06/16/2021 09:16


It seems like the only time I blog these days is when I'm doing a blog hop with my buddies Deb, Kerrie, and Jami.  


Read Kerrie's post from yesterday


Since we hadn't done a hop since before the pandemic, we decided we couldn't ignore the elephant in the room.  We could go with how much 2020/2021 sucked or how much it didn't.  For me, it was a little of both, but I count myself lucky to say the scale tipped more to the side of "it didn't."


Ah, Covid-19 pandemic.  Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

As much as it pained me to see my kids losing out on hanging out with friends, getting in-person instruction, playing team sports, and generally getting to be carefree kids, the initial lockdown and subsequent staying at home was a blessing, family-wise.  We got to eat a home-cooked dinner together every night, at the same time—no small feat during certain sports/band/choir seasons when everyone is on a different schedule and most of our dinners come in a bag.  Strangely, we did start missing the taste of that greasy food from a bag, so as soon as the lockdown was over we did make it a point to get takeout often and try to support the way too many businesses that were struggling.  My family watched a movie together every night.  We played games.  We raised puppies.  We grew closer without even having to try, and that was an amazing gift, especially since my first child goes off to college in two short months.



Speaking of puppies, we got not one, but two little furry bundles of joy during the pandemic.  We got our sweet Ruby, an American Bully mix, from the Humane Society the night before the March lockdown, because what better time to get a puppy than when everyone is home 24/7?  Nothing brings more joy than a new puppy, and honestly, it gave us something to do.  The hourly potty breaks, the feedings and treats, the sweet snuggles—it’s such a cliché, but she really did rescue us instead of the other way around.  Our two older dogs were happy enough with the introduction of a new pet—our Golden, especially, who quickly became Ruby’s new mommy—but it was kind of hard for them at the age of 10 to keep up with an energetic pup.  Goldie ended up passing suddenly in the fall, and it was a tough loss.  She was the smiley, happy, always wanting to be petted and loved dog, and her absence created a huge void. 

I needed that perma-smiling, fluffy presence back in my life, so we started looking for our next baby.  I very nearly got taken for $900 by a puppy scam website, which is a terrible and too-common result of the pandemic—people preying on the fact that everyone was adding dogs to their family and had to resort to online transactions for the bulk of their purchases.  Luckily my husband and his team of computer nerds figured out the site was bogus before I made the payment.  The real problem was, we had our hearts set on a Samoyed and there aren’t a lot of (real) Samoyed breeders out there.  You want a puppy?  You have to put your name in when the momma dog is pregnant, which means you’ve got months to wait.  My heart didn’t have months to wait.  


Enter Holly, the sweetest dog I’ve ever met.  

She wasn’t even supposed to be ours.  Someone else had already spoken for her, but two weeks before she was supposed to go to her furever home, the person had a change of circumstance and couldn’t take her.  I just happened to be scouring Facebook THAT DAY as a last-ditch effort of looking for available Samoyeds, and I came across a post only 2 hours old that said a little girl Sammy pup named “Miss Orange” was available, and only a few hours from our house.  I called the lady immediately, hoping I wasn’t too late.  I wasn’t.  I secured my pup and only had to wait a couple of weeks to go pick her up.  She couldn’t have fit in better with my other dogs and my family, and Ruby is ecstatic to have a little sister to play with…although at 9 months old, Holly is now way bigger than little Ruby.  That doesn’t stop them from being best pals.


So back to the point of this story—how did I figure out writing was my passion during this shitshow?  Let’s back up to the summer of 2019, in which I became a partner in a local coffeehouse.  For years I’d dreamed of owning a coffeehouse, and everything happened to align for me to take this opportunity to fulfill that dream.  Things were great.  We even opened a second location just before Thanksgiving, and it was taking off. 


Then came the pandemic.


Seriously.  What are the odds I open a new coffeehouse in the literal worst time in the history of history?

In the best of times, running a food service business is tough.  Running one during Covid was the stuff of nightmares.  From losing business to covering extra shifts for quarantined employees to food shortages (we were limited to 6 gallons of milk per grocery order—how the @#%$ is a @#%$ing coffeehouse supposed to work with that little of our #2 most used product?) to too many other ridiculous and unforeseen obstacles to list, we worked hard to keep the place afloat.  And we did.  It was one of the hardest and most demanding jobs I ever had, but I loved it.  

