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.

Monday, October 22, 2018

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--DROP DEAD ORNAMENTS RELEASE DAY AND GREAT ESCAPES BLOG TOUR


Today marks the official release of Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. It’s also the kick-off our Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour. Over the next two weeks Drop Dead Ornaments will be featured at twenty-eight different blog and review sites. Stop by these sites each day for guest posts and interviews with author Lois Winston and me, her reluctant amateur sleuth. Read reviews from book reviewers, and enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win one of three 3-copies of Drop Dead Ornaments that will be given away at the end of the tour.

October 22 – The Avid Reader 
October 22 – Lisa Ks BookReviews 
October 22 – Babs Book Bistro 
October 23 – Mallory Heart’s Cozies 
October 23 – A Blue MillionBooks 
October 23 – Christa Reads and Writes 
October 24 – The NinjaLibrarian 
October 25 – FUONLYKNEW 
October 25 – A Chick WhoReads 
October 26 – Laura’sInterests 
October 26 – A Wytch’s BookReview Blog 
October 27 – T’s Stuff 
October 28 – Readeropolis 
October 28 – IslandConfidential 
October 29 – Ruff Drafts 
October 29 – Cozy Up WithKathy 
October 30 – Jane Reads 
October 30 – Mysteries withCharacter 
October 31 – StoreyBookReviews 
November 1 – Celticlady’sReviews 
November 1 – The Pulp andMystery Shelf 
November 1 – I’m All AboutBooks 
November 2 – The MontanaBookaholic 
November 2 – The Book’s theThing 
November 2 – Brooke Blogs 
November 3 – My ReadingJourneys 
November 3 – TheSelf-Rescue Princess 
November 3 – Here’s How itHappened 
November 4 – My DevotionalThoughts 
November 4 – Melina’s BookBlog 
November 4 – Curling Up bythe Fire 

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?

Buy Links
Paperback
Kobo 
Nook 


Friday, October 19, 2018

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--ANASTASIA ON THE CHARACTERS READERS LOVE TO HATE

Who would have thought this cute baby would grow up to inspire the character readers love to hate?
Monday marks the official release for Drop Dead Ornaments, the seventh book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, the series author Lois Winston writes about me, her reluctant amateur sleuth. Readers often ask Lois where she gets the ideas for the characters in the series—yours truly and the others. So today I thought I’d divulge a few not-so-secret secrets.

To begin, you need to know the idea for the series came about from a combination of events in Lois’s life. First and foremost, an editor told Lois’s agent that she was looking for a crafting mystery series. Knowing Lois was a designer of needlework kits and projects for various companies and publishers, Lois’s agent thought she’d be the perfect person to write such a series, even though Lois was a romance author at the time. However, since her agent had faith in her, Lois decided she was up for the challenge.

At the same time, Lois’s husband had recently lost his job, and although he’s nothing like my Dead Louse of a Spouse, it sent her into a tailspin of worry regarding money. On top of that, she was also dealing with escalating mother-in-law problems. And finally, when Lois first started contemplating the series, The Sopranos was still airing on HBO. Lois is a Jersey girl. How could she not set a mystery in her home state and involve the Mafia in some way? (Of course, she didn’t consider me in her decision!) Anyway, all of these elements came together to form the basis for Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

The premise for the series, as many of you know, is that when my gambling-addicted husband permanently cashes in his chips in Las Vegas, my life craps out. I’m left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars. Over the course of the series, I’ve looked for ways to whittle down that massive debt, a task made more difficult by my spend-thrift mother, a self-proclaimed descendant of Russian nobility, and my curmudgeon mother-in-law, a card-carrying communist, both of whom lived with me for the first few books in the series. Mama is now settled in her own condo, but you’d never know it since she’s always at my house—especially at mealtime.

And then there are the dead bodies—lots of dead bodies! It’s not like I work in law enforcement. However, since my husband’s death, I keep stumbling across murder victims, hardly something any magazine crafts editor should have to deal with.

