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, July 31, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST BLOGGER DANIELLE HEGEDUS ON CREATING THE PERFECT CRAFT ROOM

Today we’re joined by Danielle Hegedus of Modernize.com who shares some tips for creating the perfect craft room.

Renovating Your Spare Room Into the Ultimate Craft Haven

If you’re a serious crafter, you know that it can be a space-demanding hobby, especially if you like to hoard materials for “just in case”. But it’s probably for this very same reason that you know crafting is totally worth it! Beyond the joy that you get from creating your own custom artwork to sell or gift to loved ones, or designing your own jewelry instead of paying outrageous prices at a big box store, crafting is also good for your health!  Studies have shown that crafting affords you many of the same health benefits as meditation and yoga, including decreased anxiety, improved mental acumen, and increased ability to deal with stress—just to name a few!

This means that not only can you indulge your crafting habit guilt-free, but you should also ramp it up—it’s an investment in your health, after all! So if you’ve been on the fence about renovating your home’s spare room into an ultimate craft haven, now’s the time for go for it—and these tips will ensure that you make the most of your space.
First, Get Organized!
Whether you make jewelry, knit, or scrapbook, most crafting hobbies require a lot of supplies. To maximize your time in your craft room, you need to minimize distractions and get organized. Keep an ongoing inventory of your supplies—a list that’s accessible by a mobile device means you’ll be able to add something as soon as you think of it, whether you’re knee deep in a project or away from home.

Next, organize your supplies by type, using baskets, shelving, binders—whatever works best for your medium. That way, if you feel like scrapbooking one morning, you can jump right in without a 15-minute search for that awesome leopard print washi tape that you can’t seem to find anywhere.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your organization system, but make sure to give it some love. Paint shelves in bright, fun colors that you love but that may be too bold for the rest of your home. Experiment with decoupage to add vibrant images to plain, otherwise boring surfaces. Enhancing the decor of your organization system can be a fun craft project in itself!
Incorporate Artwork that Inspires You
Adding artwork to your craft room doesn’t have to be a pricey investment. Instead, it’s a great DIY opportunity to create one-of-a-kind artwork that truly reflects your personal style. Think about the patterns, fabrics, and color palettes that you love and frame them yourself to create a cool modern design aesthetic. Can’t decide between a chevron or a beehive print? Don’t be afraid to embrace mixed media. Not only is it very much in style right now, but this is your space to highlight everything that inspires your work, so go ahead and place a plaid print next to a polka dot one to create a fun whimsical vibe, or drape some deep purple velvet around the room to add an element of drama. There are no rules in this room, and that’s exactly what will inspire your most creative work.
Shine a Light on Your Great Work
It’s important to ensure the lighting in your craft room is high quality to make it an appealing space in which you actively want to spend time, but also to prevent eyestrain. In addition to natural light from open windows, add lamps to warm up your space and help ease the pressure on your eyes when you’re working on the intricate details of a project.
Make Room for Friends and Family to Join in the Fun
One of the most fun parts of crafting is sharing the activity, and the items you create, with loved ones. When setting up your craft room, think about ways to accommodate more crafters. If your space is large, why not opt for a sizable table with comfortable chairs to give all your girlfriends the space (and back support) they need for a fun girls’ night of jewelry making? If your space is smaller, make use of the walls to install foldaway table surfaces (similar to a Murphy bed or an ironing board) to give you extra space when you have company that doesn’t monopolize precious square footage in the room.

However you decide to set up your new craft room, we hope that you’ll feel empowered to make the room your own. At Modernize, we’re passionate about helping homeowners fall in love with every room of their home, and a personalized craft room is the perfect place to start. Create a space that reflects your personal style and allows your imagination to run wild. Your projects, and your mental health, will definitely reflect this loving investment that you’ve made in yourself!

