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.

Holiday Blog Hop Starting December 11th

Holiday Blog Hop

Blog Hop begins December 11th. Click on the graphic above for a schedule and list of giveaways, including a $60 Amazon gift card.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR PATRICK TYLEE COOKS CHICKEN CHOOZA

Science fiction author Patrick Tylee gets irked with smart phones and just wants to look at the Milky Way from his backyard, read every book he can, and chase around the house his kid and dog.  Learn more about Patrick and his books at his website.

Even the characters in a novel have to eat, and it gives me a chance to enhance the realism of a scene. Growling stomachs and watery mouths lead to crunchy bites and greasy fingers. In my debut sci-fi, Wisdom, a hungry little girl and her alien dad box up some spicy Chicken Chooza.

A common dish in North Africa and the southeastern Mediterranean, it transforms the average bird into a Phoenix. For a crock pot alternative, remove the fryer parts from the marinade and place on top of potatoes and favorite veggies, almost covering the meat with bone broth. Cook on medium, switching to low to prevent overcooking the chicken.

Chicken Chooza

1 whole Rigelian Nauga or substitute 1 whole chicken
Salt
20g (approx. 3/4 oz.) red chili paste
Juice of 2 lemons
100ml (approx. 1/2 cup) yogurt
15g (approx. 1/2 oz.) ginger paste
10g (approx. 1/3 oz.) garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
30g (approx. 1 oz.) cream
A pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp rose petal powder
1/2 tsp Shahi Jeera
1/2 tsp Green cardamom
1/2 tsp black cardamom
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp black peppercorn
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp mace
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Orange food coloring
40 ml (approx. 1-1/2 oz.) oil

Wash chicken thoroughly. Slit the flesh evenly on all sides and break the joints to make 4 pieces.

Rub in salt, red chili paste and lemon juice. Set aside for 2 hours.

Whip yogurt, add all the ground spices and marinate the chicken in this for 2 hours.

Place in an oven at 230o C and roast, basting with the oil regularly and turning chicken occasionally until cooked through.

Wisdom
When the gas-condenser vessel of the brutal Prawl-Tang mistakenly arrives in the Sol system, the Knowers of Jupiter are in danger. Ambassador to their planet, Moyab-4 convinces his brother clones to create a Savior Class artificial person to prevent the annihilation of the Knowers. Using the tools at his disposal, the newly awakened Jove pilots the Equus, accompanied by two virtual entities: Knowledgebase and Wisdom, as well as his biting sarcasm, quirky intellect, and the humor that hides his self doubt. Jove finds himself on Earth, central to a plan that includes the death of every human - including the ones who have befriended him, like the innocent orphan, Elmyrah. Influenced by the humans' own knowledge of Good and Evil, Jove bends the will of entire worlds to see that everyone gets what they deserve. Wisdom, however, has plans of her own. She knows what's best for all. They just need to be made to listen.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA

There’s a trend in historical fiction to incorporate real people—both famous and infamous—into plots. Sometimes these characters are secondary to the story; other times they play an integral role in the narrative. The first book I ever came across to do this was E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. Great book! Great musical! I highly recommend both.

In contemporary fiction most authors shy away from using real people for fear of lawsuits, limiting references to such things as making comparisons about a character’s resemblance to a celebrity. It’s a great way to create a visual image without sticking a paragraph of boring head-to-toe description into a scene. In the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series author Lois Winston described Zack Barnes, my love interest, as “a guy who looks like Pierce Brosnan, George Clooney, Patrick Dempsey, and Antonio Bandares all contributed to his gene pool.” I don’t think she has to worry about receiving letters from any of their attorneys.

However, because I’m a crafts editor for a women’s magazine, I’m always on the lookout for new trends, both in crafts and in pop culture in general, for Lois to incorporate into her books about me. Sometimes I come across something too good to pass up, even if it is a bit outside the box of traditional crafting.

