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.

Friday, October 9, 2015


Cozy mystery and paranormal romance author Joanne Guidoccio sits down for an interview today. Learn more about Joanne and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
In high school, I dabbled in poetry and dreamed about writing novels. But I listened to my practical Italian side and put my dream on hold as I pursued a teaching career. Throughout my career, I imagined different storylines but didn’t put pen to paper until my “cancer” year.

How long did it take to realize your dream of publication?
In 2008, I retired from a 31-year teaching career and decided to launch a second career as a writer. At first, I wrote articles and book reviews but later gravitated toward novels. I was offered my first book contract in January 2013.

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

Where do you write?
Originally, I had designated my den as a writing space, but I felt too confined and relocated to an empty space in my large living area. Whenever I need a break, I swivel my chair and take in the majestic trees outside my window.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I cannot write amid any chaos – auditory or otherwise. For that reason, I can only write at home.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I identify strongly with Gilda Greco, the protagonist of the novel. So much so, that I used the first-person POV. Our similarities...Italian Canadian, born and raised in Sudbury, relocated to Southern Ontario, mathematics teachers, career development practitioners, yoga enthusiasts, non-foodies.

One major difference – Gilda won a $19 million lottery. I’m still hoping.

Having lived and taught in different cities throughout the province of Ontario, I felt free to “borrow” characteristics from former colleagues and students to create composite characters. While Gilda is approximately 70% me, the same can’t be said of the other characters. I would be very surprised if anyone recognized himself/herself in the novel.

Describe your process for naming your characters?
I devote the most time to selecting names for the protagonist and her love interest. In A Season for Killing Blondes, I liked the flow of Gilda Greco and Carlo Fantin. For the older Italian characters, I called to mind the names of my parents’ friends and also used the telephone book. I spent some time coming up with the double names—Anna May, Carrie Ann, Jenny Marie, Melly Grace—for the blondes.

Real settings or fictional towns?
A Season for Killing Blondes is set in my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario. My mermaid novels are set in the fictional town of Carden, Ontario with stops in Toronto, Chicago, and Sedona.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Gilda Greco, the protagonist of A Season for Killing Blondes, is a self-proclaimed non-foodie. Throughout the novel, she refers to this “quirk” in a self-deprecating way.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I am controlled by a bird clock. Each hour, one of my feathered friends, among them the Downy Woodpecker, Belted Kingfisher, and Great Horned Owl, chirp and remind me to pace myself.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written), which one would it be? Why?
I have great admiration for authors of historical fiction and would love to write a trilogy. I am particularly impressed by Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I had planned to pursue a master’s degree but life intervened. If I could go back, I would take a leave of absence in my late twenties and pursue that degree.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Lack of response to emails. I am peeved when I have to send multiple emails.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Clean drinking water. Compatible companions. Pen and paper (preferably a journal.)

What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
During my university years, I accepted an enumeration job with a government agency. I had hoped it would segue into a long-term summer job. Instead, I spent two weeks knocking on the doors of apartments in a high-rise building. Updating information was a tedious, frustrating, and annoying task.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
So many books come to mind! The best book I’ve read this year is Circling the Sun, a fictionalized memoir of Beryl Markham, by Paula McLain. I was drawn into the fascinating lives of the British expats living in Africa in the early twentieth century. A must read!

Ocean or mountains?
Definitely ocean! I’m landlocked in Ontario.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City girl...I like the bustle and activity.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Right now, I’m working on Too Many Women in the Room, Book 2 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series and The Making of a Mermaid Psychic, Book 3 of the Mediterranean Trilogy.

A Season for Killing Blondes
Hours before the opening of her career counseling practice, Gilda Greco discovers the dead body of golden girl Carrie Ann Godfrey, neatly arranged in the dumpster outside her office. Gilda’s life and budding career are stalled as Detective Carlo Fantin, her former high school crush, conducts the investigation.
When three more dead blondes turn up all brutally strangled and deposited near Gilda’s favorite haunts, she is pegged as a prime suspect for the murders. Frustrated by Carlo’s chilly detective persona and the mean girl antics of Carrie Ann’s meddling relatives, Gilda decides to launch her own investigation. She discovers a gaggle of suspects, among them a yoga instructor in need of anger management training, a lecherous photographer, and fourteen ex-boyfriends.
As the puzzle pieces fall into place, shocking revelations emerge, forcing Gilda to confront the envy and deceit she has long overlooked.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015


USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Queen lives in New Hampshire with the trees, rocks, her cat Kitty, and some brave squirrels. Somehow she finds inspiration to write stories filled with romance, intrigue and a dose of humor. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website. 

