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, July 21, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR KRIS PEARSON/KERRI PEACH

 
Kris Pearson/Kerri Peach, worked first as a writer for radio, then in the wider advertising industry. She now devotes herself to romantic fiction. She enjoys sharing her beautiful country with the world, and creating stories full of real people in believable situations. Three of her many novels were finalists in New Zealand’s Clendon Award. Learn more about Kris and Kerri at their respective websites.

Split personality
Hello from New Zealand! I was quite happy just being me – and then for the strangest of reasons I became someone else as well. Here’s how it happened:

Under my own name of Kris Pearson I’ve written fourteen somewhat sexy contemporary novels. Four were translated into Spanish, and another two into Italian. I enjoyed getting to know the translators, and was interested in spreading my work further around the world.

So… should I dream big? How about China?

After contact from a publisher who liked my stories, I received an unusual request. Could I please make them less sexy? To say this came as a surprise is putting it mildly. However, it seems that sexy love scenes are not culturally acceptable in Chinese books. Fair enough – each to their own – even if all those Chinese people no doubt turned up as a result of a sexy love scene!

I really didn’t think it would be possible to keep the stories viable, but you know how things can niggle at you? Over the last Christmas break I thought I’d see what I could manage. To my pleasure my bestselling The Boat Builder’s Bed gave in and became The Boat Builder’s Bargain with not too much of a struggle. Then The Wrong Sister became The Other Sister. In fact the stories held up so well that I completed five new editions with lower heat and clean language.

These are the first five books of my Wellington series, so-called because they take place around the harbour in my home city. There are two others in this series – Ravishing Rose and Hot for You – and they’re both so spicy that I won’t be attempting to cool them down. Wouldn’t have much book left!

This gave me five good prospects for China, so off they went. They’re now in the hands of a project manager, and she has so far recruited three translators. It’s getting exciting. Whether I sell three copies or three billion remains to be seen.

It’s also given me another opportunity. My five (so far) much sweeter editions have been launched in English by an author called Kerri Peach. She looks and sounds a lot like me – even has the same initials. Peach happens to be a family name, and Peaches was our last and most beautiful cat. Funny where these things come from. So now I’m sexy Kris and sweeter Kerri, and waiting to see which way my writing should go in the future. Not wanting to mislead anyone, there’s a stripe across the base of each new cover stating, “Kerri is the sweeter side of Kris Pearson.”

So there you go – a choice of heat levels from the same author. I know it’s not a new idea, but in this case it certainly came about for an interesting reason.

The Other Sister
In this tender ‘second chances’ story of family relationships and long-time unrequited love, attraction simmers between Fiona and Christian when they met on the day he marries Jan, her beloved sister. The only way Fiona copes is by hiding on the far side of the world. The only way Christian copes is by leaving on business whenever she visits her family back home in New Zealand.

Five years later, Fiona has the heart-wrenching six-week assignment of caring for newly widowed Christian and his tiny daughter. Billionaire Christian would rather spend time with anyone except the tempting woman who reminds him so much of his cherished wife, but Fiona has leave from her cruise-liner job and seems determined to do her family duty.

Their mutual love and respect for Jan have held them apart. Will their lost love be given a second chance now they’re forced together again?

Buy Link (The Other Sister)
Buy Link (The Wrong Sister)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR KAREN McCULLOUGH'S FAVORITE FICTIONAL HEROINES

Award-winning author Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy novels. Her short science fiction, fantasy, and romance fiction has also appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website and blog.

My Favorite Fictional Heroines

I’m a female reader and author with broad taste in fiction. I grew up reading mysteries because that was what my Dad read, so we had plenty of them around. I cut my teeth on Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Rex Stout. In my early teens I discovered fantasy and science fiction when a friend lent me a stack of books by Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, Andre Norton, and James Tiptree. I tore through them, bowled over by all the new worlds opening up to me on those pages. (And just as an aside, it wasn’t until years later that I discovered the last two were both female authors writing under male names.)

In my later teens I began reading gothic romances and enjoyed the combination of interesting relationships and eerie suspense. Somewhere in there I picked up a couple of books by Mary Stewart and landed in the thrilling territory of romantic suspense. By my twenties I was dipping into a lot of genres but beginning to get more discriminating in my taste.

