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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Thursday, May 31, 2012


Today we welcome author Linda O. Johnston to Book Club Friday. Linda writes across several genres, but the one constant in her writing is that all her books somehow involve animals. Learn more about Linda at her website and the Killer Hobbies blog. -- AP 

When To Seek a Crafty Killer

What do you do when someone you like, and whose work you particularly admire, is accused of murder?

Well, in my new Pet Rescue Mystery Hounds Abound, the third in the series, my protagonist Lauren Vancouver jumps in to try to solve the crime and find out whodunit.

Hounds Abound revolves around Save Them All, a very special pet sanctuary, one where hard-to-adopt pets go to seek wonderful forever homes, but if none is forthcoming those senior or disabled animals can live out their natural lives in wonderful and loving surroundings.  Its founder, Bella Frankovick, is accused of murdering her ex-husband, and Lauren is sure she didn’t do it.   Lauren likes Bella and loves what she is doing to save needy animals, so of course she has to help.

Do places like Save Them All exist?  Yes!  I first heard of a local one near Los Angeles when I was in a local boutique grocery store and one of the people handing out food samples happened to mention it.  Of course my Pet Rescue Mystery mind started focusing on it, I did some research, and the result was Hounds Abound.

Since then, I’ve heard of other wonderful sanctuaries like that.  I volunteer as a dog adoption counselor at a caring, real shelter called Pet Orphans of Southern California.  Occasionally, a pet there has behavior or other issues that make it so difficult to adopt that it is taken lovingly to a new home--a sanctuary where it can live out its days with lots of wonderful care. 

One thing I’m particularly exited about at the moment is that I’m participating in a very real program: Read Humane™.   Berkley Prime Crime is an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.  Penguin has made a substantial donation to the Humane Society of The United States® in support of its Animal Rescue Team, and is also shipping 50,000 books starring furry friends, both dogs and cats, which encourage readers to learn more and donate to the Humane Society and its Animal Rescue Team.  Besides me, participating authors include Rebecca M. Hale, Alison Pace, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly--and I’m especially excited to report that the Read Humane spokesperson is Nora Roberts.  A new version of my first Pet Rescue Mystery Beaglemania has been printed with the special Read Humane seal on the front and information inside.

How about you--would you ever jump in to try to solve a mystery--or would you rather just read about them?

Thanks for joining us today, Linda! -- AP           

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


One of the hot fashion trends this year is Color Blocking. Color Blocking is the marriage of various bold, solid colors to coordinate an outfit. So how do you pull together a color blocked outfit? 
The easiest way is to find clothing and accessories that have already done the work for you by combining colors. However, if you think about a color wheel, it’s easy enough to pull together a great look on your own with separates you already own.
Think about the colors of the rainbow. Remember ROY G. BIV? Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Find pieces in your wardrobe and from your accessories in these colors, then assemble them in a circle. Add any pinks between the violets and reds.

Now pair two bold neighboring colors from the color wheel together, like orange and yellow or red and violet. Or you can match complimentary colors together. Complimentary colors are those that are opposite each other on the color wheel, like orange and navy or yellow and violet.

If you’ve gone with neighboring colors for your first two colors, you can now accessorize with a third color. Choose a color from the opposite side of the color wheel from the colors already chosen. For instance, if you’ve chosen yellow and green as your first two colors, add pink as your third.

Don’t be afraid to go bold with color this year! Be daring! These are just suggestions. Experiment with your own variations, and consider adding a print scarf to the mix to pump the look up even more.

Thanks, Tessa. This is a great way to use what you already own but create an entirely new look. -- AP

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Are you trying to lose weight and having trouble doing so? Here are two tricks you should try when it comes to eating less:

First, use a smaller plate. Have you noticed that over the years, not only have we super-sized our food choices, we’ve also super-sized our dinnerware. If you’ve bought new dishes over the last few years, you know what I mean. The cereal bowls, dinner plates, and dessert plates are all much larger than they used to be.

We tend to fill our plates when we serve ourselves. Use a smaller dinner plate or bowl, and you’ll fill it with less food, thereby eating less. And don’t worry about leaving the table hungry. You won’t miss that extra food. It’s a psychological thing going on. You’ve cleaned your plate; you’ve eaten enough.

