featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

AUTHOR CORNELIA AMIRI TALKS ABOUT #SAMHAIN AND #HALLOWEEN

Cornelia Amiri’s superpower is turning her imagination into thirty-seven published sci-fi/fantasy romance novels (with the help of her muse, Severus the Cat.) Today she joins us to talk about Samhain and Halloween. Learn more about Cornelia and her books at her website. 

Ways Samhain is the Same as Halloween
Samhain, pronounced Sahvin, is the Celtic New Year. It falls on October 31st to November 1st, and it’s where we get many of our Halloween traditions. As an author of Celtic Fantasy Romance novels, my favorite holiday is Samhain or as some say Halloween.

The Celts believed that the veil between worlds was at its thinnest on Samhain. The dead easily crossed into our earthly dimension and were honored by their living kith and kin, who left plates of food out for deceased relatives, visiting for Samhain. 

Samhain was celebrated with games, (like hurling, foot races, and horse races) a rowdy feast, and a massive, blazing bonfire. In Ireland, druids held the Samhain celebration and lit the great fire at Tlachtga each year, about twelve miles from Tara.

Turnips, apples, and hazelnuts were popular food for Samhain. The ancient Celts carved out mangel-wurzels, a type of turnip, and placed tallow inside to use them as Samhain lanterns. The Celt’s believed that on Samhain, a type of shapeshifting fey—puca in Gaelic (pwca in Welsh and bucca in Cornish) spit on any unharvested apples rendering them inedible. That’s why the ancient Celts picked all the apples before the Samhain feast began. So, don’t buy any apples picked after Halloween, those puca could still be creeping around the orchards. 

Hazelnuts ripened in Autumn and were believed to impart wisdom as well as strength to anyone who ate them. Maybe I should try some hazelnuts and see if that works. Since Samhain was the end of the autumn season, any of the livestock (cows, sheep, pigs) deemed unlikely to make it through the coming winter were slaughtered at this time. So, there was a bounty of delicious boiled and roasted meat to feast on. And of course, there was plenty of heady ale or mead to go around.  

The Wolf And The Druidess  
In days of old, deep in the dark woods, Druidess Seren discovers a wolf shapeshifting into the bare, muscular Celtic God, Gwydion. Seren's mind turns from the Samhain feast to wicked thoughts of Gwydion's gorgeous body. Is the love Gwydion and Seren share strong enough to overcome barriers between an immortal god and a mortal woman? Or will a warning of danger from beyond the grave destroy the sensual magic brewing between the wolf and the druidess?



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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

CHARACTER INTERVIEW--AUTHOR PATY JAGER'S AMATEUR SLEUTH SHANDRA HIGHTOWER

Today we sit down for a chat with Shandra Higheagle from author Paty Jager’s Shandra Higheagle Mysteries.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I had pulled myself out of a bad relationship, purchased a ranch on Huckleberry Mountain in Idaho, and was successfully making a living throwing vases from the clay I found on my mountain. While living estranged from my mother and stepfather, I was content with only myself, my dog Sheba, my horses, and my new employee, Crazy Lil. 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I’m loyal to my friends. I grew up in a world that was short of loyalty. I believe it is something that should be given to those you call a friend and family that returns the loyalty. 

What do you like least about yourself?
That I allowed my mother’s slanted vision of my Nez Perce family to keep me away from them far too long. That I missed getting to know my paternal grandmother before she died. 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
Soon after attending my Nez Perce grandmother’s funeral, my grandmother started coming to me in dreams. Giving me clues that I didn’t understand and wasn’t sure I wanted to know. 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
I wanted to take my relationship with Ryan slow and she wanted to push things because readers wanted more. Now I’m fighting her on having children. They would get in the way of my sleuthing and helping Ryan catch murderers. But at the same time, Ryan comes from a large family, and even though he says he’s fine with just the two of us, I wonder if he really would like to start a family. My upbringing with a stepfather who despised me has me thinking children aren’t a good thing. The chance Ryan could die like my father did leaving behind small children makes me hesitant.

What is your greatest fear?
That I might do something that would anger or upset my paternal family. I am trying to learn more about my Nez Perce roots, but I fear that one day I will do or say something that will make my family pull back. 

