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, October 31, 2013


An Amazon Kindle top ten bestselling historical romance author, Tracey J. Lyons (aka Tracey Sorel) also writes contemporary romance. She sold her first book on 9/9/99! Tracey’s books have been translated into several languages. To learn more about Tracey's books visit her Tracey Lyons and Tracey Sorel websites.

1. When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I always had a creative streak in me, but didn’t know writing novels was what I wanted to do until after I read my first romance novel way back in the 1970’s.

2. How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

It took me roughly ten years to get published after I finished my first novel. And I never sold the first one. I sold the third one I’d written.

3. Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I’m a hybrid author.

4. Where do you write?

I used to write in a tiny guest room and I recently moved into our empty guesthouse. And I have to say I love, love, love having a space that’s entirely my own.

5. Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

Silence is not golden for me. I actually listen to a radio station I became a fan of when I lived in Northern California. Kfog. It makes me feel close to my California friends and family even though I now live back east. They play a great mix of music and if it starts to bug me I just shut it off.

6. How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

This is a great question. My oldest sister just finished reading Zinfandelity and she called me and said, “I see shades of our mother in this book!” I think all writers bring their life to their work. We naturally draw on what we know and how we’ve lived. My historical Women of Surprise series features three cousins, but each one of them is actually based on myself and my two sisters. And that was so much fun to write because I had every little personality quirk down.

7. Describe your process for naming your character.

In the beginning of my writing I did what all authors do, I used the names of family members and friends. But now I really take the time to match the character’s names to their personas using the internet for ideas and I keep a baby naming book on my desk that lists names and origins.

8. Real settings or fictional towns?

A mixture of both. My first four historicals are set in actual New York State towns, North Creek and Surprise, while the series I’m working on now is set in the fictional town of Heartston, NY. My contemporary Wine Country Vixen book, Zinfandelity, is set in the actual California city of Livermore.

9. What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

In Zinfandelity the heroine’s mother likes to wear outdated thrift shop clothing.

10. What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I’m sure I have too many to name!

11. If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

The You I Never Knew by Susan Wiggs. I loved that book and it really resonated with me. I would love to be able to tell the story of a couple who had lost a child, the marriage falling apart and then another family tragedy bringing them back together. And I read that book years ago and can still remember the storyline! That’s powerful writing.

12. Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

I wish I had had the confidence to break into this business in the 1980’s when I first started writing. I had no clue where to send my manuscripts and often think how much further along I’d be if I knew then what I know now.

13. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Professionally my biggest pet peeve is how everyone seems to want to be doing what everyone else is doing. Be brave! Make your own mark on the publishing world! Personally, there are so many…I can’t stand it when my husband puts the dishes away in the wrong spot. You know, that mixing bowl that ends up with the plates and not in the baking drawer with all the other mixing bowls.

14. You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

I was going to say chocolate but then it would melt and make a big mess in the sand, so drinking water, potato chips and big book that I could read over and over again…I bet you thought I was going to say pen and paper…no…because I figure I can write in the sand with my finger.

15. What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I was the soda girl at Burger King when they first opened in our town.

16. What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil

17. What’s your favorite movie?

Apocalypse Now

18. What’s your favorite TV show?

Picket Fences

19. Who’s your favorite actor?

I don’t really have one in particular.

20. What’s your favorite song?

“Home” by Philip Philips

21. What’s your favorite food?


22. Ocean or mountains?


23. City girl or country girl?

Country all the way

24. What’s on the horizon for you?

Right now I’m working on a new inspirational historical series set in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. I’m also working on the next book in my Tracey Sorel Wine Country Vixen series. 

25. Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

I want to leave your readers with this: the publishing business is crazy. How crazy you ask? A few short months ago I was ready to throw in the towel on my career and I’m glad I didn’t because I just hit the Amazon Kindle top ten best seller list in three categories with a book that had been published in print almost ten years ago. The digital age is breathing new life into our books and our careers. Never give up because you don’t know what’s waiting for you around the next corner!

