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, April 20, 2018


Today we’re joined by Lori Grenville from author P.J. MacLayne’s paranormal Free Wolves series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Helping rescue unhappy female shifters from packs was just an ordinary day for me. But I can't believe she got me involved with saving the life of an alpha. Alphas and I don't get along. They despise what I stand for. So to think that she got me to put up my life as security for an alpha is craziness.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
That I stand up for the ones that can't stand up for themselves, give hope to those that have lost all hope. Sounds saintly, doesn't it? But I'm no saint, and sometimes I resort to less than legal tactics to get the job done.

What do you like least about yourself?
I don’t like being short and having to look up at everyone. I mean, hanging out with these big male wolf shifters can give me a literal pain in the neck.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
When she had me crawling into the bed of the most powerful alpha in all of North America, that was pretty weird. Of course, it was strictly business, and I made that clear to him from the get-go. Not that he was interested in me. Not as a bed partner, anyway. Still, it was a risky move on her part because it could have gone badly.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Yep. She tried to talk me into having romantic feelings for the wrong guy. I set her straight, of course. Not that I have time to have romantic feelings for any guy.

What is your greatest fear?
That my undercover status will be blown in the middle of a job. If that were to happen, I wouldn’t be the only one getting hurt.

What makes you happy?
Besides the obvious of completing a rescue? Going for a run in wolf form in an old forest. I’d have to dodge shrubs and young trees as I darted from one patch of sunshine to another. I could stop and drink water from a clear stream whenever I got thirsty.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
The bit about my mother. I still want to locate her. If I could rewrite that part, I’d find her among either the Jaeger or Destin pack females. It would make for a happy ending. Or happier, maybe.           

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Elder Jaeger. He’s no alpha. How the heck does he keep one of his betas from challenging him for pack leadership? He’s got to have some dirt on them and I wish I knew what it was. It might enable me to do some manipulation of my own. For the betterment of the pack, of course.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Interesting question. Obvious answer would be Counselor Carlson, but I don’t think I could live with all the restrictions his position puts on him. What kind of life is it if you are surrounded by bodyguards all the time? I’ll say Elex Destin instead. He may have had a rough start in life, but he’s found what he loves to do and he’s good at it. And he won’t allow himself to be pressured to be something he isn’t.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Born and raised among the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania, P.J. MacLayne still finds inspiration for her books in that landscape. She is a computer geek by day and a writer by night who currently lives in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. When she's not in front of a computer screen, she might be found exploring the back roads of the nearby national forests and parks. In addition to the Free Wolves’ stories, she is also the author of the Oak Grove series. Read more about her and her books at her blog.

And a Giveaway! In celebration of the release of Wolves' Gambit, one or more lucky people will win an e-book version of Wolves' Pawn, the first book of the series. You can enter here.  

What's next for you?
It's time for me to go into hiding for a while. Sit back, relax, recharge, wait for things to settle down. At least until I get chosen for another mission.

Wolves' Gambit
Wolf-shifter Lori Grenville was rescued from near-slavery and a brutal pack leader by the Free Wolves. To pay back the favor, she's dedicated her life to helping others in the same situation, leading shifters to safety and a new start, risking her life in the process. She's faced down alphas and has no qualms in undermining pack structure.

Now she's challenged with the task of restoring an alpha to his rightful place. If she gets it right, she can stop a war from ripping apart two packs and spreading across an entire state. If she fails, she'll be among the first to die.

There's still the option of walking away and letting the Jaeger and Destin packs destroy each other. That means she'll fail in her original mission of rescuing the daughter of the Jaeger alpha before the girl is forced into marriage for political gain.

Lori hasn't failed in a mission yet. This one may be the exception.

Although Wolves' Gambit is the third book in the Free Wolves series, each book can be read as a standalone.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


I’m a city girl exiled to the suburbs. I’m much more comfortable in a concrete environment with mass transit than the land of malls and minivans. Maybe that’s the reason I have two black thumbs. With few exceptions, plants see me coming and commit suicide rather than suffer a prolonged death at my hands.

