Life of Crime Tea Party


Tea Party

(left to right) Eileen Watkins, Roberta Rogow, Kristina Rienzi, me, Linda Rawlins, and Debbie Buchanan

This past rain-soaked Saturday was a lovely day for a tea party at Sisters in Crime-Central Jersey. Besides the spring-inspired garden party outfits and the various teas and nibbles, the panel did a good job explaining what led each author to pursue a life of crime, at least fictionally. I learned how much mystery writers have in common — strange childhoods, the love of a good murder from a very young age, strange reading and television viewing habits, etc. We all had so much fun and were amazed by the culinary skills of the dessert volunteers.

Sue's Cupcakes

Sue Ortiz (above) did a masterful job of baking mini-cupcakes from scratch and decorating each one piping (is that the term for frosting stuff using tips and pastry bags?) delicate flowers, a task that took several hours to accomplish (but with amazing results).

I even wrote a little poisoning hand-out for the event in honor of Another Man’s Poison:


Different Photo

Tea and No Sympathy  (a layperson’s guide to poisoning)

by Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa


Spring has sprung. Proper gents in seersucker blazers and ladies in pretty frocks gather for a garden tea, complete with dainties and polite conversation. For a would-be killer, the setting presents the perfect opportunity to do away with a disappointing loved one, an old foe, or a potential rival.

How, exactly, is this mission accomplished? With tainted tea and toxic biscuits, of course! Tea gives us an ideal medium to deliver the fatal blow. With its visual appeal and pleasant aroma (not to mention the enticing sweetness courtesy of a sugar bowl or a drop of honey), the irresistible deadliness of the brew is nearly undetectable. But what poison shall I use? And where can I get hold of a bit of the lethal stuff?

Good poisons for tea:

Cyanide – the almond scent of this nifty poison is a natural for coffee (and tea) creamers such as hazelnut, almond mocha crème, and vanilla nut. This lethal toxin can be concocted using old pesticides, or it can be ordered legally on the internet.

Arsenic – delivered as a sugar or a sugar substitute, sweetens the pot. It worked well in movies such as Leave Her to Heaven. For a lovely additive on cakes or cookies, this powdered sugar double is very effective. Remember Flowers in the Attic? This, too, is available on the net. Just remember to pay with a pre-paid credit card and have the deadly stuff delivered to a P.O. Box rented by using a fake identity (keep a sharp eye out for those pesky post office cameras).

Oleander – this pretty little gem (with alluring blooms and toxic leaves) can be steeped as an herbal tea, and oh what a kick it provides! It’s economical too. Just snip some flowers and leaves from your own or your neighbor’s garden. Sadly, in the book and the movie White Oleander, fingering the poisoner was simple for investigators to figure out.

Rest assured, Sisters in Crime – Central Jersey, is not in the habit of poisoning those who attend our afternoon teas. We do enjoy discussions about the best way, the proper way, to eliminate our enemies though.

And we love a good murder, but not enough to kill you!


So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed the pics. Next post will hopefully be the exact release date of Another Man’s Poison. Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend everybody.


Cover Reveal


Another Man’s Poison (pre-tweaked)

After a laborious four hours of trying to convert a pdf file to a jpeg, I am finally able to post the cover of Another Man’s Poison. I never did figure out how accomplish this bit of magic, so my techie son had to come around and do it for me! The colors might be changed (there is a lovely amber background and also a purple background version), but I’m partial to green because I’m half Irish. The layout of the words on the cover might shift somewhat, but this is basically the cover. Whatever version the publisher decides to go with will be fine by me.

So, what’s the verdict? Feel free to comment.

I think I’m looking at more of a July release than June. I know it’s a long time coming and I’m sorry about that. It took a while to write, and a long wait for publication. This mystery is something of a departure for our Colleen, and poison kills a lot quicker than the time it takes to write about it.  But it is coming and I’m thrilled to death that the date is drawing near.

Have a great day and keep reading!

