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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE, PART 2

House, MD has been off the air for several years now, but like many TV shows that acquired a cult following, viewers still can’t get enough of Gregory House, and you’ll continue to find the show in syndication most nights of the week. Whether you’ve got a House addict, a doctor, a med student, or a lover of medical dramas on your holiday shopping list, this compilation of twenty essays is sure to please.


What do you get when you combine CSI science, the medicine of ER, and an acerbic, pain pill addict with a cane? House MD.

In HouseUnauthorized: Vasculitis, Clinic Duty, and Bad Bedside Manner, the entire cast of the show is on the exam table: Wilson, Cuddy, Foreman, Cameron, Chase and particularly the cantankerous, but brilliant Dr. House.

What makes House tick? Why did he really hire Foreman, Cameron and Chase (and why is it so easy to believe he’s actually subjecting them to some sort of bizarre psychological testing)? What would House be like as a heating and plumbing repairman? And why doesn’t Wilson just stop talking to him already?

Answers to these questions are presented by a team of writers as talented as the team of doctors in House, MD. The prognosis? One heck of a good read.

Buy Links
Nook 
BAM 
Kobo 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--#CHRISTMAS #COOKIE TIME WITH DEBRA SENNEFELDER

Aspiring author Debra Sennefelder has two constant writing companions, her Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. She's been an avid reader since childhood and found writing came naturally for her. When she's not writing, she loves to cook, exercise (yes, really) and read. Learn more about Debra at her website.

There are a few things I share in common with Hope Early, the amateur sleuth in my mystery series. One of those things is the love of baking, and Christmas is my Super Bowl. The other thing Hope and I share is that we are extremely busy, so we look to streamline as many things as possible. Since I love to bake cookies at Christmas and I work a full-time job and I am writing and I have a home to maintain and I ... you get the picture...I've come up with a method to bake batches and batches of cookies without having to spend countless hours in the kitchen.

I've been baking Christmas cookies for over 20 years and I've learned a thing or two about the process. This baking obsession started innocently enough with a cake when I was about twelve years old. My mom wasn't a baker so she used boxed mixes and I made a simple one-layer cake and covered it with white frosting and added some Christmas decorations to bring to our family's holiday dinner.

I was greeted by oohs and ahhs and I admit, I liked it. Watching everyone enjoy my cake made me feel happy, accomplished and proud. Over the years I traded in the Christmas cake for cookies because everybody loves a cookie and they're easy to make. But since I usually bake 10-12 different types of cookies for the holiday season, I needed to find a way to streamline the process. I've experimented with a few ideas - fewer cookies (not a good option), freezing baked cookies (not every cookie freezes well) or adding mini-cakes to my cookie trays (the people in my life want Christmas cookies, end of story). And over the past few years it's become more important to me that I not spend hours every night after work baking because I need to use that time writing. And weekends? Well, errands need to be run and the house needs to be cleaned and I need to write.

So how do I manage to deliver dozens of cookies to friends, family and co-workers?
#1 - Plan
#2 - Prep ahead
#3- Freeze the dough
#4 – Bake

Here's how I pull it all together.

In October I pull out my planner, and I list all the cookies I want to bake. There are some that I bake every year--Ginger Crackles, Double Chocolate Crescents, Rugelach, Sugar cookies, Chocolate Chip (the only cookie my husband eats), and Cranberry Drop cookies.

Then I decide on 4-6 other cookies I'd like to bake. With my list completed I create my shopping list. I review each recipe for the ingredients, and over the next few weeks I spread those purchases out during my regular shopping trips so it’s a little easier on the budget and I can take advantage on any sales. I also make sure to include gallon sized zip lock bags.

I then schedule my baking days. Since I gift these cookies, I usually bake ahead of Christmas Eve so I have time to make deliveries. I base the baking days on when I plan on delivering the cookies. I identify which cookies can be held the longest (it's usually no more than three-four days) and work down to the cookies that need to be delivered within 24 hours of baking (my Double Chocolate Crescents are those type of cookies, best served right after they’re baked).