Such was the case when I learned about vajazzling. Vajazzling is a portmanteau that combines bedazzling with another word. (Use your imagination.) Here was something not only crafty but both fashion and beauty-related—not to mention mind-boggling. It also ticked off three of the monthly features showcased at the magazine where I work. Being that the mysteries Lois writes about me are humorous, vajazzling was just too outrageously funny to pass up. So Lois decided to incorporate the craft into Decoupage Can Be Deadly, the fourth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

Normally, I’d give directions for a craft project here on the blog on Mondays, but given the nature of this particular craft and the fact that this is a G-rated blog, that’s just not possible. It’s also the reason Lois chose to feature decoupage projects in the book rather than vajazzling projects. However, if you enjoy a good laugh, you’ll love how she handles the topic of vajazzling in Decoupage Can Be Deadly.

Decoupage Can Be Deadly
Anastasia and her fellow American Woman editors are steaming mad when minutes before the opening of a consumer show, they discover half their booth usurped by Bling!, their publisher’s newest magazine. CEO Alfred Gruenwald is sporting new arm candy—rapper-turned-entrepreneur and Bling! executive editor, the first-name-only Philomena. During the consumer show, Gruenwald’s wife serves Philomena with an alienation of affection lawsuit, but Philomena doesn’t live long enough to make an appearance in court. She’s found dead days later, stuffed in the shipping case that held Anastasia’s decoupage crafts. When Gruenwald makes cash-strapped Anastasia an offer she can’t refuse, she wonders, does he really want to find Philomena’s killer or is he harboring a hidden agenda?

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Nook 

Friday, January 27, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR PAULA ALTENBURG

A former manager in the aerospace industry, multi-published author Paula Altenburg currently writes short contemporary romance. Book 4 of her Spy Games series is coming soon, with more to follow. Paula lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

I write contemporary romance and fantasy. I’ve published more than fifteen books now, including what I’ve co-authored under a pseudonym. My latest contemporary romance series is about gentlemen spies. I wanted to write about something I know. The Spy Games series leverages off the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. CSIS is a little like the CIA and MI5’s quiet brother, which is perfect.  

No, I’m not a spy. A gentleman either, if we want to be nitpicky.

But before I began writing full time, I did work for a Canadian aerospace and defense company. That means I worked closely with the military, both active and retired. I try to inject a high level of verisimilitude into my work because I have those resources to turn to. Their stories are fascinating. While CSIS is a civilian organization, it reports to the Minister of National Defence. That’s a simplification of the process, but it’s sufficient for my series. (I’m a little sorry I decided to make the Canadian Minister of National Defence a series villain, though. Our current minister is highly qualified and amazing. We’re pretty proud.)

While I have a background in the defense industry, and I like romantic suspense, as a reader I’d lost interest in the Navy SEAL archetype. How big and bad can these guys get? Frankly, the most impressive people I know appear pretty ordinary, at least on the surface.

I’m also not a huge fan of the “woman in jeopardy” trope. Every little girl and boy should read The Paper Bag Princess. I want my heroes and heroines evenly matched. Intelligence matters. Employment equity is a big issue for me. Self-sufficiency is another. And I think most people expect honesty in a companion.

So what happens when you find the perfect partner—or even better, one who doesn’t seem perfect at all—only to discover they aren’t what they seem?

My Spy Games series focuses on heroes (and heroines) who lie for a living. How are their love interests supposed to get to know them and find out who and what they really are? Can these people be trusted? What are their core values?

These were the questions I chose to explore, so don’t expect any firefights.  Fireworks, perhaps...

The first Spy Games story, Her Spy to Have, opens with my heroine, Isabelle, caught trying to sell her passport in Thailand. (She was desperate. Don’t judge her.) A cat and mouse game ensues. Neither she nor Garrett can be trusted, and they both want to uncover the other’s secrets.