One of the things I found I wanted, even craved, in my stories was a strong, capable heroine. In too many of the mysteries or gothic romances I read, the heroine was a wilting flower, wimpy and far too dependent on the hero to rescue her from all her troubles. Those books always annoyed me. I wanted smart, capable, strong heroines who might share danger with a man but didn’t depend on him. I liked heroines who could make their own decisions, didn’t do stupid things, and didn’t rely on others to get them out of trouble.

Heroines that could be strong, smart, competent, capable, and still likeable aren’t as common as I would like, although the trend is going my way in this. With that in mind, I picked out a few of my favorite fictional heroines to talk about. Most are from ongoing series, just because I’ve had more exposure to them as a result. They’re very different characters but all fit my criteria and I always enjoy reading about them.

Kinsey Milhone – The private detective lead in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mystery series that started with A is for Alibi. She’s smart and tough in many ways and has faced some of the deepest darkness in people, but she hasn’t let it destroy her humanity. Her independence is hard-won but the struggle has given her tremendous insight. There are other female detectives who also fit the profile but Kinsey is the one I relate to most closely. I loved her from the moment she mentioned that she cut her own hair with nail scissors.

Sookie Stackhouse – The heroine of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. Some people are more familiar with the stories in their television incarnation as “True Blood,” but I like the books better. Sookie has fae blood but her human side dominates for the most part. Growing up with the ability to hear other peoples’ thoughts has caused her to be a bit withdrawn and nervous, but she is drawn into the world of vampires and shapeshifters when she discovers she can’t hear them, making them easier for her to deal with. Though the supernatural politics are rough and tumble, her abilities make her a very capable detective, able to maneuver in both worlds.

Kate Daniels – The protagonist of Ilona Andrews’ Magic series, Kate is a mercenary with a bad-ass attitude and some super-human powers. Independent, strong, and mouthy, she is willing to work with her lover Curran and his pack of shifters, but she still goes her own way and makes her own decisions, particularly when it comes to her complicated family entanglements.

Eowyn – One of the few female characters in The Lord of the Rings, Eowyn is one of the strongest and most honorable in its cast. The niece of the king has been frustrated watching her uncle waste away, unable to do anything about it. And when the troops muster for battle, she’s there, even though she has to disguise herself in armor to go along. Not really a spoiler: she acquits herself well in battle, winning an important victory.

Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) – So maybe this one is too easy because she is a goddess and superhero, and my choice is certainly influenced by the recent, wonderful movie. She’s almost the archetype of the strong, capable heroine. If you haven’t seen the movie, give yourself a treat and go. The scene where Diana walks across a no-man’s land (love the very deliberate irony of that!), deflecting bullets, is absolutely stunning.

Heather McNeill – You’ve probably never heard of her, but I hope you will eventually. Heather is the heroine/amateur detective in my ongoing series of Market Center Mysteries. She’s the assistant to the director of the market center and the person who handles complaints from and disagreements among the exhibitors and attendees at the events held there. I introduced her in A Gift for Murder, which was first published by Five Star/Cengage before they cut their mystery line, picked up by Harlequin’s Worldwide Mystery line for mass market paperback, and finally also released as an ebook. Her adventures continued in Wired for Murder, which I initially self-published, but which will also be published in paperback by Harlequin. And I’m now in the midst of writing the third book.

Wired for Murder
Most of the time, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. Because she’s a good listener and even better at solving problems, her boss assigns her to handle a lot of the day to day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there. When Heather becomes an unwilling audience to murder during the Business Technology Expo and later finds the body, she’s willing to let the police take care of it. But she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who really didn’t like him very much.

Buy Links

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR AUTUMN JORDAN'S CONFESSION

Award-winning author Autumn Jordon writes romantic suspense, romantic mystery, romantic thrillers, contemporary romance and romantic comedies. She is known for writing compelling emotional stories with characters so realistic you’d swear you knew them. She writes both sweet reads and steamy reads. Learn more about Jordan and her books at her website. 

