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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A SPOOKTACULAR SCAVENGER HUNT

Last week Lois Winston mentioned that there would be a scavenger hunt with lots of prizes in connection with the debut of Bake, Love, Write: 105Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing. Well, it’s going to be a Halloween Scavenger Hunt!

For those of you who like dealing with the spooky, join us to do something cooky!

From October 6th through the 23rd, over 30 authors featured in Bake, Love, Write: 105 Authors Share DessertRecipes and Advice on Love and Writing are hosting a Halloween Scavenger Hunt. 

Here’s how it works: Participants visit the website or blog listed for each featured author to find a Halloween graphic hidden on one of the website or blog pages. The more sites you visit, the more chances you have to win. There are over 60 prizes with multiple winners. The list of prizes and the dates they will be given away is here.

Authors participating include: Lois Winston, Brenda Novak, Caridad Pineiro, Jessa Slade, Kathryn Jane, M.L. Guida, Skye Taylor, Cathryn Cade, Victoria Adams, Sharleen Scott, Kathleen Kaska, Erin Farwell, Daryl Devore, Cynthia Luhrs, E. Ayers, Chantilly White, Helena Fairfax, Molly MacRae, L.C. Giroux, Stacy Juba, B.V. Lawson, Ruby Merritt, Kay Manis, Ashlyn Chase, Kitsy Clare, Elizabeth Rose, Liese-Sherwood-Fabre, Sloan McBride, Elaine Joyce, Debra Goldstein, Barbara Phinney, Alicia Dean, Haley Whitehall, Terry Shames, Melinda Curtis, Lynn Cahoon, and Renee Field.

Here’s what you need to do: On October 6th, visit Sloan McBride’s blog where she’ll have all the information posted, including links to the authors' websites/blogs and a link to a page to type all the answers. If you want to have a handy reminder, you can also download the page of authors, websites/blogs, and for typing your answers here. The page will give you the authors’ names and links to their websites/blogs where you’ll search for the Halloween graphics. However, the graphics won’t be posted on the authors’ sites until October 6th. Rafflecopter will be used to determine prizewinners.

Here's the IMPORTANT part -- once you've filled in your answers, you must email the document to Sloan at sloanmcbride@gmail.com.  She’ll review the answers and will enter your name the number of times that corresponds to the number of sites you visited and provided the correct answers.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--NO-SEW FABRIC PUMPKIN


It's hard to believe October is only two days away. However, if you frequent craft and home dec stores, you've probably been seeing Halloween items since July. Today I'm featuring a repeat of a craft that first appeared here blog three years ago because it's quick and easy and also a no-sew craft. This fabric pumpkin would look great on a shelf or just about anywhere else. And you don’t have to worry about it rotting! -- AP

No-Sew Fabric Pumpkin

Materials:
5” Styrofoam ball
scraps of orange, gold, and brown print fabrics
1 yd. DMC green Memory Thread
3” cinnamon stick
9” length 3/8” diameter dowel
X-acto knife
tacky glue

1. Using the X-acto knife, carve out the top and bottom of the Styrofoam ball, flattening it into more of a pumpkin shape.

2. Sharpen one end of the dowel into a point. You can use an electric pencil sharpener for this. Use the dowel to press creases into the Styrofoam to create the sections of a pumpkin.

3. Cut 2-1/2” x 8” pieces of fabric. Trim to form points at short ends.

4. Using the dowel, press the fabric into the creases to cover the sections. Alternate the various fabric colors.

5. Cut the Memory Thread into two 18” pieces. Wind the pieces around the dowel to curl.

6. Poke a hole in the top of the pumpkin. Fill the hole with tacky glue. Insert one end of each piece of Memory Thread and the cinnamon stick.

Friday, September 26, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR DONNELL ANN BELL


Award-winning author Donnell Ann Bell leaves the international thrillers to world travelers, preferring to concentrate on "suspense to close to home"--books that could take place in her own neck of the woods. All of her books have been e-book bestsellers. Her fourth release, Buried Agendas, is due out in the fall of 2014. Donnell is also one of the authors featured in Bake, Love, Write: 105 Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing. Learn more about Donnell and her books at her website.    