According to the Small Plate Movement, you can drop 18 pounds over the course of a year just by reducing the size of your plate.

Another tip that works is to change the color of your dishes. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that people ate more when eating food served on a plate of the same color. So if you’re eating vanilla ice cream, don’t put it in a white bowl, and keep that chocolate cake off dark brown or black plates.

Great tips, Janice! Readers, what are some of your dieting tips? Let's hear from you. -- AP

Monday, May 28, 2012


Cloris loves to create unexpected combinations in recipes. Today she’s come up with a very unique grilled sandwich, but I can vouch for how delicious it is. -- AP


sliced sourdough bread
thinly sliced pear
part-skim sliced mozzarella cheese

Spread the guacamole on the bread. Layer the pears on the guacamole. Cover with slices of the cheese. Broil until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Here’s a craft that can be anything from super sophisticated to playfully whimsical, depending on your taste. And it’s easy enough for children to do with a bit of supervision.

When choosing an image, look for prints that will lend themselves to line art. You can download and print various images from your computer, or use a picture your child has drawn. Botanicals or Victorian etchings work well and look spectacular framed in a grouping in a dining room, bedroom, or bathroom. Fruits and vegetable prints ook good in a kitchen or dining room. For a baby’s room, download turn-of-the-century nursery rhyme art. For a child’s room, download and print coloring pages of their favorite cartoon characters.

When choosing colors for more sophisticated looks, go with white or silver markers and black or rich, dark colors for the paper. For more whimsical looks, choose a white marker with bright primary or deep pastel papers.

Materials: picture frame with glass, alcohol, desired image to fit within glass, DecoArt Glass Paint Marker in desired color, colored paper to fit within frame

NOTE: if working with a child, first tape the edges of the glass to prevent accidental cuts. Remove the tape after the paint is dry and before framing.

1. Clean the picture frame glass with alcohol.

2. Working on a hard, flat surface, place the glass over the image you’ve chosen. Keep in mind the final artwork will be in reverse, so if you want the piece to look like the picture you’ve chosen, print it in reverse.

3. Using the glass paint marker, outline the picture, being sure not to smear the paint as you work.

4. Allow the paint to dry at least four hours. Place glass into the frame with paint side facing in. Place the colored paper into the frame on top of the painted glass. Secure the frame backing in place.


Thanks to everyone who stopped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week and special thanks to our Book Club Friday guest, author Lillian Melendez. Lillian offered a copy of Dismantling Vindictiveness to one lucky reader who posted a comment this week. The winner is Liz. Please email your mailing address to anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I'll forward it to Lillian, and she'll send you your book.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Lillian R. Melendez has been writing and publishing her work since she was very young. The arts as a whole have always been an interest, but creative writing is her passion. Read more about her at her website.

Lillian is giving away a copy of
Dismantling Vindictiveness, a novel of revenge, greed, and murder and one man's search for redemption, to one of our readers who leaves a comment this week. -- AP

Writing Believable Characters
Writers take reality and play with it by using their imaginations. There’s a reason why writers keep a small notepad wherever they go. Inspiration can strike anytime and anywhere.

To make my characters believable, I engage with people around me, trying to understand people’s personalities and behaviors.  A person’s body movements, facial expressions, what they say, how they say it, what other actions they exhibit, can be helpful in creating a believable character.

Because each human being is complex and unique, I make the characters as real as possible. In my novel, the characters are “round.” Meaning, they have more than one side to their personality, while flat characters are two-dimensional.

Soap operas are a perfect example. You see the characters played by actors, but they do not have the same personality as the characters they portray. Yet, the characters they portray, are an exact personality of a human being somewhere in the world. A believable character in a soap opera or in a book brings the human being in, wondering what the character will do next.
Thanks for joining us today, Lillian. Readers, if you'd like a chance to win a copy of Dismantling Vindictiveness, post a comment. -- AP

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


As the day wears on, does your eye shadow wear off? Here’s a great tip to ensure staying power. Use a combination of cream and powder eye shadow. Apply the cream shadow first. Use either a flesh color or the same color as the powder shadow. Apply the powder shadow over the cream shadow. The powder will adhere better and last longer.