Friday, July 28, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR SUSAN FOX

Award-winning, international bestselling author Susan Fox, who also writes as Susan Lyons and Savanna Fox, writes contemporary romances that verge toward women’s and mainstream fiction. Today she sits down with us for an interview. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’d always been a huge consumer of fiction, but it didn’t occur to me that I might actually write one of those books until a friend gave me Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. When I started writing fiction, I knew I’d found my calling.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
This was back in the days before indie publishing and I’m embarrassed to say that it took ten years – and probably at least ten completed manuscripts. I have a law degree and I always told people it was easier to become a lawyer than a published writer. Of course now, with indie publishing, it’s the opposite. As for being an excellent writer or lawyer – well, either one still takes a lot of time and devotion!

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m hybrid, but heavily weighted toward traditionally published. I have two dozen titles with Kensington, six with Berkley, two indie novels, and a dozen indie collections of mini-stories.

Where do you write?
Mostly at my desk in my home office, with my full-size monitor and wireless keyboard and mouse. But I have back issues so I mix it up by taking the laptop to a recliner chair, working standing at the kitchen island, or sitting on one of those big balls. I love occasionally going to a coffee shop or wine bar to write.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Silence, definitely! I’m an only child, grew up in a quiet house, and still have trouble concentrating on my work if there’s music or a TV show on. If my partner’s watching TV in the other room, I have the door closed or my earplugs in. Oddly enough, though, if I’m in a coffee shop, the chatter around me becomes white noise that I can mostly tune out.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My characters and plots represent people and issues that intrigue me. A lot of the time they come from my general observation of the world, but sometimes there are things that resonate particularly close to home. For example, in Fly Away With Me, the Gulf Islands setting is very close to home. My partner and I have a boat and we explore those islands every summer. My heroine Eden wants to use her law degree to do something she considers worthwhile. I have a law degree and felt the same way. Aaron is a seaplane pilot and I’ve flown on those little seaplanes, over islands like my fictional Destiny Island, and I love the experience. I’ve also kayaked with seals – and definitely drunk wine at sunset! Eden’s mom is a cancer survivor and so was my mom. The issues Eden’s family deals with around her mom’s illness are all ones I’ve experienced.

Describe your process for naming your characters?
Calling it a “process” makes it sound more efficient than it really is. Sometimes names just pop into my mind or I see interesting names in TV credits or magazines. I have lists of names that interest me and I review them when I’m naming new characters. I’ll check popular baby names for the year the character was born. Ethnic background is a factor. I’ve also asked for suggestions on my Facebook page.

Here’s how I came up with the names in Fly Away With Me. Eden: A friend gave her baby that name, and I loved it. Blaine: I wanted a simple surname, one syllable after the two-syllable first name, something that sounded good with Eden, so I just hunted through names until one felt right. Aaron: He was originally Adam, a name I like and have never used for a hero, but someone pointed out that Adam and Eden was too Biblical – something I’d never actually realized myself, even though it seems obvious – so I looked for something similar and hit on Aaron. Gabriel: It’s a name I just love, one I’ve used as a hero’s first name (in Finding Isadora), so I indulged and let myself use it again, this time as a surname. I also loved naming Di and Seal SkySong, but if I told you any more about that, it would be a spoiler!

