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.

Holiday Blog Hop Starting December 11th

Holiday Blog Hop

Blog Hop begins December 11th. Click on the graphic above for a schedule and list of giveaways, including a $60 Amazon gift card.

Monday, November 30, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY!

Author Lucy Maud Montgomery
Normally Mondays feature craft-centric blog posts, but I thought I’d change things up a bit today in order to wish Lucy Maud Montgomery a happy 141st birthday. Young girls for well over a hundred years now have Lucy to thank for many cherished hours spent reading about and bonding with Anne Shirley, the heroine she created in 1908 when she wrote Anne of Green Gables.

Anne is an eleven-year-old orphan mistakenly sent to live with the middle-age Cuthbert siblings after they requested a young boy to help them on their Prince Edward Island farm. Lucy based Anne and the story of her life on a similar event she remembered from her own childhood and infused the book with her many memories of growing up on Prince Edward Island.

You know a book has definitely stood the test of time when after 107 years children around the world are still reading it and both movies and television shows continue to be made from the book and its sequels. There have also been various stage adaptations over the years, include a musical.

Evelyn Nesbitt
More than 50 million copies of Anne of Green Gables have sold since the book was first published, and it’s been translated into 20 different languages. Anne of Green Gables became so popular that Lucy went on to write a series of sequels.

Here’s an interesting fact about Anne that I discovered—Montgomery based Anne’s looks on Evelyn Nesbitt. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Evelyn was the original Gibson girl. Her face and figure appeared nearly everywhere in the early part of the 20th century. Evelyn was America’s first celebrity, paving the way for the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. She was also indirectly responsible for what was called the Trial of the Century back in 1906 when her jealous millionaire husband Harry K. Thaw murdered her ex-lover, famed New York architect Stanford White.

Gibson Girl
It’s ironic that the scandalous Evelyn Nesbitt was the physical model for the sweet Anne Shirley, but as any author will tell you, when inspiration strikes, you run with it. Generations of young girls, myself included, are quite happy Evelyn had a hand in inspiring Lucy to create Anne.

Friday, November 27, 2015

HOLIDAY GIFTS FOR KIDS, COOKS, AND WRITERS

It’s that time of year again. Today is Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season. Have you been staring at your gift list, wracking your brains, trying to figure out what to give your nieces and nephews? Your sisters-in-law? Your son-in-law’s mother? The coworker whose name you drew in the Secret Santa gift exchange?

Think books! Here are a few suggestions that I can pretty much guarantee won’t be duplicated by someone else, and even better, you don't have to buck the Black Friday crowds. Pour yourself another cup of coffee and shop right from the comfort of your computer:

If you’ve got 6-10 year olds on your list, consider The Magic Paintbrush:

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.

Without being preachy, TheMagic 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 the benefits to getting along and how we're really all the same inside.


Who doesn’t love desserts? In Bake, Love, Write, an Amazon bestselling cookbook, 105 bestselling and award-winning authors present dessert recipes along with advice on love and writing:

What do most authors have in common, no matter what genre they write? They love desserts. Sweets sustain them through pending deadlines and take the sting out of crushing rejection letters and nasty reviews. They also often celebrate their successes—selling a book, winning a writing award, making a bestseller list, or receiving a fabulous review—with decadent indulgences. And when authors chat with each other, they often talk about their writing and their lives. Recipes. Writing. Relationships. In this cookbook 105 authors not only share their favorite recipes for fabulous cakes, pies, cookies, candy, and more, they also share the best advice they’ve ever received on love and writing.


Need a gift for someone always pressed for time? We’d Rather BeWriting is chockfull of quick and easy dinner recipes and tips for saving time:

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 this book 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. 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.


NOTE: A percentage of the profits from both cookbooks will be donated to NoKidHungry.org.

If you’re an author, you might be in need of a gift for your critique buddies or the gift exchange at your local writers group. Top TenReasons Your Novel is Rejected offers advice from a publishing insider:

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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS

Over the river and through the woods,

To grandmother's house we go;

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,

Through the white and drifted snow, O!
Over the river and through the woods,

Oh how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes, and bites the nose,

As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods,

To have a first-rate play;

Oh hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ling!"

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day, Hey!
Over the river and through the woods,

Trot fast my dapple gray!

Spring over the ground, like a hunting hound!

For this is Thanksgiving Day, Hey!

Over the river and through the woods,

And straight through the barnyard gate,

We seem to go extremely slow.

