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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

HEALTHY LIVING--AMERICA'S GREENEST CITIES

Today we have a special guest, Hannah West, talking about America's greenest cities.

The realization that humans need to be better stewards of the earth is spreading like wildfire—as are the technologies that help us decrease our negative impact. But the massive green movement isn’t in full swing yet. It still needs attention, innovation, and tirelessly bold leaders. Thankfully, it’s not just individuals or groups, but entire cities that are setting an example for the U.S. and the rest of the world.

With strengths ranging from air quality and energy sources to transportation and recycling, here are some of the greenest cities across the nation that are ahead of the pack:

Honolulu
As of 2015, around 12 percent of homes employed a rooftop solar system in Hawaii. Honululu residents tend toward buying local produce, which saves on fossil fuels used to import items. In fact, the city has the largest number of farmers markets per capita. There’s also a large amount of green space and a low amount of greenhouse gases per capita.

Washington D.C.
The U.S. is proud of its capital for many reasons, not the least of these being it’s high ranking on the green cities spectrum. The city has an extremely efficient metro, which cuts down on the number of residents who commute by car. D.C. also recently installed 1.2 million square feet of green roofs, which improve air quality and make homes more energy efficient. Additionally, it contains 230,000 acres of green space.

San Francisco
San Francisco has a little bit of everything—a high number of walking commuters, heavy reliance on solar energy, and many farmers markets per capita. But it has also made a crucial and successful roundabout that’s completely unprecedented: in 2012, it converted 80 percent of its landfill waste to recycled or composted material. The city seeks to do the same to 100 percent of its waste by 2020. While the city’s high waste levels were what initially pushed it to take action, this is still an impressive accomplishment.

Seattle
While it’s unsurprising that Seattle is covered in green spaces, the city boasts a surprisingly impressive amount of parks—they account for 10 percent of the whole city. Many residents commute via walking, biking and public transit. Statistics from 2012 show that nine percent of residents walked to work that year. An emphasis on locally sourced foods and vegan dining contribute to Seattle’s green reputation as well.

Miami
Miami has a bit of an advantage when it comes to the climate; not only is it ideal for solar, but the year-round warm temperatures call for less residential heating, which means a lower rate of fossil fuel usage. Miami boasts healthy air quality and a high number of carpoolers.

These cities and several more offer us a glimpse into the future, of what’s possible when the government, organizations, and citizens work together to achieve needed positive progress. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS--GUEST AUTHOR L.G. O'CONNOR AND TRANSFERWARE


L.G. O'Connor is both a corporate strategy and marketing executive for a Fortune 250 company and the author of an urban fantasy/paranormal romance series and a romantic women's fiction trilogy set in suburban New Jersey. Raine MacDonald, the hero from the first book in the series, appears monthly on Joyce Lamb's USA Today Happy Ever After blog where he shares his favorite recipes in the column Recipes from Raine's Roost (aka Jillian's Kitchen). Learn more about L.G. and her books at her website

Parts of my life have been defined by distinct and driving passions. Similar to falling in love, a passion makes your eyes light up and your heart race. It can be like an all-consuming lover and can take the form of a hobby, sport, or your life’s work, to name a few. For a good twenty years, the only thing it took to unleash mine was a simple sign that read “Antiques.”

I found my passion for antiques in my mid-twenties during a trip to Scotland with my boyfriend at the time. There’s no doubt that Scotland is on my list of “favorite” things, but more important is my twenty-year journey that started there on the rocky Kirkcaldy beach outside of Edinburgh. The mid-afternoon rain had just drifted out to sea, leaving one of the most incredible rainbows I’d ever seen.

My companion and I wandered down toward the water’s edge to get a photograph from a better vantage point. As we drew closer, we noticed what appeared to be broken seashells littering the shoreline. Instead, what we had found were colorful shards of transferware pottery. We gathered enough to fill our pockets with the intention of making jewelry. Later, we discovered something intriguing: the last local Scottish pottery had been closed for over fifty years, and these shards were nothing more than their ghostly echo.

That experience triggered our hunt for the history of the potteries and an unbroken example of the wares produced there. Although Staffordshire, England was the most well known pottery producer and exporter of 19th century transferware, Scotland also produced wares but for domestic use. We visited a local museum and a few local antique shops until we found a beautiful pale blue and white transferware platter made by Kirk, one of same local potteries responsible for these little reminders of the past.