Heaven knows, I’ve tried to develop a green thumb, but I swear there’s a conspiracy in the Garden State. Whatever I don’t kill, the squirrels devour. Along the squirrel grapevine the word is out; my address is passed from varmint to varmint. They hold conventions in my driveway and feast on whatever I dare to plant, leaving my neighbors’ gardens full of flowers and produce but mine bare.

One morning I looked out my kitchen window to find a squirrel perched on my gas grill, a green tomato between his thieving paws. I went outside to shoo the little bugger away and check my two tomato plants that the day before had been loaded with green tomatoes. Every single tomato had been yanked from the vine, chomped a few times, then discarded in the dirt.

But every year hope sprang eternal, and I headed to the garden center for the makings of a vegetable garden. Finally, after years of gardening frustration I discovered the one plant that both defied my black thumbs and the squirrels—zucchini. The first time I planted zucchini, I made the mistake of planting three, figuring that if the garden gods were smiling down on me, one plant might survive. All three not only survived but thrived. And that’s a heck of a lot of zucchini.

The strange thing about zucchini is its rate of growth. In the morning it’s the size of your pinkie finger, and by evening it’s big enough to feed your teenager’s football team. There are only so many ways you can disguise a zucchini and fool your family into believing they’re eating something other than those green things taking over the backyard. So that first year I wound up giving away a lot of zucchini.

The garden gods continued to smile down on me until a few years ago when all of a sudden they turned their backs on me. I was used to picking zucchini out of my backyard, not the produce aisle of the supermarket. A fluke, I decided. Wouldn’t happen next year. But it did. And the year after that. For the past three summers I’ve harvested next to nothing--one or two zucchini at most. Which makes for very expensive zucchini when you add up everything I spend at the garden center to grow those plants. I decided to give up.

Then this past fall the one remaining tree on my property that hadn’t succumbed to old age, blight, or Super Storm Sandy, departed for that great arboretum in the sky. While at the garden center, searching for an inexpensive replacement, the horticulturist asked, “How’s your zucchini this year?”

He nearly brought me to tears. I missed my zucchini—the one plant that used to thrive in spite of me. He told me to cheer up. The bees were back.

Bees? Well, it turns out the reason I hadn’t grown any zucchini the last three years was that the honeybees had flown the coop. My zucchini wasn’t being pollinated. The horticulturist said the honeybees were coming back, and I should definitely plant some zucchini this spring and dust off all my zucchini recipes.

So if spring ever arrives in New Jersey this year, I’ll give zucchini one more try, but I’m hedging my bets. Along with sending up prayers to the garden gods, I’m offering some to the honeybee gods as well. We’ll see if come harvest time, my prayers are answered.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Catalina Island in the 1950s
Today we sit down with private investigator Skylar Drake from Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger’s Skylar Drake Murder Mystery Series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
My life? I didn’t have much of a life after I lost my wife Claire, and Ellie, my beautiful three-year-old girl. They died in a house fire three years ago when I was undercover for LAPD. The circumstances were suspicious, and I started a lawsuit against the LAPD that got me fired. My dream is to open my own gym and find out who was behind the fire that killed my family. But you know, when I’m desperate to pay my bills, I work as a stuntman for Prestigious Studios. I still take on one of their gigs when money is low.  The work is fun. I get to meet many stars. Most (not all) are just plain folks with a special talent trying to live their lives.

Before these writers came along and threw a couple wrenches into my life, I was having nightmares from my time in Korea. Even with the distraction of interesting cases, I still wake up in a cold sweat— but only once in a while.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
About the time Lynn and Zeilinger wrote their first story for me I inherited a detective agency from my late wife’s brother. He’s going to be out of the picture for three to five years.

The LAPD taught me how to be a pretty good investigator, so I got together with my partner Casey Dolan. Our clients are happy in the end, some are saddened, but the mystery is always solved. I must say that my detective agency, D&D Investigations has brought in interesting cases. I’ve doubled the amount of cases and money since I took over the agency.