What makes you happy?
Riding my horse on the mountain with Sheba running ahead and Ryan riding beside me. 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
It would be my father dying when I was four. My mother taking me away from my father’s family. The one summer I spent with my Nez Perce grandmother I discovered more about myself than any other time until her death and my getting reacquainted with my family. 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
It would have to be Sidney Doring, the owner of the Huckleberry Ski Lodge. He believes he is God’s gift to women and treats everyone like they are his own personal attendants.  He and I have never been on good terms and even more so since Ryan and I became a couple. 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
Honestly? No one. I love who I am, what I do, and how my dreams enable me to help Ryan put killers in jail. My life couldn’t get any better. 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Paty is a rural girl who loves riding horses, hiking, and even helping her husband harvest hay. She has always been fascinated with story and has loved mysteries ever since she read Nancy Drew books. You can learn more about her at her website and her blog.

What's next for you?
Paty took a 40th anniversary trip to Hawaii with her hubby and while she was there, she discovered a plausible reason for me to visit and is working on an unusual murder for me to solve when Ryan and I attend an art show on Kauai. 

Toxic Trigger-point
A Shandra Higheagle Mystery

Adultery… Jealousy… Murder

Shandra Higheagle Greer is minding her own business when she walks into a room for a massage and it is already occupied—by a dead body. 

Always the champion for someone she knows, when her favorite masseuse looks like the murderer, Shandra listens to her gut and dreams choreographed by her deceased grandmother.

Detective Ryan Greer can’t believe his wife has walked into another homicide. He’s learned no matter how he tries to keep her out of the investigation he can’t. But this time the consequences could be deadly for Shandra—she heard the murder happen. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--TACO SALAD FROM MYSTERY AUTHOR MARILYN MEREDITH

Marilyn Meredith, who writes the RBPD mystery series as F.M. Meredith, is the author of more than forty published books. She once lived in a small beach town much like Rocky Bluff, and has many relatives and friends in law enforcement. Learn more about Marilyn and her books at her website and blog.

Kayla Makes Taco Salad
In the latest mystery of the Rocky Bluff mystery series, Bones in the Attic, teenager, Kayla Duvall makes a taco salad to serve to her father and his guest, his romantic interest, Chandra Taylor.

We have Taco Salad a lot at our house and it gets made many different ways depending on who decides to put it together, and what ingredients happen to be on hand.

The basic ingredients are:

Lettuce, shredded, Iceberg or Romaine
Tomatoes, cut up—or grape tomatoes.
1 can black olives
1 can kidney beans, black beans, or pinto beans. (My family prefers pinto beans)
Sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1 red onion, chopped
Tortilla or taco chips, crumbled into fairly large pieces.
1 lb. lean ground beef, cooked. (Could add taco seasoning when cooking.)
(Any kind of dressing, whatever your family prefers—or use taco sauce)
Mix it all together and top with sliced avocados if you like.

And you can have sour cream available to dollop on top. 

Best if eaten right away. 

When my grandson makes it, he always uses Thousand Island dressing.
My daughter-in-law likes to add chopped cilantro and use mango salsa for the dressing.

We have a houseful of family all the time and I love it. Makes for great times around the table.

Bones in the Attic 
In a small town like Rocky Bluff, personal and professional often overlap, so Detective Doug Milligan is not surprised when his daughter Beth is the one who informs him a body has been discovered.

What is surprising is that the body is in a long-abandoned home that Beth and other students are turning into a haunted house as a fund raiser. The city granted permission for the project as long as it was limited to the downstairs for safety reasons. But one student, Mike Patterson, couldn't resist the temptation to look in the attic.

Detective Milligan stepped carefully a trunk and peered inside. Only a musty unpleasant smell emanated from the contents, not the noxious decomposition odor he'd expected. The skeleton crammed inside was still clothed in the remnants of what may have been pajamas.

Monday, October 28, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR JACQUELINE DIAMOND FINDS INSPIRATION IN CRAFTY TREES

Mendenhall Glacier Gardens
Crafts come in all different mediums, including ones you'd never suspect. Today we have a return visit from USA Today bestselling author Jacqueline Diamond, here to talk about the inspiration behind her latest Safe Harbor Medical Mystery. Learn more about her and her books at her website

From Strange Trees, a Mystery Grows
In the course of writing more than a hundred romances and mysteries, I’ve drawn inspiration from many sources. Sometimes I get the sense that there’s a key plot twist waiting for me, if I look in the right place... and that I’d better grasp that fleeting bit of inspiration before it escapes.

How to account for this instinct? I consider it a partnership between my conscious and subconscious. That’s what happened when my husband and I took our first trip to Alaska.

