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.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

AN INTERVIEW WITH MILITARY ROMANCE AUTHOR D.K. TAYLOR

Today we sit down for a chat with military romance author D. K. Taylor.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I always knew, but didn’t actually start writing until after my husband died in 2005.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I self-published my first book in July of 2018.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Indie

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

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Since I worked for the Air Force for seven years, married an Air Force Staff Sergeant, and moved around with him for ten years (until he retired), have a son who retired from the U. S. Army, and a son-in-law who retired from the U. S. Navy—I do get a lot of ideas from my life.

Describe your process for naming your character? 
I keep a running list of character names, by nationality, etc., and just pick the one that fits.

Real settings or fictional towns? 
Both, but mostly real.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? 
Can’t think of one.

What’s your quirkiest quirk? 
I am a fanatical book lover; my house is crammed with them, bookcases everywhere.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? 
Any of Elizabeth Lowell’s early books. I LOVE her romances.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 
So far, I don’t have one.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who don’t carefully proof their books, and the book ends up full of errors.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Books, paper, and pen

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 
I worked seven years for the Air Force, seven years for the Farm Bureau, and seven years for a Southern Baptist Church, plus a few short-term jobs. I never really disliked any of them; all were different, but all were interesting.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Since I am an avid reader (can read a book a night), I am hard put to name just one. Favorites are Gone with the Wind, Charles Todd mysteries, romances by Lindsay McKenna and Diana Palmer (among many others), to name a few.

Ocean or mountains? 
Mountains

City girl/guy or country girl/guy? 
Country girl, raised on a farm

Loving What’s Left
In the blink of an eye, two lives are changed forever

Army Lieutenant Kit Vail has finally escaped the loving protection of her older brother, although it has taken a tour in Iraq to accomplish it.  Meanwhile, at an AF Base several hours away, lone-wolf Hawk Hawkins is yanked out of his perfect lifestyle by a call from his long-time friend, Kit’s older brother. Capt. Mark Vail calls in a marker and demands that Hawk drop everything and make a trip to Camp Taji to check on his baby sister, a woman Hawk has never met. Despite their initial animosity, there is an underlying attraction, but sparks fly when neither is prepared to give up his or her independence. Then fate intervenes in the form of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR PATRICIA PRESTON'S ROMANCE HEROINE NATALIE LAYTON

Award-winning author Patricia Preston loves writing romances with picturesque settings and a host of unforgettable characters whose lives entwine in feel-good stories about life, love and finding happiness. She also writes short humorous stories and historicals.
Besides writing, she also works in a family medical clinic. Her favorite place to hang out is her writing cave where must-haves are iced tea and epic music. Learn more about Patricia and her books at her website. 

Everything His Heart Desires a single-title romance that reunites former high school adversaries. Brett “Hot Rod” Harris was from the wrong side of town and determined to make a success of his life no matter what. A wealthy senator’s daughter, Natalie Layton was considered the Cutest Girl in class and a total slacker, which annoyed Brett to no end, especially when he got stuck with her for a lab partner. Fifteen years later, Brett is a cardiologist and still driven to succeed. Natalie is a wartime photographer grappling with the losses in her life.

Natalie recently sat down with us for an interview:

Where are you from?
I grew up in Lafayette Falls, Tennessee but left after I graduated high school. I spent fifteen years abroad as a photographer until a bombing in Kabul ended my career and I reluctantly returned to my hometown.

Tell us a bit about Everything His Heart Desires.
My stubborn grandmother won’t see a doctor about her heart. My family concocts a scheme involving my old high school nemesis, Brett Harris, who, of all things, is a heart doctor now. This plot involves me inviting Brett over to Nana’s for dinner. He thinks charming an old lady will be easy. He is so wrong. Wait till he meets Nana’s thug cat, Pharaoh.

What did you think the first time you saw Brett?
That he hadn’t changed at all. He still has that “James Dean,” born on the wrong side of the tracks thing going. Still Type A, too, and he still has a low opinion of me.

What was your second thought?
That, despite everything, I still like him. And now I’m the key to his success. Karma!

