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.

Note: This site uses Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thursday, August 30, 2018


Today we sit down for a chat with Olivia Valenti from author Elizabeth Spaur’s Shotgun Romance, the second book in her Gridiron Knights Series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 
Quiet. Even my puppy, Kate, was quiet before my author starting poking around my life. As head of the Department of English at Cormac University, my life was predictable, and I was fine with that. I’ve never been a fan of drama outside of the pages of books.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I’m committed. Once I put myself on a path, I will stay on it until I reach my goals.

What do you like least about yourself?
It’s too easy for me to be alone. I wish I let more people into my life.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
I got pregnant with twins after a one-night stand. I’m definitely not a one-night stand type of woman.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I don’t. I told myself I was content with my life before she started messing with it. It turns out I didn’t know what I was missing. I’m so happy she stepped in and started pulling some strings. Kate’s happy about it, too. She never knew what fun was until Nick came into our lives.

What is your greatest fear?  
Ending up like my mother. She fell for the wrong man and ended up paying with her life.

What makes you happy?
Reading a good book on the couch, curled up with Nick while Kate tries to sneak up on him.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 
If I were going to re-write my story, I would want to be more aware of the people around me. There are some amazing people who worked hard to be part of my life. If I’d let them in earlier, we could have started making memories that much sooner.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Brian Gill, Junior. He played me for a fool and then deliberately tried to break up my relationship with Nick. He may have had his reasons, but I don’t want him in my life anymore.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 
I have to agree with my friend Tess on this question. I sometimes want to trade places with my friend Delilah. She’s not afraid to say what she means and tells it like it is. I wish I had her courage.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 
Elizabeth Spaur has been reading romance since she was twelve and writing it since she was thirteen. She loves writing stories that bring strong women and men together to make an even stronger team.  Readers who want to know more about her can find her at her website

What's next for you? 
Nick and I are busy preparing for the arrival of our twins. We’re debating on whether we want to find out the gender before I deliver. I’m all for planning, but Nick is definitely more in favor of letting life surprise us. Either way, we can’t wait to expand our family.

Shotgun Romance
Gridiron Knights Series, Book 2

He had no faith in love. She had no faith in men. They’ve got nine months to find faith in each other.

Since the night his life had taken a dramatic left turn, Nick Jacobs had been searching for a chance to prove he was the man he’d always wanted to be. When his old friend calls him and offers him a chance to help rebuild the Cormac University football program, he thinks this is his shot. He didn’t count on falling for Olivia or getting her pregnant. Can he juggle all his responsibilities and prove to himself, once and for all, that he’s worthy of love?

After the traumatic loss of her mother, Olivia Valenti shut herself off from the world. Running the Cormac University English department is a dream come true. She didn’t think she would ever want or need anything else. One night with Nick in Las Vegas and motherhood is on the horizon. Can she open her heart to Nick and build the home she never knew she dreamed of?

An instant attraction and a night of celebration lead to an unexpected pregnancy, which Nick and Olivia are determined to face together. Unfortunately, their pasts and present are about to collide, and old secrets will challenge the foundation they’re trying to build their family on. Can they learn to let go of the past in time to share a future?

Will they realize that love always wins?

Welcome to Shotgun Romance, the second book in the Gridiron Knights series set in King’s Folly South Carolina, where football is king, and the locals have something to say about everything. When you come for a visit, you’ll never want to leave.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Joanie MacNeil is an Australian contemporary romance author of sweet and sexy feel-good stories. She loves to travel and has visited parts of the world she never dreamed she’d see. Learn more about Joanie and her books at her website.

Why did you choose the Sapphire Coast as the setting for your book?
At the beginning of my writing journey, and when the children were young, our family would occasionally escape Canberra’s icy winter chill for a weekend break in a slightly more temperate climate. My son and daughters would go fishing with their dad while I sat nearby in the sand with pen and paper. After dinner, I’d type my notes on my borrowed laptop. These weekends were time out for me as well as family time. Escapism. And isn’t that why we like to read romance novels?

The setting inspired me to write my first novel, Loving Nick…Again, as the area is diverse in scenery, from coast to mountains, lakes, state forest, and lovely little historical villages…something a little bit different from my life in the city. I love the ocean and just couldn’t get enough of that wonderful fresh sea air and relaxed coastal lifestyle away from the daily grind. What better way to write descriptions and setting than when you are actually seeing them for real; hearing the lap of the water while walking along the lake’s edge; listening to possums clambering over the roof of the caravan, or seeing them sitting around the base of a large tree when walking through the van park at night. I can still hear the wind blowing through the tops of the enormous eucalyptus trees.