Then I set the dates for my prep work.

The prep period is usually Thanksgiving weekend. I settled on this period a few years ago. I used to do the prep work in the evening after work but between working all day and writing at night, I couldn't continue to do that. Thanksgiving weekend gives me 3 full days to dedicate to prepping all of my baking bags.

On prep days I prepare all the dry ingredients for each cookie. It's that simple. Scoop, measure and dump into a re-sealable gallon sized bag and label. Then I move on to the next recipe. By the end I have all of the dry ingredients ready to go for baking. At this point, you can make the cookie dough and freeze it for baking at a later date. Depending how many cookies I have to bake, I will do this.

On my baking days all I have to do is grab a bag and then pull together all of the wet ingredients and mix, scoop and bake. Or, if you’ve frozen the dough, defrost in the refrigerator and bake.

I use more re-sealable bags and containers to store the baked cookies.

Just before I deliver the cookies, I bring out my trays (everyone on my cookie delivery list returns my trays and cookie tins so they can be reused) and cookie tins and begin assembly. I typically post on Facebook my baking progress so friends and family eagerly await their gift. It's so awesome to see their faces light up when I hand over my cookies. It never gets old. And the added bonus is that I am still able to balance everything that I need to do, which includes writing the second book in my series this holiday season.

At this time of the year we’re all in a time crunch and this is one way I found to help ease the stress of the season. Do you have a tip or two that helps lessen the stress of the holidays? If so, please share.

Before I go I’d like to share the recipe for my Double Chocolate Crescent Cookies. They are my favorite cookies and it’s very, very hard to resist devouring them just after they’ve come out of the oven. As I mentioned earlier, these cookies do not do well stored and should be baked within 2 days of sharing.

Double Chocolate Crescent Cookies
Yield: approximately 2 dozen

Ingredients
1 ¾ cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (in a pinch you can use regular chocolate chips)
Confectioners’ sugar for dredging

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa and salt.

With an electric mixer set at medium-low speed, beat butter and sugar until fluffy and light in color. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Reduce speed and beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Dough will be crumbly and dry. That’s okay.

Scoop dough into approximately 1-1/4” balls (you can use a tablespoon measure spoon for this part or an ice cream scoop). Roll each ball into a log about 3” long and taper ends. Bend each log into a crescent shape. (I use a donut cutter for uniform crescents, gently shape the log inside the cutter). Place about 2” apart on a silicone sheet lined baking sheet pan and bake until the edges are set and the bottoms are dry but corners are slightly soft, 10-15 minutes.

Remove from the cookie sheet carefully as to not break the cookies and immediately dredge in confectioners’ sugar. Continue to handle the cookies gently. Let them cool completely and dredge a second time in confectioners’ sugar.

Monday, November 28, 2016

KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS HOLIDAY SHOPPING GUIDE--CYBER MONDAY EDITION

Today is Cyber Monday. Around the world tens of thousands (if not more) people will be stealing time out of their workday to nail down some of their holiday shopping, hoping to score some great gift deals. Over the next few weeks we’ll all continue to shop, often online. So here at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers we’re offering some gift suggestions in the form of books—both the old-fashioned kind and the digital kind—that will make some of your recipients squeal with glee—or in the case of today’s offering, drool with delight.

Up first today is Bake, Love, Write: 105Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing, a dessert cookbook and so much more. This book not only includes 105 scrumptious dessert recipes, but it introduces readers to some wonderful authors who offer advice on life, love, and writing. Best of all, by purchasing this book, you’re helping feed hungry kids. A percentage of all sales will be donated to No KidHungry.

edited by Lois Winston

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 writing and relationships.