In my Safe Harbor Medical Mysteries, a young widowed physician in a small California town teams with his detective sister-in-law to solve murders that affect patients, colleagues and friends. There’s danger and humor, centered on the hospital where he works. 

The dramatic landscape of Alaska hardly fit into the picture. Yet I kept sensing that it might.

We were touring Mendenhall Glacier Gardens, a strikingly landscaped setting created in the aftermath of a landslide, when some remarkable trees caught my eye. They were upside-down, with the roots serving as a kind of flower basket.

Our guide explained that, while one of the owners was clearing away rocks and trees that had tumbled down a mountainside, an expensive piece of rental equipment was damaged. Frustrated about the large repair bill in store, he used the equipment to yank up a tree by its root ball, invert it and slam it down.

Instead of shattering as expected, it lodged in the mud. Struck by a vision of the roots as a petunia basket, he filled the root ball with netting, soils, mosses and flowers. The result was so beautiful that, each year, he creates about 75-100 of what he calls Flower Towers, to the delight of visitors.
photo copyright Dmitriy Raykin,
licensed from Shutterstock
 
  
As I snapped photos, I imagined the face of a woman peering at me from one of the trunks. Who was she?

My brain whirled into action. Suppose seeing those unusual trees sparked a memory in a girl who didn’t know she’d ever been here before? Suppose that discovery led to the unearthing of a woman’s murder, with clues that pointed to my hero, Dr. Eric Darcy?

In constructing the mystery, everything had to be turned around so that the reader learns of events through Eric’s point of view. Being falsely accused of murder forces him to unravel the truth behind the disappearance of a woman from his past, and to the stunning realization that he might have a daughter he never knew about.

WhileThe Case of the Long-Lost Lover is the fourth mystery in the series, it stands on its own. It’s an old-fashioned puzzle mystery, with fast pacing, clues for the reader to follow, and carefully researched medical and forensic details.

After the initial spark, the hard work of writing a novel lies in developing a story with twists and turns, and characters you care about. But in this case, the mystery was literally rooted in the inspiration!

The Case of the Long-Lost Lover 
A Safe Harbor Medical Mystery, Book 4

When Dr. Eric Darcy is suspected of killing his former girlfriend, the young widowed physician teams with his PI sister-in-law to uncover the truth. Can they succeed before a murderer closes in on a child who might be his? USA Today bestselling author Jacqueline Diamond’s new Safe Harbor Medical mystery is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat until its shocking conclusion!

Friday, October 25, 2019

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--CHARACTER INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN J. BAIN'S TRACY ALLEN

Today we’re joined by Tracy Allen, the protagonist in author Kathryn J. Bain’s Fade to the Edge.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings? 
I felt like I was finally pulling my life back together after my husband left me. But no, she has to come along and terrorize me.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 
How much I love my family. 

What do you like least about yourself? 
I have no self-confidence. For a while now, I’ve felt like I just don’t have much of a life without my husband or son.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? 
My husband had a mistress, and this crazy author thought it would be a good idea for me to break into her condominium. Me, the one person afraid of her own shadow. What was she thinking? But I’d do anything to get my son back.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
No, I don’t argue much with anyone. I just go along.

What is your greatest fear? 
I always thought it was Ross Ridge, but it turned out to be losing my child.

What makes you happy? 
Watching my son play baseball. He’s good, even at seven-years-old. It’s fun to watch him nod my way when he’s getting ready to steal a base. 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 
I would rewrite the part where my son disappeared, then the bad things that occurred after would never have happened. 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? 
No question, Jenny, my sister. She has such confidence that I wish I had, yet at times she’s also very condescending.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 
Definitely my best friend Vonnie. She’s a success with her boutique business. And her husband loves her so much. She doesn’t have to worry about her family ever falling apart.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 
Kathryn J. Bain, my author, has a website at www.kathrynjbain.com where she has a weekly Christian blog. 

What's next for you? 
I’m thinking of moving. That might help me forget some of what occurred. I’m definitely going to get a job so I don’t have to worry about being supported by anyone. I’ve learned I can take care of myself. And I will.

Fade to the Edge (pre-order now; on sale 11/15)

Where’s DJ?

A question that torments Tracy Allen. If she hadn’t slept in, her son would be safe. Only one person could be responsible. Her soon to be ex. But when he’s murdered, and DJ’s still not found, she knows something more sinister is going on than a custody battle.

