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.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS--GUEST AUTHOR BEVERLEY BATEMAN

Murder, mystery and romance fill award-winning Canadian author Beverley Bateman's life. She writes contemporary romantic suspense and medical thrillers and loves to plot, kill and hopefully baffle her readers along the way. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.

Failures and frustrations, I’m sure we’ve all had our share of them throughout our life. You learn by your failures, people have always said. And I agree with them. It’s better to try and fail, than not try at all. I’ve tried many things, failed and learned a lot. Writing is one of them.

I’ve always written, notes on plots, locked room mysteries, seen something while traveling and figured out a plot on what might have happened there. But I never did anything with it except get frustrated because I didn’t have time to write and didn’t know where to start to write an entire book.

When I finally took the leap, I didn’t tell people. I was afraid I’d fail. And I did. My first book is hidden away. I did like the plot, but the writing... I pitched it at a small conference. It was a failure, but I learned a lot there. Show, don’t tell; develop your voice and develop your characters. There were a few other things, too. I felt like a failure. I’d never get a book published. But I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote another book and entered it in a contest. I got mostly 3’s but I also got a 1 and a comment that said I should consider not writing anything else. That was a huge failure. I didn’t even pay attention to the other scores, which did have some nice things to say.

Once I recovered from that contest I went back to writing, and at another conference found a publisher who liked my books and published them. I kept writing and learning. Some people like my books, some don’t. And if I can get constructive criticism I’m thrilled.

I just released By Design. It’s a medical thriller about designer cloning. Cloning is presently being done in many countries, and yes, there is legislation that sets guidelines. But what if someone managed to stay off the grid and find ways to use cloning for personal use to make money? The idea intrigued me.

When I told anyone, including editors and agents, they said cloning wasn’t popular anymore. It was outdated. It’s been replaced by terrorism. No one would be interested in it. It would be another failure. I listened and researched and plotted. Then I put the book away. It would fail. But I kept coming back to it and decided to write it anyway. I hoped I could suspend readers’ disbelief and they would enjoy the story.

Everyone said – give it up. It won’t work in today’s society. Half the people probably haven’t even heard of cloning. It can only fail. It was frustrating because it’s a book I wanted published. So I published it. It’s possible it will fail, but hopefully people will enjoy the story. If not, I learned new things along the way. And now it’s on to a new book and its frustrations.

By Design
Nurse Evie Dalton succumbs to greed and a chance to work with sexy Dr. Adam Marsden. She accepts a position at an isolated hospital. There’s an onsite animal farm, screams in the night, mysterious limos come and go, and people disappear and turn up dead. There’s no way to leave and no communication outside the town. The more questions Evie asks, the more she’s pulled into a designer cloning operation with less chance of escaping alive.

Dr. Adam Marsden left his past behind. Now he has it all; a great job, money, and a chance to buy his own hospital. He brings his own patients out to the isolated hospital and for surgery, part of which they are unaware. He prefers to ignore what actually happens at the hospital and focuses on his personal goal - until Evie Dalton arrives.

Now he must choose between his goal, Evie’s life and possibly his own. And hired killers have shown up at the hospital. Can he find an escape and save the woman he realizes he loves?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--SKINNY CHICKEN SALAD

I once worked for a man who could devour a cup of mayonnaise in one sitting. He’d order a bowl of it with his lunch and dip potato chips in it. Oh the calories! Oh the cholesterol! Oh the clogged arteries! Most people love mayonnaise, but let’s face it, mayonnaise doesn’t love us back.

So what do you do to bind together all those summer salads we’re so fond of? Greek yogurt to the rescue! It works as a mayo substitute in pasta salad, tuna salad, seafood salad, potato salad, and chicken salad. Today I’m using it in chicken salad. Trust me, you won’t miss the mayo.

Note: The recipe calls for a rotisserie chicken, which can be purchased at any supermarket. However, you can also use pre-cooked chicken breasts, thighs, or tenders or leftover chicken you cooked yourself.

Skinny Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 rotisserie chicken
5.3 oz. container plain Greek yogurt
1 nectarine
1 cucumber
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Cut sundried tomatoes into small pieces and place in bowl of water to dehydrate.

Remove skin and bones from chicken. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces. Add yogurt and mix until chicken is evenly coated.

