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 22, 2017

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS WITH GUEST CHARACTER JULIENNE LaMERE

Avery Daniels graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in Fortune 500 companies and the Department of Defense her entire life. She lives in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions, volunteers at a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table. Learn more about Avery and her books at her website. 

Frustrations Galore

Hello, I’m Julienne LaMere. I make my debut in Iced by Avery Daniels. The beginning briefly shows how good my life started. I opted out of college because I was fortunate to get accepted in a management-training program at a five-star resort. I am receiving on-the-job training on how to run luxury resorts. How amazing is that! I think I am doubly blessed to start my career at the foot of a majestic mountain with a resort that exemplifies European elegance and glamour. Not that I am biased in the least.

As part of the training, I rotate jobs to learn each area. Currently I am doing event planning. One local Influential Leaders Networking Luncheon finds a celebrity mega-church pastor getting a bit grabby with me. I knee him where it counts and leave. Next time I see him, he has the pointy nose of the swordfish ice sculpture through his chest. Gulp.

Because of my incident with the good pastor I become the prime suspect. Frustration Number One and granted, the biggest concern. But oh, it is only the beginning of my trials and tribulations.

The incredibly popular and nationally known pastor haunts me from his grave, as if in retaliation for my knee to his sensitive bits, in the form of his devoted fans and church members calling to have me fired. If it weren’t for my dad hiring a lawyer, I might have lost my job before I could take a breath.

Oh, then there is my dad. Family is always a challenge… am I right? Come on, be honest now. Frustration Number Two, my father pours on the pressure to stop pursuing a career and marry, preferably with a financially set man, and start giving him the grandchildren he wants. Arggggggg!

My boyfriend, who is a long-term best friend of my cousin and nearly a member of the family because of it, decides to pop the question. Sure, most women would be over the moon, right? I was blown away, especially when he reveals how he sees my ambition to manage resorts around the world as silly little fantasies that I should have left in the dust with my Barbies.  Frustration Number Three.

As if all this weren’t enough to make a hummingbird exhausted or a Tasmanian Devil lose his cool, I have a new neighbor who the senior women simply call “the hot new guy.” I call him Bond Jr. because he is suave, a photographer of celebrities, and a professional level gambler. Somehow I have sparked his interest, not that I did anything for that honor. To be honest, the man scares the pudding out of me, he is just too….sexy. Now, you may not think that is a frustration, ladies, but when you are attempting to work through problems with your boyfriend and his detailed plans for our future that trample my dreams – it is yet another complication in life I could do without at the moment. Really. 

I don’t want to reveal all my frustrations, but suffice it to say I had to put my foot down in several instances…and take control of this situation before the police make a terrible mistake. I’m part French, and the last thing you want is this little French gal mad as a hornet. So I’m putting together a list for the police of other more worthy suspects they should be looking at, which involves my going undercover at one point. Some of what I discover about the dearly departed pastor is more than blush worthy, too.

If you would like to commiserate with me, read about all the frustrations and revelations I dig up, let alone the danger I come far too close to, check out the account of my adventure in Iced by Avery Daniels.

Iced
Julienne has her ideal job as an event planner at a prestigious resort. During a luncheon event she coordinated, a renowned celebrity pastor is killed next to the buffet. All eyes turn to her as the suspect. If she wants to stay out of jail or even keep her job, Julienne needs all the help she can get to solve the crime.

She has her work cut out for her with a vengeful high school rival now reporter, the public demanding she be fired, plus family who knows what's best for her, and a boyfriend who doesn't understand her. She turns to friends and a new ally to uncover who wanted to put the pastor on ice.

Julienne goes undercover and investigates a local swingers group as she follows the trail of clues before they go cold. Can she gather enough suspects and motives to convince the police to widen their investigation? Can she do it before the killer sets his murderous sights on her? Will her personal life ever be as simple as unveiling a murderer?

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--BOLOGNESE RAGU WITH AUTHOR LISA LIEBERMAN

Lisa Lieberman writes the Cara Walden series of historical noir mysteries about blacklisted Hollywood people in exotic European locales. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts and blogs about old movies at deathlessprose.com

An Italian Thanksgiving

You might have thought life as a college professor was challenging enough, teaching history while trying to finish a book, with three small children at home, but my husband and I could never resist an adventure. We’d spent the first year of our married life in England and France, researching our doctoral dissertations in fusty libraries and taking advantage of student travel discounts to see as much of those two countries as we could, but jobs were scarce for academic couples and we ended up stuck in small towns with little hope of escape.

