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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THE PINK VICTORIAN BY AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON

Shortly after moving into our current home nearly twenty years ago, my husband and I took a walk around our neighborhood. We came across an old Victorian house, built in 1871, that was undergoing a massive renovation. It appeared the house had sustained major fire damage.

I’ve always loved Victorian architecture. So over the course of the next few months, I watched as the house transformed from a dilapidated mess to a magnificent homage to the period from which it came. The owners obviously spared no expense as they brought that house back to life.

For years I admired that house from the outside. A few years ago the owners hosted a holiday fundraiser for one of the local private schools, and I was lucky enough to see the inside of the carriage house they had restored into a three-car garage and loft. (That carriage house is larger than my entire home!) However, I never had a chance to see the inside of the pink Victorian until recently.

The house is now for sale; pictures are posted online, along with a description. There are eight bedrooms and three bathrooms in this 5,000 square foot home. The house not only has mahogany floors throughout, the wrap-around porches are also mahogany. (Remember I said they spared no expense in the renovation?) There’s a butler’s pantry, leaded glass windows, a marble(!) driveway, an in-ground heated pool, even a Koi pond. The iron fence that surrounds the grounds was originally from the Burry Biscuit Factory and was restored for the property. Along with all this, there are countless modern amenities, including heated floors!

Authors often get their inspiration from people, places, and events in their own lives. That pink Victorian, coupled with a relative’s struggles to get pregnant and a scandal involving a Virginia in vitro specialist, became my inspiration for Finding Hope, originally published under my Emma Carlyle pen name.

Finding Hope, which was a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist, is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a specific genre category. It’s one part romance, one part women’s fiction, and one part mystery.

Finding Hope
Hope Morgan was always the good girl, doing what her conservative parents expected: she gave up her dream of going to college, became a secretary right out of high school, and married the boy next door. When Hope is suddenly widowed, she finds the courage to pursue her own dreams. Twelve years later, after working full-time and going to school at night, she obtains her degree and is offered a position at a prestigious architectural firm.

That’s when her long-exiled libido decides to resurface, and Hope finds herself falling head-over-heels for Ben Schaffer, her married boss. What Hope doesn’t realize is that Ben’s marriage is less than ideal. Within days of Hope starting her new job, Ben’s wife walks out on him and their three-year-old triplets–the same day the nanny lands in the hospital. When Ben can’t find a last-minute replacement, Hope agrees to step in as a temporary nanny–not the best decision she’s ever made, given her raging hormones.

Ben is fighting a battle with his own hormones, but an office romance is the last thing he needs or wants. However, he and Hope are no match for three very determined three-year-olds on a mission to find a happy ending.

Buy Links
Nook 
Kobo 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JUDY ALTER

Judy Alter is the author of the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, and the Oak Grove Mysteries. Her fiction and nonfiction about women of the American West has won numerous awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Writers of America.

Judy’s love of cooking led her to write a memoir/cookbook, Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books, complete with family pictures and recipes.


Now retired, she was for years the director of a small academic press. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of seven and lives—and cooks—in a cottage in Fort Worth, Texas with her Bordoodle, Sophie. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website and blog

Following Mom in the Kitchen—or Gram in the Café

Like Kate, café owner at the center of The Blue Plate Mysteries, I learned to cook as a young child by following my mom in the kitchen. She let me make a mess of her kitchen because she knew that was how I’d learn. She let me follow recipes on my own, with the result I once added nine tsp. of baking soda to a cake. I had followed the recipe carefully but wasn’t smart enough to recognize an impossible typo. Mom taught me to entertain, to clean up the kitchen as I went (a sanity-saving lesson), and to love being in the kitchen, cooking, experimenting with tastes and textures.

