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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR PATY JAGER'S BEST BLONDIES

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of thirty-two novels, six novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them. Learn more about Paty and her books at her website.

Boo!

Did I scare you?

Probably not, but you would have scared me. Yes, I jump at loud noises and someone touching me when I don’t know they are there. My sons loved to wait in a recess in our hallway and jump out and scare me when I’d have an armload of laundry or anything that might fly in the air as I screamed.

Which would make you think, given I am such a scaredy-cat, that I would hate Halloween. I actually loved the holiday as a child. I’d think about my costume for weeks because it was the only time my mother let me play with makeup, wear earrings, and dress in clothing that I wouldn’t normally get to wear. And I loved the candy. I was a chubby child. I adored my sweets, and Halloween was a night where we were given candy, popcorn balls, candied apples…yes, that dates me. I went trick or treating before you couldn’t hand out handmade goodies. It was before there were worries of razor blades in popcorn balls and drugs in cookies.

When my kids were in grade school, the PTA put on a Halloween or Harvest festival with games and treats. At the time my husband had a walking floor semi-trailer. Which meant the floor of the trailer would move. We would set up a haunted house in the trailer and send the kids through. It was tricky standing up and being scared at the same time. I was the witch at the door. I didn’t need to be surprised by the people I knew were in there.

As the kids grew older, we had parties at our house. We’d have spiced cider, caramel corn, and cookies. Here is a recipe that is a hit with my family. I make it all year long because we have one granddaughter with dietary restrictions. She can have these if made with real vanilla.

Best Blondies

Ingredients:
8 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups light-brown sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 325°. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in the sugar until smooth. Removed from heat and let cool. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat in the eggs one at a time into the sugar mixture. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture gradually. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until blondies come away from the sides of the pan. 50- 60 minutes. Cool completely before cutting. Makes 16 squares.

Haunting Corpse

A runaway bride, murder, and arson has Shandra Higheagle sleuthing again. Sorting through the debris of her best friend’s childhood, Shandra believes she must solve the murder before her friend becomes the next victim.

Stumbling upon a dead body, Detective Ryan Greer is determined to bring the killer to justice before Shandra becomes too entangled in her friend’s dysfunctional past. He hopes he’s not too late. Her deceased grandmother has already visited her dreams, putting Shandra in the middle of his investigation and danger.


Monday, October 30, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR MAUREEN BONATCH ON #HALLOWEEN COSTUMES

Maureen Bonatch writes paranormal romance and fantasy. While writing, she survives on caffeine, wine, music, and laughter with her feisty Shih Tzu keeping her in line. Learn more about Maureen and her books at her website. 

My Favorite Halloween Costumes
When I was a kid, I thought Halloween was all about the candy—that, and the terrifying movies and shows dominating the airtime for the month of October. Even though I was afraid to watch any of the scary shows, the previews were enough to fill me with fright. Try growing up at the height of the Nightmare o Elm Street movies when you lived, yep—on Elm Street. Throw in a graveyard at the top of your road and you’ve got a month of sleepless nights. I’d breathe a sigh of relief when November rolled around and bombarded the screen with happy Christmas stories.

But before I rushed through the Halloween holiday, there was still one thing I enjoyed almost as much as the candy, and that was dressing up.

Halloween Costumes Back in the Day
As a shy kid, dressing up gave me a boost of confidence to face down the creatures of the night and march right up to a house and demand candy. After a few years of being a ghost, or a hobo (smear dirt on your face or black makeup, tie your hair in a bandanna and another on a stick and —presto! Hobo costume!) I finally got my first cherished store bought Halloween costume. The I Dream of Jeannie costume complete with a plastic, uncomfortable mask and a paper-thin outfit you usually tore when you tried to pull it over your clothes—and I absolutely loved it. I should’ve known then that I was destined to write paranormal and fantasy.

Funny how nowadays people are impressed with a handmade costume, but back in the day, we all wanted something store bought.

Halloween Costumes Today
As the years went by I found myself navigating toward ‘standard girl costumes’ like sexy cat, belly dancer, sexy devil, Elvira etc., until the year I dressed up like a zombie. The freedom of not worrying how my makeup and hair looked (it was supposed to be a mess) and the ability to eat candy as an adult and not worry about fitting into my tight costume was awesome. Plus once I realized I’d truly embraced the joy of dressing up for the fun of it, and was a scary creature myself, I lost more of my fear of what goes bump in the night.