Authors who participated in Bake, Love, Write include: Brenda Novak, Lois Winston, Debra Holland, Dale Mayer, Shelley Noble, Caridad Pineiro, Diana Orgain, Lisa Verge Higgins, Lynn Cahoon, Jasmine Haynes, Jan Carol, Meg Bellamy, Bobbi Chukran, Melissa Keir, Amy Gamet, Kristy Tate, Terry Shames, Barbara Phinney, Kitsy Clare, Raine English, Cathryn Cade, Haley Whitehall, Shilpa Mudiganti, Melinda Curtis, Jessa Slade, Jill Blake, Daryl Devore, Molly MacRae, Elizabeth Rose, Helena Fairfax, Lourdes Venard, Jessica Aspen, Maegan Beaumont, Kay Kendall, Elizabeth John, Victoria Adams, Cyndi Pauwels, Alice Loweecey, June Shaw, Donnell Ann Bell, T. Michelle Nelson, Nina Milton, Pam DeVoe, Skye Taylor, Conda V. Douglas, Pepper Phillips, Judy Alter, Cadence Denton, Lesley Diehl, Erin Farwell, Regan Walker, Kaye Spencer, Barbara Monajem, Kathleen Kaska, Catherine Kean, Rose Anderson, Suzie Tullett, Deborah Hughes, Cynthia Luhrs, Judy Baker, Alicia Dean, Leslie Langtry, Janis Susan May, Mitzi Flyte, Ruby Merritt, Renee D. Field, Kathryn Quick, Susan Cory, Judy Penz Sheluk, Kay Manis, Kathryn Jane, Debra Goldstein, E. Ayers, Chantilly White, Sloan McBride, Triss Stein, Ana Morgan, Adele Downs, L.C. Giroux, Pamela Aares, Nancy Warren, Barbara Lohr, J.J. Cook, Lynn Reynolds, Cori Arnold, B.V. Lawson, Lynn Franklin, M.L. Guida, Irene Peterson, Sue Viders, Liese Sherwood-Fabre, Susan Santangelo, Sheila Seabrook, Elaine Charton, Sharleen Scott, Kathy Bennett, Jody Payne, Reggi Allder, Ashlyn Chase, Beverley Bateman, Susan Lohrer, Donis Casey, Barbara Leavy, Stacy Juba, Karen Rose Smith.

Check out the Bake, Love, Write video author Kaye Spencer created for the cookbook.

Buy Links

Friday, November 25, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CHRISTINA HOAG

Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults. She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets. She also co-authored Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention. Learn more about Christina and her books at her website.

What Inspired Me to Write About Gangs

Having written both a nonfiction book and a fiction book about gangs, people often ask me why gangs? I first encountered gangs as a young newspaper reporter in New Jersey, when I was assigned to write a story about a notorious motorcycle gang delivering Christmas toys to a local hospital. I went to interview them in a small suburban house, very normal-looking apart from the bunch of Harley choppers out front and its rather gloriously hirsute occupants, who insisted they belonged to a “club” not a gang. I was fascinated by them and their chosen lifestyle. They had established their own society with its own rules, dress, language and culture within mainstream society. What drove people to do that? I wondered. 

A side note: A couple years later, I saw one of the “club members” at a New Jersey prison where I’d gone to interview an inmate for another story. So much for the “club,” I thought.

Years later, on a magazine assignment, I interviewed gang members deported from Los Angeles to El Salvador, where they had landed like fish out of water because they’d left Salvador as babies and small children during the civil war. It was a country that they identified with, but really didn’t know. Some of them barely spoke Spanish. They had joined and formed gangs in Los Angeles because their families had moved to predominantly Mexican-American neighborhoods that had long-entrenched gangs.

The Central Americans formed their own groups for protection, but because they weren’t U.S. citizens, they later were vulnerable to deportation when the government started cracking down on immigrants with criminal records. The stories of the young men I interviewed were really rooted in an unusual outcome of both a civil war and the immigrant experience. They ended up staying in my mind to form the genesis of my recently released thriller, Skin of Tattoos.

Talking to the young men in El Salvador also reignited that previous interest in gangs from when I had interviewed the motorcycle guys, and I started reading about and researching gangs in earnest over the following years. I covered numerous gang issues as a reporter for the Associated Press in Los Angeles, talking to gang members, people who worked with them, people who worked against them, ie. cops.