In the second story, Her Spy to Hold, Kale is a spy who’s met his match in Irina, a super-smart weapons placement design expert. He’s never had to impress a woman before, and she’s especially hard to impress.

In the third book, Her Spy at Night, impetuous Marlies is the spy. She gives Harry, Canada’s staid trade commissioner, a few new things to consider. He knows what the spy world entails. Against his better judgment, and at a serious risk to his career, he’s fascinated by her.

And in book number four, CSIS team leader Dan’s past catches up to him in the form of Alycia, the woman he loved and lost—to his best friend. Alycia’s not the type of woman to pine for a man, however. Especially one who made it clear she comes second in his life. She’s moved on. When their work brings them back together, a shared tragedy will keep them apart. (FYI, I love Dan. This guy is tortured.)

The Spy Games series is barely beginning. Dan and Alycia’s story will take the characters and their story world in a slightly different direction, since the original series plot is about to be resolved.

For anyone interested in learning more about Canada’s spy organization, you can read the Act here.

His Spy at Night (Spy Games, Book 3)
For love of the game.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service officer Marlies Wiersma plays hard and loves harder—sometimes with disastrous results. After falling for a man who wasn’t who he pretended to be, Lies is anxious to prove to her boss that she won’t make the same mistake twice. She accepts an assignment which pits her against a charming crime lord—and alongside a diplomat with no patience for spy games, particularly feminine ones.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

When a national security threat results in Canadian Defence Trade Commissioner Harry Jordan harboring a spy in his embassy office, his instincts scream that Lies Wiersma is a woman not to be trusted. The two of them are supposed to be on the same team, but Lies is a little too good at these games for Harry’s personal comfort. He’s been burned by a woman before.

Harry’s reluctance to play along proves to be too much temptation for fun-loving Lies to resist, and once again, she finds herself in over her head with a man. This time, however, he’s exactly who he claims to be.

Now Lies has to convince Harry that, no matter who she pretends to be during the day, at night she’s all his.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

#TRAVEL FOR RESEARCH WITH GUEST AUTHOR KATHERINE RAMSLAND

Paris Cemetery
Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology and has consulted for CSI and Bones. She’s published 58 books and over 1,000 articles, mostly devoted to crime, forensics, and serial murder. She also writes a blog for Psychology Today. Hearts of Darkness is a paranormal murder mysteries series. Learn more about Katherine and her books at her website.

Use “Thought Paths” for Texture and Mood

My best research for fiction is situated: I seek ways to experience a place, item, procedure, or issue that I want to use for my characters. It’s like living in a house that I’m renovating while I’m writing about its renovation. Travel is part of this process. Visiting my settings is one of the best ways to situate a tale. In part, it’s to see them, and in part, it’s to feel them.

I have always traveled for research. Why should I use someone else’s photo of a broch in Scotland when I can tramp through fields to stand in front of one? Of course, I would go to Maui to find Lindbergh’s isolated grave, or spend four hours in Cimetiére de Montmartre to ensure there’s a tomb of adequate size. For my Hearts of Darkness series, The Ripper Letter and Track the Ripper, my primary settings were in New York, London, and Paris.

For context, I often pick locations according to “thought-paths” – the trace of creative juices from thinkers, artists, and writers who worked in a specific place. Thought-paths provide subtle texture. Gestalt psychology holds that we can see the details of a figure only against a background. This also applies to our characters: they need settings. We don’t notice the background, but it still sheds feeling tones. A white figure against black, for example, feels different from white on gray. Or red. Characters entangled on a bed feel different from those characters on a table or inside a freshly dug grave.

For me, thought-paths feed the background tone and mood.

For Track the Ripper, I visited areas on the Left Bank in Paris where writers had lived, dined, and met for consolation and admiration. At the Café de Flore, you feel the ghosts of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus discussing the vertigo of free will. You sense Hemmingway in a warm brasserie on a cold winter day, scribbling precious words. I gave my characters a residence here.