As a result of those weekends, I set two more novels around that same area, the northern end of the Sapphire Coast…Sapphire Kisses and my latest release, Sweet Temptations.

The settings for my stories are loosely based in and around the locations mentioned and I’ve also changed a couple of place names.

My current work in progress is set along Haywards Beach which begins at Camel Rock Surf Beach and curves three kilometres south to Haywards Point, where my hero lives.

Some interesting snippets about the areas mentioned in my stories.

Positioned along the far south coast of New South Wales, this coastal paradise is known for its clean beaches and clear water. From Canberra, where I live, it’s a three-hour drive over the mountains, or a six to seven-hour drive from either Sydney or Melbourne.

A thriving little town situated on Horseshoe Bay and famous for its deep-sea fishing and fishing competitions. Its name apparently stems from the Aboriginal word ‘Bermaguee’ which means ‘boat with no paddle’.

The caravan park in Bermagui is named after the American author, Zane Grey, not because of his fame as a western novelist, but because he wrote about his big game fishing experiences in Australia.

A quaint township of craft shops, a short drive inland from Bermagui, and situated on the Princes Highway. There’s no sea breeze here so it can be extremely hot in summer. Settlement in Cobargo began around the 1860s. Cobargo is an Aboriginal meaning ‘Grandfather’.

Wallaga Lake is home of Umbarra, the black duck, and is the largest lake in southern NSW.
There are many charming and picturesque little towns and villages spread throughout the Sapphire Coast region. For photos and more information, visit http://www.sapphirecoast.com.au/the-region/towns/

Sweet Temptations
Zachary Cordell returns to the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales to search for his estranged father’s young widow. Zac is certain that Elizabeth Marshall married his father for his money and he wants revenge.

Elizabeth is looking for a quiet lifestyle away from the notoriety the press associated with her name following the death of her husband. All she wants is a quiet, secure home in her old hometown. When her uncle Max recommends Zac as a handyman, she is nervous about hiring a drifter. She soon begins to trust him and finds herself attracted to Zac. Little does she know his relationship to her late husband, his reasons for coming to the coastal area, or the sweet temptations which will follow.

Buy Links

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


As a literary creation that sprang from an author’s imagination, I have a unique perspective on the world of authors, their books, and the people who read them. Most readers have no idea how insecure the average author is. Heck, if left to her own devices, author Lois Winston, she who writes about me, would hole herself up in her writer’s cave and never come out! Every so often her muse and I have to resort to blackmail to coerce her into stepping out into the sunshine and actually interacting with the rest of the world. The power of a well-timed threat is an amazing thing!

Most readers also don’t realize how important reviews are to authors. If you read a book and enjoy it, please take the time to post a review to your review site of choice. You’ll make an author’s day!

(Special thanks to author Mary Feliz for creating the graphic above and giving her fellow authors permission to modify it for their own use.)

Monday, August 27, 2018


Image by Jake Morton
Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in the time of Ostrogoth Rule in Italy in The Argolicus Mysteries. Argolicus uses his observation and reason, with help from his tutor Nikolaos, to provide justice in a province far from the King’s court. Learn more about Zara and her books at her website. 

Lamb Stew From a Roman Kitchen

Simple Tools, Basic Ingredients, and Flavor
The roman kitchen used simple pottery and metal cooking pots to create some delicious meals. Even after the Roman Empire had collapsed, the same tools and recipes continued in kitchens throughout Italy.

Romans loved flavor. They used spices and herbs to flavor cooking and they also used a concoction of fermented fish called garum to season just about everything. For modern diners garum is an acquired taste

If you’d like to approximate how the sauce tastes, here’s a quick way to reproduce the sauce.

Modern Day Garum
1 bottle of Thai fish sauce (approx. 24 oz.)
1 liter of white grape juice
In a large saucepan, simmer the grape juice until it is reduced to at least half. Cool and store. When you are ready to make your garum, mix the reduced grape juice with the fish sauce in this proportion: 1/3 grape juice to 2/3 fish sauce. This will even out the saltiness of the anchovy based fish sauce to the approximate sweetness of garum made from fresh mackerel. Try it on vegetables and salads and on grains and legumes like rice or lentils.