I CONFESS
Most people don’t ever meet an FBI agent and a good percentage of them who do, don’t want to. So, which one do you think I am?

I’m one who has met several agents under circumstances that I wish had never happened. I’m an ordinary Jane Doe, just like you, but at the time of the (cough) incidents I was also a budding writer. Was it Twain or Aristotle or some other author/philosopher who said Write what you know?  Whomever, I had the message in my head, the situation in front of me, and boldness coursing through my veins. I seized the opportunity to gather information for my plots and started asking the government agents with fancy suits and credentials what if questions.

As the interviews grew in length and both the agents and I relaxed somewhat, I asked a few personal questions. Heck. They’d asked me personal questions about myself and my family. Tit for tat, right?

I was surprised they answered my questions, however. Who knew FBI Agent So-Tall-He-Nearly-Had-to-Duck-Coming-Through-The-Door and S. A. Could-Be-Tom-Cruise’s-Twin were regular guys with families and pets? Don’t get me wrong, these guys were always professional, but they were also willing to be Average Joes. Maybe acting like an Average Joe was their tactic to get more information from me. Shrug.

To make our stories believable, getting to the source is what us writers do. I got those agents cards before they left my office with the invite to call them anytime—which I have.

On a flight to Arizona I sat next to a U.S. Marshal who guards our boarders. It was the best flight ever, and I have his number on speed dial since I’m writing a series involving an elite undercover U.S. Marshal team.

I’ve spoken to national guardsman, military personal from all branches, fireman, police officers—both large cities and small town—fireman, national park guardsman, college professors, surgeons, journalists, politicians, the woman who lost everything she owned in a fire, and the list goes on and on. Through those conversations, I’ve learned so much about the world and the passionate hearts that live in it, and I write stories about everyday Janes and Joes whose ordinary worlds are turned upside down in a moment.

My characters need to learn a lesson about life to make everything okay again in the world, and in the process, they also find the love of their lives, which makes their world better than it was before.

So, do you want to know why the agents came to see me?  If you read the blurb for His Witness To Evil, you’ll get an idea. Pick-up any of my books, and you’ll step into my world, including my newest release Perfect Fall.

Perfect Fall
Just when she thought love had left her behind, along came the man of her dreams

Every team wants third baseman Hudson Mitchel for his skill on the field. Every woman wants him for his bad-boy looks and money. Every fan wants his jersey. And Sport's World Magazine wants to label him their Sexiest Sports Idol. There's not a part of Hudson's life that doesn't feel toxic. Burnt out, he walks away from intense contract negotiations, dodges the paparazzi, and assumes an identity as a photojournalist in a tiny Vermont village. The last thing he expects to encounter in Black Moose, Vermont is a female who possesses all the qualities he's imagined in a life-partner. Unfortunately, she's the only woman on earth not impressed by his charms. Each time he goes to bat, she shuts him out. It's a good thing Hudson's never been afraid of a challenge.

Managing her family's golf course, planning her best friend's wedding, and fending off the takeover of the town's fall festival by a rich entrepreneur keeps Sileen Wright too busy to pursue her dreams. She's even too occupied with other's problems to notice the handsome guest in cabin twenty until she's literally pinned under the Adonis inside her pickup. The recluse chips his way into her dreams and is stealing her heart-- until his identity is revealed. Knowing a fling with the hunky sports idol would only lead to misery, she calls the game.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHERRY GARCIA VS. CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER SWIRL

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been a bit obsessed with ice cream lately. Food editor is my day job at American Woman, and yes, I do enjoy concocting delectable treats from my home kitchen as well. However, when I’m not baking, frying, or simmering in the kitchen, my second favorite pastime is reading. So…no recipe today. I thought I’d discuss personal taste.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about how subjective taste is.  What makes one person love something that another person has a hard time swallowing, let alone enjoying?  The other night my husband and I sat down to watch a movie.  After fifteen minutes he left the room to watch a hockey game on another television.  I continued to watch the movie.  It wasn’t the best movie I’d ever seen, but it wasn’t the worst, either.  I found the character studies fascinating, even if the plot left a bit to be desired.  And I enjoyed the movie enough to want to sit through it until the end to see how the conflicts were resolved.

