find your way around

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March came in like a lamb here in Kentucky, bringing with it daffodils and springlike temperatures. And while a second taste of winter in March (or even April!) isn’t out of the question, hopefully spring is here to stay. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to curl up with a cupán tae and a good mystery. All you need is the perfect book to transport you to the Emerald Isle.

In this list. I’ve gathered six mysteries with Irish settings that range from cozy to gritty, so you’re sure to find something that will suit your taste. Sláinte!

Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly

In the first of the County Cork Mysteries by the late Sheila Connolly, Maura Donovan leaves Boston to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish. She asked Maura to travel to Ireland to inform those she left behind years ago of her death. But Maura never expected to find herself taking a job at the local pub and investigating a murder. If you’re looking for a fun, cozy Irish village mystery, Buried in a Bog is a great choice. And if you find yourself eager to spend some more time with the inhabitants of Leap, there are 8 more stories waiting for you.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

This one falls more under the heading of thriller than mystery, but I really enjoyed it. Perhaps not a surprise, as it’s received many comparisons to the works of Agatha Christie. On an isolated island off the coast of Ireland, a magazine publisher and a rising television star are about to get married, and everyone want to be on the guest list for their glitzy wedding. But with poor cell service, bad weather, and rough seas isolating the party from the mainland, it’s almost inevitable that guests are going to start dropping dead. If you enjoy modern settings and characters who aren’t always likeable, The Guest List is a good fit for you.

No Strangers Here by Carlene O’Connor

Carlene O’Connor is perhaps best known for her cozy County Cork Mysteries, which began with Murder in an Irish Village. No Strangers Here is the first installment in her new County Kerry mystery series. I couldn’t wait to read it when I saw it was set in Dingle, Ireland, where I spent a week a few years ago. It did not disappoint—I thoroughly enjoyed picking out all the details I remembered from my visit. But you don’t have to have visited Dingle to enjoy No Strangers Here, because it has an absorbing story and interesting characters. This series is a little less cozy than the County Cork series, but I wouldn’t call it dark at all. Looking for a more traditional style mystery story? This one would be perfect for you.

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods is the book that launched Tana French to fame and kicked off her Dublin Murder Squad series, which has since been made into a TV show. The book is very well written, but be aware that it is on the grittier side and if you aren’t a fan of unresolved questions, I’d steer clear. (That’s the one thing about this book that frustrated me.) Otherwise, it’s an excellent story with plenty of atmosphere and complex characters. Enjoy darker stories with ambiguous endings? This would be a good choice for you.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

Haunted Ground is also the first book in a series, this one about an Irish archaeologist and an American pathologist. The two join forces after farmers cutting turf in a peat bog discover the head of a young woman, so perfectly preserved it’s difficult to tell if she was killed hundreds of years ago or much more recently. (Bodies turning up in bogs seems to be a recurring theme in Irish-set mysteries.) As the archaeologist and pathologist attempt to uncover the woman’s identity, it begins to look as though there is a connection to a recent local disappearance. Looking for mystery, suspense, and a little romance? This is your book.

Himself by Jess Kidd

This recommendation comes via my sister-in-law’s mother, whose taste in books is always excellent, and it’s on my TBR list for this month. According to the Daily Express, it is a darkly comic tale of murder, intrigue, haunting and illegitimacy . . . wickedly funny. Himself is the story of a man who, after being abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, decides to return to the town where he was born in search of the truth about his past, But his arrival shakes up the town and not everyone is pleased to see him or willing to tell him the truth.

I hope you find something on this list to get you in the spirit for St. Patrick’s Day! Looking for more St. Patrick’s Day inspiration? Check out this free wallpaper I shared a few years ago. If you need me, I’ll be curled up with a cup of Barry’s tea and Himself.

How about you? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
What is your favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition?

6 mysteries with Irish settings for St. Patrick's Day

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Writing as an occupation is often sedentary, solitary, and stressful. Research is clear about the danger a sedentary lifestyle poses to our physical health. Similarly, solitude and stress can impact our mental health. But choosing to be a writer doesn’t mean you’re doomed to heart disease and depression.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice

Want to avoid falling victim to the health issues lurking in the shadowy corners of your cozy writing space? Here are ten habits that will put you on the path to staying healthy as a writer.