Little did I know that trip would spur my love of antiques and turn me into an avid collector for over two decades. When I hit my mid-forties, a few things changed, one of them was my decorating taste. I wanted cleaner lines and less 90s Martha Stewart chintz. Plus, I had literally run out of places to display my finds. Then my husband and I downsized from 4,000 square feet to the perfect 1,700 square foot cottage, making the situation even more dire. As a result, I had to cull my collections down to only my favorite pieces, all of which I still love and can’t live without. Some are on display here in my new dining room.


Above are some of my favorite pieces which are kept inside of my 1830s Pennsylvania corner cupboard. Studies in beauty, they all hold stories and mini history lessons.

Although my heart still picks up tempo when I see the odd sign for antiques, in late 2009 I transferred my energy to a new and unexpected passion during a half day class at NYU called “Jumpstart Your Novel.” Since then, writing has been my new and all-consuming lover, leaving little time or desire to continue to add to my collections on a regular basis.

Those shards and that first 19th century Scottish blue and white transferware platter led to a rich collection of British ceramics and my cherished pieces. Even though I’ve moved on to a new passion, nothing can take away the pleasure my collections still give me.

Caught Up in RAINE

Forty-two and widowed, romance writer Jillian Grant believes hospitals equal death. Plagued by loss and convinced more is imminent when her aunt ends up in critical condition after heart surgery, she has come to equate the absence of pain with happiness. When she spots a hot, young landscaper working on the hospital grounds with an eerie resemblance to the male lead in her next novel, she convinces him to pose as her cover model.

Working multiple jobs to put himself through college, twenty-four-year-old Raine MacDonald is no stranger to loss. Behind his handsome face and rockin' body lies family tragedy and agonizing secrets. When circumstances put him back in the path of his abusive father, fate delivers Jillian as his unwitting savior. Thing is, when he thinks of her, his thoughts are far from platonic.

Despite their age difference, Jillian and Raine discover they're more alike than they could ever imagine. But torn between facing her own fears and grasping a chance at happiness, Jillian makes a soul-shattering decision that threatens to blow their world apart.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KB INGLEE

KB Inglee lives in Delaware and works at two Living History Museums. She writes short historical mystery fiction. Her episodic novel The Case book of Emily Lawrence is set in the second half of the 19th century. Learn more about KB and her books at her website.

When I began working as an historic interpreter at a living history museum, I had no idea how much fun it would be. I started because a novelist of my acquaintance told me I needed to do the things my character did in order to have the writing ring true.

My favorite programs involve livestock, fiber arts, and milling grain. I am not a cook. I could burn boiling water. In spite of that, now and then, I have been co-opted into cooking on an open hearth or in a wood fired oven.

It's fun for the kids to cook, and they love having their cookies at the end of the session. But we hope they will learn something along the way.

Some of the differences between cooking now and cooking then are:

One would never break an egg directly into the preparation. A farm fresh egg might include a partially formed chick or be rotten. Always break your eggs into a cup before adding them to the more expensive ingredients, like flour and sugar.

A stable baking powder came along in the second half of the 19th century. Before that you had to add baking soda and cream of tartar separately as you are cooking. That way they will do the work you hope they will, leavening your mixture.

All measurements are all approximate. The level measure was popularized in the 1890s by Fannie Farmer. At home I use a cup measure but always measure teaspoons and tablespoons by pouring the dry ingredient into my palm, and the liquid ingredient directly into the batter.

The only way you have to measure the heat of a wood fired oven is by sticking your hand into the oven. An experienced cook knew what cooked at everything from a few inches (quick breads) to a whole arm (a pot of stew).

I can't always put my finger on why having done the activity makes writing about it more authentic, but I have spotted it in books I have read. Clearly the author of A Simple Murder, by Eleanor Kuhns, is a weaver. She doesn't spend a lot of words on the process, but somehow the descriptions have the feelings as well as the facts of the matter. It is a wonderful story about an itinerant weaver, by an author who knows her stuff. On the other hand she doesn’t know much about milling so the mill section is sketchy and feels more distant.

Emily, the protagonist in The Case Book of Emily Lawrence, tries not to cook. She takes after me in that respect. She is an okay baker, but rather messy. She used a wood stove, and later a gas stove. She has never mentioned this to me, but I suspect that after a day at work, she would take her food down to her landlady to cook on the stove that she had been using all day. Trying to light a wood stove late in the afternoon and have it heat properly is nearly impossible.