Great tip, Nicole! Readers, do you have any make-up tips you’d like to share? Let’s hear from you. -- AP

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Today is Lucky Penny Day, a day set aside to appreciate the good luck finding a penny is supposed to bring. Remember the old rhyme:

See a penny, pick it up,
all day long you’ll have good luck.

Unfortunately, pennies may not be with us much longer. For the sixth year in a row, it now costs the U.S. Mint more to manufacture and distribute a penny than it’s worth. A lot more. Every penny minted in the U.S. this year will cost 2.41 cents. That hardly makes sense.

Starting this fall Canada will stop producing pennies, saving our neighbors to the north 11 million dollars a year. Last year the U.S. Mint produced 4.9 billion pennies. That’s $118 million dollars spent to make 49 million dollars worth of pennies. Where’s the logic in that?

There’s now a movement to do away with pennies here in the U.S. Of course the zinc industry is opposed and lobbying against such a proposal. Pennies are mostly made from zinc these days. Another group in opposition to dumping the penny is the Lincoln Library which stated it would fight for the penny down to the last cent.

How long will we continue to waste money on the lowly penny? It’s not like you can buy anything for a penny any more. What are your feeling about doing away with the penny to save tax dollars? A penny for your thoughts?

Monday, May 21, 2012


One of my favorite spring fruits is rhubarb. And yes, I know rhubarb is really a veggie, but we eat it like a fruit, and most people think of it as a fruit. Anyway, here’s an easy recipe Cloris came up with for a Rhubarb Berry Crisp. -- AP 

1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2” pieces
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Toss the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons of the flour with the fruit. Place in greased 2 quart baking dish.

Mix remaining flour, oats, brown sugar and butter together until crumbly. Fold in walnuts. Drop crumble mixture in small clumps over fruit.

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until crumble is brown and fruit bubbly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Last week I showed you how to decoupage a bottle with tissue paper. Today we have another technique combining decoupage and glass. Potichomanie Decoupage is a technique that originated in Victorian England when Chinese vases were very popular. For those who couldn’t afford to buy a Chinese vase, this craft technique created a DIY variation.

wide-mouthed glass jar
print that fits inside the jar
1” wide foam brush
DecoArt Americana matte Decou-Page medium
DecoArt Americana acrylic paint in color to complement print

1. Soak jar or bottle in warm water to remove the label. Clean inside of jar with alcohol.

2. Carefully cut out the print.

3. Apply Decou-Page to the face of the print.

4. Place the print inside the jar. Press the print to mold it to the contour of the jar, working from center of print outward to smooth wrinkles and remove air bubbles. Allow to dry thoroughly.

5. Apply a coat of Decou-Page to the inside of the jar. Allow to dry.

5. Paint interior surface of jar


Thanks to everyone who stopped by Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers this week and special thanks to our Book Club Friday guest, author Marni Graff. Marni offered copies of The Blue Virgin and The Green Remains to one lucky reader who posted a comment this week. The winner is NoraA. Please email your mailing address to anastasiapollack@gmail.com. I'll forward it to Marni, and she'll send you your books.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Our guest today is Marni Graff, author of the Nora Tierney mystery series. The Blue Virgin, set in Oxford, introduced American writer Nora Tierney who becomes involved in a murder investigation when her best friend is wrongfully accused of murder. The Green Remains follows Nora to the Lake District where she’s awaiting two firsts: the publication of her children’s book and the birth of her child. When she stumbles across a dead body, Nora sets into motion a series of events that will have consequences for herself and those she’s come to love. Learn more about Marni and her books at www.auntiemwrites.wordpress.com. and www.bridlepathpress.com.

Marni is offering copies of both The Blue Virgin and The Green Remains to two of our readers who leave comments this week. -- AP

As an avid mystery reader, I enjoy reading a series where I can watch the growth and changes of the recurring characters. That’s why I decided to do a series when I was developing Nora Tierney and the band of fellows who would reappear as the books progressed.

Developing the main characters meant looking ahead, especially for my gal Nora, to keep the series fresh for readers and the challenges she would face. Giving her complications, of course, would be standard for each novel. But to have a story arc that progresses over several novels, I also had to decide on several larger plot points that would carry over for several years of Nora’s life.