It is so hard to wait!
Over the river and through the woods,

Now grandmother's cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


To all those traveling today, safe journey!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JACKIE KING AND CRANBERRY-NUT #COOKIES

Jackie King spent many years in the corporate world and now writes full time. Her apartment in Tulsa, Oklahoma looks out onto Riverside Parkway, and just beyond the treetops she can see the Arkansas River. Her latest hobby is watching the changes in foliage and the nesting of Eagles. Learn more about Jackie and her books at her website and the Murderous Musings blog.

One of the great joys of writing is recycling a happy memory from my own life in a scene I create. Like most authors, I use personal experience to spin my fictional stories. For example, I drew from my own blissful memories of cookie baking to portray Grace Cassidy’s pleasure when she baked cookies for her guests in a B&B.

I suppose that I’d better add (tongue in cheek) that all of my murders so far have been vicarious. I have enjoyed murdering my ex-husband several times on paper. And for anyone, male or female, who has been dumped unceremoniously by a long-time spouse (31 years for me), I must say that this is a most therapeutic exercise.

The Bed and Breakfast mystery series I write has the word “corpse” in the title of each book. In Book one, Grace starts out as a somewhat spoiled, very naïve woman from a wealthy background. When everything she depends on in her life is gone, necessity forces her to evolve into a stronger, more resourceful woman. She finds she never really knew her authentic self before, and sets out on a journey to explore her own strengths and weaknesses. She develops her skills with each book while dealing with murder and mayhem.

In The Inconvenient Corpse Grace finds a dead body in her B&B room. Stranded with no money, she turns to inn-sitting (temporary help for owners needing a break) to support herself. In the midst of a murder investigation, she rediscovers the satisfaction of baking cookies. (See her newest recipe below.)

With one solved murder under her belt Grace continues changing from the lady-like people-pleaser she has always been into someone she likes better. In The Corpse Who Walked in the Door her son is accused of attempted murder and rape; and Trouble, her cat, finds a dead body in the bathtub. As if that isn’t enough, her ex-husband Charlie returns and wants to reconcile.

Grace’s newest adventure takes her back to her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In The Corspe and the Geezer Brigade Grace struggles through a quagmire of murder stemming from a 50-year-old agreement between her father and his buddies. She learns more than she ever wanted to know about her parents’ past and faces danger once again.

When dead bodies show up in Grace Cassidy’s life, she bakes cookies to relieve the stress. Like me, Grace’s specialty is chocolate chip-pecan cookies. However she also enjoys discovering new recipes. Below is her newest recipe, cranberry-macadamia nut cookies, the newest sensation at the B&B. She will bake a huge batch to serve on Thanksgiving.

Grace’s Cranberry-Nut Cookies

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 sticks butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. orange extract
2-1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
12 oz. pkg. white chocolate chips
1/2 cup macadamia nuts chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Mix butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and orange extract. Add in flour, baking soda, salt, white chocolate chips, nuts and dried cranberries.

Beat until mixed. Bake at 325 degrees for 13-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Grace and I wish everyone in cyberland a very happy Thanksgiving!

The Corpse and the Geezer Brigade
In the heady atmosphere of testosterone and too much booze, ten new fathers make a solemn pact that benefits those who live longest. As the day of reckoning approaches, the survivors are being murdered one by one. Grace Cassidy’s son is on the list. Can she solve the mystery in time to save his life?

Monday, November 23, 2015

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--A VISIT TO THE PRINCETON UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM WITH AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON

Gisant: Knight in Armor, c. 1500
Nestled on the campus of Princeton University is the Princeton University Art Museum, an absolute gem that houses an amazing collection of art from ancient times to the modern day, including works from the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
I’ve always been fascinated by medieval art. One of my favorite pieces in the museum’s collection is Knight in Armor, a Spanish gisant figure from the early 1500’s.
Gisant tombs (the word derives from the Old French verb “gesir,” meaning to lie horizontally) were a type of royal tomb that first became popular in the twelfth century. The figures were depicted as awaiting the Last Judgment, and no matter the age of the deceased when he or she died, the figure was always shown as thirty-three years of age, the same age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified.
What fascinates me most about this particular sculpture is the detail the artist was able to capture in the stone carving. I’ve seen many gisant figures in various museums, but I’ve never come across one as intricately carved as this one.

There are also some interesting anomalies regarding this particular figure. His gauntlets don’t match, and the animal that traditionally would be at his feet is missing. The mystery writer in me is certainly piqued by this and wonders who this unidentified nobleman was. Chances are, we’ll never know.

