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, December 18, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR LAURIE RYAN TALKS CHRISTMAS TREES

Always a fan of happily-ever-after endings, romance was a natural genre for Laurie Ryan to gravitate to. She loves writing stories of stubborn, single-minded heroines who have to learn that everything is better when you’re not alone. Learn more about Laurie and her books at her website.

How Do You Decorate Your Tree?
Hi, everyone! And a mega-thank you to Lois Winston for having me here today. I understand it’s craft day, so I thought I’d chat a bit about Christmas trees. There’s no right or wrong way to decorate a tree from my perspective. And everyone does them a little differently. However, I’ve found there are basically two types of tree-decorators. Those who can put together a magical tree that is perfect in every way, like the amazing tree above my sister-in-law did last year. (I sure wish I had that kind of talent!)
Beautiful to look at and it makes me smile just staring at the picture. Then, there’s the rest of us, who’s trees tend to be mismatched, willy-nilly arrangements of memories and quirky projects. Here’s mine from a couple years ago.

Just like the other tree, my grin is wide as I sit and stare at it. None of my ornaments match, but each one has a memory attached to it. Like the ones below, all of which are handmade. (Just not by me.) A treasured memory of seeing the Northern Lights, gifts from my husband’s grange and one from our grandson, as well as a beloved trip to Mt. Rainier.
Every year, it’s like visiting with old friends as each ornament comes out of the box. Do you feel that same way? I hope so. I’ve never tried to make my own ornaments. That kind of craft is not easy for me, and I envy those who can design three-dimensional crafts like that. Me, I scrapbook and write. Thank goodness for Pinterest, because if it’s not flat, I probably can’t imagine it. I can certainly enjoy it, though. And I do. At home, at my sister-in-law’s, in our local town center. And in the windows of the many houses I drive by at night.

Healing Love
Nicole Milbourne is committed to a cause–eradicating the deadly disease that stole her mother’s life. One man is determined to show her a world larger than her single-minded focus. Adrift for Christmas, Nicole’s favorite holiday, she accepts the lifeline Damien Reed tosses her; Christmas with his family. Will an unexpected Christmas fill Nicole’s lonely heart and show her the healing power of love?

Friday, December 15, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CHAD BISHOP

Being a child of divorce, Chad Bishop has experienced both sides of the American Family. The experiences of his formative years made him more aware of the women around him, their daily feats of resourcefulness, and their ingenuity, which often went unnoticed and unacknowledged by society. His stories highlight societal issues and the ever-changing challenges women face. Learn more about Chad and his books at his website.

I write techno-thrillers.  It may seem like an oxymoron but when I was growing up, I was always fascinated by complex mysteries. While I have my authors that have inspired me to continue on this road, I have to confess that the roots of my fascination started in a holiday tradition.

Christmas comes in December, but I had aunts who started in September. They were knitters. During the summer, pictures were cut out of magazines and fashion books were raided. Then, September would come and the buying frenzy of yarn would begin. The month of September was like cyber Monday but all month long. Then at the end of the month out would come the patterns, the needles and yarn bags.

I’ll admit they tried to get me to knit, but it wasn’t a talent I could acquire.  What did catch my attention were the diagrams of the complex cables and knits. My aunts were the first coders I ever met. They saw the diagrams, looked at the output and decided they wanted to customize some items. Then they began to mark up the diagrams. When the diagram became too messy, they pulled out blank diagrams, wrote their own legends, and began to code.

I like coding, technology and how it all works together. In my books the women are out-going, independent and problem solvers. Sanctuary of Lies is about a woman who had made killer code. It has the ability to bring down airplanes without warning. The code is aptly called Houdini, and everyone wants it. The book also introduces the dark web. The dark web is essentially the web’s black market, where everything is for sell. This book introduces you into the world of technology through the eyes of these women.

I write about contemporary subjects because that’s what my aunts spoke about as they knitted. Politics flew just as quickly as the needles. My tapping on the keyboard doesn’t have the same clicking of wood and metal but it reminds me why I chose my career and why I write about what I write.

Sanctuary of Lies
There are 4.7 billion searchable sites making up 10% of the web, the other 90% is dedicated to the "dark web". Within that environment there is a thriving economy where everything is for sale: sex, armies and code for hire. Well-known companies buy and sell for governments and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations). They appear as benign legal boutique companies and consultants, but their true purpose is to be the middlemen/cyber lynchpins for these illicit goods and services.