Tea and Murder

Scan_20170405 (3)

On Saturday, April 22nd, the Sisters in Crime – Central Jersey will present a highly interesting and entertaining function. “How I Got Started in a Life of Crime” is a tea party, a dress-up, and an author panel. There will be tea, of course, and light refreshments (as well as a few heavier ones like baked ziti or penne vodka courtesy of yours truly). The panel features several of New Jersey’s best crime writers – Kristina Rienzi, E.F. Watkins, Linda Rawlins, Debbie Buchanan, Roberta Rogow, and Jo-Ann Lamon Reccoppa (how did she get in there?), and we will discuss our early romance with criminal activity.

If you’re in or around New Jersey and are interested in what led these mystery writers to a life of fictional crime, sign up for party! We’d love to see you there.

Meanwhile, I’m still awaiting the cover for Another Man’s Poison! I’ll post it here first to give you all a glimpse of the next installment in the Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series.

Have a great night and wonderful weekend everyone. Keep reading.



Atlantic Highlands Marina

This shot was taken nearly two months ago, but I’d love to go out on this boat on a warm, crystal clear day and soak up some sun. Unfortunately, it’s snowing and icing outside. I’ll have be content with staying warm and dry inside for now, and sharing information about Colleen and the gang during this bitter-cold end of winter.

Another Man’s Poison is expected to be published sometime in May! I wouldn’t be surprised if the publishing date is pushed back to June. I came down with something awfully nasty nearly two weeks ago and was late getting corrected copy back to the editor. I think I had the flu, and yeah, I did get a flu shot sometime in the fall. I don’t know, maybe I had a variation or a really bad cold that just felt like the flu. Either way, the book is coming. It’s a go! I’m thrilled. I hope everyone is as excited as I am.

As soon as I get the cover art I’ll do a reveal. Don’t know what the cover will look like – maybe a skull and crossbones effect? That’s what I imagined, but artists come up with some amazing, eye-catching ways to present a book! This should be loads of fun.

Pleasantries aside now. I have to bundle up and dig out the driveway, scrape three inches of ice off the windshield, and hopefully not freeze to death as I clear a path on the sidewalk. And to all those enjoying your eighty-degrees in Florida today (you know who you are), BAH-HUMBUG.

Keep in touch folks and stay safe.


Groundhog Day


Atlantic Highlands

As it is February 2nd, I expect to keep waking up and repeating this day again and again, much like Bill Murray did in the movie. Who wouldn’t want to relive a single day, accomplish so much, then finally make things right? It would be so much fun up to a point. Then, of course, it’s boring.

According to groundhog Punxsutawney Phil  we have six more weeks of winter. A little closer to home, Staten Island Chuck predicts an early spring. All this means absolutely nothing. The two groundhogs only occasionally agree on their predictions, and more often than not winter tends to hang on until she’s good and ready to let go.

Winter or spring, I’m all set for the beach, as well as for crime. Finally some good news about Another Man’s Poison! A few changes will be necessary before the book goes to editing (the publisher’s edits, that is). You can bet I’ll be working my tail off to get it just right, and hopefully Another Man’s Poison will at last see the light of day in the coming months. Meanwhile, Recurring is stuck in limbo, and the first book in my next series is at the mid-way point. I guess I have a thing for murder. Pretty exciting stuff for me!


Author Jane Kelly

Speaking of murder, last week I met up Philly author Jane Kelly in Atlantic Highlands for a leisurely lunch and a good, long chat as we gazed out at crystal-clear Raritan Bay – Colleen Caruso’s stomping ground. The weather was fairly warm, very breezy, and perfect.

Generally we seek each other out at mystery conferences, so this setting was a special treat. Cousin Jane (I call her that because there are a slew of Kellys on the Lamon side of my family and I figure she must be related to me somehow) loves murder as much as I do, not to mention the shore! Her books take place down the Jersey Shore, like mine, and feature likable, resolute sleuth Meg Daniels. Jane’s fiction is a joy to read and worth checking into if you like dead bodies and such. Visit her website at:

That’s all the news I have for now. Hopefully I can update next week, when I know exactly what is going on with Colleen and the gang.

Have a wonderful weekend all!


A Brand New Year



Happy 2017!