If you happen to find yourself in the Princeton, NJ area at some point, check out the Princeton University Art Museum. Admission is free.

Friday, November 20, 2015

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR EARL STAGGS

Today we’re joined by Earl Staggs, a two-time Derringer Award winner for Best Short Story of the Year. Earl previously worked as managing editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and is a past-president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Learn more about him and his books at his blog. earlstaggs@sbcglobal.net

Fact, Fiction and Legend

I love history, particularly when it’s about how people lived, loved, and died and what they did to earn a place in the archives of life. The facts are there, documented in stories handed down through generations or recorded by historians and writers.

But sometimes facts and truths foster legends and, once born, legends develop an enduring life of their own. Was there really a King Arthur or was he only a compilation of various myths and legends? Did George Washington really chop down that cherry tree, or is that only a legend created to teach children the importance of telling the truth?

How do we separate legend from truth? Fortunately, as a writer, I don’t have to. My job as a writer is to write an interesting and entertaining story even if I have to mix fact, fiction, and legend together.

As an example, I came across an interesting legend about Billy the Kid. According to the local lore in Hico, Texas, Billy wasn’t shot dead at the age of twenty-one by Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico as claimed in history books. The story in Hico is that Billy lived out his final years there and died in 1950, a month after his ninetieth birthday. I visited the museum devoted to him and stood on the exact spot where they say he dropped dead of a heart attack. 

I took their legend, added a few facts, blended in a large amount of fiction, and produced a short story titled “Where Billy Died.” 

Now, I don’t write westerns or historicals. I write contemporary mysteries. In this story, a modern day bounty hunter named Jack goes to Texas to bring back a young bail jumper named Billy Joe Raynor. Jack has no idea he's been tailed by the chief enforcer for a major mobster. Is it because Jack roughed up the mobster's brother, or because of something Billy Joe did before he skipped town? In trying to stay alive and do his job, Jack also has no idea he'll get tangled up in a legend of the Old West about another young outlaw named Billy which will save his life and fix his marriage problems back home. 

I’m proud of how “Where Billy Died” turned out and even prouder that it brought home a Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society as Best Story of the Year. It’s a long short story (9200 words) available as a 99 cent ebook.

Something strange happened as I wrote that story. The research I did for “Where Billy Died” sparked an interest in me. It occurred to me there were other stories from the past in which fact didn’t match legend and I began digging into them. That led me to write a series of articles called “History’s Rich With Mysteries.” For these articles, I put fiction aside and concentrated on separating fact from legend. Kevin Tipple was kind enough to invite me to post them on his blog site. 

The first article, "The Mystery of Billy the Kid", had to do with Billy the Kid and further research led me to uncover several truths which had been twisted into legends. For instance, I’d always thought Billy the Kid was left-handed. Not true, I found out. I discovered a few other things in the legend surrounding his life that were not true. 

Next, I wrote "Who Was Etta Place,", the girl who traveled with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Etta Place was not her real name and her entire life before and after she hooked up with Butch and Sundance is veiled in mystery.

After Etta, I took on Albert DeSalvo in, the man who confessed to being The Boston Strangler in 
“Albert DeSalvo – Was He Really the Boston Strangler?” Was he really the man who killed thirteen women in the Boston area? There are a number of reasons to believe he was not.

The next in turn was Frank James, Jesse’s brother, in "Frank--the Other James." A lot has been documented about Jesse but very little about Frank. He had a very interesting life.

In the most recent article, “She Cried For Help and No One Came,” I took a look at the horrific murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964. Legend and urban myth have always told us thirty-eight people watched her get stabbed to death and did nothing. That’s not the way it happened. 

More articles are planned for the future. 

Our world overflows with legends, and they’re often more provocative and interesting than what really happened. One legend, for example, offers that Butch Cassidy escaped his storied death in Bolivia and lived to a ripe old age back in the US. Another one proposes that John Wilkes Booth lived in Texas many years after that night at Ford’s Theater. 

Whether these and other legends are true or fanciful leaps from the facts, as a writer, I find them irresistible. To me, they’re tempting nuggets in the gold mine of history begging to be explored. I hope I live long enough to dig out the truth in many more of them. 

