s largest drug cartel. A secret society of spies whose members are under the age of 25 will try to succeed where the government has failed.

At only 21 years old, James is the most skillful member of this society. His new target is the Spara family. Through their relationship with Russia, the Sparas are the largest distributor of heroin in the world.  While beginning his investigation in Russia, James inadvertently saves the life of a former KBG officer who has a connection to the Tan family. This connection leads James farther into the heart of the criminal cartel.  However, the Tans have a dark secret of their own, which could jeopardize James’s perfect record and his tenure as a spy as he struggles to do what is right while protecting his family, friends and the love of his life.

Tell us how the story came about.

The Life We Lead: Ascending is just the first in a series of what should be three books. At 425 pages, it is the shortest of the series and really the introduction to James, the group, Carissa and a whole cast of others.  The Life We Lead follows the life of James, the main character, as he battles criminal syndicates while trying to have a normal life.  It is inspired by real-life events; however, names, places, timelines and such have all been altered.  This story has been 25 years in the making and certainly won’t disappoint with an incredible ending to the series.  This series is based on real-world spying, so the far fetched gadgets and such like those found in James Bond won’t be appearing. It is a spy novel has lots of twists in turns that can make you laugh, cry, feel the characters’ outrage, and even their love. The subtitle to the book is a clue as to why it ends where it does, too.

Care to share an excerpt with us?

Sure. This comes from Chapter 3; James and Daen capture Nikolias after Petior has been abducted.

“You are our prisoner, but you are a captive of whatever group you…” Daen began, but Nikolias cut him off.

“What makes you think I want to leave?” growled Nikolias.

“When you help us, your bosses will not be too happy with you. You and your cousin will need to leave to survive,” replied Daen.

“So he says,” Nikolias said curtly, with a head gesture towards James.

“What did he say? Why did he just do that?” asked James.

“Sounds like he doesn’t feel the need for our help. It seems he doesn’t want to, or have a reason to leave,” Daen replied, a puzzled look on his face.

“I am no traitor, and I will die to help our fraternity and country. I am loyal and believe in things, unlike you American dogs,” Nikolias stated in English.

James bowed his head, closed his eyes, and rubbed his left temple for a moment with his left hand. He dragged it down his face before speaking again.

“Okay, tell us what the fraternity’s cause is. What’s so special about it that you’re willing to risk your life, your cousin’s life, because someone felt I disrespected them near a train?” asked James.

Nikolias laughed. “We know you’re looking for drugs. You feel drugs are not disrespectful and destroying. You think we do not know that is why you are here? We see you peoples, and how you treat us. You all deserve death for your exploits on us, and our children.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the 3rd of 6 children and grew up in western Pennsylvania. I earned my BS in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, my MSc in Biology and my MBA in Marketing and Management from Duquesne University. I am also a Master 5th degree black belt in the art of Taekwondo with Young Brothers in Pittsburgh. I am currently working in the science industry as a global marketing and strategy professional. I have one son, Matthew.

Where can readers connect with you?




Amazon Author page:

Goodreads Author page:

Smashwords Author page:

And last, but not least, where can we find the book?

Thanks for visiting today, George! Good luck with your new release!

Until next time,


Author Spotlight: DB Corey

Today I welcome DB Corey to Reade and Write. I had the pleasure of meeting DB and his wife, Maggie, at the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in August and they are both charming and fun. DB is here to talk (with his characteristic razor-sharp sense of humor) about his newest release, The Lesser Sin. His first novel, Chain of Evidence, has garnered some incredible reviews on Amazon and I need to add both his books to my TBR.

Tell us about your new book.

Law Abiding Citizen meets Femme Fatale. The Lesser Sin is the first in a two-part series—a dark thriller, it’s the tale of Hanna Braver, a CIA sniper that leaves Afghanistan to hunt down the man that got away with the brutal murder of her sister. A devout Catholic, Hanna struggles with the concepts of her faith as love of family compels her to seek justice by committing the most grievous of Mortal sins, jeopardizing her Immortal Soul in the process.