Real settings or fictional towns?
That depends on what works for the story. I used Vancouver as a setting for many of my books, because it’s such a fabulous city and provides so many options. But for my Caribou Crossing Romances and my Blue Moon Harbor series, which are set in small communities in British Columbia, I didn’t know of any actual town or island that would work perfectly for the stories, so I created them, trying to be authentic to the general areas.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
My heroine Eden, who’s a perfectionist and a control-freak, is a nail-biter. When she was little, her grandmother, a strong-minded woman, told her the habit was not only unattractive and unhygienic but it was a sure giveaway of anxiety, insecurity, and lack of control. Eden certainly doesn’t want to reveal those qualities to the outside world, so she has a bunch of techniques to cope with her urge to bite her nails: sitting on her hands, gripping the strap of her briefcase or purse, or clasping her hands.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m a little OCD. I like to straighten things and tidy things.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
To Kill a Mockingbird. I love how the characters are drawn so clearly and are so human and imperfect, yet strong in their own way. I love the theme of justice versus injustice and the poignancy of the fact that the good guys don’t always win. I love how the setting comes to life. And I love that the story is told from a young girl’s point of view, which means she sees the world through inexperienced eyes, observing and forming opinions that are less biased than those of the adults.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
There’s nothing big that I can think of. I’m not a believer in wishing things had been different. The past is the past; learn from it and move on. I suppose the things I’d really like to do over are the small ones, like if I spoke too quickly, maybe out of anger or hurt, and said something snappy or unkind.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Intolerance and prejudice. I believe each person is unique and all people are equal, and I get upset with people who think that other people are inferior to them. I realize that prejudice usually comes of out ignorance and fear, but I still find it difficult to excuse.

Diversity and equality are themes I always include in my books. I have multicultural characters, interracial relationships, characters with physical or mental disabilities, and gay relationships.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
The necessities of physical survival (water, food). An unlimited supply of books. An intelligent, perceptive, resourceful companion.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Marking exams. It was a summer job between third and fourth year university. A bunch of us – all female – sat around a table all day marking exam papers. So intensely boring. But at least we enjoyed each other’s company.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I’m going back to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. I don’t do very well with heights!

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I need both.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m continuing with the Blue Moon Harbor series. The next story is “Blue Moon Harbor Christmas” in Winter Wishes, a holiday anthology (October 2017) that also contains novellas by Fern Michaels, Jules Bennett, and Leah Marie Brown. Then Come Home With Me will be out in late December, and Sail Away With Me (which I’m working on now) in the fall of 2018.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I hope readers will explore my website. There are excerpts, behind-the-scenes notes, discussion guides, review quotes, photos, and recipes. You can sign up for my e-newsletter there, enter my opinion poll contest, and get in touch with me. I love to hear from readers! You can also find my Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, and BookBub links there.

Thank you so much for hosting me here!

Fly Away With Me, Blue Moon Harbor  Book 1

Known for its rugged beauty and eccentric residents, tiny Blue Moon Harbor is big on love...

For busy lawyer Eden Blaine, a trip to a Pacific Northwest island she’s never even heard of is far from a vacation. Eden’s ailing mother has tasked her with finding her long-lost aunt, who once had ties to a commune on the island.  Still reeling from a breakup with her longtime boyfriend, romance is the last thing Eden is looking for. But her gorgeous seaplane pilot has her wondering if a carefree rebound fling is exactly what she needs…

Aaron Gabriel has no illusions about happily ever after. His troubled childhood made sure of that. But he does appreciate a pretty woman’s company, and Eden is the exact combination of smart and sexy that turns him on. Still, as he helps her search for her missing aunt, the casual relationship he imagined quickly becomes something much more passionate—and much harder to give up. Can two people determined to ignore romance recognize that their heated connection is the kind of love destined to last?

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

#TRAVEL TO NEW JERSEY WITH AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON

Ever wonder why author Lois Winston decided to set all those books about me and her other protagonists in New Jersey? Today she explains why.

I make no apologies for living in New Jersey. I’m not ashamed of my state of birth, which is also the place I’ve called home for a good deal of my life. Even though New Jersey tends to be the butt of many jokes (armpit of the nation is a frequent one I hear,) I think it’s a pretty cool place to live. In less than an hour I can be in the mountains, oceanside, or in Manhattan, depending upon my mood.

Those lucky enough to live along the Hudson River have a priceless view of the New York skyline. In New York you pay through the nose for a view of Weehauken.

We have culture, sports, and cow pastures. Horse farms and high-rises. We’re home to the famous and the infamous.

We even legally own the Statue of Liberty, but try telling that to New York. However, since they usurped our national landmark, we took their beloved football teams. That’s right, folks, for those of you who live in other parts of the country, both the New York Giants and the New York Jets play in New Jersey.