A Tasty Lamb Stew
In The Roman Heir Argolicus, the noble sleuth, stops at a small restaurant to rethink all the tangled threads to solving the mystery. He eats a lamb stew as he reviews the suspects. With bread to dip in the stew, he digs into the facts.

Many recipes were written by hand and passed down. One source of recipes that we still have is a cooking book by Apicius. This chef had several recipes for lamb stew.  They are very similar to Alexandre Dumas’ recipes, which leave a great deal of discretion to the cook. Here’s how one looks in Latin.

Aliter haedinam sive agninam excaldatam: mittes in caccabum copadia. cepam, coriandrum minutum succides, teres piper, ligusticum, cuminum, liquamen, oleum, vinum. coques, exinanies in patina, amulo obligas.

Put pieces of kid or lamb in the stew pot with chopped onion and coriander. Crush pepper, lovage, cumin, and cook with broth oil and wine. Put in a dish and tie with roux.

Try your cooking with this recipe seasoning the stew to your taste.

Apicius' Lamb Stew
3 pounds lamb ribs or lamb pieces
1 onion
salt and pepper
olive oil
red wine
coriander (cilantro)

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Then add lamb ribs and brown all over. Add chopped onion and coriander. Sprinkle on salt, pepper and cumin. Stir to coat the lamb with spices. Add a generous portion of wine. Simmer the stew for approximately four hours.

You can understand why a local diner could keep a pot of this stew going for a long time to serve patrons like Argolicus who happened in for something to eat. For a Roman experience, don’t forget to season your bowl of stew with a bit of garum.

The Roman Heir
A naïve teenager. A sister with secrets. A corrupt patrician. Argolicus unravels the threads.

Argolicus and Nikolaos deliver a gift but arrive hours after a brutal murder. They look for an answer until they find that a man’s secrets do not go with him to the grave.

With just days to find the killer before his ship leaves port, Argolicus must probe the politics of the dying town. But with every investigation he makes, the circle of possibilities grows. Success seems out of reach and he must disappoint the family until a ruffian accosts him and pieces fall into place.

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Peace…we all crave it, inner peace, world peace, peace among squabbling siblings or feuding neighbors or rival political parties…who among us wouldn’t benefit from more peace in our lives, right? Dona nobis pacem. Give us peace. Or as John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.”

In celebration of Drop Dead Ornaments, the next Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, now available for pre-order, we’re giving away this handmade Christmas Peace ornament to one lucky subscribers of author Lois Winston’s newsletter (U.S. residents only). Not a subscriber? You can remedy that by clicking here or on the link in the sidebar. Information for entering will appear in the next newsletter, scheduled to go out on September 4th.

Now, if you’ve been following the blog recently, especially on Mondays when we feature crafts, you’ve probably seen some posts about Drop Dead Ornaments and will remember that the story involves a Christmas bazaar where the local high school students are selling handmade glass ball ornaments to raise money for the county food pantry. We featured one of the ornaments two weeks ago. However, as much as we’d love to give away one of these ornaments, we realized that no matter how well we packed it, the chances weren’t great that it would arrive unbroken. Hence, we’ve chosen this fabric ornament, bound to survive even the roughest of package handling.

The lucky winner will be chosen in a random drawing on November 1st and notified by email.

Drop Dead Ornaments will release on October 22, 2018, at which point the paperback version will also be available.

Drop Dead Ornaments
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

Pre-Order Links (release date 10/22/18)

Thursday, August 23, 2018


Today we sit down for a chat with Peace Morrow, protagonist of the Peace Morrow Novels by author Sandra Carey Cody.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
First, let me tell you that I was adopted. Not a big deal, you say? Actually, it is; it’s an important part of my story. An indomitable Quaker woman found me in the corner of a dusty shed behind a museum and adopted me. She gave me a normal, happy childhood, but that didn’t stop me from looking into the face of every new person I met and wondering if we were related. The Dr. Seuss book “Are You My Mother?” had special meaning for me. Having said that, let me add that, even in my most rebellious moments, I knew I’d hit the jackpot when it came to mothers. When Ms. Cody came into my life, I’d recently graduated from college, had a cute little apartment that I shared with Henry, the world’s trustiest Black Lab, and was working at my dream job in the museum where what little I knew of my life had begun.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I love new experiences and am open to just about anything.  