Sometimes that happens to me with a book.  I’ll continue reading one I don’t particularly love because I either a) find enough enjoyable about it that I want to finish it, b) am hoping it gets better, or c) am hoping that even though I figured out whodunit by chapter three, the author will prove me wrong and give me a totally different ending I didn’t see coming (and man, when that happens, I love it!)

But there are other times when I pick up a book and toss it aside after a chapter or two.  Often it’s a book that has gotten rave reviews.  Sometimes it’s even a book by an author I’ve read and enjoyed previously.  When this happens, one of two reactions occur.  I either a) wonder if there’s something wrong with me that I don’t get what everyone else sees in the book, or b) scratch my head, wondering why everyone else can’t see the flaws in plot and character that jump off the page at me. 

Then there are times where I fall in love with a book and recommend it to friends, only to have them question my taste.  Or worse yet, my sanity.

For many people peanut butter is the perfect food.  For me it sets off my gag reflexes.  I’m more a Cherry Garcia kind of girl.  Taste.  It’s one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe.  Why do you suppose that is? 

Monday, July 17, 2017

#CRAFTING WITH ANASTASIA--A VISIT WITH AUTHOR TARA L. AMES' HEROINE AND COMMERCIAL ARTIST SAMANTHA JACKSON

Tara L. Ames is a Michigan native with a penchant for creating highly sensual empowered stories about brave sexy men and strong-willed women. Now living in Florida, she is actively writing another series in between taking care of her family and reading and enjoying the sun. Today we’re joined by Tara’s heroine, Samantha Jackson. Learn more about Tara and her books at her website. 

Samantha Jackson here. Hi y’all. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Southern. That’s right. Born and raised in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. I love all God’s creatures, especially horses and dogs. I saved my thoroughbred from being slaughtered and my adorable mutt named Angel, from the dog pound. I miss them both terribly.

Right now, I’m down in Key West, finishing a contract I landed through the Chamber of Commerce to refurbish local business storefronts. As a graduate of Parson’s School of Design, I’m a commercial artist and create corporate artwork, paint murals and teach art classes, part time, at Appalachian State University.

Depending on the dimensions of the wall, I can complete a mural anywhere from a day to a week. It all depends on the design, what it entails and whether it’s indoors or outdoors. The types of acrylic paints selected for an outside project should be water resistant, moist-resistant, and withstand exposure to the elements.

 JD’s Seafood Bar & Grille, a two-story eatery that has a two-dollar charm on a million-dollar beachfront, is my last project. I’m painting an outside wall with a shark about the size of an SUV, taking a bite out of a hamburger, about the size of a Mini Cooper. My problem is I’m behind on deadline and it’s not due to poor weather. You see readers, there’s this guy…

Yesterday, I was outside, working on the mural for JD’s and saw out of the corner of my eye, a half-naked hottie striding along the ocean’s edge several feet away. As much as I needed to return to work, I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the gorgeous hunk. His rock-solid chest gleamed in the low sun. And his biceps were big as melons. Whew! He was hot. So hot, it made the thermometer gauge on my Southern parts jump at least five degrees.

I couldn’t believe the way my body was reacting. Clearly, I had been overwhelmed by grief for so long that sex had been the last thing on my mind. About three years ago, I lost my fiancĂ©. He was piloting a crop plane and it crashed. I swore no more reckless daredevils for me. That was until I met the hottie and learned he was a Naval Aviator.

Now, I’m in trouble. He’s asked me out on a date. I guess you’ll have to read The Risk Taker to find out if I went out with him or decided to finish the mural and pack up my paintbrushes and hightail it home for the mountains.

The Risk Taker, Book 1 in the Alpha Aviators Series

Top Gun Naval Aviator Michael Merrick thrives living on the edge but when he refuses to abort a mission, he is forced on leave and heads home. Missing the action, he needs a distraction and what could be better than a green-eyed blonde with a quick tongue and a hot bod made for rockin’. 