Beauty Tips by Stephanie Queen (not a beauty queen!)

I may not be a beauty queen—and I’m definitely not like the gorgeous heroine in my latest novel, Shana George, who like most romance heroines, may as well be a beauty queen. But I’m just like the next girl in real life, and we all want to look our best—especially when we’re out somewhere special or in front of scads of people. On occasion, we all want to go out and stun the world—or at least a few people in our immediate vicinity who may have forgotten their eyeglasses at home. Kidding. We all have it in us!

Here are 5 Tips to Maximize the Bloom—even for those of us (theoretically) past our bloom:

1. Get a GOOD night’s SLEEP – 7-9 hours. No more and no less. And it’s okay if you wake up in the middle of it—just roll over and go back to sleep until you put in your time. Poor Shana George never gets to sleep in Beachcomber Baby!

2. Get a GOOD face powder to layer over the moisturizer and the foundation – but very lightly. I use Lancome. It’s pricey, but noticeably better than the drug store brands. I don’t think Shana has applied makeup once in the entire Beachcomber Investigations series. Luckily she works in the dark a lot!

3. Pay MOST attention to your EYES when deciding on makeup! Light them up! Experiment until they look glamorous and gorgeous and like you, only brighter! I use eyeliner and highlight the brow bone with a lighter shadow or even a concealer to give extra depth and pop. Shana has fabulous green eyes but she scowls a lot—mostly at her lover-nemesis Dane Blaise. Don’t scowl in real life!

4. Wear EXCELLENT undergarments. Wear comfortable undergarments designed to fit your figure, whatever it is. No bulging, cutting or even squeezing! Enhancing is okay! (It goes without saying that all your clothes should fit correctly—nothing too tight and nothing too loose or baggy!) Shana shamelessly ignores this rule and has been known to wear tight dresses and bikinis. No wonder Dane can’t remember that she’s forbidden fruit!

5. Wear your COLOR!  If you haven’t had your colors done, you might want to try it, or at least read up on what your best colors might be. They might not be the colors you like best, so you might not be able to tell for yourself. Some people look good in lots of colors, but you want to find the one that’s the BEST! And run with it! Shana’s colors are beach colors, teal and aqua and cool blue like the ocean at State Beach on Martha’s Vineyard.

Although there’s a million other tips and tricks, these are my top five because they’re high impact and mostly easy. These are things you can do at any age and any condition.

So if you see me out in public, as author Stephanie Queen, signing books or speaking—feel free to grade me on the 5 Tips to Maximize the Bloom!

Also feel free to check out my latest novel, Beachcomber Baby and soon-to-be-released Beachcomber Investigations, now on pre-order. This romantic detective series features the perpetually beautiful detective, Shana George, who’s paired up with her perpetually dangerous partner in crime solving, Dane Blaise. It’s all about this couple of crazy in love-hate private investigators on Martha’s Vineyard!

Beachcomber Baby - Beachcomber Investigations series book 3
A romantic detective series

Dark and dangerous Dane and shamelessly sexy Shana team up like oil & water on a mission to save a baby while they wage a personal war of love & hate between them.

Ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise doesn't like cases involving babies. In his experience, they always end bad. Really bad.

When Father Donahue hands Shana a baby and the mission is to find the baby's mother, the ex-Scotland Yard detective can't resist taking the case. She convinces Dane to help her with only because it's not the baby that's missing--it's the baby's mother.

But they discover the priest dragged them into the tip of an iceberg full of trouble with an ex-Russian KGB operative turned-criminal and his comrades. Things look bad. Really bad.

To keep Dane on the mission, Shana will need to uncover the dark secret of his terrible past baby case. Can she convince him to forget his past to save this baby--and save their partnership?

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#YouMattertoMe Day

Today is You Matter to Me Day. You Matter to Me Day is an annual event that has been held on October 7th every year since 2010. It’s a day where you're encouraged to take time to let the people in your life know they matter to you. On the You Matter to Me website  it states:

“You matter to me. 
Four words, one phrase that can make a profound difference 
to every person who hears it and shares it.”

Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers has also been around since 2010. The blog debuted on May 17, 2010. So today I’d like to take the time to tell all of you—those who stop by the blog and those of you who have read The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries and my other titles—how much you mean to me. Thank you for allowing me and Anastasia into your lives. You matter to me.

