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, February 28, 2013


Back for a return visit today is F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. She first became interested in writing about law enforcement when she lived in a neighborhood filled with police officers and their families. Her interest was fanned when her daughter married a police officer and the tradition has continued with a grandson and grandson-in-law who are deputies. She’s also serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and has many friends in different law enforcement fields. Learn more about F.M. at her website and blog.

F.M. is in the middle of a blog tour and is running a contest. The person who comments on the most blog posts on her tour may have a character named after him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel or choose a book from the previous titles in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series in either paper or for Kindle. Check her website for the tour schedule. -- AP
Why I Chose a Fictional Setting for my Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series could be described as a police procedural, but it is more than that because I wanted to show as much about the families of the police officers and how what went on with them affected the job the officers had to do, and what went on at work affected the families. It is a bit softer than most police procedurals in that my characters may cuss and swear but I don’t put it into words.

When planning the first book, Final Respects, I knew I wanted the story to be in a small town, but not a real one. I wanted a town I could create and wouldn’t have to worry about mentioning businesses or restaurants that went out of business by the time the book was published.

At the time I lived in a small beach community on the coast of California near Ventura. Since I knew what it was like I decided to create a town on the coast. I put it north of Ventura and south of Santa Barbara, but in Ventura County. There is no such town like it.

The town is right on the beach, with low income cottages on the streets leading to the beach that were built in the 1930s for vacation spots.  The main street is Valley Boulevard where most of the business  are, including the diner where many of the officers like to grab a quick bite, and a Chinese restaurant that is upstairs over a Mexican place.

Most of the residences are located on the sloping hillside. The freeway dissects the city and on the other side are orange groves and ranches.

The town gets its name from the bluff that rises on the north side of the town. The most expensive homes in the area are located atop the bluff along with the Rocky Bluff Community Church. There are other churches in town, but the only one with a larger congregation is the Catholic church. Different churches have played major parts in some of the previous books.

In my mind, I can see this town as clearly as any I’ve ever lived in. I can hear the waves rolling in and smell the salty ocean spray. I experience the fog that comes in and often envelopes everything. I know the beach cottages, some of them well kept, but most of them in stages of disrepair. I can see the different styles of houses dotting the hill, some more modern, others built in an earlier era like Detective Doug Milligan’s small Victorian. I know what each house looks like where my characters live.

I hope when you read Dangerous Impulses you’ll come away knowing more about Rocky Bluff and the people who populate it. 

Dangerous Impulses
An attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife Wendy is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news about her pregnancy, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Here’s a handy tip for driving in the ice and snow. Keep a bag of sand or kitty litter in the trunk of your car. Scatter it around your tires when your car gets stuck on a slippery patch of road. The sand or kitty litter will give you enough traction to move your car.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Joining us for another visit today is natural remedies expert and mystery author Chrystle Fiedler. Scent to Kill is the second book in her Natural Remedies Mystery series. Chrystle is also the author of several non-fiction books as well as magazine articles on natural health, home remedies, and diet. Learn more about her and her books at her website

For a chance to win a copy of Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery, leave a comment about your favorite natural scents. Don’t forget to include your email address or check back on Sunday to learn if you’re the winner. We can’t get your book to you if we have no way of contacting you. -- AP

Scent to Kill, my latest natural remedies mystery features tips about aromatherapy which is the practice of using essential oils to improve health and well-being. Aromatherapy can ease stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, aches and pains, and more. Three of my favorite scents are lavender, jasmine and roses, so I thought I’d share a few simple tips on how to use them today.

Not only does Lavender (the Latin verb lavare means “to wash”) smell terrific, it’s calming and soothing and good for cuts and burns, insomnia, diaper rash, tension headache, PMS and cramps (use with clary sage and Roman chamomile). The phytochemicals (plant-based chemicals linalool and linalyl acetate) in lavender are absorbed in the skin and in the membranes inside your nose, slowing nerve impulses, and reducing stress. An easy way to start using lavender is to put five to ten drops of essential oil in your bath. Add the oil after you have filled the tub so you can enjoy the full benefits of this wonderful aroma.

