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, December 9, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CINDY PROCTER-KING

Cindy Procter-King writes romantic comedy, small-town romance, and a new genre she like to call “Sassy Suspense,” a mix of mystery and suspense with a humorous tone. Today she sits for an interview. Learn more about Cindy at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve written in one form or another for most of my life, but I didn’t try writing novels until my late twenties, when I was pregnant with my first child and just working part-time. It was originally my husband’s idea. A friend of his had a wife with a huge stack of romance novels, and if only I could whip off one of those, we’d be sitting on a gold mine! That’s not quite the way it worked out. ;)

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Too long to really count! At least a decade. This was before Indie publishing, when you needed an agent or an editor to take a chance on you. I just couldn’t seem to hit the right timing. I knew it was just a matter of TPT, a little mantra I came up with: “Talent, Persistence, and Timing.” But my timing sucked! I began epublishing before the Kindle came along and changed the industry. So I contracted with a number of “micro” publishers both as Cindy and under a pen name. Many of those publishers or lines are now defunct, like Amber Quill Press and Ellora’s Cave, and also the romance and women’s fiction line of library hardcover books formerly known as Five Star Expressions. I also sold to Red Sage Publishing under a pen name and published with Samhain before returning to my roots as Cindy, getting back the rights I could and venturing into the world of Indie publishing.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I come from a background of “traditional” epublishing and “traditional” small-press publishing, and now I’m indie publishing, so I guess I’m sort of a hybrid. Considering I never sold to a major publisher, in a way I have always been “independently” published. The traditional houses that bought my work were independent publishers in themselves, not part of a big conglomerate. So it depends on how you look at it.

Where do you write?
I have an office in the room that was our master bedroom before we put on an addition and renovated the old bedrooms. We banged out a wall between two small rooms and created a larger master bedroom. That left the old master bedroom empty. The old master bedroom had pine wall paneling, and I had a lot of pictures on the walls. When we took down the pictures, you could see the pine had faded and it occurred to us that the previous owner had put up the pine shortly before selling to us. We took down the pine, expecting to find bare studs underneath. Instead, we found more painted wood paneling with dozens, and I mean dozens, of hearts drawn all over the walls, with initials inside of them. The initials of the couple from whom we’d bought the house. Yes, I intend to put that in a story some day. But that is my writing office. We put up drywall, but the spirit of those hand-drawn hearts stays with me.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Golden!

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I draw from tidbits of real life, inspiration or idea germs, but the characters are real people in my mind. When I first began writing novels, the advice was to “write what you know.” So I wrote a book set in a tiny forestry community that was based on a town we lived in for five years (Where She Belongs, which includes a scene of the hero getting treed by a bear, which really happened to my husband), and I wrote a romantic comedy about a klutz with a heart of gold (Head Over Heels, in which there is a mountain-biking scene based on a real life experience, and I am one of the klutziest people I know). But I can assure you I’ve never kidnapped someone (Borrowing Alex) or tossed piles of underwear on a police detective’s desk (Deceiving Derek) or charged into my boss’s office to discover him in the “middle of things,” shall we say, with a girlfriend (Picture Imperfect).

Describe your process for naming your character?
A lot of times the character names just pop into my head when I visualize them. And I can’t change them. This happened with Ursula Scott (Picture Imperfect) and Adam Wright (Where She Belongs). I tried changing Ursula’s name, because I thought it might remind people of Phoebe’s twin sister’s name on the old Friends TV show, or isn’t there a cartoon Ursula who’s evil? Why would I want to name my character Ursula? But no matter what other name I tried, it wouldn’t stick. She was Ursula, and that was that.

Same with Adam Wright. Once I realized his name pretty much says “a damn right,” I tried hard to change his last name, but nothing fit. I can get the same way with settings. I was advised many times not to set my books in Canada, because that made them hard to sell to American publishers. So about half my books remain set in Canada and about half in the States, depending on the story and characters.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Both. If it’s a big city, then I go with a real place, but if it’s a small town then it’s fictional. I’ve never written a fictional big city.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I prefer not to label my characters as quirky because then it makes them sound weird.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m weird.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I can’t name a specific book, because it wouldn’t be “my” book. I admire a lot of different writers, literary, mainstream, and genre. I am extremely fond of Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Kristan Higgans, but I recently read Girl on a Train and thought it was very well done. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood is probably my favorite book read this year.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
That my brother-in-law hadn’t died at 25. How I would have loved to see him get married and have kids. He was my husband’s best friend and older brother. I often wonder how many kids he might have had. Would he and my husband have remained close? Would we be having him and his wife over for dinner this weekend?

