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, June 28, 2013

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR JOAN REEVES


Joan Reeves writes sassy, sexy, romance novels because she thinks the world needs more love and laughter. Her books feature a woman and a man who are made for each other—they just don't know it yet. Joan is a bestselling ebook author and also a multi-published print novelist and is published under her own name, various pseudonyms, and as a ghost. Learn more about Joan at her website and blog.—AP

The Mystery of Romance

I was in a bookstore several weeks ago—which is a rare occasion for me lately because I purchase most of my books as ebooks. Anyway, I saw a woman brandishing a book. In a whisper of disgust, she said to her companion, "It's a mystery to me why anyone reads this trash."

The trash in question was a paperback romance. Since I've been a romance author—romantic comedy, usually—I wasn't taken aback because it's certainly not the first time I've heard a woman make such a comment. I'm sure that when I publish my humorous mystery next year, some readers will sniff at it because it will contain a romantic relationship. In fact, it seems that a lot of people just get their feathers ruffled at the thought of sex, romance, and relationships in books.

Since I've been mulling ideas for this guest blog post, I thought I'd take a stab at solving the mystery of why people read romance. Oh, and it's not just women, either. I get an equal number of letters from male readers about my books.

The Skinny on Romance Novels

You may have heard the following 2 statistics:

1.  Most book purchases are made by women—buying for themselves and for others in their family or circle of friends.

2. The majority of all mass market paperback books sold are romance novels. (You can call it women's fiction if it makes you feel better. Heck! There are some instances where I call it that, too.)

How To Recognize A Romance Novel

The heroine always gets her man. It's as simple as that.

If the heroine does any of these: dies, divorces the guy, runs away, or generally parts ways with the hero, then the book is not a romance—it's probably a mainstream novel.
Further, if a woman writes a romance, the heroine and hero are fair game—not married or otherwise in love or committed to another. They end up together. (as in my latest romantic comedy Scents and Sensuality.)

If a man writes a romance, chances are adultery or cheating figures into the equation. They do not end up together. (as in Bridges of Madison County)

All joking aside, if you think about it, it's no mystery that romance is so popular. It's not only well-written but it's timely and compelling. Most romance novels are written primarily by women and mostly for women. Maybe it's because women know what other women want out of love, relationships, and life. As a woman in the jury panel said to me recently during Federal court jury selection, "Women know what they want, and they read about it because they seldom get it in real life." Viva la romance!

Romance fiction celebrates female power and defies the masculine conventions of other forms of literature because it shows women as heroes. In romance novels, women characters possess the qualities normally reserved for men in other genres—bravery, integrity, and determination. The characters are strong women who deal with their problems as best they can, and they don't lose their humanity along the way.

That's just the way women are in real life, and that's the women I want to write: women who have honor, fight their battles, and find the one thing we all want in life—love.  Not just love, but love that endures, love that is faithful.

I leave you with this thought, taken from a nonfiction book published in 1992, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women by Jayne Ann Krentz.

"All of us who write romance are indebted to our spiritual foremothers, the countless women who preceded us.  We are part of an unbroken female line dedicated to passing on an ancient tradition of literature written by women for women." 

As part of that unbroken line of female storytellers, I say, "Go out and slay your dragons whether that's a mundane nine to five job or caring for an elderly loved one or just getting through a day of housework, kids, etc. Then relax with a romance novel that makes you smile and validates all that is wonderful about being a woman."

Scents and Sensibility
Perfumer Amanda Whitfield knows the Science of Smell. Harrison Kincaid knows the Science of Computers. But what about the Science of Sex Appeal? Pulsing, throbbing, will-not-be-denied Sex Appeal.

Amanda, desperate for a man to escort her to her snooty cousin's wedding, and Harrison, desperate to put an end to his mom's matchmaking, get blindsided by desire when they are thrown together.

Desire—with a side order of desperation—creates a captivating complication.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

TRAVEL WITH SERENA--CASH IN ON VACATION DEALS


With summer vacation upon  us, here are two more tips to stretch your vacation dollars:

First, don’t forget all those points you’ve been accruing on your credit cards. Use them for airfare, hotel, car rentals, and even package vacation deals.