The only problem was that with putting in so many hours, I had to put something in my life on the back burner.  My writing ended up being that thing.  It was always the last thing on my list of things to get done…which meant it never got done.


Maybe it was a good thing I took a writing break during 2020.  I felt a loss of focus and a slump in creativity from expelling the effort to simply exist, so I can’t imagine my writing would have been that great in the first place.  But it still kept calling me.  I craved sitting down and creating stories, worlds, and characters, even though none were popping and brewing in my head as they always had before.  I wanted to shut out reality and dive into a story like I used to, forgetting about meals and my endless list of household chores, resurfacing hours later thinking I’d only been at it for minutes.  But I didn’t have that kind of time.  I finally sat myself down and took a good look at what I really wanted out of life.


I wanted to write.


So, I decided to do just that.  I gave up my stake in the coffeehouse and went back to full-time writing.  Let me tell you, it is liberating to be back doing what I love most.  And I know it’s the right job for me because it’s the only job I’ve ever wanted (needed!) to go back to after quitting.  I finished a novel I’d been working on before the coffeehouse venture—I was about 90% finished with it a couple of years ago, and just couldn’t get that last 10% written until I was back and fully immersed in the flow again.  I’ve also started writing a new series of cozy mysteries set in the Hilton Head/Bluffton, South Carolina area, my very favorite place in the world.


I’m going to hit you with a cliché again, but clichés are cliché for a reason—because they’re true:  I’m doing what I love and loving what I do. 



Follow the blog hop with Jami (6/17) and Deb (6/18) this week!


11/27/2019 13:55


I could have gone a lot of ways with this blog post about reality vs. the hype, but a movie I watched the other day got me right in the feels and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since.


So not that I really have time to watch movies these days (I became a partner in a coffeehouse, which opened a new location 3 weeks ago, so I haven't been home much!), but I've lately developed an appreciation for the overly-hyped segment of the entertainment industry that is independent films.



The hype (also known as "what I assumed"):  Independent films are for people who want to think about their entertainment.  Independent films are intellectual and have an agenda.


The reality (also known as "what I learned once I gave it a chance"):  Most indie films ARE made for people who like entertainment that also makes them pause and think about life stuff.  On the whole, they can be very intellectual.  And yes, independent filmmakers often have an agenda they want to push on people.  But don't (and shouldn't!) all good stories have a moral to drive home?


Case in point: THE LOBSTER.


It's a dystopian mindf*ck of a movie from 2015 starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.  The gist of it is that single people have 45 days to find a suitable mate or be transformed into an animal of their choosing.  Crazy, right?  Yes, the premise is totally bananas.  But the movie is so stinking well done that you start to feel all kinds of things, including for two hours believing that this messed up society is a real one, and living these characters' heartbreaking lives with them.  You're pretty much straight-up uncomfortable for the whole movie.  From showing way too much of a dead dog to showing someone hold a sharp object way too close to his eyeball, it's just offputting.  But in the best way.  It was like a book you couldn't put down.  And when it ended, it was something my husband, son, and I talked about at length.  Definitely more of a conversation starter than yet another superhero movie.  (Not that I don't love a good superhero movie, but let's face it, those are nothing but hype.)


Interested (or confused?) yet?  Here are some more independent films to consider that will make you cringe hard.  

Hereditary (yikes, this one was hard to watch, and it did take a bit of an odd turn I wasn't prepared for)

The Babadook (more sad than scary, but a-maz-ing)

Suburbicon (not really sure that it's actually independent, but it watches like an independent film--only with a big studio budget.  Probably the best movie I've seen in years.)


If you're not careful, these films might make you think, plus spark a long and interesting conversation with your fellow movie watchers.  And let's face it, we could all use a lot more conversation in our lives and a lot less mindless droning on our phones.  (See what I did there?  AGENDA.)


Go here tomorrow for Deb Nam-Krane's post:

And go back and read Morgan Cain's post:

And Jami Deise's post:



04/22/2019 07:52


As promised, below are the files for the tools I use to me stay organized while I'm plotting a mystery.  