Commercial Artist Samantha James still mourns the loss of her fiancĂ©, a reckless daredevil, and avoids getting involved with another risk taker at all costs until Mr. Aviator’s steely bod rocks her southern parts and threatens her secure world. 
~~~
The Risk Taker won’t be available until July 31. However, Tara is currently running a contest with a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Sign up for her newsletter to enter. https://www.taralames.com 

Friday, July 14, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR CAMILLE MINICHINO

Camille Minichino, a retired physicist turned writer, is the author of twenty-five mystery novels in four series. She currently serves on the board of NorCal Mystery Writers of America. She's on the faculty of Golden Gate U. in SF, and teaches writing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more about Camille and her books at her website. 

Caught Red-Handed

My husband catches me on the Internet again, at about three in the morning. Usually, I hear him coming, and I'm able to move my cursor quickly to the little x in the corner, and close my screen. But I'm engrossed, and don't respond in time.

Embarrassing!

"What are you doing looking at a map of New Hampshire?" he asks, standing in his pjs in our California house.

"I was just—"

The light dawns, he screws up his mouth, and accuses me.

"You're doing research, aren't you?"

Busted!

We have this conversation about once a book. There have been twenty-five of them, plus about a dozen short stories, so that's a lot of rehashing.

"It's fiction," he says every time. "Who cares how many miles long New Hampshire is?"

"It has the shortest coastline of any state," I tell him. "Eighteen miles. I need that fact for my story."

"As if," he says, and shuffles back to bed.

I'm convinced that I'm right—that readers do care. What if a book club in Manchester-by-the-Sea chooses my book for discussion. Do I want some conscientious fact checker to announce that I have my details wrong, that I've sent my character on a trip to Augusta, Maine and back in under an hour?

I remember a movie where a guy is sitting in a bar in Oakland, California at 11:50 PM and realizes he can save a man from execution in Sacramento (82 miles away) at midnight. He rushes up there and makes it just in time. That's a 2-hour trip in 10 minutes. No wonder that's all I remember about the movie.

Even as I wrote the Periodic Table Mysteries, a topic I know a lot about, I checked my information and made sure a couple of beta readers were scientists with a different specialty from mine.

I have the most fun when I'm writing about what I don't know. I've called on experts in fields as far from my academic wheelhouse as the Lincoln-Douglas debates and veterinary medicine; as foreign to me as ice-climbing and tap-dancing; as diverse as hotel management and waste water treatment (I don't recommend this tour without a personal supply of oxygen).

I'm on speaking terms with a police investigator, an airplane parts factory owner, a documentary film producer, a small town postmistress, and a freelance embalmer (my cousin once-removed, who says I'm the only one who asks for details about his work). I've read blogs by bail bondsmen and New York City doormen.
 
I've found that most people are willing to talk to me well beyond my specific needs for one paragraph of a novel. They give me unsolicited books, magazines, and video links to back up their information.

All of this is by way of respecting my characters and story enough to let them shine, and not be dulled or shunned because I have facts or details wrong.

Of course, now and then something slips through. My most well documented slip-through is in The Hydrogen Murder, my first novel. My protagonist, a retired physicist and inveterate East Coaster refers to Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day. Oops, I heard from as far away as Mexico City on that one.

I'm so glad I had a chance to clear things up in the edition of The Hydrogen Murder that appears in Sleuthing Women – a nice segue to a thank you to Lois Winston, who masterminds that project.

Now I'm off to do another search—researching the best way to poison someone, mimicking a heart attack.

It's 3 AM. I hope my husband doesn't catch me.

Addressed to Kill, Book 3 of the Postmistress Mysteries

Love is in the air for postmaster Cassie Miller and the residents of North Ashcot, Massachusetts. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and the town is gearing up for a special dinner dance at the senior center. With the local musical group performing at the dance displaced from their regular practice location, Cassie is all too happy to host them during off-hours at the post office.

But not everything is coming up roses. When one of the musicians, Dennis Somerville, is found shot in his home, rumors swirl over who might have wanted him dead. Cassie must determine if there is a link between a string of recent break-ins and Dennis's murder before another victim winds up with more than a broken heart.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

RV #TRAVELS WITH GUEST AUTHOR DEBRA S. SANDERS