I have a scene in one of my colonial period short stories in which they have to put a child down the chimney of a house rather like the ones in Plimouth Plantation. My experience with open hearth cooking tells me exactly what he is stepping down into, so while the scene has nothing to do with cooking, and is only a few words long, I saw it exactly in my mind as I wrote it.

Common Jumbles (Snickerdoodles) adapted from The Quaker Woman's Cookbook. The recipes are by Elizabeth Ellicott Lee. They were edited for modern cooks by William Woys Weaver.

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cream of tartar
Sugar and cinnamon for coating cookie balls before putting in oven.

Elizabeth Lee listed the ingredients but gave no instructions. A proper cook wouldn't need them. Cream sugar and butter. Mix flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture. Add eggs and stir until all is mixed.

Take a dollop about the size of a quarter and roll it into a ball. Roll each ball in a sugar cinnamon mixture. Place in the pan. Bake at 350 until golden. You can make this in a Dutch oven in your fireplace or campfire for an even better taste.

Cranberry Cornbread
Cranberry Cornbread is based on a recipe from Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fanny Merritt Farmer. I use cornmeal from Newlin Grist Mill, stone ground using water power, as it had been in the 1700s. I added cranberries from a private bog on Cape Cod, because I though cranberries and cornbread would be a good combination.

Mix together:
3/4 C cornmeal
1 C wheat flour
1/3 C sugar
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Add: 
1 C milk
1 egg well beaten
2 T butter, melted
Cranberry mixture:
1 C fresh cranberries
Molasses to taste (that means I never measure it, I just pour it in) half a cup or so

Clean berries and put into a small pan, add molasses and water to equal one cup. Cook over medium heat covered until all the berries have popped open. You may need to reduce it a bit more. Pour berry mixture into cornbread and cut it in until you have a marbled surface and every bite will have some cranberry and some plain cornbread in it. I bake mine in a nine inch round pan, at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and cut it in pie shaped wedges.

The Case Book of Emily Lawrence
Emily Lawrence knows it isn't easy being the first-- and so far--only woman detective in late 19th century Washington DC. With the support of Charles, her husband and business partner, and her own talent for observation and scientific research, Emily tackles the most baffling cases, helping the police solve robberies, kidnappings, and even murder.

Although the work is exciting it is also dangerous: Emily and Charles must balance their pursuit for the truth, with the desire to protect each other. As she gains skills and experience, Emily discovers that the investigations closet to home are often the most challenging.


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Monday, July 18, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST CRAFTER AND AUTHOR CHERYL HOLLON ON BEER BOTTLE CRAFTING

Cheryl Hollon now writes full time after leaving an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in various countries around the world. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art. In the small glass studio behind the house, Cheryl and her husband George design, create, and produce fused glass, stained glass, and painted glass artworks. Learn more about Cheryl and her books at her website.

Making a Spoon Rest from a Beer Bottle

The cover art for Cracked to Death (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #3) is filled with wonderful items made from recycled bottles that have been fired in a kiln. After that they can be used to make cheese trays, clocks, wind chimes, or wall hangings. My favorite reuse trick with a beer bottle is to make a spoon rest (pictured above). I have several in the kitchen and they definitely help keep drips off the stove and countertops. The beer bottles are easily cleaned in the dishwasher, so I have several.

My husband, George and I have a glass studio in a freestanding cottage behind our house, and we enjoy making promotional gifts for my book tours. For this book, I will be giving away all sorts of bottles.

First, I have to say my favorite part of the process is selecting the beer bottles. I like to retain the design on the bottles so I only select the ones that have a screen-printed image. If they have paper labels, those have to be removed along with the glue. On my last forage to the specialty beer shop, I came home with these lovely bottles.

I think THE MUSE by Angry Orchard is my favorite so far. It’s a sparkling cider with an amazingly fresh and crisp flavor with a hint of apple that will make a perfect cheese tray. I’m also happy with the ROGUE Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout – absolutely delicious and a perfectly literary gift.

The preparation is fairly simple. We just rinse them off and place them in the kiln so that they don’t touch or roll over on each other. Here’s a kiln load ready to be fired overnight.