Kate followed her beloved Gram in the café kitchen from her early years.  Gram cooked the down-home food just right for a café in a small East Texas town—chicken-fried steak, fried chicken, fried catfish, meatloaf, lots of grits, lots of greens, meringue pies. Kate learned early to fix those things. But she also learned the “tricks” of cooking—put chunks of peeled potato in a dish that’s too salty, add sugar not salt to water when you boil corn, add a bit of vinegar to boiling water for hard-boiled eggs, add a pinch of sugar to “finish” tomato-based dishes like spaghetti sauce, rinse a pan with cold water before putting food in it, always start boiling potatoes in cold water.

When Kate finished high school and headed for Dallas and the life of a legal assistant and single girl, she took her love of cooking with her. She moved from down-home to gourmet, growing her own herbs in a pot garden and achieving success with such complicated dishes as Coquille St. Jacques and Steak Diane. When Gram’s sudden death (or was it murder?) calls her back to the town of her childhood and to the café, Kate revives the basic dishes Gram taught her. She can make sticky buns, and meatloaf with the best of them. At her twin sister’s urging, she even teaches cooking classes to the local ladies—Beef Wellington, chicken piccata, chicken enchiladas, quail (all those hunters in town), and shepherd’s pie. But she doesn’t serve those things at the café—she sticks to the recipes she learned from Gram.

A typical special on the chalkboard at the Blue Plate Café may feature meatloaf, Reva’s asparagus, and Louella’s rice. (Note the family connection of many recipes—says something about the café).

Gram’s Meatloaf
1-1/2 lbs. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped fine (Kate substitutes chopped celery)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
18 saltine crackers, crushed
16 oz. tomato sauce

Mix well and put into loaf pan. Optional: top with an additional 8 oz. of tomato sauce.

Bake at 350° for one hour. Check and possibly cook for another 15 to 30 minutes.

Reva’s asparagus

2 cup asparagus (Gram used canned, but you may use one bunch of fresh, trimmed and lightly steamed.)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 T. lemon juice
Buttered breadcrumbs

Arrange asparagus in a single layer in a small rectangular baking dish. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and lemon juice and pour over asparagus. Top with breadcrumbs and bake until topping is brown and dish is heated through.

Louella’s rice

1 cup Minute Rice
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 can cream of celery soup
4 oz. can chopped chilies

Mix and bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes.

All Blue Plate Café Mysteries include a selection of recipes.

Murder at the Blue Plate Café
Small towns are supposed to be idyllic and peaceful, but when Kate Chambers returns to her hometown of Wheeler, Texas, she soon learns it is not the comfortable place it was when she grew up. First there’s Gram’s sudden death, which leaves her suspicious, and then the death of her married sister’s lover. Kate runs Gram’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Café, but she must defend her sister against a murder charge, solve the murders to keep her business open, and figure out where the café’s profits are going. Even Kate begins to wonder about the twin sister she has a love-hate relationship with. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.

Monday, May 22, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MAKE A MOP DOLL

Can dolls kill? If you’re an aficionado of horror books and movies, you’ll probably say they can. But dolls are inanimate objects without minds of their own. Humans kill, but in Death By Killer Mop Doll, the dolls I’ve created for a new television show become a killer’s props. Pity my poor mop dolls. They took quite a beating before I figured out whodunit. If you’d like to make a mop doll of your own, they’re quite easy and require no special crafting skills. Anyone who can use a pair of scissors, some tacky glue, and a glue gun, can make a mop doll. Here’s how:

Basic Mop Doll Directions

Materials:
24 oz. mop head (available in the cleaning section of most hardware stores, discount centers, and supermarkets), 4” Dylite® (smooth craft foam) ball, 5” x 5” natural muslin, wooden craft stick, 3/16” black half-round beads, rubber bands, tacky glue, glue gun (optional), blush or pink powdered chalk, 1/4 yd. 3/8” wide ribbon, 1/2 yd. cotton or cotton blend fabric, 1-1/4 yd. 1-1/2” gathered lace, desired lace or ribbon embellishments for neck edge, needle and thread, 8” straw doll’s hat.

 (NOTE: All gluing can be done with either tacky glue or a glue gun except for attaching the muslin to the Dylite® ball and gluing the dress. These steps must be done with tacky glue.)