Where Billy Died
When Jack, a Philadelphia bounty hunter, goes to Texas to bring back a young bail jumper named Billy, he has no idea he's being trailed by the chief enforcer for a major mobster. Is it because Jack roughed up the mobster's brother, or is it because of what Billy did before he skipped town? In trying to stay alive and do his job, Jack also has no idea he'll get tangled up in a legend of the Old West that turns everything he knows on its ear.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

#TRAVEL TO PORTLAND, #MAINE WITH GUEST AUTHOR JESSIE CLEVER

In the second grade, Jessie Clever began a story about a duck and a lost ring. Two harrowing pages of wide ruled notebook paper later, the ring was found. And Jessie has been writing ever since. Armed with the firm belief that women in the Regency era could be truly awesome heroines, Jessie began telling their stories in her Spy Series, a thrilling ride in historical espionage that showcases human faults and triumphs and most importantly, love. Learn more about Jessie and her books at her website.  

What Happens in Portland, Maine…

When She Knows came about as I said a rocky goodbye to my 20s, and dove head first into the new responsibilities and headaches of my 30s. I found myself looking back on those carefree days of my 20s with longing only to adjust my view to the present, and wish for nothing to change.

But it got me thinking. And thinking often leads to a book—in this case, my first contemporary romance.

The story of Shannon Wynter, a twenty-something year old grappling with the pressures of work, family, and a love life (if you could even call it that!) could not have been told without the proper backdrop. That backdrop was the very city in which I played out my own crazy 20 something-year-old days: Portland, Maine.

Portland is the last cluster of civilization before Interstate 95 disappears up into the great unknown that is most of the state of Maine. People often say that once you’re past Portland, you’re in the wilderness. I was fortunate enough to go to school in Portland and land my first job there, leading to four incredible years in an incredible city.

Portland is not a big city, but it’s big enough to have all the sights and attractions you expect from a city: Theater, restaurants, and a hopping music scene, beautiful sights and historical districts. But while any city can boast a long list of tourist traps, Portland carries with it something else—the feeling of a small town in a metropolis.

When you travel into Portland, you can escape down to the waterfront and the Old Town. Once you’re there, you’ll forget that you’re in a city at all. You’ll forget the highway zipping by you in all directions and the industrial sector just over the water. It all falls away as the comforting spirit of Old Town surrounds you, wrapping you in its small village feel. With cobblestone streets, intriguing shops, and an array of restaurants, Old Town can almost be called quaint. But as the life oozes from between the old buildings, as it moves in waves through the pedestrian ways, it does not feel like a little village at all.

That is the enigmatic ways of Portland. The city that’s not quite a village, and the village with too much life to be just that. The divide between the two perfectly mirrors the conflict faced by Shannon Wynter in When She Knows, making Portland the perfect location for a little shake-up in an otherwise ordered life.


When She Knows
A Franconia Notch Trilogy, Book One

His latest problem is her newest assignment.

Shannon Wynter has it all figured it. Abandoned by her mother and left to care for her agoraphobic father, Shannon focuses on building her career as a journalist to the detriment of all else including her love life.

Ian Darke has his own problems. Battling past failures, Ian sets his eyes on launching a new factory for his father’s defense firm. But it’s the very father he failed that will do anything to sabotage Ian’s progress.

And when Shannon follows an anonymous tip that leads her to Ian’s factory door, the last thing she expects to discover is what she already knows.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

HOW TO AVOID TURKEY DAY DISASTERS

Tips to Avoid Thanksgiving Dinner Disasters

Thanksgiving is next Thursday. If you’re hosting the family dinner, you know there are all sorts of dinner disasters you worry about. Here are a few tips to deal with some of the more common ones.

Turkey didn’t defrost completely in time, or worse yet, you forgot to defrost it? No worries. Leave Tom in his plastic wrapper and submerge him in a sink filled with cold water--or use your cooler. Figure 30 minutes per pound if he’s completely frozen, less if partially frozen. Change the water at least once to keep it cold.

Undercooked poultry is a huge no-no. If your bird looks pink as you’re carving it, place those undercooked portions on a baking sheet and pop them back in the over to roast until the pink is completely gone.

Turkey has a tendency to dry out quickly after it’s carved. Keep it moist with a sprinkling of hot chicken broth.

No one likes lumpy gravy. Avoid the lumps by pouring the gravy through a mesh strainer.

Squeeze some lemon juice into your cranberry sauce if it’s too sweet. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AFTERNOON TEA WITH GUEST AUTHOR JUDY ALTER

Multi award-winning author Judy Alter writes the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series, the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, and The Oak Grove Mysteries. She returns to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers today to talk about a very unique and luxurious form of travel she discovered. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website and her Judy’s Stew and Potluck with Judy blogs.