According to Lois, she’s always been drawn to quirky characters. They make her laugh. It’s the reason she write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries rather than traditional cozy mysteries. She thinks we need more laughter in the world because there’s enough that keeps us from laughing in real life. I get it, considering I haven’t had much to laugh about since she took over my life. I just wish she’d chosen someone else as her protagonist, rather than picking on me. However, aside from the dead husband with a penchant for gambling and all those dead bodies, Lois based much of my life on her own. (Disclaimer: Her husband has never been to a casino, and she’s never tripped over a dead body.)

As for the rest of the characters in the series, most are based in part on people Lois has known. She takes traits from various people, exaggerates them (Let’s face it, most people aren’t as quirky in real life as they are in fiction), and blends them together to create unique characters.

The exception is Lucille, my mother-in-law. With a few minor exceptions, Lucille’s personality (along with her communist leanings) mirrors that of Lois’s now deceased mother-in-law. Poor girl. Once I learned this, I completely understood her need for a little cathartic retribution via fiction. Her mother-in-law made the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms. And that’s not just Lois’s opinion. Many others felt the same way, but Lois received the brunt of her venom.

Some readers have suggested Lois kill off Lucille; others love her, probably because they see some of their own mothers-in-law in her. After all, misery does love company. As for some of the other recurring characters in the series, I’ll leave them to a future blog post.

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?

Buy Links (Now available for pre-order. On sale 10/22)
Kobo 
Nook 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

AUTHOR STEPHANIE OSBORN'S DIVISION ONE HEADQUARTERS

An Overview of Division One Headquarters
Stephanie Osborn describes herself as an award-winning Interstellar Woman of Mystery. She’s a 20+-year space program veteran with multiple STEM degrees who has also authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than forty books. Her new Division One series is her take on the urban legend of mysterious people who make things...disappear. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website. http://www.stephanie-osborn.com/

Division One Headquarters
In the Division One series, I go back to the urban legend of beings who show up at UFO sightings, alien abductions, etc. and make the evidence...disappear...to craft my vision of the universe we don’t know about. Division One chronicles this universe through the eyes of recruit Megan McAllister, aka Omega, and her experienced partner, Echo, the first team in the Pan-Galactic Division One Agency’s new Alpha Line special-missions department, as they handle everything from lost alien children to extraterrestrial assassination attempts and more.

Yes, it’s using the same core reference material as certain movies, but this same urban legend has been used not only in the eponymous films (and comics, novelizations, cartoon, etc.), but also in the Matrix films, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, and more. The trick is to put my own spin on the urban legend...which I’ve done, in spades. In my universe, they are the local precinct of the Pan-Galactic Law Enforcement Association—not an independent organization, but the local branch of the galactic government. Each galactic division is a “precinct,” each world a “state.” And Earth is the HQ for Division One.

As it’s pretty much the travel/finance/cuisine/anything else capital of the world, the Agency headquarters is set in greater New York City. But where, exactly? A quick bit of google-fu turned up Division Street in Brooklyn! Perfect! A bit more research discovered a little Jewish school just off the East River near the end of the street. And one of the founding members, now the Director, is Jewish. And they have this nifty-cool space warp that they can use to share the building—expanding it to skyscraper proportions—without anyone in, or OUT of, the school the wiser.

So Division One headquarters is on Division Avenue in Brooklyn, on the corner of the intersection with Kent Ave, within sight of the East River. The building is four stories externally. There is a brownstone neighborhood along the street as you go east, including corner markets where Agent Echo might pick up his partner’s favorite chocolate stout on his way back from grabbing sandwiches at the local kosher deli, two blocks down and a favorite haunt of the agents. There’s a ball field across the street, several high-rise apartment/condo buildings down both Division and Kent, and the nearest parking garage is “warped” into Headquarters to allow for a vehicle hangar.

As Echo told his trainee/partner, Omega, “...It’s a simple dimensional warp. We can continue to expand our operations on the inside, as required, without anyone on the outside being the wiser. On the outside, this building has something like two or three stories, four if you count the basement. Inside, we have over a hundred floors, above and below ground.” These floors include facilities, the various Agency departments, alien embassies, and billeting for all the agents stationed there.

