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.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

#TRAVEL TO PORTLAND, MAINE WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR DALE T. PHILLIPS

Dale T. Phillips has published novels, story collections, nonfiction, and over 70 short stories. Stephen King was Dale's college writing teacher, and since that time, Dale has found time to appear on stage, television, in an independent feature film, a short political satire film, and compete on Jeopardy (losing in a spectacular fashion). Learn more about Dale and his books at his website.

The setting for my Zack Taylor mystery series is the great little city of Portland, Maine, a jewel by the sea. The people are terrific, there are a number of vibrant cultures, it’s a four-season vacationland alive with music, art, and literature, and it’s a foodie and craft-beer-lover paradise. I spent a lot of time there in years past, and wanted to set a mystery there. Why let the big cities of New York, L.A., and Chicago have all the sleuths and fun?

So when I wrote my first mystery, A Memory of Grief, I created a protagonist who comes to Portland in the 1990’s as an outsider, a complete fish-out-of-water. Zack Taylor has a troubled past and arrives on a mission to find the truth. He finds so much more and decides to stay in Portland for further adventures.

Although I use many real settings that those familiar with the area will readily recognize, I freely change things around. It sounds so attractive that some have asked if I work for the Maine tourism bureau. I always tell people that if they haven’t yet been to Portland, my series will make them want to go there. Still, I frequently show the dark side of Maine as well: the poverty, the widespread and chronic unemployment, the backwoods close-minded mentality, the small-town bigotry.

But I show Portland as a healing place, an environment so completely different from what Zack has known in glittery cityscapes like Las Vegas and Miami, that he turns his life around. He finds a love that has heretofore eluded him, although it is a difficult and complicated relationship, due to the violence that surrounds him. He finds a friend and mentor in Joshua Chamberlain (J.C.) Reed, a long-time reporter for The Maine Times. He also finds a host of enemies and has to deal with violent people, despite the fact that he doesn’t like or use guns, which puts him at a decided disadvantage.

Setting is vital to the events of the mysteries. In the first book, A Memory of Grief, Zack takes on a cadre of killers out at Fort Williams, the park that contains the iconic, oft-painted/photographed Portland Head Lighthouse. A Fall From Grace details Zack taking on a small Maine burg, which has turned against a single mother after the murder of the Town Manager. Later in the series we see Zack involved in the movie business, the coastal art scene, and a world where politics and crooked outside-money interests collide.

People know Stephen King writes about Maine, but Portland is also a rich ground for great mystery and crime writers, including: Kate Flora, Bruce Robert Coffin, Gerry Boyle, James Hayman, and Chris Holm. You can meet many of them at the Maine Crime Wave, an annual mini-con gathering of writers, fans, and special guests. Between this handful of writers, we’ve upped the annual murder body count of Maine by hundreds. They often paint Portland as a dark place of intrigue, although I like to show off the good points in my protagonists’ desire to set things right.

So when you’re in the mood for a trip to Maine, or a touch of murder and personal struggle, you can pick up the Zack Taylor series in many places, including, of course, the many Portland area bookshops: Letterpress Books, Sherman’s, Longfellow Books, or Nonesuch Books.

A Memory of Grief
Troubled ex-con Zack Taylor is haunted by the accidental death of his brother years before. Zack's guilt and anger have pushed him into a shadowy, wandering life, with little purpose and few attachments. When he hears of the death of his close friend Ben Sterling, a supposed gunshot suicide, Zack finds he now has a purpose—to find out what happened. Then his purpose becomes an obsession.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

AUTHOR D.J. ADAMSON ON MUSES AND IMAGINARY FRIENDS

D. J. Adamson is an Award-winning author D.J. Adamson writes mystery and science fiction novels. She is the editor of the book review newsletter Le Coeur de l’Artiste. Her L’Artiste blog offers authors a venue to write on craft, marketing, and the creative mind. D.J. also teaches writing and literature and serves on various writing organization boards.  Learn more about her, her books, her newsletter, and her blog at her website

A Muse? An Imaginary Friend? Or someone real recreated?

