featuring guest mystery 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.

Friday, April 18, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR LYNN CAHOON

Lynn Cahoon makes a return visit today to tell us about her latest book. A multi-published author, Lynn has written for the Chicken Soup anthologies, some of the confessional magazines, and had short stories published in Women’s World in addition to writing contemporary romance and mystery. Learn more about her and her books at her website

I’m a sucker for tourist stops. There’s just something about a store selling regional items along with the road trip necessities like a clean bathroom or a passable cup of coffee. 
Driving cross-country with no agenda in mind, I love stopping at those spots off the highway. Places where you can get a pink felt cowboy hat for less than ten dollars or a variety of souvenir spoons for display. (Yes, I do have a collection.)

A few years ago, I took a freedom trip to see my sister on spring break. I was in the middle of a divorce and trying to re-invent myself as an individual instead of the half of a couple I’d been for close to twenty years. During the day, I drove to local tourist spots, enjoying the weather and the scenery. At night I’d come back for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and talk about my day.

Several times I found entire towns that had one function – to cater to tourists. Small craft houses where local artists sold their designs. From glass blowing, to country crafts, soap makers, and even landscape artists, each house on the main street focused on one skill.

As I walked through the towns, I wondered about the people behind the sales counter. Were they residents of the town? Did they live upstairs over the shop? Was the woman who sold the homemade fudge the same person who made the delight?

I loved the small town feel and uniqueness of each shop. Not a Target or Lowes on the street. Not even a McDonald’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those stores; don’t get me wrong. I went to Target today. But on vacation I want something different from my day-to-day life.

Guidebook to Murder was based on my personal fantasy about living in one of these tourist towns.

Today, I live near a touristy river town. We visit the flea market in the summer, walking through the many booths, then grab lunch in one of the many restaurants located on the deck overlooking the river. A mini vacation stop.

I always buy something to add to my souvenir collection. I love coffee mugs right now.

What’s your favorite souvenir to collect? 

Guidebook to Murder
In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

FASHION WITH GUEST AUTHOR KATHY L. WHEELER

Romance author Kathy L. Wheeler, who also writes as Kae Elle Wheeler, joins us today to talk about a subject near and dear to her heart and the heart of one of the characters from her Bloomington series. Learn more about Kathy and her books at her website.  

What girl does not love shoes? I ask you. Me, for example, I have tons of shoes. And lately I’ve been buying up all the boots, booties I can find. I love shoes of all kinds. For instance, I just bought the cutest pair of booties from Nine West. Of course, mine don’t have the tassel.

I also picked up a pair of gladiator sandals. They’ve been big the last couple of years, and it looks as if this year will not be any different. (Also, Nine West.)

There are all kinds of goofy shoes, and truly fabulous shoes.  Here are some really great shoes, though they have a very specific purpose, as you can see. My daughter was the genius behind this little gift (as in giving). They were perfect this winter when my critique group went to the Embassy Suites in Tulsa for a little writing pow-wow. 

Some shoes I’ve acquired were not necessarily meant for me. Take these size 14’s of Eric Maynor’s.  An NBA ex Oklahoma City Thunder player. Yes, you read that right: size 14!!!

Oh, here’s Eric and I:   He’s cute, isn’t he? Alas, the shoes are unsigned, and believe me, I tried for a couple of years to no avail. Guess you have to be some adorable little kid, age 5 or so....


Speaking of Thunder: This guy was in the bar, and I don’t know what he was thinking. Yes, I took the picture to totally make fun of some guy wearing purple shoes. I’m not that nice. (At least I didn’t show his face.)

I just love shoes. So when I was writing my Bloomington Series, it turns out that Lorianne loves shoes too! In fact, she is notorious for spending loads of money she does not have on shoes when she is really upset. Take these fuschia Mary Jane platforms. She has them in a couple of colors. And when she is angry? Well, watch out. You never know what might come flying at you.

Happy shopping!

Quotable
Genna Lyndsey is not a people person. A short, too-skinny, wild haired waif, with crazy hair and sturdy nerdy glasses who lives through books. So it’s lucky she and her best friend own their own bookstore. Her college days taught her that dating was too unreliable to depend on others. It was then that she started resorting to obscure quotes to shield herself from others who ventured too close.