Let’s get Series about Single Title
All right, a very bad pun, but I’m coming down from a deadline, and it’s Friday. On Friday, we talk about anything on Lois’s blog, so I thought we might discuss how people feel about Series vs. Single Title. I’m curious because I just completed my fourth single-title for Bell Bridge Books, and, as I do every time I finish one, I lament saying goodbye to my characters. I’m actually jealous of authors who get to commune with their characters longer. 

Recently, though, I had a nice review that stated I’m glad this is a single title instead of a series.  For obvious reasons I liked the review. However, I am also working on book one of a series.  Quite frankly, I’m nervous. I admit to writing single title because the characters called to me and wanted me to tell “their” story.  Single title gives me the freedom to research different topics, go different places, and spend time with different characters. I never get bored writing single title.

However, I’ve received some reviews that say readers want to see more of these characters from my single title books.  What’s a writer to do?  I admit that I get so lonely for these characters after they’re gone, that I want to continue their saga. And I do have some planned.

I talked to a friend about series vs. single title and asked her opinion.  She said both. “Series allows me to reconnect with characters I know I love and continue on with their story. However, I think some authors continue it too far, going into book 21 when they should have stopped at something like book 8.”

About single title, she said, “If you get hold of a good single title, it’s a lot like Christmas. You open the package, and you’re not sure what you’re going to get.  You may be happy with it, or you may want to take it back. But nothing makes me happier than reading an outstanding single title.”

She makes valid points, don’t you think?  I love both series and single title. I’m hoping there’s room enough in this world for both.  In the meantime, Buried Agendas is off to copyediting, and I’m still missing these characters.  I hope that’s a good sign, and, if you like romantic suspense, I hope you’ll stay tuned.  The log line for Buried Agendas is, “A devastating secret drove her from the man she loved. Will a secret equally as deadly lead her back to him?”

So, what about you?  Are you series all the way? Or do you like single title?

Betrayed
A woman betrayed and a child stolen, bound by the invisible ties of blood.

When Oklahoma City resident, Irene Turner learns the incomprehensible, that the stillborn baby she delivered 28-years earlier is alive, she takes the evidence to where her daughter now lives—Denver Colorado. Detective Nate Paxton can’t believe what Irene’s evidence shows him.  Kinsey Masters, a world-class athlete, raised by a prominent Denver family, an unattainable woman he’s known and loved for years, was stolen at birth. 
Irene Turner, Nate Paxton, and Kinsey Masters are united in a sordid conspiracy.  But, it’s who the conspirators turn out to be that will leave the trio shaken and in disbelief.  Irene’s foundation of trust will be ripped from its core, as kidnapping, murder, and a thirst for revenge lead her to learn she’s been betrayed.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

TRAVEL WITH SERENA--GUEST AUTHOR KAREN McCULLOUGH AND A VISIT TO ENGLAND

Stonehenge
Award-winning author Karen McCullough’s wide-ranging imagination makes her incapable of sticking to one genre for her storytelling. As a result, she’s the author of more than a dozen published novels and novellas, which span the mystery, fantasy, paranormal, and romantic suspense genres. A former computer programmer who made a career change into being an editor with an international trade publishing company for many years, she now runs her own web design business to support her writing habit. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website and blog.

Inspiration in the Details

I recently made a trip to England. A few years ago, my only son went to graduate school in Wales, met his future wife there, and later got a job with Osprey Press in Oxford. Two months ago, he and his wife welcomed a new member to the family, a baby daughter, so of course we had to head over there to meet her. We had a great visit, enjoyed being with them, and delighted in getting to hold and cuddle the new grandchild.

Oxford is an interesting place to visit. Millions of tourists can’t be wrong—and they’re not. Despite the crowds of tour groups and visitors that pack the city in summer, it’s fun just to walk the streets and soak in the history, but there’s also the wonderful Ashmolean Museum, the Sheldonian Theatre, the Bodleian Library, the Museum of Science, the Children’s Story Museum, and all the various colleges, some of which are open for tours at various times. For a writer, there’s all sorts of inspiration.

For me, it’s generally specific things that spark ideas. It’s not that long since I got back, so I haven’t had time to develop any of these into stories yet, but they will be. Here are a few things from the trip that are going to be part of my stories some day.

