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.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021


Kim Richards is an author, editor, and book formatter. She writes horror, fantasy, science fiction, erotica, nonfiction, and children's books under her name Kim Richards and two pseudonyms: Sharie Silva and Kim Bundy.Learn more about Kim and her books at her blog.  

Besides writing books, I’m a BIG crafter. I have so many obsessions—sewing, weaving, calligraphy, leather and wood working are just a few. Recently I ran across something simple, yet elegant:  felted soap. I’d like to show you my process and see if it sparks your interest.


I like felted soap because it’s a fun, relatively easy project that makes something luxurious for yourself or as gifts. It’s supposed to be mildly exfoliating too. 

There are just a few supplies:

Soap bars of whatever size you’d like to use.

Nylon stocking or fine net

Wool roving. Using wool is a MUST. 

Hot water. (You may want gloves to protect your hands from the heat of the water.)

The neat thing about felting the soap is the wool’s natural shrinking properties are what’s necessary to encase the soap. You want to use strips pulled apart just enough to see the soap through. Then start wrapping it around the soap bar. Keeping it tight as you wrap is helpful to the shrinking process, but you don’t need to tug on it hard. Change direction as you wrap second, third, or fourth layers of wool so you cover any corners and there aren’t many gaps.

Next, cover it with the nylon or netting.  You can tie it off if you like or just hold it. The idea is to keep the wool and soap together.  Next, put it in a bowl or sink of hot water and press it down gently so all the wool fibers are submerged. Squeeze it in your hands a few times. It won’t take long for you to feel the wool tightening up. This is when you want to begin massaging it. This agitates it just enough to push the wool fibers as they shrink around the soap. It’s normal for it to get soapy. You actually want it to do this.


Continue working it for about 12-15 minutes. At this point you should not see any stray strands of wool or the soap beneath. If there are, simply get it back in the hot water and massage it longer.  Give it a quick rinse under cold water, carefully remove the nylon/netting and set on paper towels to dry. How long drying takes depends upon the temperature of the room. You can set it in the sun or run a blow dryer over it if you like. I prefer to just leave it overnight. 


Tie it up with a ribbon or toss it in a basket for a nice gift. That’s it! Easy and fun. 


Fighting for Home
Descendants of the Amazoi, Book 1

In 300 B.C.—the Greco-Roman Age—tribes of warrior women thrived near the Black Sea. The area is now modern-day Turkey. The Greeks called them Amazoi (meaning Mankiller). Inspired by their story, Fighting for Home sings the tale of one tribe as they battle to save their way of life. 


Healing magic is real! Ilenea and Saphira, the wolf sisters, battle close to home with others of their generation. A healer priestess named Essla travels to a temple of Artemis at Anthela with her male slave, bringing a call to arms for the pending war. She meets and falls in love with a Roman General. Whatever the outcome, this war changes everyone.


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Monday, January 18, 2021


Today we welcome author Carole T. Beers, a former award-winning reporter/columnist for The Seattle Times, writing instructor, and contributor to romance and western publications before focusing her attention on fiction in 2015. Learn more about Carole and her books at her website. 

“Saddle up for a great read!” These words jotted on a chalkboard say much about what I write: New West Mysteries with Heart. Cozy but properly chilling amateur sleuth stories, or rescue tales, featuring spirited animal-lovers who stop at nothing to make things right. And have a laugh, love or tasty meal along the way. Why not play to all our senses?


I came up with the slogan and displayed it at an author’s booth at our Josephine County Fair in 2019 after finding a horse head-shaped chalkboard at a crafts booth. I might have added the word “hope,” since ALL my books, not only the PepperKaneMysteries, spotlight hope. Second chances, Country values. They deserve to be written on EVERY chalkboard.


These are themes of the books and stories I read, whether fiction or biographies, and many of you do, too. I look for tough challenges in reading and writing. Books I can relate to. Books with an appealing hero or heroine. I want to feel I am firmly seated in a book and practically holding the reins. Hence the riding allusion in my slogan. No wonder all my books feature horses, include dogs, and showcase the occasional cat or chicken!

