featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, June 23, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ICY SNOW BLACKSTONE

Author Icy Snow Blackstone writes romance and futuristic romance. Today she sits down for an interview with us, but you can also learn more about her at her Amazon author page and keep reading to learn the origin of her very unusual pen name.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
When I was around seven. I had come home from a movie and thought about it and decided I liked it so much, I wanted it to continue, so I wrote a sequel… only I did it in comic book form, with pictures and captions. Guess it was a graphic novel.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My first novel was published in 2008, so (counting from the age of 7) it took 59 years.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally published

Where do you write?
I have a nook near a very large window where my desk is located. It gets plenty of sunshine and gives me a nice view to stare at when I hit a lull. It’s also surrounded by bookcases with reference books and others.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I used to listen to classical music but where I live now, it’s so noisy, I simply tune out everything.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Not many. I certainly hope I’ve never been in some of the situations I put my characters in! If that were true, I wouldn’t be stuck for plots.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I never really thought about it until you asked that question. Sometimes, as I’m thinking of a plot, the names simply come to me. Other times, I’ll hear a name and think, “That’s a good name for a villain…or a hero…” Other times, I take a word, look up its original source and use that. Occasionally, I name a character to break a stereotype. In Runaway Brother, one of my secondary characters is named Clyde and his nickname is Bubba. I did that deliberately, because characters named “Clyde” are invariably considered bumbling, stupid and used only for laughs, and “Bubba” is a stereotype Southern name for a dumb Southern character. My Clyde is neither a stereotype nor comic. He starts out as the rival of the hero and eventually becomes his friend, and when the chips are down, he’s there to help.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I’ve used both. In Runaway Brother, Oceano is a fictitious town, but the countryside surrounding it, which I describe, is authentic.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I don’t consider that my characters have quirks. In the time, place, and setting of their stories, they’re completely normal. One of them does get transformed into a cat, but he doesn’t think that strange because his grandmother’s a witch, so would that be a quirk or not? Guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m a writer. That’s quirk enough!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Gone with the Wind, because next to the Bible, it’s the most read book in the world (and it was written by a Georgia girl).

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Oh my goodness, there are too many of those to even consider! I wouldn’t know where to start.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People assuming because I’m a writer I make big bucks.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Are we talking other than food and shelter? If so, I’d want a workable 2-way radio to get me out of there FAST! Other than that. A Swiss army knife, and MacGyver, then I wouldn’t need anything else.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Door-to-Door candy salesperson.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I’ve read so many I simply can’t say.

Ocean or mountains?
Mountains overlooking the seashore.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country. Give me the wide open spaces and plenty of grass and trees.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I have a fourth entry in my Three Moon futuristic romance series in the offing.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Icy Snow Blackstone is my pseudonym. However, it’s actually my great-great-great-great-grandmother’s name. She was born in north Georgia in 1802 where her father, a transplanted minister from Massachusetts named John Blackstone, was active in local politics. I always thought her name sounded like it should belong to a romance writer so when I began writing, I decided to use it.

Most of my novels are romances set in the South, though I have one or two paranormal/futuristics that keep me from staying completely in that niche.

Runaway Brother
For ten years, Nicolo Liquori gave up his own ambitions, working during the day in the family’s New York jewelry business, and returning each night to behis father’s caregiver. Then Papa dies, and Nick is free…or is he?

Brothers Carlo, Marco, and Pietro expect him to continue life as usual, but Nick has other ideas. One day, he goes to work but never arrives. Instead, he’s roaring down the highway on a newly-purchased motorcycle.

Nick gets as far as the southern coast of Georgia before an accident disables his bike. Stranded, with no idea of the South except what he’s seen on TV, Nick isn’t certain what kind of reception he’ll get. Tha’;s when a pretty Southern miss and a white tank disguised as a temperamental horse named Shazam teach a runaway Yankee about life and love in a small Georgia town.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR JANE FLAGELLO SHARES TIPS FOR FINDING SUCCESS

Jane Flagello writes mysteries with social and life lessons twists. After retiring from a management professorship and a personal coaching practice, she found herself wondering what was next. A creative academic at heart who loves to write, she combined what she loves to do, resulting in her first novel. Now she takes her love of writing and combines it with her goal to shine a light on societal problems not often discussed. Learn more about Jane and her books at her website. 

Finding the “YOU” in Success

Success means different things to different people. Almost everyone who has realized success know these simple truths: hard work comes first, success is a journey, persistence is key, and what you define as success changes over time.