I still dress up every year but it’s usually to hand out candy—except for the pieces I keep for myself.

Evil Speaks Softly
They were never supposed to meet. Fame came easy for Liv by following in the footsteps of the female writers in her family. The cycle repeated for decades…until Liv changed the story. Her villain doesn’t like the revision—and he isn’t a fictional character. In his story, the bad guy always wins.

They were never supposed to find love. Liv never questioned her demanding nocturnal muse, or the strange incidents in her old, family home until she met Gage. His job was to watch her from afar, not reveal the truth about the curse and the stories of the dead.

They’ve broken all the rules. Together they unravel secrets as they strive to stop the cycle. Liv’s ability to find love, and protect her loved ones, hangs on the fickle whims of the dead—and they’ve got nothing to lose.


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Friday, October 27, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR MIN EDWARDS

Min Edwards is the pen name of archaeologist, former bookstore owner, and proprietor of A Thirsty Mind Book Design, Pam Headrick. She writes from the office in her 200 year-old farmhouse on the shores of Cobscook Bay, an arm of the Bay of Fundy. And her village, Lubec, Maine is the most eastern town in the U.S., the site of Quoddy Head State Park and the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse where people gather from all over the world on January 1 to great the first sunrise on the coast of America. Learn more about Min and her books at her website.  

As we move into the holiday season, I think we’re all thinking of our families, our past... recalling our choices and why we made them. At least that’s what I’m doing again this year.

I had a lovely life in a community just outside of Austin, Texas for thirty years. I lived near my retired parents. My brother visited often. My son loved his school. But of course, we all grew older and things happened. But in 2011 I thought I needed a change. My parents were gone, my brother was married... my son was out of college and looking for other opportunities. So I sold my perfect Texas house, said goodbye to my friends of many years, tried to talk my housekeeper into coming with me (she gently refused) and headed north to Maine in a 29-foot U-Haul with all my stuff, most of which is still in boxes, six years later.

It took my son and me five days of travel... it was summer... hot as heck... and the roads were so crowded. But we made it unscathed.

Several years later I wrote my first novel, Stone Bay... about a Texas girl who blew up her life, sold everything, bought a house sight unseen from Realtor.com and left for the wilds of upper coast Maine.

I guess this novel was a catharsis for me. I got to illustrate all my fears and question my choices since leaving Texas, laying them all on the shoulders of my heroine Amanda.

Since the day I stood in front of the house I’d owned for decades but hadn’t seen since the early 90s (it had been an investment only... affordable waterfront), the choices of the last years have bothered me.

For one thing, village living, no matter where you live, is difficult. The native folk probably have roots going back generations; they’re a close-knit group who, although they’re kind to strangers (or those from ‘away’ as the residents of my village say) they don’t consider you one of them. You often speak differently, look differently, are politically different (and this is a hard one to deal with especially in these times). You find yourself seeking out others ‘from away’ instead of trying to blend in with the native population.

Now, six years later, I have friends but am just now learning to embrace the Old Guard. And those folks have wonderful stories to tell and their kindness is overwhelming. I wish I had started sooner to cultivate their friendships. But I was always looking backwards. My Texas friends called and said, “come home,” and I ached to do that. I tried joining organizations but nothing was a fit for me. So, after a few years I just retreated to my house, rarely leaving it, and I became for the most part a hermit.

When the calendar turned and 2017 hit me in the face, I realized that to be truly content in my new life I needed to embrace my community, both Old Guard and those ‘from away’. I stopped planning trips back to Texas for the winter when I realized how difficult it was to travel to the nearest airport... and how expensive. Nope, I was going to join my community. I was going to say instead of... “Hello, I’m from Texas’ to “Hello, I’m from the most eastern town in the U.S.” After all, millions of people are from Texas, but only a little over a thousand are from my little village. I’m thinking that’s something to crow about.

So, I guess the moral of this story is... you can go home again, but perhaps your current home is the right place for you now. Don’t look back with yearning but forward with anticipation.

Let me hear from you about your choices. Have you moved to someplace that you can’t seem to fit in? After you made a life-changing choice did you say to yourself, “What the heck was I thinking?”

For a visit with my fictional self, Amanda Warner, drop by Amazon and take a look at Stone Bay by Min Edwards. I poured all my questions and my surprised revelations into this novel.

