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.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A COWGIRL'S FRUSTRATIONS

Donna Schlachter writes historical suspense under her own name and contemporary suspense under her Leeann Betts alter ego. Donna also teaches writing classes and courses and is a ghostwriter and editor of both fiction and nonfiction. Learn more about her and her books at her website where you can receive a free book by signing up for her newsletter. Today her heroine, “Cactus” Lil Duncan, from A Prickly Affair, one of the seven stories in the A Bouquet of Brides Collection, joins us for a bit of insight into her life.

At the time my story begins, I would say my biggest frustration was the fact that I was penning love stories but had never been in love. Not even once. Not a kiss behind the schoolhouse. Not a pitter-patter of my heart when dancing at the local barn dance, not even a dreamy thought in my head about a handsome cowboy glimpsed on a shopping trip to town.

Which might surprise you, but wasn’t really so strange at the time.

Love was a scarce commodity in a land as harsh as Arizona Territory of the time. Hot days, desiccating winds, piercing sand storms, droughts as deep and black as the devil’s heart—at least, if I believed what my mother said—none of this encouraged tears of joy or gasps of delight.

So with none in my real life, I set about to create a world I could escape into. And I didn’t need a fancy dress, or a parasol, or button-up boots. All I needed was a pen, paper, and a few minutes in the evening between eating dinner and collapsing into my bed. Alone.

But looking back on the entire situation now, I can see the hand of God in all of this. If my head was filled with useless notions of how love should be, I might have missed the real thing when it came along.

Just another example of how He had it all under control the whole time.

A Bouquet of Brides Collection
A Collection of Seven Novellas by Seven Different Authors

Meet seven American women who were named for various flowers but struggle to bloom where God planted them. Can love help them grow to their full potential?

A Prickly Affair
A rough-and-tumble cowgirl, “Cactus” Lil Duncan longs for true love, but is afraid to let down her prickly exterior when a city slicker from New York City, with less-than-honorable intentions, tries to win her heart and her hand.

Buy Links

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--LEMON CREAM CHEESE COFFEE CAKE WITH PECAN STREUSEL

The other day I found myself with 4 ounces of cream cheese that I needed to use before it turned to mold in my fridge. This one’s for the lemon lovers out there.

Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake with Pecan Streusel

Muffins:
1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sugar
4 oz. cream cheese, cut in 1/4” cubes
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. grated lemon peel
4 oz. lemon curd

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
3 T. cold butter, cut in 1/4” cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 7” x 11” pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in cream cheese.

In a separate bowl combine the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice, and lemon peel.

Add the wet to the dry mix a little at a time just until all ingredients are combined.

Pour battr into pan. Microwave lemon curd for 15-20 seconds. Drizzle over top of batter.

For streusel topping use a food processor to pulse brown sugar, pecans, and butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over batter.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Monday, January 22, 2018

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON'S FINE ART DOPPELGANGERS

My Selfie
There’s an app for everything these days—whether you’re looking for a parking spot or tracking the number of steps you walk each day. Now there’s even an app that will show you your fine art doppelganger.

I recently learned about a new app developed by Google. It’s called Google Arts & Culture. It’s free and fun and even though it’s from Google, it’s available for iPhones, as well.

The app’s description states, “Meet the people, visit the places and learn about the events that shaped our world. Discover collections curated by experts from the most famous museums. Be moved by stories depicted in thousands of photos, videos, manuscripts and artworks on every type of screen and in virtual reality. Find your favorite artworks, create your own collections and share them with friends.”

But the coolest feature of the app is that it will show you which famous artwork you most resemble. All you do is snap a selfie and let the app do its thing. I couldn’t resist.