Want to increase your success I.Q.? Ask yourself these two questions:

What’s going on inside me that causes me to do what I do—say what I say—feel what I am feeling?

If I don’t like the results I’m getting—or I want more or something different—how do I change myself (meaning grow and develop) in ways that produce the results I really want?

And therein lies the rubchange!  To get different results you have to change what you’re doing. Change is the shoe that pinches! To let go of what you have always done or planned to do, and seek new ways to accomplish your goals plays out cognitively, emotionally, and physically.

Your ability to change is your critical success factor. Change takes you out of your comfort zone. It can be frightening and confusing, leaving you feeling vulnerable. Embracing changeyour ability to changeis the holy grail of what it takes to be successful today.

While change exerts a powerful force, the status quo is an equally powerful, often unrecognized, force. It lulls you into a false sense of complacency. It’s the “bird-in-hand” expression come to life. Fears of loss and an increased sense of vulnerability reinforce the status quo. Why chance changing anything? You know what your current actions are producing. You know how to compensate in those areas where you are not fully up to speed. In some way, you have made a conscious or unconscious decision that you can live with this outcome.

Want to enhance your opportunities for success? It’s all about changing the choices you make emotionally, physically, spiritually, and cognitively. When you are clear on the life you want for yourself, you can harness the power of Y-O-U, keeping the actions that enable the results you really want and letting go of the behaviors that prove detrimental to your success.

Consider these “secrets” to success so that you can hone in on what you need to change:

a) Imagine a success picture of you. What does your picture look like? How far away from that image are you now? What do you have to start doing/stop doing to get closer to it?

b) Identify areas in your life where you are stressed or are suffering. What actions can you take to decrease your stress? What do you need to learn/do?

c) Do things that bring you pleasurethat rich inner feeling, that rush of exhilaration that comes from doing what you really love and want to do. Work is only work when you don’t enjoy what you are doing. And it is hard to be successful doing things you don’t enjoy.

When you are at peace with yourself, your success will skyrocket. There is a pattern, a meaning, a sense to life. It is bigger than we are, yet simpler to achieve than we might imagine. Identify what success means for you, let go of your past, create a plan and take your first step. You have a purpose, and a responsibility to seek out your purpose and achieve it. And when you do, you will have found the success you seek.

Complicity
Evil takes many forms, especially when fueled by the drive to possess things that aren’t yours. The easier it is, the more you take—feeding the devil within.

Morgan Kasen’s life is going nowhere. After two failed marriages, she’s stuck in a dead-end job, writing puff pieces for a local Williamsburg newspaper. Befriending Eli, a homeless man who squats outside her local grocery store, feeds her compassionate side…until his disappearance thrusts her into the dark world of black market organ trafficking. And the promise of her big break—a career-making story worthy of a Pulitzer.

Her competition: Jesse Sinclair—a street-savvy New York City reporter with Pulitzer on the brain…and a great butt in a tight pair of jeans. What he’s willing to do to win his coveted prize challenges Morgan’s trust issues to her core.

Enter two rogue entrepreneurs competing to satisfy their own needs at the expense of the less fortunate. And then the bodies begin to pile up, starting with a vagrant found in the woods missing a kidney.

Power, money, and murder combine in an intense hunt to stop those responsible before any more innocent people lose critical body parts…or their lives.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR DIANE BURTON ON MEDDLING MAMAS

photo by Pauk
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic science fiction, romantic suspense, and a PI mystery series. She has also contributed to two anthologies. Learn more about Diane and her books at her website and blog. 

A Meddling Mama

When I was invited to guest blog today, it was suggested I write about dealing with a meddling mother. The reason is the title of my latest PI mystery, The Case of the Meddling Mama. I was so blessed to have a mother whose own mother meddled and promised herself she never would. A few times she did meddle in my siblings’ lives/marriages, but not in mine. Not that I’m perfect (LOL), but their situations needed some meddling.

My mother-in-law lived with a meddler—her MIL—for twenty-five years. She was so grateful her son finally got married and gave her grandchildren, she wasn’t about to rock the boat. I’m sure she vented to her sister, just not to me. Thank goodness.

Consequently, I never had to deal with a meddler. My grandmother, who lived 500 miles away and didn’t often visit, tried to tell my mother how to raise her children, gave unwanted advice, and various suggestions on how my dad should do this and that. Mom didn’t often argue, but when she did, you didn’t want to be around. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, shut up and put up with her mother-in-law. It’s a wonder she didn’t get an ulcer.