1 | Drink plenty of water

I’m not going to lie, I love tea. And coffee. And while the myth that because they are diuretics they aren’t hydrating has been disproven, there’s still the whole question of “how much caffeine is too much caffeine?” Water is the best thing you can drink to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you don’t like plain water, there are plenty of options for adding a little flavor. My favorite is to throw some fruit in it. Hot water with lemon is great in the winter. In the summer, keep a container of water with fruit in the fridge. I highly recommend sliced strawberries and cucumber.

2 | Snack wisely

Does the cookie jar call to you when you’re stuck on a scene, or is that just me? It’s easy to find yourself eating way too much junk food while you’re working out plot points, so head yourself off by stocking up on healthy snacks. Fruit, nuts, boiled eggs, and cheese and crackers are my go to snacks. I try to steer clear of sugar as much as possible, because I have a raging sweet tooth and find it hard to control myself around a package of Oreos.

3 | Take breaks to stretch and move

Years ago, I worked in an office that required us to take alternating 5 and 10-minute breaks after 55 minutes of work. We could walk around, go to the restroom, get a snack, or step outside into the sunshine to chase away the fluorescent, windowless office blues. We were also given training on stretches we could do at our desks, but because I was young and indestructible, I rarely did them.

Now that I’m older and (debatably) wiser, I recognize the need to get up periodically to move around and stretch. If I didn’t recognize it, my body would surely remind me. A pomodoro timer is an excellent way to remind yourself to take a break and move around on a regular basis. If you aren’t familiar with the term, a pomodoro timer allows you to set intervals for work and breaks, much like my old office did. Most people seem to set it to 25 minutes of work followed by a 5-minute break.

The timer is great because when I’m in a state of flow, sometimes I look up and realize I haven’t moved in hours.. And on those days when flow is nowhere to be found, I find it also helps me to focus if I know I only have to work for 25 minutes before I get a little break. There are lots of online versions of the pomodoro timer, including apps that you can install so that you have the timer on your toolbar and widgets that you can embed in Notion, which is what I use.

4 | Use an ergonomic workspace

This is one I definitely need to work on. I have a desk, but I never seem to actually sit there. I tend to get restless and move from place to place throughout the day, and most of those places (the coffee shop, my bed, the couch) are far from ergonomically correct. In fact, I think I fail miserably at implementing any of the requirements for an ergonomic workstation. An ergonomic setup will reduce strain on your back, neck, arms, and hands, as well as helping to prevent eyestrain. You can easily find adjustable desks and chairs at office stores, but I’ve also seen people modify their existing workspace to fit ergonomic guidelines using items they already have.

5 | Upgrade to a standing desk

If one of the dangers of the writing life is too much time spent sitting, then it makes sense that a standing desk is one solution. In fact, according to the Orthopedic Hospital of Wisconsin, standing desks offer several benefits as long as they are used correctly. A desk that can adjust to either standing or sitting height will offer the most flexibility, allowing you to change position throughout the day. I’ve even seen versions with built-in treadmills that allow you to walk while working at your desk. While I love the idea of getting in some steps while I work, I know that I am absolutely not coordinated enough to pull that off.

6 | Care for your eyes

I couldn’t tell you the number of times my parents told me sitting too close to the TV would ruin my eyes. And while it seems that was mostly a myth, I appreciate their attempts to keep me from blinding myself. Little did we know back then how much time we would come to spend staring
at screens, and it turns out that all that screen time does actually contribute to eye strain. Luckily there are a few things we can do to protect our eyes.

Ways to prevent eye strain:

  • Block the blue light and glare coming from your screen with specially coated glasses or screen protectors.
  • Lower the brightness on your screen. My daughter recoils in horror every time she unlocks my phone in the dark. “Turn your brightness down!” she shrieks. I admit, I like a bright screen, but my teenager is right. Lowering the brightness reduces strain on your eyes, especially in dim situations.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, focus for 20 seconds on something at least 20 feet away. Another lesson I learned at that long ago data entry job that has stuck with me. It’s easy to get absorbed and forget that you haven’t looked up from your screen in ages. Again, that pomodoro timer comes to the rescue.
  • Use a bigger font. This is helpful since I’ve reached the age where I’m moving my glasses up and down my nose to read. I enlarge the font on my emails, websites, Scrivener, and anything else I need to read.
  • Let Siri read to you. There are many options that enable your computer to read text to you. Search “text to speech reader” and you’ll find lots of them. There’s another benefit to using a text to speech reader. Hearing your writing read aloud helps you catch things that your eyes skim right over because they’ve looked at those words so many times.