There are plenty of shops, movie theaters, and a mega-mall nearby, as well as small parks to provide for recreation for the agents, and some of those apartment buildings down the street actually house agents who want a bit more freedom than the billets in Headquarters allows. Though, with essentially unlimited space, those in-house quarters are really pretty darn comfy, especially compared to the stereotypical cramped apartments around the Big Apple.

The only thing they don’t have are windows, due to security issues. Never mind how you’d cram hundred windows into what is only a 4-story building on the outside. As Omega considered, “I got no idea how that would work, with the space warp thing and so many floors inside, but not outside. Might come across from the outside looking like giant insect eyes or something.”

All in all, the Headquarters building is intended to be inconspicuous, with enough exits in different places among the surrounding blocks that all of the coming and going can be easily explained; the majority of the alien arrivals and departures actually occur via a sophisticated underground maglev train system, and they’re not seen “topside.” Air- and spacecraft ports are located outside the boroughs, to minimize possible inadvertent sightings.

I have a lot of fun writing in this universe, and I’ve put a lot of effort into building a detailed “parallel,” hidden universe that coexists with “the real world.” I hope you’re intrigued enough to check it out; I think it’ll be fun for you, too.

Phantoms
The Division One series, Book 8

Has Alpha One been played?

At long last, Echo and Omega are going on their first real date, and Echo pulls out all the stops.

But when he introduces Omega to a Broadway star, they find art imitating life, as a dangerous nonhuman entity plagues the theater.
Alpha One goes undercover to bring to light what’s really happening. But is the entity after the show’s leads...or have Echo and Omega been played?



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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

#FASHION--WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

Have you noticed that mid-century modern is “in”? On various HGTV shows, homebuyers are going gaga over mid-century modern. Lately, many popular TV shows and movies are set in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Recently I came across several shops that sell reproductions of fashions and home dec from the Eisenhower and Kennedy eras.

If you flip through an old family album from those years, you’ll probably see the women in wearing aprons. No matter the task—cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, hanging the laundry, gardening—mothers, grandmothers, and aunts attacked each household chore with an apron tied around their waists. As did Donna Reed, June Cleaver, Harriet Nelson, and Margaret Anderson, those quintessential television moms who came to call each evening back in the day. Aprons were a de rigueur part of a woman’s wardrobe, not to mention a standard “mom” gift for birthdays, Christmas, and Mother’s Day. Sometimes they were purchased; more often, they were handmade and embellished with embroidery, lace, smocking, or other handiwork.

Back then girls took Home Economics, and their first sewing project was often a gingham half apron. In colonial times girls mastered the alphabet and Bible sayings by embroidering samplers. In the last century they mastered the sewing machine and hand sewing in Home Ec classes.

Aprons are mentioned as far back as the Bible. In Genesis 3:7, Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make themselves aprons. However, the apron didn’t become commonplace until the 13th century when blacksmiths donned leather aprons to protect themselves from the hot metals and sparks of the forge. Today, metal smiths and welders still wear aprons for protection, although they have replaced leather with more protective synthetic materials.

Eventually, more people began wearing aprons to protect both themselves and their clothing. Fishermen found that wool aprons not only kept them dry but kept their clothes free of fish smells. Aprons served multiple purposes for women who used them for both cleaning and as flexible gathering containers.

According to Joyce Cheney, the curator of the national exhibit, “Apron Strings: Ties to the Past,” at one time a person’s occupation could be discerned from the color and pattern of his apron. Gardeners, spinners, weavers, and garbage men wore blue aprons. Butlers wore green. Butchers wore blue stripes. Cobblers wore what was known as “black flag” aprons, which protected them from the black wax they used. English barbers wore checkered aprons and were known as “checkered apron men.” Stonemasons wore white. Today members of the Fraternal Order of Masons continue to don white aprons during Masonic ceremonies.