Did you feel it was love at first sight? 
More like trouble at first sight.

What do you like most about him?
I like that he always believed in himself. Raised by his uncle, he had no parents and no money, but he never gave up and never settled for being less than the best.

How would you describe him?
He was our class valedictorian. Smart, sexy and sure of himself. So unlike me.

How would he describe you?
He always called me Slacker because I never worked hard in school. He resented that I came from a rich family and I grew up with everything he never had. But there were things about my life he didn’t know, and I am Type B totally, which gets on his nerves.

What made you choose photojournalism as a career?
I always loved photography. I thought I’d have a photography studio or maybe work for a home and garden magazine. All that changed when my husband died a violent death. I headed to the Middle East to take the kind of photographs no one wants to see.

What is your biggest fear?
I was fearless for a long time. Until I almost died in a bombing. Now I fear my future is in shambles.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It is in the small stories that we find our truth.” That came from my grandmother, who helped me find the truth when it comes to life and love.

Everything His Heart Desires
A Love Heals All Romance

Growing up in Lafayette Falls, senator’s daughter Natalie Layton hid her sorrows behind a bright smile that charmed everyone in high school—except Brett Harris. Hardworking and highly motivated, Brett dismissed Natalie as a slacker. Instead, she’s become an acclaimed photographer. And when Brett, now a successful cardiologist, needs her family’s help to secure a coveted position, Natalie’s more than happy to prescribe a little payback…

Hailing from the wrong side of the tracks, Brett believed he could never win the school’s popular princess. Now he’s intrigued by the complex and compassionate woman Natalie’s become. Gaining her grandmother’s goodwill is the key to becoming chief cardiologist—and Natalie has no intention of making it easy. But as mutual mistrust gives way to pure chemistry, there’s more at stake than either ever expected—and much more to learn about matters of the heart…

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--DOUBLE CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY PECAN BARS

Double Chocolate Raspberry Pecan Bars 
These bars, a cross between a brownie and a chewy cookie, are guaranteed to send your tastebuds to new heights of pleasure.

Yield: 12-16 brownies

Ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 T. cold unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 7” x 11” pan.

In mixer combine melted butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. 

Sift together flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir into wet mixture. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter evenly in pan. Melt jam in microwave. Pour over batter. Drag a knife through batter to marbleize jam into batter.

Dice butter into small pieces. Place pecans, brown sugar, and butter in food processor and pulse until combined. Sprinkle mixture over batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Test with toothpick. Bars are done when toothpick comes out slightly moist. 

Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.

Monday, February 25, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--FROM CROSS STITCH TO DUPLICATE STITCH

Southwest duplicate stitch sweater design
featured in the July 1993 issue of The Crafter
Duplicate stitch, which is the art of embellishing stockinette stitched garments and blankets by overstitching the individual knit stitches, was all the rage back in the early 19990’s. Even though many store-bought knit garments are still embellished with duplicate stitch, most crafters have either forgotten or have never heard of this particular needlecraft. As a matter of fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find pattern books for duplicate stitch in any craft or needlework shop nowadays.

However, many simple cross stitch designs can be used for duplicate stitch. All you need are charts that don’t feature fractional stitches or backstitching. Also keep in mind that cross stitches are square in dimension, while stockinette stitches are slightly vertical rectangles. This won’t matter for many designs (it wasn’t a problem for the sun in the model shown above), but it’s something to keep in mind when choosing a design.

Basic Duplicate Stitch Instructions
Each square on the graph represents a “V” shaped duplicate stitch. The duplicate stitch is made by stitching over the “V” stitch of the stockinette stitch garment or blanket with embroidery floss. This is done by bringing the needle up from the back at the point of the “V” (fig. 1). Next, Insert the needle through the upper right point of the “V” and out through the upper left point of the “V” (fig. 2). Bring the needle back down through the base of the “V” (fig. 3). Begin the next stitch by bringing the needle up at the base of the “V” to the left of the just completed stitch (fig. 4). Work in horizontal rows wherever possible.