The most fun is opening the kiln the next morning and taking them out and washing them to reveal a bottle that has flattened out perfectly. For example, it didn’t break, roll, or burn away the lovely design.


I’m using these in auction baskets for the upcoming Bouchercon conference in New Orleans this September, along with SleuthFest in Florida, and definitely for Malice Domestic in the Spring. I’m thinking that I’ll need more beer.

Cracked to Death
When a treasure hunt leads to deadly plunder, it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb and her trusty investigative posse to map out the true motives of a killer . . .

It's the dog days of summer in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Webb's Glass Shop proprietor Savannah Webb has an eco-friendly plan to help locals escape the heat—a recyclable bottle-crafting workshop taught by reticent store manager Amanda Blake. Turns out, the class is a bigger smash than expected, thanks in part to a pair of staggeringly old bottles brought in by snorkeler Martin Lane.

Linked to a storied pirate shipwreck, the relics definitely pique Savannah's interest. But intrigue turns to shock when Martin's lifeless body washes ashore the next morning, another glass artifact tucked in his dive bag. With cell phone records connecting Amanda to the drowning, Savannah must voyage through uncharted territory to exonerate her colleague and capture the twisted criminal behind Martin's death.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ALICE ORR

Alice Orr loves to write. Especially romantic suspense novels and blog posts. She’s been a workshop leader, book editor and literary agent. Now she lives her dream of writing full-time. So far she’s published fifteen novels, three novellas and a memoir – either traditionally or independently. Learn more about Alice and her books at her website. Today Alice sits down with us for an interview.

When did you first decide you wanted to write novels?
The first writers’ conference I ever attended was at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. I’d been writing articles for various periodicals for some time, but I’d never admitted to anyone that what I really wanted to write was fiction. In a class taught by the poet Judith McDaniel, I spoke for the first time at that conference. She’d asked us what stood in the way of our most important writing goal. I stood up and said, “I want to write novels, but I don’t think I have any imagination.” Then I cried. The decision flowed out of me at that moment, along with my tears.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It took a while for me to publish a novel because I wouldn’t submit to publishers. I’d write just about enough of the manuscript to have the ending in sight. Then I’d say to myself, “I have a better story idea than this one.” I’d jettison my current project and begin another one. This was still the hard copy submission era so I’d stash the incompletes on shelves my husband built for them in our hallway. I did this again and again until a friend of mine asked, “What are you going to do? Collect those yellowing manuscripts til there’s no more room in your place for shelves?” I was tempted to answer, “We’ll get a bigger place.” I made my first submission instead, and that became my first published novel, a contemporary romance from New American Library.

Are you traditionally published indie published or a hybrid author?
I’ve been all of the above.

Where do you write?
I write in my home office, with pictures of my family on one wall, my grandchildren’s artwork on another wall and mementos of my writing career on a third wall and atop the bookcases.

Is silence golden, or do you prefer music when you write?
I prefer silence, except for the sounds of breeze and birdsong through my open window in summer.

How much of your plots and characters is drawn from real life? From your life?
I write about families now. My own family experience certainly informs those plots, but so do other families I encounter. I’m always observing and taking notes. As for characters I may have borrowed, in part, from real life – I’ll never tell.

Describe your process for naming your characters?
I used to have a master list of possible character names. Two lists actually, one for first names, a second for last names. One of my favorite sources for those names was the credits at the end of movies. I’m a huge movie fan. Then I misplaced those master lists. Now, I let whim and inspiration from the goddess of creativity be my guides.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your character has?
Character quirks are overrated in my opinion. Characters come alive on the page because they are more than their quirks, more than the sum of those surface parts. They are three-dimensional people through and through.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I know I have quirks, but to myself I’m just me. You’ll have to ask my husband this question. I’m sure he has the answer.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
My first marriage. I wouldn’t have my beloved children without that error in judgment, so I’ll embrace the relationship. I simply shouldn’t have married him.

What is your biggest pet peeve?
My own inadequate supply of patience, sometimes with people but mostly with situations.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What are your three must-haves?
Photos of my family. A copy of The Holy Bible. Moisturizer.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I can’t give details because somebody might guess where it was. I’ll just say there were unkind people working there, not so much unkind to me as they were unkind to others.

What’s the best book you ever read?
Always the one I’m reading now, and there are generally several. Check my Kindle.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean. Please. Please. Please.