So when I was offered the opportunity to direct a study abroad program in Bologna, Italy, we didn’t hesitate. Who cared that we didn’t know Italian? We had a year to learn the language (and Italians turned out to be very forgiving of mistakes. . .) Somehow we managed to find a babysitter for our infant, a nursery school for our four-year-old, and a public school for our second grader — all within walking distance of our apartment.

That year in Italy changed us in so many ways. For one thing, we started eating pasta pretty much every day, sometimes twice a day! My Italian administrative assistant taught me how to make a proper ragu, Bologna-style. Turkeys being hard to come by in Italy, we made it for Thanksgiving and have kept up the tradition ever since. The recipe below makes enough sauce for two pounds of pasta, so you can freeze half if you’re not feeding an army.

All the Wrong Places, the first book in my Hollywood-themed mystery series, is set partially in Italy. Writing it allowed me to travel back there in my imagination. We’d taken our kids to Sicily for Easter, and stayed at a pensione in Taormina that had a swimming pool set in a terraced garden, complete with lemon trees. For breakfast, they served us juice made from blood oranges. “I couldnt get over the ruby red pulp,” Cara says. “That was Sicily, always surprising you with its vibrancy.”

I invite you to come along with Cara and have an adventure of your own. The ebook of All the Wrong Places will be on sale for .99 from Thanksgiving week through the end of November. Buon viaggio!

Bolognese Ragu

2 T. olive oil
1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 small piece of celery
1 lb. ground beef (can use ground turkey)
1 cup milk
grating of fresh nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
12 sage leaves (or 1 tsp. dried sage)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. pasta

Cook onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until soft (not brown).

Add beef, crumbling it into small pieces as it cooks.

Add milk and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Grate in a little fresh nutmeg. Add wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.

Add tomatoes and their juice, along with sage, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, two hours or more. You want the fat to separate from the meat. If it starts to dry out, add a little water. The tomatoes will start to break down as well (you can help them along by smashing them with your wooden spoon).

Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions, and combine with half of the sauce. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

All the Wrong Places
Seventeen-year-old Cara Walden arrives in 1950s London with her half brother Gray‚ a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter and closeted homosexual. Gray has looked after Cara ever since her mother‚ glamorous actress Vivien Grant‚ was found drowned in the pool at their estate. As Cara embarks on a film shoot in Sicily and begins a love affair with a temperamental actor‚ she cannot help pondering the mystery surrounding her mother’s death‚ but the questions she asks soon put Cara’s own life in danger.

Fans of old movies will get a kick out of All the Wrong Places, a historical mystery set in England, Italy, and the French Riviera that pays tribute to the films of the forties and fifties, capped off with a thrilling finale straight out of Hitchcock.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ANASTASIA INTERVIEWS HER AUTHOR

Ever wonder why author Lois Winston chose to write about me? I certainly have. My life was definitely a lot calmer before she set her sights on me and turned my perfectly normal middle-class life upside down. So the other day I came right out and asked her. It turns out it had everything to do with my career as a magazine crafts editor.

Anastasia: Why me?

Lois: I started my career as a romance author, but in my day job I’m a designer. For several decades (more than I’m willing to admit at this stage in my life!), I’ve designed needlework for kit manufacturers, magazines, book publishers, and the world’s leading producer of embroidery floss. One day about twelve years ago an editor told my agent she was looking for crafting mysteries. My agent immediately thought of me and asked if I’d be interested in trying my hand at writing one. I jumped at the challenge, and the rest is history.

First, I did a bit of research to see what types of crafting mysteries were being published. I discovered all of them featured one particular craft and most took place in craft shops or a crafter’s studio. With just about every craft already covered and many crafts represented in multiple series (yarn and knitting mysteries galore!), I decided to break from the pack and chose as my sleuth a women’s magazine crafts editor.

Anastasia: Why?

Lois: That way, rather than my mystery series centering round a single type of craft, I could feature different crafts in each book. No other crafting mystery author had done that.

Anastasia: So my extremely normal and very safe profession thrust me into a life of murder and mayhem?

Lois: Sorry about that.

Anastasia: Somehow I don’t think you’re sorry at all. You could have chosen an art teacher, you know.

Lois: I suppose. But I didn’t.

Anastasia: I’ve noticed.

