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.

Monday, September 26, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR KIMBRA KASCH #DECORATES FOR #HALLOWEEN

 Kimbra Kasch grew up in a family with nine kids and only one TV. She became a voracious reader, possibly because she never got to pick the shows her family watched. And that led her later on to writing. When she’s not doing either, she loves to decorate for Halloween. Learn more about Kimbra at her website and blog. 

Spooktacular Arts and Crafts and Characters
I love creating stories because I love working with characters. With Halloween right around the corner, I thought I’d share a few of the projects around my house at this time of year.


Even though I’m not a talented pumpkin carver, I can think of other ways to decorate colorful and shapely gourds to create fun eye-catching characters. All it takes is a little paint and a few googly eyes.

Different shapes or stories help inspire me to create certain characters, like ghosts (top photo).


And my Halloween crafting doesn’t stop there. If I find special shapes, I “see” other characters just asking to be created. Like when I saw this gourd at the Farmer’s Market, I knew what I had to do. I had to start painting.




And using those googly eyes and a little craft paper.

 

It didn’t take long to create a Snuffleupagus and a few other characters.


I just love finding ways to make interesting characters come to life, just like in the stories I write.

Morgaine Le Fay and the Viking
Everyone has heard of King Arthur and his magical sword, Excalibur, but there’s another legendary hero who received a magical sword from the Norse Goddess known as The Lady of the Lake. Meet Holger Danske and his sword “Cortana”.

The Vikings, led by Holger Danske, invaded England. Yet somehow, even as enemies, Holger and King Arthur’s half-sister, Morgaine Le Fay, shared a forbidden love.

Morgaine Le Fay and the Viking is the secret Denmark never shares...until now.

Travel across oceans, continents and countries to discover the story of legendary Viking hero, Holger Danske, and his magical romance with King Arthur’s half-sister in Morgaine Le Fay.

This is the story of two warriors who never thought they’d find love, especially on the battlefield, yet standing poised against each other Morgaine and Holger face an attraction more powerful than any sword, stronger than any warrior and more magical than all the powers of Merlin.

Friday, September 23, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON ON THE BIRTH OF A SLEUTH

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston is Anastasia's creator and sometimes Doppelgänger. Along with writing humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, she writes romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website and by following this blog.

Birth of a Sleuth

A few years ago Turner Classic Movies featured all the Thin Man movies, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles. I wound up binge watching the series, fascinated by the chemistry between the two main characters. At the same time I was reading a book about George Burns and Gracie Allen, one of Hollywood’s great love stories.

In the Thin Man movies, Nora is Nick’s anchor, the common sense partner. With George and Gracie, George played the straight man to Gracie’s ditzy personality. However, in real life Gracie Allen was nothing like the ditzy character she played in the movies and on television. She was actually quite brilliant and an astute businesswoman.

Meanwhile, when I wasn’t reading or watching television, I was mulling over ideas for a new mystery series. Mash-ups have been all the rage in music for a few years now, and I began to think about mash-ups in terms of characters. What if I combined the characters of Nora Charles and Gracie Allen?

Thus was born Gracie Elliott, the amateur sleuth of my Empty Nest mystery series. The series is a wink and a nod to the characters of Nick and Nora Charles but with a modern day twist: this time the wife is the sleuth and her husband is her sidekick. On the outside Gracie is a bit of a ditz (okay, maybe more than a bit.) But like the real Gracie Allen, she’s actually quite smart. She just sees the world through her own unique, totally right-brained perspective which always makes perfect sense to her, even if it doesn’t to her college professor husband Blake.

The series is called The Empty Nest Mysteries, and like my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, it’s a humorous amateur sleuth series that takes place in a suburb of New York City. As a matter of fact, I’ve placed Gracie and Blake in the same town where Anastasia lives. Who knows? At some point the two amateur sleuths might even cross paths!

Gracie is a fledgling romance writer, bound and determined to become a bestselling author. She’s absolutely convinced this will happen relatively soon.
In the first book, Definitely Dead, Gracie hadn’t yet completed a manuscript. At the beginning of Literally Dead, the second book in the series and my newest release, Gracie has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.

With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.

Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.

LiterallyDead is currently available for pre-order at Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo. It will be available as a paperback and through Nook October 1st.

Pre-Order Links
Kobo 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

#TRAVEL TO MONTANA WITH AUTHOR JAN SCARBROUGH

Jan Scarbrough writes heartwarming contemporary romances with a touch of spice. Her favorite topics are families and second chances and if the plot allows, she adds another passion—horses. That’s why she sets her books in the Bluegrass of Kentucky and her second favorite setting, Montana. Learn more about Jan and her books at her website. 