Stone Bay
Amanda Warner is a Texas girl from her cowgirl hat right down to her silver-tipped boots. She’s a successful woman, but romance has passed her by. On a whim to find that elusive spark that others seem to enjoy, she buys a new home... sight-unseen... on the Internet... in Maine. However, when she pulls up into the driveway of her new house, one that looks nothing like the online images, there’s a handsome stranger standing on her derelict porch. At that moment, she realizes she might have bitten off more than she can chew, in home ownership and romance.

Kevin Franklin, retired Army Intelligence officer, successful builder, has been unlucky in love throughout his life. He’s been more concerned with keeping family, friends and his country safe than finding a soul mate. Things may be changing for him though. When the new cowgirl in town walks into his life and into the house he was planning to buy for his sister, his luck takes a turn... and not always for the better.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

GUEST AUTHOR CHRIS PHIPPS ON SETTING

Tower Bridge, Sacramento
Mystery author Chris Phipps writes the Wagner-Callender Mystery Series. Today she joins us to talk about the importance of setting in some of her favorite books and her own. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

My favorite books are those that are not only well written, but envelop me in their surroundings.

James Lee Burke’s New Orleans is so integral to his stories, it’s almost another character. Every book I read reveals a little more.

After years of following Ian Rankin’s Detective Rebus as he solves crimes, I imagine that I’m so familiar with Edinburgh, that I could find my way around the city. I know I can’t—not really. But he’s made me feel as though I can.

In William Kent Kreuger’s Cork O’Connor series, I see the blue of those deep lakes, feel the cool breeze on my cheeks as the ridges of the great northwest turn orange, gold and red with fall color. I feel the mystique of the Ojibwe and the slow vibe of a small town filled with familiar faces.

Michael Connelly shows me Los Angeles, not through my skeptical eyes, but through the lens of Harry Bosch, who loves the place where he lives and works.

I’m truly pulled into these stories, not just by the characters and the plot, not just in trying to solve the mystery, but by being immersed in the setting and the culture. And those stories wouldn’t work nearly as well in different settings. Cork O’Connor couldn’t function in Los Angeles, and Harry Bosch couldn’t find his away around all those lakes, rivers and streams.

Like most writers, I try to emulate work that I admire. But what can I say about Sacramento, the capitol of California? It’s not a large city, like Los Angeles. But it’s not small, either, like Cork O’Connor’s Aurora. People in larger California cities laughingly call Sacramento “Cowtown” because it has so many small farms, dairies, orchards and vineyards surrounding it. Another term is “Sacratomato, in honor of all the tomato-laden trucks that used to make their way to a local cannery.

So what could I pull into my books to make the setting unique and interesting?

After some thought, I realized those nicknames are hints. After all, how many people can drive just a few miles to go wine tasting? Find roadside vegetable and fruit stands, or a hot apple pie, directly from the adjacent orchard?

Sacramento is unique in other ways, too. It has two rivers–the Sacramento and the American–with the confluence in the old, historic section of town. And under those old buildings is another settlement, the first Sacramento, going back to Gold Rush days. Those rivers create unique configurations of land: “pockets” surrounded on three sides by river.

I thought about the diverse population, culture, and activity. Two hours west will take a driver to San Francisco or Big Sur or the Napa Valley. Two hours east, across the Sierra Nevada, will take him to Lake Tahoe or Reno or Squaw Valley. South will take him to Yosemite in about the same time.

The point is: I had to look at the area I know with new eyes–look at its history, the things that made it different.

What about you? As a reader, do you enjoy books that pull you into the setting? And if you’re a writer, do you look for the uniqueness of your setting and try to integrate it into your story?

Love, Murder and a Good Bottle of Wine
Sarah Wagner’s aunt has been murdered, and the close-minded detective working the case has honed in on Sarah and her cousin as the killers. Neither have alibis, and both have motive. But how do you prove you didn’t commit a murder? As Sarah digs deeper into the mystery, she puts herself at risk. Worse, every move she makes seems to increase the odds that one of the people she loves is the killer.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

PSYCHOLOGY OF A SERIAL KILLER WITH CRIME AUTHOR LUKE MURPHY

International bestselling crime novelist Luke Murphy played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. He’s also an award-winning sports columnist, a radio journalist, and a teacher. Today he joins us to discuss the psychology of serial killers. Learn more about Luke and his books at his website.