For murderers and magists, I looked for darker thought-paths. 

In London’s Whitechapel neighborhood, my research on Jack the Ripper had turned up an interesting fact, which launched The Ripper Letter. During the Ripper’s murder spree in 1888, hundreds of letters arrived to police and news outlets purporting to be from the killer, including one that offered the enduring moniker, “Jack the Ripper.” Although we don’t know if the killer sent any letters, some Ripperologists view the “From Hell” missive as the best candidate. It arrived with half of a preserved human kidney (and a kidney was missing from victim #4). Crime historian Donald Rumbelow discovered that the original From Hell letter was missing from police files.

So, who has it, and why? I focused on a suspect whose background offered intrigue. Dr. Roslyn “D’Onston” Stephenson was a former military surgeon who’d studied magic. I linked him to a series of contemporary murders in New York and created my female detective, Dianysus Brentano. To use the Big Apple’s settings for mood, I explored distinct areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan, such as the Met and Belvedere Castle in Central Park. Being at these locations not only yielded texture but also ideas about hiding places and escape routes.

For Track the Ripper, I needed to map out Whitechapel, to learn about it during the Ripper’s murders and also today. I can’t very well set something in a building on Leman Street if I don’t know what this street looks like. (Google Maps delivers these images in 3D, but not the all-important feeling tones from a busy street.) I took the crowded Tube, as my characters did, so I would know the right stops.
Ripper Alley

My Ripper suspect had mystical alliances in Paris, so I learned about the Society of Mutual Autopsy (a real organization) and a French “magist,” Eliphas Levi. I visited the Saint-Sulpice cathedral where Levi had his religious training. When I saw the soaring columns and vaulted ribs to the dome, I was better able to appreciate his ideas about magic and immortality. I also went to the Montmartre arrondissement, to see its winding streets, the Basilica de Sacre Couer, and the cemetery.

For background tones, I listened to the rhythms of French, watched the ebb and flow of people, and noted places where a plot could unfold. I merged figure with background to situate my story with grit, to better see my characters in motion. I know how Dianysus feels when she wanders through a crowded maze of mossy tombs or sees the Basilica’s ceiling mural. I felt heat simmering off the overlook on a summer day. I even drove a motorcycle.

It’s easy to forget the importance of background, but going out to experience your settings will remind you of how they can set a mood, move a plot, and deepen characters. You cannot see figures clearly without background, and the more you work at situate your background, the more grounded your story will be. I prefer to use thought-paths, but you might find a different route.

The Ripper Letter: Book One of The Hearts of Darkness Series
Ancient codes and a legendary killer lure a young detective into a dark and dangerous world. When a murdered historian is marked with a mysterious code, homicide detective Dee Brentano worries about his colleague – her missing father, Alexandre. FBI special agent J. R. Pierce tells her that Alexandre is wanted for this murder. Desperate to find him first, she discovers that Alexandre has items that several people – including Pierce – would kill to possess. One is a letter attributed to Jack the Ripper. Another is an erotic cryptograph. Dee encounters a potential ally in Detective Gregory Brenner. She’s attracted to him, but fears that he’s playing her to find her father. She’s also drawn to her father’s protégé, Scott Bateman, who can decode the Ripper letter’s secret message and the symbol on the murdered historian. It’s bait for luring supernatural entities. It’s also a map to locating her father. Dee must choose her path wisely. One leads to a supernatural lover, the other to an immortal serial killer.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR LINDA COUSINE MINES HER OWN FAMILY HISTORY FOR WOMEN'S FICTION

When most girls her age were dreaming of becoming prima ballerinas, Linda had dreams of becoming the next Erma Bombeck, never mind the fact she was a ten-year-old Puerto Rican girl without a long-suffering husband or problems with her plumbing. But fate, (and her mother) had other plans. Instead, Linda became a teenage beauty queen and had minor success as an L.A. model. Forty years later and now more tarnished than her old tiaras, Linda writes from her home in Orange County, California where she lives with her husband and a dog named Dude. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

In our eyes, our kids are the cutest things ever, right? Perfect in every way; the smartest and the sweetest little dickens on God’s green earth.