Debra S. Sanders lives and writes from the road as a full-time RVer. When not penning mysteries and thrillers, she enjoys researching local lore and legends and sharing her adventures as a public speaker. She is available for travel and RV rallies, library/author appearances, book clubs and writer's groups (contact her through her website.) Learn more about Debra and her books at her website. 

Several years ago, I embraced my gypsy spirit by committing to life as a full-time RVer. Accompanied by my husband, Golden Retriever and tabby cat, I travel across America in search of adventure, beautiful sunsets, temperate climates and things that go bump in the night. Yes, that's right . . . ghosts, little people, cryptids, lost treasure and legends passed down from generation to generation.

After discovering a plethora of unexplained tales, I decided to publish my favorites as Road Tales - Myth, Lore and Curiosities From America's Back Roads . . . and I'm currently compiling a second collection into Road Tales II.

It often takes a bit of digging to uncover local folklore and legend but once in a while something just falls into my lap . . . like the time I was hiking across a remote section of Arizona desert and stumbled upon an elaborate campsite next to a dry wash. It was obviously deserted but at one point someone had taken great care to circle each Ironwood and Palo Verde tree with small stones. They even made a series of maze like paths with tiny quartz rocks. A five-foot tall "oven" was constructed from rock with the precision of a professional mason. Next to it sat an empty alcohol bottle with a note inside.

Crazy Woman Camp was established by a woman and her son. The boy had become addicted to drugs and his mother hoped the isolation would cure him of his "demons". They lived in a tent, using a horse for work and transportation. It died during their tenure and was buried nearby with a large stone to mark his resting place. The epitaph "Man's Best Pal" had been scratched into the rock, though the words were beginning to fade from the elements.

Unfortunately, nothing was written about the fate of Crazy Woman and her son. I reached out to locals to no avail. One man said he remembered a woman from a nearby small town and thought it might be her but didn't know her fate - so this particular mystery remains unsolved.

Some legends have garnered public attention but still beckon curious souls like myself. There's the story of little people in North Carolina, the unfortunate man who became lost in the Florida panhandle swamps from which Tate's Hell National Forest derives its name, the curse of the Blue Angel statue in a secluded mausoleum, a mysterious sixty-foot spiral labyrinth carved into the desert floor, lost treasure from outlaws, Native Americans, and even Spanish conquistadors, numerous ghost towns, phantom trains and more.

Traveling the back roads often reveals incredible bits of history such as the once lost Confederate cemetery in Tennessee where over fifty soldiers died during the harsh winter of 1869. Most of the graves were marked with a fieldstone but some received nothing at all. The only recognition of their passing were a series of marks carved into the bark of a large Birch tree that are still visible today.

As an author, I enjoy writing engaging stories. As an RVer, I take it a step further with a lively presentation called "Gold, Ghosts and Gravel Roads" which I recently offered to 200 RVers at a regional gathering, as well as with visitors at the Tucson Festival of Books. It's fun to demonstrate how a road trip can go from mundane to exciting with a little bit of research and an open mind.

I'm always on the hunt for new places to explore, odd festivals such as the Road Kill Cook-off in West Virginia, or lesser known lore and myth. If you have someplace you think I should visit, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear about it!


Road Tales - Myth, Lore and Curiosities From America's Back Roads
A unique travelogue featuring tales of myth, lore and other curiosities found along America’s back roads by a full-time RV nomad. The Curse of the Blue Angel, a mysterious labyrinth, the ghost horses of Palo Duro Canyon, lost treasure, the legend of Old Naked Joe…and more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR SHARON ST. GEORGE TALKS MEDICAL MYSTERIES

Sharon St. George is the author of the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series. Spine Damage, the fourth book in the series, was released May 15, 2017. The first two books in this series, Due for Discard, and Checked Out, will be reprinted as part of Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery series. A member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, Sharon also serves as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit serving writers in Far Northern California. Learn more about Sharon and her books at her website. 

Why Hospital-based Mysteries? Why Not?

What's the first thought that comes to mind when we hear the word hospital? Sickness? Death? Fear? Or do our minds leap to the most recent hospital tragedy to hit the headlines? A stolen newborn, or a crazed shooter taking aim at hospital workers? Is it any wonder so many of us suffer from hospital phobia? Then we must ask why would an author choose to set a mystery series in a hospital?