The Story Machine
One of the more fascinating items I saw was the Victorian Story Machine that resides in the Children’s Story Museum in Oxford. This incredible, steam-punkish item supposedly harnesses the power of a child’s imagination to generate new and unique stories. I have no idea how or even if the thing was supposed to actually do anything, but the possibilities… Oh, my goodness, I already have several story ideas!  Suppose someone could invent a story machine that actually worked? What effect would it have on the kids?  The adults who heard those stories? The whole publishing industry?  Or perhaps someone created some other interesting invention in the process of trying to make this work?  Or it was put there by an alien culture trying to figure out what makes us humans tick?  I like to take my story ideas in any direction they’re willing to go, no matter how absurd. I never know when one idea might rub up against another and spark an explosion of…story!

The Ashmolean Museum of Oxford is home to one of the most interesting, mysterious and beautiful items from Anglo-Saxon English history: the Alfred jewel. More about this unique item here, but what struck me was how sophisticated the design was for the time period and just what a beautiful piece of art it is. We think of that time period as being part of the “Dark Ages,” but clearly an appreciation for design, color, and form was already well-developed, and certain crafts were already being practiced at a high level of skill.
The Alfred Jewel

There are so many things you could do with something like this. An historical romance about the jewel’s creation. A mystery where a second version of the jewel showed up and was judged just as legitimate as the one in the museum. A heist from the museum. Of maybe a fantasy where items like this were created for magical purposes. So many possibilities!

This one may seem a bit obvious, even trite, given the number of stories it’s already inspired, but I have to mention it anyway: Stonehenge. I’ve seen pictures of it all my life and I’ve read plenty of books and stories in which it, or other stone circles, figured. But even so, I was stunned when I saw the actual thing.  It’s not the thought of the work involved in building it without modern tools and transport or even speculation about the function. It’s just the sheer physical impact of it. Although they have almost nothing else in common, seeing it with your own eyes has some of the effect as seeing the Grand Canyon. No picture can quite convey the scale of it, the sheer monumentality of size and grandeur.

Do I actually have to talk about all the possibilities?  So many books have already been done using Stonehenge and other stone circles – historical romances, time travel, mysteries, etc.

When people ask me where I get my ideas, I tell them ideas are all around us. You just have to set your imagination loose on everything you see, do, hear, and experience.

In going through some old books that my husband had gotten from older members of his family, I found several ancient tomes with hand-written pages. Some of it was barely legible. At about the same time, I needed to write a gothic novella for an anthology and the book came to mind.  I’d been visiting my daughter recently and she has a cookbook she refers to as her Grimoire. The ideas began to jiggle against each other, and Guardian of the Grimoire resulted.  A year or so ago, I got back the rights to the story and have re-released it as an ebook. It’s just $1.99.

Guardian of the Grimoire
Magic, mystery and romance combine in a gothic story that sees a peaceful, small-town library turned into a supernatural battleground. In the library’s basement a dangerous book lies hidden somewhere in stacks of old crates, and librarian Jess O’Rourke is caught in the middle of a battle between a demon and the book’s mysterious guardian for possession of it...








Wednesday, September 24, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--PETS IN FICTION WITH GUEST AUTHOR DJ ADAMSON

DJ Adamson is an award-winning author. Admit to Mayhem is the first book in her Lillian Dove Midwest Noir series. Her family roots grow deep in the Midwest, and it is here where she sets much of her work. She juggles her time between her own desk and teaching others writing at two Los Angeles Colleges. Learn more about DJ at her website. 
           
I remember Stephen King once saying that if you were writing horror, you need to put a dog or child into the plot because the vulnerability of someone innocent creates horror without a need for a lot of words or description. In his novella Secret Window, the protagonist finds his dog on his doorstep, killed. Horrible! Immediately the reader feels the protagonist is threatened by someone evil. And the reader is waiting for the next horrible act. Blake Synder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need picks up on another animal use. Synder states that if the character does something nice, like saving a cat, then the character is immediately endeared to the reader. By the way, I think the Cohen Brother’s offered a giggle to Synder’s book by having their character in Inside Llewyn Davis literally save a cat and carry it around most of the movie. A joke the audience may not have gotten, but those of us who write immediately understood.