We’re also not at all like we’ve been portrayed on The Sopranos or various Jersey-set reality TV shows, at least not a good 95% of us.

Anyway, I like New Jersey so much that I’ve not only set many of my books in my home state, including my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries Series and my Empty Nest Mystery Series, I feature actual towns.

When I read a book, I love to connect with the location. Part of the fun for me in reading the Stephanie Plum books is recognizing the places where Janet Evanovich sets her scenes. I’ve been to the Macy’s in Quaker Bridge Mall and spent many an hour stuck in traffic on Route 1.

Personally, I get annoyed when an author sets a book somewhere she’s never been and relies heavily on Google for her research. There are too many features and nuances about a location that Google won’t tell you because you didn’t know to ask. For instance, how many people not from New Jersey know that trucks aren’t allowed on most of the Garden State Parkway? Or that we go “down the shore,” not “to the beach” or “the seashore”? Nothing pulls a reader out of a story more than when an author doesn’t get her facts right. And since we’ve got a population of over 9 million, if you get your facts wrong about New Jersey, chances are a lot of people will notice.


So for me, setting my stories in places I know is a no-brainer. Not only is it easier than making up a place or setting a book somewhere I’ve never been, it’s also a way of letting people know that there’s more to New Jersey than refineries and traffic jams.

Setting a book in New Jersey also gives me the opportunity to place my protagonist in diverse locations while still keeping her in or near her hometown. Many cozy mysteries take place in or around a small town in the Midwest, down South, or in New England. If the author wants to place her protagonist in a different environment, it involves the protagonist taking a trip. With a series set in New Jersey, I can have Anastasia or Gracie shopping at Ikea in the morning, antiquing in Lambertville in the afternoon and at a casino in Atlantic City in the evening. At least, I can if Anastasia ever climbs her way out of debt and Gracie ever sells the future bestseller she’s writing.

One caveat, though: As much as I love my state, I’ve been accused of having a biting sense of humor. So if you happen to read and of my Jersey-set novels, you’ll often find my tongue planted firmly in my cheek as I talk about my home state.
 ~*~
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit her at her website and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter for special features and subscriber-only giveaways.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR CHRISTINA LORENZEN TAKES A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE

Christina Lorenzen is the author of six sweet, small town romances. When she's not writing she can be found herding her cats or reading on her backyard swing. Learn more about Christina and her books at her website.

Taking a Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane
As a child, my favorite story was Rapunzel. To this day, whenever I see anything to do with Rapunzel, a doll or DVD, I can’t help but think about my grandmother.

My father’s mother lived with us for as long as I can remember. When we lived in the city, we lived in one of four apartments in a huge house along with two aunts, two uncles and their children, my cousins. When we moved to the suburbs, my grandmother came with us and lived in the apartment downstairs. Though I have so many wonderful memories of her, my fondest are the times she would babysit my brother and me. I waited until it was time for bed because I knew she would ask “What story would you like me to tell you tonight?” My poor brother. I never did give him a chance to chime in. I always asked for the same story – Rapunzel.  And my grandmother, storyteller that she was, loved to tell it to me again and again. I must have heard that story a hundred times.
  
Fast-forward almost fifty years and I can still hear my grandmother’s voice telling that story. So it’s no surprise that when my publisher announced she would be publishing a collection of fairy tales, I jumped in and asked to write one. You guessed it. Rapunzel. All these years later I would revisit my beloved fairy tale and what better way than to put a modern spin on it?

I went from a tower to a lighthouse and Georgie Daniels, my very own Rapunzel, was born.  After losing her father, and her fiancé walking out on her, Georgie chooses to spend all her time within the safety of the lighthouse cottage, despite the fact that her father is no longer the lighthouse keeper. Even her occupation, writing e-greeting cards, makes it easy for her to cut the world out of her life. Until retired Navy commander Colby Ford moves into the Moore cottage and insists on being neighborly.