We’re two days into the new year and have entered winter. I miss the leaves, noticeably absent from the bleak-looking picture above. I’m waiting patiently for spring to arrive and am keeping my brain occupied with words – both by writing and reading them. Almost everyone I know has given up on making resolutions. It doesn’t pay to promise to commit to something, only to break that promise in a week or two.

However . . .

There are three resolutions I’ve decided to devote myself to in the coming year: outlining (which as a seat-of-my-pants writer is nearly impossible), devouring books, and the last (and possibly the most difficult) – figuring out how to use Goodreads to my advantage. I’m terrible at utilizing reading sites to further my own writing. I’m not sure how to do things; how to post, how to change settings, how to friend, etc. I guess how to friend is the worst. What if none of these writers and readers want to be friends? What if they hate my writing style? How embarrassing! Regardless, I plan to study the site and figure out how to get the most out of Goodreads. So much to learn, so little time! If you’re not familiar with Goodreads, just click here and explore. I intend to. As a Goodreads author, you’d think I would know all this stuff, but I don’t.

As for progress on my books under consideration – still no news! So sorry. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Need I go on? I’ll be doing some follow-up in the coming week and good news or bad, I’ll post it here as soon as I hear something.

In closing, I again wish everyone a happy, healthy New Year. May only exciting, delightful things happen for you — today and always.

Writer’s Stuff


LBI Lighthouse – I love Jersey pics!


A happy hello everyone!

I thought I’d let you writers out there know I’ve created a new page on that I hope will be of interest to writers, as well as to readers interested in the writing process. I call it Writer’s Stuff (real original, huh?) and as I understand it, notifications do not go out when I post something to that page. Who knew they only go out when you post on the home page! So there it is, I’ll have to post an announcement on the home page whenever I add to the Writer’s Stuff section to let you know.

As I discovered from going back and forth with WordPress, I would have to upgrade to something more expensive in order to have the notifications sent when I do post to a different page. As a poor, starving  writer (you’d never guess it to look at me), I can cover the cost for the domain name, but not an upgraded premium package.

So there it is. I hope you check it out.

Meanwhile . . . still waiting on word about the two books out!

Have a wonderful weekend.

The Waiting Game


Not sure exactly where this is, but I believe it’s Absecon — hey it’s JERSEY!

It’s been so long since I last posted that I can barely remember how to do this. Frankly, not much has happened since last we met! I am still awaiting word from the publisher regarding Another Man’s Poison, the third installment in the Jersey Girl Cozy Mystery series. It’s odd that word of the book’s fate is taking so long. I do know my publisher, PageSpring Publishing, has several titles that are expected to be released soon, which is a lot of work for small publishers. We shall see what happens there.

Meanwhile, I’m still trying to find an agent for Recurring. Agent hunting is a painfully slow, tedious, agonizing process, and something of a waiting game. Most agents can take anywhere from six weeks to three months to reply to a query and sample chapters, with many stating in their submission guidelines that they may not respond at all to any forwarded chapters or correspondence.

Gee, what’s a writer to do?

In the olden days, you didn’t dare send out simultaneous submissions – with the unlikely scenario of two or three agents requesting the entire manuscript or agreeing to take you on as a client. If that should happen, we writers were warned, we risked getting a bad, unprofessional reputation in the agent community. Okay, so screw that! I’d really like to see Recurring in print before I kick the bucket, and I know writers who have waited in vain for over a year before moving on and submitting their work to another agent for consideration. I seriously doubt agents will be knocking down my door to get their hands on the entire manuscript, even as great as I think this thriller is, though if this should happen – good for me! I’m going the simultaneous route!

Meanwhile, I’m busy on another book, The Boardwalk Psychic, which may or may not work as a series. This isn’t a light, cozy mystery by any stretch of the imagination. It’s dark, the crime is quite brutal, and the theme is obviously tinged with elements of the supernatural. Ya gotta love it! It almost sounds like an X-File!

Until we meet (or read) again, have a wonderful weekend everyone, and a special hello and welcome to the newcomers on this site!