I use a cat in my novel Admit to Mayhem to do both what King and Synder suggest. I want the use of Bacardi to say something about my protagonist:

Bacardi’s my cat, named for his brown and yellow coloring and my first drinking preference of rum and Coke.  At the age of twelve, if you add enough cola, you forget all about the sweet tang of rum. Plus, Bacardi’s hair frizzed out from his body as if he’d stuck his claw in a light socket. When my hair was shorter, I’d woken up many a morning with that same look.
 
My protagonist Lillian Dove is a recovered alcoholic with a 5-year sobriety; however, sobriety is not a dominate theme in the book. This is not another novel about a protagonist that cannot keep sober (be it alcohol or drugs). Instead, Lillian’s objective in the novel and series is to take on life anew, with all its emotional, behavioral, and mystery challenges. With the description and affinity to her pet, I wanted the reader to get a feel for Lillian’s troubling past without doing a lot of back-story.

The overall plot of the novel begins when Lillian discovers a house fire and she becomes the only eyewitness to criminal arson. She is in jeopardy by someone who wants to stop her from identifying them. The plot is paced with events to create Lillian’s angst, but again, I wanted to offer my reader the vicarious ability to feel her anxiety and fear. So, I put Bacardi in jeopardy:  

It came to me then what was missing. “Where’s Bacardi? Bacardi’s missing.”

“Who?”

“My cat.” I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the couch. Dust bunnies but no Bacardi. “Bacardi, where are you?” …I got in my car and drove one block after another, up one street and then the next, calling his name out into the night… “Bacardi?” I followed behind them, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” 

When I did get back to the condo, I couldn’t stay still. I searched each and every cranny I could think where he might possibly have crawled. Then I went back outside. 

I went without the Mustang this time.  I walked and walked and walked the night away, calling.

Several cats answered my calls.  They patted quietly up to me purring as they rubbed against my legs. Others merely meowed back a hello. None were Bacardi.  I know Bacardi’s yowl. It wasn’t until I came dragging back to the condo, exhausted, with a voice hoarse and feelings of failure that I allowed myself to truly take in the idea, “What if he never comes back? What if something bad happened to him?” 

Pike?

Pike is the major antagonist, and while Lillian may be threatened by Pike, and her mother may be threatened, having him possibly taken Bacardi is almost more than she can emotionally handle.

My novel is an amateur-sleuth novel, which I classify as a soft-edged Midwest Noir. But no matter whether a writer is developing a conventional mystery, cozy, thriller or horror novel, the use of animals can help offer themes and provide movement of plot.

Admit to Mayhem
With a contrary attitude and an addiction for independence, Lillian Dove admits she has not been a success in life. In fact, she considers failing as one of her addictions. Yet, when she comes across a suspicious house fire with a history of arson and murder, she instinctively attempts to help someone trapped. Lillian becomes the only possible eyewitness to criminal arson, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

Lillian Dove is an endearing “everywoman” struggling with life issues, emotional complexities and a habit of doing just the opposite of what she’s told to do. These qualities in a heroine give the reader an ability to vicariously struggle along with the protagonist in this intriguing Midwest Noir mystery.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--BAKE, LOVE, WRITE: 105 AUTHORS SHARE DESSERT RECIPES AND ADVICE ON LOVE AND WRITING

Who Doesn’t Like Desserts?

Where do you get your best ideas? Author Lois Winston gets hers in the shower. She’s even been known to jot notes on the steamy glass shower door so she doesn’t forget them! Awhile back she was washing her hair one morning when inspiration struck. Apparently, 104 other authors thought it was a pretty cool idea because they all jumped on board when Lois offered them the chance to take part. The result is:

Bake, Love, Write: 105 Authors Share Dessert Recipes and Advice on Love and Writing, edited by Lois Winston

What do most authors have in common, no matter what genre they write? They love desserts. Sweets sustain them through pending deadlines and take the sting out of crushing rejection letters and nasty reviews. They also often celebrate their successes—selling a book, winning a writing award, making a bestseller list, or receiving a fabulous review—with decadent indulgences. And when authors chat with each other, they often talk about their writing and their lives. Recipes. Writing. Relationships. In this cookbook 105 authors not only share their favorite recipes for fabulous cakes, pies, cookies, candy, and more, they also share the best advice they’ve ever received on writing and relationships.