Being an American living in England starts her off immediately with a different background and cultural issues she’s had to learn, including Brit slang she’s still incorporating into her language. But first I started with her “bible,” the back-story of her life that would impact on who she had grown to be, and how threads from that story could be used down the road. I do a bible on my main characters, in more depth for those who reappear, making decisions about each character’s life that may or may not appear on the page, but which will influence the way he or she acts and reacts.

Nora’s father died in her teens, drowned while sailing one night after Nora had turned down his invitation to accompany him in favor of a date. That’s what any teenager would do; yet Nora carries the unreasonable idea that if she’d been with him, she could have saved him.

That guilt affects her future relationships with men in different ways in each book. In the opener, The Blue Virgin, Nora had been engaged to a man working for the Ministry of Defense. Their relationship had soured and she was on the verge of breaking the engagement when Paul’s plane went missing and he and the pilot were declared dead. When she finds out a few weeks later that she’s pregnant, she has to examine her feelings about raising a child alone without a father in the picture.

In the new book, The Green Remains, Nora stumbles upon the corpse of the heir to Clarendon Hall. His ghastly appearance after drowning in his rowing scull can’t help but bring back momentary flashes of the night her father died. Throughout the book, which takes place in her last weeks of pregnancy, Nora struggles with the anxiety she won’t be a fit parent, whatever that definition might be.

Having saddled Nora with a child she will raise alone has given me many challenges that will continue. It kept Nora from being physically active in the second book, and it was a great relief to me to know I could move her around more in the third book I’m working on, The Scarlet Wench. Nora’s mother and stepfather from Connecticut will make an appearance this time around. I’ve also given Nora a stepsister who has been mentioned but who hasn’t  shown up—yet.

Keeping the series fresh also means that Nora will be affected by the modern world and things that occur in it. Although I don’t specify a year, reference to events such as Princess Diana’s death show we are firmly in the twenty-first century. In The Green Remains, Nora uses computer technology to pirate information from a victim’s computer that eventually gives her a clue and leads to a killer. Other characters rely on cell phones, called mobiles in the UK, for communication. As events occur in real time, I will have to decide on whether to incorporate mentioning those in a book or not.

Down the road I see Nora continuing to grow and take different pathways in the roadmap of the life I’m designing for her. I hope my readers will continue to follow her and her choices, as she manages to get herself into and out of trouble.

Thanks for joining us today, Marni! Readers, if you’d like a chance to win copies of both of Marni’s books, post a comment. -- AP

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Leyla Kee-McParlin is a British beauty blogger with extensive experience blogging and interviewing on behalf of websites. Feel free to tweet her about this article to @DigitalLeyla. -- AP

Beauty at Any Age: Andie Macdowell and Diane Keaton

As a beauty blogger, I regularly read numerous fashion and beauty articles in both traditional and digital media for research and inspiration. One day I came across an article focussed on Hollywood star Andie Macdowell and I was inspired by her take on being a beauty spokesmodel: “I like being an advocate for women who are not babies anymore, and I love being able to make the statement that beauty is not a number. There's not an age limit to it." In this age of media extolling beauty icons of a youthful and nubile nature - so-called ‘Young Hollywood’ - isn’t it time we listened to and admired icons of mature beauty rather than looking to women who are trying to defy the onset of ageing and constantly want to change their identities?

Spotlight on: Andie Macdowell

Andie, lauded by Style Bistro as one of the most beautiful women in the world over 50, is one of my all-time favorite women. When asked about her beauty regime, Andie prefers to keep it simple: sunscreen, exercise and a good dose of positive thinking. A strong opponent of putting an age limit on beauty, she has been a spokesmodel of L’Oreal for a quarter of a century. For me, her elegant beauty is combined with an assured confidence and astounding open-mindedness. Andie doesn’t like to judge those who want to improve their appearance, hence allowing her name to be attached to products such as L’Oreal Inoa, as long as they feel that their confidence will be improved as a result. As a consequence, her appeal is more like the beautiful next-door neighbour you admire from afar than an untouchable movie star. From delving deeper into Ms. Macdowell-related research, I came to realize that she credits a healthy outdoor lifestyle for her health, rather than the superficial, glorified detox diets and gruelling indoor gym workouts favored by her Hollywood successors. An amazing story from Andie’s early days is when she was a working model in New York, maintaining a healthy weight in spite of being told to lose more. Her witty retort was “don’t book me then”; as a result she got a stint in Calvin Klein’s commercials and a movie to boot! Her advice is sage: protect your skin, eat healthily and pick your cosmetics according to health benefits and not for aesthetic reasons.