Afternoon Tea
In Murder at Peacock Mansion, the eccentric recluse who feels threatened delights in serving afternoon tea. It turns out to be what Americans generally call “high tea,” and Kate looks forward to those cucumber and salmon sandwiches, as well as the scones and tiny cakes. But at best, according to the British, who gave us the tradition, it’s not high tea—it’s either afternoon tea or low tea.

Traditionally in 19th century Britain, high tea was served on a high table and was a substantial meal designed to feed the working class. It was heavy with meat and fish, crumpets, and potato and onion cakes, perhaps baked beans or a cheese casserole.

Afternoon or low tea, on the other hand, didn’t come about until the mid-1800s when kerosene lamps had made it easier for Brits to have their dinner as late as eight or nine. Supposedly, the Duchess of Bedford complained of feeling light-headed from hunger in the late afternoons. She requested small cakes and pastries be sent to her room. Then she began to share her afternoon repast with other high society friends, and the custom became fashionable. Eventually it spread beyond high society to other socio-economic populations.

A typical afternoon tea features light foods designed to appeal to ladies of leisure. There are often scones, sort of the quick bread equivalent of American biscuits but made without yeast. They come plain or in a variety of flavors such as cinnamon/raisin, cheddar/herb, and gingerbread and are often served with Devonshire or clotted cream, a thick cream made by heating whole cream cow’s milk, then letting the cream rise slowly to the top as the mixture cools. As it does so, clots or clumps form. In England it’s a great luxury, although you don’t hear much about it in the U.S. Scones however have become quite popular in this country.

A second course would be finger sandwiches—small, crustless sandwiches made to be eaten in two or three bites. They may be cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon (Kate Chambers’ favorites in Murder at Peacock Mansion.) Chicken, tuna, egg or shrimp salad may be used as sandwich fillings as well as pimiento cheese—let your imagination run wild.

Some typical sandwich directions:

Cucumber sandwiches – spread one slice white bread with butter, cream cheese or mayonnaise, and thinly sliced peeled cucumber. Top with second piece of bread. Cut off crusts, and slice diagonally twice to make four triangular sandwiches.

Egg spread sandwiches – again, use white bread. Mix two finely chopped hard-boiled eggs with one Tbsp. mayo, one Tbsp. plain yogurt, one Tbsp. Dijon, one tsp. dried dill, one tsp. chopped parsley. Assemble sandwich as above for cucumber sandwiches.

Curried chicken salad – Two cups finely shredded chicken, one half cup mayo, 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, thoroughly drained, one-fourth cup mango chutney, a tsp. or two of curry according to taste. Use wheat bread for this.

Smoked salmon – layer smoked salmon on one piece of pumpernickel bread and add a bit of horseradish and some dill; or add cream cheese. With the latter, try to also add thinly sliced cucumber.

Radish and goat cheese – Thinly slice small bunch of radishes. Toss with a small amount of salt and let sit about ten minutes, then drain and rinse. Make sandwich as you would cucumber sandwiches. For other uses, salting radishes softens their taste.

And then top it off with sweet cakes and pastries—probably what we’d call petit fours.

Of course you must serve hot tea, never iced (an American abomination)—usually at least one different variety with each course. There are 1500 types of tea in Britain, many imported from India and some from China. Most popular teas include Ceylon, Twining, Darjeeling, Taylors of Harrogate. Of course you must do as the Brits—brew loose leaf in a proper teapot and add milk, never cream or lemon, in your tea.

Murder at Peacock Mansion
Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows whom to suspect.

Monday, November 16, 2015

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--CROSS STITCHED CHRISTMAS FRENCH HORN ORNAMENT

It's never too early to start on those holiday crafting projects. Christmas will be here before you know it. 

Here's a simple cross stitch design you can whip up for your own tree or as a hostess gift when making the rounds of holiday parties.

Friday, November 13, 2015

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR DOROTHY HOWELL

Cozy mystery author Dorothy Howell sits for an interview today. Learn more about Dorothy and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 13 years old. My English teacher introduced the class to creative writing—and I was hooked! Finally, something in school was interesting!

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Actually, getting published took a very long time. Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t pursue it because, according to all the adults in my family, I needed to get a “real” job. So I put the dream of writing aside, got married, got a “real” job, had a baby, and went on with life.

But I never could completely forget about writing. I got to work on an historical romance with no real thought of trying to get it published. I just wanted to see if I could write an entire book. With encouragement from my husband I actually finished it and sold it to a publisher. I was absolutely thrilled!

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’ve been so fortunate to do both!