Do you subscribe to Groupon.comLivingSocial.com, or any of the other sites that offer daily deals? If not, you should. Besides offering deals on restaurants, beauty treatments, etc., they’re a great place to find bargains for both staycations and travel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--CUT YOUR RISK OF HEART ATTACK


The next time you’re tempted to reach for a piece of candy, grab a handful of strawberries or blueberries instead. In a Harvard study of 90,000 women, researchers found that those who ate at least three servings of these berries a week had a 32% lower risk of heart attack than women who ate the berries once a month or less. The reason they found is that strawberries and blueberries contain anthocyanins, substances that make blood vessels more flexible and reduce blood pressure. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR KAREN PULLEN AND BLACKBERRY JAM CAKE

Photo used with permission from dimplesanddelights.blogspot.com

Karen Pullen owns a bed & breakfast in Pittsboro, a small historic North Carolina town. She’s won a Derringer for short story writing, and earned an MFA in Popular Fiction from Stonecoast, the University of Southern Maine. Cold Feet is her debut mystery novel.  Learn more about Karen at her website. -- AP

I never deliberately meant for my mystery novel Cold Feet to have so many food references.  But fourteen times in 292 pages, someone is eating. That’s once every eleven pages.  And not sandwiches or salads or anything generic. At a wedding reception people eat shrimp, crab claws, and oysters; spring rolls and beef medallions.  My main character Stella Lavender fixes lentil soup, scrambled eggs and grits for her grandmother.  Stella’s partner in her undercover drug operations is a gourmand, fond of grilled mahi mahi, mocha lattes, and cooking six course meals.  As Stella investigates a murder, she stops by a chocolate shop where she must taste Chocolate High cake, and when, on page 136, she visits Magnolia Manor, one of two B&Bs in Cold Feet, she’s offered a piece of blackberry jam cake.

Melting in my mouth, the cake was moist and tender with hints of cinnamon and chocolate. I had to hold myself back from inhaling it in three quick bites. “What is that flavor?”

“The secret ingredient is blackberry jam,” [Camilla] said.

Camilla’s Blackberry Jam Cake is a combination of spice and pound cake, with nuts and raisins. It’s not real sweet, so you could even serve it for breakfast.

Ingredients
For the cake:
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter – important that the butter be almost room temperature.  Your thumb will make a slight indent.
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, beaten
3 cups plus 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TBS cocoa
¼ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup blackberry preserves (not jelly)

For the glaze: 
½  cup of blackberry preserves
½  tsp fresh lemon juice
1 ½  cups of powdered sugar.

Grease or spray a 12-cup bundt pan. Pre-heat the oven to 325.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat well.

In another bowl, combine 3 cups flour, spices, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Alternately add batches of the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the egg-sugar-butter mixture, beating well with each addition.

In a small bowl toss the raisins and walnuts together with the TBS of flour.  Stir into the batter.  Add the jam and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 50 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert onto a rack and let it cool completely before glazing.

Heat the blackberry preserves in a small sauce pan (or the microwave) until it thins a bit, then whisk in the powdered sugar and lemon juice till thick and smooth. Pour over cake.

I often take Blackberry Jam Cake to my book readings and serve a piece to everyone. Including myself, naturally.

You can probably connect the dots to guess some of what Cold Feet is about: an undercover drug agent goes to a wedding on her day off.  But instead of a ceremony, there’s a murder, and Stella is pulled into the investigation.  Combine wedding and family drama with a drug dealer, a fake Scotsman, religious scammers, a stalkerish ex-girlfriend, a litigious couple, and Stella’s cheating fiancé – and you have the ingredients for Cold Feet.


Monday, June 24, 2013

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ROSE EMBROIDERY


Rosebud Embroidery

Because many people have commented favorably about the cover for Crewel Intentions, the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mystery that takes place between Death by Killer Mop Doll and Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, I thought I’d post the pattern for the embroidered rosebud.