Spotlight on: Diane Keaton

Diane has always been somewhat of an idol for me. Although I am a great deal younger than her, I have always loved her from both a beauty and professional perspective. Rising to fame as the title character in the Woody Allen classic Annie Hall, she became the archetype of the woman I wanted to be. Gorgeously neurotic, intelligent and not overly romantic, Diane is a delightful bridge between the hippie attitude of the Seventies and the inspirational go-getter of the Eighties. Her beauty style reflects that. I think what really strikes me about Diane’s beauty style is how it visually illustrates her principles. Cosmetics for Diane have the purpose of enhancing and not covering up: her style is subdued and natural with an androgynous flair. Eons before the menswear trend of the Noughties, Diane had perfected a strong and sexy look without the need for surgery.

So what do these two icons teach us?
Although they are the faces of a huge mutli-national brand, Andie and Diane represent – without sounding too clich├ęd – the real women amongst us. We all age: fact. But it’s how we face the ageing process and place our beauty as secondary to our other features that define us. As a beauty blogger, I firmly believe that from these icons we can learn charm, versatility, longevity and the daring nature to carve out a unique identity who have never lost their sense of feminine appeal.

Andie once said that "with age comes a wonderful sense of well-being and strength." Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from these icons is how we should prioritize inner strength and happiness above all other points.

Do these two icons resonate with you? Are there any other icons you would suggest?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


We all know that obesity is a major problem in America today. Reader Tony Shin sent the following graphic to share with our readers. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Spring means asparagus is in season and reasonable priced. Asparagus is a very versatile veggie. Here’s one of my favorite ways to prepare it, thanks to Cloris. -- AP

1 lb. asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon dried onion

Wash and trim asparagus. Dry stalks. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over asparagus. Sprinkle cheese, garlic and onion over asparagus. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


A few weeks ago I told you that Lois Winston, the author who writes those books about moi, was taking a road trip to the Malice Domestic mystery convention in Bethesda, MD and the Festival of Mystery in Oakmont, PA. Accompanying Lois on her 700 mile roundtrip was a killer mop doll.

I’m happy to report that the killer mop doll spilled no blood during these two events, and no mystery writers or readers were harmed in the course of this road trip (at least not by the killer mop doll.) Although I have it on good authority that there was some need for the hair of the dog the morning after the night before on more than one occasion. Not saying for whom, though. You know who you are.

Presented here for your enjoyment and proof that everyone had a great time and didn’t fall prey to the killer mop doll (really, does she look like a killer?), are pictures from the two events. -- AP

"Elvis and the Commies" panel at Malice Domestic --
moderator Catriona McPherson, the KMD, and author Lois Winston

The entire "Elvis and the Commies" panel -- Catriona McPherson (moderator),
KMD, Lois Winston, Lane Stone, Deborah Sharp, and Joelle Charbonneau

Author Lois Winston signing at Malice Domestic
(KMD isn't happy with the photographer of this photo.)
Terri Bischoff, Midnight Ink editor responsible for deadly glue guns and killer mop dolls.
(If you can't make out the T-shirt, it says, "Editors: Reading Crappy Manuscripts
So You Don't Have To")

The entire Midnight Ink contingent at Malice (minus KMD)
M'Inkers Vicki Doudera, Jess Lourey, Linda Hull, and Lois Winston at the Malice banquet.
(KMD wasn't invited)
KMD and author Lois Winston at the Festival of Mystery
Midnight Ink authors with Mystery Lovers Bookshop co-owner Richard Goldman
at party after Festival of Mystery
The Killer Mop Doll and author Alice Loweecey's nun doll
(They co-habitated during the Festival of Mystery.)