Although white was traditionally the color of aprons worn by house servants, upper class Victorian women also wore aprons. However, instead of the simple, utilitarian aprons of their maids, these Victorian ladies spent hours embellishing fine white linen with intricate embroidery and handmade lace and tatting. The aprons, often works of art in themselves, were worn, not for protection from the messiness of household tasks, but as a symbol of domestic pride and a showcase for their talents.
  
Prior to the Depression, most aprons were made of white cotton or linen. However, with the onset of the Depression, both materials and money became scarce. Women were forced to make do with whatever fabrics they could scrounge. Aprons, like quilts, were often made from feed and flour sacks or scraps of clothing. The use of these patterned fabrics heralded a turning point in the look of the apron. After the Depression, calicos became popular fabrics for aprons. By the 1940’s many aprons featured large floral print fabrics.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s women were often pictured wearing aprons in magazine advertisements and later on television commercials. The apron-clad housewife became the emblematic salesperson for everything from kitchen appliances to frozen foods. Most women had a kitchen drawer devoted to their apron collection, wearing different style aprons for different household chores. June Cleaver coordinated her aprons with her dresses and accessorized them with pearls and heels. Women embellished their aprons with rickrack, buttons, ribbons, beads, and lace, wearing tea and hostess aprons for entertaining. Aprons featuring printed pictures of popular tourist attractions became a standard souvenir item for women to purchase while on vacation.

In the early 1970’s, the hostess apron, complete with ruffles, had a brief period of popularity. Nowadays, however, most women only bother with an apron for a specific messy task, such as baking. Often, dad is the family member wearing an apron, donning a simple canvas one while flipping burgers at the grill. Today, however, aprons are mostly seen in restaurants on waiters and chefs.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR VICKI BATMAN BAKES UP TOMATO SOUP FRUITCAKE

Photo credit
Award-winning, bestselling author Vicki Batman has written numerous romantic comedies and two humorous romantic mysteries. She describes herself as an avid Jazzerciser, handbag lover, Mahjong player, Yoga practitioner, movie fan, book devourer, chocaholic, and Best Mom ever. Most days begin with her hands set to the keyboard and thinking, "What if?" Learn more about her and her stories at her website/blog. 

Vicki's Grandmother
I Confess: My Love for Fruitcake

When I grew up, our family baked and crafted special things at Christmas time. Mom and her best friend spent hours and hours making oodles of divinity, and yes, it was divine. My sisters and I wrapped gifts for Wrap-a-thon. My grandmother baked her special holiday dessert: Tomato Cake.

The interesting ingredient in the cake is tomato soup. Sounds…strange, but you know what? If you didn't know soup was an ingredient, you'd love it too. I’m serious. You can’t taste tomato anything.

Tomato cake’s texture is dense, like regular fruitcake, and could be labeled a “fruitcake” when fruit is included. If you research online, you will see a bundt cake version. Grandmother mixed in raisins, walnuts, and chopped dates. And once, she got all radical and threw in chopped canned pears. She always baked hers in a loaf pan, yet, she didn’t frost it. Today’s version is topped with a decadent pineapple cream cheese frosting.

Our family believed Tomato Cake to be a wartime recipe. (Link to the original)

Before you get all weirdly freaked out about tomato soup in a cake, know this: I was a finicky eater; however, I loved this dessert. In fact, I adore fruitcake. There are many varieties of fruitcakes; some aren’t made with the candied fruit or alcohol we've come to associate with the treat.

Care to be daring and try a variation on Grandmother's holiday cake?

Tomato Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Tomato Soup
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1/4 cup water

Heat the oven to 350°F.  Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl.  Add the soup, shortening, eggs and water.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed just until blended. Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 minutes. 

Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. 

Frost with:

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting:
½ C crushed pineapple with juice
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar

Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. 

Beat in the confectioners' sugar. 

Add the pineapple and juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is the desired consistency. 