I’ve loved and learned from nature, and animals, from childhood. They teach us so much when we observe and interact with them, such as how to use all the resources at our disposal, communicate in an honest way, and how to live (and love) unconditionally. My earliest scribblings (age 7) had people interacting with animals. Even if “just” a goldfish.

I was inspired to write stories including nature by books such as The Honeybear, Girl of the Limberlost and Desert Storm. Today I still get a lift and kick out of classics like My Side of the Mountain. I became a newspaper reporter to learn discipline and creativity. And relate interesting stories!


My non-human family includes my horse Brad, tuxedo cat Velvet, Boston terrier Georgie, and parakeet Sky. We live on a hill in southern Oregon. Interacting with them daily, riding, walking or just hanging out, contributes to physical and mental health. Such as it is. Hopefully you are blessed with innocent “others”—including young humans! And learn from them, too.


Always focused on reading and writing, as well as spiritual growth, I quit newspaper work after thirty-some years to tell my own stories. They’re traditionally published by a small independent press in North Carolina. They have a quick turnaround time and let me have a say in cover design and marketing. I love the freedom. It lets me “saddle up and enjoy the WRITE.” I don’t enjoy the edits and revisions as much.


Sometimes the mount is stubborn, wild, or willful. But sometimes it takes me to a better place than I could have thought of myself.


In from the Cold

Jack Pennington has a heart as big as Oregon’s Rogue Valley, where he’s delivered agricultural equipment and taken in foster children for years. Stalled in his marriage, dreading retirement, and making his final runs over the pass to Klamath Basin, he sees an old, abandoned horse that won’t make it through the coming blizzard.


Carly Brown’s life with druggie parents changed for the better when she joined Daddy Jack’s family, and then had a baby with her fiancĂ©. It crashed again when her partner assaulted her, and the baby had special needs. Now her struggles to make a better life for her and her son also seem doomed to fail. 


As Christmas draws near, can a despairing old man and struggling young mother find a way through cold prospects to a warmer, brighter future?


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Friday, January 15, 2021


Pots and Progress 

Thriller and mystery author J.L. (Janet) Greger is a biology professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. Although she likes to send her protagonist—scientist Sara Almquist—on consulting trips to foreign countries, she sometimes has Sara solve mysteries in New Mexico where J.L. lives with her Japanese Chin dog Bug. Learn more about J.L. and her books at her website.  


Every pueblo in New Mexico once made pottery; many still do. (Please note: pueblo can refer to the community or the people of the community.) The pots of most pueblos are distinctive.


One of the settings in my mystery/thriller A Pound of Flesh, Sorta is Acoma. It is probably the oldest continually inhabited community in what is now the United States. Tribal traditions suggest the first pueblo buildings were constructed in the 1100's on this 350-feet high mesa. Today tourists travel sixty mile west of Albuquerque to see the historic pueblo and to buy Acoma pottery. Fortunately, visitors to the Pueblo now don’t have to climb narrow stairs up to the top of the mesa because a bus is available 


Acoma potters traditionally used a slate-like clay found in the hills surrounding the pueblo and constructed the pots using a "hand coil and scrape" methodology. They did not glaze their pots. 


The pots are famous for their thin walls and the geometric designs painted in black and white with occasional earth-tone accents. The lines on these pots are often so thin and the designs so complex that they create a dizzying modern effect. Nowadays many Acoma artists prefer to use pour molded pots as their canvas. However, generally the hand coiled pots are preferred by collectors. Artists, especially those from the famous families of Marie Zieu Chino and Lucy Lewis, sign their pots, which increases their value.


The photo is of a pot made by Emil Chino. I purchased it at Acoma because I thought the flowers at the top softened the intricate design on most of the pot. I suspect traditionalist would consider the flowers a distraction.


One of the concepts I wanted to demonstrate in A Pound of Flesh, Sorta  is modern pueblos may market their traditional arts, but the residents face modern economic realities. For example, the plague causes prairie dog die-offs almost every year in New Mexico and Arizona. These die-offs may worry conservationists, but mean economic ruin to ranchers in the area if their livestock become infected.


Barbara Lewis, a character in the novel, is trying to escape some of the "traditions" of her family of ranchers who reside in the tiny village of McCartys on the Acoma Pueblo. Thus she had begun a career in law enforcement in the fictional community of Mercado near the protagonist's home north of Albuquerque.