Now it's your turn. Go spread the love and let the people in your life know they matter to you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


photo by Clever Cupcakes, Montreal, Canada
If you’ve read any of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, you already know that I’m a sucker for cupcakes. My car brakes for cupcake bakeries. What I’ve found, though, is too many bakeries don’t know how to make a light buttercream frosting. Frosting is always the best part of a cupcake, but too much is not necessarily a good thing. There has to be a nice balance between the cake and the frosting. A cupcake where the frosting overpowers the cake is not a successful cupcake, at least not in my opinion.

Years ago I came across a delicious buttercream recipe, and I thought I’d share that recipe with you today.

Best Ever Buttercream Frosting

3 T. flour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar

Blend together flour and milk, adding milk to flour slowly. Beat out any lumps.

Pour into saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring continually, until thick. Set aside to cool.

When flour/milk mixture is cool, add vanilla.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add flour/milk mixture, beating on high until frosting is fluffy.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Eric Mayer and Mary Reed published several short stories about John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, before John's first novel length adventure appeared in 1999. The American Library Association’s Booklist Magazine named the novels one its four Best Little Known Series. Murder in Megara is the eleventh entry in the series, appearing in October 2015. Learn more about Eric and Mary at their website. 

Doubtless many readers will recall childhood fun making mosaics from fragments of painted eggshells, and a messy business it was too!

The Romans were masters of the essentially similar but vastly larger enterprise of creating beautiful floors made of pebbles, stone, and marble pieces, often framing intricate patterned borders around abstract designs or those featuring mythological and other figures. But the highest point of the mosaicists' art must surely be wall mosaics, created from thousands of small cubes of glass and other materials. At their glorious height in the Byzantine world, these mosaics dazzled worshippers in churches, Ravenna and Constantinople in particular, whose mosaics were and are world famous for their beauty and the amazing way tesserae are used to depict subtly graduated colors of garments, buildings, and artifacts, as well as details of facial features.

Our historical mystery series is devoted to the adventures of John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian I, in and round the imperial court in Constantinople -- although we have sent him to Egypt to look into the matter of the suicidal sheep and in Murder In Megara he is tasked with solving the murder of which he is accused. All of the covers for these books are illustrated with mosaics.

We introduced the mosaicist Figulus in Seven For A Secret. His artistic hand had, however, been seen in the series right from the beginning entry, One For Sorrow, as it is revealed in Seven For A Secret he created the mosaic in John's study. By daylight it depicts a bucolic landscape in which a young girl stands near two boys playing knucklebones, but flickering lamplight reveals a debauched heaven peopled by Roman gods and goddesses.

John calls this little girl Zoe and often has conversations with her, much to the horror of his elderly servant Peter, who is further scandalized by the revelations lamplight produces.

As a family man and devout Christian, Figulus detests making the vile mosaics popular among certain of the rich, but undertakes them in order not only to feed and house his wife and children but also to finance his ambitious project in the course of creation in a sub basement, shown to John and his friend Anatolius.

The project is nothing less than a mosaic history of the world beginning with the formless void, moving on to the expulsion from Eden, and continuing from there. As Figulus explains "...tesserae are expensive. I could not afford this except for those evil pictures. It is a torment to me to make them. But I am not responsible for the lusts and sinfulness of other men and here their vices are transmuted into a tribute to God's glory."

As for the way the scene in John's study mosaic changes when seen by lamplight, Figulus reveals he discovered the method and it is accomplished by cutting tesserae to certain angles and painting one side of them.

Tesserae, the miniature building blocks of wall mosaics, were manufactured from glass of various colors and shadings, although marble tesserae and the use of semi-precious gems was not unknown. Shimmering gold backgrounds were made by affixing thinly beaten gold leaf to a sheet of glass and then covering the gold with a thin layer of glass, in effect making a gold leaf sandwich, cutting up the sheet into cubes to use as tesserae.

The process of creating a mosaic began by spreading a small area of fine plaster over a wall whose roughened plaster had hardened, setting tesserae into the wet second layer as it dried. Naturally this meant only a small amount of laborious work could be accomplished at each session, and some days were not suitable because it was too hot or too cold for the painstaking process to be completed successfully. Guidelines for the scene were lightly painted on, and it has been suggested stencils may also have been used.

The effect of weather on his work was used by Figulus as he constantly attempted to avoid working again on the completed study mosaic, commissioned by the previous owner of John's house. Finally, the former owner refused to believe Figulus when he said winter was not the best time for the work in that the plaster might not set correctly. So the mosaicist was forced to amend the mosaic -- by adding a portrait of the owner's little girl.