What do you like least about yourself?
I don't trust anyone except my partner Dolan and Lory Carrington, my secretary. Even good people need to prove themselves to me. It embarrasses me when they prove they can be trusted and I’ve treated them badly.

What is the strangest thing your authors have had you do or had happen to you?
Everyone seems to want me to date again, but I have trouble leaving the memory of Claire and Ellie behind me. Along with that, women whose first names end in "y" are unlucky for me.

These authors keep naming the interesting women in my stories with first names that end in "y.”  Take Mary Black in my latest case, Slick Deal. This lady is the spitting image of Ava Gardner.  But they’ve written her so I can’t get too close. She’s a sweet girl and a stunning beauty. I’ll have to find a way around the authors’ plot ideas.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
You should see the outlines these two make. It's horrific the way they have me fighting and getting beat up. I'd be exhausted to say the least. I don't always have to fight to get my point across. So I argue with them and try to get them to add more "reasonable" characters. They usually listen to me but only after the first edit.

What is your greatest fear?
Other than the outline? I'd say there are two things that I worry about in all four books:  One, that the bad guys gets away with the crime, leaving dead people in their path. It's never happened because I make sure the authors listen to me. And second, I miss not being in love, and worry love won't be in the stars for me... because of these word jockeys.

What makes you happy?
Memories of my wife and daughter and solving the unsolvable. And it's great to prove the "experts" wrong. I'm happy when my partner and I see eye-to-eye. Dolan and I go way back to our days at the LAPD, and since 1955 when I took over this business, we've worked well together, always have.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would definitely change the names of the Femme Fatale's and not make their names end in "y". Many times I have to bite my lip, turn and walk away. Hey, it's not easy. Why you ask?  This may sound corny, but I'd like to fall in love again.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
In the first book, Slivers of Glass, I met FBI Agent Olivia Jahns. A gorgeous, smart and sexy women whose name doesn't end in "y". She keeps an eye on me and my partner. You’d think a lady like her could think outside the box once in awhile. Since she can't seem to do that, she could listen to me, but what woman ever does?

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Softy Moreno, a big time gangster in LA, He’s a really cool cat. I don't agree with his methods for getting things done. He's been my nemesis for four books now. I admire his charm with the ladies and his fortitude. When he makes a promise he never fails to follow through, good or bad. In Desert Ice he actually promised to get the person responsible for the violence that everyone blamed on him. And he did exactly that. Too bad the writers don’t let people like him tell their side of the story often enough.

Tell us a little something about your authors. Where can readers find their website/blog?

It amazed me how they make each book happen. They don't believe in just researching the mid-1950s. They have to experience each location before they put pen to paper. So they took me with them to rural Santa Rosa, California, pre-statehood Hawaii, gang-infested Las Vegas, and the sleepy town of Avalon, on Catalina Island. It's been a joy to travel with them and it's exciting to guess what they have planned for me. They each have a thing they call a website:

What's next for you?
I enjoy staying close to LA, where my office has easy access to the film and TV studios. Traveling by rail or flying out of the area is time consuming and expensive. So I hope for the next one they'll let me stay in L.A. or Hollywood. There's plenty of excitement in both cities, but with these two authors... one never knows.

Slick Deal
On the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide. His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death. Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground. A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Today is tax day in the U.S., and I’m betting many of you are not in a very good mood, even those of you who are tax accountants. (I know a few tax accountants, and they’re all looking forward to a well-deserved vacation tomorrow.) If ever there was a reason for comfort food, today has to rank up there in the Top Ten.

In the award-winning romance, Hooking Mr. Right, heroine Thea Chandler knows more than a little about comfort food. She’s relied on it most of her life to help her cope with her difficult family dynamic and a wedding that ended before the “I do’s”.

So after you return from standing in line at the post office, head to the kitchen and whip up a batch of Thea’s Double Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Brownies. You have our permission to eat the entire pan. And if you’re really bummed today, do what Thea did and add a carton of Chunky Monkey to it. (Just don’t step on the scale for a few days!)