What do you like least about yourself?
Well, as you can imagine, the openness I just mentioned sometimes gets me in trouble. It’s kind of a best of traits, worst of traits situation.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Working at my first job after graduating from college, she had me stumble over the body of a man who looked so much like me, I knew I’d found my father—the person who could answer the questions I’d been hiding in my heart my whole life. Here was my chance to discover who I was. Trouble was, he was dead, not just dead, but a John Doe—a drifter who wandered into town with no identity. With no clue who he was, how could he help me find out who I am?

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
We had one big argument—and I won! Early in the book, my author had the misguided idea that she could tell my story without letting me find my biological parents. She thought I needed to learn the lesson that it didn’t matter whose DNA I carried, the important thing was what I made of myself. I set her straight on that, insisting that not only did I deserve to know my parentage, so did the readers of my story. I reminded her that characters deserve closure and readers deserve answers.

What is your greatest fear?
That one day I’ll meet one or both of my biological parents and they won’t like me or worse yet, I won’t like them. Maybe they’re serial killers. I saw the play, The Bad Seed, when I was in college. I know the risk I’m taking by pursuing their identity.

What makes you happy?
Imagining myself celebrating holidays with a big, sprawling family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins. As an only child, I always wanted more faces around the dinner table.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Before the homeless man was killed, I had a chance to ask him about himself and to point out how much alike we looked. If only I had, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache—and maybe his life.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
That has to be my boss at the museum where I work. She’s stuffy and wants to chase away a scruffy teenager who hangs around the museum. She cares far too much about the museum’s image and not enough about reaching out to a lonely kid.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Believe it or not, Caroline Morrow, my adoptive mother. If ever there was a person who knows who she is, it’s my mom. She’s fearless, a Quaker, described by her peers as the most militant pacifist on the planet. I’d love to possess her confidence and certainty.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
My author, Sandra Carey Cody (Sandy) also writes the Jennie Connors mystery series. Her website is http://www.sandracareycody.com and she blogs at a couple of places: http://www.birthofanovel.wordpress.com and http://www.classicandcozybooks.blogspot.com

What's next for you?
It’s not a spoiler to tell you that by the end of Love and Not Destroy, I know the story of my birth and identify of my biological parents. In the next book, An Uncertain Path, I meet a cousin and my grandparents, part of that sprawling family I’ve always dreamed about. It turns out to be a mixed blessing, but aren’t we always surprised by what happens when a dream comes true?

Love and Not Destroy
A baby is found in a basket on the grounds of a small-town museum during their annual Folk Festival.  Twenty-two years later, the body of a homeless man is discovered in the exactly same spot with an antique scalpel in his chest. Peace Morrow, the foundling, now an adult working at the museum, is haunted by the coincidence.  As she tries to reconstruct the victim's history, his story becomes entangled with her own search for family roots – a search no one wants her to pursue. Peace's only allies are a fifteen-year old misfit as desperate to lose his family as Peace is to find here, and Henry, the world's trustiest Black Lab. In addition to being a mystery, this novel explores the ways in which the present is shaped and haunted by the past.

Buy Links

Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Elbow River Now and During the 2013 Flood
Debut author JE Barnard’s first contemporary suspense novel, When the Flood Falls, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur Award and was published this year by Dundurn Press of Toronto. She lives in a vine-covered cottage between the Bow and Elbow Rivers, both of which flooded in 2013 and helped inspire her debut crime novel. Learn more about JE at her website. 

Rising River, Rising Tension….

In When the Flood Falls, burnt-out ex-Mountie Lacey McCrae arrives in the tiny foothills town of Bragg Creek, Alberta. She’s hoping for solitude and healing. What she finds instead is emotional turmoil that rivals the currents in the melt-swollen Elbow River. Her old university roommate, who offered her shelter, is a paranoid wreck after months of a nighttime prowler, and the whole town is braced for a possible recurrence of the flood that very nearly destroyed it five years ago. Standing on the brink of the swirling torrent is the brand-new Arts Museum, with its ground-level classrooms and below-ground art vault.

The town is real, the massive 2013 flood left very real scars, and the collective breath-holding every June—until the dense snow on the mountain peaks has come gently down the river—is real.