Figulus did however manage to protect her innocence in a fashion only he as a mosaicist could have done. How? Well, you'll have to read Seven For A Secret to find out!

photo caption: Mosaic of the Emperor Justinian from the Basiilica of San Vitale.

Murder In Megara
John, former Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, has been exiled from Constantinople to a rustic estate John has long-owned in Greece, not far from where he grew up. But exile proves no escape from mystery and mayhem. The residents of nearby Megara make it plain John and his family are unwelcome intruders. His overseer proves corrupt. What of the other staff—and his neighbors?

Before long, John finds himself accused of blasphemy and murder. Now a powerless outsider, he’s on his own, investigating and annoyingly hampered by the ruthless and antagonistic City Defender who serves Megara as both law enforcer and judge. Plus there’s that corrupt estate overseer, a shady pig farmer, a servant’s unwelcome suitor, a wealthy merchant who spends part of his time as a cave-dwelling hermit, and the criminals and cutthroats populating such a seedy port as Megara.

Complicating matters further are two childhood friends whose lives have taken very different paths, plus the stepfather John hated. John realizes that in Megara, the solution to murder does not lie in the dark alleys where previous investigations have taken him, but in a far more dangerous place—his own past. Can he find his way out of the labyrinth of lies and danger into which he has been thrust before disaster strikes and exile turns into execution?

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Friday, October 2, 2015


Originally from Lyon, France, historical and contemporary romance author Marie Laval now lives in Lancashire, England where she teaches French. Today Marie joins us to talk about titles. Learn more about her and her books at her website

A lot of Sense and Some Sensibility or What I Should Have Done to Choose the Titles of my Novels!

There are many great articles dedicated to choosing titles of novels, but I must confess I hadn't read any of them before naming any of my three historical romances. The titles for Angel Heart and The Lion's Embrace popped into my mind in the early stages of researching the stories. I liked Angel Heart because it was catchy and related both to the name of my heroine and to the plot. The Lion's Embrace reminded me of the main character—the hero this time—and the North African setting. As for Dancing for the Devil, my third historical romance, to be published in three parts later this autumn, I had set my heart on it even before working out the details of the plot.

Things didn't quite go so smoothly for A Spell in Provence, my contemporary romantic suspense, which was released in January. The novel's original title was The Lady of Bellefontaine (Bellefontaine is the farmhouse my heroine has renovated and is opening up as a guesthouse), but a few weeks before publication my editor suggested that I change it because it sounded too much like a historical romance. Even though I had never thought about it, I immediately saw that she had a valid point. It took me a few days of hard thinking to come up with the new title, which I loved a thousand times better!
The process made me realize that I should have taken more time over my previous titles and experimented with different ideas. First and foremost, I should have 'Googled' them to make sure they didn't already exist or weren't too similar to others. This makes so much sense I can't believe I didn't think of it. Secondly, I should perhaps have waited until I had finished writing the story before deciding on the title, because the original title may not reflect the plot, characters, or style of the final manuscript and may therefore confuse potential readers. This was something else I didn't do, but then again it might be too much like leaving the choice of a baby's name until after the birth and I'm not sure I could do that.  

Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing a title. For example, should you go for an obvious title that reflects the genre, style and content of the novel so that readers know exactly what they are buying, or choose a more intriguing title, one with different layers of meaning?

Many romance novels are often easily identifiable from their title. Anything with the words 'heart', 'passion', 'temptation', 'wedding' and of course 'love' points to a romance. Add an aristocratic title—'Viscount', 'Marquess' or 'Duke'—and you fall into the subgenre of historical romances, Regency usually. Further references to a geographical or historical setting will immediately appeal to a specific market. For example any mention of the Highlands evokes Scottish lairds, clan wars or Jacobite plots, and of course men in kilts.

Even without being too obvious, some book titles give you an instant feel for the mood of the novel. I doubt anyone picking up Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables or Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath would expect a cheerful read with a happy ending, even if they knew nothing of the story.

But what about the element of surprise? Is it a good idea to have a title so obscure readers feel compelled to pick up the book, or is there a danger that they might feel let down if the novel turns out to be somewhat less original than its title suggested? There are of course many great novels with intriguing titles. Among them, I love French novelist Katherine Pancol's The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles or Cruel Men aren't so Easy to Find. And what about One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or Madam, Will you Talk by Mary Stewart?  I wish I could come up with one of those. 

So what can an author do if you can't think of a title for her story? Using the name of the main character or of the place or period where the novel is set is a good starting point. So is referring to key words, concepts, or images recurrent in the story and contrasting them (War and Peace is a classic example.) Some authors use a play on words or alliteration to help make a title memorable (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility), and some use rhyme (The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.) 

