Leu House Museum

The Leu House Museum is located inside Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FL. Overlooking Lake Rowena, this stately residence is on the National Register of Historic Places. Although we’ve been to the botanical gardens many times, this was our first tour of the house.

 

The original owners were the Mizell family who claimed the land in 1858. There they grew sugar cane, cotton and corn. David Mizell was the sheriff of Orange County. He got killed in an ambush in 1870. Duncan Pell, the next owner, hired David’s son to add two more wings to the house. He made this a weekend getaway for him and his second wife, silent screen star Helen Gardner.

The Woodward family came next in 1906, adding on to the house to make it the present size. They used the house for a winter retreat.

Finally, Harry P. Leu and his wife Mary Jane bought the property in 1936. They traveled widely and brought back seedlings and plants for their garden. They donated the acreage and house to the City of Orlando in 1961.

Inside, the rooms have been restored with a mixture of original furnishings and donations. The lifestyle reflects turn-of-the-century living. The first families lived without plumbing and electricity, which were later additions.

       

Through the front door, we entered the living room. There’s a pleasant parlor to the left and a dining room straight ahead, with a staircase next to a bookshelf I’d like in my home. Most of these rooms had fireplaces.

       

              

    

The kitchen has been modernized in some ways but still has a wood-burning stove and an old-fashioned refrigeration unit. Originally, it was a warming room while the food was cooking in an outbuilding accessible from a breezeway. But then the kitchen moved indoors.

   

The upstairs held several bedrooms that looked bright and airy. They appear easily habitable.

     

 

A screened porch out back would have been a pleasant place to relax during temperate weather.

  

On the paths back to the garden entrance, we viewed some of the glass and steel sculptures by Alex Heveri for a special exhibit. Otherwise, try to time your visit to include a tour of the house. Go to https://leugardens.org for more information.

 

Leu House Museum is worth a trip to Leu Gardens in Orlando #Florida #history Click To Tweet

We enjoy touring botanical gardens and historic homes. Are there any near you?

Quick Prep Recipes

Here are some quick and easy recipes that will serve you well for breakfast and dinner. They’re fast to prepare for your family.

BANANA OAT FRITTATA

This is a quick preparation breakfast that’s healthy and nutritious. It’s as hearty as any omelet and gives you a serving of grains as well.

Banana Oat Frittata

Ingredients

3 Bananas
0.98 oz. packet Quaker Original instant oatmeal (4 Tbsp.)
3 eggs
¼ tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Honey

Directions

Mash one banana in a medium bowl. Add 3 eggs and oats. Sprinkle in cinnamon and stir to blend. In a separate bowl, slice remaining two bananas. Heat olive oil in large nonstick frypan. Place rings of sliced bananas inside pan. Pour oat mixture over top and tilt pan to spread evenly. Cover and cook on medium heat until bottom is browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove cover and flip frittata over to set on other side for 5 minutes or less. Slice and serve warm. Dribble with honey or use maple syrup if preferred. Serves 2-4.

Note: To downsize for a smaller frypan, use only 3 Tbsp. oats, 2 eggs, and 2 Tbsp. olive oil.

STRING CHEESE MANICOTTI

Make sure the food is cooked through enough that the string cheese melts. This tastes even better heated for leftovers the next day. Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad.

String Cheese Manicotti

Ingredients

12 oz. package string cheese (12 pcs)
8 oz. package manicotti pasta (12-14 pcs)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (24-32 oz.)
Grated parmesan cheese
Dried parsley
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Fresh chopped basil
Dried oregano

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook the manicotti in boiling water according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool. Roll string cheese in a mixture of parmesan cheese and dried parsley. Stuff cheese sticks inside manicotti noodles when not too hot to handle. Pour a coating of tomato sauce on bottom of greased 9 x 12 baking dish. Place manicotti on top in single layer. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil and dried oregano. Add shredded cheese. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until heated through. Serves 6.

Quick prep recipes for breakfast and dinner #cooking #recipes Click To Tweet

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here to win 7 First-in-Series Books AND a Logo Mug from Booklovers Bench in our 11th anniversary blowout giveaway!

A Valentine’s Day Gift for You

Happy Valentine’s Day Month!  As a gift to you, I’m offering a copy of Permed to Death for FREE. Yes, you heard me. My First-in-Series for the Bad Hair Day Mysteries is Free!