Lois: Anyway, getting back to crafts in mysteries…when you write a crafting mystery series, readers expect you to include craft projects, just as authors who write culinary mysteries are expected to include recipes. Recipes are easier. They don’t require charts or diagrams or step-by-step how-to photos the way many crafts do.

Right off the bat I was presented with a dilemma. Knowing the chances of a publisher agreeing to include photos in the books were slim to none, I had to come up with crafts that could be made with only written directions. This is easy if the craft is knitting or crochet. It’s far more difficult for other crafts.

For AssaultWith a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I chose to feature general crafts. I have you working on two different magazine features in this book, one for June weddings and one for Fourth of July celebrations. I included directions for appliqué embellished bridal tennis shoes and birdseed roses for the wedding crafts. For the Fourth of July crafts I featured recycled jeans placemats, clay pot candles, and a decoupaged flag tray.

After the first book, I settled on one type of craft for each book. Death by Killer Mop Doll includes directions for making mop dolls and string doll ornaments. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse features projects made with fabric yo-yos, and DecoupageCan Be Deadly includes (what else?) decoupage crafts. In A Stitch to Die For I went with knit and crocheted baby blankets. Scrapbook ofMurder is the newest book in the series. For this book, rather than include a specific craft project, I’ve featured a series of scrapbooking tips.

Now I have to start thinking about a plot and a craft for the next book in the series. Any suggestions?

Anastasia: After the chaos you’ve brought to my life, you want my help? As we say in New Jersey, fuhgeddaboudit!

Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

COOKBOOKS THAT BENEFIT HUNGRY CHILDREN

Thanksgiving is a week from today. As you plan your turkey and all the fixings, please keep in mind that there are children throughout the U.S. who often go to bed hungry. You can make a difference in their lives. When compiling your holiday gift list, consider these cookbooks for friends and relatives. A percentage of the profits from each sale is donated to NoKidHungry.org.


Who doesn’t love desserts? In Bake, Love, Writean 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 Be Writing 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.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR KATRINA MARIE TALKS TEEN PREGNANCY

Katrina Marie lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two children, and fur baby. She is a lover of all things geeky and Gryffindor for life. When she’s not writing you can find her at her children’s sporting events, or curled up reading a book. Learn more about Katrina and her books at her website. 

Pregnancy Hormones and Being a Teen
Tonya has a hard time dealing with her hormones. Being a pregnant teen is hard, and with her best friend away at college, she doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions.

The major plus in her situation is she has supportive parents. They may not have been supportive at first, but she’s able to go to her mom when she is feeling overwhelmed. Her mom always knows the right things to say to make her feel better, if only just a little bit. That’s one of the best things about having a family that’s close.

Music is another way she copes with everything going on in her life. She has a tendency to put in her earbuds and let the music shift her thoughts. It’s a sort of cleansing for her. Tonya feels like if she can put some music on to take away her frustrations, she’ll feel better in the end. Music has the power to cure what ails you, especially emotionally.

I’m not going to lie, Tonya relies heavily on comfort food. It’s not the healthiest option for an expectant mom, but it helped sooth her. It’s not often, but when you get food that your great-grandmother cooks, it brings peace like nothing else.

Everyone experiences pregnancy hormones so differently. Tonya is no different. She does the best she can with what she knows. The hardest thing for her is becoming very emotional when that’s not how she was before. She’s lucky to have her family and friends to lean on and talk her down when everything becomes too much.

I drew a lot on my own personal experiences during pregnancy while writing Tonya. I remembered those times when I didn’t know what to do with myself, or my feelings, and brought them to life within Tonya. Being eighteen years old is already confusing, add in pregnancy, and it makes everything feel so much bigger.

Welcome to Your Life
Tonya discovers she’s pregnant a month after breaking up with her high school boyfriend, Jake. She can’t decide whether to tell Jake she’s pregnant when he sees her at the mall with a maternity bag.

Tonya struggles to adjust to working, attending the local community college, and pushing off Jake’s advances to get back together. When she’s paired with Reaf, the good-looking guy from her Art class, she has to battle the confusing emotions swirling through her brain and heart.

Can she find love, herself, and become the parent she hopes to be while dealing with pregnancy hormones and drama?

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--A HISTORY OF TEA & TEAPOTS WITH GUEST AUTHOR LYZ KELLEY

Award-winning author Lyz Kelley is a disaster in the kitchen, a compulsive neat freak, and a tea snob. She loves writing about strong women, who have endured challenges, and the men who’ve enriched the lives. Learn more about Lyz and her books at her website.