Georgie and Colby came alive on the pages as I wrote this story. Writing this story allowed me to relive one of the sweetest times of my childhood. My grandmother and I were very close. I spent hours with her after school, playing cards, helping with her plants and watching television. We remained close until her passing at age eighty-four. 

When I began writing this story, as it unfolded, I felt as if she were there, peering over my shoulder, reading along as I wrote it. If I got stuck in a certain part of the story, I would put it away and go outside in the yard. Besides being a storyteller, my grandmother loved her garden. After watching the birds and checking on the vegetable garden, a part of the story would come to me. And I would return to the keyboard and get those words down before they escaped me. I like to think that writing Rapunzel’s Lighthouse was my chance to share a modern spin on the classic tale she so loved telling me. I think she would be pleased.

Rapunzel’s Lighthouse
Georgie Daniels is self imprisoned in the cottage of the lighthouse that her father was keeper of before his death two years ago. She's hanging on to her home, despite the fact that the town has sent her a letter about unpaid taxes and the state of its disrepair.  She rarely leaves the cottage except for trips into town for groceries. After losing her father and her fiance leaving her with a ring on her finger, the long haired woman prefers the company of her two cats, Keats and Kipling. Until retired Navy commander Colby Ford takes up residence in the Moore Cottage. The Moore cottage of all places, the very house the fiance who ran off and left her used to live. Just as she begins to 'let down her hair' with Colby, she finds out something that makes her determined to keep the cottage and lighthouse - no matter what the price is.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR VINNIE HANSEN ON CUBA AND BLACK BEANS

Vinnie Hansen is the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery Series, the stand-alone novel Lostart Street, and numerous short stories. Still sane after 27 years of teaching high-school English, Vinnie has retired and lives in Santa Cruz, California, with her husband and the requisite cat. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

For those who want all the creature comforts of home, Cuba may not be the travel destination for you. The long-standing embargo has created many shortages, including a lack of basic staples like salt. The Cuban people compensate for the dearth of supplies with great resourcefulness—nothing goes to waste. But the island is better suited as a destination for those who like locations precisely because they don’t have a Starbuck’s on every corner. People like my husband and me.  

While my husband and I enjoy cultures that are different than ours, we don’t necessarily relish the arduous process of getting there. Cuba beckoned us—a non-stop flight to Cancun and then a simple hour hop to Havana. Fairly simple travel to be in one of only two places in the world without Coca-Cola.

We ventured (illegally) to Cuba in 2010, where we traveled for a month, staying in casas particulares, private homes that rent out rooms and provide breakfast. The typical breakfast is white bread, possibly jam and honey, coffee, eggs, juice, and fresh fruit. Because of the embargo, the fruit includes choices from what grows in Cuba—guavas, pineapple, mangos, watermelon, and small, firm bananas. There is a good chance what you eat will be organically grown. But don’t expect variety!

While the menu items may not vary, the quality can vary widely. We were served everything from rotten bananas and instant coffee with powdered milk, to sweet fresh fruit and strong, delicious Cuban coffee.

Danny and I were on our own to scout out other meals. According to a billboard, Cubans eat Cuban pork. As non-meat eaters, we never tried Cuba’s famous pulled pork. A standard meal for us was fish with cristianos and moros—white rice (imported from Vietnam) and black beans.
Woman cooking black beans in Cuba

This is a typical meal for the locals, as well, although Cubans don’t eat in the same restaurants as tourists, unless, by some miracle they can afford it. Cubans have their own eating establishments where tourists are not allowed, and the food is a tenth of the price. We had a connection to a Cuban citizen who snuck us into one of these out-of-sight diners. We rapped on a door behind the tourist restaurant and were admitted to a galley-room with about four tables and no windows. The food, though, was no doubt the same fare that was being eaten in the restaurant in front.  

Although Americans have been restricted in their travel to Cuba, that doesn’t mean the country lacks tourists. We met people from all over the world. The Cuban government has started to allow privately owned and operated restaurants to serve these visitors. Some of them are quite good. We even managed to eat pizza one night!