7 | Care for your hands

While text to speech readers are useful for resting your eyes, speech to text programs offer the same benefit to your hands. Carpal tunnel is no joke, y’all, and though it may take a little while to get over the awkwardness of talking to yourself, the benefit to your hands is definitely worth it. Like text to speech readers, there are many options for speech to text. but you likely already have the ability to dictate directly into your computer or smartphone. On a Mac, just go to File > Start dictation. On a PC, I believe there is an option called “Speech Recognition.”

In addition to using speech to text programs, you can protect your arms and hands when you’re using the keyboard. Stting at the ergonomically optimal height will ensure that your arms and hands aren’t bent at awkward angles. Wrist rests are also available to support your forearms and wrists while you type.

8 | Establish a regular schedule

Sometimes that’s more easily said than done, especially if you write full-time from home. Somehow, that tends to signal to people that you’re available all day. But if you can settle into a consistent schedule, your body (and mind) will thank you for it. A consistent schedule makes it easier to eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. It also reduces stress, since you have an idea of what your day entails. And it also makes it easier to establish a writing routine, which in turn improves your writing skills and confidence in your work.

If your schedule is currently far from regular, I get it. Some of us just have a harder time setting those boundaries, with ourselves and others. Start out by bookending your day—decide on a time to get up and a time to go to bed. Stick to those times as much as you can, even on weekends. Then decide on your working hours. Let people know that you aren’t available to chat or run errands during those hours, because you’re working.

9 | Walk more

I wrote an entire post about the benefits of walking for writers, and it’s still my favorite form of exercise. Now, with spring peeking around the corner, is the perfect time to develop a walking habit. It’s also worth noting that while walking has the obvious benefit of getting you out of your chair and moving, which is great for your physical health, it also does good things for your mental health. Just getting out into the fresh air and sun is a mood booster, and waving to the neighbors as you pass, or even pausing for a chat, is a good break from the solitude of your writing day. Check out that earlier post for more of the benefits walking offers.

10 | Take care of your mental health

The life of a writer can be stressful. There is pressure, both internal and external, to write something brilliant, or at least worth reading; frequent rejection, especially for those trying to break into traditional publishing; a (sometimes wildly) fluctuating income; days often spent in solitude; and impostor syndrome, among others. Any one of those stressors would be enough to affect your mental health, but when you consider that writers frequently face several of them at once, it comes as no surprise that they are among the top ten occupations most likely to experience depression.

But forewarned, as they say, is forearmed. Take steps to safeguard your mental health.

  • Establish a regular routine,
  • Be sure to get enough sleep
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Find writer friends you can commiserate with
  • Get regular exercise

Most importantly, don’t put off asking for help when you need it. It’s important to remember that there is no shame in seeking treatment. We all deserve to be in a healthy mental state.

Add these 10 healthy habits all writers should practice to your
routine so you can get back to worrying about fictional killers.

10 Healthy Habits All Writers Should Practice. Pears, a cup of tea, and a book rest on a chunky blue blanket.

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Most years, I have big plans for January. It’s that whole idea of a fresh start, a clean slate. That this year, big things are in store. So I put together a list of goals, broken down into tasks, ready to go when the new year dawns. Usually, establishing a solid writing routine figures in that list. Some years I do pretty well, other years I find myself at the end of January with a list of uncompleted tasks, overwhelmed by guilt and frustration. It is some consolation to know I’m not alone. Studies have shown that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned by February. Still, it’s hard to arrive at the end of the year’s first month already feeling like a failure.

This January has been a little different. The past few years have been incredibly difficult. Again, I know I’m not alone in this. And while there are certainly things I’d like to accomplish this year, I knew that I just wasn’t able to jump headfirst into goal setting. I recently started reading Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, and found myself drawn to the idea of rest and retreat. January and February are the darkest, coldest months where I live, and they can be brutal for those of us who suffer from mood disorders. I decided that instead of pressuring myself to dive into 2024, I would ease in, taking things slowly and using the entire month of January to make a plan for the rest of the year. Because, as Rosalie Muller Wright points out—

The image of a winter garden, seemingly dead and dormant, but with so much happening just below the surface, really appeals to me. Without the winter, there could be no spring. So I have arrived at the end of another January, focusing on hope rather than frustration, because I know that the seeds I’ve been planting are still there, patiently biding their time.

Among those seeds is my desire to develop a consistent writing habit. I’ve gathered a few tips to help set me up for success in that attempt, and I’m sharing them here in the hope that they might help you, too.

