Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Hey, all,

I was tagged by Erika Chase to participate in The Next Big Thing, a fun, interesting kind of blog chain!

Have a look at Erika Chase's blog, for an idea of what I mean:

So, in The Next Big Thing, I'm supposed to answer ten questions about my WIP, or Work In Progress!

First, an explanation: I am, of course, the author of Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, and last year I was thrilled to sign a contract for a new series, Merry's Muffins and Mysteries! Then I heard that Berkley was looking for an author to write a series based on an idea they had for a Teapot Collector cozy mystery series.


I collect teapots (a few, I don't have room for many!) and teacups. I would collect more if I had the room, but I photograph teapots wherever I go, too!! I was thrilled when I got the job, and that is the book I am working on right now, Book 1 in that series, which I will be writing under the pseudonym Amanda Cooper. By the way, those names have a family connection I'll probably talk about some day.

So... on to the ten questions!

1 - What is the working title of the book?

Tempest in a Teapot. After I thought of it I heard about Kari Lee Townsend's Tempest in the Tea Leaves, (more about her later!) but the titles are similar but not identical so I figure it's okay!!

2 - Where did the idea for the book come from?

Well, actually, this is MUCH different than my usual way of working in that the idea came from someone else, my editor at Berkley, the wonderful Michelle Vega. I only hope I take her vision and make her proud! Of course, I have lots of latitude, so the book truly is being shaped by me.

3 - What genre does the book fall under?

Cozy Mystery of course!!

4 - Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm... tough one. Sophie Freemont Taylor should be played by Michelle Monaghan, (she was in Made of Honor with Patrick Dempsey, among other things) I think. She's a little older than 27 year old Sophie, but she's beautiful, dark haired, with an intelligent good girl aura that would suit Sophie well. Nana would be perfectly played by Betty White, and Thelma Mae Earnshaw, one of the more colorful characters in the book, (she's a quirky senior) could be handled marvelously by Cloris Leachman.

5 - What is a one sentence synopsis of your book.

Sophie Freemont Taylor, back in Gracious Grove, New York to help her Nana with her tearoom, worries that a fatal poisoning at the tearoom next door is going to be pinned on cantankerous Thelma Mae Earnshaw, so she and her Nana and friends try to figure out who wanted influential matriarch (and Sophie's best friends future mother-in-law) dead. 

6 - Who represents you and who is publishing the book?

It will be published by Berkley Prime Crime. I am represented by BookEnds Literary Agency.

7 - How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'll let you know when I'm done!

8 - What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Well, it's by me, so inevitably it will be in a similar tone to A Deadly Grind, my first Vintage Kitchen Mystery! But pick any one of the books by my Killer Characters' compatriots and you'll get the same kind of coziness!!

9 - Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My wonderful editor gave me the basics of the plot and characters, and I'm working on fleshing it out!

10 - What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

A couple of things, I suppose... my editor was very specific about the kind of cat that Sophie's Nana has, a Birman. Now, I had never seen a Birman before, but they are gorgeous, very Persian-like, with with amazing coloring and markings! I can't wait to see if they put her on the cover. But other than that, I hope they like the very cozy elements of the setting, a tearoom, and the plotting is always super important to me!

The Next Big Thing chain is supposed to have five writers linked to it, but at this busy time of year I only found one writer able to commit the time and energy necessary, but what a writer she is! I am pleased to link to Kari Lee Townsend.

Here is the blog she participates in on Wednesdays:

And here is her website!

Shout out to you, Kari!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cozy Christmas Countdown!

It's here, the first day of Killer Characters' Cozy Christmas Countdown!!

Check out the blog every day through Christmas day and you just might win yourself a igft. On my day, December 21st, I'll be giving away a copy of A Deadly Grind (or perhaps an alternate for those who already have it) PLUS a few extra goodies!!

So check out today's post and comment for a chance to win!

Also, today I'm featured at Shelley's blog!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cozy Christmas Giveaway

It's... The Thirty Days of Christmas!!