For best coverage, separate the strands of floss before threading the needle. The number of strands used will depend on the sweater gauge. The more stitches per inch, the fewer the strands needed for coverage. Work a test section to determine the number of strands you’ll need for best coverage on the item you’re embellishing.

Never knot the floss. Begin by securing the tail of the floss with the first few stitches. End floss by weaving through completed stitches of the same color on the reverse side of the item. When stitching is complete, secure floss ends with a drop of washable fabric glue.

Friday, February 22, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR BARBARA BARRETT'S MAH JONGG MYSTERIES

After eleven full-length romance novels and two novellas, Barbara Barrett switched to cozy mysteries featuring the game of Mah Jongg. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When I began to create my Mah Jongg Mysteries cozy series last year, I made a decision I will either live to rue or use to my advantage from hereon. It remains to be seen. I created four protagonists who will rotate the lead role in succeeding books. Then I immediately deviated from my plan in the second book before I got back on track in the third. Sydney Bonner is featured in both, but the second also involves her husband, who was blissfully unaware of her activities in the first book.
I recently published the third installment in the series and this time put Micki Demetrius, the divorcee in the group, in charge. It was a challenge writing most of the story from her point of view, because in some respects, Micki is similar to Sydney. Like Syd, Micki isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Both can be impulsive, which isn’t the greatest trait to possess in a murder investigation but makes for interesting confrontations and plot twists. But Micki is also a journalist, one who won’t step aside easily when she senses a good story. Asking questions, exposing the truth and influencing others is part of her job.

I’m currently developing the fourth book, in which Marianne Putnam takes over. Shorter than Sydney and Micki, happily married for several years like Syd, Marianne, a former pharmacist, is analytical and detail-oriented. Though Syd may be the group leader, Marianne is the peacekeeper, the good listener, the one who keeps things together. How is someone like that expected to pursue a murderer? The answer to that will materialize when I finish the book.

I can only wonder what I’ve done to myself: is rotating four characters as leads the wisest of moves? Will I be spending more of my writing time differentiating amongst them than developing the plot?

What about precedents? Can I learn from other examples? No book series, especially cozy mysteries, come to mind, but television does offer a couple, “The Golden Girls” and “Designing Women.” In both cases, the four females either lived together or worked together. In each, one was definitely the strong one, but the other three had their own distinct personalities.

In “The Golden Girls”, Blanche was the man-crazy sexpot;; Rose, the ditsy, sweet one; and Sophia, the mother, was desperate to stay out of the “home” and find the right man for her daughter, Dorothy, the strong one. In “Designing Women,” Julia Sugarbaker, the lead, co-owned the interior design business with her sister, Suzanne, who was a silent partner. Julia was anything but silent, unafraid to speak her mind, especially where social justice was involved. Suzanne, the ex-beauty queen, had the social contacts. Mary Jo Shively, head designer with a young family, was the creative one, and Charlene Frazier, the office manager, though a bit of a flake, was also the one with the big heart.

Lesson learned? The writers of those two shows created four distinct characters by establishing diverse personalities and traits.

Taking this to heart, I consulted the DiSC Personality Types Indicator. Are you familiar with this behavioral tool for understanding people? I took it a few times in my career during team building exercises. It suggests most people exhibit one of four personality types: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. Of course, this model is more complicated than just those four categories, but it has served as a starting point in the creation of my four protagonists.

Is it working? Let’s just say it’s a work in progress. Keeping them distinct from each other is still a challenge, especially since, even with four different personalities, they are friends who spend a lot of time together and therefore may at times think alike. But the further I get in the series, the better I’m coming to know the four of them. The joy of developing their personalities, especially when they are confronted with various murders, is still there. I couldn’t ask for more. (Well, maybe a few more sales and great reviews. A girl can only hope.) For now, though, the plan remains intact.

Connect the Dots
A Mah Jongg Mystery, Book 3

How could a thirty-something man fall to his death from a fourth-floor balcony he knows is defective? That’s the question freelance writer Micki Demetrius is asked to answer by the man’s grieving mother, Clarissa White, who refuses to believe his death was an unfortunate accident. But when the authorities determine it was homicide, Micki is shut out of her investigative efforts.