1. Cut a 4-3/4” diameter circle from muslin for the face. Snip 1/4” cuts around the perimeter of the muslin circle. Using tacky glue, glue the muslin to the front of the Dylite® ball, smoothing out any wrinkles.

2. Poke a hole in the bottom of the Dylite® ball directly under the muslin face. Glue the craft stick into the ball, allowing approximately 3-1/2” of the stick to extend.
3. Spread the mop apart on a table. Randomly pull 26 strands from the mop. Set strands aside. 
4. With the bottom of the doll head adjacent to the top of the mop, glue the craft stick centered over the mop tape. 
5. Glue several strands of mop closest to the head down over the craft stick and mop tape to conceal them. Flip the doll over and repeat the previous step to conceal the mop tape on the reverse side. Wrap one of the mop strands you set aside around the doll’s neck, gluing in place.
6.. At both the left and right sides of the doll, take the top 18 mop strands. Trim 3” from length, saving trimmed pieces to use for hair. Braid strands for arms, securing each wrist with a rubber band. Glue ribbon around wrists to cover rubber bands.
7. Tie the body together under the arms with one mop strand to form a waist. Trim ends even with bottom of mop.

8. Cut remaining mop strands into 3” lengths. Run a line of glue around the edge of the muslin for hairline. Fold strands in half, gluing folded edge to the muslin. Run a second line of glue in front of the hairline. Glue a second row of folded strands in front of the first row. Place the doll face down. Working in even horizontal rows from the base of the neck to the top of the head, continue gluing hair in place.

9. Glue beads in place for eyes.

10. Use blush or chalk to color cheeks.

11. To make the dress, press under short edges of fabric 1/2” twice and glue in place.  Glue gathered lace to right side of front bottom edge of fabric.

12. Press under remaining long edge of fabric. Run a gathering stitch along this edge. Gather fabric and tie under arms at center back of doll.

13. Glue lace and/or ribbon embellishment under neck.

14. Glue hat to doll’s head.

Death By Killer Mop Doll
Overdue bills and constant mother vs. mother-in-law battles at home are bad enough. But crafts editor Anastasia Pollack's stress level is maxed out when she and her fellow American Woman editors get roped into unpaid gigs for a revamped morning TV show. Before the glue is dry on Anastasia's mop dolls, morning TV turns crime drama when the studio is trashed and the producer is murdered. Former co-hosts Vince and Monica—sleazy D-list celebrities—stand out among a lengthy lineup of suspects, all furious over the show's new format. And Anastasia has no clue her snooping has landed her directly in the killer's unforgiving spotlight.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR NIKE N. CHILLEMI

Author Nike N. Chillemi writes detective stories with a clandestine twist, murder mysteries, and young adult romantic suspense. Today she sits down for an interview. Learn more about Nike and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
About six years ago, after a run of reading one Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Lee Child novel after another, I thought, writing this stuff could be fun. Of the three authors, my voice most resembles that of Robert Crais, only because my contemporary stories have a lot of wry humor, not to mention, quirky characters.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
One and a half years.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My first four historical murder mystery novels (of the post WWII era) were published by Desert Breeze both in ebook and paperback. They're now out of print and the rights have reverted back to me. I plan to republish. After writing those, I went indie publishing under my own publishing company, Crime Fictionista Press.

Where do you write?
At home, in my guest room/office.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence is golden.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Not much is drawn from my own life. I'm constantly making up scenarios…some pretty good, some awful. I write ideas down on any scrap of paper available and later I enter them into a computer file. I do interject into a story a bit from my life, or something I have observed where it will work.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Always a fictional town. Years ago, I read a murder mystery set in NYC in which the heroine hopped onto a city bus on Fifth Avenue and went uptown. Well, Fifth Avenue is one-way, downtown. So, it's impossible the bus could've gone uptown. That ruined the story for me and I've never forgotten it.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Ronnie, the heroine in my Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels/Dawson Hughes trilogy has a hair temper and a quirky sense of humor.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
The Last Detective by Robert Crais. It has the best Vietnam War flash-back  I've ever read. I could not have written it.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Whiny, helpless heroines, unless they're really funny.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? 
My Bible, Pierce Brosnan, and a fully equipped RV camper.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Ocean or mountains?
Mostly ocean, but mountains are good, too.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Either. I live in the best of both, Jacksonville. It has downtown and within its borders, pure country where the oak trees are heavy with Spanish moss.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I want to finish the YA romantic suspense I'm working on, That Special One. Then there's another detective trilogy with a clandestine spin in the works.