Why can’t an adult have an imaginary friend?  I started writing tonight about my muse and realized that I don’t have a MUSE. No one muses my head. I have visitations. Okay, I said it. Visitations. The main character comes and tells me what has happened lately. Lillian Dove complains to me about her mother, her desire for Detective Leveque but that Chief Charles Kaefring might be a better choice on the boyfriend carousel. When she came upon Dr. Conrad out on the street with blood on his clothes telling her his family was inside the house, hurt, she came and told me. Does that sound strange? Why is it I totally understood the movie HARVEY? Anyone else have “ visitations”?

Lillian Dove came to me through my aunt. My sister said my personality was very much like my Aunt Lillian, someone I had never met because she’d been estranged from my family due to her over-indulgence with alcohol (although, I generally don’t imbibe more than a glass of wine.) At the time, this over indulgence was not understood as an illness and possibly a genetic trait. Thinking of writing a series, Lillian Dove came to me and said, why not give your aunt recovery? After all, the Mormons save people after they have passed. However, I didn’t want to write another “alcoholic detective.” There are already so many in past history and current mystery books.

I wanted to follow my character’s recovery as she took on life without taking a drink. All of us have addictions (quilters, you know you have loads of fabric in your closets; readers, stacks of books; collectors, statues and photos of cats, dogs, angels, etc; chocoholics, candy stuffed everywhere). 

Lillian has more addictions and compulsions than Absolut vodka. All of her bad habits are also who makes up who she is as a person. What is difficult for Lillian is taking on life as it is; getting her nose into trouble with murder cases; and her self-discovery without any expectation she is perfect.

I think that has been what is so likeable about Lillian and why she has become a great friend of mine. She is honest in her journey, and while some of it is not overly cozy—is murder ever truly a cozy subject?—she takes on crime and life with humor and a reckless energy of never giving up. In a word, she is “everywoman.”

Let Her Go
A Lillian Dove Mystery, Book 3

Murder. Betrayal. Love Gone Wrong.

Dr. Conrad’s family is attacked. His wife is murdered. He and his son are seriously injured. Teenage daughter Peyton is missing. When Lillian Dove finds herself involved in the police investigation, she realizes Peyton Conrad holds the key to unravel who killed her mother.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--SUSPENSE AUTHOR DONNELL ANN BELL COOKS UP SALMON WITH LENTILS

Award-winning suspense author Donnell Ann Bell stops by today to share a dinner recipe and a super deal. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Whenever our esteemed host invites me to blog, I’ll admit there’s an intimidation factor involved. You see, I have it on good authority Lois Winston, the author of the award-winning Anastasia Pollack series, is the MacGyver of crafting. She can take a shoelace and turn it into something ornamental or useful. At the end of every book, she provides some clever arts-and-craft project for readers. So, when she says write something crafty, I’ll pass.

However, I do like to cook, and today I’d like to talk about our diets, e.g. our meals, and how they have changed over the years. Side note: I’m still trying to figure out how Anastasia (whom the author describes as a pear-shaped woman in her forties) manages to consume all those delectable treats the food editor brings to the office daily. I asked Lois when Anastasia was going to start working out. Her reply? She doesn’t have time; she’s busy solving crime.

I should probably stop picking on Anastasia—and Lois. I admit in my debut book, which was the most home-and-hearth book I’ve written, my protagonist Melanie Norris did not cook the most low-calorie fares. A working mom, and widowed, her best friend was the crockpot. Typical meals were pot roasts or spare ribs. She was on a first-name basis with pizza and when she went out to dinner with the hero protagonist, they ate Chicken Parmigiana.

And, no, she didn’t work out, either. She was too busy trying to hide a secret from her son, avoid the cop next door, and the ex-con who swore revenge when her testimony sent him to prison. Priorities, you understand.

Let’s face it, diets have changed significantly in the last ten to fifteen years. We have gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, the Zone, Atkins, the Keto Diet—the list goes on.

If I were writing The Past Came Hunting today, chances are the meals I’d feature would be much healthier. I’d probably include more salads, less sugar and less bread. But through it all, the two consistencies I would insist on would be convenience and ease.  One such recipe would be Salmon with Lentils. Not only is it healthy, it’s affordable, filling, and delicious.