The Haley Randolph mystery series is traditionally published, and I indie-publish the Dana Mackenzie mystery series. I’m also traditionally published in historical romance under the pen name Judith Stacy.

Where do you write?
I have an office in my house that’s dedicated solely to writing—no bill paying in there! I’m surrounded by my books, my notes, journals, and a zillion slips of paper with my oh-so brilliant ideas on them. To me, it’s very organized, but I’m sure the casual observer would disagree!

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I need absolute silence to write. The tiniest sound jars me out of my thoughts. I only write when I know nobody else is in the house who might interrupt me. I can’t risk forgetting a freshly thought-up plot point—I might not remember it!

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

In the Haley Randolph series, Haley works as a part-time sales clerk in a mid-range department store. Honestly, she’s a terrible sales clerk! Some of the problems, incidents, and troubles that take place in the store come from my own experiences working as a sales clerk decades ago and from my daughters who had sales clerk jobs during their college years.

I used to work a job similar to the one Dana Mackenzie has in that series. I also fictionalized the city I worked in. Unlike Dana, I never found any dead bodies—thank goodness!

Describe your process for naming your character?
For the main characters I try to select names that feel right for each character. The name has to fit their personality and their role in the books. Naming secondary characters is becoming a bit of a challenge. After publishing 39 novels I’m running out of names!

Real settings or fictional towns?
The Haley Randolph series is set in the Los Angeles area. I live there so it makes the research easy. As for the Dana Mackenzie series, I used to live in another Southern California city that I fictionalized for the books.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
The quirkiest quirk definitely belongs to Bella in the Haley Randolph series. Bella is a sales clerk who works with Haley at the Holt’s Department Store. Bella is saving for beauty school and in the meantime, practices on her own hair. She’s fashioned her hair into geometric shapes, animals, landscapes—anything that showcases her hair designing skills.  

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I don’t think I have any quirks at all but several people have commented on a few of my preferences in life. I don’t drink out of plastic or eat leftovers, and I have to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes before the movie start. Okay, maybe that is kind of quirky.

I’d have to pick Gone With The Wind. I love the strong female lead character, the handsome male lead, the history, the clothing, the struggles. The book has endured for decades.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
If I could get a do-over on anything it would be to stop worrying about the outcome and enjoy the process. I spent a great deal of time consumed with doubt about my writing career. I wish I’d had more faith and optimism.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I’m a live-and-let-live kind of person so not much bothers me. If I had to pick a pet peeve it would be receiving telephone calls from sales people who interrupt my writing. Aargh! Yes, that definitely bugs me.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Books, books—and maybe a hot guy to turn the pages?

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
My worst job was so stressful I can’t even talk about it. Sorry.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I enjoy all sorts of books—mystery, suspense, romance, science fiction, nonfiction. No way could I pick just one book!

Ocean or mountains?
Definitely the ocean. The sunset, the waves, the long walks—relaxing and awe inspiring.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I was raised in rural Virginia and live now in the Los Angeles area so I’m a little of both. I feel at home in either place.

What’s on the horizon for you?
The next book in the Haley Randolph series will be released in Fall, 2016. In the meantime, I’m plotting more books, fooling around with some new ideas, and always looking for the next fun book to write.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’m so very blessed and thankful for my writing career. My readers are fantastic! I have the support of a wonderful editor and agent. I absolutely couldn’t have accomplished my goals without the love and encouragement of my family. My thanks go out to all of them!

Swag Bags and Swindlers
A Haley Randolph Mystery

Haley is an amateur sleuth who is crazy about designer handbags and often uses her fashion sense to solve crimes. In Swag Bags and Swindlers her dream is about to come true—quitting her sales clerk job at Holt’s Department Store. All she has to do is qualify for full-time benefits at her event-planning gig at L.A. Affairs by acing the upcoming performance review. For that to happen, she must make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong with the star-studded 50th anniversary gala she’s planning for Hollywood Haven, the retirement home for Tinseltown’s most beloved entertainers.

But when Haley finds Derrick Ellery, the home’s assistant director, murdered in his office, she sees her hope of keeping her job—not to mention the dream of owning a Sassy, the season’s hottest handbag—vanishing before her eyes.

To make matters worse, Haley’s ex-boyfriend Ty is a suspect in a different murder. She’s sure he’s innocent—but can she prove it?

Solving two murders while planning the perfect party—and keeping her sights on a Sassy—won’t be easy, especially now that there’s more than one killer ready to select Haley’s final outfit! 

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