Having such great examples, I’ve tried to be a non-meddler to my own children. That hasn’t stopped me from sometimes talking to Hubs, a patient listener, about my adult children. When my daughter had her first child (a girl), I was determined not to tell her how to raise her kids. They were hers and her husband’s, not mine. Same when my son had his daughter. (Girls first run in my family; I’m the oldest of seven). While I sometimes disagree with the mothers, I follow my MIL and keep my mouth shut. (If the kids were being harmed, I would step in.) If you ask my daughter, she’ll probably say I did enough meddling when she and her brother were in high school and college.

My daughter and I have a great relationship now. What is it about mothers and daughters that cause friction? Especially when the daughter is going through adolescence and the mother is in peri-menopause. Merida and her mother (from the movie Brave) had nothing on us. At least, my daughter didn’t turn me into a bear.

Like his father, my son took his own sweet time getting married. Again, I say I’m blessed with a lovely daughter-in-law—one who insisted that when we visited (for a month at a time) that we stay with them! Three separate times. At the end of this month, son, DIL, a two-year-old, and two big dogs will live with us as they move from Arizona to Michigan and find a house. Maybe, I’ll turn into a meddler.

I hope not.

The Case of the Meddling Mama
Book 3 of the Alex O’Hara Mystery series


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR MARIANNE RICE SHARES HER HEROINE'S BROWNIES

Marianne Rice writes contemporary romances set in small New England towns. Her heroes are big and strong, yet value family and humor, while her heroines are smart, sexy, sometimes a little bit sassy, and are often battling a strong internal conflict. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found chauffeuring her herd of children to their varying sporting events, and when there’s time, shoe shopping, scarfing down dark chocolate, and relaxing with a glass of wine and a romance book. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Lois. I share your love and passion for food and recipes and tend to incorporate them into my books. I’m thinking about adding a recipe book section to my website as well. Anyone interested in that?

So, a little bit about the heroine’s “taste” in my latest release, Playful Hearts. Outspoken and spunky Mackenzie Pratt owns Coast & Roast in the small coastal town of Rocky Harbor, Maine and serves some delectable desserts as well. Her brownies have been mentioned in all three Rocky Harbor books, and in book four, Playful Hearts, we get to learn about her story. Although brownies aren’t the center of Mackenzie’s world, it’s her coffee shop…and soon the hunky, playful Blake Riley that monopolize her thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed writing this series so much, especially the food parts (lots of goodies in Strawberry Kisses) and I hope you’ve had a chance to devour the Riley siblings as well. They’re super yummy. Oh, and so are the brownies. Here’s the recipe:

Mackenzie’s Brownies
These aren’t cake or fudgey brownies but somewhere in between. If you don’t like your brownies too sweet, you don’t have to make the frosting (maybe toss in some chocolate chips or chopped walnuts to the mix instead!).

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Frosting:
6 T melted butter
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T honey
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9” x 13” glass pan with PAM (or grease with butter).

In a large saucepan, melt 1 cup butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla. Stir in 2/3 cups cocoa, the flour, salt and baking powder. Don’t over mix!

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (don’t overbake).

To make frosting: Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. If too thick add a tsp. warm water. Frost brownies while they’re still warm.

***Photo credit goes to Allrecipes.com. Sadly my oven has been broken since April and I haven’t been able to make Mackenzie’s brownies.***

Playful Hearts
Having fun and living his life on a whim is Blake Riley’s motto.

When he moves back to Rocky Harbor, Maine, he thinks his life is about to turn predictable…until he meets Mackenzie Pratt. Her smart mouth and quirky attitude make him want to see how wild they can get together. 

Mackenzie’s too busy running the local coffee shop and caring for her mom and doesn’t have time for a real relationship. However, a sex-lationship is just the thing she needs, and Blake, with his crazy sense of adventure and raw sex appeal, is the perfect man for the job.

As their relationship begins to creep from the bedroom and dangerously close to her heart, their casual trysts develop into something more—something neither expected. 

But Blake’s former life is full of secrets that threaten their developing relationship. Can Blake keep trouble away from Mackenzie? Or will their playful hearts grow cold when his past comes calling?