City girl or country girl?
I’ve lived in both. I’ve loved both, and occasionally I’ve hated both. I’m an adaptable be-here-now kind of person so at present I’m an urban girl because I live in New York City. More important, like most writers, I carry my true region of preference in my head.

What’s on the horizon for you?
God willing. More loving. More family. More writing. Maybe an apartment with a terrace.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I adore the people I meet through my work, the (mostly) women who write, read and produce romance and women’s fiction. We are generous, irreverent, straightforward, feisty, sometimes grouchy and always gorgeous. I’m overjoyed to be in such company.

A Villain for Vanessa
A story of tangled roots and tormented love.
Two families are shaken to their roots. Vanessa Westerlo must find her roots. Bobby Rizzo is torn between Vanessa and his true roots. They are all tormented by love – past and too present. Meanwhile a man has been murdered. And that is the most tormented tangle of all.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

#TRAVEL TO LONDON WITH GUEST AUTHOR TRACY L. WARD


Charles Dickens Museum
A former journalist and graduate from Humber College's School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward has been hard at work developing her favourite protagonist, Peter Ainsley, and chronicling his adventures as a morgue surgeon in Victorian England. Learn more about Tracy and her books at her website. 

Lost in London: Setting the Scene

When I set out to write my Victorian morgue mystery series, Marshall House Mysteries, there was only one city in the world that could do it justice: London. With its cobblestone alleys, gas-lit streets and fog ridden nights, London has long been a setting for writers of the mysterious and supernatural. It seemed only fitting that Dr. Peter Ainsley, a morgue surgeon tracking down all manner of criminals, using the burgeoning science of forensics, should work and live there.

Today London is a frantic city with a web of criss-crossing transit systems including buses, river taxis and the famous tube. Each day an army of commuters file into the city from far flung suburbs, further contributing to the hustle and bustle of city life. Its skyline is a mixture of buildings old and new with a few notable landmarks like Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the architectural marvel of St. Mary Axe.

Despite a number of modern conventions that would hint otherwise, London still holds a lot of charm of yesteryear. There are a few hidden gems not so easily found by the everyday tourist, but if you are an unrepentant history fiend like I am, these places are non-negotiable when it comes to your sightseeing list.

If you are tickled by dark Victorian tales and enjoy the look and feel of old burial grounds, then Highgate Cemetery is a must. Filled with stone architecture and accents only the death-obsessed Victorians could provide, this off-the-beaten-path tourist site will have you constantly reaching for your camera. The Victorians enjoyed elaborate funerals and often equated their cost with how much their family loved the deceased in life. Nowhere is this more evident that at Highgate, one of London’s Magnificent Seven, a group of seven historical cemeteries scattered throughout the various neighbourhoods of the city. The east side of the cemetery is open every day for free-ranging, but the west side is only available via tours which must be pre-booked.

Another five-star site is the Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret, an attic space once reserved for medical students who would gather along the amphitheatre style railings to oversee the dissection of a human cadaver. These lectures were performed as a supplement to the medical training students would receive in the hospitals and were quite rare after Britain outlawed the use of purchased bodies (procured from destitute families or nefarious entrepreneurs like Scotland’s famous Burke and Hare). The theatre was also where medical student could oversee surgical procedures facilitated by the large skylight overhead to ensure maximum light.

This is a small museum, but it sure does pack a punch. On display is a variety of Victorian obstetric tools (ouch!), nursing implements, scientific oddities and an assortment of ‘natural’ remedies. The space is high above a historic church and the only way to get there is by a narrow, winding staircase with rope railing. It’s a tight squeeze complete with rickety wooden stairs constructed at a very steep incline, which only further adds to the atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair access.

Another site that greatly contributed to my research was the Charles Dickens Museum in Camden Borough. Already a well-known author by the time he moved his family there, the building is the only one remaining of Dickens’ London houses. The museum is displayed as it would have been during Dickens’ residence and includes his desk and a number of handwritten notes pertaining to his books. This museum offered me great insight into a typical layout of a Georgian terrace home including a kitchen in the basement and the layout of servants rooms (Dickens was fortunate enough to have two or three household helpers). When describing a room in my novels I often use my memories and photographs of this museum to guide me, though sometimes I deviate slightly, but that’s okay. I use Dickens’ home as a starting point and imagine from there.

As an author, I am very fortunate to have chosen a city with so many links to its past that continue to delight visitors today. Visiting these places gave me a real insight into the architecture, street layout and culture of London, one of the oldest cities in the world.