Isabella Nunez owns a computer firm in Brooklyn with her lover Jacob Costa. Accepting her infertility, they have a blue nose pit bull called Justice as their “child” and live simple lives as techie nerds. Isabella’s idyllic life is shattered when several days after her lover’s ex-wife, Simone Johns’, reported death, Simone sends Jacob an email to come save the child, he didn’t know they had.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR SALLY HANDLEY ON COZY MYSTERIES

Author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series, Sally Handley is also an avid reader and gardener and writes a monthly blog entitled “On Writing, Reading and Retirement”. Learn more about Sally and her books at her website. 

A Cozy Christmas
The words cozy and Christmas just seem to go together like peaches and cream. Before I retired in 2015, every Christmas, I used to drive with my dog from New Jersey to South Carolina to spend the holidays with my family. I managed to stay wide awake for the twelve hour road trip by eating candy bars, drinking Coca-Cola and listening to audiobooks. I still remember my delight the Christmas I discovered Deck the Halls, a collaboration by Carol Higgins Clark and her mother, Mary Higgins Clark. Listening to that cozy mystery as I drifted southward through the Shenandoah Mountains, was just the best warm-up for the week ahead.

Book two of my Holly and Ivy mystery series, Frost on the Bloom, begins on Christmas Eve at the fictitious Skyview Manor, a really cozy setting. The irony is that when I started writing my first mystery, Second Bloom, I had never even heard the term cozy mystery. Oh, I’d read tons of mysteries, many of them cozies, but I’d never heard the term used to describe an entire genre until I attended my first International Women’s Writing Guild Conference back in 2013.

Registration for the conference included a “Meet the Agents” session. In reviewing the agent resumes and trying to decide which agents I wanted to sign up for, I came across one whose write-up specified, “No cozy mysteries, please.” Wait. What? As you can guess, I immediately went on line and googled “cozy mystery”.

The first listing I found was https://www.cozy-mystery.com/. That was my aha moment. As I read the home page introduction, I clicked off the major characteristics of the genre one by one. Amateur sleuths. All the characters lived in the same neighborhood. No blood and gore. Yes, indeed. I was writing a cozy mystery.

Once I was able to put that specific tag on what I was writing, people started providing me with lots of helpful information. I learned about Malice Domestic, an organization that holds an annual fan convention in Bethesda, MD every year and celebrates traditional mysteries. I still recall how I felt attending that first conference…I’d found my people.

I belong to two book clubs and we read some serious literature, but I have to admit, I’m happiest curled up inside a mystery--and not just any mystery--a cozy mystery.  As I wrote in one of my blog posts, “Especially when the world seems gray and gloomy, whether literally or figuratively, I know no better escape than reading about a plucky heroine who says and does all the things I can’t, a shero who conquers the bad guys and finds true love with some hunky hero.”

Before starting to write this post, I searched “Mary Higgins Clark” to find the title of the book I’d listened to several years ago and discovered she and her mother have written at least five Christmas cozies. Then I searched “Christmas Cozy Mysteries”.  I’m guessing “Christmas Cozies” will eventually become its own sub-genre. I have to close now and place my order for at least one or two in time to read this holiday season. If you’re looking for a cozy Christmas read, I hope you’ll consider Frost on the Bloom.

Frost on the Bloom
In this second book in the Holly and Ivy mystery series, one of Holly Donnelly’s former students, Becky Powell, asks the look-alike sisters for help when they all spend Christmas at Skyview Manor, and Becky becomes the prime suspect in the attempted murder of her manipulative grandmother, Lyla Powell. Once again the plucky sisters are reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation, convinced that Mrs. Powell’s duplicitous friends and greedy Powell family members have framed Becky for the crime. Holly’s involvement becomes a source of contention between her and Detective Nick Manelli, threatening their budding romance. Can their relationship continue to sizzle as the investigation heats up and the sister sleuths try to catch a cold-blooded killer?

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR JUDY PENZ SHELUK SHARES PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE RECIPE

With the holidays coming up we've allowed Cloris another spot this week to feature one more author who bakes. After all, you can never have too many Christmas cookies, right? 

Judy Penz Sheluk writes the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries, and her short crime fiction has appeared in several anthologies. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website/blog. 

Judy is offering a giveaway to a lucky reader. Click here to sign up for her newsletter before December 20th for a chance to win an Audible.com audiobook of either The Hanged Man’s Noose or Skeletons in the Attic (winner’s choice). 

While I don’t write the sort of books that contain cats, crafts or cookie recipes (my amateur sleuth mysteries have bit more of an edge), like me, my protagonists have a sweet tooth, at least when it comes to cookies. When I visited last December, I shared a recipe for my mom’s Almond Crescents, a to-die for shortbread that Arabella Carpenter of The Hanged Man’s Noose would surely appreciates. You can find that recipe here

In Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery, my protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, is searching for clues that might help her find out more about her mother—a woman who disappeared thirty years earlier, when Callie was just six-years-old. As Callie digs through a box of her mother’s belongings, she finds a peanut butter cookie recipe that bears a striking resemblance to the recipe my mom used. Maybe it’s the childhood memory of baking with my mother, but I truly believe these are the best peanut butter cookies you’ll ever taste.