The great thing about embroidery is that it’s so versatile. By reducing or enlarging the pattern, you can make the rosebud any size you want. You can stitch on a variety of fabrics with either floss or tapestry yarn. Don’t want a pink rosebud? Swap out the light, medium, and dark shades of pink for shades of yellow, coral, red, or white. Use your imagination, and have fun.

Materials:
Fabric and floss or yarn of your choice; transfer pen, pencil, or paper; embroidery hoop; tissue paper (optional;) embroidery needle in size that works with chosen floss or yarn; scissors.

1. Print out the pattern in desired size.

2. Using your preferred method, transfer the pattern to fabric of your choice.

3. Insert fabric into embroidery hoop. If using a wooden hoop, place tissue paper between the fabric and hoop. Tear away area to be embroidered. This will prevent the wood from discoloring the fabric.

4. Use stem stitch for the dark green (dotted lines.)

5. Work all other colors in satin stitch.


Friday, June 21, 2013

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY GUEST AUTHOR--MAEGAN BEAUMONT


Maegan Beaumont is the author of Carved in Darkness, the first book in the Sabrina Vaughn thriller series. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess for her high school sweetheart turned husband and their four children, she’s locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback. Learn more about Maegan at her website. – AP
As a writer, inspiration comes to me every day. Sometimes it’s just a spark—a sparse glimmer of a story that I think I might want to write someday. These are the ones that, if they stick around for a day or two, I write down and tuck away for later.

Other times it’s a lightning strike. An idea that hits me so hard and so fast that I can’t shake it. It hounds me. It’s all I can think about. It wakes me up at night. It won’t be quiet. Not until I write every last word that keeps rattling around in my brain.

Carved in Darkness was one of those stories.

How I came to write Carved in Darkness begins with what I’ve heard described as one of those the smell of the rain on the road at dawn moments… it wasn’t born from something I read or over-heard in the express lane at the grocery store. It was an actual experience I had—as fleeting as it was—that brought this story. One moment I was sitting at a red light, waiting for my turn to make a left, and the next I was hooked into what has probably been one of the most terrifying and rewarding experiences of my entire life.

I looked out the passenger window. In the lane next to me was a rattle trap of a station wagon, I mean, if this thing was street-legal, I’ll eat my hat—that’s how bad it was. But it wasn’t the condition of the car that caught my attention.

It was the girl driving it.

She was young—a few years younger than I was at the time—and beautiful. Probably the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life. Long, dark red hair. A profile I could only describe as perfect… and then she looked at me with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen in my life. It was for only a second or two but it was enough. In that face and those eyes, I saw a lifetime of sadness and fear. In the seat behind her were two young kids, a boy and a girl. They resembled her so strongly I knew instantly they were related somehow and they looked just as sad and scared as she did.

Then, the light turned and she puttered off… the last thing I saw of her was the Texas license plate stuck to the back of her car. A horn honked behind me, reminding me that I had the arrow, and I took off—bound for wherever I was going.

I began to wonder who she was. Where was she was going? What had happened to make her so sad… and then I began to do what I always do. I built her story in my head, and it became obvious almost instantly that I wouldn’t be able to shake this one loose. That it wouldn’t be quiet until I wrote it down.

So, I did.

I wrote about a dozen versions of Carved in Darkness. I scribbled notes on napkins. I wrote snippets of dialogue on my lunch break. I stayed up until all hours of the night, writing a pretend life for a girl I saw for about thirty seconds and I’d never even spoken a word to. I had no idea who she really was, but I knew one thing: I don’t do milquetoast. By that I mean, I don’t (can’t, refuse to… take your pick.) write wishy-washy, hand-wringing damsels in distress with heaving bosoms and a perpetual case of the vapors who cry and wait for big strong men to save them. Yes, my girl (I named her Sabrina) was in trouble—big trouble—but my damsel was in the business of causing distress, not being saved from it, and if someone was going to tie her to the railroad tracks, you best bet she would have a switchblade tucked into her boot for just such an occasion.