Prayers for the Dying

Dr. Peter Ainsley knew it was only a matter of time before London claims another murder victim, but this time the body is discovered tied to a lamppost four doors down from the house Ainsley shares with his sister and their bedridden father. The day the body is discovered, a maid of their house and Ainsley’s lover, Julia Kemp, fails to return home from errands in the city.

Convinced the body found in Belgravia and Julia’s disappearance are related, Ainsley follows leads that point him to an infamous bookman, Thaddeus Calvin, known as much for manipulating boxing outcomes as he is for his violent temper. Fiercely protected by the neighbourhood he extorts, Thaddeus is like a ghost, so deeply feared even Scotland Yard is unable to charge him for his crimes.
When another young woman’s body, a housemaid like Julia, is discovered floating in the river, Ainsley hastens his desperate search to discover Julia’s whereabouts before she, too, becomes just another murder victim found in the Thames. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

FAVORITES, FAILURES & FRUSTRATIONS--GUEST AUTHOR JULIA BUCKLEY

The Author's Office 
Julia Buckley is a Chicago area writer. She is going into her 28th year of teaching high school English and journalism, and she lives at home with her husband, two sons, three cats and a Lab puppy who is now as big as a small horse. Learn more about Julia and her books at her website. 

My Favorite Things in My Office

A couple of years ago my office had become a junk land, where everyone put piles of stuff that had no home. It looked horrible, so I made it my summer project to de-junk, re-paint, and re-imagine the office. It required a lot of work and some money to replace some elderly furniture, but today the office is so nice I have to fight the rest of my family for the right to sit in there. (see photo above)

At least, this is what two walls of it look like. On the computer you can see an image of a deceased but still-beloved cat, Rose. There are two desks—one for paying bills and doing correspondence, and one for creativity and video watching.

Instead of junk, the office is now filled with many things that are meaningful to me (or are enjoyably decorative).

First, there’s the knight. I got him on one of my birthdays, and I decided that he would become the guardian of my writing life: he would remind me with his presence that I should write each day, but he would also champion my writing when no one else believed in it. Naturally, he lives in the center of the desk.

Second, there is a globe paperweight of the world, given to me by my nephew.  It’s lovely, heavy and smooth, and I like to hold it when I’m contemplating an idea (or deciding which bill to pay first).

Next comes my little typewriter coin bank. A bit dusty, but always a reminder of what I love to do so well.

And while we’re on the subject of typewriters, I got this vintage Smith Corona on E-bay, and it adds style to my office.

Also on the desk is this antique Hungarian alphabet book, on loan from my father, so that I can try to master the very difficult pronunciations. I am writing a book with Hungarian characters, and my dad thought this would help.

This awesome red octopus was a birthday present for my husband one year, but we didn’t want to leave it around for the animals to chew, so it lives on the computer tower.

 
This is one of my favorite pictures of my sons, Ian and Graham. It was taken at a Christmas gathering at my parents’ house before my mom went into assisted living.

My William Shakespeare beanie baby guards some copies of my last book, The Big Chili.

If my husband had his way, our house would be filled with guitars. This one, a 50th birthday present to him, hangs above the desk.

This is one of my favorites; some artisan took old Nancy Drew books and turned them into journals. I keep some notes in here.

Pictures of my mom and dad are tucked into one shelf.

I always loved the TOOT and PUDDLE books that I read to my sons. One came with little felt character dolls, and I never had the heart to get rid of them, so these little piggies are tucked on top of my books. (Great books to read to little ones!)

On another shelf is a treasure chest I bought for one of my sons, but it turned out he didn’t love treasure chests as much as I did.  Now I keep stationery in it.

On the top of the bookcase I stack hardbacks that I want to save. I’m doing a lot of book stacking in my new attempt at order.

On another wall is a second guitar and a big canvas replica of my new cover—A Dark and Stormy Murder. I loved the cover so much, I found one of those canvas photo deals and preserved it forever. I thought it was appropriate to hang it where I do my writing.

Thanks for letting me share my favorites with you! 

Virginia Woolf said that every person needed “A Room of One’s Own.”  I love my office because it preserves all that is special to me and is filled with talismans for my writing life.

A Dark and Stormy Murder
Lena London's literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains...

Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property.

Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good...

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