Harmful Intent
Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels' family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect.

Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted.

Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he's not so sure at first, he's on the meddling New York PI's side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR LANE McFARLAND ON SCOTLAND AS HISTORICAL INSPIRATION

Northam Castle, Northumberland, England
photo by Karen V. Bryan
Bestselling author Lane McFarland writes historical romance, spanning the early Middle Ages through the American Civil War. While her books are fiction, each one is based on historical facts, and you will often see known figures such as William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, or The Red Comyn make guest appearances. Learn more about Lane and her books at her website. 

Historical Inspirations
Throwing my imagination into years gone by, researching dark periods of strife and violence, justice and quests for freedom, and dreaming of what it may have been like to live and survive during these hostile periods have been the most fascinating aspects of writing historical romance.

My new series, The Turnberry Legacy, is based on Scotland’s fascinating history in the early fourteenth century.

The death of Alexander III in 1286, followed by the demise of Queen Margaret in 1290, became a time of consternation for Scotland. Labeled as The Great Cause, a fight for the Scottish throne ensued between two powerful men, John Balliol and Robert de Bruce. Unable to agree on a successor, Scottish nobles requested the help of England’s King Edward I. The king and his vast army arrived at Norham Castle and agreed to settle the dispute under the condition of the Scot’s pledge to him as their feudal overlord.

Shrewdly, the Scots explained something of this magnitude would have to be the decision of the newly appointed king. Edward spent over a year arbitrating between 13 claimants for the throne. But before he would decree judgment, he forced all contenders to accept him as overlord of Scotland. Some say John Balliol appeared the easiest to manipulate so Edward ruled in his favor and appointed him as King of Scotland in November 1292.

The English king controlled Balliol, earning Scotland’s king the title of Toom Tabard or empty coat. Disgusted, Scottish nobles ousted Balliol and replaced him with a council made up of a dozen men who entered a treaty with France, the Auld Alliance, that united the Scottish and French kings, but infuriated King Edward.

As a result, Edward retaliated, and the Battle of Dunbar ensued in April 1296. The English overpowered the Scots and afterwards, the King of England had Balliol stripped of his power and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Many skirmishes followed the Scottish defeat. In 1298, Robert de Bruce, one of country’s most famous warriors, emerged as the Guardian of Scotland. During his reign, he led rebels bent on freedom from England’s tyranny and preserving their way of life, ultimately regaining the country’s independence.

Isn’t history fascinating?

The Turnberry Legacy Series
At the turn of the fourteenth century, danger abounds with Scotland’s leadership in flux. Amidst rumors of King Edward reinstating John Balliol to the throne, Robert the Bruce commands his most trusted men to resurrect The Turnberry Bond, a pact specifying loyal Scots and Irish nobles band together in resistance against all adversaries.

Follow the rebel warriors fighting for the rightful king of Scotland and their struggle with honor and love as their lives become intertwined with the brave women who challenge them.

To Support a King
Book One of The Turnberry Legacy series

Plagued by atrocities he committed against innocent victims while pursuing his father’s killers, Laird Mangus MacAndrew pledged to defend and provide for his clan. But his resolve is tested when two of his ships are attacked and his crews massacred. Desperate to fulfill his obligation to protect the clan, Mangus agrees to help reinstate The Turnberry Bond. His mission—garner support for the Bruce and avenge the deaths of his men.

The MacAndrew clan provides Catriona Butler something her Irish home could not, a safe haven. When she receives a missive her brother is being imprisoned and will be executed unless acceptable éraic can be obtained, she must return to her homeland.