The summertime in Northern California is known for its hot dry weather, Beth Chadwick should know since she’s been going through a bit of a dry spell herself. Her marriage is falling apart. She knows exactly how many pairs of black socks her husband owns and how much starch he likes in his shirts, so when she matches the lipstick stain on his collar to the shade on his secretary’s lips, she knows he’s a cheating bastard.
She has her friends to keep her together. But they come with their own set of problems. Her best friend Madge is hoping to close the circle on her open marriage.  Joyce, the devout Catholic, thinks her daughter might be practicing witchcraft.  The widow Samantha is caught in the middle of a real triple-decker of a sandwich generation, and Kathy may have uncovered a corpse in her front yard. These women really get Beth’s need for a new life. But, how is she going to get past her stand-by-your-man mother and her soon to be ex-husband? Can their problems be solved over a few glasses of wine?

And then there’s the little matter of the hot photographer camping out in Beth’s backyard…

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Will Doc McStuffin or Wolverine be ringing your doorbell today? Most likely you’ll see many of both, depending on the age and sex of the trick or treaters in your neighborhood. According to one survey, the top five kids’ Halloween costumes for 2013 will be the characters from Despicable Me 2, Monster’s University, various superheroes, Sofia the First, and Doc McStuffin.

You might also find a few creative DIY costumes among adults. According to one recent newspaper article some top trending ideas for costumes are Flo, the Progressive Insurance spokesperson; Grumpy Cat; the guys from Duck Dynasty; and homages to Sharknado.

Of course, we’ll still see lots of princesses, Disney or otherwise, along with witches. Zombies will still be seen prowling the streets, as well as the occasional vampire, and you’ll probably notice a Walter White here and there. Hopefully, you won’t open your door to find a Honey Boo Boo or twerking Miley Cyrus, but you never know.

Happy Halloween from all of us at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. Don’t steal too much of your kids’ candy!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda to an Irish mother and British father. She’s lived in Germany and Austria and now resides in Wuthering Heights territory. She joins us today to share her love of decorating with antiques and tell us about her latest novel. Learn more about Helena at her website. 

Decorating with Antiques

Buying and selling antiques has become a popular pastime, and using antiques in your home is a great way to provide individual style.  Antiques are also more affordable than you might think.  Most antique shops don’t just stock the more valuable items such as Royal Worcester vases or seventeenth century oak furniture.  You will find an array of items covering a range of prices…and there’s nothing more fascinating than picking your way through the display!

Incorporating antiques into a modern home might seem like a contradiction in terms, but one or two vintage items of furniture can make a striking addition. If you are not keen on bringing in larger items, then a few vases, a bowl or an antique print can add interest.

It’s easy to get carried away in antique shops (or maybe that’s just me!), so to prevent your house looking like a mish-mash of styles, try to concentrate on your color scheme, or perhaps on one particular period whose style you love.

My terraced house in the north of England, for example, was built during the Victorian era, but I personally find the typical Victorian style a little too ornate and fussy.   The Victorians were great ones for frills and bows and tartan dresses, parlors cluttered with ornaments, and showy jewelry. 

The art nouveau period, at the turn of the twentieth century, swept away all these frills and furbelows, and it's a style I love.

Art nouveau is French for "new art."  It's hard to sum up in words what this new art meant, but I'll try!  To me, art nouveau is all about dramatic, curving lines with themes and colours taken from nature.  Sadly, the original stained glass windows in my house are long gone :( , but I have a replica which encapsulates the art nouveau style.

A stained glass window is one of the more pricey ways of incorporating your chosen style in your décor, but having the style you want needn’t cost a great deal.  For example, I picked up a cheap, battered wardrobe in an antique shop and covered it in a modern wallpaper.  It’s also possible to buy replica antiques, such as the replica lampshade which hangs in my hallway.

Buying antiques for your home is a great way to show your individual style.  And who knows…one day the piece you bought for a song might be worth a fortune :)

The heroine of my latest novel is a woman who knows all about the world of antiques, but maybe a little less about affairs of the heart…until she meets my gorgeous hero!