Scene notes:  

These can be printed on 2x4 labels, or the points can be jotted into your writer's notebook.


These points will help you plot each scene in your novel.  They'll remind you to list the characters in the scene, the time and place it occurs, the major action contained in the scene, the goal of the scene, and the purpose of the scene/emotion to be evoked.  Each scene we write should further the plot, have a purpose, and make the reader feel something.  


Scene notes labels.doc (31,5 kB)



Suspect Interview Punchlist:

These can be printed on 2x4 labels, or you can use the graphic for reference and only write the numbers in your writer's notebook.  I prefer using the numbers only--it takes up less space.


Our detectives, not matter whether they're amateur or professional, have to do a lot of talking to a lot of people.  This punchlist should help you get the basics out of every interviewee, whether they're a suspect, witness, or whatever.  I find that a lot of times I don't use all the information I compile, but sometimes it helps flesh out the character to know some things about them you don't necessarily divulge to the reader.


1.  Where/when/who:  Where and when is the interview being conducted?  At the crime scene right after the crime, or in someone's living room several days later?  Who is doing the interviewing, and who is listening in?


2.  Link/motive:  Every interviewee must have a link to the crime/victim/suspect or a motive to have committed the crime, otherwise there's no reason to interview them.


3.  Implicated by:  Who pointed the finger at this person as someone who should be interviewed?  Did another interviewee say, "If you ask me, his wife is as guilty as they come."?  Also, their circumstance could implicate them without anyone pointing fingers.  For example, the wife of the deceased would be implicated simply because she is the significant other.


4.  Reaction to #3:  How does the interviewee react when the detective explains why they are being interviewed in the first place?  Sometimes to get a big reaction, the detective (especially an amateur one) can divulge who did the finger-pointing.


5.  Alibi:  They either have one or they don't.


6.  Secret/Lie/Truth:  Here's where the interview gets interesting.  Have them either divulge a secret, tell a lie that your detective takes as truth, or have them be a truthful interviewee throughout.


7.  Points to: This kind of goes hand-in-hand with #3.  This is where the interviewee points the finger at someone else, either to save himself or be helpful to the detective.  Or to throw out a red herring to throw everyone off.


Suspect interview punchlist.doc (35840)

Suspect interview punchlist graphic.jpg (2698416)


And as an added bonus, a word document with a clean outline worksheet!


Novel writing outline worksheet.docx (131231)





04/17/2019 07:46


We're tackling another blog hop, and this time the subject is... 


My Real-Life Alter Ego


My writer friends and I have some interesting and unusual things we do when we're not writing, so we thought we'd share them with you!


I’ve had several unusual jobs, starting with church organist when I was sixteen. Like, what sixteen-year-old knows how to play a pipe organ?  Well, I did.  It’s not much different than a piano, aside from the fact that there are two keyboards (you’re not required to play one with each hand, although sometimes the music calls for it) as well as a pedal board you play with your feet.  Lots going on!  It wasn’t long before I tired of stuffy organ music, but that’s another story…


Have I played this behemoth?  Yes, many times.


Anyway, around that time I decided I wanted to be a school music educator, so I got a music education degree.  I ended up being a middle/high school choir director for a while, but just wasn’t feeling it.  Since the choir program was small, it was a part-time job, mornings only.  (Imagine trying to make ends meet on HALF a beginning teacher’s salary!)  So, to make a full time paycheck, I took a job at an office in the afternoons.  (I think I was also selling Longaberger baskets or Thirty-One bags at the time—some sort of pyramid scheme.  When I had the energy, I was all about the side hustle!)  I was surprised how much I loved working an office job.  I ended up getting a full time offer at that office, so I decided to embark on a new career and work my way up the corporate ladder.  (I did in fact make it “up” to the 15th floor, where I had a killer view from my cubicle, which was one of the few that had a window.)


I was on the 3rd floor from the top.  Best office ever, EXCEPT when there is a fire drill AND an actual earthquake during the same week when you're 37 weeks pregnant.  Fifteen flights of stairs, even going down, was a nightmare.

