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, January 18, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR MATT FERRAZ

Today we sit down for an interview with mystery author Matt Ferraz who has penned an interesting mash-up of Pollyanna and Sherlock Holmes in his newest novel. Learn more about Matt and his books at his website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I was five years old and my mother was helping my older brother with his school homework. She gave me a sheet of paper to draw on, so I wouldn't bother them. Instead of drawing, I wrote a short story about a wizard in a quest for a magic crow that can make him the most powerful man in the kingdom. It was my first story, and I haven't stopped since.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I was twenty-three when I released my first book. Pretty young by regular standards, but considering I'd been trying to get published since my early childhood, it felt much longer.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I'm a hybrid author, but I'm inclined to do a complete transition to self-publishing in the near future.

Where do you write?
After my brother got married, I turned his room into an office, with a small desk, a computer and a printer. I keep a picture of Dashiell Hammett (as played by Jason Robards in the movie Julia) staring at me all the time, for inspiration. 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Pink Floyd is the best music for me when I'm working on a new novel. I also like classical musical, especially Paganini. His music is full of energy, and gives me a boost.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
To write the character of Pollyanna in Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game, I stayed as faithful as possible to how she was portrayed in the original novels by Eleanor H. Porter. But there are touches of a couple of people I know who talk all the time and always seen to be happy about everything. It was tricky, because she had to be funny and quirky, but not too annoying. 

Describe your process for naming your character?
The main characters in Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game are taken from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Eleanor H. Porter, and so are their names. I did have to come up with a new surname for Pollyanna after she gets married, and went with Bloom. It's a good match for her personality.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I'm used to creating fictional settings for my books, but this one takes place mostly in London. Having lived in the UK for a year, I know the place well, and it was easy to set the story there. 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Pollyanna is always looking at the bright side of life. This was taken from the original books in which she was featured, and it was a challenge to recreate it. 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I drink so much water when I'm writing! There's always a bottle of water next to me when I start working, and it's always empty when I'm done.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett. I think it's one of the most perfect crime books ever written.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I miss the UK very much, and wish I had stayed there after finishing my Masters Degree. 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I hate it when a book starts with something like "A week ago, if someone told John Brown would now be standing next to the most powerful man in the world, he wouldn't have believed it."

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Something I could use to write, something I could read, and a good sunblock. I would say a boat, but I already mentioned three things.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Ghosting a novella for 50 dollars.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Anna Karenina, by Liev Tolstoy.

Ocean or mountains?
Mountains

City guy or country guy?
Mostly city guy, but I enjoy the country.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I'm finishing the second volume in the Grandma Bertha Solving Murders series, and hope to release it in early 2019. After that, there are at least five different books I want to write. Let's see which one gets picked!

Sherlock Holmes and the Glad Game
British sleuth Sherlock Holmes can solve any mystery from a small clue. American traveler Pollyanna Whittier can only see the good side of every situation. The only thing they have in common is their friendship with Dr. John Watson. When Pollyanna shows up in London with a mystery for Holmes to solve, she decides to teach the detective the Glad Game: a way of remaining optimistic no matter what. A dangerous - and hilarious - clash of minds, where these two characters of classic literature need to learn how to work together in order to catch a dangerous criminal.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

#FASHION--A BRIEF HISTORY OF WOMEN'S HATS

Credit: The Illustration Art Gallery, London
Hats Off!
As a child, I often played dress-up with the treasures I found in Grandma’s attic. I especially loved the hats of bygone Easters. Those wide-brimmed, floral and ribbon bedecked bonnets allowed my imagination to take flight, and I’d picture myself on the arm of a handsome suitor as we strolled along Fifth Avenue.
  
Although hats started out as protection against the elements, through much of history, they were both a social and a fashion statement. No well-bred lady left the house without a head covering, and for a good deal of history, women also kept their heads covered while indoors.

Strict laws forbade Puritan and Pilgrim woman from using ornamentation, “gay” colors, or silk fabrics, and Quaker women wore a snug, simple white cap that tied under the chin. However, the influx of diverse settlers and our growing trade with Europe soon heralded a change in fashion attitudes, the austere giving way to the grandiose.

Beginning in 1810 and remaining fashionable in various forms for fifty years, bonnets dominated women’s fashion. Made of straw, board, or silk-covered buckram, bonnets were decorated with ribbons, flowers, feathers, and gauze trims.

By 1860, when hats fastened with hatpins replaced bonnets, hats became more and more lavishly decorated, especially with ornamental plumage. By the 1880’s hats were piled high with everything from feathers to fruit to entire stuffed birds and reptiles. It was not uncommon to see a woman decked out in a hat that included egret plumes, owl heads, sparrow wings, and four or five stuffed warblers perched on her head! The craze intensified further in the early 1900’s with the advent of shoulder-width brims that allowed for even more exotic and unique adornment.