Cowboy Up! Montana is a perfect place to visit!

When my husband and I began to discuss summer vacation, I suggested Montana. I wanted to see the state where I’d set four books with author Maddie James. We have collaborated on a contemporary Western series called The Montana Ranchers. Maddie wrote some of the books, and I wrote others. We worked together on writing the series Prequel.

Internet research revealed The Covered Wagon Ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana. They offer a non-rider rate, perfect for my husband. So we made reservations for July and planned our trip. OMG! It was fun—two days on horseback riding into the mountains, gourmet meals prepared by a chef and eaten in a rustic dinning room with other friendly “dudes.” The owners, wranglers and staff were just as friendly. We felt like we’d come home.

On the trip, I saw firsthand the mountains, canyons, and valleys that make that part of Southwestern Montana so beautiful. Sagebrush is real. And so are lodgepole pine trees and aspens with their silver leaves shimmering in the wind.

I took notes for any future books, things that being a city dude I didn’t know:

~Cowboys hang hats on antlers or posts when they come in for dinner.

~The dude ranch is family-oriented with many returning guests.

~Fishing is a big thing in Montana.

~One wrangler is hired only to break and train young horses.

~Some horses are allowed out at night to graze around the cabins. All of the ranch is fenced in with log fencing.

~Horses are run up to high pasture for two days a week to allow them to graze and be horses.

~Special attention is given to the care of horses so they won’t sour. Horses have a long season. Horses go in the winter to lower pastures.

~Rides are arranged every morning depending upon what guests want to do.

~Sack lunches are provided for daylong rides.

~One female wrangler came from Oklahoma and got the job via the Internet.

~Before a ride, horses are sprayed with fly spray.

~Besides the saddle, a horse carries a saddlebag for water bottles and lunch and a rain slicker. Wranglers put a rope halter on the horses and leave it on.

~Wranglers carry bear spray.

~Horses are branded with the ranch brand.

Brody: The Montana McKennas
Montana Ranchers, Book 2

Home...it's where you go when your past, present, and future collide.

When rancher James McKenna is critically injured in a riding accident, his wife calls his daughter and stepson home for a family meeting. Ironically, home is where stepson Brody Caldera wants to be. He’s taking stock of his life—past, present, and future. Can the champion bull rider turn his life around and make up for past mistakes?

Single mom Stephanie Chambers hopes to keep her daughter away from the man who deserted them years ago. But the spunky ten-year-old is enamored with the famous cowboy, and Stef’s best intentions are sidetracked from day one. She’s made a life for herself and her daughter, but Brody’s return challenges what Stef knows about herself and that life she’s created.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

Girl Power Rules

On this day in 1981 the Senate confirmed Sandra Day O’Connor as the first woman justice of the Supreme Court. No longer would the judicial branch of our government be composed solely of “nine old men.”

Many of us take our right to vote for granted, but women only obtained this right a mere 96 years ago, even though 144 years earlier Abigail Adams urged her husband John to “remember the ladies.” In a letter dated March 31, 1776 she wrote, “I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

John may have agreed with his wife, but too many other Founding Fathers didn’t consider women equals. Hence, we have a Declaration of Independence that states, “All men are created equal.” Men. Not people. And thus, women had to "foment a rebellion" to gain the right to vote, though it certainly didn't happen in Abigail's lifetime. We women had to wait until the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution to gain the right to vote for those who represent us, a write bestowed on men back in 1776.

Imagine how differently history might have unfolded had Abigail prevailed. We’ve come a long way, putting many cracks in that glass ceiling since then, but we haven’t yet shattered that glass ceiling. Maybe soon...

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--BLUEBERRY BANANACHINI BREAD

For those of you who were lucky enough to have an abundant crop of zucchini this year, you’re probably swimming in it by now and wondering what else you can make with it. Before you start sneaking out in the middle of the night to depositing veggies in your neighbors’ mailboxes, try this bread recipe. Make as many loaves as your freezer will hold.

Blueberry Bananachini Bread

Ingredients:
3 eggs
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup grated zucchini
2 over-ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

Mix together all dry ingredients.

In mixing bowl beat eggs until light yellow and frothy. Mix in oil, sugars, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Mix in zucchini and bananas. Fold in blueberries.

Divide mixture into two greased 8”x4” loaf pans. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven approximately 50 minutes. Bread is done baking when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack before removing and serving.

Variations:
Omit the blueberries and substitute chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, or pistachios), dried fruit (cherries, cranberries or apricots), chocolate chips, or any combination of these ingredients.