The aroma of jasmine (Jasminum officinale v. grandiflorum) is intoxicatingly sweet, exotic, and floral. It’s also incredibly therapeutic for a variety of conditions. Jasmine essential oil eases mild depression, anxiety, and tension. It also balances energy and helps you feel more optimistic. It calms coughs and laryngitis, soothes sore muscles, stiffness, and sprains. You can apply it topically, use it on a warm or cool compress, put it in the bath, inhale it from your palm, or put it in your diffuser. It will make any room an oasis.

I love the rich, sweet floral bouquet of roses and the approximately 275 compounds have a myriad of therapeutic uses. For example, if you apply it topically, rose oil can help banish eczema, wrinkles, and acne. If you feel blue, rose essential oil will naturally lift your mood. If you have painful periods, it helps to balance hormones (just put the oil on a warm compress and apply to your lower abdomen). Rose oil also eases nervousness, anxiety, anger, sadness, and grief and can be helpful if you have respiratory problems such as allergies and hay fever. You also use rose oil to help you sleep better and feel happier. For all these conditions, simply put some on your palm and inhale it or put rose essential oil into a diffuser. Your bedroom will smell like an English garden.

Scent to Kill: A Natural Remedies Mystery

When naturopathic doctor and shop owner Willow McQuade’s ex-boyfriend Simon Lewis invites her to a party for the cast and crew of a new television show at Long Island’s scenic Bixby Estate, she’s most excited to visit the property’s exclusive lavender farm. But a whole field of her favorite stress-reducing herb can’t provide enough soothing support to calm the effects of a murder!

Even the show’s psychic star didn’t predict the demise of Roger Bixby, the estate’s owner and estranged husband of Simon’s new girlfriend. Now Simon, who’s been collared by police, needs Willow’s help to remedy the situation. As Willow snoops about the mansion, offering natural cures to ease the mounting tension, a strange energy—and the discovery of an eerily similar unsolved murder decades earlier—makes her wonder whether the alternative source of the crime might actually be . . . supernatural. Can she find harmony between mind, body, and possibly even spirits before somebody else goes up in smoke? 

As a bonus, you’ll find dozens of natural aromatherapy cures throughout the book that can improve your health. I think you’ll be surprised as how much they can help you feel better in mind, body and spirit!

Don't forget to leave a comment to enter the drawing for a copy of Scent to Kill. -- AP

Monday, February 25, 2013


Last week mystery author Lesley Diehl told us about her microbrewing mystery series set in upstate New York and gave us a recipe for Ginger Stout Muffins. Today she returns to talk about her Big Lake mystery series set in rural Florida and offers a recipe for Key Lime Pie. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website and blog. -- AP

Sweet and Savory Characters, Sweet and Savory Food, Part 2

In my series set in rural Florida (Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Chilled and Killed), my tiny woman protagonist, Emily Rhodes, is a retired preschool teacher who, out of financial necessity, takes a job as the head bartender at the local country club. 

Small she might be, but Emily is not sweet Sally.  She’s a tough woman who’s herded around her share of preschoolers and survived.  As a bartender these tough qualities make her able to keep the cowboys, bass fishermen and even a local detective sweet on her in line.

The sweet woman in these tales is Emily’s next-door neighbor Vicki, who loves to bake pastries and pies and has won prizes for them.  Vicki comes through in some touchy moments, offering the cantankerous bass fisherman, also fond of Emily, and the detective a piece of Key lime pie sweet/tart, enough to take the edge of both these difficult men. 

Emily is fortunate Vicki is not as conservative as the rest of the community.  Vicki is horrified that Fred, Emily’s partner, wrote no will, leaving Emily without a house or car, possessions in Fred’s name only, but she doesn’t blame Emily for the situation.   

It is Vicki’s idea that Emily take a mixologist class to become a bartender.  Emily has other friends, but Vicki’s sense of fun always keeps Emily seeing the bright side of every situation.  Fun and a pie.  What could be better?

There are many recipes for Key Lime Pie, but I think this one is the best.

Vicki’s Key Lime Pie

1 9" graham cracker crust or make your own
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 c. Key lime juice (this can usually be found at most supermarkets in bottles, see note below)

Combine milk, egg yolks and juice.  Blend until smooth. Pour filling into crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. 