Giving up is easier said than done for Micki. She can’t resist a mystery, and suspicious
characters won’t leave Clarissa alone, from the woman claiming a stake in the victim’s life to a cagey character who wants his business. As the threat to Clarissa grows, Micki feels compelled to help her in spite of the danger.

Micki’s three mah jongg pals—Sydney, Marianne and Kat—are drawn into the mystery, but the retirees have their own challenges. Syd and husband Trip do grandparent duty while their daughter deals with marital issues. Marianne “finds herself” by writing a one-act play. And Kat must decide how public to go with her growing friendship with the sheriff. Together, they must connect the dots in a nefarious web of greed, neglect, secrecy and murder.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

NATIONAL LIBRARY LOVERS MONTH

If you’re a frequent visitor to this blog, you’re probably a lover of books. Did you know that February is National Library Lovers Month?

I was in first grade when I received my first library card. Each week I’d walk to the library (that was back when it was safe for a seven-year-old to walk alone in the city) and return home with an armload of books. I’d lose myself in those books until I returned a week later to check out another armload. 

I read so much and so often that my first grade teacher became annoyed that my reading skills had advanced too far ahead of the other students in her class. She actually told my mother not to allow me to go to the library anymore! 

Can you imagine?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON ON THE DREADED HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

I have a monumental high school reunion coming up in a few months. Every few days I receive an email reminding me to register or suggesting I check out those graduates who have already RSVP’d that they’re planning to attend. I’ve never gone to a single reunion, and I probably won’t go to this one.

My graduating class consisted of 803 students. Don’t ask me how I know this. I’m terrible when it comes to remembering numbers. I don’t remember my own telephone number half the time. But for some reason, I’ve always remembered the number of students in my graduating class. Maybe it’s because of where I ranked, which is one of the few cool things that ever happened to me in high school, but I’m not going to mention that number. No one likes a braggart.

I’ve seen all of three former classmates in the (cough! cough!) years since I graduated. I reconnected with them a few years ago when we happened to run into each other by chance. I now occasionally get together with two of them once a month or so for lunch.

I was pretty much a self-imposed outcast throughout junior high and high school. I didn’t hang with the cool kids; I was the kid the cool kids bullied. Actually, I didn’t really hang with any kids at all. When you grow up in an extremely dysfunctional family, you tend to shy away from making friends for fear of having to reciprocate invitations. Every time I’d cave and bring a friend home, the results were pretty much disastrous. I’m talking on a nuclear meltdown level here, decimating any budding friendship.

So if I didn’t have any real friends way back in the day, why would I be compelled to spend several hundred dollars on an evening with virtual strangers? I’d be the wallflower hanging in the background as groups of old acquaintances formed to catch up with each other’s lives. I doubt anyone would even remember my name. I have only a vague recollection of most of the people who have said they plan to attend and no memory of the others.

Of course, I suppose I could attend the reunion, wearing a huge button that said, “Ask me what I do for a living.” When curiosity got the better of some of the attendees, I could smile sweetly and say, “I kill people.” How’s that for an icebreaker?

On second thought, I’ll save my money. After all, this is New Jersey. Someone might want to hire me. Then again, it might provide a great plot for Anastasia’s next adventure…

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--EXTRA CREAMY MAC AND CHEESE

Extra Creamy Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is a staple at Anastasia’s house. What kid doesn’t like mac and cheese? Plus, it’s not only easy to make, it’s easy on the budget. And as we all know, thanks to Dead Louse of a Spouse, Anastasia needs to keep an eagle eye on her budget.

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups dry pasta (elbow macaroni, shells, fusilli, penne, cavatelli, rotini, gemelli, etc.)
salt
3 T. butter
3 T. flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded havarti
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 T. chopped parsley

Optional: 1 cup cooked and cubed chicken or ham, cooked and crumbled bacon, or cooked ground beef, chicken, or turkey.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-qut. casserole dish

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add sprinkling of salt and pasta. Cook pasta to al dente according to time on package.