Whether you’re easing into the new year or you’ve already checked off an impressive number of items on your to-do list, these ten tips will help you create a writing routine that you will stick with throughout the year.

1 | Shift your mindset

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that each action we take is a vote for the kind of person we want to be. How do you vote for your inner writer? By shifting your mindset.

Instead of I want to be a writer, start saying (and thinking) I am a writer. And what do writers do? Writers write. So show up and write.

Write spellbinding prose or trash, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the more you write, the more you’ll hone your craft and begin to accept that you are, in fact, a writer.

2 | Lower your expectations

But aren’t goals supposed to challenge you? Not necessarily. As Elizabeth Spann Craig suggests, sometimes the best approach is to make your goal small. Ridiculously small.

At first, the goal might just be opening your manuscript or sitting down at your desk. Remember, you’re training yourself to show up because you’re a writer.

Once you are showing up consistently, raise the bar, but do it incrementally. The goal should always feel within reach. It’s much more intimidating to sit down to “write my novel” or to “write a chapter” than it is to “write 100 words” or “write for 5 minutes.”

Consistently meeting a goal, even a small one, strengthens the habit of sitting down to write. And remember, it’s a goal, not a limit. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll continue writing after you’ve met your goal, but even when you don’t, you’ll have another win to check off.

3 | Find your peak creative time

We each have a certain time of day when we are more productive at specific tasks. Many of the writers I follow prefer to write in the early morning hours. As in, before the sun comes up. That’s definitely not going to work for me. I just can’t see myself feeling creative at 4 a.m., although I kind of wish I could.

Try out some different times. Make a note of how you feel when you sit down, how many words you’re able to write, and how many of those words you end up keeping. All of that information will give you a better sense of when your most productive writing time is.

4 | Schedule your writing time

Once you’ve figured out your peak creative time, schedule it.

Actually schedule it—write it in your planner, just like anything else you want to be sure to get done. This appointment with yourself is just as important as the appointment with your dentist or with your friend for coffee. And when you’ve shifted to the I am a writer mindset, scheduling your writing time will feel more legitimate.

Finding a planner with a habit tracker has been really beneficial for me. There’s something about seeing the checkmarks lining up that is surprisingly motivating. I’ve included a free printable writing tracker for you to download at the end of this post.

5 | Minimize distractions and obstacles

The key to developing a new habit is to make it easy by removing as many stumbling blocks as you can ahead of time. If you’re working on developing a morning run routine, you’re more likely to succeed if you lay your running clothes out the night before. Removing obstacles ahead of time is equally important in developing a writing routine.

We all face different obstacles, but here are a few ideas for minimizing some common ones:

  • Be clear with those you live with. Let them know they are only allowed to disturb you if the house is on fire. It may be hard at first to get them to abide by the rules, but remember that I am a writer mindset—the more consistently you stick to your writing schedule, the more those around you will respect your writing time.
  • Turn off your phone, if possible. If not, put it out of reach and make sure it’s set to only alert you in case of emergencies, like an imminent tornado or a call from someone you can’t ignore.
  • Keep everything you need for your writing sessions in the place where you intend to write. If you’re anything like me, a side trip to retrieve a favorite pencil will turn into washing the lone dish in the sink, realizing you have no clean dish towels, throwing the dish towels into the washer, seeing that you’re low on laundry soap, adding laundry soap to the grocery list app, skipping over to check Instagram . . .

6 | Create a ritual

Our brains are amazing. They are wired to make connections. When you repeatedly follow one action with another, your brain will form a link between the two. Your ritual should be simple and quick, such as:

  • Picking up a special pen
  • Donning a certain item of clothing
  • Lighting a scented candle
  • Listening to music or nature sounds
  • Making a cup of tea or coffee

My current work in progress is set in the fall, so part of my ritual is lighting a fall scented candle and making a cup of Harney & Sons pumpkin spice tea. Whatever ritual you choose, you’ll find that, over time, your ritual signals to your brain that it’s time to write, making it easier to get started.

7 | Stop while you’re still excited

It may seem as if you should keep writing until you come to a natural stopping point, but most writers find it’s better to stop mid-scene or even mid-sentence. Stopping while you still know what happens next gives you a natural jumping off point for the next day’s work. And even though you know what is going to happen next, maybe jot down a few notes to jog your memory if you’re as forgetful as I am.

Now, when you sit down for your next writing session, you won’t be staring at an empty page. Your future self will thank you.