Psychology of a Serial Killer
As a crime novelist, creating and developing emotion-driven characters is key. Because I write character-driven books, characters are the lifeline of my story; they drive the plot. For me, a powerful antagonist is just as important as a powerful protagonist.

In an antagonist, a writer wants to develop someone the readers want to hate, someone who the reader wants to root against, but find out more about. So when thinking about a serial killer, a writer must try to get inside the head of an individual who is so twisted, so manipulating that committing a crime feels like second nature.

There has been A LOT of research done on the psychology of serial killers, but really, there are still NO definitive answers. If you watch cop shows, then you know the FBI’s typical serial killer profile: white male, ages 20-30, target their victims within the vicinity of their living space, etc.

But in reality, not every serial killer falls into a single type, and these classifications don’t explain what leads someone to become a serial killer.

The thing with creating fictional serial killers is that the boundaries are limitless. For instance, serial killers can be: any age, any gender, any race, intelligent/unintelligent, educated/uneducated, organized/disorganized, employed/unemployed, loved too much/abused as a child, socially awkward/fits in anywhere.

They can be classified as: act-focused killers (killing is about the act itself), process-focused killers (enjoys torture), lust killers (sexual pleasure from killing), thrill killers, gain killers (believe they will profit), power killers (in charge of life and death).

Every writer wants his/her serial killer to be distinguishable, stand out in a crowd of murderers throughout literature, but many have these similar features: narcissistic personalities, callous, exploitive individuals with blunted emotions, impulsive inclinations and an inability to feel guilt or remorse.

When I first sit down to lay out the details for my killer, there are five things I think about:  a power junkie, a manipulator, an egotistical bragger, a superficial charmer and an average Joe.

The crime:
It can be organized, an attack planned methodically, from choosing victims, carrying weapons, transporting victims, and disposing a body. This makes it difficult for investigators to collect evidence. After a killing, they often follow the investigation in the media.

Maybe it’s disorganized, where nothing is planned. Victims hold no symbolic value, "wrong place at the wrong time."

The author’s killer must possess the cleverness and wit to be able to dispose of multiple bodies and outsmart the police by leaving little to no traces of evidence. They reel their victims into a false sense of security and once they have control, they kill, fulfilling their wants, desires, and impulses.

The Investigation:
Normally homicides are committed due to disputes that range from family affairs, gang violence, financial difficulties, and disputes between lovers. But serial killers are driven by instinct and a desire to kill. Due to these sexual desires and the need to fulfill their arousing fantasies, victims are usually complete strangers which means there is no link for detectives to investigate.

The Conclusion:
For me as a reader, I want closure. The subsequent arrest and proof need to be warranted and well planned in detail. Answers can’t be snared out of the blue; there has to be plausibility in the final outcome.

I want some background into the serial killer. Are their psychopathic traits due to DNA or upbringing? What were their parents like? Early childhood abuse or neglect might lead to posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders or phobias. Problem during the early stages of growing up can cause a child to seek relief through activities of violence such as killing small animals.

How will the investigator get there? What mistakes will the killer make? It all has to tie together and leave the reader satisfied. It’s very important for a writer to make sure the reader is aware of the motivations for the killer. This could be as simple as the killer finds comfort in his/her fantasies and dreams that take them into a realm that only they can control.

If you read my novels, please let me know if I was able to fulfill my criteria in creating and developing my antagonist.

Wild Card
This time, it’s not a job.
After proving his innocence as a murder suspect, taking down an assassin, and being an instrumental part in solving a high profile murder, Calvin Watters believes he can finally move on—until Ace Sanders’ prison escape catapults him into action.

This time, it’s personal!
Something has always bothered Detective Dale Dayton about the arrest of Ace Sanders. Call it police intuition, but his inner ‘cop alarm’ keeps twitching. When Dale reopens the case, he’s introduced to new evidence that leads him into a political nightmare.

Who will play the Wild Card to survive?
While Calvin tracks Sanders across continents and into unknown, unfriendly surroundings, Dale remains in Vegas to uncover the truth behind police corruption, prison escapes, and hired assassins. But Calvin and Dale must be vigilant, because there’s a deadly, new player in town.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--APPLE CRANBERRY CRUMBLE

Autumn means falling leaves and falling temperatures. It’s also apple-picking season. If you have an overabundance of apples (and who doesn’t this time of year?), here’s a quick recipe that works well with oatmeal for breakfast, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for dessert, or just by itself as a yummy treat.

