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, March 29, 2018


Anastasia and the gang are taking a 3-day holiday weekend. We wish all our readers a Happy Passover and Happy Easter. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


In Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth and most recent Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery in the series, the mystery stems from a letter found in a suitcase full of old family photos that are discovered in an attic.

I’ve always loved old photographs. Over the years I’ve saved quite a few from the trash when family members failed to see the beauty and history of them and were about to discard them as they sorted through the possessions of deceased relatives. Unfortunately, many of these photographs were never labeled, and although I know the photos are those of relatives (in many instances it’s easy to see the family resemblance), I have no idea as to the names of the people in the photos or when and where the photos were taken.

One exception is the photo pictured above. This is my grandparents’ wedding photo. Rae and Ben Schaffer were married January 1, 1925 during the height of the Roaring Twenties. I absolutely love the flapper-style wedding gown and headwear my grandmother chose to wear. Grandma was always an extremely fashion-forward woman. I’m just not sure what her in-laws may have thought of her dress choice. They died before I was born, but I do know they were very traditional. According to family lore, my grandparents were not allowed to marry until after my grandfather’s two sisters found husbands. For this reason, Grandma and Grandpa had to wait several years to tie the knot.

Grandpa was in law enforcement. Rising to the rank of captain in the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, he had an illustrious career that included putting many a gangster behind bars and solving quite a few murders. He was the first officer on the scene when Dutch Schultz was gunned down in a Newark, NJ restaurant and was probably one of the officers who participated in a round-the-clock bedside vigil as the gangster lay dying, hoping he’d spill the beans and name names. Unfortunately—or fortunately—I have no way of knowing. Fearing mobsters retaliating against members of law enforcement and their relatives, newspapers often didn’t divulge officer names back then.

Grandpa died of a massive heart attack on his way home from work one Friday afternoon in 1958. Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of his death. I often wonder what he would think of his first-born grandchild who grew up to write about fictional murder and mayhem. I hope he would have been proud.

Rest in peace, Grandpa Ben.

Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft 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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Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Today we sit down with Kell Wolff from author Jennifer Lowery’s Wolff Securities series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I had a life before Jennifer started making me talk?

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
Do you really expect me to answer that?

What do you like least about yourself?

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Where do I start? She likes to put us in a tree, take away our ladder and throw rocks at us. She says it adds suspense but I think she just likes to see us suffer.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Jennifer says we Wolff’s don’t talk much. Where would she get that idea?

What is your greatest fear?
Losing another brother.

What makes you happy?
Shea. My family. Running.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Mine is good. I can take a bullet. I’d change Shea’s story. She’s suffered enough.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Besides my brothers?

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
That’s easy. Shea. Like I said, I can take a bullet. She shouldn’t have to.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Jennifer is everywhere, but the best place to find her is on her website. That’s where she keeps all the info on us.

What's next for you?

Worth the Risk
Book 3 of the Wolff Securities Series

He’s a risk-taker…
Private security specialist, Kell Wolff, lives life on the edge. Falling for CIA agent, Shea Morrissey, fit his risk-taking lifestyle. Until she walked away without as much as a goodbye. Now, four years later she’s in trouble and needs his help, but the thought of seeing her again risks having his heart ripped out of his chest a second time. But Shea’s agenda coincides with his own so he can’t say no.

She’s the biggest risk of all…
Shea Morrissey has gone off the grid in pursuit of the man responsible for the death of her sister. Determined to take Ramil Diakameli down, she’s given up everything. Including the man she loved. Now, she’s in danger, her mission in jeopardy and the only person she can trust to help her is the man she walked away from. In order to survive, she and Kell must fight side by side and put their past to rest so they can work together.

Monday, March 26, 2018


Peach and Cherry Pie
Ever have the urge for a specific fruit pie when the fruit is out of season? Consider using frozen fruit. It’s quick, easy, and just as delicious. And by using a frozen piecrust, this pie is even quicker and easier to make.

9” deep dish frozen piecrust

3/4 cup sugar (brown, white, or a combination)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
16 oz. bag frozen peach slices
1 cup dried cherries
juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped dry roasted pecans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F.

For fruit mixture, combine sugar, flour, peaches, cherries, and lemon juice. Spoon into the crust.

To make streusel topping, combine brown sugar, flour, and pecan pieces in food processor. Cut butter into small pieces. Add to food processor. Pulse until crumbly. Sprinkle the topping over the filling. 

Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350°F. Place a sheet of foil over pie and continue baking another 30 minutes.