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone compelled by the anti-hero plotline. Anyone who cheers a progressively gritty protagonist that does the wrong thing, for the right reason … and begins to like it.

Tell us about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

Choice – The book is set in the tristate area of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. Virginia was easy because Hanna works for the CIA, and headquarters (Langley) is in Virginia. Maryland because I am so familiar with the area, and Delaware because of its rural characteristics and summer resort action.

Research – I did Google Earth searches on the eastern shore area of Delaware, and several on Virginia—primarily the Langley compound. After the late-night knock on my door, I explained to the Feds that I was writing a book and that was the reason for my surveillance of Spook Central. After reading the manuscript, they decided not to put me in jail, but only because they liked the book. Said it made the agency look good. (OK, I’m only kidding, but one must be careful of what one Googles). Additionally, I spoke with local police agencies in all three states and a couple former CIA types (Retired), one of which happens to be a fellow author, and one a Beta reader and fan. A Roman Catholic priest rounds out the research pool. I was very careful as to what I asked. I don’t want to be looking up, after I’m gone.

Choice – I chose these three states because of their proximity to each other. Hanna is hunting Daemon Goode. I didn’t want it to be too easy for her.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

As suggested by the title, a religious thread runs through this story: confessions, Bible passages, prayers and the like. There’s even a little Latin for those linguists and priests out there. I maintain religion in this tale as barrier, an obstacle that forces Hanna to come to terms with it, but I didn’t want the Faith component to hijack the story or have it come off as “preachy.” One reviewer pointed out that it wasn’t, so I must have succeeded. I wanted to weave it in as a character in the book, much like The DaVinci Code or The Exorcist. Not as an entity unto itself.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

Ah, dreams. Hanna Braver – Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Cole – I lean toward Lance Reddick (The Fringe, Bosch), but he’s a bit tall for the character. Hanna is taller than Cole, but so was Jack Reacher vs. Tom Cruise, so I’ll leave that open for now.

Have you written any other books?

Sure. One really bad one (sitting on the shelf at home), and Chain of Evidence, my first novel published to rave reviews (Amazon).

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I was when I started writing, stayed with a critique group for a year or so, but dropped out after that. I found that some of the folks in the group had a thin skin, and served up more resentment than constructive criticism. But, is a writer’s community, and that worked out well for me.

Do you write every day?

I try, but holding a day job makes it difficult to stick with it (sadly, writing has not provided a living wage. Yet. But I am hopeful).

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I like thrillers, mystery, crime, humor, horror, and sci-fi. Writers? Same as most, I suppose: Patterson, King, Clancy, Cornwell, Flynn and the like. But those are easy, they’re so well known. I really enjoy reading books from writers that I know personally; colleagues I meet at festivals and conferences. The last one I read was Sand and Fire by Tom Young—an excellent military yarn by a great writer, fellow flier, and personal friend-o-mine.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Singapore and Ireland. Maybe Hawaii if my wife would let me. All those grass skirts….

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t let frustration deter you. READ the writers you admire—their first books. Learn from what they did. How they did it. Especially their first chapter.

Learn how to grab your reader early. That is paramount!

Oh … and don’t quit your day job.

And while you’re at it, read:

The First Five Chapters – Noah Lukeman

Hooked – Les Edgerton – another personal friend-o-mine

What is your favorite movie and why?

God, so many. Scent of a Woman, The Sandlot, The Green Mile, A Christmas Story … more.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stay 30.

Describe yourself in three words.

Generous, Considerate, Optimistic … so optimistic.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

“What are you working on now?”

Well, since you asked, Amy, I’m writing the follow up to The Lesser Sin. No title yet, but the obvious choice is The Greater Sin. And I have another series on the backburner I really want to write: a near-future thriller revolving around a young girl and the grandmother that raised her, taken against her will by a desperate government. And then there’s a second in The Moby Truax (Chain of Evidence) series. So much to write, so little time.

Where can readers connect with you?


Website (has my email link)


Where can readers find your books?


Barnes & Noble




Google Play

Thanks so much for stopping by, DB! Best wishes with The Lesser Sin.

Until next time,