There are many factors leading to gang formation, but in essence, gangs are driven by the universal human need for belonging to and approval of a group, and because some sectors of our society feel excluded from mainstream society, they form their own societies instead. Gang culture is alien to most of our lives and an extreme consequence of socioeconomic marginalization, but everyone can relate in some way to feeling excluded, of needing to belong, of wanting approval.  

Skin of Tattoos
Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone - he loves.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Happy Thanksgiving from Anastasia and the gang at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers! Enjoy your turkey and the fixings. We'll be back tomorrow with a new post.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

SAFELY STORING THANKSGIVING #LEFTOVERS

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for those of you living in the U.S. One of the great things about Thanksgiving is leftovers—especially leftover turkey and stuffing (not to mention pumpkin pie!) However many people don’t store leftovers safely or store them for too long and wind up at best with nasty intestinal problems or at worst with a trip to the emergency room. So just in time, here’s a reminder about the safest ways to store your leftovers.

Turkey
If the turkey was stuffed, make sure you remove all the stuffing. Cut the meat from the bones. You can use the bones for making turkey soup. Wrap the meat well and refrigerate for no longer than three days. You can also freeze turkey meat for up to a month.

To keep turkey from drying out, microwave the sliced meat in a small amount of turkey broth or water or bake in the oven until the meat begins to steam.

Stuffing
After removing from the turkey, place the stuffing in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for a month. To reheat, drizzle a little broth or gravy over the stuffing and microwave or back until heated through.

Potatoes and Cooked Veggies
Place in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. Refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to a month.

Salad
Salad should only be saved if it’s not dressed. Store covered in the fridge for no more than two days.

Pies
Really? You think there will be anything beyond crumbs left? Maybe if there’s a blizzard and half your company is stranded at the airport. If that happens, cover the pies and store in the fridge. I seriously doubt they’ll last beyond breakfast the next morning. We all know about those Thanksgiving midnight snacks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR PATY JAGER

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. Learn more about Paty at her website and blog.

Holiday Traditions

The thing I love most about Thanksgiving and Christmas are family traditions.

Thanksgiving traditions my family cling to are watching the Macy’s parade, eating turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. We also put up outside Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving. We’ve never been Black Friday shoppers. Growing up we were hours from any town that did the Black Friday sales, and as an adult, I don’t care for the hordes of people.  

As a child, my family always went out and cut down our Christmas tree. One year everyone but my dad and I were sick. It was also a year when we had lots of snow. We wore snowshoes to get the tree. I walked too close to several trees and Dad had to grab me by the back of my jacket and haul me out of holes. What I remember most about those tree hunts was Mom’s ability to end up with the first tree she saw after we’d walked through the snow for several hours looking for the “perfect” tree. We’d all laugh when we ended up with the first one she saw. Also, Mom had a knack for finding a tree that had a gap. She’d cut off lower limbs, bore holes in the trunk of the tree and insert limbs to fill it out. This on her “perfect” tree.  There were several years as a parent I did the same thing.

During the holidays our house was filled with wonderful aromas. My paternal grandparents lived with us. Between Grandma and Mom there was always candy, cookies, and fruitcake in the making during November and December.  As an adult, I also enjoy making candy, quick breads and cookies to give to friends and neighbors at Christmas time. My daughters give plates of goodies to their friends and neighbors, too. It’s a fun way to stay warm in the colder weather and surprise your neighbors.

What are some of your traditions?

One of my favorite things to make starting in October at Halloween and right on through to Christmas is Caramel Corn.  When my kids were small, there was a mall in our area that had a caramel corn store. When we would shop at that mall, I’d purchase a small box.  When I came across this recipe, we no longer had to wait for a trip to the mall to enjoy the sweet crunchy popcorn.

I picked this particular recipe to share with you because Shandra Higheagle the amateur sleuth in my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series has a favorite flavor—caramel.