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
When I go into a store and know more about the products being sold than the person who’s trying to sell them. So frustrating!

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
A microwave. Popcorn. Butter.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I once sat around for several weeks with my hands in freezing water cutting fins off baby fish for ID purposes. Does that count? I worked in a prison, but it was a friendly enough place and the guards were protective of me.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Right now The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. She is my fav author. Cat’s Eye, another of hers, is a favorite.

Ocean or mountains?
Mountains and lakes.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Somewhere in between.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I need to start moving my butt toward writing series! Series are all the rage in Indie publishing. I have a few series started but need to complete a couple before starting another.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I have a 15-year-old beagle named Allie McBeagle (after Ally McBeal). She’s my boon companion, and, man, it’s gonna be tough when she leaves this earth. She’s a great brainstorming partner!

Picture Imperfect
Just when she thought she had her life on autofocus...

Photographer Ursula Scott is six short months from buying her boss's studio and helping her family knock down a massive debt. She can put up with his hairball antics for that long, right?

Right?

But, oh, he makes life difficult. She can barely restrain herself when he hogs credit for her assignments, and now half-naked weirdos are responding to his ad for her first magazine photo spread. On top of that, someone is sabotaging the studio. Worse, she discovers her sexy apprentice is a former cop practicing his newbie PI skills on the case—and she's a suspect!

Suddenly, Ursula's dreams and hard work seem about to go up in smoke. In more ways than one.

Well, not on her watch.

When Gabe McKenzie moves home following the shooting that kyboshed his career, he doesn't expect to get sucked into finding the culprit wreaking havoc at his uncle's photography studio. He certainly doesn't expect to fall for Ursula Scott, a long-legged brunette with a definite motive and a desire to play Nancy Drew. Even as he clears her, the sabotage escalates into a bizarre stalking, placing Ursula...and Gabe's hopes for their future...in danger.

If only he can convince her to stop snooping around and let him do his job as a PI, before an unknown menace threatens not only her dreams—but her life.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

#TRAVEL BACK TO THE GOLD RUSH WITH GUEST AUTHOR LINDA McLAUGHLIN

Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history, so it’s only natural that she sets most of her books in the past. Learn more about her and those books at her website

I’m thrilled about my latest release, Lily and the Gambler, a Western romance set in the California Gold Country, included in Romance Super Bundle IV: Endless Love.

My husband and I toured the area twice some years ago and I fell in love with it. Gold Country is best enjoyed by driving State Highway 49. We started at the southern end, in Mariposa, and drove north to Sacramento, and then Grass Valley and Nevada City, where my book is set in September 1868. I recall scribbling descriptions of the scenery as we drove along.

We made the trip twice, first strictly as a vacation, though I kept thinking how I’d like to set a story in the area. The second was a research trip for me, if not for my DH. At one point, he threatened to divorce me if I dragged him through one more mining museum!

A lot of the old Victorian homes have been turned into bed and breakfasts, and we took advantage of that to stay in some lovely old homes.

Interesting stops along the way include:

Sonora, a lovely little town that hosts the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. For the kid in all of us.

Columbia State Historic Park, the best preserved Gold Rush town.

Angels Camp, where Mark Twain heard a story on which he based his short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."

Placerville, formerly nicknamed Hangtown for the zeal of its law enforcement.

And my favorite, Grass Valley, a charming town with the attraction of having the wonderful Empire Mine State Historic Park, a fascinating glimpse into the lives of 19th century miners.

If you’re up this way, do take a side trip to Sacramento, the state capital, with its charming Old Sacramento historic area, and the amazing California State Railroad Museum. This is one of my all-time favorite museums. It was fun to climb aboard the old trains and imagine a different time.

Grass Valley was especially interesting to me because of the large Cornish population in the 19th century. This area had deep gold veins that couldn’t be panned. The Cornish miners were encouraged to come because of their experience in the tin mines of Cornwall, which were petering out. To this day, the Cornish pasty is a local treat, and the city still celebrates a Cornish Christmas.