8 | Tell someone

Having an accountability partner greatly increases the chances that you’ll show up regularly for your writing sessions. Knowing that you’re going to have to check in with a friend and compare word counts might be just what you need to get you into your writing chair.

Don’t have any writer friends? Join a writer’s group. Online groups, such as Sisters in Crime, often have word sprints or other group writing activities that can give you that extra push to get some words down.

Are you active on social media? Post about your writing goals and promise your followers an update each day. It doesn’t get any more accountable than posting your word count for the whole world to see.

Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a fellow writer. It can be your mom or your spouse or anyone who supports you in reaching your goals. When I told my family I was writing a book, my teenage son took it upon himself to ask me multiple times a day if the book was finished yet, and if not, why wasn’t I writing.

You know that cliché of the writer scribbling away all alone in a garret? Forget that—go tell someone and make yourself accountable.

9 | Write when you don’t feel like it

If you are reading this post, I suspect you know from experience that there will be days—lots of them—when you don’t feel like it.

Most days, I will put off writing by any means possible. But when I sit down and force myself to write something—just a sentence, a paragraph—it puts me into the I am a writer mindset, and I find that maybe I do feel like it after all.

On days when you’d rather clean toilets than write, make a deal with yourself that you can stop as soon as you meet your goal. While there will be days when you don’t want to stop once you get going, there will also be days when it’s a struggle to reach even your ridiculously small goal and you stop as soon as you hit it. That’s okay. You still showed up.

Which leads us to #10 . . .

10 | Be flexible

One of the many things the past few years have taught us is the value of flexibility. When the world shut down, writers who could only write in cafés were in trouble. So were the ones who could only write at home in the silence that fell after their families left for school and work.

Try to find a way to pivot your writing routine when life demands it, or when you just need a bit of change. I prefer writing at home, but I’ve also spent a lot of time writing in coffee shops while waiting for my one of my kids to get out of class. Luckily I can bring some of my rituals along—hot tea and thunderstorm sounds are portable.

Sometimes you’ll be able to pivot, and sometimes you won’t. Some days you just won’t be able to stick to your routine. That’s okay. Don’t let one missed session throw you off your game.

Just remember to show up the next day.

Ready to get started on that routine?

Like most things of value, establishing a writing routine that works for you will take time. You’ll need to experiment to find the routine that’s right for you, but that writer inside you is worth the vote.

Do you have a writing routine?
What is your favorite time to write?
Let me know in the comments!

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As summer draws to a close, the lake beckons. We hurry to squeeze in one more weekend before the school year starts and autumn cools the water. The lake is also the perfect place to sink into a good mystery. The still, deep water; the dark, encircling forest; the hush that falls at twilight—it’s easy to imagine what might lurk just out of sight.

We’ve spent the majority of our summer weekends since the pandemic hit at the Land Between the Lakes, a recreation area between Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. One of my favorite things to do, while the rest of my family zips around in my dad’s boat, is to take a kayak and explore the inlets around our usual campsite. There, the busy sounds of the lake fade, as if I’m the only one for miles. I’ve seen herons, raccoons, turtles, and deer as I paddle along the shore. The peaceful stillness can be misleading, though.

Kentucky Lake is a man-made lake, formed by the damming of the Tennessee River in 1944. Before the valley was flooded, the people living there were forced to relocate, leaving homes, farms, and businesses behind. The remains of those structures now sit at the bottom of the lake. Most of the cemeteries were relocated, but there were a few families who refused to relocate their loved ones, so there are some graves down there as well.

In fact, when the lake level is lowered to what is called winter pool, a piece of land known locally as Cemetery Island emerges. You can pull a boat right up to it and walk around on the small bit of land. There were five graves that weren’t relocated from this particular cemetery, and some of the markers remain, including a tall narrow one that frequently gets knocked over by boaters in the summer when it is completely submerged.

When you hear stories like that, suddenly the lake can seem as eerie as it is beautiful. Next time you’re relaxing by the water, remember that there might be more to that lake than meets the eye, as these 8 mysteries with lakeside settings illustrate.