Thea’s Double Chocolate Cherry Cream Cheese Brownies
(Serves 8 to 10 -- or one, depending on mood)

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 ounces cherry preserves

Melt chocolate and margarine in microwave at HIGH for two minutes, stirring frequently until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool. Stir 3/4 cup of sugar into melted chocolate. Blend in two eggs and vanilla. Add 1/2 cup of flour, stirring well until well blended. Spread into greased 9-inch square pan.

Using a blender, mix cream cheese, remaining sugar, egg, and flour until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon over brownie mixture. Spoon cherry preserves over cream cheese mixture. Run a knife through batter to swirl mixtures. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into squares or bars.

Hooking Mr. Right
Can a butt-ugly alley cat named Cupid bring together two people driven apart by secrets and lies?

After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler sacrifices her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes best-selling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea's a miserable failure when it comes to relationships -- especially those with the opposite sex.

Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York's most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to that alley cat. 

Luke believes he's finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She's got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him.

Buy Links
paperback (includes bonus short story Finding Mr. Right)
Google Play 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Today I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite paintings, The Annunciation Triptych, also known as the Merode Altarpiece. It’s housed at the Met Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The medieval-looking structure, which opened to the public in 1938, is located in Fort Tryon Park on the northern end of Manhattan and overlooks the Hudson River.
The Met Cloisters
The triptych is credited to the workshop of Robert Campin, also known as the Master of Flémalle, and was painted sometime between 1427 and 1432 by him and at least two of his assistants. What fascinates me about this painting and all medieval art is the symbolism employed by the artists. There was a reason for each object and every color choice in medieval art. Some of the symbols in medieval paintings are familiar to us, such as the olive branch representing peace, but others have not stood the test of time and are unknown to most of us today except for biblical scholars and art historians.

For instance, note the mousetraps on the workbench of the third panel, which shows Joseph working in his carpenter’s shop. Why did the artist choose to show mousetraps instead of something else a carpenter might make? It’s because mousetraps, according to the writings by St. Augustine, referenced the cross as the devil’s mousetrap.

And we all may associate the apple with sin, thanks to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but did you ever wonder why it was an apple Eve gave Adam and not some other fruit? The answer may have to do with the fact that the Latin word for “sin” is “malus” and for “apple” is “malum.” Can't get more similar than that.

Color choice was never random in medieval paintings. Colors all had hidden meanings. White represented purity, innocence, and compassion. Black represented mourning and penance. Red represented power, victory, and shelter from illnesses and evil spirits. Blue represented faithfulness and spirituality and is most often the color used in the clothing of the Virgin Mary but interestingly enough, not in this triptych where Mary is wearing red. Yellow represented hope, renewal, truth, and light, but it could also represent traitors. Confusing, right? Purple, the color reserved for European royalty, was rarely used in medieval art because the technique to produce it was lost in the Late Middle Ages. (Although I have to wonder why none of the artists ever thought to mix red and blue paints.)

The Evangelists were each represented by symbols in medieval art: Matthew as an angel, Mark as a lion, Luke as an ox, and John as an eagle. The lamb was a symbol for Jesus (the good shepherd), and the dove represented the Holy Spirit and resurrection. Goats were a symbol of oppressors and unrepentant sinners. The lion was a symbol of strength and wisdom and also could represent the sun.

Various objects in paintings also had meaning. Anchors represented hope. The lily represented purity. An eye, often pictured in a triangle with rays of light, stood for the all-seeing eye of God and could also represent the infinite holiness of the Trinity. The fleur-de-lis represented either the Virgin Mary or the Holy Trinity.

Gates in paintings had hidden meanings, as well. An open gate stood for the entrance to Heaven, a closed gate represented death or exclusion, and a broken gate was a symbol of the powers of Hell.

The three parts of the life cycle of a butterfly each represented something different. The caterpillar symbolized earthly life, the cocoon represented the tomb of Jesus, and the butterfly stood for the resurrection.

Books, harps, keys, pearls, coins, even rocks and towers, are symbolic images in medieval art. The objects depicted in these paintings were all placed within the painting for a reason. Learning the hidden meanings behind these objects is like solving an ancient puzzle. Once you know key to the puzzle, you’ll have an entirely new understanding of medieval art and artists.