Rick Johnson, Fraud Insurance Claims Investigator, is assigned to look into an unusual number of claims filed by Genna Lyndsey. He suspects Genna of sabotaging her own property for insurance money. His investigation uncovers an adorable introvert determined to keep everyone at bay, while someone else resolves to put her out of business—no matter how great the risk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING--AUTHOR AND EDITOR PATRICIA FLAHERTY PAGAN GIVES BACK

Patricia Flaherty Pagan writes, edits and facilitates writing workshops in Texas. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Spider Road Press, an independent press specializing in short fiction. Today she joins us to discuss a passion very close to her heart. Learn more about Patricia at her website. 

Heroines Reading Heroines

Lots of us like to read books about strong women. I know that I enjoy reading about clever sleuths like Cordelia Gray, gritty truth seekers like Tess Monaghan, adventurers like Elizabeth Gilbert, and helpful optimists like L. M. Montgomery’s Anne. While revising my mystery novel, I fell into the intense and exciting practice of writing flash fiction. Precision rules. Every word must prove its merit. When I recently began assembling a collection of flash fiction by strong women, I had an idea. I could do more than marry these very short tales of suspense to literary explorations and entertaining Sci-Fi stories. There were real heroines out there, making a difference in women’s lives every day. Why not donate part of the proceeds from the collection to these women helping women? In that way, those who purchased the book could become heroines as well.

But how to best help women? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects 7.7 million American adults, and women are more likely to suffer from this serious health issue. Brave servicewomen, reliable first responders, and strong survivors of the private wars of rape and domestic violence can all face this disorder. Yet hope exists. Across America, counselors at rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and veterans’ organizations are making a difference. Personally, I count as friends a couple of women who counsel those with PTSD, and a couple of women who live with it every day.

So, I decided to donate five percent of the proceeds from the anthology that I edited, Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers, to rape crisis and veteran’s services. Giving back felt great! I selected agencies and groups in the states where I have lived and traveled, as I have seen the impact that these organizations have on their communities. In my adopted city of Houston, the Houston Area Women’s Center offers an array of vital services, including helping survivors of sexual assault. Both the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and SARSSM of Maine have supported rape survivors in cities that I know and love. In addition, Disabled American Veterans helps returning female (and male) vets access many forms of concrete and emotional support.

I am proud to announce that through initial sales of the Up, Do anthology, my small press, Spider Road, has been able to make small donations to each of these important charities. If sales continue at the same rate, I hope to donate to rape crisis services in Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as to other veterans’ groups. Furthermore, I am so excited by the process that I have decided to give five percent of the proceeds from every title that Spider Road Press publishes to charity from this point onward! 

Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers
A collection of thirty-three intriguing, very short stories by talented women. It includes surprising tales by award-winning short fiction writer Kathryn Kulpa, popular romance novelist Donna Hill, suspense writer Eden Royce, award-winning science fiction writer Melissa J. Lytton and many others. A part of the proceeds from each sale is donated to rape crisis and veteran’s services.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--PASSOVER POTATO LATKES

photo by Kagor at the Ukrainian language Wikipedia
When I was seven years old, I walked to school each day with my friend Marcia. We lived in the city, and Marcia’s Russian immigrant grandmother lived in the apartment across the hall from Marcia’s apartment. Wonderful, mouthwatering smells always emanated from Marcia’s grandmother’s apartment. On cold winter days she’d open her apartment door just as Marcia and I were leaving and hand us each a steaming potato latke wrapped in a paper towel. One for the road to keep our insides warm on the half-mile walk to school.

Marcia moved to the suburbs the following year, and I never saw her again, but to this day I remember those delicious latkes.

Latkes are a traditional a Hanukkah food, but they can also be made with matzoh meal instead of flour for Passover, which began at sundown last night.

Passover Latkes
(serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
6 medium potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, peeled
2 tablespoons matzoh meal
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt

Grate the potatoes and onions into a bowl. Add the matzoh meal, eggs, and salt. Mix well. Add more matzoh meal if mixture is too runny.

Heat about 1/4” of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place large spoonfuls of potato mixture into the oil, flattening to 1/2” thickness. Brown on one side, then turn to brown the other side. Drain on paper towels.

Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Monday, April 14, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--BUNNY AND CHICK CROSS STITCH

Here's a quick design to whip up for Easter. It would also look cute stitched with waste canvas on a baby's onesie. Finished size when stitched on 14-ct. is 2-1/8" wide x 1-5/8" high.