Mirror Lake by Juneau Black

This is the third novel in the Shady Hollow series by Juneau Black (the pen name of author team Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel). The village of Shady Hollow, a close-knit community inhabited by a variety of woodland creatures, is as cozy a setting as you could hope for. It’s The Wind in the Willows meets Murder, She Wrote, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

From Vera the fox reporter, to Lenore the raven bookshop owner, to Lefty the thieving raccoon, the characters are charming and funny. Mirror Lake is also set in autumn, so a perfect choice for the change in season that’s coming. While I think you could read the series in any order and still understand what’s going on, I’d recommend reading them in order.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

This book is set in a defunct camp on the shore of a lake in the Adirondack Mountains where, fifteen years before the novel opens, three teenage girls disappeared, never to be seen again. Emma, the last one to see them alive, has spent the intervening years tortured by the belief that she should have done more to prevent their disappearance and painting dark forests that conceal three figures in white dresses. When the owner of the camp invites her back, this time as an instructor, Emma decides it’s time to face her past.

I’ll Never Tell by Catherine McKenzie

Another lakeside camp setting with an unsolved crime in the past. Instead of a disappearance, Camp Macaw was the scene of a brutal murder. The owners of the camp have died, leaving a will that requires their adult children to return to the camp and figure out what happened the night Amanda Holmes died. But even if they can unravel the mystery and claim their inheritance, the five can’t seem to agree on what to do with the property once it’s theirs.

I’ll Never Tell is slightly less eerie than The Last Time I Lied, and the characters are less likable, but that is by design and I still enjoyed the book.

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Wendy Webb’s niche is big, old, haunted houses on the Great Lakes. I love a good ghost story, and her books always deliver. This was the first one I read and remains one of my favorites.

Julia Bishop has just been widowed and, thanks to her criminal of a husband, lost everything. So when a stranger shows up and offers her a job as caretaker for his mother, a novelist widely assumed to be dead, she jumps at the chance. In true Gothic fashion, she finds herself in a large, spooky house with people who seem at turns friendly and sinister. As she begins to unravel the truth behind why her charge chose to disappear, she also finds that she is more connected to the story than she realizes.

This book has some truly frightening moments and kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s one of those I don’t like to read after dark, or when I’m alone in the house. So of course it would be perfect to take along camping.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Riley Sager’s latest novel returns to the lakeside setting he employed so well in The Last Time I Lied. This time, the setting is a remote lake in Vermont with only a few houses on its shore. The recently widowed protagonist has retreated to her family’s lake house to grapple with her drinking problem, but she becomes intrigued by the couple living across the lake. She watches them through binoculars and begins to fear that the wife is in danger, but her drinking and spying means she isn’t the most believable witness. She begins to suspect the husband may also be tied to an ongoing investigation of missing girls in the area and decides that if no one will take her seriously, she will investigate on her own.

Like most of Sager’s books, I found this one difficult to put down. I thought I had it figured out about halfway through, but was wildly mistaken. This one might make you reluctant to swim in the lake any time soon. You’ve been warned.

Shadow in the Glass by M. E. Hilliard

Shadow in the Glass is the first book I’ve read by M. E. Hilliard. It’s part of a series, but can easily be read even if you’ve not read the previous installments (as I have not).

Librarian Greer Hogan has come to the lakeside setting for her friend’s wedding, but she has an ulterior motive. Her husband was murdered and she believes that some of the guests at the wedding know more than they are telling. But her plans are put on hold when a wedding guest turns up dead in the lake and she has to turn her attention to the new mystery. I plan to go back and start at the beginning of this series, as I enjoyed this one.

Secret at Mystic Lake by Carolyn Keene

I’ve mentioned before that I preferred Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew growing up. But I’ve started to think maybe I need to read some of the original stories to see what I’m missing. This would be a good one to start with.

For her birthday, Nancy is taking a scenic, three-day bike trip around Mystic Lake with George and Bess. But their trip is soon sabotaged—slashed tires, stolen supplies, a disappearing guide. Will Nancy be able to solve the mystery before she and her friends are lost in the woods forever?

A Death in Door County by Annelise Ryan

This book will be released on September 22nd, perfect timing for a fall lake trip. Morgan Carter is a bookstore owner and in her spare time, she hunts cryptids. You know—Bigfoot, Nessie, Mothman. When a series of bodies turns up on the shores of Lake Michigan bearing bites that seem to be from a large unknown animal, Morgan agrees to assist the local police in hunting down a fabled lake monster. With her dog at her side, she heads out in search of the monster, but if she isn’t careful, she might be its next victim.

I can’t wait to read this book. While I am very skeptical, I still love a good cryptid story and would love to visit Loch Ness someday. Side note: I collect Lochs of Scotland dishes and each piece bears a picture of adifferent Scottish lake. If you look closely at the Loch Ness pieces, you’ll see Nessie out in the middle of the lake. I love it.