Wait, but there are only Twelve Days of Christmas, right?

Not at Killer Characters, where we have soooper sized it! Check out our new - temporary - look for our fabulous Cozy Christmas Giveaway... visit and comment everyday from November 26th to December 25th for a chance to win books and more. I say 'more' because I will also have a little somepin' somepin' extra to add to the gift of A Deadly Grind... like special magical pens and notepads! (Just joking... they're regular pens and notpads, but are pretty cool anyway.)

So check out my 'Giving Thanks' post today for more information! (Hint: my giveaway day will be December 21st, 'cause I blog every month on the 21st.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where Did I Go?

Wow... the last post on here was August 2nd. I've been away a long, long time. Where did I go? Well, not too far... glued to my computer.

But I'm back, for now, and ready to update.

In the coming weeks I will have news on...

  • A month of giveaways on Killer Characters!
  • My new cover for Bowled Over, Book 2 of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries.
  • More about my two new cozy series with Berkley Prime Crime.

See you all soon!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pardon me while I rearrange...

I am determined to do some prettifying, and so things may look strange from time to time in the next while. Pardonez moi, s'il vous plait, as us classy broads say, while I work here...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cover Story

So I said I would post some of my less than stellar romance covers the next week, and it's been... three weeks?? Time flies when you are laboring over a hot computer. I am hard at work on Book 1 of a new series, about which I will have more to say in future!

Anyway, here are a few samples of my Regency covers.
As Donna Simpson, I wrote Regency romances for Kensington Zebra. Gosh, I loved writing and reading traditional Regency romances! So much fun . But it appeared, sometimes, that cover artists didn't know much about the Regency period, roughly 1810 to 1820. Here is a Christmas cover... can you spot the BIG boo-boo??
Here's a hint... it is on the right, just barely visible.
Did you guess Christmas tree?

You're right! Trees were not commonly a part of English Christmas traditon until the Victorian era. Other than that, it is actually a lovely cover!

Which I can't say about this one. This is my least favorite. Okay... I think it's hideous.

I call it the breast implant cover, or 'Dude, Where's My Bowflex'. The models' development - in both cases - is just so dang over the top.

And the smirky look on his face... augh! My eyes!

I actually laughed out loud when I saw it, and that is not the reaction the poor artist was likely going for.

However, just as the imprint was shutting down in 2005, I had one of the last covers, and it was gorgeous!! Breathtaking! Totally awesomesauce.

So here, without any more gushing or commentary, is the cover for Lady Savage, June 2005.

Okay, a little more gushing... I love the colors, and the back view of the heroine, and the moon, and... well, everything.


Next, I think I will go through some of my Italian covers by Mondadori... hoo, boy! Interesting take on my werewolf paranormals, I do have to say.

By the way... today I am guest at Poe's Deadly Daughters, with my Love Letter to America. Drop on by!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Cover Art & the Author

For many years, when I wrote romance novels, I would be bemused by a certain question that came from readers and non-readers alike. After "Where do you get your ideas?" the next most asked question any writer gets, would be, "Do you do the cover art yourself?", or some variation of that.

I actually haven't heard that for a while, and assumed that the internet had made readers and other folks more savvy. But then I read this in a recent Amazon review of A Deadly Grind:

"My first turn off on the book is the cover, the dog's head is completely out of proportion to the body and when you read the story, you find out that the dog has a missing front leg due to an accident when still a puppy. Yet, the cover shows both front paws. Was this an error by a newbie writer? I do not think so since Victoria Hamilton is a pseudonym for Donna Lea Simpson, a romance writer that is now branching into the cozy market."
I'm not quite sure where to start with this, and I'm trying to figure out what exactly the reader/reviewer is saying. I'm okay with the reviewer not liking the book - everyone's tastes are different, after all - but the remarks on the cover are unfortunate for a number of reasons.

So, I thought I would just run through the book cover design process, from concept to finished product, from the author's point of view.