But even in these spots, one has two choices for beer—light or dark. Steak is practically unheard of. Even with chicken, expect only dark meat. White meat is reserved for mucky-mucks, or so we were told.

The colorful culture of Cuba provides the backdrop for Black Beans & Venom, the seventh book in my Carol Sabala Mystery Series.

Because Cuban people lack resources, Cuban black beans can be bland. My friend Huve Rivas supplied the following recipe. He hails from Puerto Rico and this is an adaptation of a recipe from his mother, Carmen Olmeda Rivas. The people of Puerto Rico like their black beans a little soupier than the people of Cuba. These are truly delicious!

Black Beans
Serves 8

2 tsp. olive oil
1 pound of black beans
8 oz. can tomato sauce
sofrito (sautéed onion, cilantro, clove of garlic, 1 bell pepper, lots of cilantro in olive oil)
10-12 olives (pimiento stuffed)
1 T. capers
2 cubed medium-sized potatoes
Enough water to keep an inch or two above beans while cooking
salt to taste
1 tsp. ground cumin (optional)

Rinse beans and let them soak in a pot of water overnight to soften. (Use whatever water is not absorbed for cooking.)

Lightly sauté sofrito.

In a large pot place beans, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Lower flame to bring beans to simmer.

Add salt and sofrito (you can add extra raw cilantro). Let it simmer 20-30 min., then add potatoes, olives, capers, and tomato sauce.

Cook for another 30-40 minutes or until beans are tender. Don’t let the water level go below beans. Gently stir every once in a while. Some people simmer beans uncovered while others cover with a lid.

Black Beans & Venom, Book 7 of the Carol Sabala Mysteries

No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.

In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.

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Monday, July 24, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ANYONE CAN CRAFT

I’m always amazed when people tell me they don’t craft because they have no talent. The beauty of crafting is that anyone can do it, talent or no talent, depending on the project. Just as you wouldn’t pick up a paint brush for the first time and expect to recreate the Mona Lisa, you don’t start crafting projects meant for experienced crafters. You begin at the beginning. Do that, and your confidence will grow with each project, and you’ll begin to challenge yourself, moving from beginner projects to intermediate projects to advanced project.

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of buttons as a crafting medium. Who doesn’t have a tin or box or jar of miscellaneous buttons squirreled away somewhere in the house? Maybe you inherited them from your grandmother or mother. Maybe they’re simply all those extra buttons that are pinned to clothing you’ve purchased over the decades. I love crafting with these buttons. You can turn them into anything from jewelry to home dec items.

By the way, did you know that the button was originally created for ornamentation, not as a fastener? Primitive buttons made of shell, bone, wood, and metal have been found dating back to 2000 BC. However, evidence of buttons being used as closures is not found until sometime around 1200 AD. By the middle of the 13th century there are references to button makers in the laws governing French craftsmen guilds. (Bet you weren’t expecting a history lesson when you started reading, were you?)
 
So back to crafting…the photo of the button necklace is a project that requires a certain amount of skill. Although it’s a simple project if you know how to crochet, it’s intimidating for someone who doesn’t crochet.

Now take a look at the basket featured above. Cute, isn’t it? And you know what? It’s a project that’s easy enough for a child. So don’t be intimidated. Pull out your stash of buttons, and follow the simple directions below.

Party Favor Button Basket

Materials:
4-1/2” woven basket (available at craft stores)
acrylic paint (your choice of color)
foam paint brush
assorted buttons without shanks
glue gun or glue suitable for plastic

Note: I made a group of these baskets as party favors for a shower and filled them with candy. Because I was going for a “shabby chic” look, I dry-brushed the paint so that it didn’t entirely cover the basket. If you want an even quicker craft, leave the basket unpainted.

1.  Paint the basket with your choice of color. Allow to dry.

2.  Using a glue gun or appropiate glue, glue buttons around the rim of the basket and handle.

Could it get any easier?