Monday, June 19, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--YARN HACKS

If you’re a serious knitter or crocheter, you probably know about yarn bowls. For those of you unfamiliar with yarn bowls, they're decorative bowls, usually made of wood or ceramic, specially designed to hold a ball of yarn and keep it from tangling as you knit or crochet. Yarn bowls are generally handcrafted works of art that can be quite expensive. You can check some out here

You don’t need to spend a fortune for a yarn bowl, though. You can make one yourself with a bowl and a banker’s clip. It isn’t beautiful, but it serves the purpose.

No banker’s clips on hand? Use a colander. Or a produce netting bag. Place your yarn in the colander or bag and thread the yarn through one of the holes.

A few months ago I shared photos of some of the teapots I’ve collected over the years. These are mostly only for display purposes, but there are a few I do brew tea in. I also use some of them occasionally as yarn bowls.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

COWBOY BOOT #FASHION WITH GUEST AUTHOR PATY JAGER

Corral West Flat Heel Cut-Out Boots
Award-winning author Paty Jager has been a frequent guest here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers over the years, but we had no idea one of her characters had such impeccable fashion sense—at least when it comes to cowboy boots. Leave a comment (along with a way to contact you) about your own fashion footwear preferences for a chance to win a copy of Paty’s latest book.

Paty writes murder mysteries, western romance, and action adventure and has authored 30+ novels, a dozen novellas, and a passel of short stories. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor. Learn more about Paty and her books at her website and blog. 

Shandra Higheagle talks Cowboy Boots
Hello, I’m Shandra Higheagle, potter by trade and amateur sleuth hobbyist. My heritage and passion for the earth comes out in the vases I throw from clay I gather on Huckleberry Mountain. The purification process for the clay heals my soul and gives my art more depth.

Broad Toe Flat Heel Boot
I didn’t pick my hobby, it picked me. My deceased grandmother began coming to me in dreams when first myself, and then my friend, were accused of murder. My dreams helped Detective Ryan Greer piece together the clues that pointed to the real killer.

But the reason Anastasia has me on her blog today is to talk about my fashion passion.

Cowboy boots. I have twenty pairs of fancy boots in my closet. And I have four pair of everyday riding boots. When I sold my first vase at a gallery, I bought my first pair of embellished fancy boots. When Ryan moved in with me, he was delegated to a small space in my closet. I wasn’t going to get rid of my boots or take them out of the closet. He has to make do with what space there is left. A woman has priorities when it comes to her boots.

As I said, I have every day boots. These have a less dramatic heel, it makes walking on uneven ground easier, and no embellishment on the boot itself. These are plain cowhide leather. Everyday boots are for mud, rain, cleaning stalls, and riding horses. The bottom of the sole is slick to slide in and out of the stirrup easily and the heel just high enough to catch on the stirrup and keep your foot from sliding all the way through.

Dan Post Tall Shaft High Heel
My fancy boots, ones I wear to town, to art shows, and when I dress up can have embroidery, cut-outs, different leathers, colors, stains, and studs. I have two pair that have leather fringe. One is a boot and one is a bootie. A bootie is a short only 7or 8-inch shaft or the height of the boot. A boot can have an 11 to 12-inch shaft on some of the fancier boots. There is also a walking heel, which is shorter and flatter and a fashion heel, which is about 3 inches high and narrower at the bottom than at the top. These boots are stylish but can be as hard on the feet as a high heel sling if walked in for a long period of time. And you can purchase boots with different type of toes. There is rounded, snip, pointed, square, and broad square.

I wear my fancy walking heel boots to town and events where I’ll be on my feet a good part of the day. Nighttime events and times when I know I’ll be doing more sitting than walking, I wear my fashion heel boots.

Lucchese and Old Gringo are the Cadillac of boots. They usually run $300 to $2000 a pair. The other brands Laredo, Corral Boots, Justin, Ariat, Dan Post, Tony Lama, Ferrini, Durango, Boulet, Roper, and Nocona, to name the most common ones, have prices ranging from $100 to $400.

Lactose Cut-out Boot
I have the lower priced boots for every day and some of my fancy boots. I have one pair of Luchesse and one Old Gringo. I like having many different pairs of boots, but I can’t afford the high-end lines very often.

What about you? Do you like shoes or boots? Maybe handbags? What is the one item you tend to have more than any other in your closet?

Leave an answer in the comment section along with your email, and I’ll draw a name to win a copy of my latest Shandra Higheagle Mystery as either a print book or an ebook.  The drawing will be held on Monday, June 19th.