Place on wire rack and cool completely before slicing. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, March 25, 2018


A Sketch of Mary Tudor
Today we sit down for an interview with Lady Samara, artist heroine of Courtney J. Hall’s Some Rise by Sin.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
It was actually rather wonderful. My lord father paid little attention to me, and although that hurt when I wanted his love and attention, it left me plenty of free time to pursue my hobbies of swimming, sketching, and avoiding housework.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
My ability to capture on paper the inner essence of something—be it a person, my kitten, or even scenery. Most people don’t realize that scenery is living. It might not speak, or eat, or breathe, but it changes.

What do you like least about yourself?
My lack of knowledge about the world. I went to court without the faintest idea of how to conduct myself, and feared I would embarrass myself and bring shame to my family name.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? She sent me to court! I’m a country girl; I’ve never set foot anywhere outside the perimeter of my father’s lands. But she dumped me in London with only a few weeks’ worth of preparation. It was terrifying.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I did at first—she had the most ridiculous ideas about me! But we eventually came to an understanding about the person I am and the kinds of things I would be capable of doing, and now we get along well.

What is your greatest fear?
Being alone. I love my independence, but I can get lonely sometimes. My sister Cecily is good company but she’s a child. I wouldn’t mind having someone to whom I can tell all of my secrets.

What makes you happy?
Being out of doors, a fresh new sheet of paper, when my lord father gives me his attention.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would keep my lady mother alive. She died birthing my youngest sister, Cecily, and it destroyed my lord father. I would keep her alive not just for my sisters and myself, but for him.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My sister Katherine. She is the perfect chatelaine and has no qualms about reminding me that no man will ever consider me worthy of being his wife. Not that it matters. Marriage has always been the furthest thing from my mind…until now.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Aunt Madge. She lost her husband at an early age and while that is sad, she was able to spend the rest of her life unencumbered and able to do as she pleased.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Her website is located at www.courtneyjhall.com. She divides her time between writing stories about myself and my sisters and other stories about people who live in her time, and celebrate Christ’s Mass much differently than we do!

What's next for you?
I’ve just learned that I’m with child, so I imagine my immediate future will see me getting used to being a mother. I admit I’m a bit frightened, as I don’t remember my own mother. Time will tell if I’m good at it or not. My sisters are also on the verge of marrying—I imagine they will have stories of their own to tell.

Some Rise by Sin
When Cade Badgley returns from a diplomatic mission in Rome to discover that his estranged father is dying, he has no choice but to accept an unwanted earldom, a crumbling estate and empty coffers. A kindly neighbor offers aid in return for an escort that will take his daughter to London to find a husband. Though the girl is a tempestuous artist with no marriageable skills, she quickly becomes sought-after by a man Cade has every reason not to trust. As Queen Mary Tudor lies dying, threatening the security of the realm, Cade finds himself in a battle involving his conscience, his heart, and his very life - and that of the woman he's come to love.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018


Today we sit down with Liv Grant from Kate McKeever’s Chandler Tennessee Series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I was, if not happily, then temporarily satisfied hiding.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
The ability to adapt. It’s proven to be very handy, so far.

What do you like least about yourself?
My fear

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
To put me in the path of Jake Greene. And it’s also the best thing ever.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
We haven’t really argued but I have hidden under the covers a time or two during the books.

What is your greatest fear?
That my past will end up harming the people I love.

What makes you happy?
Being with the people I love and knowing they love me and are safe.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I’d have been brave at the beginning of my story, rather than the end.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
My ex. Enough said?

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
No one. I don’t really need to be anyone else and wouldn’t wish my past on anyone else.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Kate is one of those unsung writers that people don’t know about. She writes a great story, full of love, angst and suspense. Readers can learn more about her at her website

What's next for you?
I’ll be showing up in later books in the Chandler series. I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but knowing Kate, it won’t be dull!

Tender Mercies
Book 2 in the Chandler Tennessee Series

Liv Grant has her life planned, at least for the next month or so. She’ll stay in Chandler and work at the Old Time Diner, honing her baking skills. At least that’s what she’s told herself. Her interest in Jake Greene is not the reason she wants to stay on in the small town, rather than moving on and staying hidden from her abusive ex-husband. When a prowler begins to jangle her nerves, she decides maybe it’s time to consider relocating, only to have Jake and her intense attraction to him tempt her to stay on. Her sister, in Florida, is safe, she is safe, why not stay? Then her sister begins to have troubles. Will Liv stay in the small Tennessee town and face her demons or keep running?

Tender Mercies will be available in April. Meanwhile, you might want to check out Liv’s first adventure, Christmas at the Old Time Diner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Winter can wreak havoc on our skin. The calendar might say spring, but the thermometer says we’re still in the grip of winter. Cold air, low humidity, and indoor heat are a recipe for dry skin and a dull complexion. If you’re suffering from either or both of these, here are some tips for entering spring with a healthy glow.