Fast forward to having my first kid, and that corporate ladder didn’t seem so important anymore.  So I scaled back to part-time again and spent the rest of my time hanging with my boy.  Once child #2 came along, it was impossible to even consider being apart from my 3-year-old AND the newborn to go back to work after maternity leave.  They were both so dang cute!  I stayed home for a couple of years (keep in mind I still had that church organist job, and probably at least one pyramid scheme, so I was in fact bringing home a little bacon), but got that itch again to go back to work.


Now comes the fun part—the most fun I ever had at a job, actually.  I worked for a funeral home, and my coworkers were the best.  Funniest people I’d ever met, but you kind of have to be if you’re working with death.  Now I didn’t have to touch the dead bodies, mind you.  My job was to run the place during late evening visitations after the day staff clocked out.  So…yes, I was often alone in the building with a dead body or three.  But that never bothered me.  Weird stuff would happen occasionally—like a corpse leaking…something (I didn’t ask what it was) from its nose.  But the weirdest stuff that happened was my interactions with the living.  Like the time a lady wanted bright red lipstick on her mom, because that’s what she wore in life.  I explained that it wouldn’t look like she wanted it to on the body, since the skin tone changes drastically after death and makeup has to be carefully selected so as not to look garish.  We didn’t have any shades in the funeral home’s makeup collection that she would agree to, so I gave her one of my own personal ones to calm her down.  After they’d used it on her mom, SHE ASKED IF I WANTED IT BACK.  Uh, no thanks.  Then one time a funeral-goer mistook me for his wife and grabbed my ass.  His sons thought it was hilarious.  His wife, not so much.


I'll skip the photo for this topic.  You're welcome.


While I was doing the funeral home gig and taking care of my kiddos, I managed to find time to write my first book, IT’S JUST A LITTLE CRUSH.  I’d never loved what I did so much as when I was writing.  I ended up putting it on the back burner for a year or two.  Life got in the way, including me coming really close to opening up my own bakery/café—I had the deposit on the building and everything.  But the timing wasn’t right, and things fell through.  I was incredibly bummed at first, but not long after that was when I decided to put CRUSH out on Amazon and see if I got any bites.  Well, I did, and the rest is history!  (But I still plan—someday!—on opening a coffeehouse/bakery.)


As for the music, I found a way to bring it full circle and incorporate it into my writing.  For the Java Jive series, I wrote and recorded (at a lovely local recording studio) a song for each book, since the main character is a singer/songwriter.  For performance opportunities, I like to do open mic nights, my favorite being Café Coco in Nashville.  Here’s my latest performance…



Make sure to join Deborah Nam-Krane tomorrow HERE for the next stop on the My Real Life Alter Ego BLOG HOP!



10/31/2018 08:08




If you haven't already claimed it, here's a FREE EBOOK!

If you haven't already got your copy, here's a 99c Halloween mystery that will go back to regular price tomorrow.  

Amazon  B&N  iBooks  Kobo


If you follow me on Instagram, you'll be entered to win my whole Lizzie Hart series for Kindle.

Oh, and one more treat--here's a first look at the cover for the new book in my Ellie Matthews series!  It will be available for pre-order in just one week, so check back here on my blog!






10/30/2018 08:50


We can't all be Martha Stewart...


I don't know about you, but I love looking at Pinterest Fails as much as I love looking at Pinterest itself.  We all see those beautiful crafty creations and think, "I could do that!"  And sometimes we can.  


Other times...not so much.


Take the ever-popular Vampire Donut.  Easy, simple, no cooking involved.  Should be an easy win and a super-cute breakfast for my daughter's Halloween sleepover.  Well, guess again.



First, let's talk about the plastic vampire teeth.  They are way too big for the donut hole.  And I didn't consider this, but when you stretch a donut, the glaze cracks.  The Pinterest photos of uncracked vampire donuts are LIES.  All LIES!


So, okay, what about using candy corn for the fangs?  I even found "Vampire Teeth" candy corn, which is white with red tips.  Perfect, no?  NO.  Again, the donut holes are too small to get two candy corns to fit in AND be straight.  So we had Snaggletooth Vampire Donuts...and Crackhead Vampire Donuts.  