Caramel Corn

3-3/4 quarts (15 cups) popped corn
2 cup brown sugar(packed)
1 cup butter or margarine
1/2  cup light corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda

Heat oven to 200°. Divide popped corn between 2 ungreased baking pans, 13 x 9 x 2 inches. In saucepan, heat sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt, stirring occasionally, until bubbly around edges. Continue cooking over medium heat 5 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in soda until foamy. Pour on popped corn, stirring until corn is coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. About 15 cups corn.

Yuletide Slaying
Book 7 of the Shandra Higheagle mystery series

Family, Revenge, Murder

When Shandra Higheagle’s dog brings her a dead body in a sleigh full of presents, her world is turned upside down. The man is a John Doe and within twenty-four hours another body is found.

Detective Ryan Greer receives a call that has them both looking over their shoulders. A vengeful brother of a gang member who died in a gang war is out for Ryan’s blood. Shandra’s dreams and Ryan’s fellow officers may not be enough to keep them alive to share Christmas.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--PINECONE TABLETOP TREE

We’re featuring another quick Christmas craft today—a tabletop pinecone tree. Consider making several in varying heights to display on a mantle or as a centerpiece for a festive holiday dinner.

If you collect your own pinecones, you’ll want to let them dry out for several days first. You can also buy bags of pinecones at craft stores. Make sure you collect or buy male pinecones. These are the pinecones that have the scales spread apart, rather than the female cones, which have the scales closed up tightly. Female pinecones won’t work for this craft project.

Directions are provided for one 8” pinecone tree. Adjust your materials accordingly if you want to make a larger one or several.

Materials
Two or three male pinecones, depending on size
8” Styrofoam cone
low-temp glue gun
white spray paint
crystal and gold glitter paints

1. Remove the scales from the pinecones.

2. Using the glue gun and beginning at the bottom of the cone, glue a row of scales around the cone. The point of the scales should be even with the bottom of the cone. Working your way up, glue additional rows of scales, overlapping the previous row slightly. Glue scales to a point at the top of the cone.

3. Spray a light coat of white paint over the pinecones, allowing some of the natural brown of the pinecones to show through.

4. Brush pinecones with crystal glitter paint. Allow to dry.

5. Dry brush gold glitter paint over scales, concentrating the paint at the ends of the scales.

Tip: Let your pinecone trees do double-duty. Leave them unpainted for Thanksgiving, then paint them afterwards for Christmas.

Friday, November 18, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR MAGGIE KING

Mystery author Maggie King, who writes the Hazel Rose Book Group Mysteries, sits down for an interview today. Learn more about Maggie and her books at her website

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
As a devotee of Nancy Drew, I wrote mysteries in grade school. Fast forward a few decades to 1995 in Los Angeles. When three of my co-workers took creative writing and screenwriting courses at UCLA Extension, I read their work and was impressed by their talent. My competitive side kicked in and I thought, “I could be doing this.” I belonged to a mystery book group (it became the model for the Murder on Tour group in the Hazel Rose Book Group series) and felt confident that I could turn out a mystery. When I moved to Virginia in 1996 I took a writing course at the University of Virginia and enjoyed it. I took more classes and started writing on a regular basis.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Many years. I first published in 2014. It turned out that writing, and publishing, were not so easy! And in the early years I treated writing as a hobby and didn’t make it a priority.

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

Where do you write?
In the converted bedroom of a split level home, closely supervised by my two cats.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Usually I prefer to work in silence, but occasionally I listen to classical, easy listening, or classic rock. It all depends on my mood. I especially like Slow Dancing, a CD of nostalgic songs from the fifties.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
This is always an interesting question. Snippets of the experiences of the many “real” people I’ve known over the years wind up on my pages. And I’ve known women like my victim, Roxanne Howard, who lead turbulent lives and have little regard for others.

I think people expect similarities between myself and my sleuth, Hazel Rose. Like Hazel, I was born on the east coast, moved to Los Angeles in my twenties, and started my career as a software developer. Like Hazel, I had a calico cat named Shammy who accompanied me when I moved back east in 1996 and settled in Richmond, Virginia. Hazel and I share a commitment to the environment, we’re both frugal and unimpressed with the high life.