Friday, April 13, 2018


Today we’re joined by Britt Callahan from author Patricia Hale’s Cole and Callahan PI.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Before I became a PI, I worked as an attorney specializing in family law. When I was singled out for my role as Britt Callahan in Patricia Hale’s Cole and Callahan series, I’d just left my law practice. The grisly aftermath of a case left me questioning my capability and I slipped into a black hole. Griff Cole put me back on my feet, then swept me off of them, leading to a partnership, personally and professionally. It’s been a whirlwind ride, but I’ve never looked back. I’m still out for justice, but my tactics have changed.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I can give you a longer list of things I don’t like about myself. But if I have to come up with one good trait… I guess I’d say I know how to persevere. I’m what you might describe as a fighter. A Dachshund/Beagle mix. Tenacious, until I get what I’m after.

What do you like least about yourself?
My lack of faith. I second-guess myself. Even as I plow forward through the muck and obstacles, I’m sure I’ll fail. Somehow, I always get what I’m after and no one is more surprised than me.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Not strange, but frightening. In Durable Goods, I infiltrated a religious refuge for women, which turned out to be a trafficking ring. Maintaining my cover was the only hope I had of staying alive. It’s also what made me want to die. Acting as “one of the girls” threatened my relationship with Griff and created an ethical dilemma. Lines blurred until I couldn’t recognize myself. Am I hero or victim?

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Like I said, I’m not overly confident, and Hale pushes me beyond what I think I can do. I always come through okay, but it’s a hell of a journey. I have to admit that I’ve come a long way from where I started in The Church of the Holy Child. The strength I develop in Durable Goods leads to an atrocious act I carry out in Scar Tissue, the third book in the series. I’d never have believed I was capable of that. Patricia Hale likes to push my limits. Because of her, I’ve grown. I guess I should be more trusting… and grateful.

What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is something happening to my sister, Amy. I love Griff, but Amy is blood. My parents had more interesting things to do with their time, like cocktails and grad students. Amy’s the closest thing I’ve known to a mother. And while Amy’s straight A’s and cheerleader fame did occasionally catch my mother’s bleary eye, I was told I should never have been born. I already mentioned my lack of confidence, didn’t I?

What makes you happy?
Griff, Griff and more Griff. Oh… and a Honeyberry cigar.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
In Durable Goods, I’d rewrite the time I spent at Oracles of the Kingdom under the rule of Isaac Bennett. I know now that he was a coward and a hypocrite. Ruthless, yes, but weak at heart. At the time, I was afraid of him. He got the best of me. But as my search for Kira continued, I met much worse and found my strength. I’d like to go back now and make Isaac pay for what he did to me… for what he did to all the girls.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Rose was cruel and cold. She was, what you might think of as a Madam, overseeing all of the working girls. She was loyal to Isaac to a fault, afraid he’d lose his use for her.  She let nothing slide and reported the slightest indiscretion, like whispers behind his back or ingratitude for what was deemed his generosity. She was a bitter old woman past her prime. I hated her.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I like being me, but once in a while I’d trade places with my office diva, Katie Nightingale. She’s funny and confident and runs an impeccable ship. She’s also a marathon runner and a size six. I, on the other hand, have been known to sip a margarita while on the treadmill and can’t refuse anything with frosting.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Patricia Hale lives in NH with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not on her computer or at work at a holistic veterinary clinic, she’s on the trails near her home hiking or snowshoeing. Patricia published her first novel, In the Shadow of Revenge, in 2013. She started her Cole and Callahan series with The Church of the Holy Child in September 2017. Durable Goods is the second book in the series, and Scar Tissue will be released later this year.  You can find out more on her website

What's next for you?
Griff and I will be back in the Fall of 2018 in Scar Tissue, the third book in the Cole and Callahan series. When a student/athlete jumps to her death, we’re hired to find out why. But the truth opens one family’s Pandora's Box. Lines are crossed and risks are taken… all in the name of (twisted) love.