The Antique Love
One rainy day in London, Wyoming man Kurt Bold walks into an antique shop off the King’s Road and straight into the dreams of its owner, Penny Rosas. Lively, spirited and imaginative, Penny takes this handsome stranger for a romantic cowboy straight from the pages of a book. Kurt certainly looks every inch the hero…but he soon brings Penny’s dreams to earth with a thump. His job is in the City, in the logical world of finance—and as far as Kurt is concerned, romance is just for dreamers. Events in his childhood have shown him just how destructive love can be. Now he’s looking for a wife, right enough, but what he wants is a marriage based on logic and rational decisions. Kurt treats Penny like he would his kid sister, but when he hires her to help refurbish his beautiful Victorian house near Richmond Park, it’s not long before he starts to realize it’s not just his home she’s breathing life into. The logical heart he has guarded so carefully all these years is opening up to new emotions, in a most disturbing way…

Monday, October 28, 2013


It’s always a pleasure to welcome a fellow Jersey girl to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. With us today is Rosie Genova author of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. An English teacher by day and novelist by night, Rosie also writes women’s fiction as Rosemary DiBattista. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

There’s a moment in my book, Murder and Marinara, when things look particularly dark for the staff of the Casa Lido, the restaurant at the center of the series. The chef responds by making a frittata, an egg-based dish that is one part quiche, one part omelet. And while the characters’ problems aren’t solved for another hundred pages, at least they get a warm, comforting meal.

In real life, I’m a big fan of Italian food that might be categorized as cucina rustica, or as we say in English, comfort food. Particularly at this time of year, I turn to favorites like roasted sausage with peppers and polenta; pasta with pancetta; greens with garlic and white beans, and one I  recently served up: a lovely frittata rounded out with a green salad and homemade bread.

The frittata pictured came about at the end of a long day. I was tired, nothing was defrosted, and I didn’t want pizza. In the refrigerator were some leftover roasted potatoes with caramelized onions and a package of fresh mozzarella. I always have eggs on hand; ditto Progresso flavored bread crumbs, a staple no Italian kitchen is ever without. I sliced the potatoes thin, estimated how much cheese to slice (then added six more slices) and scrambled up some eggs with freshly ground pepper, salt, grated Parm, and the flavored crumbs, making sure to get every last piece of sweet browned onions in there. I started it on the stove in the cast iron pan and finished it off in the oven. While it set up, I threw together a salad and warmed up half a loaf of bread. With a glass of strong red wine, that meal was nirvana. And I put it together in just about the time it would have taken me to get to the pizza place and back. 

The recipe below is a more formalized version of my thrown-together version, but this is a dish with many variations:

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 quarter of a large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
5 ounces of baby arugula (or baby spinach, escarole, or other tender green)
8 large eggs
¼ pound of fontina cheese cut into cubes (or fresh or regular mozzarella)
½ teaspoon of salt, or more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper, or several twists of a grinder
Italian flavored bread crumbs and grated cheese for topping

1.             Pre-heat oven to 350°.
2.             Heat oil in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron pan or other heavy ovenproof skillet. Cook the onion over medium heat, separating it into ribbons until nicely browned. Add arugula and cook, stirring frequently until wilted, about 2 minutes.
3.             Whisk together the eggs, cheese, salt and pepper until frothy. Pour over arugula and onions in the skillet and cook over medium heat without stirring until almost set, about 5-6 minutes.
4.             Remove from heat and sprinkle bread crumbs and cheese over the top. Bake for about 15 minutes until edges are golden brown and center is set.

(You don’t have to be limited to this recipe, however. You can do as I did, and use leftovers, any other veggies of your choice, or meats such as crumbled cooked Italian sausage, sautéed pancetta, or ham.)

Murder and Marinara
Hit whodunit writer Victoria Rienzi is getting back to her roots by working at her family’s Italian restaurant. But now in between plating pasta and pouring vino, she’ll have to find the secret ingredient in a murder.... 

When Victoria takes a break from penning her popular mystery series and moves back to the Jersey shore, she imagines sun, sand, and scents of fresh basil and simmering marinara sauce at the family restaurant, the Casa Lido. But her nonna’s recipes aren’t the only things getting stirred up in this Italian kitchen.