The demand for feathers was so great that many birds, including the snowy egret and the ostrich, risked extinction. For this reason, in 1896 a group of society women in Boston began boycotting hats decked out with birds and feathers. From this small movement grew the Audubon Society.

However, several other factors played a role in weaning women from adorning their heads with plumage. One was the growing popularity of the automobile. A woman might look graceful and elegant with her ostrich plume floating behind her as she cantered sidesaddle across her spacious lawns, but the effect was not nearly as appealing when she motored along at twenty or more miles an hour!

Then in 1913 dancer Irene Castle bobbed her hair and started a new trend. Elaborate hats with their abundant ornamentation needed the support of a woman’s long hair, piled high on her head. The shorter hairstyles afforded no such support. Hats began to decrease in size and pretentiousness. The trend toward more modest hats intensified with the onset of World War I. Large feathers and ornate decoration were considered unpatriotic, suggesting a woman cared more for her appearance than the war effort.

By contrast, during World War II, although rationing was prevalent, hat materials were not rationed. Women wore richly decorated hats to brighten otherwise dreary fashions as well as people’s spirits. No one epitomized this more than Carmen Miranda, the flamboyant singer and actress known for her fruit-laden hats.

The continued popularity of shorter hairstyles throughout the twenties and thirties made the close-fitting, helmet-shaped cloche popular. These hats were adorned with only simple ribbon or a small brooch. Some included lace, a veil, or pleated folds. Simple small brimmed hats and flat berets were also popular.
  
Fashion once again changed dramatically in 1947 when Christian Dior debuted his New Look, with hats to match each outfit in his collection. These hats ranged from highly ornate styles with wide brims and veils to the very simple pillbox, favored by First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the early 1960’s.

However, even a popular First Lady couldn’t keep the hat from declining, as more and more women preferred to showcase their hairdos, rather than hide them. In 1967 when the Catholic Church lifted its edict requiring women cover their heads in church, hat wearing became even less popular. Now, with few exceptions, many Americans once again only wear hats as protection against the elements.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT BY JUDY BLUME

Lois Winston, she who writes about me, recently took some time off from putting my life in jeopardy and went on vacation. While away, she had the chance to make a dent in her to-be-read pile, catching up on some reading. One book in particular impacted her tremendously because it practically took place in her backyard—even if she never knew about it until decades later.

It’s hard to imagine in today’s world of 24/7 news cycles, social media, and the Internet, that there was a time not that long ago when we didn’t worry about the horrors of terrorism and school shootings. But people had other worries, and those worries—of A-bombs and communists and airplanes falling out of the sky—were just as real and just as terrifying to people in the mid-twentieth century. This is the backdrop of In the Unlikely Event, a fictionalized account of a triple disaster that took place in Elizabeth, NJ over the course of less than two months in late 1951 and early 1952 when three commercial airliners crashed into the city.

Lois grew up very close to the site of these crashes. Yet, she never knew about them until reading a review of In the Unlikely Event. Strange as it may seem, adults just didn’t speak of such things around children back then. And that’s part of the theme of this book. How do we deal with the aftermath of horror if no one wants to talk about it? Nowadays we encourage our children to talk about their feelings. Back then, adults swept anything unpleasant under the rug and pretended everything was all right. Yet it rarely was.

Judy Blume, the book’s author (yes, THAT Judy Blume!) was a young teenager in Elizabeth at the time of the crashes, and as such, infuses her book with a realism that only someone with a firsthand experience of the events could accomplish. Told from the points of view of a fifteen-year-old girl, three generations of her family, and various friends, acquaintances, and strangers, the book explores how this triple tragedy impacted each character personally and in relation to those around them.

In the Unlikely Event
In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

Buy Links

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHUNKY APPLE BUNDT CAKE

I love a moist apple cake, especially in the winter, and this recipe definitely fits the bill. Every bite will be filled with apple goodness.

Chunky Apple Bundt Cake

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups canola oil
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 large cooking apples, peeled and cut into large chunks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. 

In a large bowl, sift together three times flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Combine oil and both sugars in stand mixer and beat until well blended.

Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla, beating thoroughly.

Thoroughly beat dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Fold in apples by hand, mixing until evenly distributed in batter.

Spoon batter into bundt pan. Bake 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from the oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Then remove the cake from the pan to continue cooling.

Monday, January 14, 2019

#CRAFT WITH ANASTASIA--PANTONE COLOR OF THE YEAR

Pantone 2019 Color of the Year: Living Coral 
“Life affirming coral hue energizes and enlivens with a softer edge”

Each year Pantone, a provider of professional color standards and digital solutions for the design industry, selects a Color of the Year. For 2019 that color is Living Coral. Living Coral is described as “an animating and life-affirming shade of orange with a golden undertone.”