I love curling up with a good book and a nice mug of tea. In fact, I’m pretty much a tea snob. I have a whole cupboard full of tea, teapots, cups, and infusers. My favorite teas are:

Earl Grey De La Creme: A black tea from the Full Leaf Tea Company. 

Chamomile Citrus: A fruit/herbal team made by Mighty Leaf Tea. 

Orange Blossom: A black tea also crafted by the Mighty Leaf Tea company. 

Candy Cane Lane: A green tea from Celestial Seasonings. 

How do you make the perfect pot of tea?
According to experts, fill your kettle with fresh cold water—cold being the operative word. While the kettle is heating up, pre-warm your teapot and teacup by filling each with hot tap water. When the teakettle is ready, empty the tap water from your teapot and add the tea. Use one rounded teaspoon for each teacup. As a general rule, let the tea steep 1 to 2 minutes for green teas, 2 to 3 minutes for oolong teas, and 3 to 5 minutes for black teas. Then again, I’m an all-day tea drinker, and I’ve been known to double dunk my tea bag—gasp—a sin, I know.

Yet, have you ever wondered about teapots?
A friend of mine has this massive teapot collection, and I became curious, as every writer does. I wanted to discover the history of teapots. So I did a little research, and here is what I found.

The story of teapots begins with their necessity. Tea has been around for centuries. Early on, tea came in the form of bricks. A chunk was cut off and then broken up so that it could be boiled in water.

Shortly after, powdered tea became popular. The ground tea was mixed with hot water in a deep, wide bowl. This type of bowl helped facilitate the whipping of the powder by whisk into a froth. When the powder settled, the tea was drunk out of the bowl. As the drinking of tea continued to develop, its regular consumption required an efficient, and later an aesthetically pleasing, vessel for brewing and drinking.

It wasn’t until the 1300's, when leaf infusion started, making the use of a teapot necessary to allow for the tea to steep. Teapot-like vessels have been around in China for thousands of years, but they were originally used for wine and water. These vessels had a spout and handle, and eventually were adopted for the steeping of tea.
An Antique YiXing teapot

The most popular teapots from this time were produced in the YiXing region of China. These teapots were made of purple clay and were known to be of fine texture and high quality. These teapots were hybrids of the earlier drinking bowls and the modern teapots. The vessels were not only used to brew tea, but were drinking vessels with a spout from which an individual would drink.

By the 15th century, both the Chinese and Japanese were drinking tea for ceremonial purposes, and the beverage was no longer regarded solely for its medicinal properties. Chinese scholars and intellectuals became involved in the design of teapots. The "cult of tea" in Japan, led by the artist Sen Rikyu (1522-1591), became an impetus for stylistic and artistic evolution in YiXing teapot designs.  

The Japanese imported Chinese artists to teach them potting methods, eventually developing new techniques for creating these delicate wares. Red clay was used to create what we now know as shudei teapots.

When Dutch importers brought tea to Europe in 1610, the teapot also made the trip and this sparked new teapot designs. Early on, the European teapot designs were inadequate due to poor workmanship and poor quality of materials. A breakthrough occurred in the early 1700's when new clay was discovered. With the help of new technology, fine porcelain was created that today rivals the best that China had to offer. While a china teapot or porcelain teapot holds heat the best, a ceramic teapot or stoneware teapot is fun and mood setting as well as a great conversational piece.

So, there you have it—the history of the teapot. I also studied all the different kinds of tea, and included some of that research in one of my books. Fun, fun, fun!

Question: Are you a tea drinker? What’s your favorite kind? 

Rescued
Elkridge Series, Book 6

Karly’s animal shelter business is failing. She’s desperate to find options having too many animals, and not enough foster parents, trainers, or adopters to keep food in the bowls. When her first love returns home from Afghanistan wounded and alone, she offers Thad a win-win situation—a job in exchange for training a special needs dog.

Thad wants to be left alone. He feels responsible for not spotting the IED before it killed his friends. When Karly drops off a dog for him to train, memories of the past haunt him. He doesn’t realize he still loves her until she mysteriously disappears.

Corruption is tearing the small town of Elkridge apart. Thad is brave enough to give up his life to save Karly, but is he brave enough to fight to live? Will she be strong enough to survive? Will fate allow them to be together?

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