Dice nectarine and cucumber. Add to chicken. Mix in dried dill and almonds.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Monday, June 26, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST PROTAGONIST ANA CAMPBELL'S CRAFT HACK

Hacking is bad when it comes to computers but great when it comes to crafts. Today we’re joined by school principal Ana Campbell, the protagonist of author Liz Boeger’s award-winning, unpublished cozy mystery, AppleJacked!, the first book in her proposed Moccasin Cove series.

Liz grew up in a snake-infested area of South Tampa originally called Rattlesnake and still lives in Florida. After nearly three decades as an educator she still prefers genuine snakes to the human variety. She has been a teacher, teacher-trainer, and a school administrator. Connect with her on Twitter @LizBoegerAuthor and learn more about her at her Moccasin Cove Mysteries blog.

Craft Hacks for School & Home: T-shirt Paint

School principal Ana Campbell shares a story from early in her teaching career when this Craft Hack came in handy. It taught an important lesson to her students and to her boss.

“Campbell, what’s with this paint all over my new cabinets and windows?” My demanding boss did not modulate her tone for the thirty smirking fifth graders in my reading class.

I kept my cool and refused to stop teaching just to quiver for the queen.

“Deylon,” I whispered. “Would you please show the principal those Clever Clings we made last week?”

The confident boy had been a frequent-flyer in the principal’s office in previous years. This year I used every brain cell I possessed to find him leadership opportunities. He met my challenge handily. I refocused on the student who had been reading to me and let Deylon take charge.

“Look here, Principal Miller, you jest peel ‘em off and see, mash ‘em, and they go right back on. No mess. We reuse them all over the room posting our work. Ain’t that clever? Let me show you my writing sample hanging on that window.”

I can thank that overbearing boss for this crafty idea. Early in my career, my husband was in the Air Force and we moved frequently. During one deployment, he was in Qatar and I was all by my lonesome in Nevada, where I was hired to teach at a new school. I’ve learned I can avoid student meltdowns when they feel connected to their work. So, I post samples of student work to build their confidence and pride, but, “NO TAPE ALLOWED ON ANY SURFACE!” was the mantra of my highly intimidating principal. What was this teacher-girl to do?

At about the same time, I was using T-shirt paint to decorate some canvas sneakers to wear to school for a garden-themed unit in science. A glop of paint had smeared on my laminate countertop at home and I didn’t notice it until the next morning when I was checking to see if the sneaker design had fully dried. Voila! An idea was born that would solve my NO TAPE dilemma.

I discovered that the dried smear of paint easily peeled off of the countertop just like a window-cling. No residue, no stain, and the thing clung again and again when I applied it to the window, to mirrors, and to my refrigerator. If kept free of dust and dirt, it could be used to hold light-weight student work on the cabinets and windows. I even used it to number the cabinets in my classroom.

It’s been nearly twenty years since I discovered this craft hack. Now, as a school principal with my own NO TAPE policy, I share this idea with my teachers. So, have at it and have fun--but don’t let me catch you putting tape on my windows and cabinets! 

Materials:  Bottles of t-shirt paint in colors of your choice, laminate or glass surface to use as a temporary canvas, paper towels, toothpicks.

Time: 15+ minutes to paint and at least 24 hours to dry, depending on humidity and the thickness of your cling creation. Warning: This is fabric paint, so keep it off cloth fabrics you don’t want stained.

Result: Repositionable “sticker” used to post student work, label a cabinet, leave a happy note on a mirror or refrigerator.

Surfaces: Non-porous: laminate (like Formica), glass/mirrors, whiteboard, refrigerator

Directions:
1. Shake paint down into the tip of the bottle before dispensing to eliminate air bubbles. If you do get a bubble in the design, just smooth it out with the toothpick.

2. Squeeze paint onto the “canvas” in desired design. Paint from the foundation colors UP, in layers. Use multiple colors and mix with the toothpick for a marble effect.

3. Make the cling at least two inches wide on a side and as thick as a nickel for ease in handling. Skinny or thin areas will tear.

4. Allow to dry completely—at least 24 hours. This is a much longer time than when using on fabric. Cling will feel tacky to touch when dry, but not sticky. If you smear it when checking the dryness, repaint and re-dry.

5. Peel the cling off the “canvas” and adhere to desired surface. Overlap the corners of student work to post on the cabinet or window. Reusable. FUN!





AppleJacked! 
Southern elementary school principal Anastasia Callahan Campbell investigates the murder of a young teacher while trying to save her failing school and bring economic recovery to her beloved Florida hometown. Untamed beaches, corporate raiders, meth labs, off-stage child abuse, autism, and childhood secrets take their toll on the sassy school leader. In the process of her sleuthing, Ana learns a hard lesson; while it takes a village to raise a child, it may also take your life!