A Pound of Flesh, Sorta

A Science Traveler Mystery

Sara Almquist receives a mysterious box of animal guts contaminated with the bacteria, which causes the plague. The police doubt it's a prank and suspect gang leaders are trying to prevent Sara from testifying at their upcoming trials. As a scientist, Sara wonders whether the packet might be a plea from a rancher fearing another outbreak of the plague in the Southwest. Soon all suspect the package is a clue needed to solve the suspicious death of one employee in a meat packing plant and the disappearance of another man maimed in an industrial accident. 


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Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Photo by Michelle Pemberton. This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by The Children's Museum of Indianapolis as part of an ongoing cooperative project. The artifact represented in the image is part of the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

(Photo by Michelle Pemberton. This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by The Children's Museum of Indianapolis as part of an ongoing cooperative project. The artifact represented in the image is part of the permanent collection of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.)


Today we're joined by romantic comedy author Kay Keppler who grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin but moved to California to escape the cold and snow. Now she lives in a drafty old house with dodgy plumbing and spends her time writing. Learn more about Kan and her books at her website and blog. 

Several years ago, after celebrating a friend’s birthday in Las Vegas, I turned on the TV in my hotel room and watched a local news story. The reporter was standing in front of the county courthouse, where, among other services, people can get married or obtain a marriage license. Behind the reporter, at least a dozen people, some of them in costume, ran up and down the courthouse steps passing out advertising flyers for the wedding chapels.


I noticed one young woman in particular. She was probably in her twenties. She wore a 1950s retro costume: poodle skirt, saddle shoes, and a blouse with a Peter Pan collar. Her hair was in a ponytail. As she worked the stairs in the sweltering heat—it was July in Las Vegas, after all—her face was flushed, her blouse was damp, and she looked really, really miserable.


Who was this young woman? I wondered. She couldn’t intend to hold this thankless job for long. She had her whole life ahead of her. Why was she here? What did she want? What were her goals?


I knew this was a story in the making. But I didn’t know who this young woman was. She didn’t step out and reveal herself to me. None of the scenarios I imagined for her seemed quite right.


Time passed, but I never forgot her. And then one day, a couple of years later, I was at a writers’ workshop. The topic was character development. In our small groups, we brainstormed solutions for the problems we were having.


“I have this character who won’t leave me alone,” I said, talking about the young woman at the courthouse. “But I don’t know who she is, or what she wants, or how she got there.”


“She’s divorced,” one participant offered. “She’s running.”


“She’s getting a master’s degree,” someone else suggested. “It’s part of her research.”


“Maybe,” said one participant hesitantly, “I think maybe she works for the CIA.”


And bingo! Just like that, all the pieces fell into place. I knew Phoebe’s name, how hard she’d worked to get to the CIA, how it all fell apart, and how determined she was to vindicate herself and return to the agency.


Phoebe’s arrival, fully formed in one bright second in that workshop, was a first for me. I’ve never had characters be so shrouded and then so fully revealed. I’m more grateful than I can say to that workshop participant who gave me that idea, the spark that led me to fully exploring this character and writing three books about her. (Skirting Danger is the first of a trilogy.)


I’ve had a blast writing Phoebe’s story, which is at heart a screwball romantic comedy. And maybe now that the trilogy is finished, I can finally get this character out of my head!


Skirting Danger

Chasing the CIA, Book 1

Suspended for a hunch gone wrong, CIA language analyst Phoebe Renfrew is desperate to get her job back. But when she uncovers a terrorist plot at a Las Vegas start-up owned by famed ex-quarterback Chase Bonaventure, no one will listen. Can Phoebe get Chase on her side--and thwart international disaster--before the All-Elvis Revue sings "Jailhouse Rock"?


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Monday, January 11, 2021


Dru Ann Love is the creator/founder of dru’s book musings where the “day in the life” and “get to know you” segments are prominently featured. She is a 2017 Mystery Writers of America Raven Award recipient and a two-time Anthony Award finalist. Dru Ann is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and a reporting monitor for the Sister in Crime National Monitoring Project. Dru Ann will be the Malice Domestic Fan Guest of Honor for 2021. Check out Dru's book musings at drusbookmusing.com.