According to the Pantone press release, Living Coral was chosen because it “embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment…Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.”

According to Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, “Color is an equalizing lens through which we experience our natural and digital realities and this is particularly true for Living Coral.” She goes on to state, “With consumers craving human interaction and social connection, the humanizing and heartening qualities displayed by the convivial Pantone Living Coral hit a responsive chord.”

Look for Living Coral to show up in both women’s and men’s fashion and accessories in both solid colors and patterns and as a contrast to other colors. Living Coral will also show up in cosmetics in blush, eye shadow, lipsticks, and nail polish.

You’ll also see Living Coral begin to appear in interior d├ęcor and furnishing in wallpaper, rugs, linens, upholstery, and accessories, as well as in package design and product design. By the end of the year you may find the color popping up in countertop appliances and other housewares. Once upon a time, Harvest Gold and Avocado Green were all the rage in kitchen and laundry appliances. Will Living Coral edge out stainless steel in the kitchen? Can Living Coral automobiles be far behind? I suppose we’ll just have to wait to see.

Friday, January 11, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH MISSYE K. CLARKE'S PROTAGONIST JACOB VINCENT PEDREGON

Today we sit down for a chat with author Missye K. Clarke’s protagonist Jacob Vincent Pedregon—otherwise known as Pedregon or J.V. to his friends and Jay Vincent to his family—from her McGuinness/Pedregon Casebooks series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Pretty cool. I was home schooled since I was real little, and had my first-ever public school experience during junior year where Jersey Dogs takes place. I love all things genetics-related. My Nana Grace would make up super-cool games and got me into medical mysteries, solving not-so-gruesome crimes with that unique blueprint every living organism has.

I taught myself to dance through video games and watching my parents groove to 80s tunes, I’m into photography—I’m saving for a top-of-the-line film-loading camera to enter contests and for PI surveillance—and I love animals. I think in another life I’d have been a veterinarian, but I don’t have the patience or the headspace to learn the different systems animals have and how to treat those effectively.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I love learning and all things paranormal—angels, demons, ghosts, zero-gravity, flumes to other dimensions, the space-time continuum, clairaudients, clairsentients, clairvoyants, mediums, healers, shamans, EVPs.

What do you like least about yourself?
I didn’t mean it, but my jealousy, deep insecurities, and over-protectiveness for my sister then—and my current girlfriend now—really got out of hand. Good intentions don’t mean much in the long run, do they?

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Other than hearing a tiger cub’s thoughts through my glasses, landing upside-down in a thick maple from an ambush attack and almost constricted to death by a black mamba. a reticulated python?

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I refused to talk to her for the longest time, over a domestic violence plot line, until she declared two things: She threatened to fire me via killing me off or removing me from the book and putting my sister in my place. And she said the issue would be a theme in the 4th mystery, so deal with it. I didn’t want to, because it meant dealing with who the true Jacob Vincent Pedregon is. That’s scary. But I’m almost ready.

What is your greatest fear?
I thought my author had been playing favorites. Because I didn’t get top billing on the Casebooks, I felt like the third wheel. I suppose I had to realize she might be right on most things as I was wrong on those same most things, and let myself trust her.

What makes you happy?
Knowing everybody in my life really, truly cares. That’s rare in any world. And Cool Ranch Doritos, a frosty six of Dream Weaver, and a thick, juicy, fat-marbled porterhouse.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
That I‘d never hit my current girlfriend. Or that I’d obsessed on this off-limits female during my spring semester junior year at Sam Adams Freedom Academy because she said I have gorgeous green eyes. Her father was game-set-match taking out a restraining order on me because I was stalking her. Then Dad found out. He assured the girl’s family I’d leave her alone if the order wasn’t enforced, since his mother, my Nana Grace, was beginning brain cancer treatments at the time and didn’t need that stress (and I can’t be a PI with a juvie record, expunged or not). In retro, that began my domestic violence issues, and I didn’t see the signs like I do now in my counseling sessions. That’s not an excuse, but the back-story sheds light in why I am who I am.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Casper (whom my sister Andrea is unapologetically hopelessly in love with him). It’s not that he bugs me per se, but he’s an admitted paranormal atheist. So how come he gets to have this skill in the series I don’t have but want, but he has and doesn’t want? That was another reason I was so pissed with my author.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Would you believe . . . Casper?!? I know, right??? Paranormal stuff aside, I can’t sing a note or play a note . . . but I’d love to know life, and another perspective, behind his eyes. And know what it’s like taking joshing for his name!

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
I’m hearin’ it’s gonna be maroonthesleuth.com (Isn’t that a cool imprint for her books? My sister Andrea’s into animals, but more rescuing them—elephants especially, like Missye is. And I heard she’s got one of my wingdudes with herself as a character in another series; she’d kill me if I told you who. Anyways, the logo’s pretty sweet-looking.) The other site is MissyeKClarke.io where her blog is, current events, and more than who she is apart from penning mysteries.