Allow to stand for 10 minutes, then refrigerate.  Cool several hours. 

Top with whipped cream and decorate with key lime slices if you have them.

Note:  Do not make this with regular lime juice (you know, the green limes; Key Limes are tiny and yellow) unless you want a regular lime pie, not Key Lime pie. 

Grilled, Chilled and Killed
In the second Big Lake Mystery, Emily Rhodes, retired preschool teacher and bartender turned amateur snoop, wonders if she is destined to discover dead bodies. This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbeque cook-off dead and covered in barbeque sauce in a beer cooler. She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


early 1800's patchwork quilt
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history fostered by her paternal grandmother and an incurable case of wanderlust inherited from her father. A lifelong dream came true with a trip to England where she was able to combine sightseeing and theater with research for her novels. Today she’s here to tell us about colonial crafts and her latest book. Learn more about Linda at her website and blog.

This is the second stop of Linda’s Rogue's Hostage Blog Tour, and she's offering a great giveaway to a lucky reader who comments during the tour. Leave a comment with your email address to be entered for a $10.00 gift certificate of the winner's choice: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, etc. Contest ends March 3. -- AP

Colonial Crafts
Crafts are considered hobbies nowadays, but in Colonial America they were necessities of life. Farm women, in particular, had to know how to sew, knit, and quilt, for shops were often far away and seldom visited. Little girls learned their stitches at the same time they learned their letters, sewing samplers made of different kinds of stitches. Knitting was useful for scarves and even stockings.

Quilting was especially important, given the cold winters in America. Warm covers were needed for beds, and the layers in the quilt helped to keep in body heat. Quilted curtains hung at windows and over doors to keep out the drafts. Scraps left over from the sewing of garments were used for quilting and almost all quilts of the period were patchwork. Clothing was also quilted, including petticoats, hoods and capes as well as waistcoats for men.

Quilting bees provided an excuse for a social event. When the women were finished, the men showed up for supper and dancing. In The Seasonal Hearth: The Woman at Home in Early America by Adelaide Hechtlinger, I found a diary entry from a Virginia housewife:

April 28, 1772 - Invited to a quilting party at Martha Washington's… I have many pieces to be exchanged for other cotton goods. However, I have been doing some samplers and Susan, although only 7, has made two this winter.

Pretty nice invitation!

In my historical romance, Rogue’s Hostage, my heroine Mara finds comfort in the homely task of knitting after being taken captive and dragged far from her home.

Rogue's Hostage
His hostage... 

In 1758 the Pennsylvania frontier is wild, primitive and dangerous, where safety often lies at the end of a gun. Mara Dupré's life crumbles when a French and Indian war party attacks her cabin, kills her husband, and takes her captive. Marching through the wilderness strengthens her resolve to flee, but she doesn't count on her captor teaching her the meaning of courage and the tempting call of desire.

Her destiny...

French lieutenant Jacques Corbeau's desire for his captive threatens what little honor he has left.  But when Mara desperately offers herself to him in exchange for her freedom, he finds the strength to refuse and reclaims his lost self-respect. As the shadows of his past catch up to him, Jacques realizes that Mara, despite the odds, is the one true key to reclaiming his soul and banishing his past misdeeds forever.

Buy Link

Thursday, February 21, 2013


One day Arkansas farm girl Keri Ford picked up a copy of Cosmo and read an excerpt of Christina’s Skye’s Code Name: Princess. Her life would never be the same. She now writes romances as Kerri Ford and romantic mysteries as Charley Colins. Visit Kerri/Charley at her website to learn more about her and her books. -- AP

The Secret Stash

Sara Livingston, heroine of Taken By Trouble, isn’t the craftiest girl out there. Not in the sense of gluing and sewing. She’s crafty in her thoughts, but she has the occasional moment.

She is a total and complete chocoholic. It’s one of the first things that draws her to the hero—she smells chocolate on his shirt. From fun sized to king size, it’s sweet, sweet comfort food. When things really hit the fan, Sara lays on the floor with a bag of chocolates and eats the whole bag. When the hero, Clark, returns, he finds her surrounded by wrappers.