Cleanse your face only at night, and use lukewarm water. Hot water dehydrates skin. Use a cream formula cleanser. In the morning allow your skin’s natural oils to nourish it.

If you’re like me, you love a steamy bath. However, as with face washing, you should avoid hot water, opting for a lukewarm soak to keep the rest of your skin from getting super dry. Adding a few drops of argan oil will help hydrate your entire body.

Facial oil will give your skin a healthy glow. It immediately absorbs into your skin and won’t clog your pores.

Exfoliate once a week to slough away dead skin cells. This allows moisturizers to penetrate better, another way to give your skin the hydration it needs.

And don’t forget to protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using products with SPF and antioxidants and wearing sunglasses.

Once a week treat yourself to a homemade natural mask. Combine 1 tablespoon each of honey and coconut water, 1 teaspoon of liquid glycerin, and 1 egg. Using your fingertips, apply the mixture to your face and neck. Allow the mask to sit for twenty minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


It’s spring! Along with the tradition of spring cleaning, many people find themselves itching to spruce up their homes this time of year. Here are a few easy and inexpensive decorating hacks.

1. Rules were meant to be broken. Today’s absolute no-no is often tomorrow’s hottest trend. So don’t be afraid to experiment, especially when it comes to paint. Remember, paint isn’t permanent. If you don’t like it, you can always repaint.

2. And speaking of rules, where is it written that ceilings have to be white? Paint your ceiling the same color as your walls, several shades lighter, or several shades darker. Or choose an accent color. Or wallpaper. Or reclaimed wood. Think of your ceiling as your fifth wall.

3. Consider painting woodwork in a contrasting color instead of white.

4. Create an accent wall with wallpaper, reclaimed wood, a contrasting paint color, a faux finish, or even a mural.

5. Mix and match contemporary furnishings and accent pieces with vintage pieces, antiques, flea market finds, craft pieces, items you’ve collected on your travels, or an eclectic combination.

6. Don’t be afraid to use bold color choices in small rooms.

7. Chandeliers are not just for dining rooms. If you love bling, consider adding a crystal chandelier to your bathroom, bedroom, or walk-in closet. On a budget? Look for faux crystal chandeliers. Even imitation crystals will sparkle, and when hung high, no one will be the wiser.

8. Bookcase shelves are for books, of course, but break up the spaces with pottery, collectibles, and framed photographs to add interest.

Monday, March 19, 2018


Chocolate Butterscotch Pecan Blondies
Yields 24 brownies

2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. + heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1-3/4 cups firmly packed lt. brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1-1/2 cups flour 
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 9” x 13” pan.

Melt 2 tsp. butter with 1/8 tsp. salt. Add pecans. Toss to coat. Spread on shallow baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan to cool.

Place remaining butter and chocolate chips in microwave-proof bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in-between until chips are melted.

Combine salt, brown sugar, baking soda and vanilla in mixing bowl. Add chocolate mixture. Stir to combine. Stir in eggs, then flour. Mix until combined. Fold in butterscotch chips and pecans.

Spread mixture evenly into baking pan. Bake 22-25 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Or allow to cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


This is a useful craft that requires no skill other than the ability to use a scissors and a bottle of glue. You don’t even have to draw a pattern because you use the cookie cutters as templates. The model shown used a 4”, 3”, and 2” heart-shaped cookie cutter.

Hang the air freshener in your car or closet or from a branch on your tree at Christmas time. The scent should last for several weeks. When the scent is gone, just add a few more drops of essential oil.

3 cookie cutters, same shape, in 3 different sizes, your choice of shapes
scraps of wool felt in 3 complementary colors
1” decorative button
9” 3/8” wide ribbon in complementary color
fabric or tacky glue and gem glue
essential oil, your choice of fragrance

Using the cookie cutters as templates, trace one of each shape on the felt and cut out.

2. Add a few drops of the essential oil onto the center of each shape. Use enough so that when the oil evaporates, the scent remains. Allow the oil to dry.

3. Using the fabric or tacky glue, run a line of glue around the back of the medium shape and glue centered to the large shape. Run a line of glue around the small shape and glue centered to the medium shape.

4. Using the gem glue, glue the button to the center of the small shape.

5. Fold ribbon in half and glue to back of large shape.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Today we sit down with Elaine L. Orr, author of three mystery series, plays, and literary novellas. Elaine also teaches online courses in self-publishing. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I knew I wanted to write fiction probably by middle school, but I didn’t figure out my path until I was in my late twenties and early thirties. I did a couple of “not ready for prime time” pieces, and learned a lot.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Like many of us, I needed to make a living and had no clue how to do that with writing. I gravitated to work that entailed a lot of nonfiction writing and editing. This taught me to think as I wrote, and helped me make the transition to fiction. I had written a lot by the time I was in my early fifties, and decided to self-publish later in that life decade. I wish I’d taken the plunge earlier.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m mostly self-published. I also work with a small publisher and did a nonfiction book with a history publisher.