So there you are, eight books perfect for lakeside reading. How about you,
are you planning an end-of-summer lake trip or making plans for some
fall camping around a crackling fire? Let me know in the comments
and be sure to pack some of these books to take along.

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Spooky season is over, and cozy season is upon us. And it just doesn’t get any cozier than curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea while the fire crackles and the tree twinkles. Unless, that is, you’re also reading a Christmas-themed mystery.

It may be the season of good cheer, fellowship, and tidings of great joy, but the proliferation of Christmas-themed mysteries proves that the holidays cause many of us to turn our thoughts to homicide.

Perhaps it was Agatha Christie who first persuaded us to correlate Christmas with mystery. She published a new book at Christmastime for so many years that the public grew to expect “A Christie for Christmas.” While not every “Christie for Christmas” was set during the holidays, today there is no shortage of mystery novels with Christmas settings.

If you’ve always dreamed of spending Christmas in a remote country house, check out a few of my favorites.

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan

This classic British country house mystery was originally published in 1949, but found new life a few years ago when it was reissued with this beautiful new cover. The cover caught my eye and I knew it would be the perfect book to read over the holiday season. If you love Hercule Poirot, then you’ll enjoy Francis Duncan’s Mordecai Tremaine—a retired tobacconist with a secret love of romantic novels.

A Christmas Party by Georgette Heyer

A Christmas gathering at a family’s country home goes awry in this cozy traditional mystery by Georgette Heyer. A Christmas Party hits all the notes—a cranky family patriarch, quirky relatives, a snowy country manor, a budding romance. You can almost smell the mulled wine and plum pudding. This is a favorite that I reread every year.

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories
by P.D. James

This collection of short stories by P. D. James includes two Christmas stories—”The Mistletoe Murder” and “The Twelve Clues of Christmas.” In the title story, a mystery writer reminisces about a murder she was involved with 50 years before. “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” is a classic Christie-esque mystery featuring James’s sleuth Adam Dalgliesh. These stories will remind you why P. D. James was truly a master of the short mystery story.

Murder at an Irish Christmas
by Carlene O’Connor

Spending Christmas in Ireland is high on my bucket list, so Murder at an Irish Christmas definitely appealed to me. When a snowstorm strands two soon-to-be-related Irish families in a remote cliffside farmhouse in West Cork, it isn’t long before one of them is murdered. O’Connor’s sleuth, Siobhán O’Sullivan, must uncover the murderer in their midst before any more family members fall victim.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
by Agatha Christie

The owner of a diamond mine summons Poirot to his family home just before Christmas and suggests that someone in his family might be plotting against him. When he is found murdered, alone in a locked room, Poirot must uncover which member of the family is not what they seem. If you enjoy the book, check out the TV adaptation on season six of Poirot, streaming on BritBox. (But be warned: this book includes one of Agatha Christie’s most un-cozy murders.)

Murder on a Midnight Clear by Sara Rosett

I really enjoy Sara Rosett’s 1920s mystery series, so I was thrilled to see a Christmas installment. The cast of characters includes a celebrated lawn tennis champion, a fussy scientist studying snowflakes, a persuasive luggage salesman, a famous lady explorer, and the family’s eccentric aunt who has a fondness for the newfangled drinks called cocktails. The guest list alone tells you that this old-fashioned family Christmas is going to be anything but calm and bright.

The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries

This volume brings together a variety of Christmas mysteries from Victorian to contemporary, and includes such characters as Sherlock Holmes, Brother Cadfael, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Rumpole of the Bailey, Inspector Morse, Inspector Ghote, A.J. Raffles, and Nero Wolfe. With something for everyone, it’s the perfect book to keep on your coffee table for the season.

Murder Most Festive by Ada Moncrieff

Murder Most Festive, set in 1938, is a debut novel with a Golden Age flavor. Complete with a country house, bickering family, and sparkling Christmas setting, it’s the perfect read if you’re looking for a little escapism this holiday season. Or if you need to be reminded that no matter how stressful your family gatherings are, at least they’ve never ended in murder.

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales
by P.D. James

This collection includes only one Christmas-themed story—”The Murder of Santa Claus” is narrated by a mystery writer who admits from the beginning that he is “no P. D. James.” However, he continues to tell his story, which took place during the “heyday of the cosy ‘whodunnits,’ the Christmas of 1939.” Like “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” from The Mistletoe Murder, this story has a very Christie-esque flavor, but with the spice that only P. D. James could add.