Let's head outside to something that surely doesn't take much skill--setting out pumpkins and mums and crap.  Just put them together however it looks good to you, and you're pretty well set if you don't forget to water the mums.  (See this post for extra tips.)


It was all well and good until this sweet little thing decided to go ape sh*t...

...and do this.  (I realize this isn't the same year's setup, but you get the point.)


I'm still grieving over the loss of my wicked awesome creepy dolls.  Another item stored in an airtight bin with them was filled with water, and it broke sometime between last Halloween and now.  When we opened the bin this year, there was mold EVERYWHERE.  I had to pitch everything, tub and all.  These girls were among the casualties--they were unfortunately the only ones I really cared about.  I'm on the search for some replacements.



I guess I shouldn't feel too bad.  Fails happen to everyone, even the "professionals."  Take these two signs I found a couple of years ago at Dollar General...



I wish you a FAIL-free Halloween!



10/29/2018 07:43



I've been sharing all of my non-author-ish Halloween favorites, so I thought it was time to talk books!


I apologize for missing Day 4--I was out of town, but if you check out my Instagram page, you'll find plenty of pics of my Indy trip!


I'm not into horror, so this isn't that kind of list.  I'm much more into suspense and heart-pounding action and psychological chills.


Zombie, Ohio:  A Tale of the Undead


By Scott Kenemore


Get it HERE


I wouldn't normally pick up a book about zombies, because of my non-interest in horror.  And to be honest, I don't remember how I even stumbled across this book, or when I did, why I decided to read it.  Maybe it was the description, which told me this wasn't your normal zombie tale.  Peter Mellor, the main character, dies at the beginning and slowly comes to realize he has unfortunately become a zombie.  Told from his perspective, it's a tale of his descent into the abyss of becoming undead.  It's funny, sometimes gross, but always interesting.  And I'm excited to note that there are two other books in the series, including Zombie Indiana, which is set in my Hoosier stomping grounds.


The Angela Panther Mystery Series


By Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Get it HERE
A good ghost story always rounds out Halloween.  This series is mainly mystery, but with a hilarious ghost named Fran thrown in, who is the mom of the main character (who's a new-to-the-game psychic medium).  Together with Angela's BFF Mel and Detective Aaron Banner, the team solves a bunch of who-dun-its.  Super fun, and not really scary, but there's some great action sequences and a bunch of suspense.

The Ghost Dusters Mysteries


By Wendy Roberts

Get it HERE
Wendy Roberts was one of my first favorites when I started devouring mysteries several years ago.  Her writing is snarky and is a good fit for someone like me who likes their mysteries in the gray area between a too-sweet cozy and a hard-boiled cop drama.  Sadie Novak is a crime scene cleaner who often finds that she's speaking to the spirits of the dearly departed while she's cleaning blood and brains off the wall.

Stillhouse Lake


By Rachel Caine

Get it HERE
I've become a huge fan of psychological suspense lately, and as for edge-of-your-seat action, Rachel Caine delivers.  I actually had to put the book down several times and remind myself that the main character's kids weren't my kids and that I didn't have to worry about them.  Like I mentioned in my "13 Days of Halloween" post about movies (read it HERE if you haven't already), if you really want to scare me, show me something scary that could happen in real life to my family.  Not that I think my husband could ever be a serial killer like in this book--I'm talking more about how the main character lives in fear that there's a real chance someone would purposely hurt her children, and it's up to her to protect them at all costs.

The Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Get them HERE
You can't talk horror or suspense without paying homage to the father of it all, or at least the author who did it best.  Talk about heart pounding (literally, The Tell-Tale Heart)!  Many have cited Poe as an inspiration--even my favorite TV series, The Following, had its murder cult lifting him and his works up as their drive to kill.  Pretty much anything by Poe will get you to a dark place.

The Harry Potter Series


By JK Rowling

Get it HERE
I'd be remiss without listing the world's most famous wizard and his adventures at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  The books have an overall spooky feel, with the characters casting spells, all kinds of magical creatures--some scary, some not, and of course the embodiment of evil, Lord Voldemort.