Friday, June 23, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ICY SNOW BLACKSTONE

Author Icy Snow Blackstone writes romance and futuristic romance. Today she sits down for an interview with us, but you can also learn more about her at her Amazon author page and keep reading to learn the origin of her very unusual pen name.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
When I was around seven. I had come home from a movie and thought about it and decided I liked it so much, I wanted it to continue, so I wrote a sequel… only I did it in comic book form, with pictures and captions. Guess it was a graphic novel.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
My first novel was published in 2008, so (counting from the age of 7) it took 59 years.

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

Where do you write?
I have a nook near a very large window where my desk is located. It gets plenty of sunshine and gives me a nice view to stare at when I hit a lull. It’s also surrounded by bookcases with reference books and others.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I used to listen to classical music but where I live now, it’s so noisy, I simply tune out everything.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Not many. I certainly hope I’ve never been in some of the situations I put my characters in! If that were true, I wouldn’t be stuck for plots.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I never really thought about it until you asked that question. Sometimes, as I’m thinking of a plot, the names simply come to me. Other times, I’ll hear a name and think, “That’s a good name for a villain…or a hero…” Other times, I take a word, look up its original source and use that. Occasionally, I name a character to break a stereotype. In Runaway Brother, one of my secondary characters is named Clyde and his nickname is Bubba. I did that deliberately, because characters named “Clyde” are invariably considered bumbling, stupid and used only for laughs, and “Bubba” is a stereotype Southern name for a dumb Southern character. My Clyde is neither a stereotype nor comic. He starts out as the rival of the hero and eventually becomes his friend, and when the chips are down, he’s there to help.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I’ve used both. In Runaway Brother, Oceano is a fictitious town, but the countryside surrounding it, which I describe, is authentic.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I don’t consider that my characters have quirks. In the time, place, and setting of their stories, they’re completely normal. One of them does get transformed into a cat, but he doesn’t think that strange because his grandmother’s a witch, so would that be a quirk or not? Guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m a writer. That’s quirk enough!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Gone with the Wind, because next to the Bible, it’s the most read book in the world (and it was written by a Georgia girl).

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Oh my goodness, there are too many of those to even consider! I wouldn’t know where to start.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People assuming because I’m a writer I make big bucks.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Are we talking other than food and shelter? If so, I’d want a workable 2-way radio to get me out of there FAST! Other than that. A Swiss army knife, and MacGyver, then I wouldn’t need anything else.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Door-to-Door candy salesperson.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I’ve read so many I simply can’t say.

Ocean or mountains?
Mountains overlooking the seashore.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country. Give me the wide open spaces and plenty of grass and trees.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I have a fourth entry in my Three Moon futuristic romance series in the offing.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Icy Snow Blackstone is my pseudonym. However, it’s actually my great-great-great-great-grandmother’s name. She was born in north Georgia in 1802 where her father, a transplanted minister from Massachusetts named John Blackstone, was active in local politics. I always thought her name sounded like it should belong to a romance writer so when I began writing, I decided to use it.

Most of my novels are romances set in the South, though I have one or two paranormal/futuristics that keep me from staying completely in that niche.

Runaway Brother
For ten years, Nicolo Liquori gave up his own ambitions, working during the day in the family’s New York jewelry business, and returning each night to behis father’s caregiver. Then Papa dies, and Nick is free…or is he?

Brothers Carlo, Marco, and Pietro expect him to continue life as usual, but Nick has other ideas. One day, he goes to work but never arrives. Instead, he’s roaring down the highway on a newly-purchased motorcycle.

Nick gets as far as the southern coast of Georgia before an accident disables his bike. Stranded, with no idea of the South except what he’s seen on TV, Nick isn’t certain what kind of reception he’ll get. Tha’;s when a pretty Southern miss and a white tank disguised as a temperamental horse named Shazam teach a runaway Yankee about life and love in a small Georgia town.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR JANE FLAGELLO SHARES TIPS FOR FINDING SUCCESS

Jane Flagello writes mysteries with social and life lessons twists. After retiring from a management professorship and a personal coaching practice, she found herself wondering what was next. A creative academic at heart who loves to write, she combined what she loves to do, resulting in her first novel. Now she takes her love of writing and combines it with her goal to shine a light on societal problems not often discussed. Learn more about Jane and her books at her website. 