Lily and the Gambler
Respectability is in the eye of the beholder, or so Lily hopes. After her lover’s death she pretends to be his widow and travels to California to marry a mine owner. Then she meets King Callaway, a charming gambler. King knows he’s found his Queen of Hearts. But can he convince her to take a chance on a foot-loose card sharp? Only Lady Luck knows for sure...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

GUEST AUTHOR NUPUR TUSTIN

A former journalist, Nupur Tustin relies upon a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in English to orchestrate fictional mayhem. Childhood piano lessons and a 1903 Weber Upright share equal blame for her musical works. Learn more about Nupur and her books at her website and blog.

The Diligent Composer

I did, of course, have talent. With that and great diligence I progressed.—Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
 
It was on Mother's Day 2012 that I decided to write a mystery series about a composer. I had just become a mother, and, like Fanny Mendelssohn, discovered I had little time to spare for the piano. Reading and writing about music would, I hoped, make up for that.

Which composer, was the big question. Neither Beethoven nor Mozart seemed suitable.

A good detective must be approachable, a shrewd observer of men and manners, and discreet enough to inspire confidence in those who seek his help. Plagued with deafness and many other illnesses, Beethoven had an irascible, volatile temperament that ruled him out. And Mozart's observations tend to be filtered through the self, confined only to what pertains to him.

Either Bach or Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang's father, would have served. But it was Haydn who appealed to my imagination, whose life resonated with me, and whose vision of himself, as a craftsman rather than a divinely inspired artist, accorded with my own.

Born to a simple wheelwright and his wife, Haydn lacked the advantages Mozart had. His father played and sang a little by ear, but neither parent had any formal musical training or the means to provide Haydn with one. It was a stroke of good fortune that took Haydn to Vienna as a choirboy at St. Stephen's. Although the practical instruction he received served him well, when it came to music theory and composition, Haydn was largely self-taught.

It took ten long years of grinding poverty before he received his first job as a Kapellmeister—Director of Music. By the time my novel opens in 1766, he was employed by the Esterházys, wealthiest magnates in the Habsburg Empire, and the imperial court newspaper was hailing him as the "darling of the nation." He would never look back.

But he never forgot his humble origins or the people who helped him—the impoverished friends in Vienna who offered him a space in their crowded attic or lent him money for coal or food. And he was ready to help anyone in need. His musicians approached him with their problems, and he frequently interceded on their behalf with his employer.

So, when a violinist disappears, and no one could care less, who better than Papa Haydn to take on the task of discovering the truth?

A Minor Deception, a Joseph Haydn Mystery

When his newly hired violinist disappears just weeks before the Empress's visit, Haydn is forced to confront a disturbing truth. . .

Kapellmeister Joseph Haydn would like nothing better than to show his principal violinist, Bartó Daboczi, the door. But with the Empress Maria Theresa’s visit scheduled in three weeks, Haydn can ill-afford to lose his surly virtuoso.

But when Bartó disappears—along with all the music composed for the imperial visit—the Kapellmeister is forced to don the role of Kapell-detective, or risk losing his job.

Before long Haydn's search uncovers pieces of a disturbing puzzle. Bartó, it appears, is more than just a petty thief—and more dangerous. And what seemed like a minor musical mishap could modulate into a major political catastrophe unless Haydn can find his missing virtuoso.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART 5


Is there anyone among us who doesn’t wish she had more hours in the day? We’re all constantly looking to save time so we have more time to do what we need to do or want to do. Today’s book suggestion is one that will help do just that. It makes a great gift for the busy working moms on your list or anyone else looking for timesaving dinner recipes and timesaving tips.

We'd Rather Be Writing
88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips

Have you ever wished you could find more time to do the things you want to do, rather than just doing the things you have to do? Most authors juggle day jobs and family responsibilities along with their writing. Because they need to find time to write, they look for ways to save time in other aspects of their lives.

Cooking often takes up a huge chunk of time. In We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips you'll find easy, nutritious recipes for meat, poultry, pasta, soup, stew, chili, and vegetarian meals. All of the recipes require a minimum of prep time, freeing you up to read, exercise, garden, craft, write, spend more time with family, or whatever.

Within the pages of We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips you'll be introduced to authors who write a wide range of fiction—everything from mystery to romance to speculative fiction to books for children, young adults, and new adults—and some who write nonfiction. Some of the authors write sweet; others write steamy. Some write cozy; others write tense thrillers.