That Old Black Magic


By Caroline Fardig

Get it HERE
And of course I'm going to add my own title to the list!  That Old Black Magic is part of The Lizzie Hart Mysteries Series, and is set at Halloween.  It's all kinds of spooky fun as Lizzie gets mixed up with a Wiccan coven, participates in her town's Halloween fest, and finally gets in over her head at a Samhain ritual.  It's only 99c through October 31st.

Happy Reading!



10/27/2018 09:07


You thought my cupcakes yesterday were creepy?  

Well, hold onto your witch hats.


A mystery author worth her salt ought to be able to come up with a fake dead body.  After all, we conjure them in our minds all day.  But it's even more fun to get hands on.

Ultimately, these things ended up at our station on our friends' Haunted Trail.  See this post to find out what we did with them.


To start off, I raided my closet and found some old clothes I could easily part with.  Then I pawed through my recycle bin.  Flat cardboard boxes for the body, paper towel, toilet paper, and wrapping paper rolls taped together for the arms, and various plastic bags balled up to make the bodies more human-shaped.  I think the heads were made from a big bag of crushed up Wal-Mart sacks.  I sewed the arm and leg holes together so the garbage wouldn't slide out.


I wrapped my "body" in plastic sheeting.  It doesn't have to be that neat, given the fact that a deranged killer would not take the time to be neat when wrapping up the poor person he killed in order to dispose of them.


I then splattered red paint all over the thing.  I tried to use that fake blood you can buy, but it was too runny.  Paint stuck better to the plastic.

Last, I wrapped the thing with duct tape.  Let me tell you, this was no easy task.  A "body" inside plastic sheeting is surprisingly slippery when you're trying to work with it.  I couldn't imagine being a murderer and having to do this with an actual body.  I was sweating and out of breath by the time I wrangled this thing into place, and it couldn't have weighed more than 20 pounds.


Needless to say, when my husband walked into our kitchen and saw this on the floor, he was a little freaked out.


Now onto a spooky craft that won't raise as many eyebrows...cheesecloth ghosts!


Make a form for the ghosts.  I used a 2-liter bottle and stuck a ball of foil to the top for the head, then attached sticks with duct tape to the sides for the arms.  Then I didn't have another 2-liter bottle for a second ghost, so I used a 20 oz bottle and set it on top of a cornstarch box for more height.


Use a 2:1 solution of water:cornstarch (you can also use actual fabric starch, but I had trouble finding that at my local market).  2c:1c works, if you're making a few ghosts.  I think we made three and had some of the mix left over.  Microwave mixture for around 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.  You want it to look like thin pudding.

It also took more cheesecloth than we imagined, because I wanted a more opaque ghost.  I think we used about 2 packages for 3 ghosts.  After soaking the cheesecloth piece by piece in the starch mixture, begin layering it over your form to look like the sheet of a ghost.  Stop when you think you have enough layers.  Make sure everything is the way you want it, because once it dries, it's stiff, which is the point.


These take a while to dry, especially if you've used several layers.  Expect to leave them overnight or even 24 hours.  You can put eyes or even a bow on their heads, but I thought they were spookier just like this.


And speaking of creepy, I'll leave you with this image.  These girls were freaky enough as is, but then the bin where I was keeping them had an item filled with water in it that broke, and the airtight seal caused everything in there to mold.  I love their new look, but unfortunately I had to part with them because they smelled like death.



Happy Creepy Crafting!



10/26/2018 09:31


If you’re like me, you have very little interest in slaving over a hot stove, especially in October when there are so many other fun things to do.  Do I browse Pinterest and pin intricate recipes that are more craft project than edible?  Heck, yeah.  Do I have any intention of making said recipes?  Heck, no!


Here’s several recipes to get you through Halloween with minimal effort but maximum “wow” factor.


Let the slacking begin.


But Caroline, you say…everyone makes the coolest cupcakes for Halloween.  

I want to be the one with the awesome Halloween cupcakes this year!!! 


So do it.  But DON’T get cute with it.  Go against the grain and make gross ones.  That way if you’re in a rush and they look bad, no one will be able to tell you didn’t do it on purpose.


Killer and Zombie cupcakes--I made these.  Grossed a lot of people out.  Gained a lot of street cred.