Special thanks to Alice Loweecey, Catriona McPherson, Terri Bischoff, Beth Groundwater, Kathleen Ernst, and Jessie Chandler for use of their photos.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Our Book Club Friday guest today is Shelly Frome, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts. His latest mystery, Twilight of the Drifter, is a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey. Visit Shelly on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @shellyFrome. -- AP
                     What is the Story Here?

To keep up with the times, I thought I’d take out a subscription to a few writers’ magazines and add some more websites and twitter accounts. I was curious to know how far things had gone in terms of our new era in publishing.  

And lo and behold, within the pages of the magazines, I found this statement to be typical: “Readers of fiction are faced with saturated genres and a limited amount of time and money. Any title has to immediately grab their attention. The market doesn’t lie.”

In one issue, someone calling herself a literary change agent claimed that  reaching readers is a matter of blanketing social media, blogging anywhere and everywhere, and “passing out fliers on street corners” if need be.

To meet these demands, contributors billing themselves as successful pros offered sure-fire tips like these:

“Use plotting strategies that make the book a winner. Give readers a hook at the get-go. And be sure to leave them with a take-home thought.”

“Make them laugh and cry. When readers laugh and cry they’ll get that emotional high they’re looking for along with that walloping payoff.”

“Before you start, come up with a logline that make buyers sit up and say ‘gotta read it’.”

“Try this for a ploy. Redesign an old hit TV show for the texting, tweeting, Lady Gaga generation. It’s a great reminder how important it is to always have your readers in mind.”

Ah, yes. Oh, well.

The added blogs and tweets echoed the same mindset. In fact, the dozens of new daily e-mails snowballed into a promotional frenzy. Urging everyone to check out a free book, the fourth winner in a row; or take in a crime series and get really hooked; latch onto a P.I. story everyone loves because it’s an ultra rare extraordinary read; and/or get set for a page-turning thrill ride. One lady outdid herself shopping her hair-raising gypsy escapade by tossing in a war-horse. And she continued to push this angle with every post.

One of these networks was caught up in an ongoing harangue over eliminating all middle men. Agents weighed in claiming they alone can wade through the slush given their knowledge of what’s really trending.

As if this wasn’t enough, Linked-in offered me four more networks I could join.

Seeking a quieter approach to the topic, I began watching conversations with writers on Charlie Rose’s show. Arguably, there’s no more easygoing host than Charlie Rose and no more casual writer willing to share his secrets than John Grisham. Soon, however, it was back to more of the same. Grisham claimed that readers have an insatiable appetite for crime stories about lawyers and scandals. Once they pick up a book, the trick is to make sure they don’t put it down. Novels that don’t work use too many words. You have to keep it moving, said Grisham. And the generator is your big idea. To locate it, you steal something. “Everything is fair game when you’re writing fiction. We all steal, that’s what we do.”

He went on to say, you simply narrow it down to a half-dozen one-sentence pitches and run them by someone. He chooses his wife who never fails to pick the one with the best instant hook.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this if you want to write externally. It’s just that it smacks of this same vendor-on-the-street-corner mentality. 

Next, I came across the interview with Lee Child. He suggested that a key to his Jack Reacher series was the fact that his main character never changes. Readers always know who Reacher is and are reassured that he’ll always be taciturn, smart and ruthless, guaranteeing page-turning action.

Again, whatever works for someone is fine. I personally hate to think that readers nowadays are flipping through their touch screens while on the go looking for some way to pass a few extra minutes before boarding their plane or what-have-you. Along these same lines, I recalled yet another reference to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code in The New York Time’s book review section—e.g., utilizing “a badly garbled version” of historian Elaine Pagels’ analysis of the early church, eliminating characterization as Robert Langdon and other stock figures keep running. The outcome of the mayhem formatted to quickly “blow the minds of many readers.”

To reassure myself, I went back to the book review and took solace in author Sylvia Brownrigg’s guidelines:  “Will I believe in these characters? How distracted will I be by implausible dialogue or forced plotlines? Hopefully after only a page or two there will be a sigh of relief. I don’t have to worry. She knows what she’s doing. She won’t let you down.”