Sassy salon owner Marla Shore is giving grumpy Mrs. Kravitz a perm when her client dies in the shampoo chair. If that isn’t enough to give her a bad hair day, handsome Detective Vail suspects Marla of poisoning the woman’s coffee creamer. Figuring she’d better expose the real killer before the next victim frizzes out, Marla sets on the trail of a wave of wacky suspects. Her theory regarding whodunit gels only after she looks for the culprit closer to home.

Click Here to Get Your Free Copy Now

What can you expect from this story?

Amateur sleuth
Colorful characters
Family Drama
Humor
Intriguing plot twists
Red Herrings
Small-Town Secrets
South Florida Charm

A Sample of Industry Reviews

“Fast-paced and jaunty.” Publishers Weekly 

“A plot with more tangles than an uncombed perm.” Kirkus Reviews

“An amusing tale, buoyed by a likable amateur sleuth and enhanced by the South Florida atmosphere.” Sun-Sentinel

“A very successful mystery in a new series.”Fort Myers Life Magazine

As a reader, I’ve found many favorite new authors through their freebies. I’ve gone on to buy their entire series. I’ll discover them through daily newsletters such as BookBub, The Fussy Librarian, Freebooksy and Book Doggy. These allow you to try new authors without financial risk. It’s a great way to find your next great read. Subscriptions to readers are free and you can filter your genres.

Will you be my Valentine and download my book? Please share the link with friends and help spread the word. Happy Reading!

Download your free copy now: https://books2read.com/PermedtoDeath

What are your favorite ways to discover new authors or series to read?

GIVEAWAY

Enter Here to win 7 First-in-Series Books, plus a Logo Mug, from Booklovers Bench in our 11th anniversary blowout giveaway!

Goal Review 2024

As a writer, setting goals each year will give you a path to follow. Each item you cross off your list will provide a sense of accomplishment. You might add new goals as you go along and find additional tasks to do.

Setting Goals for Writers

Each January, I set myself new creative and business-related writing goals. For 2024, since I have many business tasks to do, I’ve separated my goals into monthly projects.

January 2024
Upload revised editions of Books 1-3 in my series – DONE
Update Box Set One, my Book Sampler and audio covers – DONE
Publish Box Set Six on Jan. 23, 2024 – DONE
Do blog post and newsletter for new release and reissues – DONE
Promote new release on social media – ONGOING
Revise Murder at Your Service version 3 – ONGOING 

February
Set the price on Permed to Death to Permafree to attract new readers – IN PROGRESS
Schedule a promo stack and other ads.
Announce sale on social media sites, blog and newsletter.
Apply for distributor promotions.

March/April
Continue Above Projects.
Consider a BHD short story for newsletter subscribers.
Consider a newsletter automation sequence.

May/June
Initiate audiobook production of Writing the Cozy Mystery.
Plan the Launch.

Fall
Finish current WIP. Send to Editor.
Plot a new BHD holiday mystery novella.

File Management – Mindless tasks for spare time.
Improve SEO on older blog posts.
Sort through photos to clear storage space.
Delete old files.

Of course, the best laid plans often go awry. Who knows what the universe has in store for us? We just have to go with the flow and get as much done as we can. This is why I like being an indie author. No deadlines and no pressure to attend distant conferences. I can stay home and work at my own pace.

Have you set your goals for this year?

Goal Review 2024 #writetip #writingcommunity Click To Tweet

Bad Hair Day Box Set Six Release Day

The Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Volume Six: Books 16-18 is now available!

I am excited to announce the release of my latest box set in the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series. This collection includes Easter Hair Hunt, Styled for Murder and Star Tangled Murder.

Digital ISBN: 978-1-952886-35-5
Published by Orange Grove Press
Cover Design by The Killion Group, Inc
Interior Design by Formatting4u.com

BOX SET SIX

A deadly Easter egg hunt, a remodeling project gone awry, and a Fourth of July murder at a living history village make for a sparkling cozy mystery collection.

EASTER HAIR HUNT

An Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor leads hairstylist Marla Vail to discover more than just dyed eggs. The dead man in the bunny suit is definitely not having a good hare day. Marla’s husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail, knows she finds solving mysteries to be irresistible, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can Marla use her eggcellent sleuthing skills to crack the case?

Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner

“This story will fill your reading basket with entertainment, charming characters, plot twists, tasty recipes, and a cozy murder mystery to solve.” Thoughts in Progress

STYLED FOR MURDER

When salon owner, Marla Vail, gets a frantic call from her mother that there’s a dead body in her shower, Marla realizes this wasn’t part of the home remodel plans. The victim turns out to be the project manager, who had a shady reputation in town. Disgruntled customers, unpaid suppliers, and the design company’s staff are among the suspects, but Marla is more concerned about her stepfather’s connection to the victim. Can she flush out the clues and nail the killer before he strikes again?

Suspense Magazine “Best Cozy Mystery”
Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner

“A charmingly funny whodunit!” Woman’s World Magazine

STAR TANGLED MURDER

Hairstylist Marla Vail and her detective husband Dalton are having a blast visiting a Florida living history village over Fourth of July weekend. But when a battle reenactment turns up a dead body, it sets off fireworks among the villagers. One of the cast members has gone off script to murder the town marshal. Soon it become apparent that every one of the villagers is a suspect. Instead of spending the holiday chilling and grilling, somebody’s mind is on killing. Marla needs to find the culprit before she becomes the next victim.

FAPA President’s Book Awards Silver Medal Winner

Star Tangled Murder shines with excellent plotting, lots of twists and turns, and a satisfying ending. Highly recommended.” Suspense Magazine

Play the Jigsaw Puzzle for Box Set Six

Download Now – Get Three Books for the Price of Two!

Amazon Kindle
Apple Books
BN Nook
Kobo
Google Play
Books2Read

 

Get your copy of Bad Hair Day Mysteries Box Set Six now - a sparkling cozy mystery collection! #boxset #cozymystery Click To Tweet

Refreshing Your Backlist Titles – Cover Reveal

Swapping an outdated cover for a new, fresh look can help to improve sales for a backlist title. It’s also a good opportunity to update the interior file if needed. Your book description might need an overhaul as well. These are all things you can do to revive sales on earlier books.

As an indie author whose books are available “wide” (meaning beyond Kindle Unlimited), I have taken the time to update the first 3 books in my 18 book Bad Hair Day mystery series.

New readers always want to start with book one, unless they’ve won a later book in a contest, bought one on sale, or picked up a review copy of your upcoming release.

It’s ironic that you have to hook them with the first book in your series, because this was your starter title and you may have written it years ago. It’s been 25 years since Permed to Death was first published in 1999. Reviews can reflect those early renditions if you’ve linked editions.

My original mysteries were published by Kensington. Then they were digitally published by eReads in the days when e-books were fairly new and books had to be scanned in to get a digital file. Scanning mistakes abounded because my subsidiary publisher did not appear to have proofread their versions (see my article HERE on scanning).

Unfortunately, some older Amazon reviews mention these errors, but there’s nothing I can do about them. This is why we need reviews on our latest versions to encourage new readers to take a chance on the book. If you reissue your backlist title as a new edition with a new ISBN and don’t link the issues, then you’ll lose all those early reviews, good and bad.

Permed to Death

I’d already changed my indie cover for Permed to Death, #1 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, from its original design that I used after I got my rights back. There is one glaring review on Amazon that shows this older design. I tend to agree that it’s way too busy with too many colors, but this criticism no longer applies. You can see my changes here. The current cover is on the right. This design is by Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica.

             Permed to Death

 

I am just now updating the covers for Hair Raiser and Murder by Manicure (Books #2 & #3). These new designs are by Kim Killion from The Killion Group. I chose images this time to depict the story elements more accurately.

Hair Raiser

In Hair Raiser, my original indie cover was overly busy with the pool in the background. I wanted to keep the chef, but we couldn’t find a good illustration for an update that would work. Kim found this image and I loved the expression on the chef’s face. It perfectly suits the opening in the story where Chef Pierre’s rum-soaked Bananas Foster blows up in his face. I can’t help smiling when I look at this cover.

Hair Raiser           Hair Raiser High Resolution


Murder by Manicure

For Murder by Manicure, I felt the spa scene on my original indie cover was too vague, even though I like the colors. The image did depict the story where a woman drowns in the whirlpool at a sports club, but my new cover is more distinctive. It’s clearly identifiable as a story that involves a manicure. Maybe it’s my opinion, but the nail tech seems to have a devious expression on her face and the customer doesn’t look happy. Makes you wonder what’s going on between those two, yes?

Murder by Manicure           


Interior Files

I took this opportunity to do another round of light revisions on Permed to Death since book #1 is so critical in attracting new readers. Hair Raiser gained some smoothing out as well while Murder by Manicure hardly had any changes at all.