Killer cupcakes:

Cupcakes with white icing (store bought, if you’re particularly pressed for time)

Red gel food coloring

Candy knives (Wilton makes these)


Squirt some red gel haphazardly on top of the iced cupcakes.  Stick candy knives in the “blood.”  Done.


Zombie cupcakes:

Cupcakes with white icing (store bought, if you’re particularly pressed for time)

Oreos, crushed in a food processor

Red gel food coloring

Cheap Barbies (the $2 kind from Dollar General), naked and cut into pieces—you’ll want to cut most of their hair off to keep it out of the icing.  And don't use the torsos.  Naked Barbie torsoes on cupcakes could send the wrong message.


Place Oreo crumbs on a plate.  Turn cupcakes over and mash icing into the crumbs to adhere, to resemble the soil of a fresh grave.  Stick dismembered Barbie parts into the tops of the cupcakes.  Squirt red gel onto Barbie parts to make the whole thing that much grosser.  Done.


Spider web cookie cake

Tube of chocolate chip cookie dough

Tube of black gel icing

Spider ring


Press dough into a deep dish pizza pan or form into a circle on a pizza stone.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, or until it seems done in the middle.  Doneness for this on is sometimes difficult to decide, mostly because I don’t always mush the dough evenly across the pan.  But most people I know don’t seem to mind underdone cookies, so you’re probably good to go.  Once cooled, draw a big spiral with the black icing.  Make spokes coming out the middle to resemble a spider web.  Cut the ring part off the spider ring and place the spider on the web.  Done.


Cheesecake Ghoul—so this one was born out of me being too lazy to read a recipe.  The original recipe said that you should make a pumpkin pie, make a dough face, put it on the pie, bake it all together, then put strawberry jam in the orifices.  Way too complicated, plus I don’t like pie.  Anyway, I looked at the picture only and assumed it was a cheesecake face with graham cracker crumbs and cherry pie filling.  I think mine’s better.  (I couldn't find a photo of mine, but it pretty much looked like this one.)

Graham cracker crumbs

Tub o’ cheesecake filling

Cherry pie filling


Cover the bottom of your dish with graham cracker crumbs.  Spoon filling on top, in the rough shape of an oval for the face.  Carve out eyes, nose, and mouth.  Fill holes with cherry filling.  Done.


Jello brain

Red Jello

Brain mold


Make the Jello according to the package directions.  Pour into mold (you can get one at any craft store) and refrigerate.  Overnight is best, because it takes forever to firm up in the brain mold, which is fairly deep.  In a pinch, I’ll put it in the freezer, but that doesn’t always turn out great.  Unmold and done.  


Oh, and see the big skull next to the brain?  It's filled with Cheetos "Bag of Bones" and puffs.  Another easy Halloween snack where you had to do nothing but open a bag.


Peeps on a stick

Assorted Halloween Peeps



Place Peeps on skewers.  Place in vase.  It adds a little height to your buffet.  Kids like to eat stuff on sticks.  Done.



Bowls.  Of.  Candy.

Cute bowls



Literally no one is going to have anything against you serving candy they can scoop up by the handful.  Except maybe your dentist.


Or if you're really feeling saucy...Candy Corn and Peanuts


Candy corn



Mix the two together in a bowl.  It’s exactly as complicated as it sounds.


If that’s not a spread that will knock the socks off your friends, then you need new friends. 


Happy Slacking!




10/25/2018 08:34


Disclaimer:  This is a bit of a cop out to my 

"13 Days of Halloween" series.


Deborah Nam-Krane and I scheduled the "Bingeworthy TV Blog Hop" a month ago, before I decided to do the "13 Days" bit, so rather than make a double post today, I'm going with just the one.  I feel like a slacker, but I have a looming deadline (Nov 1) for a first draft that's 5k words away from completion.  And that doesn't count fixing some glaring continuity issues I know I have going on...


But deadline, shmeadline!  Let's talk fun stuff.


I seriously can’t keep up with all the bingeworthy shows out now.  I’ve got my network series I watch weekly (9-1-1, Hawaii 5-0, Dynasty, The Rookie).  And I also have my seasonal cable series (Killjoys, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, You’re the Worst) as well.  But add in Netflix and Amazon Prime, which we’ve had for a while, and then now we’ve added Hulu, and there’s more to watch than I can ever hope to watch if all I did was watch TV 24/7 for the rest of my life.