So why all this chatter about fruitcake? I wrote a hilarious short story entitled "The Great Fruitcake Bake-off” which is included in the Whispers of Winter holiday anthology:

The Great Fruitcake Bake-off
When five-time champion Samantha Greene teams up with her new neighbor, Dixon Roberts, for The Great Fruitcake Bake-off, they discover baking a prize-winning entry is complicated, bad guys are plotting to take the crown, and first prize isn't just about a ribbon.

Other authors in the Whispers of Winter anthology are: Nicole Morgan, Stephanie Morris, Caitlyn Lynch, Maya Bailey, Krista Ames, Sharon Coady, Donna R. Mercer, Jan Springer, Carma Haley Shoemaker, Livia Quinn, Amber Skyze, Rebecca Fairfax, Jane Blythe, Suzanne Jenkins, Stacy Eaton, Rene Webb, Marie Mason, Joann Baker & Patricia Mason, Karen Cino

Monday, October 15, 2018

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s very much on my mind lately because a dear family member is battling this pernicious disease. Even though there are measures we can take to lessen our risk of breast cancer, sometimes it strikes anyway—even when there is no family history of any form of cancer, going back generations. There’s much we know about breast cancer but still so much we don’t.

Being physically “there” to support a friend or family member going through the rigors of treatment is not always an option. In my case, my relative is on the other side of the country. But there are many other ways to show support, depending on the person’s needs. In the case of my relative, I know that she has an incredible support group of friends who have taken over meal prep and transportation duties and started a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover medical expenses that insurance won’t cover.

My relative has decided she doesn’t want out-of-town visitors until she’s nearly finished with her chemotherapy. I understand this. No matter how much I want to be there to help her, I also know that having extra people around all day can be stressful. Even phone calls can be difficult because you never know if the patient really wants to talk or is merely being polite because that’s the kind of person she is.

So one of the things I’ve decided to do is send her a gift for each round of her chemo, just a little something to let her know she’s in my heart and my thoughts. Sometimes it’s the smallest gesture that can put a smile on your face and help you get through a rough day.

If you have a loved one battling breast cancer or any form of cancer, for that matter, let them know how much you care by doing something that will brighten their day.

Friday, October 12, 2018

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH MARY REED AND ERIC MAYER'S JOHN, LORD CHAMBERLAIN

Today we sit down for a chat with John of the John, Lord Chamberlain, Byzantine Mystery series by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
A quiet one! After I left the life of a mercenary I expected to begin farming in a rural area of Greece, but then I fell in with a troupe of peripatetic performers whose main act was a recreation of bull dancing. I never anticipated visiting Constantinople, much less achieving the high office I eventually occupied.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I am loyal. It was this that led to my leaving exile in Greece to go to Rome to help Felix, an old friend and newly minted general, who asked me for assistance with a pressing but unspecified difficulty. We both knew leaving exile without Emperor Justinian's permission was likely to lead to my execution, but still I had to go to Felix's aid. He would have done the same for me.

What do you like least about yourself?
Although I control it better now, I have not yet completely conquered the black rage I feel over emasculation and being sold as a slave.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Among many strange events my authors introduced into my life, events that spring to mind was when they sent myself, my wife Cornelia, and an elderly servant who invited himself along to Egypt to investigate why sheep were committing suicide. At one point this led to my reluctantly taking part in a street performance presenting a glimpse of the life of Empress Theodora, not to mention making the acquaintance of a purveyor of faux cat mummies who bred his own material and a second remarkable individual, a diminutive magician. A complete fraud, the latter's act brought him to Constantinople to perform for the imperial couple. Despite his impudent patter and snake fitted with an obviously counterfeit human head act he kept his own head. My authors chronicled our adventures in Six For Gold.

Do you argue with your authors? If so, what do you argue about?
My authors have no time to argue with me because they argue with each other!

What is your greatest fear?
That my Cornelia will die and I must live on alone.