Then I saw my closest match. Ugh! By 46% my closest museum double was a portrait painted either by or in the style of Franz Hals. I’m not sure it’s even a woman! This was so embarrassing that I’m not even going to show it to you. I will, however, show you the other matches.
Coming in at 41% is "La Muse de Rops", an 1895 sketch by Felicien Victor Joseph Rops. It hangs in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
At a 40% match is an 1864 portrait of Harriet Weld Corning by Charles Loring Elliott. It can be found at the Albany Institute of History & Art.
At 39% is a 1944 charcoal portrait of Sgt. Lois Wilson by Francis Vandeveer Kughler. You’ll find it at the Hudson River Museum.
And finally, at a 36% match is the daughter from "Mother and Daughter" by Victorio C. Edades. Painted in 1926, it’s in the collection of the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum.

So what do you think? Do you see any resemblance between these portraits and me? And do you think you’ll check out the app to find your own artwork double?

Friday, January 19, 2018

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR LINDA CARROLL-BRADD

Today Linda Carroll-Bradd, author of contemporary and historical romance, sits down for an interview. Learn more about Linda and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Not until after I’d finished college and started raising a family. I kept envisioning different endings to the romances I was reading. Of course, when I tried, then I learned how many aspects are involved in creative writing.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I worked at writing on a part-time basis for twelve years before my first paid publication, which was a story for the confession magazines. My first sale to a book publisher came a couple years later.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
A hybrid. I’ve been published by seven traditional publishers and have also have indie-pubbed several titles under my real name and my erotic romance pen name, Layla Chase.

Where do you write?
In an office in our home in the southern California mountains.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I can write with or without music. When I want to create a certain mood or capture a tone, I’ll put on ethnic music connected to one of the characters.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I draw from real life for the plots because I research a lot and visit museums on any of the car trips my husband and I take. I find working a real-life event into a romance plot a thrill. The characters are all from my imagination.

Describe your process for naming your character.
I use The Writer’s Digest Character-Naming Sourcebook and start with the nationality I believe demonstrates the character’s background. I strive for unusual names, because I was most often one of several Lindas in my neighborhood or classes while growing up. So, I want my characters to be memorable.

Real settings or fictional towns? 
Fictional towns laid over real settings. That way I can find a map, even a historical one, and picture how the town is laid out in comparison with the surrounding geography.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
 I work hard to give my characters something unique. One of my heroes does scrimshaw, a skill he learned from his time spent trapping in Alaska.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Can’t walk into a movie theater or start a movie at home after the opening scene has started.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Pride and Prejudice because who wouldn’t want to be known 200 years in the future for her creative endeavor?

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Starting on my writing path at least a decade earlier.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People without the ability to wait their turn, either in traffic or in stores. People who are too me-oriented.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Sunscreen for my easy-to-burn skin, wet wipes because I can’t stand damp sand on my skin, and a trunk filled with romance novels

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Telephone solicitor for vacation property as a high-school student. I didn’t have the maturity to handle rude hang-ups.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, because I loved the feminist bent of the retelling of the King Arthur tale.

Ocean or mountains?
Mountains

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Grew up in a city but always wished I could have lived in a small town.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on a couple of big-themed books that I hope to finish in 2018. One is a prairie historical I’ve been working on for several years involving a paroled convict half-breed and a Swedish immigrant on a homestead, and the other involves the Nez Perce tragedy and how the Army tracked them for months.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I write clean and wholesome stories that always have a bit of humor and contain lots of heart.

Tending Troubles, Book 6 in Lockets & Lace multi-author series

Traveling west to become a mail-order bride is the most adventurous act Bostonian Imogene Franklin ever did. Unfortunately, the groom chose another so now Imogene must make her way on her own. Dreading the idea of returning home to continue raising her siblings, she is reduced to waiting tables in the Dorado café.

Guilt hangs heavy over Reggie Othmann—ever since he brought home a childhood illness that claimed both his parents’ lives. The ink is barely dry on Reggie’s degree when he arrives home in Dorado to establish a medical practice. All he’s wanted since he was ten years old is to help people, but now he’s unsure of his future. When illness descends on the town, Reggie and Imogene tend the townspeople but is their emotional tie born of the closeness of the ordeal or perhaps something more?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR N.M. CEDENO

N. M. Cedeño writes mystery, science fiction, paranormal mystery, and children’s poetry. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I took a while to work my way up to novels. First, I wrote kids’ poetry and stories. Then, I branched out to short stories for adults a few years later. Finally, around age 30, I realized one of my stories needed to be a novel, but it took me a few years to figure out how to write it.  