A mother should keep her child safe. But she didn’t. And now the same question slams into her soul over and over again.

Where’s DJ?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A #HALLOWEEN YOUNG ADULT #MYSTERY FROM AUTHOR NORMA HUSS

Norma Huss considers herself the Grandma Moses of Mystery. Today she joins us to discuss Halloween, circa 1946, as it relates to her young adult mystery. Learn more about Norma and her books at her website and blog.

Did kids celebrate Halloween differently in 1946 than they do today? I had to figure that out when I wrote my young adult mystery, Cherish. You see, there’s a teen ghost who really wants to live again in the 21st century. At Halloween time.

To tell the truth, I knew what a country teen did in 1946, the year I was, ummm 16. That was absolutely nothing. No close neighbors, very small school (there were three in my grade). 

But my husband lived in a town. They had Halloween parades and trick or treating for the younger ones. He fondly remembers soaping windows, making noisemakers out of wooden sewing spools, and especially, moving door mats around so the next morning all the neighbors were out getting them back in order. 

By the time he was fifteen, he and his friends were all Boy Scouts, and they always had a Halloween Party at a nearby camp. That involved dates. The whole troop made sure everyone had a date—and every girl they knew had a date, too. It also involved costumes. In fact, after we were married, I attended one of those Halloween parties. One couple came completely wrapped as mummies. They didn’t speak, and most had no clue who they were until the grand unmasking!

I had two sources for the current Halloween celebration: the Internet, and teen grandchildren. Costumes and private parties are big with the grandkids. The Internet had mentioned school activities that benefit charities, such as Trick or Treat for UNICEF, which was something my kids were into during the 1970s, and 1980s. (Even then teens were more apt to man the candy station on the porch. Toilet-papering the trees was the late-night trick of choice.) 

Today, schools may allow younger kids to come to school in costumes, but often not. Some may have fund-raising events for UNICEF, but that may not be true in the last few years. The bigger thing is Spirit Week to support the school. It is earlier in the month. But trick or treating in costume by those younger than twelve is still popular. Often a community will set “Trick or Treat Night” which seldom seems to be October 31.

Cherish
Part ghost story, part mystery, part time travel

It’s the annual Local History cemetery visit and Kayla wishes that strangely dressed teenage ghost would go away. Instead, it’s Kayla who disappears into the 1946 life of a teen who will die in days. That teen, Cherish, takes Kayla’s place in the 21st century, living her life. This time, she plans to survive.

Is this the new reality, or will Kayla, armed with only her cell phone, find her way home before she dies Cherish’s death?

In honor of Halloween, this seasonal e-book is reduced to $.99.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

AROMAS OF AUTUMN AND PARANORMAL ROMANTIC MYSTERY FROM AUTHOR KAREN McCULLOUGH

Karen's daughter's cranberry pie,
which won a contest for most beautiful pie.
Today we’re joined by award-winning author Karen McCullough, here to talk about the aromas of Fall. Karen has written more than two dozen novels, novellas, and short stories in the mystery, romance, paranormal, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres. Learn more about Karen and her books at her website. 

The Aromas of Fall
Fall is a feast for the senses. People generally concentrate on the sights and sounds and tastes of fall – brilliant yellow and orange chrysanthemums everywhere, ghouls and goblin decorations to celebrate Halloween, spooky noises, tastes galore: chocolate, candy corn, and pumpkin spice everything – but fall offers some very distinctive aromas as well. Those fragrances are among the reasons Fall is my favorite season of the year.

Wood fires – I love walking around the neighborhood on a fall evening and smelling the aroma of wood fires in the neighbors’ fireplaces. It’s a pleasant smell, but it also reminds me of my childhood in a New York City suburb. In the fall my parents (and most of the neighbors) would rake the leaves into piles out in the street and burn them. It’s no longer legal in most urban and suburban areas, but it did make the neighborhood smell wonderful.

Flowers – After the long, hot, humid summer, when the shorter days of autumn arrive, the flowers in my garden, especially the roses, experience a short but welcome revival, blooming abundantly for a while, until the first frost finally ends it usually in late October or early November. There’s something especially sweet about the scent of a late season rose.

Baking – I’m not much of a cook, but I love baking. I bake many batches of cookies for Christmas and I usually start early and freeze bags of them. I also use my Halloween pumpkin for baking fall goodies. On the day after Halloween, I bring the carved pumpkin inside, wash it thoroughly, then cook it in the microwave until soft. I mash it in a blender and use that to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, and other fall goodies. No pumpkin coffee, though.