Their small town is up in arms over plans to film a new reality TV show, and when Victoria serves the show’s pushy producer his last meal, the Casa Lido staff finds itself embroiled in a murder investigation. Victoria wants to find the real killer, but there are as many suspects as tomatoes in her nonna’s garden. Now she’ll have to heat up her sleuthing skills quickly…before someone else gets a plateful of murder. 

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Sunday, October 27, 2013


A few months ago I featured projects for making a bowl and a trivet from magazine pages. Today, another project that will help you repurpose those magazines rather than tossing in the recycling bin.

Jewelry-making with beads is a very popular craft right now, but those beads at the craft store can cost a pretty penny. Here’s how to make your own beads from paper.

Paper Beads

glossy magazine pages, 1” x 4” and 1/2” x 8” pieces of light-weight cardboard or index stock, ruler, pencil, scissors, wooden skewer or 1/16” diameter dowel, tacky glue, glossy acrylic varnish or clear nailpolish, small paintbrush, block of floral foam or Styrofoam®

1. Mark the center of one short end of each piece of cardboard. Draw a line from each corner of the opposite short end to the center point to form a triangle. Cut out the two triangles. These will be used as templates to make two different sized beads.

2. Using the templates, trace triangles onto magazine pages. Cut out the paper triangles.

3. For each bead, apply a dab of tacky glue to the wrong side of the triangle point. Beginning at the wide end, roll the paper tightly around the dowel, make sure to keep the triangle centered as you roll.

4. Glue the tip to the rolled paper. Allow to dry.

5. Apply acrylic varnish or clear nail polish to the beads. Insert dowel into block of floral foam or Styrofoam® until varnish is completely dry.

6. Remove paper beads from dowel and use as you would any beads in jewelry-making projects.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Love to read? Of course you do! And you'll love the Fussy Librarian. We do! Sign up for their newsletter, and you'll receive a daily email suggesting books based on your interests and content preferences.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Suzy Turner is a Brit living in Portugal. She’s worked as a journalist, assistant editor, features editor, and magazine editor. Nearly four years ago she turned her attention to fiction and has since written six young adult novels and recently published her first chick lit novel, Forever Fredless. Today she joins us with a sneak peek at that book. Learn more about Suzy at her website, her chick lit blog, and her YA blog. – AP

Forever Fredless
Kate Robinson has spent the past two decades yearning to find her soul mate, the boy she found and then lost during a family holiday. Shortly after her twenty-eighth birthday, however, she inherits a fortune from an old family friend and becomes something of an overnight celebrity. Can her new-found fame lead her to him after all this time?

Thank God for anti-perspirant, I thought as I sat on the couch and waited for the countdown to begin. I clutched at my hands until they were white and looked across at the two people sitting opposite, both completely at ease in front of the cameras.

Five, four, three, two, one...

'Welcome back to this morning's edition of Good Morning GB,' announced Ireland Rothschild, the blonde-haired, blue eyed darling of morning TV. 'I'm here with Fergus O'Reilly and we've a special guest with us this morning. None other than Britain's love-struck multi-millionaire, Kate Robinson. 'Welcome, Kate,' she said with a dazzling smile aimed more towards the camera than at me.

As my cheeks began to heat up, I was so grateful to the make-up artist, who had insisted on caking on the foundation before the show had started. In fact, I had so much make-up on that I was hoping once I'd removed it, nobody would recognise me when I headed to the airport in my now rather stupidly chosen car. I couldn't exactly blend in driving a pink Mini could I?

'Good morning,' I whispered shyly.

Fergus grinned back at me, tilting his head as if he was about to speak to a child. 'Now, tell us, Kate dear, how does it feel to never have to worry about money ever again?' he asked, his toothpaste advert teeth twinkling beneath the heat of the studio lights.

'Erm, well, I guess it's... erm, kind of... erm,' I felt so bloody stupid. Great time for my brain to stop working. 'I - erm. Great,' I nodded. 'Great, really great.' Idiot.

Ireland glanced across at her grey-haired colleague and pouted before nodding. 'Tell us how you knew this man. This,' she glanced down at the iPad on her lap and continued, 'Samuel?'

I cleared my throat and lifted my head, feeling like my brain was back in action. 'He was a very good friend of the family, some years ago,' I answered.