The answer is Why not? Consider the number of medical dramas aired on television dating from 1951 to the present. A quick online search reveals the number is more than ninety, and most of them were set in hospitals.

Readers of a certain age might realize how long the daytime program General Hospital has been on the air. Its run began back in 1963, and continues to this day. It is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-running American soap opera in production and the third longest-running drama on television in American history.

What is it, then, that attracts mystery buffs to medical drama? Let's look at some similarities that might explain the fascination. What are the compelling ingredients in a mystery? First, something goes wrong. Upsets the status quo. But even worse, we don't know who, or what, caused that inciting incident.

The same elements that figure in a crime can be found in the onset of a medical problem. In either case, the investigation must begin. Answers must be found. In the same way that detectives sort through clues at a crime scene, doctors will sort through clues to that headache, but in their case, the patient's body is the crime scene.

Our detectives eventually set their sights on several possible murder suspects. The butler, the creepy nephew, the jilted lover, and so forth. Meanwhile, our doctors do the same. Their headache suspects are muscle tension, caffeine withdrawal, sinus infections, anxiety, and depression, among others.

The investigating continues, leads are followed, tests are done. While detectives utilize a crime lab, doctors rely on radiology and pathology labs. Results are considered, the number of possible culprits is narrowed, until, finally, the perpetrator is identified and arrested, either by the police, or by the appropriate course of medical treatment. Ultimately, the case is solved. Whew!

We can deduce with some confidence that readers and viewers who like answers, both criminal and medical, are the reason some of us write medical or hospital-based mysteries. We offer them a BOGO. By one, get one free. Solve a crime and solve a medical problem. Two for the price of one.

Do we know whether a steady dose of medical mysteries will cure hospital phobia? We'll have to ask General Hospital fans. Maybe someone has done a study.

Spine Damage
Portuguese-speaking Paulo Ferrara is brought into the Intensive Care Unit of Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California with a gunshot wound to his spine. He struggles to explain his situation via a medical interpreter, who happens to be Aimee Machado's mother, visiting from the Portuguese Azores Islands. Paulo's teenage sister, Liliana, has gone missing, and he has set out to find her, but before he can explain why he was shot, he slips into a post-surgery coma. The only neurosurgeon who can help him is Dr. Godfrey Carver, who is on the brink of suspension for not completing his continuing education requirements. This puts him at odds with Aimee, the hospital's librarian and Continuing Education Coordinator. Already planning a trip to the Azores for vacation, Aimee and her pilot boyfriend, Nick Alexander, re-trace Paulo's steps to the Portuguese archipelago where they question Liliana's parents and learn that the girl vanished after attending a party on a mysterious super-yacht. One of the missing teen's friends alerts them to a possible connection to a shadowy online American boyfriend. Time is running out as Paulo's coma deepens, but there are two lives at stake and Aimee refuses to give up as she and Nick travel back to the States and to the San Francisco Bay Area, looking for clues and working in cooperation with their hometown police in search of the truth and the missing girl.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHERRY ALMOND CHOCOLATE CHIP ICE CREAM

I’ve been on an ice cream binge lately. Can you blame me? It’s the perfect finish to dinner on a hot summer day. (It’s also perfect at any other time during the day!) For me, nothing beats homemade ice cream. It’s quick, easy, far less expensive than purchased gourmet ice creams, and free of chemical additives whose names no one other than chemists can pronounce.

I love experimenting with different flavors whenever I make a batch of ice cream. Sometimes I use fresh fruit. For this batch I grabbed a jar of natural cherry fruit spread, the kind without any added sugar, because no matter how sweet a sweet tooth you have, you simply don’t need it for this ice cream. It’s sweet enough from the sugar and chocolate chips. The addition of almonds gives it a bit of crunch.

Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Ingredients:
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
1 T. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4-cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2-cup mini chocolate chips
1/2-cup sliced almonds
1/2-cup cherry fruit spread or jam (such as Polaner All Fruit)

Whisk together cream, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Slowly whisk in sugar and salt until dissolved. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least an hour. 