Durable Goods
Detective John Stark approaches the PI team of Griff Cole and Britt Callahan with a postcard he’s sure is from his estranged daughter, Kira. She’s been listed as a runaway for three years by Portland, Maine police, but John isn’t convinced that her continued absence is by choice. As Stark’s long-time friends, Cole and Callahan agree to look into the postcard marked only with the letters O.K. 

The postmark leads them to Oracles of the Kingdom, a farm where women sell fresh produce in return for a fresh start with God. But nothing seems right about the town or the farm and Britt goes undercover to look for Kira. Once inside, she realizes Oracles of the Kingdom is not the refuge it appears. And when she's trafficked over the Canadian border, she’s on her own, over her head and losing clarity between hero and victim.

Buy Links

Thursday, April 12, 2018


Janet Dawson has published three books in the California Zephyr historical mystery series featuring Zephyrette Jill McLeod. She has also written twelve books in her Jeri Howard series featuring the Oakland PI, a suspense novel, and many short stories. Learn more about Janet and her books at her website. 

The California Zephyr historical mystery series comprises three books—Death Rides the Zephyr, Death Deals a Hand, and the just-released The Ghost in Roomette Four. The first book takes place in December 1952, the others in April and July of 1953.

As Kirkus says in its review of The Ghost in Roomette Four, the book is “a nostalgic, wonderfully detailed look at an era when trains were still a major mode of transportation and life.”

The old California Zephyr ran from 1949 to 1970, a 21-year run. During World War II, the movement of troops and supplies took precedence over civilian travel. The years immediately following the war were a heyday for the streamliners, as the sleek passenger trains were called. Postwar prosperity meant that people could go places. Trains were very popular, giving people the opportunity to travel in comfort and see the country.

The train era didn’t last, though. Passenger rail fell victim to the increase in air travel and rapidly booming automobile ownership. People were seeing the USA in their Chevrolets, not from the Vista-Dome of the California Zephyr.

In Death Rides the Zephyr, readers learn that my protagonist, Jill McLeod, became a Zephyrette after the death of her fiancé, who died in the Korean War, which began in 1950 and ended in the summer of 1953. A number of plot points in all three of the CZ books hark back to the past—Prohibition and the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and World War II, which dominated the first half of the 1940s. These events are recent history for my characters and find their way into the plots.

What are some of the difficulties of writing about the early Fifties? I must admit, I was alive then, but much younger and I can’t remember that much. This is where the Internet comes in handy. While writing the most recent book, I found myself on Google doing a search to find out when dishwashers first came into common usage. I was surprised to learn it was the Thirties. Jill lives at home with her parents when she’s not riding the rails and I had a scene where she and her sister are cleaning up after dinner. Would the McLeods have a dishwasher? Indeed, they would.

Another way of conveying the times are through fashions, whether hairstyles or clothes. I wound up buying a book titled EverydayFashions of the Fifties as Pictured in Sears Catalogs, which proved invaluable as I wrote about the clothing worn by Jill and the other characters. There are also plenty of websites dedicated to clothing of the era.

As for hairstyles, for the Fifties it was the poodle cut, like the short stylish hairdo worn by Lucille Ball, and the Italian cut—think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Speaking of movies, film and music are another way I bring the flavor of the Fifties into the CZ books. The Ghost in Roomette Four takes place in July 1953, when Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had just been released. Jill and her friend Mike are making plans to see the movie, which features a memorable scene of Marilyn Monroe performing“Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

And cars! The snazzy red Dodge Coronet convertible driven by Jill’s friend Tidsy in the latest book is another symbol of the era.

Writing about the Fifties has been a lot of fun and I hope readers enjoy the California Zephyr books and their excursions into the not-so-distant past.

The Ghost in Roomette Four
Zephyrette Jill McLeod is returning to her quarters on the California Zephyr. Suddenly she sees a shimmering light outside what she knows to be an empty roomette. When she goes inside to check, she feels a chill and hears strange sounds. Jill tells herself she doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she can’t explain what she saw. Two months earlier, she found a man’s body in this very same roomette. Was the death murder? Jill is starting to wonder if there really is a ghost traveling in roomette four.