However, to fit in my fictional art museum along the riverbank, I had to arbitrarily triple the distance between the riverbank and the West Bragg road. For my lovely imaginary building, think log walls and three-storey glass façades on both the river and the road frontages. There’s a theatre wing and a two-storey museum wing, a catering-sized stainless kitchen, classrooms, art library, offices, meeting rooms, and of course the vault—all in a pristine wilderness setting with a view upriver to shining mountain peaks.

On a steep, craggy hillside above the new facility, I carved out a curving road and built several luxurious log homes for the fictional hockey stars and oil-company executives (including Lacey’s new roommate) that I added to the local population. At the top, where the real hill flattens out in a small plateau, is an imaginary oil baron’s lavish country getaway, complete with two pools, a riding stable, and a helicopter landing pad—installed after the 2013 flood so he would not be cut off from the world again if the bridge went under. This simple hacienda-style sprawl with its white stucco walls and clay-tile roof is deceptive. It looks like a single-storey from the entrance gates but the house extends three levels down the hillside, maximizing the view over the river valley and mountain peaks. For an addict of fabulous-homes television, there’s no greater bliss than mentally designing and decorating seven luxury homes and a multi-millionaire’s entire estate.

How these settings play in When the Flood Falls:

1. In the art vault, Lacey is nearly crushed to death by a rolling steel rack that weighs a thousand pounds.
2. On the oil baron’s top terrace, near the party pool, an overheard snippet of conversation triggers a murderer during an NHL playoff party.
3. In the surging river right outside the Art Museum, the hit-and-run vehicle is dumped.
4. In the closed, deserted Art Museum, on a sultry summer evening, Lacey at last confronts the killer. With the nearest RCMP post half an hour away, even if she does manage to call for help, the real trick will be surviving until it arrives.

When the Flood Falls
A Falls Mystery

When a phantom stalker targets her friend, Lacey McCrae’s crime-busting skills are tested to their limits.

With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shaken by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear.

As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.

Buy Links

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


Did you know that August is Romance Awareness Month? I can’t say that I did. To me, August is all about the dog days of summer and the 3 H’s—hazy, hot, and humid (emphasis on the humid!) But according to the National Day Calendar (nationaldaycalendar.com), August is also Romance Awareness Month, thanks to Celebrate Romance founder Eileen Buchheim. She created the holiday to encourage couples to improve their relationships through romance all year long.

So how do you observe Romance Awareness Month? You add more romance into your relationship. Not currently in a relationship? Grab a romance novel or sit down with a classic romance movie and lose yourself in someone else’s romance.

Here are the Top 10 Romantic Movies of all time, according to Rotten Tomatoes

1.    It Happened One Night (1934)
2.    Casablanca (1942)
3.    Singing in the Rain (1952)
4.    The Big Sick (2017)
5.    The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
6.    The Philadelphia Story (1940)
7.    Vertigo (1958)
8.    On the Waterfront (1954)
9.    Carol (2015)
10. Roman Holiday (1953)

And here are the Top 10 Classic Romance Novels of all time, according to Travellingbookjunkie.com

1.    Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (technically not a novel; it’s a play)
2.    Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
3.    Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
4.    Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
5.    Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
6.    Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
7.    Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
8.    Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
9.    The Graduate, Charles Webb
10. The French Lieutenant’s Woman, John Fowles

If you prefer a more recent romantic read that’s both a tear-jerker and infused with humor, you might enjoy Finding Hope, a past Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist with a plot ripped from the headlines:

Finding Hope

Hope Morgan was always the good girl, doing what her conservative parents expected: she gave up her dream of going to college, became a secretary right out of high school, and married the boy next door. When Hope is suddenly widowed, she finds the courage to pursue her own dreams. Twelve years later, after working full-time and going to school at night, she obtains her degree and is offered a position at a prestigious architectural firm.

That’s when her long-exiled libido decides to resurface, and Hope finds herself falling head-over-heels for Ben Schaffer, her married boss. What Hope doesn’t realize is that Ben’s marriage is less than ideal. Within days of Hope starting her new job, Ben’s wife walks out on him and their three-year-old triplets–the same day the nanny lands in the hospital. When Ben can’t find a last-minute replacement, Hope agrees to step in as a temporary nanny–not the best decision she’s ever made, given her raging hormones.

Ben is fighting a battle with his own hormones, but an office romance is the last thing he needs or wants. However, he and Hope are no match for three very determined three-year-olds on a mission to find a happy ending.

Buy Links