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I submitted children’s fiction to publishers for years without success. Then, around 2008, I started submitting 250 word stories to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s monthly photo contest. A couple of my stories were selected as runners-up in 2009 and 2010, so I decided to try writing full-length short stories. My first short story to be published was in Analog: Science Fiction and Fact magazine in 2012. By that time, I’d been writing for at least nine years.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My novels are all indie published, but I still submit short stories to magazines. Hybrid.

Where do you write?
I write at home, mostly in the office or at the kitchen table.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
For years, I wrote to the sound of squabbling children. Now I write to the sound of squabbling children and a dog barking out frequent proximity alerts: Truck! Squirrel! Person! Dog! Cat! Silence might be nice.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Details in my stories are drawn from real life. For instance, I like to put favorite restaurants in stories. I included a rollover car wreck in a book, and I’ve been in one. I once gave a character a variation on a job I had held. My science fiction stories frequently involve current social issues that I tweak to fit my needs. However, most of my stories involve murder, and none of the murder plots are taken from my life.

Describe your process for naming your characters?
Naming characters is a complicated process!  I use a baby name book to choose names that fit the personality of the character. I also Google names to make sure they are either really common or completely unique.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Real cities and towns, but with fictional buildings added. I’ve set stories in Houston, Dallas, and around Austin. Most of my fiction is set in Texas.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
In my Bad Vibes Removal Services stories, the character of Lea is a graduate student who studies the daily lives of ancient people. Her quirk is that she replicates the clothes, hairstyles, makeup styles, or even perfumes common to the ancient civilization she is studying, and sometimes wears them to work. Lea is also extremely sensitive to emotional atmosphere in buildings, and she sees ghosts!

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I refuse to buy desserts I can easily bake myself: no grocery cakes or bakery cookies, cupcakes, or brownies unless they’re something truly extraordinary.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sayers. I’d love to be able to write witty dialogue and intelligent characters while displaying a knack for comedy and creating humorous situations the way Sayers did in that book. Sayers broke a main rule of mystery writing by ending not with the capture of the murderer, but with the execution of the murderer after the trial. She showed the psychological ramifications of the execution on her detective. She could only do that because she was a brilliant writer who could create characters that readers were invested in knowing, characters whose lives and emotions mattered to the reader.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
To have taken a marketing class in college.  I didn’t foresee how much I would need to know that kind of stuff.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Places that advertise kolaches, and don’t sell any actual kolaches, but instead sell sausage rolls are my pet peeve. Kolaches don’t have meat in them, people! Some kolache shops sell sausage rolls (klobasniky), but that doesn’t make the sausage roll a kolache any more than selling a cinnamon roll in a donut shop makes it a donut. How would you like it if you wanted a donut, and the sign said the place sold donuts, but it really only sold cinnamon rolls? This is a Texas Czech thing.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
If I already have basic necessities (food, water, and shelter) as a given, then books, pencil and paper (or tablet or laptop) for writing, and chocolate.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
When I was in college, I had a summer job as a customer service representative (CSR) answering phones to schedule air conditioner repairs. Think of summer in Texas and cranky people with no A/C. The dispatchers used to bet on which of the CSRs would cry after being screamed at and cursed at by customers.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I don’t have a “best book” of all books. I’d have to give you a list with “best” books by category, such as Best Classic Novel--Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I have other “bests” for traditional mystery, romance, suspense, fantasy, and other categories.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean! The beach is my happy place.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Neither. Suburban Texas girl. Access to museums, live music, and plays when wanted, but space for hiking and walking your dog through fields and trees, preferably with lazy cows and deer watching you as you go.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Until recently, I’ve only written stand-alone novels and short stories in different genres and subgenres. However, I now have a series in the works based on my Bad Vibes Removal Services short stories. I wrote three short stories, and then the novel, The Walls Can Talk. I have three more short stories in the series completed, which will be published in a few months, and am starting the next novel.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I write more short stories than novels, which allows me to write in different genres from day to day or week to week. I can’t stick to one genre! However, nothing I write contains graphic violence or graphic sex.