Apple Cranberry Crumble

Ingredients:
2-3 lg. Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 T. unsweetened butter

Peel and core apples. Dice into bite-size pieces. Place in bowl. Add cranberries. Reserve 1/8 cup brown sugar. Toss the apples and cranberries with remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Divide mixture evenly into two greased ramekins.

Pulse the butter, walnuts, and remaining brown sugar in food processor. Fold into fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Monday, October 23, 2017

WHY ANASTASIA POLLACK HATES HALLOWEEN

Halloween is only eight days away. The holiday has become big business with consumers spending nearly 8 billion dollars annually, 2 billion of which is spent on decorations, another 2 billion + on candy. Adults spend over a billion and a half dollars on costumes for themselves, slightly less for their kids. Nearly 70% of the population will celebrate Halloween in some way. Count me in the minority.

I hate Halloween. There, I’ve said it. Need me to repeat it? I can shout it if you prefer: ANASTASIA POLLACK HATES HALLOWEEN!

Am I a curmudgeon? Anyone who knows me (with the exception of my mother-in-law who actually is a curmudgeon—and a communist one to boot) will tell you that’s not the case.

My feelings about Halloween hearken back to my childhood. I was a shy child, painfully shy. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for a shy child to ring a stranger’s doorbell and beg for candy treats? That wasn’t the worst of it, though.

The worst part of Halloween for me was the roving bands of teenagers who would lurk in the bushes and bombard unsuspecting trick or treaters with raw eggs. Egg shampoos might be good for your hair but not when they’re forced upon you in the dark, complete with the shells.

How I dreaded October 31st! And still do. Of course it hasn’t helped that a psycho killer recently set his sights on my normally quiet street. Somehow I managed to survive, but the experience has served to reinforce my feelings about Halloween.
You can read all about it in A Stitch To Die For and the events precipitated by one of those killings in Scrapbook of Murder.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows how I can escape Halloween this year (keeping in mind I have absolutely no discretionary income, thanks to Dead Louse of a Spouse), I’m open to suggestions.

A Stitch To Die For
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 5

Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.

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Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR STEPHANIE OSBORN

Author Stephanie Osborn writes science fiction/mystery and popular science. Today she sits down with us for an interview. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t think I had an entire book in me. Then I got inspired by an idea I saw in media, back in the 90s, and I started writing some seriously long stories — novella-length stuff — and I realized I DID have entire books in me. It took a while to get my first true novel completed, but after that, the ideas started to flow, and the words to pour out, and now it’s not uncommon for me to turn out a 120,000-word book in a couple of months. It depends partly on the amount of research required for the given book. The more research, the more detailed the book, and the longer it takes to write it. But if I’m writing what I call “a romp,” I can write it pretty quickly.

So I guess I realized I could write a novel — and wanted to — around, oh, 20 years ago.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Ha! That took a while longer. My first novel was published in 2009, so only 8 years ago!

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Hybrid. I started out traditionally published and soaked up all I could learn about the industry. Then, when I started getting ideas for stuff that I couldn’t put out through a traditional publisher (poetry, short stories I’d thought of that weren’t associated with any particular anthology or magazine — not that there are many mags left out there, really, in my genres — novellas, etc.), I started putting up the odd story here and there as an indie author. Now I do a little of both.

