Speaking Engagements

I had a great talk at the Newburgh Library last Wednesday. I have two more coming up. On Sunday, October 23, I will be talking at the Orangeburg Library – in Rockland County, New York. The talk begins at 2.

The following Sunday, I will be speaking about witchcraft at my own library – the Goshen Public Library in Goshen, New York. Hard to believe but I have never spoken there. I felt shy pushing myself into a slot where I work.

Come and ask questions.

I haven’t blogged for almost two weeks – but for a very good reason. I was on vacation in Italy.

The food; the wine!

But more than that, what a beautiful country.

We started in Sorrento, a small town about an hour outside of Naples.


From there we went down the coast, stopping in Positano and taking a ferry to Capri.


It is called the vertical city and you can see why. The houses are literally built on one another.

And Capri where many of the rich and famous keep second homes.


Stunning, yes? I did not know Italy was so very hilly.

We also saw Pompei with Vesuvius in the background.


It is still an active volcano and so is closely monitored.


What a beautiful country. From Southern Italy, we went to Florence. The Tuscan hills were, incredible as it seems, even more stunning.

Beignets and sugar

A beignet is a square of fried dough sprinkled – or in some cases dredged – in powdered sugar. These are a specialty in New Orleans and very good they are too.

But they are also a feature of French Canadian cooking and are eaten in Maine. Because of the Arcadians (who were expelled and went to Louisiana. Arcadians = Cajuns. Does anyone remember the poem Evangeline by Longfellow?) French cooking went as well. There it combined with some Spanish but mostly African cuisine to make Cajun food.

But surely beignets were not eaten with powdered sugar in the 1790s? Well, you can make powdered sugar from regular sugar with a mortar and pestle so yes, probably they were. However, beignets are delicious with regular sugar too. And sugar has been around for millenia. It was discovered/invented in India and went from there to the Middle East. In the Middle Ages it was considered a fine spice and was wildly expensive. The transformation of sugar cane (growing, harvesting and cooking down to the granulated state) is very labor intensive. But, by the early 1700s, plantations – worked by slaves – were already being set up in the West Indies.

From there, sugar cultivation went to North America, primarily southern Louisiana. The slave trade from Africa, already begun in the West Indies, went to the South of the colonies. One of the tour guides said that sugar cultivation – so labor intensive and so lucrative, was primarily responsible for the explosion of slavery. (I would guess cotton comes in second.)

From 1710 to 1770, sixty years, the per capita consumption of sugar went up five fold. Today we eat many tons.

Bouchercon 47

As I have mentioned before, I love attending Bouchercon. Not just because it is fun, although it is, but because it is so inspiring. This time I was put on a panel with other authors I have read, except for the one whose book has just come out. And one of my favorites as well: Laura Joh Rowland. I attended the interview of Harlen Coben by Michael Connolly – two heavy hitters. And the panel on social media. Well, I don’t need to continue. The point is that listening to other writers talk, about problems I struggle with – and sometimes they even have solutions – reenergizes me.

And the opening ceremonies with the faux Mardi Gras parade! Words cannot express. I wish I had taken some pictures but I was so caught up in the moment I never thought of it – even for the dragon float.

Holding the conference in New Orleans was wonderful as well. The people are so friendly and the food is great. We also took a few tours. My two favorites: the Mardi Gras World and the Whitney plantation.

I saw the two pretty plantations: Oak Alley and Laura.



The Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved.



This is detail from the wall listing all the enslaved at Whitney. I did not take many pictures; it was so sad and horrifying.

If you go to New Orleans try to stop by Mardi Gras World







Scenes from a move

I have moved many times and each one has had its share of problems. But this one was easily the most grueling of them all. Now that the end is near, I am beginning to see the funny side.

First, the whole mortgage process was awful. OK, no surprise there. But they pushed it for so long we closed on the last possible day. We would have had to start over the following week.

Then we started moving, first from the storage facility (because we staged the house). That took about ten trips in the van. Then from the house. Yes, we hired movers. They brought two trucks. When they got ready to load the second truck it wouldn’t start. Another truck had to be called in and this second crew wouldn’t take a lot of stuff – the kayaks and the canoe for example. Yes, we had to hire a truck from u-haul to load in all this stuff . When we got there to pick it up it was damaged. They had to find another truck for us. We ended driving to Peekskill.

Even after this, we had about ten more trips with the van – to move this stuff. Are we finished? No. But we just have a few things left.

Then there is the commuting, new for me after many years of living ten minutes from my job. One week after moving, the road I take was closed. Yes. And along the detour there were four different places with road repair crews and signs saying people working. (No one was working. They were all drinking coffee and standing around. But I digress.) One day after they opened the road there was a big accident on the Tappan Zee that caused massive backups everywhere. It took me two hours to get home.

And while we’re at it lets talk about the post office. I filled out a change of address form online. Two weeks later we were still not getting any mail at the new house. Why? well, the Campbell Hall Post Office told me I should have come in and spoken to them. Seriously? This is the post office open 9 to 11 in the morning and 2 – 4 in the afternoon. And what about the new mail that was addressed to the new house? I finally called the Yorktown post office The carrier was holding it. Why? I don’t know. But we have begun receiving mail.

There are a host of other issues. Even before we moved in, the kitchen sink fell out of the counter. I finally found a handyman that is scheduled for Thursday.

I am beginning to feel like the hero of an old silent movie who is challenged by one crisis after another.

I love, love, love the new house and the location (despite the commute). but I suspect I will be giving away lots more stuff. Clearly we own too much!


Goodreads Giveaway

The giveaway for the Devil’s cold dish ends in a little over a week. Thus far, I have about 500 entries for twenty copies.


I haven’t been on top of the promotion: I am moving and what a grueling process it is. We are moving from house to house but it feels like ten houses. Getting rid of the baby stuff alone is a major undertaking.

It will be over soon – at least that is what I keep telling myself.