Anneliese’s Best Ever Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy; I prefer smooth, but if you like bits of peanut in your cookies, the crunchy peanut butter works well)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla (real vanilla, not the imitation stuff) Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. Beat butter, peanut butter and white and brown sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well after each addition.

Drop a tablespoon of cookie dough 2 inches apart onto baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray. Flatten each cookie in a crisscross pattern with the tines of a fork.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Allow to cool completely.

Skeletons in the Attic, a Marketville Mystery

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder. 

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KATHY KREVAT

Kathy Krevat is the author of the Gourmet Cat Mystery series and the nationally bestselling Chocolate Covered Mystery series under the name Kathy Aarons. Learn more about Kathy and her books at her website.

Easy Quiche for Holiday Visitors
The holiday season in Southern California means that we can usually entice some friends and relatives to visit and enjoy the sunshine.

Even without visitors, the holidays mean lots of get-togethers. One of my favorite recipes for low key dinners and potlucks is the easy quiche recipe below. We’ll be serving them at our annual New Year’s Day Brunch. We make it more of an open house, so that people can stop in once they’ve recovered from their New Year’s Eve parties.

This recipe can be modified for more or less vegetables, additions of sausage or other meats, low calorie cheese, and even low carb. The one in the photo is crustless!

For this New Year’s Day, I’m going to make this recipe – some with and some without crusts – and one with imitation crab meat and grated Swiss cheese instead of the broccoli and cheddar. It goes very well with mimosas!

And as a side benefit, leftover quiche tastes even better the next day!

Ingredients:
Frozen deep-dish pie crust
4 eggs
1 c. milk
1 T. flour
½ lb. turkey bacon
½ med. onion, chopped
½ lb. cheddar (or other) cheese
½ cup broccoli

Preheat oven to 350oF

Thaw pie shell, prick bottom with fork and cook at 350 degrees until slightly golden brown, approximately 7 minutes. 

Cook bacon until crisp and break into little pieces. 

Sauté onion in margarine or butter until soft. 

Steam broccoli as desired. 

Mix eggs, milk and flour well. 

Place onions, bacon and vegetables in bottom of pie shell. Add half the cheese. Pour in egg mixture until almost full. Place remaining cheese on top. 

Cook on a cookie sheet for 35 minutes. Check to see if done by inserting fork in center. If it comes out dry, the quiche is done. If not, keep checking every 15 minutes until done.

The Trouble With Murder
Single mom and gourmet cat food entrepreneur Colbie Summers thought she’d escaped her tiny California hometown forever. But when her father needs her, she packs up her adolescent son, their finicky feline, Trouble, and her budding business. She knows change is tough—but she doesn’t expect it to be murder . . .

Between dealing with her newly rural life, her grumpy, sports-obsessed father, and preparing to showcase her products in the local Sunnyside Power Mom’s trade show, Colbie has more on her plate than she bargained for. Luckily, she has her official taste-tester, Trouble, by her side to vet her 
Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food line. Things look promising—until one of the Power Moms is found dead—with an engraved Meowio specialty knife buried in her chest. 

As the prime suspect, Colbie needs paws on the ground to smoke out who had means, motive, and opportunity among the networking mothers—including a husband-stealing Sofia Vergara lookalike. And the cat’s still not out of the bag when a second violent death rocks the bucolic community. Trouble may have nine lives, but Colbie’s only got one to clear her name and stop a killer from pulling off the purr-fect crime . . .

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Monday, December 11, 2017

AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON ON WINTER WONDERLAND HOLIDAY BLOG SHARE, MAKING LISTS & #GIVEAWAY

The holidays are coming. Are you ready? Need another gift for a book lover? Or maybe you need a break from all the holiday frenzy?

Today marks the start of the Winter Wonderland Holiday Blog Share. In the spirit of the season I’m joining with authors Catherine Green, Stanalei Fletcher, Doree Anderson, Kathryn E. Jones, Karl Beckstrand, Marie Higgins, and Mary Martinez, to spread a bit of holiday cheer.

The tour lasts through December 18th. Stop by, leave a comment at each blog, and enter the Rafflecopter. You could win a $60 Amazon gift card, an early holiday present for yourself or a bit of help with your gift list. In addition, many of the authors, myself included, are giving away copies of our books.

Author Mary Martinez came up with idea for the Winter Wonderland Holiday Blog Share. She asked that we answer one or all of the following questions:

1. What is your favorite tradition from your childhood?
2. Do you still keep the same tradition with your family? Or have you started a new one for your family?
3. What is your favorite holiday dish?