What's next for you?
Having a blast with my two best friends, being one of two best men at a future wedding, to eventually marry my girlfriend, and being a surrogate uncle to twin girls. Pretty much Carpe’ing my Diem in life and sleuthing!

Jersey Dogs
McGuinness/Pedregon Casebook #1

Two adopted cousins. Two mysterious prostitutes. And a biologic father wants both sons dead.

Casper's and Logan McGuinness's junior year opens with a bloodstained, unexpected contact and an eerie text coming to pass. While Enzo and Angela de Francisci's stubbornly refuse to explain the boys' biologic parents' backstories, the cousins dig into their pasts in stealth, only to unravel a sordid history meant to stay unknown and bigger than they realized. The first of several attempts on the boys' lives reveals a desk clerk's true identity, and conversations with a former john, lands Casper and Logan on the streets of New York and respite from a former madam. Through an intricate tale of loyalty, humor, first love, and discovering trust and sacrifice, Jersey Dogs Casper and Logan venture into the personal and collective unknown to stop a brutal killer and a network of thugs from fulfilling a murderous to-do list—and learning to trust one another so they'll stay two steps ahead of alive. 

Buy Link  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

AN INTERVIEW WITH SAMMIE HARGRAVE FROM AUTHOR JUDY HOGAN'S PENNY WEAVER MYSTERIES

The Gower Peninsula, Wales
Today we sit down for a chat with Sammie Hargrave from author Judy Hogan’s Penny Weaver Mystery Series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
That’s not how it happened. If anything, I pull her strings. She’s not very good when the plot thickens, so to speak. She won’t lie; she’s too well behaved. I’m the one who livens things up, and she doesn’t understand me. I’ve always liked a few adventures in the unknown. I still do.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I mostly get what I want. It’s real easy to outwit my detective husband Derek, who is quite serious and law-abiding, and so is Judy, by and large. I’m the one who pulls Penny into solving the mystery, even if I have to get into Derek’s briefcase and look at the autopsy report. I have zest, courage, and determination. I know how to get away with things. Piece of cake.

What do you like least about yourself?
In brand new situations, I’m rather shy and quiet. I like to wear lively clothes, but if everyone else, as in Tormentil Hall, is wearing pastels and grays, I feel out of it. That bothers me. Why should I care? I know I look beautiful.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
This vacation in Wales was her idea, but I was skeptical. I’m black, and I’d never heard of anyone I knew or was kin to me going to Wales. London, yes, but not Wales. Must be a rather strange place. It turned out to be a very bad mistake.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Yes, but she has a will of her own sometimes, too. Once we were in Wales, I knew it was a mistake. Not one black person, and only one or two Americans, even as tourists. We were definitely in the wrong place for a relaxing vacation.

What is your greatest fear?
Being surrounded by racists, especially in another country. Here in central North Carolina, I know these old racists, but in Wales? Very strange, scary white people.

What makes you happy?
Living the way I want to live. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen freely to go to Wales.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I’d never go to the Gower Peninsula in Wales.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
That old lady who was so bossy and so racist: Gilda Davis. I couldn’t stand her from the get-go.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
No, I don’t want to be anyone but myself. But so far, foreign travel doesn’t interest me much.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
The best thing about Judy Hogan is that she lets me be who I am, even when I’m depressed. Mostly, I’m lively and fun. Why not? You can check her out on her website. http://judyhogan.home.mindspring.com She blogs, too, mostly poems lately, and people all over the world read it. That makes her happy.

Judy Hogan has now published nine Penny Weaver mysteries, the first one being The Sands of Gower, back in 2015. In it Penny meets Kenneth Morgan, a Welsh policeman, and they fall in love. In later books they are married. They end up living partly in Riverdell, in a village in Central N.C., and partly in Wales on the Gower Peninsula.

What's next for you?
The tenth Penny Weaver mystery will be available May 1, 2019.

Tormentil Hall
A Penny Weaver Mystery, Book 8

In this eighth mystery I took Penny and Kenneth back to Wales with their dear friends Sammie and Derek Hargrave. Kenneth and Derek worked together in the Shagbark County Sheriff’s Dept. It occurred to me that I had never seen anyone black on Gower. I loved it there, the sea always close, the greens from all their rain, their beautiful flowers and so many footpaths to explore. But for Sammie and Derek, it meant racial discrimination and xenophobia. Sammie, always so confident and cheerful, was soon depressed, and then Derek was falsely arrested, and Kenneth, who worked for the CID out of Swansea, could do nothing to help. When I realized that my black characters would suffer in a way Penny had never imagined, I explored that. Who did kill the pushy woman they shared time with in the B&B? Penny eventually gets Sammie to help her solve the crime.

Buy Links