I’m hoping Amazon will offer updates to its verified purchasers of these titles but there’s no guarantee. If you check (Go to Accounts & Lists, then Content Library, then Books), see if the title says Update Available in your list of digital books. If not, please let me know. Maybe there’s some way I can enable this feature. I’m rolling out these changes now so keep watch for them.

Book Description

Any new change necessitates reuploading your books to the different distributors. In addition to Amazon, Apple, BN, Kobo, Google Play, Draft2Digital and Ingramspark, these may include MyIdentifyers.com, BookFunnel, and your own Website. And don’t forget the audio editions if you have new metadata. It’s also a good time to improve your Book Description. See if you can make it sparkle and drop in key words when possible.

Let’s not forget the Box Set including these three titles. Box Set Volume One: Books 1-3, plus my Book Sampler for newsletter subscribers, will both need to be updated as well.

In Conclusion

It’s a brave step to go back to your earlier books and make changes. You’re not sure if it’s worth the time, effort and expense, but at least you can be proud to know you’ve put your best work out there. Again. As they say, revisions are never done.

Refreshing Your Backlist Titles #indiepub #writetip Click To Tweet

I would love to hear what you think about these new changes.

Get Cooking – Cool Weather Recipes

These are some good recipes to make during the cooler winter temperatures. They’re fairly simple to prepare and make a hearty meal for your family.

 

GARLIC CHEESE PUFFS 

These can be prepared ahead and refrigerated on the cookie sheet until ready for baking. They are best served warm. You can substitute fresh minced garlic for the powdered garlic if desired. 

Garlic Cheese Puffs Recipe

Ingredients

(2) 12 oz. tubes refrigerated biscuits, 10 count each
8 oz. mozzarella cheese brick
1/4 cup salted butter, melted
1.25 oz. package dry Ranch seasoning mix
2 tsp. garlic powder 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

Cut cheese brick into bite-size cubes. Open tube of biscuits and place one at a time on a cutting board. Put one cube of cheese in the middle of each biscuit. Pinch seams to seal the cheese inside. Place balls on baking sheet about two inches apart.

Mix melted butter with garlic powder and 2 tsp. Ranch seasoning. Brush balls with butter. Bake cheese puffs for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 20 servings.


SLOW COOKER CHICKEN STEW
 

This recipe calls for creativity. You can use any vegetables you have at home, including fresh potatoes instead of canned. It’s a good dish for a chilly day. A side salad makes a nice accompaniment.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Stew Recipe

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, sliced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups sliced zucchini
5 oz. can whole white potatoes, drained
½ cup dry red wine
14.5 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp. poultry seasoning

Optional:
15.5 oz. can Cannellini beans
14.5 oz. can peas or lima beans
11 oz. can corn kernels

Directions

Spray inside of slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken at bottom. Spread vegetables on top. Add red wine, chicken broth, and poultry seasoning. Cook on High for 4 hours. Serves 4-6.

SPIRITED ORANGE CAKE

This makes for a tempting dessert presentation to please your guests. For added color, serve with fresh berries.

Spirited Orange Cake Recipe

Ingredients

1 box orange cake mix
3-3/4 oz. box instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
4 oz. Cointreau
4 oz. orange juice

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Cointreau
1-2 Tbsp. orange juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix and pudding in a large bowl. Add eggs, oil, 4 oz. Cointreau, and 4 oz. orange juice. Blend until smooth and thickened. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch Bundt pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack.

Mix together ingredients for glaze until smooth. Drizzle over cake while still warm. Slice and serve.

What recipes do you like to make in the winter months?

End of Year 2023 Recap

Happy New Year! As this year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on our accomplishments and what we want to do next. This year, I’ve checked these items off my list:

  • Published Star Tangled Murder, #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
  • Reissued all my eight backlist romance titles in new paperback editions and went wide with the e-books
  • Put Box Set Six up for Pre-Order
  • Started the process of updating Books 1-3 in my mystery series
  • Worked on a new WIP mystery novel tentatively titled Murder at Your Service 

Basically, I accomplished most of what I’d set out to do, and any unfinished items will carry over into the new year. I’ll list those goals in a separate post.

I hope my articles have entertained you and been educational as well. I enjoy relating my adventures in dining and in exploring the area. Did you know I’d kept travel journals since my childhood? I still have them stashed in a plastic bin, and I credit this journaling with getting me started in my writing career. My cross-country trips, our honeymoon to the South Pacific, a Eurail pass adventure across Europe, and a tour of Asia are only some of the entries.