Friday, July 21, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR KRIS PEARSON/KERRI PEACH

 
Kris Pearson/Kerri Peach, worked first as a writer for radio, then in the wider advertising industry. She now devotes herself to romantic fiction. She enjoys sharing her beautiful country with the world, and creating stories full of real people in believable situations. Three of her many novels were finalists in New Zealand’s Clendon Award. Learn more about Kris and Kerri at their respective websites.

Split personality
Hello from New Zealand! I was quite happy just being me – and then for the strangest of reasons I became someone else as well. Here’s how it happened:

Under my own name of Kris Pearson I’ve written fourteen somewhat sexy contemporary novels. Four were translated into Spanish, and another two into Italian. I enjoyed getting to know the translators, and was interested in spreading my work further around the world.

So… should I dream big? How about China?

After contact from a publisher who liked my stories, I received an unusual request. Could I please make them less sexy? To say this came as a surprise is putting it mildly. However, it seems that sexy love scenes are not culturally acceptable in Chinese books. Fair enough – each to their own – even if all those Chinese people no doubt turned up as a result of a sexy love scene!

I really didn’t think it would be possible to keep the stories viable, but you know how things can niggle at you? Over the last Christmas break I thought I’d see what I could manage. To my pleasure my bestselling The Boat Builder’s Bed gave in and became The Boat Builder’s Bargain with not too much of a struggle. Then The Wrong Sister became The Other Sister. In fact the stories held up so well that I completed five new editions with lower heat and clean language.

These are the first five books of my Wellington series, so-called because they take place around the harbour in my home city. There are two others in this series – Ravishing Rose and Hot for You – and they’re both so spicy that I won’t be attempting to cool them down. Wouldn’t have much book left!

This gave me five good prospects for China, so off they went. They’re now in the hands of a project manager, and she has so far recruited three translators. It’s getting exciting. Whether I sell three copies or three billion remains to be seen.

It’s also given me another opportunity. My five (so far) much sweeter editions have been launched in English by an author called Kerri Peach. She looks and sounds a lot like me – even has the same initials. Peach happens to be a family name, and Peaches was our last and most beautiful cat. Funny where these things come from. So now I’m sexy Kris and sweeter Kerri, and waiting to see which way my writing should go in the future. Not wanting to mislead anyone, there’s a stripe across the base of each new cover stating, “Kerri is the sweeter side of Kris Pearson.”

So there you go – a choice of heat levels from the same author. I know it’s not a new idea, but in this case it certainly came about for an interesting reason.

The Other Sister
In this tender ‘second chances’ story of family relationships and long-time unrequited love, attraction simmers between Fiona and Christian when they met on the day he marries Jan, her beloved sister. The only way Fiona copes is by hiding on the far side of the world. The only way Christian copes is by leaving on business whenever she visits her family back home in New Zealand.

Five years later, Fiona has the heart-wrenching six-week assignment of caring for newly widowed Christian and his tiny daughter. Billionaire Christian would rather spend time with anyone except the tempting woman who reminds him so much of his cherished wife, but Fiona has leave from her cruise-liner job and seems determined to do her family duty.

Their mutual love and respect for Jan have held them apart. Will their lost love be given a second chance now they’re forced together again?

Buy Link (The Other Sister)
Buy Link (The Wrong Sister)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR KAREN McCULLOUGH'S FAVORITE FICTIONAL HEROINES

Award-winning author Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy novels. Her short science fiction, fantasy, and romance fiction has also appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website and blog.

My Favorite Fictional Heroines

I’m a female reader and author with broad taste in fiction. I grew up reading mysteries because that was what my Dad read, so we had plenty of them around. I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Rex Stout. In my early teens I discovered fantasy and science fiction when a friend lent me a stack of books by Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, Andre Norton, and James Tiptree. I tore through them, bowled over by all the new worlds opening up to me on those pages. (And just as an aside, it wasn’t until years later that I discovered the last two were both female authors writing under male names.)