Salmon with Lentils
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/2 package of lentils
2 Tbs. olive oil 
1/4 cup chopped onions
Crushed garlic cloves (to taste)
1-1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
(many people add carrots or celery – I prefer mine simple)
Four 8-ounce center-cut salmon fillets. 
Bread crumbs (I use Italian style)

Brown onions and garlic in olive oil. Add stock and lentils. Bring lentils to a full boil. Cover and reduce heat. Lentils cook fast and generally are done in about 30 minutes.

Place sheet of aluminum foil on counter. Coat it evenly with olive oil and distribute salmon fillets. Season lightly with breadcrumbs. Wrap salmon in the foil. Depending on the weather, cook the fish on the grill or in the oven at 350 degrees.

Spoon the lentils onto a plate and place the salmon on top. (No one has to know how easy this is.)

Thankfully, my books aren’t all about cooking, there’s some suspense, romance, and always a happily-ever-after. The reason I mentioned The Past Came Hunting is because it’s on special today for .99 cents on all digital outlets. The Past Came Hunting is a book close to my heart as I wrote it when my son went off to college, leaving me an empty-nester. It’s won plenty of awards, and I think you’ll find emotion and a lot of love in this book. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll add it to your to-be-read pile.

Finally, here’s a question for you. Are you like me and pay attention to what the characters eat in books? Do you worry when Anastasia will start working out? What’s the healthiest meal you prepare or the most decadent?

The Past Came Hunting
Fifteen years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder. She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the real thief to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs P.D. Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her son from the past he helped create.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--POMPOM ORNAMENT

Drop Dead Ornaments, the 7th Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, is now available. In celebration, here’s another no-talent-required glass ornament, simple enough for even little kids to make (but substitute clear plastic ball ornaments for the glass ones.)

That clock is also counting down to Christmas. There are only 43 days (if I've done my math right) until Santa slides down the chimney. Time to start making that list and checking it twice. Anastasia’s ornament crafts from Drop Dead Ornaments are so incredibly easy to make that even if you’ve never picked up a glue gun or a paintbrush in your life, you can create beautiful gifts in next to no time at all. And none of these ornaments require a glue gun or a paintbrush—or any other specialized tools!

Pompom Ornament

Materials:
clear glass ball ornament (use plastic ball ornaments for young children)
red, white, and green pompoms in various small sizes*
9”-12” of 1/4”-1/2” wide red, green, white, or gold satin or grosgrain ribbon*

Carefully remove the metal cap from the glass ball.

Fill the ornament with the pompoms.

Reattach the metal cap. Tie ribbon through the loop for hanging.

* You can also choose your own color combinations and substitute yarn, twine, thin braid, or a thin strip of fabric for the ribbon used for the hanging loop.

Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

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Paperback
Kobo 
Nook 

Friday, November 9, 2018

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR MARY ELLEN HUGHES

Today we sit down for an interview with cozy mystery author Mary Ellen Hughes. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
After writing a few short stories, I realized I wanted to write longer, more in-depth stories.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
About five years after my first short story was published.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Traditionally published, but I’ve reissued earlier books that I regained the rights to.

Where do you write?
Upstairs in a spare room, next to a window where I can watch the seasons change as the book progresses.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Definitely silence. I enjoy music too much to be able to ignore it.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I don’t write “ripped from the headlines” plots, but since I also don’t write science fiction, some things have to come from real life, just hopefully with added drama and twists.

An inspiration for my Keepsake Cove series came from something that happened to friends. They had bought an 18th century house, and as they moved in, they were greeted by the faint sound of music. They tracked it to a music box, found locked inside a roll-top desk. How it got wound up or turned on, they had no idea.

In A Fatal Collection and A Vintage Death, my protagonist, Callie, seems to get messages through a family heirloom music box that plays on its own at critical times. Warnings? Confirmations of clues? Callie is never 100% sure.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I’ll search through baby-naming books and also the Social Security list of popular names by decade to find the perfect name for a character. If she’s 60-something, she probably shouldn’t be named Ashley, and a teenager is unlikely to be named Hilda. I also avoid having names start with the same letter, which tends to confuse the reader.