When planning a series, it makes sense to have catchy titles that follow on from one another or have the same style. Sue Grafton takes letters from the alphabet - A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, C is for Corpse. Sophie Kinsella uses the same word in her Shopaholic series, and so does Kathy Reichs for her thrillers, Bones Are Forever, Devil Bones, Break No Bones.  

All three parts of Dancing for the Devil, my soon-to-be released trilogy, have been named after Highland dances because the story takes place in Sutherland in the mid-nineteenth century. But I also wanted each title to reflect what was happening in the story, so therefore settled for Dream Catcher, Blue Bonnets, and Sword Dance.

If you’re an author, how do you choose the titles of your novels? If you’re a reader, how do you feel about titles?

The Lion’s Embrace
Does forever lie in the lion’s embrace?

Arrogant, selfish and dangerous, Lucas Saintclair is everything Harriet Montague dislikes in a man. He is also the best guide in the whole of the Barbary States and the only man who can rescue her archaeologist father, from kidnapping by a gang of Tuareg fighters.

As Harriet embarks on a perilous journey across Algeria with Saintclair and Archibald Drake, her father’s most trusted friend, she discovers a bewitching but brutal land where nothing is what it seems.

Who are the men intent on stealing her father’s ransom? What was her father hoping to find in Tuareg Queen Tin Hinan’s tomb? Is Lucas Saintclair really as callous as he claims – or is he a man haunted by a past he cannot forgive?

In the heat of the Sahara, dangerous passions engulf Harriet. Secrets of lost treasures, rebel fighters, and a sinister criminal brotherhood threaten her life and the life of the man she loves.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015


C. Hope Clark adores her South Carolina home on the lake, but sometimes it takes a beach to bring characters to life in her head. Hope is the author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries as well as the Edisto Island Mysteries. Her latest release is Edisto Jinx. Learn more about Hope and her books at her website.

Edisto Beach – the Perfect Getaway . . .  for Murder

The perfect getaway . . . we all dream about it. The place where nature soothes us like a balm, and nothing is allowed into our senses but peace and calm. Where we can write great thoughts because nothing else stands in their way.

To most of us, that means the presence of water.

The Edisto Island Mystery Series is set on exquisite and secluded Edisto Island. Located on the very edge of South Carolina, down long, long Highway 174 that crosses a huge bridge then a smaller one across the marsh, Edisto Beach faces the Atlantic Ocean with five miles of beach. Steeped in history, from the extinct Edistow Indians to the Civil War, this jingle-like area welcomes visitors, but does not welcome development. To get away, you rent someone’s house, and every single one of them is within three short, walkable blocks to the waves on one side, or the jaw-dropping beauty of the marsh. No franchises. No fast food. No pollution of urban light. Just breezes and a low, sliding roar of waves curling over the sand.

Callie Jean Morgan was a Boston detective until she finally nabbed a criminal she’d pursued for five years, and then his family killed her husband. Desperate for revenge, she ruins her career, and in an effort to salvage her son’s emotional health, she returned to South Carolina. Her parents give her the keys to the family’s vacation home on Edisto Beach. Reluctantly she retreats to the house with all its calming memories, the childhood mentor next door, the healing ebb and flow of the sea.

What a perfect setup. A horribly broken woman hoping to find herself at a setting everyone views as a generic panacea to anyone with ills to cure. Then the day she sets foot into that Eden, her childhood mentor is murdered right under her nose. She is yanked back into a world of crime, against her best judgment, risking her fragile sanity, only to also face a world of beachcombers who don’t believe crime happens at the beach.

People who vacation at Edisto Beach always return. Most wish they lived there. Many scan the blocks for real estate signs, seeking that special deal, hoping to actually buy a piece of this treasure where they can one day retire. I own a small piece on one of those blocks. This is where I go to sigh and settle, think and weave stories. It’s the consummate setting for a character whose arc takes her from lows to highs and back down again, in story after story, book after book, as she learns to fight to make her life perfect, instead of expecting the setting to do it for her.

Edisto Jinx
Is it a flesh and blood killer—or restless spirits?

According to Sophie the yoga mistress, beautiful Edisto Beach becomes a hotbed of troublemaking spirits every August. But when a visitor dies mysteriously during a beachhouse party, former big-city detective Callie Morgan and Edisto Beach police chief Mike Seabrook hunt for motives and suspects among the living. With tourists filling the beaches and local business owners anxious to squelch rumors of a murderer on the loose, Callie will need all the help she can get—especially once the killer’s attention turns toward her.