I write the book (Insert Barry Manilow singing "I write the songs, I write the songs...") and give it to my editor. At some point down the line, my editor will ask me for some concept ideas for the cover, for the artist to work from. In the case of A Deadly Grind I described the summer porch on the back of Jaymie's home, the boxes of items she had purchased at the estate auction, and sent along photos of my own Hoosier-style cabinet, as well as photos of Yorkie-Poos.

Should I have made a point of saying in the reference material that Hoppy is three-legged? Not sure about that. Maybe. Whenever publishers have asked for my input on covers, I've gone overboard, sometimes spending days writing scene blurbs and gathering reference materials. In one memorable instance I did all that - days worth of work! - and the stuff was ignored comepletely and a random generic cover designed.  *Note - this was NOT with Berkley, but another publisher.

When I got the cover illustration for A Deadly Grind, I was very pleased... loved the Hoosier cabinet and the grinder and Hoppy, big head and all. I think the head size was meant to be cutesy, and I don't mind it a bit. But it was a four-legged Hoppy. I emailed my agent, and pointed that out. Do you want to say something to them? my agent asked me. I pondered it for a few days, then decided that in the grand scheme of things, depicting Hoppy with two front paws rather than one did not matter to the book. I didn't mention it to my editor.

Why did I decide that? Well, I liked the cover. I didn't think the extra paw was damaging to the book itself and didn't think it would matter to readers. I was new at Berkley Prime Crime and sooo thrilled to be launching my mystery writing career, so I suppose I didn't want to rock the roat. I know how much time and effort goes into the artwork, and to ask them to redo it based on one small objection... I just didn't have the heart to do it.

So, ultimately, I suppose the reviewer is both right and wrong... in a sense it IS my responsibility. However, it is NOT the mistake of a newbie writer, but rather the decision of a seasoned one, and a decision with which I'm completely at peace. Hoppy rules!!

I think next week I'm going to post a few of my old romance covers, with my first throughts and impressions on seeing some of them!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gluten Free Goes Vintage

A couple of weeks ago I got a charming email from a reader claiming I was reading her mind! She lives in Michigan, writes a food blog based on vintage recipes and collects vintage kitchen stuff... in short, her similarities to my heroine, Jaymie Leighton in A Deadly Grind, are truly startling!

But the basis of her reworking of vintage recipes is a little different; she creates gluten free recipes from vintage recipes!!

So Holly and I have partnered to offer one of my autographed books to a commentor on her blog, Gluten Free Goes Vintage. Check it out, read about the fun she had at the Feast of the Strawberry Moon festival, and drool over her lovely Hoosier-style cabinet and comment for a chance to win!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

50 Shades of Cake

Lately I've been seeing a lot of mention of 'food p o r n', (I'm separating the letters of the word because I don't want to wind up with trouble, or weird stuff... LOL!) and I never quite got what that phrase meant. Then on Thursday, I went to the thrift store; I got the cutest teacup with a little mystery attached, which I have to investigate and I'll talk about later. But I also perused the books, and besides getting Mary Daheim's Hocus Croakus and another 'Company's Coming' cookbook, I found a book called Luscious Afternoon Teas by Rosemary Wadey.

OMG. This book has the most gorgeous cakes and pastries... here are some of the names of the cakes... Chocolate and Hazlenut Caramel, Orange Caraque Gateau, Gateau Japonais, Lemon Praline Ring... and the photos!! Beautifully photographed, gorgeous flowers, and the plates and cutlery are divine...

I was salivating, and not just for the food.

And suddenly it hit me... I understood food p o r n. The recipes are difficult, too much so for my limited baking abilities, but I can look, right? So just like that other kind of p o r n, which describes activities and positions you might not actually try, flipping through the book was still fun.

You get my drift. The book will stay on my shelf, even though I'll never try one of the recipes. But I will look it over and sigh.