Author Kaye Spencer created a fabulous video for the cookbook. In addition, many of the Bake, Love, Write authors will be taking part in a scavenger hunt next month. There will be prizes galore for those who participate. Check back here next week for the details.

Authors include: Brenda Novak, Lois Winston, Debra Holland, Dale Mayer, Shelley Noble, Caridad Pineiro, Diana Orgain, Lisa Verge Higgins, Lynn Cahoon, Jasmine Haynes, Jan Carol, Meg Bellamy, Bobbi Chukran, Melissa Keir, Amy Gamet, Kristy Tate, Terry Shames, Barbara Phinney, Kitsy Clare, Raine English, Cathryn Cade, Haley Whitehall, Shilpa Mudiganti, Melinda Curtis, Jessa Slade, Jill Blake, Daryl Devore, Molly MacRae, Elizabeth Rose, Helena Fairfax, Lourdes Venard, Jessica Aspen, Maegan Beaumont, Kay Kendall, Elizabeth John, Victoria Adams, Cyndi Pauwels, Alice Loweecey, June Shaw, Donnell Ann Bell, T. Michelle Nelson, Nina Milton, Pam DeVoe, Skye Taylor, Conda V. Douglas, Pepper Phillips, Judy Alter, Cadence Denton, Lesley Diehl, Erin Farwell, Regan Walker, Kaye Spencer, Barbara Monajem, Kathleen Kaska, Catherine Kean, Rose Anderson, Suzie Tullett, Deborah Hughes, Cynthia Luhrs, Judy Baker, Alicia Dean, Leslie Langtry, Janis Susan May, Mitzi Flyte, Ruby Merritt, Renee D. Field, Kathryn Quick, Susan Cory, Judy Penz Sheluk, Kay Manis, Kathryn Jane, Debra Goldstein, E. Ayers, Chantilly White, Sloan McBride, Triss Stein, Ana Morgan, Adele Downs, L.C. Giroux, Pamela Aares, Nancy Warren, Barbara Lohr, J.J. Cook, Lynn Reynolds, Cori Arnold, B.V. Lawson, Lynn Franklin, M.L. Guida, Irene Peterson, Sue Viders, Liese Sherwood-Fabre, Susan Santangelo, Sheila Seabrook, Elaine Charton, Sharleen Scott, Kathy Bennett, Jody Payne, Reggi Allder, Ashlyn Chase, Beverley Bateman, Susan Lohrer, Donis Casey, Barbara Leavy, Stacy Juba, Karen Rose Smith.

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Ebooks (only 99 cents)






Monday, September 22, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--KNITTING AND CROCHET TIPS

photo by Clancy Ratliff

Now that there’s a hint of a nip in the air, those of you who knit and crochet have probably started a few new projects. Here are some tips for you.

*Sprinkle a small amount of talcum powder on your hands before knitting or crocheting to keep your hands from perspiring while you work.

*Use a rubber tipped bobby pin to mark the beginning of each crochet round. The bobby pin will stay in place securely and will not snag the yarn.

*Using red nail polish, mark 1” from the end of your crochet hook or knitting needle to quickly check your gauge.

*To prevent yarn from cutting into your fingers as you knit or crochet, crochet a thread thimble for yourself. Wear it on the finger the yarn wraps around.

*Slip a stitch marker onto your knitting needle every tenth stitch as you cast on for quick counting.

*Loose leaf binder reinforcement tabs make very inexpensive stitch markers.

*To keep fiberfill from showing through crocheted animals and dolls, stuff the piece first to determine the amount of fiberfill needed. Then remove the fiberfill and place it in a piece of pantyhose, preferably in a color that matches the animal or doll. Place the filled piece of pantyhose back in the animal or doll.

*To keep yarn from tangling when working with more than one color at a time, place the balls of yarn inside a mesh laundry bag. String the yarn through the holes in the bag, and they will stay tangle free as you work.

*Use a hook a size or two larger to stitch your starting chain if it tends to be tighter than the rest of your crochet stitches.

*Use a music stand to hold your instructions while stitching. It can be adjusted to the proper height for easy reading.

*When adding embroidery, such as facial features, to a knitted or crocheted piece, cut a piece of felt the same color and shape as the embroidery and glue it to the crochet or knitting with fabric glue. Embroider directly over the felt for neat, even stitches.