Buy Links

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Today we’re joined by Rose Carroll, from author Edith Maxwell’s Quaker Midwife Mystery series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was happily working as a midwife, with murder nowhere in sight.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I like that I’m independent, in my midwifery and my investigations. It’s not common for a young woman, but being a Quaker gives me more freedom from society’s strictures.

What do you like least about yourself?
I experienced an emotional trauma when I was younger that still haunts me, and I find it hard to completely recover from it.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
She had me on a wild horseback ride to the beach, but that’s not too strange. I suppose it was when I was abducted by a villain. After some time I managed to both overpower him and help a baby be born. Not the usual birthing scene!

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
She puts me in harm’s way, and I don’t like it. In the new story, I walk to help a birthing client I’ve never met before – in a snowstorm – and end up with a concussed head by way of thanks.

What is your greatest fear?
That something will happen to my beloved family or my darling betrothed, David Dodge.

What makes you happy?
Witnessing God’s miracle of a healthy baby born to a healthy mother always makes me happy. A successful birth never fails to bring joy to my heart.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
See my answer about the head injury! Good heavens, did I need that?

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
I’m afraid David’s mother Clarinda Dodge and I don’t see eye to eye. She doesn’t approve of us courting and is most unhappy about the prospect that we might marry. David blessedly doesn’t let her sway him, and his father is also fond of me.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I confess to a bit of envy about my friend Bertie Winslow’s carefree, eccentric nature, which she somehow combines with a professional position of some influence. She rides her horse astride, she isn’t concerned with gossip about her living arrangements with her dear Sophie, and she runs the Amesbury post office with a firm and cheerful hand.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Edith also writes two mystery series set in thy modern times, as well as short crime fiction. Our second tale, Called to Justice, is nominated this year for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel. Edith is president of a group called Sisters in Crime New England and is, like me, a member of the Religious Society of Friends. She lives with her man and two elderly cats right here in Amesbury, Massachusetts – in the same house where I reside! All of her writing is well represented at her website, and Dear Reader, she hopes thee might sign up for her quarterly newsletter there.

What's next for you?
My next story is Charity’s Trouble, which will be available to read a year from now. In it a mother of six dies from an apparent miscarriage, but Rose discovers her death was caused by something much more evil.

I believe Edith will use the fifth book in the series (to appear in 2020) to describe a case I worked on with Jeanne, a blind woman I cared for in her pregnancy. Humans can be so stupid – many believe she has a lack of intelligence simply because she cannot see. But such beliefs let her be privy – and therefore me, as well – to hearing a great many secrets. We found the killer, delivered her baby, and have remained fast friends.

Turning the Tide
During Presidential election week in 1888, the Woman Suffrage Association plans a demonstration and Quaker midwife Rose Carroll joins the protest. When she finds a prominent suffragist dead the next morning, Rose must deliver more than babies. Her own life is repeatedly threatened as she sorts out killer from innocent.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Nothing says Sunday brunch like freshly baked muffins. These lemon poppy seed muffins will create an explosion of flavor in your mouth and put a smile on your face.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 T. poppy seeds
1-1/2 cups plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat)
8 T. unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 T. fresh lemon zest
1 T. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers.

Whisk together dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl whisk yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and eggs until smooth.

Gently fold wet ingredients into flour mixture to combine. Fold in melted butter taking care not to overmix.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Muffins are done when golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Scottish Village by Shelley Adina
Author Shelley Adina writes contemporary romance and steampunk, and as Adina Senft she writes women’s fiction set among the Amish and other plain communities. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and is working on a PhD in Creative Writing. When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually painting, sewing historical costumes, or hanging out in the garden with her flock of rescued chickens. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

Thanks so much for having me in to visit today! I’m so excited about my first cozy mystery, The Bride Wore Constant White, that I can’t wait to tell your readers about it.