End of Summer



I promised myself I wouldn’t post until I had some news about Another Man’s Poison. Unfortunately, it’s been three weeks (it seems so much longer), and I haven’t heard a peep from the publisher. In the dark recesses of a writer’s mind, there are lingering doubts about the work. Do they hate it? Is it good enough? Does it completely suck?

I know tons of writers and we are the most insecure people on the planet. We don’t think our words are the nectar that attracts butterflies and readers alike, as are the flowers in my yard (see above) that these two beautiful creatures and the occasional hummingbird crave. We have our doubts. We know our writing will be scrutinized and not everyone will fall head-over-heels in love with our work. For such creative types, we’ve been around long enough to view the big picture with a pragmatic eye. The wait for acceptance is agonizingly long. To fill the time and occupy the mind, we dive into another project and try to concentrate. It doesn’t work. Once your story is out there awaiting approval, it’s all you can think about.

So that’s where the book stands for now. Limbo. I’ll post as soon as I hear something – good news or bad. Meanwhile, I’m re-reading Recurring, as two agents have told me they didn’t like the pharmaceutical angle of the book and that is why they decided not to represent it. The thing is, the pharmaceutical angle is the entire book! I’m not really considering changing the story, but I am looking for a way to make it more palatable for an agent’s taste buds.


Meanwhile, we are awaiting Hermine here in New Jersey, a downgraded hurricane reduced to sub-tropical something or other status. My neighborhood suffered through a microburst-type storm a few weeks ago. A neighbor’s tree top came crashing down on my house and yard and, of course, I was responsible for its removal (Act of God, no physical damage to the house, no one injured). The neighbors never even inquired where the entire top half of their tree went. I had to pony-up and pay to have it cut up and carted away. Yeah, I’m complaining. What’s the point of homeowner’s insurance if they don’t cover these things?

That’s it for now. Sad that the summer is over, but I won’t miss the heat. How about you guys?

Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Too Hot to Trot

Sunset 3It’s only slightly cooler at night!

Can it get any hotter? It can, and it will here in Central Jersey. The best thing I can do to beat the heat is to go back and revisit a snowstorm scene in Tranquil Harbor – which I am presently doing. Somehow the idea of cars fishtailing making right hand turns, having suede boots ruined trudging through snowbanks, and experiencing the icy-cold, damp sand traveling up your spine as you sit on the deserted beach in January and contemplate life, sounds pretty good in July.

Spending days doing revisions isn’t the worst thing a woman can do on a sweltering day. It beats washing my car, or taking a very early morning walk around the neighborhood – which is already sizzling at 6:30 a.m. Thank God for treadmills! But revisions take time, especially when dealing with a complex crime. I’ve given myself a self-imposed deadline of August 1st – the target date for Another Man’s Poison‘s submission to the publisher. Yeah, this book took much longer than the others to write. Perhaps writing two books simultaneously wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had. Actually, it was pretty stupid! It’s hard to concentrate when another storyline is constantly lingering inside your head, waiting to be told. My new motto — do only one until done!

So that’s what I’m up to – an August 1st deadline. If I post it, it’s binding. It’s there for all to see. It has to get done. I have to do it!

Other writing and reading news:

The first weekend in August is the annual Deadly Ink Conference in New Brunswick, N.J. It’s always a fun conference packed with mystery lovers and mystery/crime writers. Click here for more information.

There’s a Sisters in Crime Central Jersey symposium, The ABCs of (Writing) Murder on September 24, held in honor of Agatha Christie. If anyone needs information on registration, just comment below or send me an email. I’ll be glad to forward the info and registration form to you.

Mystery lovers should also check out Merry’s Amazon Reviews:

A former Jersey Girl (though once a Jersey Girl, always a Jersey Girl), Merry has been busy down in Florida, reading avidly (in all that heat and humidity, reading is the coolest activity a gal can do!) and posting insightful reviews of cozies and mysteries. There must be over a hundred titles listed (I didn’t count them all). It’s obvious she’s a huge mystery fan.

Until next time (and hopefully much sooner than the two month stretch I have gone without a post), stay cool and avoid exertion.

Relax. Sip on a gin and tonic like Colleen Caruso. And read!!!