But what if you were meeting those same children for the first time and through the eyes of someone else? Would you feel the same way? Would they still be the cutest kids on the planet with intelligence par excellence? Would you be instantly connected? And more importantly, could you put an unfamiliar baby to your breast to nurse, simply because you were told that baby was yours?

Such is the basis of my book, Twenty-One Trees, inspired by the story of my paternal grandmother who lost all memory of her husband and four children after suffering a mental breakdown shortly after the birth of her last child. No longer was she a married woman with four children, one an infant. Instead, her mind retreated to a better time—a simpler time—the years of her adolescence. And there she remained, young and carefree, her mind locked in the happy memories of her youth, a stark contrast to her reality, committed to a state run mental institution where she lived for the majority of her long life.

Write what you know, someone once told me, and so I tried to do so in Twenty-One Trees; writing about a woman who suffers from psychogenic amnesia—much like my grandmother—a result of PTSD and postpartum depression. The characters in my story are not cardboard cut-outs. They are flawed, as am I. They are real—as am I, (if you don’t count the two perkier replacement parts.) The heroine can be self-absorbed (who, me?) and my hero would be well served to grow a pair, as they say. Their children are not your standard Baby Gap ad kids. Instead, they are redheaded and freckled, shy and awkward. The twin girls are missing their front teeth, and their boy has a lazy eye in need of surgery. They are perfectly imperfect; everyday kids like yours and mine.

I believe most authors leave a bit of themselves on the pages of their books. I’m sure readers of my books would not be surprised to find out I’ve suffered from abuse, spent time in therapy and had loved ones struggle with drugs and alcohol (Or oddly enough, I must have a thing for men in black Calvin Klein underwear. Three books—three unrelated references. What gives?).

Writing Twenty-One Trees was cathartic for me. Completed in just a little over three weeks, the story came without a previous outline and from a stream of consciousness that felt as if someone was whispering in my ear. It was written during a troubling time when my adult children were struggling, and more than once I would have liked the option to forget that they are mine, but like my character, I motored through the chaos. I brushed aside the tears; I looked into big brown eyes and I saw adult children just trying to find their way in a confusing world, hurting in ways I can only imagine.

As I begin the second half of my life (assuming I’ll live to be 116), there's a possibility I may one day no longer remember my children. Not because I’ll fall off a ladder and hit my head like Savannah, or develop psychogenic amnesia like my grandmother, but because of the dreaded disease of Alzheimer’s, a tragedy hitting the parents of so many of my friends, some forced to reintroduce themselves to their parents with each heartbreaking visit. And so, in the meantime, I will relish each moment with my girls and try to keep my condemnations and judgments to myself because life is too short to sweat the small stuff, and if we're honest, aren’t we all perfectly imperfect[?

Twenty-One Trees
When trauma gives Savannah May Holladay dissociative amnesia, life as she thought she knew it is gone—and only her childhood friend’s undying love provides any hope for recovery.

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Linda is giving away a FREE two-book starter set of her “Wit Lit” series, Middle-Aged Hottie, a tongue-in-cheek look at one woman’s experience with life after 50. Get yours here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR DEBRA SENNEFELDER

Soon-to-be mystery debut author Debra Sennefelder has two constant writing companions: her Shih-Tzus, Susie and Billy. She's been an avid reader since childhood and found writing came naturally for her. When she's not writing, she loves to cook, exercise (yes, really) and read. Learn more about Debra at her website

Oatmeal Raisin Bar Recipe
It's almost the end of the month. Can you believe it? January is flying by. Wasn't it just yesterday when we were about to ring in the New Year and made a list of our 2017 resolutions?  One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight, aka exercise more and/or eat healthier. Those are great goals, and to succeed we need tools that assist us rather than hinder us. One of the things I think we all struggle with is eating healthier because it's so easy to eat not-so-healthy. Grab-and-go is very tempting when you're tight on time. I know, been there, done that and got the larger sized t-shirt as a souvenir.