Finding the “YOU” in Success

Success means different things to different people. Almost everyone who has realized success know these simple truths: hard work comes first, success is a journey, persistence is key, and what you define as success changes over time.

Want to increase your success I.Q.? Ask yourself these two questions:

What’s going on inside me that causes me to do what I do—say what I say—feel what I am feeling?

If I don’t like the results I’m getting—or I want more or something different—how do I change myself (meaning grow and develop) in ways that produce the results I really want?

And therein lies the rubchange!  To get different results you have to change what you’re doing. Change is the shoe that pinches! To let go of what you have always done or planned to do, and seek new ways to accomplish your goals plays out cognitively, emotionally, and physically.

Your ability to change is your critical success factor. Change takes you out of your comfort zone. It can be frightening and confusing, leaving you feeling vulnerable. Embracing changeyour ability to changeis the holy grail of what it takes to be successful today.

While change exerts a powerful force, the status quo is an equally powerful, often unrecognized, force. It lulls you into a false sense of complacency. It’s the “bird-in-hand” expression come to life. Fears of loss and an increased sense of vulnerability reinforce the status quo. Why chance changing anything? You know what your current actions are producing. You know how to compensate in those areas where you are not fully up to speed. In some way, you have made a conscious or unconscious decision that you can live with this outcome.

Want to enhance your opportunities for success? It’s all about changing the choices you make emotionally, physically, spiritually, and cognitively. When you are clear on the life you want for yourself, you can harness the power of Y-O-U, keeping the actions that enable the results you really want and letting go of the behaviors that prove detrimental to your success.

Consider these “secrets” to success so that you can hone in on what you need to change:

a) Imagine a success picture of you. What does your picture look like? How far away from that image are you now? What do you have to start doing/stop doing to get closer to it?

b) Identify areas in your life where you are stressed or are suffering. What actions can you take to decrease your stress? What do you need to learn/do?

c) Do things that bring you pleasurethat rich inner feeling, that rush of exhilaration that comes from doing what you really love and want to do. Work is only work when you don’t enjoy what you are doing. And it is hard to be successful doing things you don’t enjoy.

When you are at peace with yourself, your success will skyrocket. There is a pattern, a meaning, a sense to life. It is bigger than we are, yet simpler to achieve than we might imagine. Identify what success means for you, let go of your past, create a plan and take your first step. You have a purpose, and a responsibility to seek out your purpose and achieve it. And when you do, you will have found the success you seek.

Complicity
Evil takes many forms, especially when fueled by the drive to possess things that aren’t yours. The easier it is, the more you take—feeding the devil within.

Morgan Kasen’s life is going nowhere. After two failed marriages, she’s stuck in a dead-end job, writing puff pieces for a local Williamsburg newspaper. Befriending Eli, a homeless man who squats outside her local grocery store, feeds her compassionate side…until his disappearance thrusts her into the dark world of black market organ trafficking. And the promise of her big break—a career-making story worthy of a Pulitzer.

Her competition: Jesse Sinclair—a street-savvy New York City reporter with Pulitzer on the brain…and a great butt in a tight pair of jeans. What he’s willing to do to win his coveted prize challenges Morgan’s trust issues to her core.

Enter two rogue entrepreneurs competing to satisfy their own needs at the expense of the less fortunate. And then the bodies begin to pile up, starting with a vagrant found in the woods missing a kidney.

Power, money, and murder combine in an intense hunt to stop those responsible before any more innocent people lose critical body parts…or their lives.

Buy Links

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR DIANE BURTON ON MEDDLING MAMAS

photo by Pauk
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic science fiction, romantic suspense, and a PI mystery series. She has also contributed to two anthologies. Learn more about Diane and her books at her website and blog. 

A Meddling Mama

When I was invited to guest blog today, it was suggested I write about dealing with a meddling mother. The reason is the title of my latest PI mystery, The Case of the Meddling Mama. I was so blessed to have a mother whose own mother meddled and promised herself she never would. A few times she did meddle in my siblings’ lives/marriages, but not in mine. Not that I’m perfect (LOL), but their situations needed some meddling.

My mother-in-law lived with a meddler—her MIL—for twenty-five years. She was so grateful her son finally got married and gave her grandchildren, she wasn’t about to rock the boat. I’m sure she vented to her sister, just not to me. Thank goodness.