Monday, September 19, 2016

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR AND KNITAHOLIC MEGAN RYDER

Ever since Megan Ryder discovered Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught while sneaking around the “forbidden” romance section of the library one day after school, she has been voraciously devouring romance novels of all types. Now a romance author in her own right, Megan pens sexy contemporary novels all about family and hot lovin’ with the boy next door. She spends her days as a technical writer and her spare time divided between her addiction to knitting and reading. Learn more about Megan and her books at her website. 

My name is Megan Ryder, and I am a knitaholic.

I believe there should be support groups for us to stop us from buying more yarn, more patterns, and more accessories than we could ever use in a mortal lifetime. I started knitting when I was nine years old. No one in my family knitted so I got a book from the library (my true happy place back then) and got to work. I think I still have my first needle somewhere around here. Only one because I lost the other in the sea of knitting supplies in my house.

Knitting is not only a form of meditation for me but a true plotting technique. If I’m stuck or not sure where to go, I pick up my needles and start knitting. I empty my mind, and the ideas just flow. It’s not unheard of for me to suddenly drop the knitting and grab the computer or a pad of paper or even start speaking lines of dialogue.

For every book, I pick out a project to work on. Usually, it’s a fairly simple project. My heart and soul belong to lace knitting but that’s too complex when I am working on a book. So I stick to shawls, socks, or even the occasional sweater with a simple pattern. For me, the goal is not the knitting project but how it keeps me on track with the book.

My all-time favorite project (and one I’m known for in my family) are felted hedgehogs. Aren’t they the cutest things ever?

After every writing session or plotting session, I put the writing down and pick up the needles, letting the day’s writing and brainstorming settle into my subconscious. Inevitably, when I wake up the next morning or finish knitting for a while, my brain is calm and quiet and the writing ideas just float to the surface.
  
Love From Left Field
The Georgia Knights are drowning in debt, and when her father has a heart attack, it's up to Miranda Callahan to save them. Too bad the man with the life preserver is Lucas Wainright, her father's sworn enemy - and her childhood crush. Lucas is walking a tightrope, torn between his desire for revenge against the man who stole his father's baseball team and his desire for the man's daughter. Can Lucas and Miranda let go of old grudges, hold on to their new love and save the Knights… and each other?


Friday, September 16, 2016

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR DAKOTA MADISON

USA Today bestselling author Dakota Madison is a writer of many facing, also writing as Savannah Young, Ren Monterrey and Sierra Avalon, in various romance sub-genres, including contemporary romance, new adult romance, midlife romance, and romantic suspense. Today she sits down for an interview with us. Learn more about Dakota at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
As soon as I learned to read I immediately wanted to write my own books!

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I actually had some stage plays published before my first novel was published in 2002.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I own my own publishing company, Short on Time Books. We published my work as well as the work of 16 other authors.

Where do you write?
In my living room, or in bed!

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I can only write in silence.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I tend to write a lot about college professors, or psychologists. I happen to be a psychology professor! I think the emotional reality of my books is drawn from my life more so than actual characters or plots.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I made use of a lot of “baby name” websites.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I fictionalize real towns. I base the towns on places I know, but change the names and add the characteristics I want to them.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
The most fun I had was writing Max in Rye Must Die. He loves to sing along with songs, but always mixes up the song lyrics.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I have too many to mention. One quirk I have is that I cannot lay my head on a pillowcase that has any wrinkles on it. The case has to be completely smooth and wrinkle free.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth Salander is such a cool character.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I would never have started using a pen name. Now I’m stuck with four of them!

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Right now it’s service providers who think they can treat authors like trash because they have more business than they can handle. The minute you believe you can afford to lose customers is the minute your business is doomed to fail.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Chapstick, my husband, our bloodhounds.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Delivering phonebooks.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Ocean or mountains?
Can’t I have both?

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I seem to always find myself living “out in the country” but outside of a major city. Best of both worlds.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Right now I’m working on more books for my Love in Midlife romance series.

The Killer in You
A Love in Midlife Romance (Each full-length novel in Dakota Madison's Love in Midlife romance series features one of the graduates of Bookman College attending their 25th reunion.)

Falling in love with your boss's wife is never a good idea, especially when you're a mobster.

Mia Corrado can't remember the last time she had sex with her husband Nicky. He's been preoccupied with his job as the head of New Jersey's most powerful crime family and all of the wild oats he sows on the side.  When Nicky tells Mia he's too busy to attend her college reunion, and wants to send one of his underlings to accompany her, Mia is completely fed up. Until she discovers it is Luka Russo who will be escorting her. He's handsome, charming and sensitive, definitely not the typical mobster. Mia is completely captivated by him. And Luka is just as smitten with Mia. But if they act on their feelings for each other Luka may end up sleeping with the fishes.

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