Oh MY! Will you look at that!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Teapot Collectibles

As anyone might guess from my recent change in my Facebook profile pic, I do love tea, everything about it, the taste, the vessels and the brewing paraphernalia. So recently, when I went to a gigantic epic garage sale, I was thrilled to find a few 'tea' items. I'd like to share so photos of my finds!

Here is a cutesy 'tea tray'... and I can't say that without remembering from Alice In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll's version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
I collect miniature tea items, too... I just love tiny teacups and teapots, and children's sets. I suppose I coveted one when I was a kid, because my tea drinking started early, when it was a treat that made me feel like an adult. Of course, my tea was mostly milk, but it was served in a china teacup!!

At the sale I found this gorgeous tiny teapot... I cried out loud - yelped, actually - and the woman in front of me dived to the left as I lunged for it. She joked that she didn't suppose she had better get in my way, and I laughed... never get in the way of a dedicated collector!

But the prize of my day was this sweet Otagiri figural teapot... and it was only .75! Not a chip or a scratch on it.

I don't have a place for it, and I still can't figure out where it's going, but it sits on my kitchen table right now.

I also got a beautiful silverplate teastrainer that I forgot to photograph... I'll have to do it and upload that too!!

So there you have some of my adorable finds... total bill? About 2 dollars.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bonus With Purchase!!

Okay, so I thought this particular vintage item would be easy to find information about... turns out I was WRONG!

I think I need to explain.

When I was a kid, my mom had some big spoons that were used to serve vegetable; they were slotted or perforated spoons, so the liquids would strain off of the veggies. the handles were some black material, very comfortable in the hand. I've coveted them for years.

Then I went to this junk store and found some with the same handles... not the slotted spoons, but a couple of random forks. Over the years I've found a long tined fork, a pickle/fish fork, a bread & butter knife and a big spoon, and finally, a kind friend gave me the slotted spoon she had found at a garage sale. I also got my mom's slotted spoons at long last! The handles are kind of ruined, but I think that was probably the result of putting them in the dishwasher.

I went on Ebay several times, trying to find full sets, and couldn't and that is when, finally, I figured out where the items came from.
They were gifts-in-the-box bonus items with detergent!

Do you remember back in the 'good old days' when powdered laundry detergent - for example, a brand named Duz, and another brand named, pointedly enough Bonus - came with a 'gift' in each box? Bonus brand detergent appearently came with a towel in each box, and Duz, wikipedia says, came with glasses and plates.

But... darned if I can find the brand that came with cutlery in each box!! I suppose nowadays people would look askance at finding a knife in their box of powdered laundry detergent, but in the good old days, people expected brands to court them with gifts!!

So... do you remember this trend? Do you have any like these? Do you know what brand of detergent these came out of? It has to be something that was sold in Canada.

If you know, please tell me, but I'm also interested in any memories pertaining to bonus items in laundry detergent! Click on the photo to see a larger picture of these utensils.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More to come...

I went to the mother of all garage sales on the weekend... 16,000 square feet of stuff! Well... I was in heaven, and bought far more than I ought to have. But not as much as I wanted. Of course.

I will be taking photos over the next couple of days and sharing my treasures, so... stay tuned!!

BTW... this photo is not of the sale. I wish I'd taken my camera!! Well, next year; it's an annual event. Oh, and the sale had the added benefit of being for a charity, providing shelter for women in need!

Do you like going to garage sales? Have you ever made an exciting purchase, or found something rare?

Today join me for Cozy Wednesday at Escape with Dollycas!! And she's hosting a Giveaway, too!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

First Week Excitement & Queen Elizabeth Cake

My first-ever cozy mystery novel release has been an unmixed blessing. Those are rare, right? I had a couple of difficult days at the same time, but always, ALWAYS... A Deadly Grind and the folks who are reading/have read it was a bright light. The reviews have been wonderful, and so have the comments from readers.

However... I was clearly so overcome that I forgot to do one thing I had intended to do on May 1st, and that was post the photos of the Queen Elizabeth Cake from the recipe in the book! How did that happen??