Real settings or fictional towns?
I create fictional towns, but place them within reach of real cities.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Tabitha, the part-time assistant in the music box shop, has a thing for dressing, um, creatively. She might show up to work looking like a 1940s Joan Crawford or Wonder Woman’s alterego, Diana Prince. Luckily, Callie’s music box customers enjoy it.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I don’t think I have any, but since we all think of ourselves as normal and everyone else as a little odd, I’m probably not the best one to ask.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Ohhh, so many. But more recently, I would love to have written the Harry Potter books or Stephen King’s 11/22/63 about the time traveler who tries to stop the Kennedy assassination. Such impressive imagination in both!

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I might have majored in English instead of science, which might have led to writing much sooner.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
In the grammar category, the increasing misuse of “I” in sentences, as in, “He gave directions to Harry and I.” (shudder)

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Assuming I have food, water, and shelter, I’d require a cell tower, iPad, and a solar-powered charger (if that exists.)

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Believe it or not, it was in a bookstore (a now-extinct chain.) I thought it would be wonderful to be surrounded by books, but I was usually too busy to open them!

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
That changes from month to month as I enjoy one good book after another.

Ocean or mountains?
Probably mountains.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country (but with a city within reach.)

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m currently polishing A Curio Killing, the third book in the Keepsake Cove series.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Just that it’s been an amazing ride, having ten books published with the eleventh on the verge. It’s hard work, but for me, the best job in the world. And hearing from a reader who’s enjoyed them or getting a positive customer review is absolutely the icing on the cake.

A Vintage Death
A Keepsake Cove Mystery, Book 2

As the new owner of a music box store in Keepsake Cove, a quaint town full of collectible shops on Maryland's Eastern Shore, Callie Reed is eager to get more involved in her community. So she volunteers to plan the fall street decorations and welcome a visiting author who's come for a special book signing. But the celebratory mood is cut short when the local B&B owner is found dead, killed with a pair of vintage scissors.

Suspicion is cast on the victim's estranged wife, Dorothy, who owns Keepsake Cove's vintage sewing shop. Callie is sure Dorothy is innocent, and the visiting author agrees. Together, they begin their own investigation, only to discover that many people in Keepsake Cove have secrets. Secrets that are worth killing to keep.

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

#TRAVEL--GET TO KNOW PRAGUE WITH INTERNATIONAL THRILLER AUTHOR KATHRYN ORZECH

Prague city map
Author Kathryn Orzech writes mystery, suspense, and thrillers set in New England “and other exotic locations” where everyday women face chilling situations, flirt with romance, and brush with the supernatural. An avid film fan, news nerd and traveler, Kathy’s other interests include history and geopolitics, archaeology and psychology, earth science, and parapsychology, leaving few subjects off her literary table. Her real-life website, DreamWatch.com, true paranormal experiences of everyday people, has been online since the late 1990s and was the inspiration for Premonition of Terror when she wondered, What if…?  Learn more about her and her books at her website.

“Exotic Location” Prague, Czech Republic
After character development and plot, setting is next important to me. My world travels (30-plus countries) offer readers a glimpse of another place and culture. Most of Premonition of Terror, a psychic thriller with a global terrorism threat, is set in the northeast USA, with key scenes set in Prague.

A hoard of international souvenirs is stored in my basement, stacked in plastic bins labeled by country. When drafting Premonition, I was torn between an overseas setting in Budapest or Prague. I reviewed my stash of brochures, receipts and mementos including the street maps I used while there. Prague emerged the clear winner.

Prague overview
At first glance, districts on a city map can be confusing with the Old Town, New Town, Lesser Town, and more. I needed the big picture so my first stop was the elevated location of Prague Castle for a confusion-clearing overview. Prague’s most striking feature is the Vltava River that runs through the city, thus easing navigation to at least determine which side you were on.

Said to be one of Europe’s most haunted cities, I found Prague to be fascinating, vibrant, and affordable, an easy walking city with deep-rooted culture. From historical castles, palaces and cathedrals to underground cave restaurants with delicious food and “outstanding” beer (so I was told); from concerts and galleries to river cruises and ghost walking tours, it’s no surprise that Prague attracts visitors from around the world.