Turn on ice cream maker. Slowly pour in mixture. Process 15 minutes. Add chocolate chips and almonds, then cherry spread, processing 5 more minutes.

Serve immediately for soft-serve. For harder ice cream, scoop into a plastic container and freeze for a couple of hours before serving.

Monday, July 10, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HOW IT ALL BEGAN

The Glue Gun That Started It All
We all know where babies come from, but many people don’t know how a book is conceived and born. Today author Lois Winston takes over the blog to tell you how she gave birth to me.

Life in the Crafts Lane

When my agent suggested to me that I try my hand at writing a crafting mystery, it seemed like a perfect fit. Here I was, a crafts designer by profession. I wouldn’t even have to do any research. I could draw on plenty of my own experiences in the industry. I’ve worked consumer and trade shows; designed for magazines, book publishers, and kit manufacturers; even spent several years as an editor of craft books for two different publishers.

The big question was: What sort of crafting mystery should I write? Although I’ve done just about every craft imaginable, my specialty is needlework, primarily counted cross stitch. However, I knew Monica Ferris already had that crafting branch covered. She’d even mentioned me in A Murderous Yarn. (How cool is that?)

Other writers were already penning mysteries about other needle arts and soft crafts. Same with the hard crafts. I didn’t want my books to be derivative of another author’s work, so what could I do that hadn’t already been done?

Inspiration struck when I realized the common thread that linked all of the crafting mysteries being published. They all featured women (or the occasional man) who owned or worked in crafts shops or sold their own handmade crafts. No one had written about an amateur sleuth who was a crafts editor. In addition, no one had written about general crafts. Every series I came across was craft-specific -- stained glass, crochet, scrapbooking, miniatures, knitting, quilting, etc.

So now I had a unique profession for my amateur sleuth, but I still didn’t know who she was or what her back-story would be. Then one day I burned my finger (for the gazillionth time!) while using a hot glue gun. As I iced my injury and cursed my glue gun for assaulting me, a title popped into my head -- Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun.

After a bit more pondering, I came up with Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at what she fondly refers to as a “second-rate general women’s magazine sold at supermarket check-out lines.” And of course, I gave her a personal life filled with conflicts and crazy relatives just because I could. Besides, who wants to read about a protagonist with a perfect life? We’d all want to kill her, and I couldn’t exactly see any editor buying a series where readers were rooting for the amateur sleuth protagonist to become the next dead body.

I faced a bigger challenge in coming up with craft projects to incorporate into my book. I’m used to writing directions, but I’m also used to relying on charts, patterns, and diagrams. I can’t simple say, “Cast on 42 stitches. Work in stockinette stitch for 3-inches.” That works great for knitting but wasn’t going to work for me. However, graphics add expense to a book’s production costs, and as an author trying to break into a new genre, I didn’t want to give a potential editor an excuse for rejecting my series.

Writing directions is a lot like writing a mystery. As an author, I have to know whodunit from the beginning, but I want to surprise my readers at the climax of the story. Did I leave enough clues to keep them guessing or too many that they figured out whodunit by chapter three?

When writing directions, I have to make sure that each step makes sense to the crafter. Even if it makes perfect sense to me, it might not to someone else. Can the crafter move easily from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3? Are my directions concise and easy to follow or confusing and frustrating? Simple enough to understand or overly complex and complicated?

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun eventually sold and became the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The book features a variety of craft projects for weddings and the 4th of July. Four more full length novels and three mini-mysteries featuring Anastasia have followed. I’m currently working on the sixth full-length book in the series.

For the subsequent novels I decided to pick a specific craft for each book. Death By Killer Mop Doll features (what else?) mop dolls. In Revenge of the Crafty Corpse I introduced readers to yoyo crafts. Decoupage Can Be Deadly showcases a variety of decoupage crafts. A Stitch to Die For has several knitting and crochet baby blanket patterns. Scrapbooking with be the featured craft in the book I’m currently writing.

Check out all the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries and the mini-mysteries here
~*~
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Visit Lois/Emma at her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Pinterest. Sign up for her newsletter for special subscriber-only giveaways.