Where do you write?
Early on, I wrote largely at home, often in the evenings. Now I write at a library, Starbucks, or in a place in Springfield, IL (where I live) called The Kreative Lounge. As a partial retiree, I need to get out of the house. Lately, I’ve tried not to write in places with food. I tend to take breaks with sweets – that’s not all that helpful.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
No music while writing. I find it more distracting than even conversations around me.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Not much. I find basing anything on real life to be limiting. A couple of characters reflect aspects of my humor (especially Scoobie in the Jolie Gentil series), but that’s more because the humor feels natural to me. I also use some of my husband Jim Larkin’s poetry as Scoobie’s, so he sees some of himself in that character. Mostly, I simply like the poetry!

Describe your process for naming your character?
Jolie Gentil means pretty nice in French, and her dad is French Canadian. Scoobie was a deliberate choice, but I have not been rigorous in all my choices. I pick names because I like them, and discovered I use S as a first letter too much. In the River’s Edge series (set in southeast Iowa) I have Syl, Stooper, Sandi, and Shirley. Worse, I didn’t realize it until I put them at a table in the diner in book three. While I have always tried to be sure a character’s name goes with their background (no Irish characters named Sven), I’m now more careful about name similarities.

Real settings or fictional towns?
Fictional towns similar to real ones. Ocean Alley, New Jersey (the Jolie books) is similar to smaller northern Jersey shore towns. River’s Edge is deliberately an amalgamation of some Van Buren County, Iowa towns. I’ll have the characters visit real towns – I think it helps readers identify with a region. However, I don’t want people writing to say things such as, “One-way traffic on A Street goes in the other direction.”

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Hmm. Stooper is a good friend of Melanie, the River’s Edge protagonist. He crafts headstones for graves. He’s also in transition from an affinity for alcohol, so he sometimes has a humorous perspective on sober life.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
So many choices…My sister would say it’s that I like to tromp in cemeteries doing family history searching. But I have several cousins who think it’s odd that she doesn’t like to do that. I wonder if that’s why I made Stooper a stone mason who makes headstones? I would probably need some therapy to decide that.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
To Kill a Mockingbird, hands down. To be able to address important social issues while telling a riveting story is a gift. Harper Lee wrote it second – first she wrote Go Set a Watchman, which was only recently found and published. In it, Scout is an adult in the changing South. In some ways, it’s a more significant book. Some people don’t like it because Scout’s father, Atticus, is not a ‘perfect’ character. He is, however, wonderfully conflicted. You can see why Lee’s publisher asked her to do a book featuring young Scout. Some of the strongest scenes in Go Set a Watchman are Scout’s reminisces of her childhood. Read them both!

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had had the courage to earn less money and strike out as a fiction writer earlier. I had no clue how to do that. I probably needed the confidence of an earlier career and experiences to tackle writing well – to the extent that I do that.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who make excuses or complain a lot. Generally, people with many challenges find ways to overcome at least some of them. People who fret a lot are looking for excuses for life to be easier.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Cold water, shade, and a good book. I’m tempted to say chocolate, but I have pretty much traded seltzer water for sweets the last few years. Wait, can I have four? I would need a pen to jot notes in the books margins because all books bring new ideas.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I’ve been a babysitter, secretary, program analyst, telephone sales person, editor…I could go on for a page. I think because my parents were such positive people, I’ve been able to find things I like in any job. What’s hard is when people above you are overly controlling. When you let people think for themselves, work is better.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I mentioned Harper Lee’s books. Three that I have reread a lot are Pompeii by Robert Harris, Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva, and Children of Men by P.D. James. I have not read nearly enough classic mysteries.

Ocean or mountains?

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City woman, mostly.

What’s on the horizon for you?
I’ll keep writing, probably more cozy mysteries, but also more character-based stories. I think there is discovery in all books, not just mysteries.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I’m close to my family and have numerous friends, many of the latter I’ve met through volunteer work. It takes time to maintain relationships. All of my books feature friends. It’s worth the time to acquire and keep them.

The Unexpected Resolution
A Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery, Book 10

A midnight gathering, Army veterans who face repercussions of two different wars, and a startling wedding guest. Wedding days don't usually pack as big a surprise as Jolie and Scoobie's New Year's Eve nuptials. Scoobie never knew much about his family -- and after the way he grew up, who could blame him for liking it that way? A 9-1-1 call during the wedding changes everything. Jolie has to help Scoobie figure out what he wants to know, and determine who seems to want someone in his family dead. Knowing more about Scoobie's past could change their future together.

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