We struggle with time because our calendars are jammed packed with things to do—work, family, home, friends, volunteering, etc. Add to that a mostly sedentary lifestyle, kind of like writing. Yes, I sit a lot during the day at my desk. And as an added bonus of working from home, I can sneak off to the kitchen whenever my little heart desires. Another bonus to my job? I'm writing about a food blogger who is constantly cooking. That means I'm cooking too.

I've managed to create a fitness routine and most of my meals are healthy but it's the snacking that is the landmine. I used to reach for those protein bars and then those other "nice" bars (you know the ones I’m talking about) and various other bars for my mid-morning snack with a cup of tea. Then I got to a point where I realized some of those bars are just as bad as a candy bar. Go ahead, read some of those labels. And the other bars, while they have real foods in them (don't get me started on the ingredients that I can't pronounce in packaged foods), I found them to be held together by something gooey and sugary, and I didn't like the taste or texture. Ugh. So I now make my own bars. And today's recipe is an oatmeal raisin bar that is easy, fast and flexible. Best of all, you know exactly what you're putting into the bar.

This Oatmeal Raisin bar recipe is a go-to for me. When I'm in the mood for a little chocolate, I add a handful of chips to the batter. When I want to take the bars up a notch, I substitute the raisins with dried cherries and add in dark chocolate chips. If you like the bars as is but want an added kick of cinnamon, sprinkle in a little extra. You really can't do anything wrong to this recipe.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars
Ingredients:
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose four
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8"x8"baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients and combine until smooth. Spread the batter in prepared baking pan and bake approximately 25-30 minutes until the bars are cooked all the way through.

Let bars cool completely and then cut into individual portion sizes, as large or small as you wish.

Monday, January 23, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR ROXANNE SNOPEK TALKS CHOCOLATE


(Due to a scheduling conflict, Anastasia is yielding her craft spot today to food editor Cloris McWerther, who has invited author Roxanne Snopek to talk about chocolate.)

USA Today bestselling author Roxanne Snopek writes contemporary romance, both steamy and sweet, set in small towns, big cities and secluded islands. There are also dogs. And chocolate. Learn more about Roxanne and her books at her website

Let’s Talk About Chocolate!

When I was invited to write for the Love at the Chocolate Shop series, I was delighted! Romance, set in a gourmet store selling all hand-made chocolate delicacies, against the mountains of small-town Montana… I love it both as a writer AND a reader!

12 books in 12 months, by six authors… and chocolate? So much fun! CJ Carmichael, Melissa McClone, Debra Salonen, Steena Holms, Marin Thomas and myself are now about half-way through our Year of Chocolate. My first story for this series, The Chocolate Cure, released January 4, 2017.

The Chocolate Cure is book #4, but each title can be read individually. In this story, as a creative take on occupational therapy, Maddie makes Mick attend a chocolate-making class with her, the project being Salted Caramel Pecan Treasures.


Because each book features at least one chocolate specialty, we thought we’d create recipe cards to go with the books: the book cover on one side, and the recipe on the other. What do you think?

Salted Caramel Pecan Treasures

Mini-muffin tin plus 24 mini-muffin liners
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramels, unwrapped (approx. 45 caramels)
1-1/2 tablespoons evaporated milk (can substitute milk or heavy cream)
24 whole pecans
Coarse pink Himalayan salt
Fill mini-muffin tins with mini-cupcake liners.

Microwave chocolate chips, checking and stirring frequently, until smoothly melted.