Everybody needs this survival kit. While Sara’s kit had been brought to her, many of us aren’t so lucky. And when we bring chocolate in the house, husbands, kids, pets, visitors all seem to think it’s a free-for all.

So, for you crafty readers, I suggest a secret stash.

Clark has a secret stash in the bottom drawer of a dresser. And in his bag. Both are for when Sara’s hair is on end. (She eventually finds both…he needs to hide better if he wants to ration them out!)

I secret stash, too. I’m the only one who eats somewhat healthy in this house, so a handful of treats stuck behind the fruit will go unnoticed. I have decorative boxes by my desk filled with office supplies. (psst…paper and pens aren’t all that’s in there!). Here’s some secret stash ideas:

-Old purses hanging in the closet.
-The bowl in the cabinet you keep because it belonged to your great-great aunt, but you never use it.
-An empty tampon box (or half full…you never know).
-Behind your shoe rack.
-The pockets of your robe.
-Pull all your books forward and inch, fill the new space behind them.

Where are you stashing the goods, and do you have any other ideas?

Taken By Trouble
It’s not every day a girl takes out the trash and is nearly run over for it, but that’s exactly what happens to Sara Livingston. Manager and waitress at a bar, Sara typically spends her days serving drinks and turning up the TV volume on the latest sports game, a job that is quite enough to make her mostly liked by all. When she’s dropped into a game of cat and mouse with a stalker, she has no idea who could be behind the wheel of the truck or why they want her flattened on the pavement.

With her private eye brother out of town, she’s relying on her brother’s coworker, Clark Russells, to keep her from eating asphalt.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


If you’re prone to dandruff, you know it’s worse in the winter, thanks to the lower humidity. Aside from using an anti-dandruff shampoo, there are other things you can do to reduce or eliminate dandruff. Try using a humidifier at night and shampooing with warm, not hot water. Hot water dries out your scalp as well as your skin. It’s also a good idea to avoid hair products that contain alcohol.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


photo by Marcin Bober

Sandy Rowland is both an award-winning author of paranormal and fantasy romance and a massage therapist and life coach. Today she’s here to tell us about the benefits of massage and talk a bit about one of her books. Learn more about Sandy at her website. -- AP

The Benefits of Massage, the Healing Touch.

I’m an author and a licensed massage therapist, so when I was asked to do a short article on the benefits of massage, I was ecstatic! In our mechanized, fast paced society people rarely speak face to face, much less touch each other. Losing personal contact is unfortunate because touch heals.

Here are some of the benefits uncovered from years of scientific study:

~Premature infants gain weight faster when regularly touched.

~Massage releases the body’s natural endorphins. These chemicals lesson pain, help to control anxiety, and relieve depression and stress.

~Massage boosts immunity.

~It lowers Blood pressure.

~It’s useful in treating sports injuries.

~It aids those with muscle and joint stiffness in maintaining mobility.

And as an added perk—It feels wonderful!

Now that you know the benefits of massage, let’s find out what kinds are available. Here is a short list:

Swedish massage: great for relaxation and overall health.

Deep tissue: used to release long held tension and physical issues.

Sports massage: to promote flexibility, prevent injury and aid in healing.

Shiatsu: Japanese acupressure massage for relaxation and promoting the body’s energy flow.

There are many other modalities and one will be just right for you. All massage will increase circulation, promote healing and relaxation. Consider adding a monthly massage to your wellness plan. If you’re dealing with a particular health issue, more often treatments might be in order.

I hope you found this introduction to massage and touch beneficial. Do something good for yourself and others, hug your family and friends. Hold your loved ones. Touch.

Apollo’s Gift, the first novel in the Greek Gods Series. The romantic fantasy centers on Olympian deity and their efforts to gain love while they save mortals from the threat of evil in the form of the powerful group, Hydra:

The golden god, Apollo, will pay any price to win the heart of Cassandra, the reincarnated prophetess of ancient Troy. Even his soul.

Cassie Priam is licking her wounds following her latest romantic disaster. To hell with love; it’s fiction, and she’s done believing in myths.