From there it was only a few pages more to Marilyn Stasio’s Crime Reviews. There, as usual, I found myself drawn to stories designed for readers who were in no particular hurry. Who preferred events to unfold organically. 

I also found myself remembering something Raymond Chandler once wrote:

“A good story cannot be devised: it has to be distilled. You can never know till
you’ve written the first draft. What seems to be alive in it is what belongs.”

Perhaps Mr. Chandler also found himself contending with the hustle and bustle of his day and opted for something more genuine.

At any rate, I’ve cancelled the subscriptions and limited the e-mails. For now, at least, I’ve decided to just follow my own course.

Thanks for joining us today, Shelly! -- AP

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Really? I’ve seen some far out eye makeup in my time, especially during Fashion Week, but this Dutch ad for Burger King is something else. When I first saw it, I thought it had to be an April Fool’s joke. But no. It’s a real marketing campaign.

Would any woman really want Whopper eyes (not to mention green mascara!)? I have to wonder how successful the campaign has been. Did they sell more Whoppers in the Netherlands as a result?

Can you imagine a guy sitting across from his Whopper-eyed date as he bites into a Whopper? Not to mention what Freud might say. As for me, in my opinion, this is just truly bizarre advertising.

Can’t disagree with you, Nicole! Readers, what do you think? -- AP

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Today is National Lost Sock Memorial Day, the day when we mourn the loss of all those socks that disappear somewhere between the hamper, the washing machine, the dryer, and the laundry basket. It happens to everyone. You undress and toss a matching set of socks into the hamper, but after the wash is finished and you’re sorting and folding your clean clothes, invariably you’re at least one sock short. You backtrack. Check the hamper. Check the washing machine. Check the dryer. Check the path between the hamper, washing machine, and dryer. Shine a flashlight into the one inch crack separating the washing machine and dryer. Climb up on the machines and look behind them. You can’t find that missing sock anywhere.

This happens to me at least once a week, and I’ll bet it happens to you, too. We set the lone sock aside, hoping to eventually have its mate show up, but the sock is AWOL. Vanished into the ether. Adrift in Sockspace. Maybe the fox ran off with them?

A year goes by, and you’ve accumulated a bag of mismatched socks, none of which can be paired up with any of the other socks in the bag. Eventually, you donate the socks at the next clothing drive. Maybe, like long-lost lovers, your socks will find their missing mates in a Red Cross or Goodwill bin. One can only hope.

Today, May 9th, is a special day set aside each year to mourn those missing socks and reflect of the fuzzy warmth they once gave us. May the socks be with you!

Monday, May 7, 2012


Food editor Cloris McWerther has invited a special guest to join us today, Bailey Cates. Bailey also writes the Home Crafting Mysteries as Cricket McRae. She believes magic is all around us if we only look for it. For more information about Bailey/Cricket, please visit her website. You can also visit Cricket's Hearth Cricket blog and her Katie Lightfoot character blog -- AP

What a treat to guest here, Anastasia! So, in honor of the release of my first Magical Bakery Mystery, Brownies and Broomsticks, I thought I’d offer a treat for your readers.

The main character of the series is twenty-eight year old Katie Lightfoot. In the first book she’s relocated to Savannah, Georgia from Ohio to start up the Honeybee bakery with her Aunt Lucy and Uncle Ben. As a baker – and a new hedgewitch – she loves to experiment with new recipes, but her all-time favorite self indulgence is Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies.

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

¾ cup chunky peanut butter
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour a 9x13 baking pan.

Mix together the peanut butter, butter, confectioners’ sugar vanilla extract. Set aside.

Combine cocoa powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add 1/3 cup of the vegetable oil and mix together thoroughly. Add boiling water and stir until mixture thickens. Add the rest of the vegetable oil, eggs, and sugar and stir until smooth. Mix in flour, vanilla and salt until thoroughly blended. Pour brownie batter into the prepared baking pan.

Drizzle peanut butter mixture over brownie batter. Using a knife, cut through the topping and batter to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until brownies are set in the middle and peanut butter swirl topping begins to puff slightly. Allow to cool in pan before cutting.

Thanks for joining us today, Bailey, and best of luck on the new series. -- AP