I’ve always been a reader and my love for books keeps me entertained. I was not a crafter. I remember home economics in school where we sewed the obligatory apron and bib dress with patch pocket. I knew how to darn socks, stitch a hem or two. But in 2003, the year I was downsized from my job, I decided to take one of the quilting classes that was offered at the community college. 
The art of picking out fabric within a color scheme and creating a quilt was so magical. It’s all the pieces and the story you create that reminded me of a cozy mystery, where we are introduced to characters, a murder happens, and the goal is to find the killer, which aligned with quilt making. Pick your fabric, design your pattern, and the result is a quilt that is to be treasured, just like a cozy mystery brings satisfaction when the killer’s identity is revealed, and justice prevailed.

My first quilt (see photo above) was a sampler using four different quilt blocks and it was 100% hand stitched. From that first experience, I can now create centerpieces, table runners, pillows, bed scarf to name a few. Click here to see sample of my quilt projects. However, my quilts are now 100% machine stitched because carpal and cubital tunnel affected my hand dexterity, but that did not stop my love of creating quilts. In fact, now that we are dealing with a certain crisis that will be nameless, I’ve made more quilts in the past six months than I did in the last two years. 

Quilting and reading cozies is relaxing, engaging, and entertaining, both spurring the creative juices whether to create a design pattern or solving the puzzling cases in the stories.

When you begin to write your story, you have a beginning, you may have the middle and you may have the end. That’s how it is with quilting. You have the fabric pieces, you may have a design, but by the time you start cutting the pieces, that middle section changes and as a result the end that you didn’t have in mind, makes itself know when the last piece of the process is binding the quilt with a satisfied smile on your face because you are done. Just like when you type “end” on your story.

Friday, January 8, 2021


Mystery and children’s book author Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. She writes the Cassandra Sato Mysteries, featuring a sign language interpreter and is also the author of children’s picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog, which have quickly become popular with children, parents, and educators for promoting inclusive conversations about children with differences. Learn more about Kelly and her books at her website.

Happy New Year!


Here in Nebraska we had a large snowstorm after Christmas, complete with icy, windy conditions. My husband finally got to break in the shiny, new snowblower ignored in our garage since the unseasonably warm winter of 2019. I watched him gleefully clearing the driveway while I sat inside sipping hot cocoa and admiring the glistening tree branches. 


The beautiful snowfall reminded me of the beginning chapters of Dead of Winter Break, the latest Cassandra Sato mystery. In the first two books of the series, Cassandra’s predicament as a fish out of water helped readers relate to her difficulties moving from Hawai’i to her new home in Nebraska. 


I’ve moved many times, and I’ve noticed that it helps to bring your old routine with you when adjusting to a new home. For Cassandra, one non-negotiable aspect of her daily schedule is waking early and doing a simple stretching and yoga session. It starts her day in a focused mindset and strengthens her body for her challenging job as a college administrator.


Cassandra Sato isn’t much like me in real life, although she has some of my snarky humor and experiences. Before Covid, I was an avid yoga enthusiast. I’m not especially bendy or well-balanced, but I love the core strength and meditative aspects. 


With all the stress in her life during her first semester at Morton College, Cassandra needed her yoga practice now more than ever. Even if your life isn’t as complicated as hers, you might enjoy trying a yoga session to help you hit your new year’s fitness goals. 


My preference is attending in-person yoga classes at my local health club where I can follow along to the instructor’s soothing voice and upbeat music playlist. Now that everyone is mostly working out at home, I follow an old Rodney Yee DVD. He also has a complete library of YouTube videos at different skill levels. Nearly all of them feature him on the beach with ocean waves in the background that make me feel like I’m in tropical Hawai’i instead of arctic Nebraska.


Another resource you might try is a website called Do Yoga With Me. You can choose your level, beginner to advanced or choose which part of your body you want to focus on. How much time do you have? There are 600 workouts from 10 minutes to more than an hour available with twenty-seven different instructors. My favorite teachers are David Procyshyn, Fiji McAlphine, and Tracey Noseworthy. Amazingly, this wonderful site is FREE to use. Another great thing about yoga is that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to begin. You can use a belt, towel, and pillow for props in some of the videos.  