Sabrina is tough. Probably too tough for her own good. She’s a cop, so it comes with the territory, but it’s about more than that. It’s about the things that happened to her as a young woman. Things she can’t let go of. Things that drastically altered the person she was supposed to be. Changed her. Broke her and re-built her. She can’t let her guard down, not for anyone. Not her brother and sister. Not her best friend. Not her partner. Not even the grandmother who raised her. They all love her so much that they’re willing to wait patiently for the day when she’ll let them in and refuse to listen when she tells them that that day is never gonna come.

Enter Michael O’Shea, a person from the past Sabrina had hoped was long since buried. He reminds her of who she really is and the hell she endured. He tells her that while she might have escaped the nightmare she’d been dragged into as a young woman, there are others who were not as lucky—and one of them just happened to be his little sister. Michael wants Sabrina’s help in finding the man who murdered his sister, and he won’t take no for an answer. He drags Sabrina out of the tower she’s locked herself away in, kicking and screaming… patience has never been his strong-suit.

Carved in Darkness
In order to save her family, San Francisco homicide inspector Sabrina Vaughn must confront her past as the first victim and sole survivor of a vicious serial killer. Now that he knows she survived, the killer will stop at nothing to re-claim her.

Buy Links

Thursday, June 20, 2013

FASHION WITH TESSA--CLEAR NAIL POLISH TO THE RESCUE!


Clear nail polish can be a fashionista’s best friend. We all know it’s great for stopping a run in pantyhose, but clear nail polish has another fashion disaster prevention use. How often have you lost a button? I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate when that happens, especially since, unlike Anastasia, I’m all thumbs when it comes to wielding a needle and thread. Plus, I never seem to have a spare button the right size or color to use as a replacement. A drop of clear nail polish on your buttons means you’ll never have to worry about replacing a lost one because you’ll never lose a button again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE


Photo by Alan Cleaver
How a Good Night’s Sleep Produces Energy for the Next Day

We all know that it’s important to get a good night’s sleep in order to function well the next day, but do you know what happens in your body when you sleep to produce energy for the next day? It’s all about the cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that supplies the body with energy. It builds up while the body sleeps, then releases throughout the day. If your body doesn’t produce enough coritsol at night because you’re not getting enough sleep, you run out of energy during the day.

Since you only have a limited amount of cortisol each day, you want to make sure you don’t use it up too quickly. If your alarm clock jerks you awake with loud, blaring noise, you’re using up precious cortisol before you even get out of bed. Consider waking up to music or gentle sounds that slowly bring you out of REM sleep. This will help you maintain your cortisol levels throughout the day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR SUSAN SANTANGELO & STUFFED MUSHROOMS


An early member of the Baby Boomer generation, Susan Santangelo has been a feature writer, drama critic and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. A portion of the sales from the Baby Boomer Mysteries is donated to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a non-profit organization based in Connecticut which Susan founded in 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer herself. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website. -- AP
  
It’s been said that the secret to a long life is to go to bed early, eat healthy, and drink in moderation. Now, I ask you what kind of fun is that?

More than you’d think. No kidding.

My fourth Baby Boomer mystery, scheduled for a July 2013 release, is Class Reunions Can Be Murder. Here’s the back cover blurb: Baby Boomer Carol Andrews has no interest in her upcoming fortieth high school reunion. Her memories of days at Mount Saint Francis Academy are mixed, to put it mildly. But BFF Nancy convinces her to join the reunion planning committee, so she’ll have some say in how the event is organized. All is going smoothly until the dead body of one of their classmates is found the night before the reunion – in Carol and Nancy’s room.

Since this is the class’s fortieth reunion, committee chairman Nancy insists on calling the event the Ruby Reunion, since ruby is the stone which represents a 40-year anniversary. And also because Nancy doesn’t want to admit how old they all really are. (Any resemblance between Nancy’s vanity and the author’s is purely coincidental.)