While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a skillet or pot large enough to hold all ingredients after cooking. Add flour, whisking over medium heat 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.

Add milk and whisk to remove lumps. Cook over medium-high heat until sauce thickens and begins to bubble.

Whisk in cheese until smooth and melted.

When pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to sauce. Fold in optional meat.

Pour into casserole. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parsley. Bake 20-25 minutes until mac and cheese is browned and bubbly.

Monday, February 18, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--YARN BOMBING REDUX

Back in 2012 I wrote a blog post about yarn bombing, non-permanent street art installations created by knitters and crocheters. It’s been seven years since I came across any yarn bombing. So imagine my surprise the other day when I discovered a yarn bombed metal pole while out walking!

Is yarn bombing art or vandalism? Depends on whom you ask. But seeing this rainbow-covered pole on a gloomy winter day when a snowstorm is on the way certainly put a smile on my face.

Friday, February 15, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON ON MEETING READERS' EXPECTATIONS


Meeting Readers’ Expectations—Or Not
In a few weeks I’ll be celebrating the thirteenth anniversary of the release of Talk Gertie To Me, the first novel I ever sold. Shortly after the book came out someone posted a review on Amazon that she titled “Talk Disappointing To Me.” Why? I hadn’t met her expectations as a reader. “Contemporary Romance” was printed on the spine of the book. The back cover copy emphasized the romance that takes place between one of the main characters and what is actually a secondary character in the book. The reader expected a book that fell squarely into the romance genre. What she got was women’s fiction with a chick lit edge to it. She was disappointed, and although I was unhappy to see a negative review of my baby, I understood her disappointment.
The original cover
from the book's release in 2006

In a romance the two main characters are the hero and heroine. In Talk Gertie To Me the two main characters are a mother and daughter. There is romance in the book. Actually, there are two romances, one that involves the mother and the other that involves the daughter, but the romances are subplots. The main story is about the relationship between the mother and daughter. It’s a comical tale of the tug-of-war that ensues when a daughter severs the apron strings and her mother is faced with empty nest syndrome.

So why was Talk Gertie To Me being sold as a romance? I can’t answer that. Authors, especially first time authors, have no control over the business decisions made by their publishers. Given that at the time my publisher also had a chick lit line, chick lit was the genre du jour, and they even featured a quote on the cover from another chick lit author, it never made any sense to me to market my book as a contemporary romance. I was totally shocked by their decision. Whether it hurt sales of the book, I’ll never know. The majority of reviews the book has received are positive, but there were other readers whose expectations I didn’t meet. They wanted more Nori and Mac, less of Connie and her adventures in New York. However, most did like other aspects of the book. Even the author of “Talk Disappointing To Me” gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Three-and-a-half years and a romantic suspense later, I sold Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. I wrote the book as a humorous amateur sleuth mystery, not a cozy mystery, because the Mafia loan shark in the book uses language appropriate to a Mafia loan shark. My editor didn’t ask me to refrain from using colorful language or employ euphemisms. So imagine my surprise when a year later I saw the book previewed on their website, not in the Amateur Sleuth category but in the Cozy Mystery category! It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say.

When I asked my editor why the book was listed as a cozy, she replied that cozies sell better. The problem, though, is that cozy readers have certain expectations, and one of them is that they won’t find any foul language in cozy books. So once again, I received some negative reviews, this time concerning a character’s limited use of words generally not uttered in polite company.

There are now seven Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery novels and three novellas with an eighth novel in the works. I’ve always been of the mind that a word is just a word; it’s the meaning that’s important. But not everyone feels that way, and as an author I don’t want to alienate a segment of my readership. So I eventually decided to bow to the pressure placed on me by some of my readers and now employ euphemisms. I learned a long time ago that in life it’s best to choose your battles, and this was one that wasn’t worth fighting.