What makes you happy?
Sitting with her in the ruins of a temple on the edge of my estate overlooking the sea.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
I would be a free man living on a small estate in Greece. It was after my enslavement and subsequent freedom I began my journey to holding the office of Lord Chamberlain. Incidentally, I first met Felix while I was still a slave. We were ordered by Emperor Justinian to investigate a particularly delicate matter involving a murder in broad daylight in the Great Church in Constantinople. My authors chronicled that adventure in Four For A Boy.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Clementia, Felix's latest mistress. She continually demonstrates she thinks I am willing to replace him in her affections and further, I have come to believe, she is not always to be trusted to tell the truth, which is vital in any investigation.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
If it were possible, I would drop a few decades and trade places with Viteric, the young soldier escorting me around Rome. At the same time, as was naturally to be expected in the circumstances, he is keeping an eye on what I was doing and reporting back to Diogenes, the general in charge of the city garrison. I would describe Viteric as a good fighter, brave, intelligent, observant, quick-acting, in short the sort of man worth his weight in gold in a battle.

Tell us a little something about your authors. Where can readers find her website/blog?
My authors have been writing about my life for some years now. An Empire For Ravens is the latest installment, and will appear in October from Poisoned Pen Press. Their website may be viewed here  and their blog, largely devoted to reviews of Golden Age novels, here.

What's next for you?
I was hoping for a less eventful life, but it appears this is not likely, given my authors are hinting at further eventful times, so I suppose I shall find out what they have in store for me when everyone else does!

An Empire For Ravens
Emperor Justinian's former Lord Chamberlain John receives a letter from his longtime comrade Felix asking for help, and, placing loyalty to a friend above his own safety, risks defying imperial edict by leaving his exile in Greece for Italy, where Felix is serving under General Diogenes in fighting for Rome against the besieging Goths.

John's covert entrance into Rome is ambushed, driving him deep into ancient catacombs before he exits into the heart of the city. Arrested, John learns that Felix is missing. Sent to lodge at Felix's quarters, John finds the household in disarray, evidence that Felix has taken a questionable lover and run up his usual debts, not to mention someone is rifling supplies. Then a young woman servant, also missing, is found dead. John has many mysteries to solve before Diogenes' courier to Justinian can return and prompt John's immediate execution.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR ELLEN BYRON ON COURIR DE MARDI GRAS

Award-winning mystery author Ellen Byron writes the Cajun Country Mystery series. Ellen’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She’s also written 200+ national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. As if that weren’t enough, she also worked as a cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Learn more about Ellen and her books at her website.

Mardi Gras Murder, my new Cajun Country Mystery, revolves around the Cajun tradition, Courir de Mardi Gras – Mardi Gras Run. The runs are down-home affairs, with fantastic masks often made by the wearer or a local craftsperson, and costumes that are also primarily made by hand. What I love are the fabrics Mardi Gras – in Cajun Country, the term is often used as a proper noun – chose for their outfits.

They range from sedate…
To exuberant.
Some are a little bit country…
Some are a little bit rock ‘n roll…

No matter the pattern, all the fabrics reflect the joyous nature of the Courirs. Yes, they can get crazy. And being an animal lover, I don’t love the part of a courir where they chase a chicken and then catch it for the communal gumbo that ends the festivities. Some are men only, which pushes a button for me. But local women responded by creating their own runs. There are family runs, too.

Still, I love the fact that such a unique and specifically regional celebration not only exists but thrives in today’s homogenized society. My friend Jan Gilbert, a renowned NOLA artist, participated in a run and took these photos. Someday I hope to join a run myself, well… laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll.

Mardi Gras Murder
A Cajun Country Mystery, Book 4

The resilient citizens of Pelican aren’t about to let some hundred-year flood ruin their Mardi Gras festivities, which include Courirs de Mardi Gras – Mardi Gras Runs – a gumbo cook-off, and the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant contest.  But when a body of a stranger washes up in the bayou Crozat Plantation B&B, and a pageant judge is shot, Maggie Crozat is convinced that the deaths are connected. Does someone want the pageant queen crown bad enough to kill for it? Or are the deaths somehow related to the Orphan Train, which delivered its last charges to Cajun Country in 1929?

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(Photos courtesy of Jan Gilbert and EPrimeMedia.com)