Steampunk readers know me best for my Magnificent Devices series of twelve adventure novels featuring young ladies of intelligence and resources. When I came to the end of that series, I wanted to try something different, and since I’m a mystery reader, my path seemed clear! The only trouble is, I soon found that cozies are fiendishly difficult to write well. I called in reinforcements—Victoria Thompson (the Gaslight Mysteries) and Nancy Warren (the Toni Diamond mysteries), who set me on the right track.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed different kinds of crafting. I’ve been sewing and costuming since I was small, and enjoy quilting, too. I even created a quiltpattern based on a quilt from 1868 to go in my Amish Quilt trilogy (written as Adina Senft), which was more math than I ever want to contemplate again in my life! But lately I’ve been trying to learn to paint in watercolors. For decades I thought this was a hopeless dream, because I never progress any further than stick figures. But then I took a weekend class with the local art society....

When the Mysterious Devices spinoff series began cooking in my head, I had already learned that watercolorists look at the world differently. They see color in hues, shades, and mixes that other people simply disregard. They see shadow, and white space, and the telling detail that can bring an entire painting into focus.

What better talent for an amateur sleuth than to be a watercolorist? Who better to observe a scene and note detail, colors, and what might be missing? And so Daisy Linden was born.

Then, to my delight, I found in researching the pigments that would have been in use in the late 1800s that they had really nifty names. No Quinachridone Gold here! Suddenly I had a naming scheme for my series titles: The [Victim] Wore [Watercolor Tint]. Perfect!

The Bride Wore Constant White
The Dancer Wore Opera Rose
The Lady Wore Venetian Red
The Governess Wore Payne’s Gray
The Judge Wore Lamp Black
The Soldier Wore Prussian Blue

I really wanted to find a use for Caput Mortuum Violet, which was a byproduct of sulfuric acid, or Egyptian Brown, which was originally made from ground-up mummies(!) But use of Egyptian Brown was discontinued in the 19th century when artists realized what it was made of, and I didn’t want poor Daisy to be carrying around anything that smacked of sulfuric acid, so I had to let those colors go.

Each story takes place in either a ghost town or a town with a distinct history, such as San Francisco or Port Townsend. While my steampunk books are alt-history—meaning that while there are plenty of fabulous steam trains, there are also airships, steam landaus, and other interesting machinery—it’s fun to research these towns and include bits of their real history.

For instance, I was in Georgetown, Colorado, to speak at a writers’ conference last summer, and fell in love with the place. Daisy and Freddie stay in the Hotel de Paris, which conveniently for my subgenre was actually steam-heated. The bride comes to a cottage on Rose Street that is delightfully real today. And best of all—Nicola Tesla, the genius and the unofficial godfather of steampunk, built a power plant there. I toured the plant, and then let my imagination go wild with what all that lightning and electricity could do!

The Dancer Wore Opera Rose takes place in Santa Fe, which in my world is the capital of the Texican Territories, and in the real world is one of my all-time favorite cities. The Lady Wore Venetian Red will be set in the ghost town of Bodie, California, which I’ll visit in June to steep myself in the lore and history of this boom-and-bust town. The Lady, I’m thinking, is a matchmaker, so I can’t wait for Daisy to find out what happens to her!

And in each place, while solving mysteries and searching for her missing father with the help of a couple of street children and a snake-oil salesman, my heroine is painting: landscapes, portraits, and—oh yes!—sometimes even clues.

And now that I’ve talked your ear off, it’s time for me to get back to writing. As they say on a real airship when it’s time to lift off—Up ship!

The Bride Wore Constant White
Daisy Linden is a young woman of gentle upbringing, some talent as a watercolorist, and firm opinions that often get her into trouble. Determined to find their missing father, in the summer of 1895 she and her sister Freddie set out for the last place he was seen: the Wild West. On the journey, a friendship blooms between Daisy and Miss Emma Makepeace, who is traveling to Georgetown in the Texican Territories as a mail-order bride. When Emma asks if she will be her bridesmaid, Daisy is delighted to accept.

But the wedding day dawns on a dreadful discovery. Within hours the Texican Rangers have their man—but Daisy is convinced he cannot have killed her friend. She must right this terrible mistake before he hangs … and before the real culprit realizes that two very observant young ladies are not going to allow him to get away with it …

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