Talk Gertie To Me
Two years ago Nori Stedworth fled the conservative mentality of both her parents and Ten Commandments, Iowa, for Manhattan. She loves her new life -- until one devastating afternoon that culminates with the arrival of her mother. Mom is suffering from middle-age meltdown. Her only identity is as a wife and mother, but her husband is a workaholic, and her daughter is halfway across the country. Grandchildren would give her life new purpose. If only Nori would come to her senses and marry town mortician and most eligible bachelor Eugene Draymore.

To that end, Mom sets off to bring Nori home. But when she meets Nori’s neighbor, her plans take an unexpected twist, and she’s thrust headfirst into a career as the next Martha Stewart. Suddenly, she’s a somebody in her own right and reconsiders returning to her old life.

As a coping mechanism, Nori resurrects Gertie, her adolescent imaginary friend. A laptop mix-up lands her musings in the hands of Mackenzie Randolph, a talk-radio station manager on deadline to boost sagging ratings or lose his job. He knows he’s found the answer to his prayers when he reads Nori’s make-believe correspondence.

And maybe he’s found much more.

Meanwhile Dad, with Eugene in tow, comes in search of his AWOL wife. Tempers flare when Mom refuses to return home. However, when she and Dad hear Nori on the radio, they unite to “save” her from the corruption of both Mac and Manhattan.

And that’s when things really get interesting.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES...THE WORST OF TIMES FOR AUTHOR KELLI A. WILKINS' TORTURED HERO

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, 5 nonfiction books, and an online writing course. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.

Today, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lord Sebestyen Adrik, the hero from Kelli’s Gothic historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past, shares a few of his best and worst experiences. Learn more about Kelli and her books on her website and blog.

A Tortured Hero Speaks…
My author, Kelli A. Wilkins, has encouraged me to talk about a few of my personal best and worst moments in Redemption from a Dark Past. There were plenty, but I’ve chosen the most memorable ones to share today.

The “worst” moment for me occurred before the book even started, and it set the stage for everything that was to come. Lady Alzabeta Adrik and I didn’t have a happy or a romantic marriage. (I discovered that she was being unfaithful with one of my close friends, and she never really loved me.) We quarreled often, and during one of those infamous arguments, she died. I was accused of her murder.

Needless to say, my reputation (and my life in general) was ruined by the accusation. To compensate—and to punish myself—I withdrew from the world and lived with the guilt of what I had done for years. It was a very lonely, miserable time in my life. I was at my lowest point and had thought about giving up entirely.

But then a “best” moment happened. Katarina came to my castle and agreed to be my companion. She was a ray of sunshine in my gloomy existence. I have to give her credit for being persistent. When we first met, I was grouchy, difficult to talk to, moody, and not very good company to such a lovely young lady. But over the course of the book, she captured my heart and I learned to love and trust again.

Of course, Kelli had to add a few other “worst” or “troubling” events in the book. One of the “worst” moments for me happened toward the end of the story, when Katarina was taken from the castle by my sworn enemy. She was nearly killed—but not for something she had done. No. This fiend wanted to kill her to punish me and make me suffer.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but Katarina suffered greatly just by being associated with me. My reputation as a madman, murderer, and worse was known throughout the kingdom. It was disheartening to know that people hated her and judged her for being my companion. At one point, I told her that she should leave because she would be better off without me.

But Katarina refused to leave and stayed loyal to me throughout the book. When I realized that she didn’t care what people thought about me or her, I was thrilled. Those scenes were some of the best for me. She took me out of my dark despair and helped me heal.

So when I’m asked what the “best” thing about our story is, I have to say: “That I found the true love of my life in Katarina.” Yes, we had to go through some trials and troubles, but in the end she’s the best thing that ever happened to me. We overcame the “worst” together.

Kelli did a great job of creating a moody, Gothic atmosphere and blending mystery and suspense with our romance.

Redemption from a Dark Past
Lord Sebestyen Adrik has an unsavory reputation as a madman, murderer… and worse. Lonely and searching for love, he seeks the companionship of local young women, hoping one of them will ease his torment and bring him the happiness he longs for. Katarina is his last chance—but will she fear him like all the others? Or is she the one who can lift his curse?