Hazel’s been married five times—divorced three times, widowed once, currently wed (the current union looks solid!). But divorce and widowhood have not touched my life—I just celebrated 27 years with my one and only husband.

One “real” person in my Hazel Rose Book Group series is a woman I used to see at a gym in Richmond. I never knew her name or even talked to her except for a hi and a wave. She was partial to leopard prints and chartreuse. The last time I saw her she sashayed into the gym sporting chartreuse stiletto boots and a leopard cowgirl hat, platinum blonde curls cascading down her back. I gave her a flamboyant personality, a job as a personal trainer at the gym, and the name Kat Berenger.

Three real events led me to create Murder at the Moonshine Inn. The first was when my husband researched his family tree and discovered many new-to-him relatives. He contacted them, and they remain in touch to this day. One family lives near us in Virginia and we often see them. We traveled to Montreal to visit another family. Only one relative refused to acknowledge my husband, suspecting that he wanted money.
    
The second event was when the mother of an acquaintance in California died and her widower lost no time remarrying a woman forty years his junior. His bride ran with a fast crowd who drank, took drugs, and engaged in casual sex. For added excitement, she frequented redneck bars. My friend’s father was enchanted with his beloved’s beauty. She was enchanted with his fortune. He figured that marriage would tame her. She would not be tamed and continued her decadent lifestyle post-marriage.

I combined the stories, adding a hefty dose of fiction, and came up with a Picasso-esque creation.

The third event is described in a sub-plot and concerns Hazel’s need to go through a breast biopsy for the second time in less than ten years. It pretty much mirrors my own experience, with a few embellishments.

Describe your process for naming your character?
Hazel Rose is a beautiful name with a retro sound. Hazel was a popular choice around the turn of the twentieth century, but its use waned over the years. It’s been experiencing a modest comeback. The rose is my favorite flower and I adore the scent.

Real settings or fictional towns?
My stories are set in the real city of Richmond, Virginia. I use real restaurants, I modify the names of organizations, and I’m vague about all but major street names.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Librarian and book group member Trudy Zimmerman has a rose tattooed on her neck. She covers it with her long hair when at work, as her library director is anti-tat.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I have a really loud sneeze.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Almost Paradise, by Susan Isaacs. I once spent two hours in the food court of a mall---not my favorite place to be---riveted to this witty and poignant story, populated with vivid and oh-so-flawed characters. The author is gifted with an eye for detail and an eloquent turn of phrase that I envy. Writing this makes me want to re-read Almost Paradise!

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I’d started my writing career earlier, at least with the advent of word processors (I am not nostalgic for typewriters). I fantasize that I’d have given Anne Tyler a run for her money. Ms. Tyler mined quirky families to great literary success, and I figure my own quirky family has given me story material for years to come.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Talking and texting at concerts, movies, plays, etc.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Husband, cats, books

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Working as an apparel sales manager in a big box store (before they were called that)

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Jane Eyre

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. But mountains are a close second.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City, most definitely.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Currently, I’m working on #3 of the Hazel Rose Book Group series. The book group goes on hiatus to take a mystery writing class. But, wouldn’t you know it, a particularly obnoxious student winds up dead, and there are no dearth of suspects.

I contributed a short story, “Wine, Women, and Wrong,” to the 50 Shades of Cabernet anthology, due out March 1, 2017. Seventeen other great mystery authors join me with light-hearted tales of crime and Cabernet.
On the distant horizon, I’d like to try my hand at a historical mystery.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Since childhood my sense of justice has been strong and I get enraged when justice is not served. That’s likely why mysteries appealed to me so early in life. I serve justice in my novels, but my short stories tend to be morally ambiguous and the justice may be of the vigilante variety.

I like to write about people at a crossroads, facing challenges. And also about their growth and successes.

On a long-ago job interview, my prospective employer asked me to describe myself using three words. I immediately rattled off “competent, conscientious, and courageous.” Now I would add another word that starts with c: compassionate. Writers need these qualities, and more, both for the craft and business aspects of writing.