Where do you write?
In my den, in the recliner on a laptop. I usually have a lap desk underneath it, because I have bad knees (I’m handicapped) and the hard laptop starts to hurt after a while. Sometimes I have a cat on my feet; sometimes not.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Music is always good — not essential, but good — but it has to be instrumental, and it has to be something that never had lyrics. Otherwise the verbal center of my brain tends to get wrapped around remembering the lyrics and singing along, rather than writing. Something soothing seems to work best. Classical, jazz, or new age are my preferences.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Oh, it varies, depending on the character. I often draw from my own personality in developing a foundation for a given character, even the bad guys. I look for some facet of my personality that is suitable to the character, then start layering on top of that — things I imagine, things I’ve seen in real life, this or that aspect of a friend — until I have a character as fully-fleshed as needed for the given book.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I have two methods, usually based on the given name and the surname. For the given name, I look at the ethnicity of the character, and do a baby-name search based on that ethnicity. I like to try to pick a name whose meaning is symbolic of the character or situation. The surname can work the same way, but for main characters, if they happen to have any of the ethnicities that I have in my own ancestry, I’ll sometimes pluck a surname from my family tree. If the character isn’t any of the ethnicities in me, then I do a surname search for that ethnicity. Again, I like to look at the meaning of the name, and try to pick something appropriate.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Usually real settings, though I sometimes change the names. Then again, some real place names are just hilariously perfect for my purposes.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
I don’t know that I give my characters too-weird quirks. I think if you make them too ‘out there,’ people maybe can’t relate to ‘em as well. I think maybe the most ‘out there’ I’ve gotten, for character identifying properties, is the female protagonist who was kidnapped as a child by an alien criminal, then restructured and genetically modified to enhance her abilities and suit the criminal’s purposes, before being telepathically brainwashed...to assassinate the male protagonist. When the whole thing comes to light, it seriously messes with her head, particularly with regard to self-esteem and self-confidence. I don’t know if that would be considered a “quirk,” though, as much as a natural reaction to what was done to her.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I dunno. Maybe some of the foods I like to eat. Or the way I like to eat ‘em. I tend to put together weird combos of foods.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
In general, I tend not to think about things like that; I find it tends to lead to discontent with what I have. But given the current states of health of myself and my husband, and knowing what I know now, I think I might have made some modifications to our diet and nutritional supplementation, to try to offset some of the medical conditions. We thought we were eating healthily at the time, but hey.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Right now, it’s the lawn-care people who show up every Wednesday, bright and early, and insist on starting up the lawnmowers, weed eaters, and leaf blowers, ALL right outside my bedroom window...when I tend to write until 3-4am because that’s when it’s quiet and I can concentrate. This often means I’ve only had 3, maybe 4, hours of sleep when they fire up their equipment. We have a HOA in my neighborhood, so those guys are doing everyone’s lawns at once, but I’m smack in the middle of the neighborhood and I have been unable to convince ‘em to start at one end and work across. They simply MUST start in the middle, with my house, and work out from there. Never mind that there’s been a drought and the grass isn’t growing, or that it’s the hottest part of the year and the grass isn’t growing, or whatever — they gotta come mow that grass! Yeah, it annoys me immensely, because I’ve always been prone to insomnia, and having that trait reinforced doesn’t help matters. (And yes, it’s Wednesday as I write this, I’ve had maybe 4 hours’ sleep, and I’m grumpy as [expletive redacted] about it.)

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Food, water, and shelter. I’m pretty practical where things like that are concerned. If I managed to get the essentials taken care of, then I’d consider some things like writing implements, so I could keep writing stories.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
None of them have been horrible. I’ve run into good things and bad things in all of them. But I think the college teaching job at the ultra-conservative school, where I was expected to START CLASS at 7am (when I’m a night owl), and was required to wear skirts in winter despite having a joint condition where the doctors preferred I wear trousers to keep my joints warm and functional, was probably the most uncomfortable for me.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I have to choose just one? Wow. That’s hard. I like so many authors, so many series, so many genres! Fantasy? Science fiction? Mystery? Romance? Popular science? Biography? See what I mean?

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean, because I love to feel, hear, and watch the surf. I do like mountains too, though.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country girl. Spent all my formative years in rural Tennessee.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Keepin’ on keepin’ on! I do plan to enter the audiobook market sometime in the next year or so.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
In the 8 years I’ve been a published author, I’ve been prolific. I’ve got well over 30 titles out there that I’ve authored, co-authored, or to which I’ve contributed (anthologies of various sorts). I’ve been a finalist or a winner of several literary awards, and I really enjoy writing. I’d love for your readers to check out my books!

Tour de Force, book 4 of the Division One series.

Alpha One is participating in Omega’s very first First Contact diplomatic operation. Unfortunately, it’s going to split up the team—the Cortians, a race from the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, have stringent requirements, and that narrows down the list of “candidate exchange students” to...Echo. ONLY Echo. The Pan-Galactic Law Enforcement and Immigration Administration’s top Division One Agent, the man being groomed to be the next Director...and Omega’s partner. A plum assignment, for the pick of the crop.
But Omega doesn’t see it that way, though she can't—or won't—explain why. She is determined to stop the mission from going forward. At any cost.
Why is Omega trying to scuttle a diplomatic mission? What is she seeing that more experienced Agents aren’t? Why won’t the others listen? Is something bigger, more menacing, happening to her—to them? Will—CAN—Alpha One survive?

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