Now instead, I share my explorations with you directly. However, it’s often hard to know if anyone is reading these articles unless you leave a comment.

As a test to see who’s here, I am offering anyone who reads this post a free book as a New Year’s gift. That’s right, if you got this far, then you can go to BookFunnel to download a copy of Hair Brained, my story that starts on New Years Day. Reviews are always welcome!  https://dl.bookfunnel.com/z51vot6b58

What would you like me to discuss in future topics? More writing advice? More posts about everyday life? Or a mixture of both? Please leave a comment so I know what you want and that it’s worthwhile for me to continue this blog.

Have a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Nancy

Sowing Secrets in a Mystery

It’s advisable for mystery writers to give each character a secret that may or may not relate to the murder victim. This makes them suspicious in the sleuth’s viewpoint until she can unravel what it is they’re hiding.

In Ladies of the ’80s: A Divas Christmas recent TV movie on Lifetime channel, five former soap stars reunite for a reunion show. But all isn’t as it seems in this character-driven story. (Spoiler Alert!) Two of the members have a long-standing feud. Once best friends, they broke apart when one of them moved to LA to pursue her career. As the group struggles to overcome their differences and make the reunion a success (with a budding romance between the producer and director), secrets come to light. These are the ones I remember (and any mistakes are mine):

The rich matriarch’s diamond jewelry is fake. Her ex-husband embezzled all her money and she’s broke.

The social media fashionista wears a blond wig. She’s gone natural and has gray hair.

The actress who abandoned her best friend moved to LA because her career had bombed, and she was too humiliated to tell anyone.

The health and wellness author is a junk food addict.

In writing a mystery, it helps to give each character a secret. This can be a motive for murder, or it can be an innocent secret like the ones above. Say your suspect is making unexplained payments from a checking account. The sleuth might suspect this person is being blackmailed, but perhaps instead they are funding a beloved aunt’s elder care. Or a character might disappear on regular nights of the week while the sleuth suspects they’re up to something nefarious. But they could be attending cooking school and don’t want anyone to know they want to be a chef.

These are all great examples of good secrets. They’re important to the character but do not connect the suspect to the crime. So when plotting your story and developing your characters, add in some of these hidden foibles to fool the reader and the sleuth.

Can you remember any examples from mysteries you’ve read recently?

 

December Doings 2023

Recently, we’ve enjoyed social events revolving around—what else?—eating. This being December, we had a Hanukkah celebration where we ate latkes and brisket and exchanged gifts. We’ve visited the Disney Parks, joined friends for a wine dinner at Carrabba’s and celebrated our anniversary. Here are a few photos to highlight these events for you.

Disney Dining

Since our last visit to Epcot with lunch at the Coral Reef restaurant that I’d reported on HERE, we’ve visited the three other main theme parks at Disney World.

Tusker House in Animal Kingdom offered a character buffet. Their African-themed food was delicious. I wish I’d had room to eat more than one plateful! We saw Mickey and Minnie and other favorites while we dined. The Lion King show in a nearby theater was amazing and we enjoyed the tropical foliage as we strolled around.

     

Next, we visited the Magic Kingdom, where we ate burgers at Starlite Café, rode the train, had ice cream on Main Street, and soaked in the magical atmosphere.

     

Most recently, we celebrated our 47th anniversary at Disney Springs. We began with lunch at Wolfgang Puck and finished with dessert at the Cookie Bar in Summer House on the Lake. It’s always fun to walk around among the shops and restaurants in this lively venue. Dining reservations are a must for the full-service eateries.

   

Around Town

Around town, we enjoyed the Caymus wine dinner at Carrabba’s with friends. This was a pre-fixed four-course meal. Each dish was accompanied by a different wine. I must gain several pounds each time I attend one of these events.

         

Our anniversary night found us at Christner’s, an elegant steak place where we dressed to impress. I had to get the filet mignon accompanied by asparagus, cheesy potatoes, and sauteed mushrooms. They gave us a slice of chocolate cake for a complimentary dessert. It was lovely and we look forward to eating the leftovers for several days.

         

All this eating isn’t good for the weight, so my first New Year’s resolution will be to get back on a healthy diet. These desserts are killing me, but who can pass them up? How are you faring food-wise this holiday season?