I don’t have that kind of time, so I have to be choosy in my bingeing.  My two top binge picks are Insatiable (Netflix original) and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX original available on Hulu), which I have recently discovered.


Let’s start with Insatiable, because it’s so…uh…CRAY CRAY!



My kids grew up watching Debby Ryan on the Disney Channel, and of course since kids programming was on all the time in my house, I grew to have my favorites as well.  (Although I prefer Nick to Disney, hands down.  Victorious was always my favorite—which is a big part of the reason I’m watching Dynasty, because I adore Elizabeth Gillies.)  But I digress…


Insatiable is about Patty (Debby Ryan), who is a “fatty.” 



I’m sure the name was chosen for that particular joke, but whatever.  She gets into a fight with a bum and has to have her jaw wired shut, causing her to lose an amazing amount of weight very quickly.  Now thin and beautiful, she begins to be treated differently, and for some reason decides she needs to become a beauty pageant contestant.  It seems like a big leap the way I’m telling it, but I promise it makes sense in the show.  Enter Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts, who steals every scene he’s in and is a cosmic twin of the late John Ritter), who is both her lawyer for her assault charge as well as a disgraced beauty queen coach itching to get back into the biz. 



A match made in heaven, right?  Well, it gets nuts from there.  Add in hilarious performances by Alyssa Milano (Bob’s wife) and Christopher Gorham (Bob’s nemesis, also named Bob) and a ton of cringey one-liners, and this show really pops.



I admit, the tone of the show sometimes veers off course a little, but it gets back on track and ends with a real kicker.  There was a lot of backlash at the beginning by totally misinformed sheep who jumped on a misguided bandwagon (like ALWAYS happens on social media—can we not research hot-button topics and make up our own minds, people???) about this show being about body-shaming.  It is anything but.  It really explores the psyche of people who have been body shamed (and gay shamed, and poor shamed, and religion shamed—nothing is off the table here) and how they deal with the pressure of it all, especially in high school.  Sometimes they make the right choices, but sometimes they don’t, and then they have to deal with the backlash of that as well.  That hubbub seems to have died down, probably when the people making the noise actually took the time to watch the show instead of fighting about it.


There.  Now it's a Halloween-ish-themed post.


Speaking of fighting, I stumbled onto It’s Always Sunny years ago but unfortunately couldn’t get into it—the characters were all yelling at each other, and I couldn’t get a sense of what was going on.  In short, I didn’t give it a chance, which was a big mistake.  The show has some of the cleverest writing in all of entertainment, and if you don’t pay attention, you miss things.  Practically every line out of their mouths elicits a laugh from my son and me (it’s our favorite series), but many things they say are so laced with razor-sharp sarcasm, the show makes you think while you’re yukking it up.  They make it a point to skewer every hot topic out there, and they do it so well it’s sometimes painful.



The five leads—played by genius developers/writers Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton, and Charlie Day, the hilarious Kaitlyn Olsen, and comedic legend Danny DeVito—are all horrible people who own/run Paddy’s Pub in Philly.  “The Gang,” as they call themselves, gets into ridiculous situations every week.  They’re constantly trying to play angles and run schemes to get ahead.  Of course their efforts always backfire, and hilarity ensues.  They’re into Season 13 right now, and still going strong, so there’s PLENTY to binge.  If I had to pick several favorite episodes, they would include in no particular order…


“Time’s Up for the Gang”


“Old Lady House:  A Situation Comedy”

“Chardee MacDennis” (both episodes)


“The Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre”

“The High School Reunion” (both episodes)

“A Very Sunny Christmas”

“The D.E.N.N.I.S. System”


“The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation”


Now get out there and binge away!


Oh, I almost forgot the most important part—if you’re easily offended, don’t watch either of these shows.  Like, ever.


Don't forget to check out the rest of the blog hop:

10/22 Deborah Nam-Krane

10/23 Kerrie Olzak

10/24 Morgan Cain

10/26 Deborah Nam-Krane


Happy Bingeing!




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