Some are debut authors with only one published book; others are multi-published and have had long publishing careers. Some are New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors who may or may not be familiar to you, but being a bestselling author doesn't mean they still don't have to juggle their day job along with their writing.

The authors who contributed to this book are a rather creative and resourceful bunch when it comes to carving out time from their busy lives. So in addition to timesaving recipes, within the pages of this book you'll find timesaving and organizational tips for other aspects of your life. And if you happen to be a writer, you'll also find a plethora of great ideas to help you organize your writing life.

Authors who contributed to We'd Rather Be Writing: 88 Authors Share Timesaving Dinner Recipes and Other Tips include: Lisa Alber, Reggi Allder, Judy Alter, Krista Ames, Rose Anderson, Cori Lynn Arnold, Judy Baker, Beverley Bateman, Donnell Ann Bell, Paula Gail Benson, Kris Bock, Maureen Bonatch, Ava Bradley, Susan Breen, Lida Bushloper, Michelle Markey Butler, Ashlyn Chase, Judy Copek, Maya Corrigan, Mariposa Cruz, Melinda Curtis, Lesley A. Diehl, Conda V. Douglas, Nancy Eady, Helena Fairfax, Jennifer Faye, Flo Fitzpatrick, Kit Frazier, Shelley Freydont, Mariana Gabrielle, Rosie Genova, Marni Graff, Joanne Guidoccio, Margaret S. Hamilton, L.C. Hayden, Linda Gordon Hengerer, Heather Hiestand, R.Franklin James, Kathryn Jane, M.M. Jaye, Elizabeth John, Stacy Juba, Gemma Juliana, Carol Goodman Kaufman, Melissa Keir, Kay Kendall, A.R. Kennedy, Lynn Kinnaman, Marie Laval, B.V. Lawson, Claudia Lefeve, Alice Loweecey, Cynthia Luhrs, Sandra Masters, Lisa Q. Mathews, J.M. Maurer, Sandra McGregor, Kathy McIntosh, Claire A. Murray, Ann Myers, Tara Neale, Stacey Joy Netzel, Jayne Ormerod, Alice Orr, Laurel Peterson, Irene Peterson, Pepper Phillips, Caridad Pineiro, Kathryn Quick, Renée Reynolds, Josie Riviera, Elizabeth Rose, C.A. Rowland, Cindy Sample, Sharleen Scott, Terry Shames, Susan C. Shea, Judy Penz Sheluk, Joanna Campbell Slan, Karen Rose Smith, Lynette Sofras, Kaye Spencer, Skye Taylor, Lourdes Venard, Lea Wait, Regan Walker, Lois Winston, and Aubrey Wynne.


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Monday, December 5, 2016

KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART 4

If you’re an author, you might be in need of a holiday gift for your critique buddies or the gift exchange at your local writing group. If so, check out Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected, a writing book offers advice from a publishing insider who has been on both sides of the table.

Over the years Lois Winston has given workshops and talks to several thousand aspiring writers. As a literary agent, she’s listened to hundreds of pitches and read through tens of thousands of query letters and manuscript submissions. Being both a published author and a literary agent gives her a unique perspective on publishing. She knows what it’s like to be the writer whose only desire is to sell a novel, and she knows what it’s like to have to crush someone’s hopes with a rejection letter. It wasn’t until she started sending out those rejection letters that she began to have a better understanding of why so many writers receive them.
What she’s come to realize is that most manuscripts are rejected by agents and editors for one or more of ten basic reasons. Writers have control over some of these reasons but not all of them. This book will discuss these ten reasons and how writers can control more of their destiny by not falling prey to them.

Whether your goal is to be published by a legacy publishing house or you plan to self-publish, this book contains invaluable information about self-editing, grammar, punctuation, point of view, telling vs. showing, passive vs. active writing, dialogue, narrative, voice, style, hooks, query letters, and synopsis writing.

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Nook 
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Friday, December 2, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR MADELLE MORGAN

Growing up, Madelle Morgan enjoyed nineteen summers at a cottage in the District of Muskoka, Ontario, Canada, where lake shorelines are dotted with palatial properties owned by wealthy families and celebrities. Being neither rich nor famous, she worked briefly as a chambermaid at a Muskoka resort. She began her engineering career in Canada’s subarctic, which inspired her debut romantic suspense, Diamond Hunter. Learn more about Madelle and her books at her website/blog where she tweets and posts about writing, Hollywood, filmmaking, and the settings for her stories.