Fatal Fall
Book eight of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Avarice…Family…Murder

When the doctor is a no-show for her appointment, Shandra Higheagle becomes wrapped up in another murder. The death of the doctor’s elderly aunt has everyone questioning what happened and who’s to blame. Shandra’s dreams soon tell her she’s on the right path, but also suggests her best friend could be in grave danger.

Detective Ryan Greer knows not even an illness will keep Shandra from sneaking around, and he appreciates that. Her insight is invaluable. When she becomes embroiled deeper in the investigation, he stakes out the crime scene and waits for the murder to make a tell-all mistake. 

But will he be able to act fast enough to keep Shandra or her friend from being the next victim?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR HEATHER HAVEN'S INVESTIGATIVE SLEUTH ON FAMILY DYNAMICS

Award-winning author Heather Haven has written ten mysteries with an eleventh on the way. She is also a writer of short stories, comedy acts, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and plays. Learn more about her and her books at her website. Today we’re joined by Lee Alvarez, the protagonist of Heather’s Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries.

Hi, everyone! My name is Lee and I'm a ferret. Not the cute, four-legged kind. I'm the type of ferret who tracks down law-breakers in the hardware, software, and intellectual property game. I’m thirty-four years old, half Latina, half Palo Alto blueblood, and one hundred percent detective. On a good day, when I can control my hair, I’m told I look like a young Elizabeth Taylor. On a bad hair day, a chrysanthemum.

Along with my family, I run Discretionary Inquiries, a detective agency in the heart of Silicon Valley, specializing in cybercrimes. However, when I’m not looking, I seem to fall over dead bodies. I try not to think about it.

What I do think about is a martini, shaken, two olives, and served icy cold, especially at the end of a long day. Throw in a bowl of mixed nuts. Then I curl up with my cat, Tugger, and watch an old, black and white Barbara Stanwyck movie.

OMG. I just reread that. Does that sound as pathetic as I think it does? I mean, I date. I see guys. But Tugger’s been my best and steadiest guy ever since he wandered into my life. I don’t mean to complain, but I’ve learned the hard way that more often than not, when Cupid shoots an arrow it’s best to take cover.

Moving on. Roberto Alvarez, my dad, died unexpectedly two years ago from an aneurism. He taught me everything he knew about being a good detective. He hoped I would follow in his footsteps. I did. Of course, I have to work with the rest of my family who handle other parts of the agency. Again, I’m not complaining, but they can drive a person bonkers.

Like my kid brother, Richard. He’s the head of D. I.’s Research and IT Department. He’s always giving me some new fangled piece of equipment no bigger than a matchbox at the last minute. Then he gets huffy because I can’t make it work. I mean, I’m chasing down murderers in the middle of a San Francisco winter storm and it’s my fault the stupid scanner doesn’t work. Something about how I should have read the instructions.

Of course, there’s the blueblood half of the mix, CEO and mother, Lila Hamilton Alvarez. She’s one cool, blonde goddess and serious fashionista. The woman who gave birth to me has never had a bad hair day in her life. She can also chill a bottle of chardonnay at a single glance, never breaking stride in her Christian Louboutin pumps. It’s a lot to live up to.

On another note, Mom tends to send me out on jobs no other self-respecting gumshoe would take. She has this guilt thing down to a science. But God forbid I should be wearing navy blue with black. Then she’ll tell me to stop chasing the perp and go change clothes. L. H. Alvarez has her priorities. Always.

And last, but never least is Tío, my love bucket of an uncle. Everyone should have a Tío in their lives. A retired chef, he gives unconditional love while serving up the best chimichangas in the world. And his Christmas cookies are to die for.

Whoops! Badly phrased. Because that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing in my latest adventure, The CEO Came DOA. And really, all I’d like to do is concentrate on my own Christmas wedding. Ho, ho, ho.

The CEO Came DOA,
Someone is trying to sabotage the Initial Public Offering of a small Silicon Valley start-up, and Lee Alvarez is hired to find the culprit. Meanwhile, the first Alvarez grandchild is about to be born while Lee is planning her very own Christmas wedding; or rather letting her mother plan it. Lee finds the CEO hanging by the neck in his boardroom wearing nothing but baby blue boxer shorts. His apparent suicide becomes murder. But who? Business partners? Lovers? Famous rock star ex-wife? Bodies start piling up just in time for Christmas. Ho, ho, ho.

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