What are you reading this Christmas?
Do you enjoy a good holiday whodunnit,
or do you prefer yours without homicide?

read the post —

Hercule Poirot might hope for a Christmas uncomplicated by murder, but mystery lovers know there’s nothing cozier than reading about murder by the light of a crackling fire and glowing Christmas tree. Need some gift ideas for the mystery lover in your life? I’ve got you covered.

Spooky season is over, and now it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. According to all the news outlets, shipping delays are going to wreak havoc with this year’s holiday gift orders, so we should get a head start on shopping if we want to have packages under the tree. That’s not good news for people like me who can’t get into the holiday shopping spirit until at least the day after Thanksgiving.

But lucky for you, I’ve done the hard work and rounded up 10 great gift ideas for the mystery lover in your life so you can get your shopping started. Ho ho ho!

(Oh and just in case you have some orders that end up spending the holidays on a container ship, check out my free printable Reindeer Check!)

Luxury Edition Clue Board Game — $299

Photo of a Clue boardgame

We are big fans of the Clue game around here. We started out with my 1980s era board, then added a new Clue Master Detective set a few years ago. This one, though, this is the dream. At $299, it’s a splurge, but I love everything about this set. The colors, the storage drawer, the swivel base . . . if you have someone on your gift list that loves Clue, this would be sure to put a big smile on their face on Christmas morning!

Upcycled Teacups — $24-42

Photo of teacups that say You have been poisoned and Dizzy yet?

These upcycled teacups are the perfect gift for mystery lovers! Who wouldn’t want to serve their friends (or maybe frenemies?) some tea in one of these. Play it right, and they won’t be sure if they should laugh . . . or not.

Hunt a Killer: The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge — $99-$189

Give your armchair detective the chance to match wits with the great Hercule Poirot in this game from Hunt a Killer in partnership with Agatha Christie Ltd. Based on Christie’s short story, “The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge,” this game provides players with all they need to solve the mystery themselves. It comes in a standard or collector’s edition, and both look amazing, but the wooden box included with the collector’s edition puts it over the top.

Poison Bottle Enamel Pin — $9.99

This cute little poison bottle pin would make a great stocking stuffer! And since it’s only enamel, you don’t have to worry that any arsenic will end up in your tea.

Harney & Sons Death on the Nile Tea — $11

I haven’t tried the Death on the Nile blend yet, but I’m a huge fan of Harney & Sons teas and have quite a collection. This one is definitely on my Christmas list. An herbal blend of chamomile flowers, ginger root, peppermint, coriander seeds, cinnamon chips, whole and ground cloves, and fennel seeds, it’s the perfect accompaniment whether you’re reading the novel or watching either the classic or the new adaptation.

Poirot and Hastings Mug — $16.95

I ordered one of these Poirot and Hastings mugs earlier this year and highly recommend them. The quality is excellent, and the mug is oversized, so your favorite mystery reader won’t run out of tea before they figure out whodunnit.

The Bookish Sleuth Mystery Reader’s Journal — $28.99

This reader’s journal by mystery author Sara Rosett is the perfect gift for any armchair detective. In addition to pages for keeping track of books you’ve read and books you want to read, it also provides a place to record clues and red herrings, a reading habit tracker, and quotes from famous mystery authors.

Hill House of Cabot Cove Keychain — $9.75

While I wouldn’t recommend spending a night at the Hill House motel in Cabot Cove, since a good number of their guests check in but don’t check out, I do love this Hill House keychain made in the style of vintage motel key tags. (Although, I have to cringe a little at calling them “vintage” style. I remember when all motel keys came attached to tags like this.)

Candles for Readers — $20.99

When there’s no fireplace handy, a candle with a crackling wooden wick is the next best thing. And this one sets the mood perfectly with its mix of birch, orange, and gingerbread scents.

Bookshop.org Gift Card — $10-1000

Of course, all readers love to get books for Christmas. But we’re hearing reports of paper shortages that are, in turn, causing book shortages. So to be on the safe side, get your mystery lover a gift card from Bookshop.org. Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. You can specify a specific local bookstore to support, and they will receive the profits from your order. If you don’t specify, the profit goes into a fund that is evenly distributed among indie bookstores. And while you’re there, check out my Bookshop affiliate shop, where I list books that I recommend.

How about you—have you started your holiday shopping yet,
or are you more of a last minute shopper like me?

Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. 

Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. 

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I’m Amanda

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