Desperate to avoid a forced marriage, Katarina agrees to become Lord Adrik’s latest companion, despite the rumors she has heard about him. She discovers the “Dark Lord’s” secret past and realizes he’s not the monster everyone thinks he is.

As their love blossoms, she renews his passion for life—yet they cannot escape the ghosts of the past.

When a meeting of the nobility goes horribly wrong, Sebestyen’s world unravels, and his enemies plot to destroy him. As all seems lost, a mysterious stranger arrives at the castle. Sebestyen must decide if he is a friend or a foe…and if he can find redemption in his love for Katarina, or lose her and everything else that he holds dear.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

AUTHOR J.A. KAZIMER ON THE BEST AND WORST OF FAIRYTALE HAPPILY EVER AFTERS

We’re continuing with our new Best of/Worst of feature today with author J.A. Kazimer. When she isn't looking for a place to hide the bodies, she devotes her time to playing with a pup named Killer. Other hobbies include murdering houseplants. She spent a few years stalking people while working as a private investigator before transitioning to the moniker of WRITER and penning over 15 titles. Learn more about her and her books at her website

Top 3 Best/Worst of Fairytale Happily Ever Afters

So excited to do a Best/Worst of post, especially on something so near and dear to my heart – Fairytales. Thanks for the opportunity!

Happily ever after is what fairytales, and hopefully life, are all about. But some fairytales leave me questioning just how lucky these princesses or in some cases, princes might be.

Best of:
3. Cinderella—Prince Charming is worth a busted heel or two, for the size of his…palace.

2. The Frog Prince—The princess is willing to get her hands, or in her case, her lips a little dirty in order to find her happily ever after. So what if he smells like pond water? She’s my kind of girl.

1. The Ugly Duckling—Chances are, you’ve dreamed about heading back to your high school reunion, dressed to kill, and showing all those ducks just how swan-like you’ve become. I know I have.

Honorable mention:
Rapunzel—What woman has time to style hair that long every morning?

Worst of:
3. Little Red Riding Hood—While she very well might’ve lived happily ever after, how does one un-see dear old granny half-digested by a wolf? Let alone ever venture outside again?

2. Rumpelstiltskin—He just wants a child of his own. And really, does the deceitful miller’s daughter genuinely deserve her babe after making such a promise? Child Protective Services should, at the very least, be checking in to make sure she hasn’t pledged away any of her other offspring.

1. The Princess and the Pea—Talk about terrible mothers-in-law. I don’t care how great the prince is. He’s not worth spending the night tossing and turning because his mother has trust issues. Add in the fact, he only marries the princess because she has sensitive skin. Awkward once he finds out she isn’t really royalty but uses a really good moisturizer. 

Honorable mentions: 
The Little Mermaid—She opts to give up her life under the sea to live with the prince who isn’t smart enough not to fall into the ocean in the first place.

Snow White—She ends up living happily ever after with a basic stranger who kisses random women in comas. I have a sneaking suspicion he either winds up in jail or she learns how to bake poisoned apple pies from the Evil Queen.

What are some of the best or worst fairytale romances you’ve read?

CUFFED: A Detective Goldie Locks Mystery
Detective Goldie Locks isn’t looking for just the right bed. Or any bed for that matter. 

She’s on the hunt for a killer. 

When she discovers the fingerprints of a once-upon-a-time lover, a man who jumped over a candlestick and out a window to leave her facing some serious trespassing trouble alone, at a crime scene, she vows to see him in handcuffs. 

Jack B. Nimble has other ideas. 

He threatens her adoptive family if Goldie doesn’t help him clear his villainous name, much to the chagrin of her current boyfriend and quite possibly the next mayor, Beau White, the fairest man in all the land. 

Trying to prove his innocence turns out to be harder than she expected, especially when Jack refuses to aid in his defense, and instead, starts a campaign to ‘win’ her back. Goldie might be a blond, but she’s far from dumb enough to fall for his charms a second time. 

Or so she tells herself every time his lips meet hers.

The deeper she plows into the rabbit hole and Jack’s soul, the more she learns about his motives for returning to the city—Destroying her perfectly crafted life.