Mangus agrees to take Catriona to Ireland and vows she will not become a distraction, but he longs to be near her. Catriona witnesses Mangus’s fierce anger and grows distrustful. After a life of suffering her father’s vicious temper, she is skeptical of anyone with a penchant for violence. She attempts to keep her distance, but her traitorous heart pulls her in Mangus’s direction.

With the fate of the kingdom on his shoulders, will Mangus reunite the men of The Turnberry Bond? Can he pursue vengeance against his enemies without taking more innocent lives? And can Catriona free her brother while staying true to her heart?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

COMPUTER PRIVACY

Cyberdyke is a computer professional from the Pacific Northwest. She has worked for companies such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and McAfee. As a child, she wasn't finding any books that appealed to her, so she began writing her own stories. Today she joins us to share some important computer safety advice. Learn more about her and her writing at her website. 

Protecting Your Browser History: Why and How
By CD Cyberdyke Savage

Many of us are not aware, as we interact with the Internet, that we are leaving a trail or history of where we’ve been. Each time you type something into your open search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Safari, etc.), it is saved into your browser. To view where you have traveled on the Internet, click the ‘History’ button on your browser. Things you might find there: that embarrassing medical condition you’ve contracted and have been researching, the naughty anniversary gift you purchased for your spouse, or that unknown word you heard on TV. Who knew it was sexual bondage? All of that, and so much more, make up our browser history.

Why all this matters: in April of 2017, the US Congress, decided to allow Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) such as Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, etc., to sell our browsing history. This is a huge blow to privacy. Anyone can now have access to what you do on or with the Internet if they are willing to pay.

We shouldn’t really be surprised that these companies are salivating to make money off our privacy/data. After all, Facebook and Google have been doing it for years.

Here’s what I recommend you do to protect yourself; stop using Google. They know too much as it is. Follow the instructions in this story to find out what Google knows about you and to delete that information.

Use DuckDuckGo as your search engine. They don’t track you, nor do they keep any of your history. Their search results are just as extensive as Google.

Use Brave as your browser. Unlike Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc., they don’t track you. TIP: It's more secure not to save and reopen tabs when opening your browser. (I receive no financial benefit in recommending either of these companies)

Both of these options are available for Androids, iPhones, Mac, and Windows. On the iPhone, Safari is the default browser and can’t be deleted. Access ‘Settings,’ turn off ‘Cellular Data/Wifi’ for Safari, and it will stop accessing the Internet.


Being smarter about the security of digital online technology should be a part of everyday life, especially now that we are so dependent on our devices. To learn more about how to do this, click here.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHOCOLATE CHERRY ALMOND CAKE

Everyone loves home-baked desserts, but many people don’t have the time to make them. All that measuring and mixing is time-consuming and usually winds up making a mess that then requires added clean-up time. You shouldn’t feel guilty about using a cake mix when you’re pressed for time. However, by adding a few extra ingredients, you can create something that moves your basic cake mix to the next level.

Semi-Homemade Chocolate Cherry Almond Cake

Ingredients:
One box chocolate cake mix*
Additional ingredients as noted on cake mix box*
1/2-teaspoon almond extract
2 cups frozen dark sweet cherries, quartered
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4-teaspoon vanilla
1-2 T. milk
1/4-cup almond slivers

*I used Pillsbury’s Purely Simple cake mix. It contains no preservatives or artificial flavors. Basically, what they’ve done is pre-mixed the dry ingredients for you. You add the wet ingredients. In this case, a stick of butter, a cup of milk, and three eggs.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Prepare cake batter following mix directions, adding almond extract with your wet ingredients.

Fold in cherries and white chocolate chips.

Pour into bundt pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick poked into center of cake comes out clean. Cool on wire rack 10-15 minutes. Remove cake from pan and allow to cool completely.

Mix confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and one tablespoon of milk. Stir in additional milk one teaspoon at a time until mixture is the proper consistency for drizzling. Drizzle over top of cake. Sprinkle with almonds.