Drop 1 tablespoon of melted chocolate into each cupcake liner, reserving 1/4 of chocolate in bowl for later. Using pastry brush, paint the melted chocolate onto the bottom and about 2/3 up sides of liners.

Place chocolate-lined mini-muffin tins in freezer.

Microwave caramels and evaporated milk, checking and stirring frequently, until smoothly melted.

Remove muffin tins from freezer. Place one whole pecan in bottom of each cup.

Pour caramel into chocolate cups until about 2/3 full, covering pecans completely.

Return tins to freezer for about 5 minutes.

Use pastry brush to paint remaining melted chocolate onto chilled cups, completely covering the caramel. Sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt while chocolate is still warm.

Return to freezer for about 30 minutes.

We have many wonderful treats and giveaways for our readers on our Love at the Chocolate Shop Facebook page, including recipe card packages, so please follow along for your chance to win. With a new book releasing each month, there are tons of opportunities!

The Chocolate Cure

No more chocolate! No more meddling! No more men!

New Year’s resolutions are great. Announcing them in a crowded bar, with a chocolate martini in her hand? Not Maddie Cash’s finest moment. It’s time this new realtor got serious about her life and this time, she means it.

But when hospital volunteering lands her at the bedside of bruised and battered Mick Meyer, who has no knowledge of Maddie’s reputation – and no memory of the kiss he begged from her during that long, pain-filled night, her best-laid plans are put in jeopardy. It’s not just his sweet tooth that’s tempting her.

The hunky bush pilot with the concussion has an old family property to unload. Making this sale could be Maddie’s professional salvation. But when Mick turns on the charm, she’s in danger of forgetting all her best intentions... on chocolate... on meddling... and especially on men.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR JONI SAUER-FOLGER

Author Joni Sauer-Folger writes cozy mysteries and romantic suspense under her own name and urban fantasy and paranormal romance as J.G. Sauer. Today she sits down with us for an interview. Learn more about Joni and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Took me a while. My background is in theater, which to my mind is another form of telling stories – just someone else’s stories. We all play ‘pretend’ as children, and acting allowed me to continue that into adulthood, but writing is also a version of ‘pretend’ – just making up my own stories. I had a creative writing professor in college who was an avid theater fan. She told me one night after a performance that she loved watching me on stage but hoped that I never stopped writing, that I had an incredible gift. Those words meant a lot and have always stuck with me. It just took me a really long time to embrace the writing bug – sometimes life gets in the way.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It took about eight years to get that first book deal once I started to really pursue the craft.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My original contract was a 2-book deal through a traditional publisher for my cozy mysteries. I’ve since gotten my rights back for both books and am almost ready to re-release them independently. All of my other books are Indies. Indie publishing allows me the freedom to write the stories in my head in my own way without limitations.

Where do you write?
I have a corner of my family room set up as my office.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Oh, definitely silence! I have author friends who set play lists for each novel they write, but I can’t concentrate with so much as music playing quietly in the background. I guess I need to hear my story unfold in my head. Even soft music would disrupt that for me.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Most of my characters are derived—in part—from folks I know, behaviors I witness. I tell my friends, ‘Be careful what you say to me…you may end up in a book.’

Describe your process for naming your character?
Don’t know that I have a process for this. Although, I did take the first name and hometown of a friend to name the vineyard foreman in my cozy mystery series. My friend’s name is Neil, and he’s originally from Paige, TX. I named the foreman Neil Paige. My friend tagged me later and all the tag said was, ‘Seriously? Neil Paige???’  We had a good laugh about it.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I use both. However, fictional towns are easier—you have more freedom and can take more liberties. The town in my cozy mystery series is based on Bastrop, TX—where I lived for a time—but I named it Delphine so that I could take those liberties. When I close my eyes and envision Delphine, it’s Bastrop that I see. Conversely, I use real places in both my Immortal and Guardian series, here in the U.S. and abroad.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Wow…that’s a hard one. Mostly because I don’t think of them as quirks, just more like behaviors…perhaps an odd sense of humor or interesting hobby. Elise, the sleuth in my cozy mystery series has a thing for shoes…and her cat (which is based on my sister’s 16 lb. Siamese) has a shoe fetish as well, but only takes one shoe of a pair at any given time.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Why…I don’t have any quirks, pal! LOL I suppose Elise got her shoe thing from me, as I LOVE me some fabulous shoes. And my characters are very real to me but just live in my head. Is that a quirk? Ha!