Anyway, here we go.

I did make this cake to test it, and I have to say, I wasn't really expecting much.It is a simple enough recipe, kind of a date jut cake. Not many people cook with dates anymore... dates, the foodstuff, not the guy you're going out with... though... hmm... maybe Jaymie should try cooking with her date??

Anyway, back to the recipe. I made the cake, and even used the weird coconut brown sugar cooked drizzle thingie, and... WOW! This was a really yummy cake!! It was moist, and full of flavor - not bland at all, and yet not oversweet - and I knew Jaymie would be proud to serve it to the guests at the annual Queensville, Michigan 'Tea With the Queen' event!

Hope someone tries the recipe and reports back to me how it went for them!??? I'd love to hear about it.

In the days to come I'll be blogging at more places.

Update: Today I'm at Lesa's Bookblog... here is the link! Lesa reviewed A Deadly Grind and liked it... she really liked it!  Drop in and comment!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bottle O' Buttons

Have you read my May 1st release, A Deadly Grind, yet? Well, in it, among the junk Jaymie buys at an estate auction, is a box of sewing odds and sods with a bottle of buttons in it. (She has a reason... read the book to find out why she buys the box of sewing stuff!! LOL) Being the borderline hoarder that I am, I do have a big bottle of buttons, and this is it.

Some of the buttons are old, ones I've been hauling around for 25 years. Some are those pesky 'one of' buttons that come attached to a new sweater or blouse. What the heck are you supposed to do with those things? I never lose buttons, so long after the sweater or top has gone bye bye to the Goodwill or Sally Ann, I'm left with the randomness of odd buttons. I've got a virtual tidal wave of weird little buttons in tiny plastic bags with random bits of thread.

But my bottle o' buttons has come in useful at times. I make hand wipe cloths for my kitchen using half a tea towel and crochet cotton, and I always need a big button for it so it can hang on my cupboard drawer handle, right beneath the sink. My big bottle o' buttons has never failed me yet.

So... do any of you have a mason jar of buttons, or am I alone here?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Book Day Cometh...

I haven't blogged much lately, but that's just because I've been busy busy busy! My release day is fast approaching and I've been very very busy (with secret projects, too, but I'll talk about those soon!!) with organizing my release month activities. So far I've got a few blogs lined up.

I know there will be more, so this list will be amended and improved, with links and information, as I go along.

Here's the beginning...
April 29th, 2012 - Mystery Lover’s Kitchen blog with recipe and giveaway.
May 1st, 2012 – Release Day! I'll be at Dru Ann Love’s Blog "A Day in the Life of Jaymie Leighton" with book and bookmark giveaway.
May 10th, 2012 - Lesa Holstine’s blog... Jaymie's junk obsession from her sister, Becca’s, viewpoint.
May 16th, 2012 - Escape with Dollycas blog... subject to be announced!

See you all around... 

Saturday, March 31, 2012


Okay, so this photo may not mean a lot to some, but to me it is the beginning of a new 'chapter' (ahem - pun intended) in my life. I have been a romance novelist for many years, but I am now 'reinvented' and have finally stepped up into the life I always, since I was twelve, wanted. I am - ta-da - a mystery novelist!

These are review copies, or galleys, or ARCs (whatever you want to call them) of the first Vintage Kitchen Mystery, A Deadly Grind, coming to a store - online and in the real world - near you! I was so excited I did a happy dance right there in the kitchen.

BTW, the table the box is on is in the front window, and is actually where the cats sit to look out on their domain. They let me borrow it... LOL. I gave it right back to them.

Anyone want to review a mystery??

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Gallery of Regrettable Food

I love vintage cookbooks, and when I'm surfing the web, I often go to blogs and sites of other people who love vintage cookbooks. I set out this morning in search of a particular type of vintage recipe for the completion of Book 3 of my Vintage Kitchen Mystery series. The book is tentatively entitled Picked for Murder, and my heroine, Jaymie Leighton, as usual, gets into a bit of a pickle.