Like I mentioned, the challenges confronting Cassandra in Dead of Winter Break disrupted her plans for a quiet, restful winter break between semesters. She looked forward to organizing her closet like a Pinterest post, updating her kitchen by stripping the fifty-year-old floral wallpaper, and adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls. 


Readers of the first two books knows that life at Morton College hasn’t gone according to Cassandra’s plans all semester. The holiday break is no exception.


Winter in the Midwest isn’t for wimps, and Cassandra quickly learns what it feels like to shovel snow off her driveway. She has a new dog, Murphy—her first pet ever—and housebreaking him is not going well. Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it a burglary gone wrong. All of these changes push Cassandra to her limits. 


By the end of the holidays, Cassandra has to decide the depths of her commitment to her long-term career goals and balancing those with a healthier home life. Can an orphaned dog worm his way into her heart? 


If you, like Cassandra, find yourself looking for rest and relaxation this year, I hope you’ll check out my yoga recommendations. Then treat yourself to a cup of hot cocoa and pick up a good mystery like Dead of Winter Break.


Here’s wishing you a safe, happy 2021! 


Disclaimer: If you’ve never done yoga or are under the care of a physician, you should check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.


Dead of Winter Break 

A Cassandra Sato Mystery, Book 3


It’s beginning to look a lot like murder . . .

And Cassandra is knee deep in . . .



Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it burglary gone wrong. But when the killer comes after her, it’s going to take more than a pair of furry boots to keep the smart, witty Morton College administrator, Cassandra Sato, out of the deep . . .



Her first Christmas in Nebraska could be her last unless her friends help unravel the mystery and housebreak her dog.


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Wednesday, January 6, 2021


Award-winning mystery author Ann McAllister Clark is a teacher, journalist, and former used bookstore owner. She writes the Morgan’s Bridge Mysteries and the St. Augustine Mysteries  and has also written an historical novel, 
The Chrysalis: An American Family Endures the Civil War. Ann joins us today to offer some online talks of interest for both readers and writers. Learn more about Ann and her books at her website. 

Saved by the Librarian

I’ve been staring out the window – a lot!  My dear friend and retired librarian heard of my slothfulness and came to my front porch wearing a mask and gloves. She tucked into my door a pretty pamphlet and then quickly left. I thought that, of course, you are not sitting around staring out the window, yet you might find interest in what she left for me.


My county library system is the St. John’s County Library system in Florida. They have very kindly been holding several virtual events a week for patrons to enjoy. Anyone in the country can go to their YouTube channel, Facebook page, or website to watch; you don’t have to be a card-carrying St. John’s Library patron.


I have been watching the interviews of interest to readers and writers.  Let me list just a few of them for you. There are many more and If you miss one, they will still be available.


January 6th at 12:00 pm Eastern

Arson Investigator – Interview with Tom Perkins discussing his expertise.  He works in Rochester, NY as an investigator on the arson talk force. I’ve got to see this one as my next book has an explosion in the bakery!


January 11th at 12:00 pm Eastern

Quirky History – Libraries explores how libraries were created. 


January 19th at 12:00 pm Eastern

Book Repair – explores the dos and don’ts of book repair. Learn about the process and to view items made specifically to repair worn and damaged book.


January 29th at 12:00 pm Eastern 

An interview with John Szabo, City Librarian for the LA Public Library. John F. Sazabo has been the City Librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library since 2012, serving the largest population of any library system in the United States. With 25 years of experience, under his leadership, the Los Angeles Public Library initiatives have been immigrant integration and citizenship, improving financial literacy and providing health resources and programs. 


Morgan’s Redemption

A Morgan’s Bridge Mystery, Book 1


Opening a used bookstore, newly arrived Amanda Stimpson begins her quest to discover the answers to the mysteries of her name and ancestry.


The stories she is told are fascinating, heartwarming, mysterious and shocking.


The characters in the village are varied in bravery, loyalty, kindness, prejudices, cruelty and finally, REDEMPTION.


She discovers the secret as to why she is called MacIntosh Moon.


The little West Michigan town yields one surprise after another as Amanda finally finds her true roots.


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