Hmm…you might think these are easy questions to answer. Not for someone with a rather non-traditional childhood, noted mostly for its lack of any family traditions. And the traditions established with my own children have changed over the years as they’ve grown older and close friends and relatives have moved away. As for my favorite holiday dish? It’s hard to choose just one.

So instead, I’m going to discuss the biggest holiday tradition of all—list-making.

As everyone knows, this is the time of year for lists:
Gift lists.
Shopping lists.
Christmas card lists.
To-Do lists.

One by one we check off or cross out the items or names or chores until all are taken care of—hopefully well before ChristmaChanuKwanzaFestidan has come and gone.

Whatever you celebrate, this is a busy time of year. I don’t know about you, but I’d be lost without my lists. Even with them I often find myself running out at the last minute because I forgot to put an item or a person or a necessary ingredient on one of my many lists. A list, after all, is only as good as the list maker’s organizational skills. Good thing Santa doesn’t rely on me. He’s the most organized list maker the world has ever seen. Not only does he make a list, he checks it twice. And manages to accomplish his tasks all in one night. I envy Santa. I wish I could be that organized.

Along with the aforementioned lists, it's also that time of year for a host of other lists. I'm sure you've seen them in newspapers and magazines as well as on TV and the Internet. But did you know there's even a website of Top 10 Lists? Imagine that, a List of Lists! So along with finding out the Top 10 Grossing Movies of the Year or the Top 10 Searched Internet Sites or the Top 10 Gadgets of the Year, you can also find everything from the Top 10 Strangest LEGO Creations to the Top 10 Most Fascinating Urinals. (Really! Even I couldn't make that one up!)

So since everyone seems compelled around this time of year to come up with a Top 10 list of something, I thought I'd share one of mine:

Lois Winston's Top 10 Holiday List (in no particular order)
10. Favorite Christmas Beverage: John's egg nog
  9. Favorite Christmas Cookie: Rose's shortbread with chocolate frosting
  8. Favorite Christmas Carol: "Angels We Have Heard On High"
  7. Favorite Christmas Song (non-carol): "White Christmas"
  6. Favorite Christmas Movie: White Christmas
  5. Favorite Christmas TV Special: A Charlie Brown Christmas
  4. Favorite Christmas Book: A Christmas Story
  3. Favorite Christmas Activity: decorating the tree
  2. Favorite Christmas Present: a Shirley Temple doll
  1. Favorite Christmas Memory: watching my son perform in Amahl and the Night Visitors

Now it's your turn. What are some of your holiday favorites? Post a comment on today's blog for a chance to win a Kindle version of Elementary, My Dear Gertie, the novella sequel to my award-winning Talk Gertie To Me. (Note: Elementary, My Dear Gertie can be read and enjoyed without first having read Talk Gertie To Me.) The winner will be announced in the comment section of this blog at the end of the blog share. So make sure you check back after Dec. 18th to see if you've won and how to get your copy.

And don’t forget to hop over to these other blogs for more chances to win other books and enter the Rafflecopter drawing.

December 11th—Lois Winston
December 12thCatherine Green
December 13thStanalei Fletcher
December 14thDoree Anderson
December 15thKathryn E. Jones
December 16thKarl Beckstrand
December 17thMarie Higgins
December 18thMary Martinez

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter drawing for a $60 Amazon gift card. 


Elementary, My Dear Gertie
Heat up some hot cocoa, cuddle up on the couch, and treat yourself to a visit to Ten Commandments, Iowa where nothing is what it first seems. Come for the secrets. Stay for the laughs. And watch out for a killer on the loose.

Two years have passed since the happily-ever-after that isn’t doing so well. Nori Stedworth has moved in with the love of her life, Mackenzie Randolph, much to her parents’ displeasure. They’re coping as best as parents from Ten Commandments, Iowa can. They want Mac to make an honest woman of their daughter, and that means nothing short of marriage. Mac is all for exchanging I do’s. He’s even bought the ring, but before he can pop the question, an explosion hurls him and Nori right into the middle of a murder investigation. Gertie, Nori's alter-ego, can't help but lend her acerbic wit to the twists and turns as the town is turned upside down in the search for a murderer and arsonist, and yet another scandal envelopes the not-so-pious residents of Ten Commandments.

Read an excerpt here

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

COVER OF THE MONTH AWARD--ROUND 2

Anastasia and the gang are super-excited to announce that Scrapbook of Murder, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, has made it to the second round of voting for the coveted Cover of the Month Award at All Author. Once again your help is needed for us to advance to the next round. Cast your vote here(Once on the page, click on the orange box next to the cover to vote.) Thanks for your support!