Murder at the Moonshine Inn

When high-powered executive Roxanne Howard dies in a pool of blood outside the Moonshine Inn, Richmond, Virginia’s premiere redneck bar, the victim’s sister enlists Hazel Rose to ferret out the killer. At first Hazel balks—she’s a romance writer, not a detective. But Brad Jones, Rox’s husband, is the prime suspect. He’s also Hazel’s cousin, and Hazel believes in doing anything to help family. Never mind that Brad won’t give her the time of day—he’s still family.

Hazel recruits her book group members to help with the investigation. It’s not long before they discover any number of people who feel that a world without Rox Howard is just fine with them: Brad’s son believes that Rox and Brad were behind his mother’s death; Rox’s former young lover holds Rox responsible for a tragedy in his family; and one of Rox’s employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her. The killer could be an angry regular from the Moonshine Inn—or just about anyone who ever crossed paths with the willful and manipulative Rox. When a second murder ups the ante Hazel must find out who is behind the killings. And fast. Or she may be victim #3.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

#BEAUTY TIP OF THE DAY--LEMON

We all know we’re supposed to exercise to stay fit. Some people enjoy feeling the burn; some of us exercise even though we really, really hate doing so. Still others don’t bother to exercise at all. If you fall into this last camp, ignore this post.

Whether you’re an exercise lover or a reluctant exerciser, the one thing both groups have in common is sweat. It’s easy to jump into a quick shower after exercising and wash the sweat off your body, but it’s not as easy to deal with the greasy hair and scalp sweat that exercising causes. Unless you have a wash-and-go hairstyle, you probably don’t have the luxury of time needed to wash your hair every day after exercising. If you do, this post isn’t for you, either. It’s for the rest of us who have to spend precious time we often don’t have with blow dryers whenever we wash our hair.

I recently came across a great tip for dealing with scalp sweat, a main cause of greasy hair. Take half a lemon, remove the excess pulp, and squeeze the juice from the lemon (you can set the juice aside for your morning tea or smoothie.) Now blot your hairline and your part with the squeezed lemon. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? However, the natural fruit acids in the lemon will aid in absorbing oil and clearing away dirt. And as an added benefit, your hair will smell citrusy fresh.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

#HACK OF THE DAY--CLEVER USES FOR WHITE BREAD

“It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread!” Who hasn’t heard that expression? It’s been around since the automatic commercial loaf slicer was invented and unveiled by Otto Rohwedder in Missouri in 1928. (Rohwedder actually created his prototype in 1917, but a fire destroyed it and all his blueprints. It took him another eleven years to rebuild the machine and convince a friend to use it at his baking company.)

So that’s where the expression comes from, but let’s move on to some amazing hacks for sliced white bread that don’t involve peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese. Here are some ways a slice of bread can help make your life easier.

1. Soak up the oil that rises to the surface when cooking soup, sauce, stew, or pot roast by placing a slice of stale white bread on top of the food while it’s still in the pot. Let the bread sit there for a few seconds to absorb the oil, then discard it. You’ll wind up with a much healthier dish.

2. Ever break a glass or mirror and find it next to impossible to sweep up all those miniscule shards and slivers? Gently press a slice of bread onto the surface where the glass broke. The bread will pick up the glass you don’t see. Carefully discard the bread.

3. Do you find it difficult to clean your coffee grinder? Bread to the rescue once again! Place a few small chunks of stale bread in the grinder. Pulse a few times, then dump out the contents. The coffee grounds will stick to the breadcrumbs.

4. Air fresheners don’t always work to rid nasty smells from your kitchen trashcan. Often they just mask the smells. If you keep your can under the sink, the smell can also migrate to the cabinets on either side of the sink. Soak a slice of bread in vinegar. Place the bread on a paper towel inside the trashcan or on a plate in your other cabinets. Leave overnight. The vinegar will neutralize the odors.

5. Curious fingers often leave fingerprints and smudges on the photos in your albums and scrapbooks. Wad up a ball of stale bread and swipe over the photos to absorb the oils without scratching the photos.