Friday, April 11, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ANGELA ADAMS

Author Angela Adams writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Today she joins us to play 20 (give or take) Questions. Learn more about Angela at her blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. English/Composition, now known in our Philadelphia schools as Language Arts, was my favorite subject. I used to write stories in a copybook and give the copybook to my grandmother to read. She bought me my first typewriter. Followers of my blog know that I often mention my grandmother, who passed away several years ago. I often note her encouragement, love of books, baseball, and dozens of wise, old sayings.
As an adult, I’ve written on and off for years. After having several short stories published, I thought I’d try writing a novel. After writing a few that remain in a desk drawer, I wrote Magic Moment.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Longer than I had hoped. But my grandmother always said, “Things happens for a reason.” Had publication taken a different route, I may not have had the opportunity to meet the people I’ve enjoyed working with these past few years.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My short stories and novel have all been published traditionally. Magic Moment was published by Crimson Romance, part of F&W Media which is responsible for Writer’s Digest.

Where do you write?
My laptop goes wherever I go. The basement is set up like an office with bookcase, desk, and file cabinet. My favorite accessory is a huge bulletin board that hangs on the wall. I keep all kinds of sentimental tokens pinned to it. Snoopy comics that I love, Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss quotes, photos of my childhood dog and my grandmother, both who are no longer with us. I also have a photo of the 2008 World Series Champs, Philadelphia Phillies.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I need noise. During baseball season I’m listening to a Phillies’ game or a pundit talking about a Phillies’ game. I also listen to Frank Sinatra, Classic Rock and Oldies.  Concentrating on the music helps ease my frustration with writer’s block.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My stories start with a character. For example, with Magic Moment, I got the idea for a hero who was perceived as egotistical and self-absorbed, but wasn’t. The character of Chase came to mind because often people aren’t what they seem. I wanted a heroine who drew out his true qualities of compassion and sensitivity to others.  Then I asked myself “well, why is he perceived that way?” and “what qualities does my heroine have that draw out his true nature?”

The idea of having Laura not interested in a high-powered career did come from a colleague of mine who mentioned that she wished she didn’t have to work but could spend more time with her children.

Real settings or fictional towns?
A combination of both.  We all know Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where the story begins. The names of the towns of Magic Lake Island, New Jersey and Sea Tower, Maryland are fictional. Their descriptions are a combination of the New Jersey shore and the small town in Vermont where I went to college.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I’m a big Robyn Carr fan and love her Virgin River series. Mostly because the place, Virgin River, leaves me nostalgic for my time in Vermont.  One summer, I sat down and reread each Virgin River book, back to back. There was no waiting for the next book to be released since I only had to grab it from the bookcase.  It was great, like watching a mini-series on television.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
That I had joined Romance Writers of America sooner than I did. I had resisted joining because the organization’s major feature is their annual conference and I never saw it in my schedule to attend. But, several years ago, I decided to join and found the conference was the least of what RWA has to offer. Aside from my national membership, I belong to two online chapters, From the Heart Romance Writers and Elements of RWA. The elements of friendship, support and guidance that I receive from fellow members are invaluable.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
There are many. One that comes to mind immediately is a book my grandmother gave me when I was about 12 or 13, Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith. Published in the 1960s and set in pre-depression era New York, the heroine Annie McGairy Brown, comes to New York to be with her law student husband, Carl.  They have little money, no friends, and are pretty much ostracized from their families for getting married so young.  She also gets pregnant.  Annie is a strong person who faces every challenge thrown her way with a positive disposition and confident outlook. 

Although this book was written over fifty years ago, Annie is exactly the type of heroine a writer wants to write and a reader wants to read, no matter what the time period.  I still have the paperback in my bookcase. It’s tattered with pages falling out and held together with a rubber band. To me, the novel is flawless with a timeless plot and characters readers pull for.

Ocean or mountains?
That’s tough…but, if I have to choose, it’s the ocean.