So then I found this site, The Gallery of Regrettable Food.

I'm not going to say how I wandered onto this site, but once I did... be prepared. Some of these cookbooks are 'snorting coffee out your nose' funny, and some are just a little... scary. Especially click on the 'Meat Fisting At Home' link for some creepy food fun.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Libraries and Authors

Publishing is one of those industries that seems perpetually on the edge of collapse. I have been in the business long enough to hear so many doomsday warnings and threats that whatever new thing coming down the pike is the 'death of the publishing industry'. As long as the industry keeps evolving, I think it will be just fine. People will always read, despite warnings to the contrary.

But one thing I do know, is that readers are not oblivious. Conscientious readers worry that they are contributing to the decline by buying books at used book stores and borrowing them from libraries.

I received a lovely letter from a future reader of my May release, my first mystery novel ever, A Deadly Grind, Book 1 of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries cozy series.

Maureen said: "I am on the waiting list at my local library for the book and am eagerly awaiting reading it. I apologize for not purchasing it. I live with multiple illnesses which have put me on disability, and money is extremely tight. I am sure at some point I will either buy it, or perhaps ask for it as a Christmas gift! I read voraciously and love to lose myself in a good book. Especially at night, or when the pain or fear are bad, it is nice to live vicariously through the characters and escape for awhile."
I was deeply touched. Whenever I have been frightened or lonely, a good mystery has done the same thing for me, and I have spent many hours at a hospital bedside with a riveting mystery.
I wrote back to her that she must never apologize to a writer for borrowing their book from the library, or buying it at a used book store. Sure, we, as novelists, need the sales, but it is so much more important that people read the books, enjoy them, and look forward to more. There have been many times in my life when the library has been my solace and saving grace. I've used it voraciously my whole life, and consider libraries one of the most vital signs of a civilized nation. Any country that encourages its citizens to read (openly, and without censor) is, if not already a democracy, well on its way.
So if you borrow books from the library, but want to do the author a solid, review the book for a review site, click 'like' on and the other sales sites, talk about the book and recommend it.
Oh... and hug a librarian. It'll surprise the heck out of her/him!

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Online!!

I'm so excited to be able to announce that at long last my Victoria Hamilton Mysteries webpage is done and online!

I would love for folks to click through and tell me what you think. Obviously, I love it. I like the lightheartedness of it, and the simplicity, and that Hoppy the Yorkie-Poo and Denver the Crabby Tabby are in residence. I also am excited that folks will get their first - albeit brief - taste of A Deadly Grind, Book One of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. Chapter One is online.

Better still, concerning the website, I think my designer has captured the essence of A Deadly Grind, because ultimately, while my book has what I believe is a compelling mystery at the heart of it, it is also about life and love and growing up, while holding on to joy and standing up for what you want in life.

Whoo, that seems like a lot! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that readers like it as much as I loved writing it!

So, check it out, and PLEASE tell me what you think!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Cover!!

Finally, finally, I can share my lovely, beautiful cover, with the Hoosier cabinet, and Hoppy the Yorkie-Poo, and the broken china... ta-da!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Killer Characters

What a character!

You've heard that phrase before, right? It usually means you're talking about someone who is larger than life but slightly skewed to the weird side. Well, I have to say, that is the delightful bunch over at Killer Characters and I love it, and I love being one of them!

Join me there, and explore all the characters that live inside our heads and the pages of our cozy mysteries!

Monday, January 2, 2012


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a safe and happy New Year's Eve celebration.

It is only the 2nd of January, but my anticipation is already growing. After many years of writing romances, this is the year my first cozy mystery will be published. In May, I will be proudly flogging A Deadly Grind, Book 1 of my Vintage Kitchen Mysteries. Before Christmas I did the second round of copyedits on it, and in another week or so, I will have the finished cover to show around. I am in the midst of writing Book 3, Picked for Murder or Picked to Death... not sure of the title yet.

I'm so excited!