Protagonist as innocent tourist
I have no qualms about writing what I don’t know as long as my point of view remains that of a stranger, a visitor, a tourist. In Premonition of Terror, protagonist Kate Kasabian explores popular attractions including Old Town Square with the 600-year-old Astronomical Clock, the Charles Bridge, Powder Tower, Peace Wall, and Prague Castle.

Old Town Square. The Old Town looked to me like a fairy village with Romanesque and Gothic architecture in a labyrinth of cobblestone lanes, and there was always something interesting happening at the square. I especially enjoyed evenings with new friends at favorite sidewalk caf├ęs to people-watch and listen to conversations at nearby tables in a medley of languages, background I used in the book.

The Charles Bridge (aka: Karluv most). An icon bridge and one of many river crossings. Completed in 1390 (30 mostly Baroque statues were added later), it connects Old Town with Lesser Town. More than 500 yards across, by 9:00 AM it is a gauntlet of hawkers, tourists, and an occasional pickpocket. I relished the incessant activity.

Lesser Town (aka: Mala Strana). A lovely area in which to walk, home to Prague Castle and foreign embassies. As my steps crushed fallen leaves against worn sidewalks, I felt I was back home in the Northeast.

John Lennon’s Peace Wall. Let me explain. Sometimes called Prague’s answer to the Berlin Wall, this graffiti-covered wall is often credited for having inspired the Velvet Revolution, a non-violent youth rebellion against Communism. The Peace Wall began with an image of Lennon, a remembrance following his murder. Lyrics from his songs and messages of peace, love and freedom soon followed. Located near the French Embassy, an impulse to find the Peace Wall draws protagonist Kate to Mala Strana where not all is as peaceful as it appears.

Writing this post stirred memories of the sights and sounds of Prague, so thank you all for that.

Premonition of Terror
DreamWatch.com, true paranormal experiences, began as a hobby. It was supposed to be fun—until premonitions from around the world predict the same catastrophic attack.

The last time reluctant psychic Kate Kasabian revealed a prediction, people close to her were hurt. But with thousands of lives at risk, she has no choice but to badger her FBI brother to investigate. He refuses to help. When she sets off to prove her suspicions, he thinks he’s heard the last of her supernatural silliness—until the legendary Matt Chase from Counterterrorism alerts agents to a credible threat eerily similar to Kate’s warnings.

Tracking clues from Prague to New England, Kate trusts dreams and premonitions while Chase relies on technology and global intelligence, but can their unlikely alliance stop the U.S. plot?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

CLASSIC BOOK INSPIRED GIFTS FOR READERS AND WRITERS

The holidays are fast approaching, and if you need a gift for a reader, writer, librarian, or teacher, we’ve got you covered—and with the added bonus of a discount! Today we’re thrilled to introduce our readers to Melissa Chan. Melissa is a reader, designer, and founder of Literary Book Gifts. As her holiday gift to our readers, she’s offering a 20% discount on all items from her website. Just use KillerCrafts&CraftyKillers20 at checkout for 20% off any order, no minimum. This coupon code does not expire.


Melissa started Literary Book Gifts earlier this year as an online store for book lovers. She features a wide selection of gifts for teachers, librarians, writers, and readers of all ages. (The items featured here are just a small selection of what you’ll find on the website.)


Melissa says, “I love to read. But I also love talking about some of the great ideas, characters, and stories I've read. These days everyone is reading something different, whether it's the latest bestseller or the 5th book in a series. It's not often two people are reading the same book at the same time. It can even be hard to find others who have read some of your favorite novels, especially if they aren’t well known. Showcasing one of your favorite books or authors, or even your general love of reading on a shirt or tote bag is a great way to generate some fabulous literary conversations.”


The website showcases book t-shirts and tote bags in a variety of sizes and colors. Even the tote bags come in multiple sizes! The shirts are made of 100% cotton and there are even a few colors that have some polyester content for those who prefer heathered fabrics. There are men's and women's versions of each design. The tote bags are sturdy with black lining and cotton handles. Each tote bag has a different color printed as background all the way into the seams.

So start your holiday shopping now, and don’t forget to add the promo code KillerCrafts&CraftyKillers20 when you check out.