The Walls Can Talk, A Bad Vibes Removal Services Novel

The Hanovers inherited an ancient Irish castle that’s been moved to central Texas. But once they move in, they find not all is well in a home that seems straight out of a fairy tale. When things are moved in the middle of the night, is the explanation treasure-hunting teenagers or someone more malicious?

With a terrifying ghostly presence haunting their days and break-ins threatening their nights, the Hanovers reach out to a private detective, the famed Montgomery of Montgomery Investigations, and his employees at Bad Vibes Removal Services to resolve matters using the equipment he invented that detects and deciphers emotional residue and sound patterns long embedded in walls.

The Bad Vibes crew — Lea, Kamika, and Montgomery — are used to solving cases involving death. But usually Lea is the only one who sees the spirits. Not this time! This ancient Irish ghost seems bent on breaking all the rules, forcing the team to find new ways for removing old souls. Now the team finds themselves dragged into a convoluted drama of betrayal, murder, and hidden treasure. With their clients’ lives on the line, Lea, Kamika, and Montgomery work to identify the criminal behind the break-ins and free the castle from its haunted past.

Buy Links

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

HEALTHY LIVING--GUEST AUTHOR VIVIENNE K. MUNN ON RELAXATION

V.K. Munn is an author, educator, and inspirational speaker. Her latest book is more than apropos for this busy time of year. Learn more Vivienne and her books at her website/blog.

My latest book, RELAX: I need some Down-Time! To Rejuvenate, came about from the many conversations I had with a variety of acquaintance about what’s going on in the world. After many months and contemplation, I decided to write down thoughts, phrases, and notes, retrieving much from my journal on inspiration and relaxation, creating a lesson in learning to stay calm even through the storms. With this book I hope readers will appreciate and begin to—or learn to—calm down and relax. Consider it a prescription for R& R: Rest and Relaxation.

The book conveys messages with humor, love, compassion, and empathy. The one vehicle for helping relaxation is the soothing animal’s faces with their unconditional love throughout this book. 

The book will help you…
…turn negative into a positive
…turn sour apples into apple pie!
…enjoy a laugh and relax! 

The title is a collection of thoughts, inspirational words, phrases and expressive animal line-art images, suitable for coloring, to help relax the weary soul from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

This book is designed to create a smile and ultimately relax.

At some point, we all have crazy hectic days; it’s an inherent part of daily life at any level. But there is always tomorrow! To recognize this is one step closer to relaxation regardless of what you may be going through or experiencing.

RELAX: I need some Down-Time! To Rejuvenate
This book is a collection of inspirational words, phrases, and expressive animal line-art images to help relax the weary soul from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Enjoy a laugh, a thought and relax.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE WITH A TWIST

Where is it written that green bean casserole can only be served for Thanksgiving and Christmas? It’s a great side dish for any cold winter night. This take on the traditional recipe is for all the fungus-adverse out there—not a mushroom in sight. Serve with meatloaf and mashed potatoes for a real comfort food dinner.

Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients:
1 lb. frozen green beans, thawed and drained
2 T. butter
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
3/4-cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2-cup sour cream
1 T. sugar
1/2-teaspoon salt
4 oz. (1/2 can) fried onion pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place green beans in 9” x 13” glass baking dish.

Over medium heat sauté onions in butter until translucent. Stir in flour.

Gradually add milk and bring to boil. Add cheese, sour cream, sugar, and salt. Cook until cheese melts and mixture thickens.

Pour cheese mixture over green beans. Sprinkle fried onion pieces over top. Bake 25-30 minutes.