Monday, March 17, 2014

Grandma O'Hara's Shepherd's Pie

My character, Max O'Hara is Irish, so St. Patrick's Day was a big deal in her household while she was growing up. One of the things Max missed most during her years in Germany was her grandma's Shepherd's Pie. Grandma is now keeping company with St. Patrick, and Max thinks her Shepherd's Pie is just a memory since Grandma never used a recipe.

Max's chef (the gorgeous hunk of ex-hockey player, Jake Lambert) has tried his best to recreate the dish. Hopefully it will pass muster with Max. Here's his recipe:

Shepherd's Pie

2 lbs ground beef
1/4 stick butter
2 cups chopped sweet onion
2 cups sliced or baby carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup beef or vegetable broth
1 cup peas
Mashed potatoes
Shredded Dubliner Irish cheese

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Drain and set it aside. In the same skillet, saute the onions and carrots in the butter until soft. Add garlic and saute until it gets lightly browned.

Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables. Cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly. Add the beef broth and wine and cook until it begins to boil, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef and peas and mix thoroughly. Pour into an oven proof dish.

Spread the mashed potatoes over the mixture. Sprinkle with shredded Dubliner or other Irish cheddar. Bake at 375 degrees until hot and bubbly and cheese is melted, approximately 30 minutes.

Serve with scones or soda bread. And a craft brewed stout or ale, of course. Or, remember that bottle of red wine you had to open to add 1/2 cup to this dish? Someone's got to drink it, right?

Here are some photos of the finished product, fresh out of the oven:

Try out the recipe and be sure to let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


We had some friends over the other night and look what they brought for dessert!

I almost hated to cut it, it was so cute. Notice I said almost. When I found out the brown frosting in the mug was really Nutella, well... Needless to say, the cake is history.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Kind of Music?

As I'm sitting here on Sunday morning listening to a Casey Kasem American Top 40 show from 1972 on the oldies station, I couldn't help wondering what kind of music my protagonist Max would listen to.

My tastes vary quite a bit. At any given moment I could be listening to Oldies (preferably from the 70s), Contemporary Christian, Country, Classical, or Big Band from the 30s and 40s. I could possibly tolerate Heavy Metal, but I wouldn't choose to listen to it. But never ever Rap--HATE it.

When I was writing In Spite of Murder with my West Virginia police secretary character, I listened to a lot of country music, because that's what Irma Jean liked. A previous character, ex-cop Summer Evans, liked classic rock. When I work on my WWII story (which will remain unfinished for awhile, I'm afraid), I listen to Big Band.

Even though I know a lot about Max already, I realized I have no idea what kind of music she'd like. I seriously doubt she'd listen to the same things I do. I can't see her listening to oldies. Her parents--yes. Her brother, Sean, the Catholic priest, might listen to CCM. Her other brothers--who knows?

If I tell you a little about Max, could you help me out? Max (Maxine) O'Hara is Irish Catholic. A Pittsburgher. She's the youngest in her family, with five older brothers. Her mother is a homemaker, her father is a homicide detective. Max is 5'2" tall, with black hair in a pixie cut and blue eyes. She's around 30 years old. She has a Master's degree in Chemistry and spent the last few years in Germany studying brewing under a German brewmaster.

What do you think? What kind of music would Max like? What should I be listening to? Your suggestions would be appreciated. Just don't say rap. After all, I invented Max. One thing I know: she doesn't like rap either.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Big, Big News!

Drumroll, please...

I'm pleased (well, ecstatic is more like it) to announce that my fabulous agent, Myrsini Stephanides, negotiated a three book deal with Berkley Prime Crime for my new cozy series, Brewing Trouble!!!

The first book in the series will be TO BREW OR NOT TO BREW, and will likely be published in late 2015 (we don't have the schedule yet, so that could change). To read a blurb of the book, just click on the Brewing Trouble tab at the top of this page.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Patience is a Virtue

I know I haven't posted in quite awhile, but I promise I will get back to it eventually! In the meantime, what do you think of the new template?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Can't Believe...

...they're predicting a major snowstorm for tomorrow night into Monday morning.

I'm totally on board with this.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A PSA for St. Patrick's Day

People. Green beer is NOT IRISH. Drink a Guinness, a Harp, a Smithwick's, some good Irish whiskey...anything except green beer.

Keep the green in your clothing, not in your drink. That is all.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled St. Patrick's Day weekend. Slainte!

Monday, February 18, 2013


Okay. So who wants to tell me why a blog post I wrote almost six years ago about the Furry Convention in Pittsburgh is suddenly getting all kinds of hits?


Also, if anyone can tell me what happened to the writer guest blogs I had on here, I'd appreciate it. They seemed to have disappeared. Another mystery!

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Seems there's a little blog chain going around the internet called The Next Big Thing, where writers are supposed to answer ten questions about their book. I've been tagged by mystery author Linda Rodriguez. Thanks, Linda! You can click here to read her post and learn about her books.

Here goes!

1. What is your working title of your book?
     My working title is IN SPITE OF MURDER.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
     I worked as a police department secretary for ten years and people were constantly telling me to write a book with a PD secretary protagonist. When I lost that job, I figured I'd finally put that knowledge to good use.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
    It's a mystery. Not quite a cozy, as it has a bit of an edge. And it's funny. At least I hope it is.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    This is the hardest question! Like Linda, I don't pay attention to most modern actors. My protagonist, Irma Jean, is a six foot tall red head with an attitude, so I imagine she'd be hard to cast. There are two actresses who might fit, but I don't know their names--one is on The Mentalist and the other was in That 70s Show. If Reba McEntire were younger and much taller, she'd be perfect. I'm not sure who I'd cast as Mama, either. I need a five foot tall 70 year old with a strawberry blonde beehive. No clue!

I can do better with the men in the book. Irma Jean's ex-husband Curley would be played by Bradley Cooper. I  have no idea who he is, but I saw his picture on the cover of a magazine in the checkout line once and almost blurted out, "That's Curley!"

And her hunky Irishman love interest, Luke Jameson, is a cross between Simon Baker and Keith Urban. How's that for a combination?

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
    Police secretary Irma Jean Bennett's day is shot to hell when the Chief drops dead in her office. (I know that's not exactly a synopsis, but you get the idea.)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    I'm represented by the fabulous Eliza Dreier at the Carol Mann Agency. She'll be pitching it soon.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
    It's hard to say. I got the idea for it back in 2008 when I lost my job and I wrote a few chapters. Then I put it aside to revise and query another book, which didn't go anywhere. When I finally got serious about it, it didn't take very long to finish. Then I did more than a few revisions. I really have to give a shout out to my former agent, Meredith Barnes. The book is so much better after I made the changes she suggested.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
    It's not as over-the-top as Evanovich, but it's been compared to her books. I think it's more like Nancy Martin's Blackbird Sisters books--kind of cozyish, but not quite.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    Getting canned. Enough said.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
    Can't you just take my word for it? No? Sigh. Well, it's funny, it's got some strange and quirky characters, and it takes place in a town named Spite. Oh, and I don't want to forget the hot Irishman.

Hey, I'm done! This wasn't so bad, after all!

Here are the authors I'm tagging. Be sure to go to their blogs NEXT WEEK and see their answers to these questions.

Annette Dashofy
Jenna Bennett/Jennie Bentley
C.L. Phillips

Thanks again, Linda! This was fun!