Madelle is giving away a “What Happens in Muskoka Stays in Muskoka” tank top (UK, US, and Canadian readers only) and five ebooks. Subscribe to her blog before midnight December 11 to enter the drawing.

Caught on Camera Blog Tour Wrap-up

Today I wrap up an exciting my first ever blog tour, two-weeks celebrating the launch of Caught on Camera, Hollywood in Muskoka, Book 1. The book, a New Adult, coming-of-age romantic comedy, is my second published novel.

Who hasn’t dreamed of a career in Hollywood? Chambermaid Rachel, a tall, skinny, twenty-two-year-old brunette with ugly glasses, has her heart set on becoming a camera operator and filming the Hollywood stars she idolizes.

Then she’s asked by the bride-to-be of a millionaire superhero actor to stand in for a missing bridesmaid because she fits the dress. A make-up artist transforms Rachel from plain to pretty. Suddenly Mickey, one of the groomsmen and a talent agent, is very interested.

Rachel discovers at a disastrous wedding photo shoot that being in front of a camera is not at all glamorous, and being behind the camera shooting celebrities is not what she expected. Mickey helps Rachel realize that she has a special talent for a different career in Hollywood, and that she belongs in his arms instead of behind a camera.

Caught on Camera also features Mopette, an adorable Maltese scamp crucial to the plot; a multitude of movie references for anyone who loves all things Hollywood; and a playlist features popular Canadian artists.

The other books in the series will describe how the groom’s Hollywood friends and siblings find true love while vacationing in Muskoka. Each book will explore a career such as screenwriter, producer, director, and stunt professional. Research into the professions that create movie magic is a pleasure because I absolutely love everything about filmmaking!

Caught on Camera
To achieve her dream of working on Hollywood film sets, star struck chambermaid Rachel Lehmann needs $35,000 for film school tuition by the end of the summer. When she’s asked to fill in for a missing bridesmaid at a movie star’s wedding and pretend to be the bride's cousin, it’s her big chance to secretly take photos of celebrities and sell them to the entertainment media! Then Mickey, one of the groomsmen, sweeps her off her feet.

Mickey McNichol, talent agent to the stars, believes everyone in show business is out for what they can get. When he falls hard for the bride’s "cousin", he thinks he’s finally met a beautiful woman he can trust. But if Rachel betrays the wedding party, Mickey will ensure she never works in Hollywood.

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE, PART 3

No matter where you fall along the political spectrum, you have to admit it’s been a divisive year. Couple that with the conflicts going on in the rest of the world, and it’s a wonder we all don’t crawl into bed, pull a blanket over our heads, and refuse to come out. Now think about how our children must feel.

If you have a a young child on your holiday shopping list, you might want to consider purchasing a copy of The Magic Paintbrush as a gift. Without being preachy, The Magic Paintbrush addresses the issue of differences, in this case, a kingdom that is all pink at war with a kingdom that is all blue for longer than anyone can remember—so long that no one even knows what started the feud. It takes two children from another land to point out to the rulers of both kingdoms how we're really all the same inside and the benefits to getting along.

Now if only people in the real world would do likewise…

When nine-year-old Jack and his seven-year-old sister Zoe are snowed in for days with nothing to do, their complaints land them in every guy’s worst nightmare—the kingdom of Vermilion, a land where everything is totally pink! At first Jack is mistaken for a spy from the neighboring kingdom of Cobalt, but Zoe convinces Queen Fuchsia that they’re from New Jersey and arrived by magic.

Queen Fuchsia needs a king, but all the available princes in Vermilion are either too short, too fat, too old, or too stupid. Jack and Zoe suggest she looks for a king in Cobalt, but Vermilion and Cobalt have been at war since long before anyone can remember. Jack and Zoe decide Vermilion and Cobalt need a Kitchen Table Mediation to settle their differences. So they set out on an adventure to bring peace to the warring kingdoms—and maybe along the way they just might find a king for the queen.

The Magic Paintbrush is suitable for children eight years of age and up to read on their own. Younger children will enjoy the story if it’s read to them. You can read an excerpt here

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