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I have VERY eclectic tastes when it comes to the written word. Maybe the six books which make up the Cassandra Clare Immortal Instruments YA fantasy series? So intricate and fascinating. I would LOVE to see her office and how she kept all the details separate yet connected. Really amazing. Maybe Stephen King’s The Stand – love the way his mind works. The Flame and the Flower  by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Those who write historical romance astound me…so much research to get it just right. Every book in the ‘In Death’ series by J.D. Robb – incredible world-building within a familiar societal frame…and the perfect alpha male. Oh man, so many more to choose from that it’s hard to pick just one.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Oh, definitely that I would’ve embraced writing at an earlier age—it took me waaay too long to realize how much I love it and how it would change my life and my views of the world.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Hate-speak and the lack of compassion for others…

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
An endless supply of cold beer, an endless supply of books by my favorite authors…and Roarke from the JD Robb ‘In Death’ series—the perfect guy to spend an eternity with.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I don’t know that I’ve had any reeeaaally terrible jobs, but I did work at DQ for two weeks in high school. Two weeks was all it took for me to realize that it wasn’t for me. When I quit, the manager told me that I wasn’t ‘DQ material’.  And I thought, ‘You think???’ LOL

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Nope…couldn’t EVEN choose! I do have a couple that I read again every couple of years, but the minute I say one, another pops into my head. Just too many to choose from…

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean…no question. I do love the mountains, but I was born by the ocean and it calls to something inside me. Always has… I am fortunate that I live in Oregon between the Coastal mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. Best of both worlds.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I was born in a small town on the Oregon coast just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean and have lived in small towns around the country. So I guess I’m a country girl at heart. However, I’ve also lived in big cities: New York, L.A., Dallas. I love the frenetic energy of the big city. There was a time that it appealed to me like nothing else, but the older I get, the smaller I want. At this point in my life, I crave the quiet—a slower pace.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m just about to begin work on Sandman’s Lullaby—the second book in my urban fantasy Guardian series—which will release in summer 2017. I’ll follow that with an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a few years. It’s a holiday romantic fantasy that I’ve wanted to put out for Christmas for the last 3-4 years and haven’t gotten to it. After that…the fourth book in my cozy mystery series. It seems, when you have voices in your head, the work never ends. Ha!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’m very blessed. I live on a third of an acre outside a small town on the Oregon coast with my three very spoiled feline babies. (they give me such joy) My town has a very good community theater, so I get to indulge my love of the stage—both acting and directing—along with my writing. I’ll be directing another play in September 2017. All of that on top of working at a day job 40 hours a week. I know…crazy! Life is good…

Immortal Savior
Immortal Dory Winthrop hasn’t been the Chosen One for long, but she’s already discovered that the responsibility doesn’t come without its share of trials and triumphs. Now, she and her Warrior—the man she loves, face a new threat: someone is targeting Immortals, and they aren’t excluded from the list. Together, they must discover the motive behind the deaths and unmask the killer before the lethal plan spills over into the mortal world placing humanity at risk.

New Immortal, Warrior Kaden Crenshaw, is an ex-cop abruptly pulled into a compelling and mysterious world filled with limitless possibilities, a world he’s just beginning to explore.  But with this new threat on the horizon, there’s not much time to get up to speed. He’ll need to adapt quickly and lead his team with fierce determination, if he wants to protect the Chosen One and ensure the safety of all.

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