'Just a friend? Why did he leave you all his money and his property?' asked Fergus.

'He didn't have any family and I guess you could say that my mother and I were the closest he ever had to a family.'

'Isn't that lovely?' pouted Ireland. 'You certainly are a lucky woman. But what about your mother? Didn't she receive any of his inheritance?'

'No,' I said before swallowing hard. 'My mother lives a rather... nomadic lifestyle, in Africa. She doesn't want any of it. All she asked of me was to donate a sum to charity which, of course, I have done.'

'She lives in Africa? A nomadic lifestyle? That sounds intriguing. Perhaps we should interview her one of these days,' laughed Ireland and Fergus together.

'Have you splashed out on anything since receiving your inheritance back in June?' they asked, leaning forward eagerly awaiting my answer.

'Yes I have actually. I bought a car and a new house.'

'Well good for you, Kate. But now, most of us are curious about this boy you lost. Tell us about him?'

Oh no. Why did I agree to this?

Taking a deep breath, I knew I had no choice. Several articles had been printed since the one in Liberty; everyone wanted to know more and nobody was going to leave me alone until I told them everything.

'He was just a boy who I had a connection with when I was much, much younger. It was at Skegness. At an afternoon disco for kids. I was dancing and I felt someone touch my back and when I turned around there he was.  The most beautiful boy I'd ever seen,' I said, stopping and smiling as I reminisced. ‘It was one of the happiest memories of my life.'
Sighing, I continued, 'We just looked at each other and it was like everything else just disappeared into the background. We stood staring, for what seemed like ages. I could barely move. And then, almost as soon as it had begun, my dad appeared and took me away. I couldn't do anything as we walked to the car. I looked around for the boy but he was gone. And then, just as we were driving away, I turned around in my seat and there he was. He had a daffodil in his hand. I always assumed he'd gone to pick it for me, but that's just a childish fantasy, I guess. The whole thing is probably nothing but a childish fantasy, really.'

Ireland was very carefully dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, pretending to be moved, while Fergus smiled sadly.

'What a beautiful story, Kate. I don't believe for one second that this is a childish fantasy. It's romantic and beautiful,' Ireland said.

'Now, tell us, Kate. Why did you call him Fred?' asked Fergus.

Smiling, I explained about the Right Said Fred song, just as the music began in the background.

'What a wonderful tale. Thank you, Kate, for joining us today. It's been a pleasure having you with us to share your story,' said Fergus.

'Thank you,' I whispered before the camera moved back to Ireland as she straightened her skirt and looked alluring.

'Do you remember this moment in time?' she asked. 'Are you the elusive Fred? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact us at...'

Before I could hear anything else, I was ushered off the couch and back behind the scenes where Jo stood, waiting patiently for me, with open arms.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Pompeii with Vesuvius in background

In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted, instantly killing the citizens of Pompeii and burying the city in upwards of twenty feet of ash and pumice. The city was soon forgotten until it was rediscovered by accident in 1599 during the digging of an underground channel but was soon forgotten again. In 1748 it was rediscovered, and excavation began in earnest. However, many of the discoveries were reburied due to archeological censorship because the Romans of 79 AD were far more sexually liberated than eighteenth century Europeans.

Statuary and household items found during excavation
Due to the lack of air and moisture, the city and most of its artifacts were almost completely intact when discovered. Pompeii is one of few sites where an ancient city has been so well preserved. Life was literally frozen in time on that fateful day. Plaster was used to fill the areas between the ash layers to make casts of the exact positions of the citizens at the moment of their death.

A street in Pompeii
As you walk the streets of Pompeii, you see incredible details—bars and bakeries, bathhouses, streets with tracks for carriages to provide smooth rides. There’s even a house with a mosaic plaque warning visitors to “Cave Canem” or “Beware of the Dog.” 

Altar inside a private home
Frescoed walls in private home
Frescoes still adorn interior walls of homes and bathhouses. Street signs discretely direct men to the Lupanar, the ancient brothel adorned with pornographic frescoes.

Pompeii has been a tourist destination for over 250 years and is still not fully excavated. It’s a must-see for anyone traveling to Italy.