Consequently, I never had to deal with a meddler. My grandmother, who lived 500 miles away and didn’t often visit, tried to tell my mother how to raise her children, gave unwanted advice, and various suggestions on how my dad should do this and that. Mom didn’t often argue, but when she did, you didn’t want to be around. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, shut up and put up with her mother-in-law. It’s a wonder she didn’t get an ulcer.

Having such great examples, I’ve tried to be a non-meddler to my own children. That hasn’t stopped me from sometimes talking to Hubs, a patient listener, about my adult children. When my daughter had her first child (a girl), I was determined not to tell her how to raise her kids. They were hers and her husband’s, not mine. Same when my son had his daughter. (Girls first run in my family; I’m the oldest of seven). While I sometimes disagree with the mothers, I follow my MIL and keep my mouth shut. (If the kids were being harmed, I would step in.) If you ask my daughter, she’ll probably say I did enough meddling when she and her brother were in high school and college.

My daughter and I have a great relationship now. What is it about mothers and daughters that cause friction? Especially when the daughter is going through adolescence and the mother is in peri-menopause. Merida and her mother (from the movie Brave) had nothing on us. At least, my daughter didn’t turn me into a bear.

Like his father, my son took his own sweet time getting married. Again, I say I’m blessed with a lovely daughter-in-law—one who insisted that when we visited (for a month at a time) that we stay with them! Three separate times. At the end of this month, son, DIL, a two-year-old, and two big dogs will live with us as they move from Arizona to Michigan and find a house. Maybe, I’ll turn into a meddler.

I hope not.

The Case of the Meddling Mama
Book 3 of the Alex O’Hara Mystery series


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR MARIANNE RICE SHARES HER HEROINE'S BROWNIES

Marianne Rice writes contemporary romances set in small New England towns. Her heroes are big and strong, yet value family and humor, while her heroines are smart, sexy, sometimes a little bit sassy, and are often battling a strong internal conflict. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found chauffeuring her herd of children to their varying sporting events, and when there’s time, shoe shopping, scarfing down dark chocolate, and relaxing with a glass of wine and a romance book. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Lois. I share your love and passion for food and recipes and tend to incorporate them into my books. I’m thinking about adding a recipe book section to my website as well. Anyone interested in that?

So, a little bit about the heroine’s “taste” in my latest release, Playful Hearts. Outspoken and spunky Mackenzie Pratt owns Coast & Roast in the small coastal town of Rocky Harbor, Maine and serves some delectable desserts as well. Her brownies have been mentioned in all three Rocky Harbor books, and in book four, Playful Hearts, we get to learn about her story. Although brownies aren’t the center of Mackenzie’s world, it’s her coffee shop…and soon the hunky, playful Blake Riley that monopolize her thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed writing this series so much, especially the food parts (lots of goodies in Strawberry Kisses) and I hope you’ve had a chance to devour the Riley siblings as well. They’re super yummy. Oh, and so are the brownies. Here’s the recipe:

Mackenzie’s Brownies
These aren’t cake or fudgey brownies but somewhere in between. If you don’t like your brownies too sweet, you don’t have to make the frosting (maybe toss in some chocolate chips or chopped walnuts to the mix instead!).

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Frosting:
6 T melted butter
6 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T honey
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9” x 13” glass pan with PAM (or grease with butter).

In a large saucepan, melt 1 cup butter. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, eggs, vanilla. Stir in 2/3 cups cocoa, the flour, salt and baking powder. Don’t over mix!

Spread into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (don’t overbake).

To make frosting: Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. If too thick add a tsp. warm water. Frost brownies while they’re still warm.

***Photo credit goes to Allrecipes.com. Sadly my oven has been broken since April and I haven’t been able to make Mackenzie’s brownies.***

Playful Hearts
Having fun and living his life on a whim is Blake Riley’s motto.

When he moves back to Rocky Harbor, Maine, he thinks his life is about to turn predictable…until he meets Mackenzie Pratt. Her smart mouth and quirky attitude make him want to see how wild they can get together. 

Mackenzie’s too busy running the local coffee shop and caring for her mom and doesn’t have time for a real relationship. However, a sex-lationship is just the thing she needs, and Blake, with his crazy sense of adventure and raw sex appeal, is the perfect man for the job.

As their relationship begins to creep from the bedroom and dangerously close to her heart, their casual trysts develop into something more—something neither expected. 

But Blake’s former life is full of secrets that threaten their developing relationship. Can Blake keep trouble away from Mackenzie? Or will their playful hearts grow cold when his past comes calling?