A snare has been set, and Apollo stepped into it when he wagered with Hades. Gaining Cassie’s love is a herculean task. She refuses to believe he exists despite her attraction to his chiseled perfection. He’s a dream. The kind that keeps her up at night and invades her thoughts during the day. Why can’t a man like that be real?

But Cassie’s dreams veer into reality as visions of destruction threatens Greece and Apollo appears in the flesh.  Can Apollo and Cassie learn to love, and believe in each other before Hydra levels Athens, and they lose both their lives and their souls to Hades?

Monday, February 18, 2013


A retired professor of psychology, mystery author Lesley Diehl divides her time between the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York and the part of Florida that’s home to cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. She’s author of both short stories and several mystery series. Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website and blog. -- AP

Sweet and Savory Characters, Sweet and Savory Food, Part 1

In a culinary sense most of my characters have to be considered savory.  My protagonists are country gals with attitude.  They are sassy, bold and even hot.  Hera Knightsbridge, the owner of the microbrewery in upstate New York, is a stubborn woman who doesn’t let the community, the bank, the college or people with important connections  stop her from taking control and tracking down killers in both  A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings.  When her lover, the assistant deputy sheriff warns her to back off, she ignores his good advice.

I decided to create Hera when I visited a microbrewery some years ago.  I wanted a protagonist who engaged in work atypical of a woman.  I knew little about making beer, but I was certain I didn’t like it.  Until I toured microbreweries and tasted craft-brewed beer, my opinion was that beer was blue collar and it was consumed primarily by men.  How wrong I was.  I now know more about microbrews.  They are complex, carefully brewed by master brewers with art and skill.  There is as much written about pairing beer and food as there is wine and food. Lagers and ales won’t replace wine as my favorite drink with food, but I find they go well with many foods including barbeque, boiled shrimp or burgers.  They can be successfully drunk with more gourmet items by those who know how to accomplish the best culinary pairings, but as Hera points out in Poisoned Pairings, there are no rules, so experiment to see what you like.

I knew it was possible to cook with beer, but I thought only of savory dishes not sweet ones.  It’s true my microbrewing series features a savory gal as protagonist, but there’s also Hera’s best friend, sweet little Sally who operates a bakery and tea room.  Sally is the kind of best friend we all want to have.  She’s generous, kind and fun to be around.  Her only fault seems to be how taken in she is by some men.  One of them is the same man Hera has loved since she was a teen.  Instead of competing for his favors, the two women consider their friendship more important.  When Sally’s relationship with him takes an unusual turn, Hera is there to support her.  Sassy protags can be sweet, too.

Good friends who accept and love us despite our cantankerous ways.  Sweet and savory.  I like to have both types of women in my writing and my life.  Do you?

Here’s one of my favorite beer recipes.  It will surprise you because it’s not savory, but sweet.  These muffins are perfect for the cold, snowy weather some of us have been experiencing lately.

Warm Your Honey’s Toes Ginger Stout Cake or Muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tablespoon candied ginger (finely chopped) or 1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
12 ounces stout (Use your favorite stout from a local microbrewery.  I do!
½ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin pans or 13X9 baking pan. Combine flour, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and cloves; set aside.

Beat butter and candied ginger with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add sugars; beat to combine. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Mix stout and molasses to combine and add to wet ingredients. Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions, with the beer mixture; beating until combined and scraping down side of bowl as needed.  Batter will be runny.

Pour into the muffin pans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes over 24 muffins.  If using cake pan, bake 45 minutes.  In both cases, muffins or cake is done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Note: You may also make this as mini-muffins.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes.  Test with toothpick.  Make about 80 minis.
Cake and muffins do not round up when baked.

Try with a dollop of ginger spiced whipped cream or top with a slice of crystallized ginger.

Poisoned Pairings
In this sequel to A Deadly Draft, the threat of hydraulic fracturing, an environmentally controversial technique to extract gas from shale, invades Butternut Valley. Hera Knightsbridge and her fellow microbrewers fear it will pollute the water, their most precious ingredient, as well as destroy the beauty of the valley. Then murder visits Hera's brewery. When investigator and love interest Jake is called away, Hera is on her own and must confront a murderer as well as ghosts from her past.