In my later teens I began reading gothic romances and enjoyed the combination of interesting relationships and eerie suspense. Somewhere in there I picked up a couple of books by Mary Stewart and landed in the thrilling territory of romantic suspense. By my twenties I was dipping into a lot of genres but beginning to get more discriminating in my taste.

One of the things I found I wanted, even craved, in my stories was a strong, capable heroine. In too many of the mysteries or gothic romances I read, the heroine was a wilting flower, wimpy and far too dependent on the hero to rescue her from all her troubles. Those books always annoyed me. I wanted smart, capable, strong heroines who might share danger with a man but didn’t depend on him. I liked heroines who could make their own decisions, didn’t do stupid things, and didn’t rely on others to get them out of trouble.

Heroines that could be strong, smart, competent, capable, and still likeable aren’t as common as I would like, although the trend is going my way in this. With that in mind, I picked out a few of my favorite fictional heroines to talk about. Most are from ongoing series, just because I’ve had more exposure to them as a result. They’re very different characters but all fit my criteria and I always enjoy reading about them.

Kinsey Milhone – The private detective lead in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mystery series that started with A is for Alibi. She’s smart and tough in many ways and has faced some of the deepest darkness in people, but she hasn’t let it destroy her humanity. Her independence is hard-won but the struggle has given her tremendous insight. There are other female detectives who also fit the profile but Kinsey is the one I relate to most closely. I loved her from the moment she mentioned that she cut her own hair with nail scissors.

Sookie Stackhouse – The heroine of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. Some people are more familiar with the stories in their television incarnation as “True Blood,” but I like the books better. Sookie has fae blood but her human side dominates for the most part. Growing up with the ability to hear other peoples’ thoughts has caused her to be a bit withdrawn and nervous, but she is drawn into the world of vampires and shapeshifters when she discovers she can’t hear them, making them easier for her to deal with. Though the supernatural politics are rough and tumble, her abilities make her a very capable detective, able to maneuver in both worlds.

Kate Daniels – The protagonist of Ilona Andrews’ Magic series, Kate is a mercenary with a bad-ass attitude and some super-human powers. Independent, strong, and mouthy, she is willing to work with her lover Curran and his pack of shifters, but she still goes her own way and makes her own decisions, particularly when it comes to her complicated family entanglements.

Eowyn – One of the few female characters in The Lord of the Rings, Eowyn is one of the strongest and most honorable in its cast. The niece of the king has been frustrated watching her uncle waste away, unable to do anything about it. And when the troops muster for battle, she’s there, even though she has to disguise herself in armor to go along. Not really a spoiler: she acquits herself well in battle, winning an important victory.

Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) – So maybe this one is too easy because she is a goddess and superhero, and my choice is certainly influenced by the recent, wonderful movie. She’s almost the archetype of the strong, capable heroine. If you haven’t seen the movie, give yourself a treat and go. The scene where Diana walks across a no-man’s land (love the very deliberate irony of that!), deflecting bullets, is absolutely stunning.

Heather McNeill – You’ve probably never heard of her, but I hope you will eventually. Heather is the heroine/amateur detective in my ongoing series of Market Center Mysteries. She’s the assistant to the director of the market center and the person who handles complaints from and disagreements among the exhibitors and attendees at the events held there. I introduced her in A Gift for Murder, which was first published by Five Star/Cengage before they cut their mystery line, picked up by Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery line for mass market paperback, and finally also released as an ebook. Her adventures continued in Wired for Murder, which I initially self-published, but which will also be published in paperback by Harlequin. And I’m now in the midst of writing the third book.

Wired for Murder
Most of the time, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. Because she’s a good listener and even better at solving problems, her boss assigns her to handle a lot of the day to day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there. When Heather becomes an unwilling audience to murder during the Business Technology Expo and later finds the body, she’s willing to let the police take care of it. But she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who really didn’t like him very much.

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