Of course, the Ruby Reunion in this mystery is a lunch (none of these chicks drive at night if they can help it,) and the food is served buffet style. I wanted to include recipes in the back of the book, and since I’m not that familiar with my kitchen any more (just ask my family,) I turned to chef Paulette DiAngi, whose television show,  Love On A Plate, airs weekly on Cape Cod Community Media.

Paulette came up with an ingenious idea. She prepared a menu for the book two ways –first, the way the dish would have been prepared back in the 70’s, then the way the dish would be prepared today – low fat and healthy.       

Here’s an example:

Veal and Mascarpone Stuffed Mushrooms (the old, high cholesterol way)

Serving size: 2 stuffed mushrooms



















Ingredients:
16 extra-large white mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
3 scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 lb. veal sausage, casings removed and crumbled
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano or Asiago cheese
salt and pepper

Clean and remove stems of mushrooms. Mince stems with garlic and scallions. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and butter. Sauté mushrooms, garlic, scallions, and veal sausage for 5-7 minutes. Add Panko crumbs and mascarpone cheese, stirring until creamy. Remove from heat. Mix in remaining ingredients.

Fill each mushroom cap with mixture. Arrange on baking sheet in single layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8-12.
  
Chicken Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms (healthier version)

Serving size: 2 stuffed mushroom

           


















Ingredients:
16 extra-large white mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
3 scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 lb. Italian style chicken sausage, casings removed and crumbled
cooking spray
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
2 oz. lt. cream cheese
1/2 cup lite four cheese Italian mix
salt and pepper

Clean and remove stems of mushrooms. Mince stems with garlic and scallions. Spray a sauté pan with cooking spray. Heat. Sauté mushrooms, garlic, scallions, and chicken sausage for 5 minutes. Add Panko crumbs and cream cheese, stirring until creamy. Remove from heat. Mix in remaining ingredients.

Fill each mushroom cap with mixture. Arrange on baking sheet in single layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8-12.

As you can see, there’s quite a difference in fat content, cholesterol, and calories between the two versions. And both are delicious. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I never lie when it comes to food.

There’s also a recipe for a Pink Squirrel cocktail that plays a key role in Class Reunions Can Be Murder, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy so I can’t tell you any more than that. Suffice it to say that squirrels can pack quite a punch in their cute little pink claws. Who knew? Everyone can find out the secret by buying the book from indie booksellers, or in e-book format, in just a few more weeks.

And, yes, I tested that recipe, too.      

Thanks for letting me blog today. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA

Anastasia's Fabric Stash
Waste not, want not. That’s what my great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle used to say, and now that I’m counting every penny, I realize how right she was. But even before pauperdom walloped me upside the head, I always saved all the fabric scraps from my sewing projects. If you’ve ever had to buy an 1/8 of a yd. of fabric because you needed one 3” x 12” strip, you know how right I am. I keep all my scraps of fabric in a plastic storage bin, and it’s amazing how often I find myself rooting through that bin to find exactly what I need. However, sometimes the storage bin gets to overflowing. When that happens, I have lots of project ideas stored away for using up some of that overflow. Here are a few I’ll share with you today.

*Make sachet bags to drape over your clothes hangers or place in dresser drawers.

*Create drawstring gift bags for odd-shaped or any-size presents. You will be giving the recipient two gifts in one because afterwards the gift bag can be used to hold jewelry, lingerie, toiletries, or just about anything else. Decorate the bags with smaller scraps of fabric and scraps of ribbon and lace.

*Make a crazy quilt fabric-covered picture frame. Embellish the frame with ribbon, lace, buttons, and beads.

*Cut out small simple shapes, such as hearts. Sew two together and stuff for ornaments or gift package decorations. Glue them to pin backs or barrettes for soft-sculpture jewelry.

*Glue or fuse fabric to heavy paper and use as appliqués for hand-made greeting cards and gift tags.

*Cut fabrics of different textures, patterns, and colors into 3”, 4”, or 5” squares. Sew six squares of the same size together to form a cube, then stuff. These make wonderful, tactile soft blocks for babies and toddlers.