City girl or country girl?
City

What’s on the horizon for you?
Several months ago I began drafting a new project. This book’s setting is also in Philadelphia. Every day I walk through Washington Square Park, and one day an idea popped into my mind. It only seems fair to set the story not only in Philadelphia, but in Washington Square.  A first draft takes me forever to write, but once I get the initial draft completed, the revising process is quick. I’m trying very hard not to make my hero and heroine a carbon copy of Chase Donovan and Laura Roberts. Although I’m finding it a challenge because I’m very fond of those two.

Magic Moment
When the FBI brings Laura Roberts – a quiet, reserved bookkeeper– in for questioning regarding activities at the warehouse where she works, an uneasy Laura resigns her job – only to be attacked by thugs.

Chase Donovan intends to spend a few peaceful days on his boat getting his head together – and finds a woman being assaulted by two men who say his father told them to do it.

Chase doesn’t want to believe his father could hurt anyone. Laura doesn’t understand why she’s a target. Can they learn to work together to discover the truth – before someone dies?

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

TRAVEL WITH SERENA--NEW ORLEANS WITH AUTHOR ELAINE CALLOWAY

Jackson Square, New Orleans
photo by Sami99tr
Paranormal/fantasy author Elaine Calloway was a guest back in February when she discussed her Elemental Clan series. Today she joins us to talk about New Orleans, a city that has become a go-to setting for all things paranormal, not to mention it’s amazing cuisine. To learn more about Elaine and her books, visit her website

New Orleans – A City of Seafood & Paranormal

New Orleans is more than just a city. She’s a melting pot that hosts an array of sights, sounds, flavors and spices for those with yearning taste buds. And she never disappoints.

Cemetery in New Orleans
photo by Falkue
Beneath a canopy of live oaks, there are paranormal treasures. Historic cemeteries can be found throughout Mid-City. On a sunny afternoon, walking on the fresh-cut grass of a city cemetery can lead to a variety of treasures, including the grave for Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau. Or walk through Jackson Square at night, where the fortunetellers speak their visions by candlelight.

As you can imagine, New Orleans is idyllic for a book setting--especially anything paranormal. For the first book of The Elemental Clan Series, Water’s Blood, I included not only the tourist destinations but the local places where people frequent. Another thing you will notice about the book is I use local seafood places and describe the flavors. Readers tell me that the book sometimes makes them hungry! LOL.

Long associated with delectable food and drink, New Orleans is a place where millions return so they can get their crawfish etouffee fix, purchase hot sauces not available anywhere else, or enjoy beignets and café au lait.

While there are more fantastic restaurants than I can possibly list, below are some of my favorites. Each one is a different price range, so you can budget your trip and dining excursions accordingly.

Casual and Affordable:
Café du Monde – popular place for beignets and coffee in the French Quarter. This is a tourist must-see. Go early; there are often long lines. Tip: You can get your order to go and it’s quicker.
Beignets at Cafe du Monde
photo by Infrogmation

Morning Call – less crowded than Café du Monde with the same menu. This is where the locals go, whereas tourists go to Café du Monde. There are several locations around the city.

Zea’s Rotisserie & Grill – Great place for lunch or dinner, at less than $15 per person. Best Red Beans & Rice on the planet!! Be sure to order sides of Red Beans & Rice and the Corn Roasted Grits. Both are heavenly! Zea’s also serves gourmet salads, rotisserie dishes, and seafood. Anything you could possibly want, all for a reasonable price. There are locations throughout the city.

On the Pricier Side:
Crescent City Brewhouse – located right near Jackson Square. This is an ideal seafood, hamburger, salad, whatever you want restaurant that also serves homemade brews. It’s close proximity to many sightseeing things in the French Quarter, and the atmosphere is nice and laid back. Website is http://www.crescentcitybrewhouse.com/

Tujague’s – located near Jackson Square in the French Quarter. On the definite pricier side, but one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Great for special occasion dinners, not to mention the place is the 2nd oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Seafood, cocktails, crawfish etouffee to die for.  Website is http://www.tujaguesrestaurant.com/

Water’s Blood
Brooke, a Water Elemental stationed in New Orleans, broke the rules once--she mated with a human. For her indiscretion, she is forbidden to share a life with her loved ones: NOPD officer Alex and their half-breed daughter, Ella. Now Ella is about to turn sixteen, and the local clan of fallen angels is determined to snare her soul by Halloween. Brooke broke the rules once by allowing love to interfere with her mission. Now she and Alex must put consequences aside to break the rules again--if they wish to save their daughter's soul.

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