Fruit – This is apple season! In North Carolina people trek to the mountains in the western part of the state to view glorious fall foliage and pick up buckets of fresh-picked apples or pick some themselves. There’s almost nothing as good as the aroma of cooking apples, whether they’re candied, baked, boiled for applesauce or made into pies. It’s also the time when those lovely little Mandarin oranges flood into the grocery stores.

Spice – This is the real scent of fall, and it goes along with the baking smell. Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc. Add these to almost anything, and aromas improve along with the flavor. They’re essential to all the great fall foods – cookies, cakes, applesauce, pies, and everything pumpkin, even those pumpkin spice lattes.

What’s your favorite fall aroma?

Guardian of the Grimoire
Magic, mystery, and romance combine in a gothic story that sees a peaceful, small-town library turned into a supernatural battleground. In the library’s basement a dangerous book lies hidden somewhere in stacks of old crates, and librarian Jess O’Rourke is caught in the middle of a battle between a demon and the book’s mysterious guardian for possession of it....

Librarian Jess O’Rourke already has her hands full with her father’s declining health and the under-staffed, under-funded library she runs. A new preacher in town waging war on her books is just an annoyance at first, but an attractive mysterious stranger warns her that there’s more behind the reverend’s campaign than she can guess. The new preacher is a human possessed by a demon and he’s searching for an old grimoire that’s part of an uncatalogued collection of books stored in the library’s basement.

Gabriel Sutton has been the guardian of the book for a long time, a very long time, he claims, since that has been his penance for crimes he committed as a soldier during the Civil War. He convinces Jess that she needs to find the grimoire and use it to return the demon to where he belongs. 

Their time gets short when the reverend realizes she’s searching for the book and resorts to desperate measures to either retrieve or destroy it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

#COOKING WITH CLORIS – GUEST #MYSTERY AUTHOR DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN TALKS ABOUT HER NON-TRADITIONAL COZY PROTAGONIST AND JELL-O IN A CAN

Award-winning author and judge Debra H. Goldstein writes the Sarah Blair Mysteries as well as two previously published mysteries. Her short stories, which have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, have garnered several prestigious award nominations. Learn more about Debra and her books at her website.  

Cozy mysteries are usually defined as mysteries that take place in a confined environment, keep blood and sex off the page, and feature amateur sleuth protagonists who demonstrate a talent for sewing, knitting, or some other craft, or are expert cooks or bakers. This formula wasn’t a problem for me as a reader of cozy mysteries, but it became an issue when I decided to write one.

Not only have I never been good at crafts, I don’t enjoy them. You can get an idea of my expertise in the kitchen by the fact that if I offer to cook dinner more than two nights in a row, my husband insists on going out. Faced with the dilemma of not being able to “write what I know,” I debated whether to give up on the idea of writing a cozy mystery. Then, it hit me!

If I find cooking from scratch terrifying, there must be readers out there like me. Women whose good china is floral paper plates and who only make dishes using pre-made ingredients.

Armed with the idea of creating a non-traditional cozy mystery protagonist, I created Sarah Blair and imbued her with my fear of the kitchen.

Because I knew this type of character and the disasters that might befall her from my own kitchen exploits, I thought it would be simple to write against formula, but I quickly realized that just as any protagonist needs to be fleshed out, a protagonist built around one joke can’t sustain a series. I needed to do extra research to make her a full character.

My research took me behind the scenes of several restaurants, and it made me delve into cookbooks like Peg Bracken’s I Hate To Cook Book and the simplistic recipes appearing in numerous women’s magazines. When I came across a 1950’s recipe for Jell-O in a Can, I knew I’d found the perfect recipe for One Taste Too Many, the first book in the Sarah Blair series.

Not only is Jell-O in a Can easy to make, but the title of the recipe created by Dole Pineapple and Jell-O is memorable and funny. Its humorous aspect sends a subliminal message to readers that although she may not be a traditional cozy protagonist, spending time with Sarah is going to be fun.

Two Bites Too Many, the second book in the Sarah Blair series, which was released this month, continues the dual theme of Sarah doing anything to avoid a kitchen and the series being enjoyable. Apparently, Kensington Publishing, agrees. Kensington originally bought three books, but now has contracted for at least two additional books. Each book will include a grouping of recipes Sarah might make, running from side dishes to drinks. All of Sarah’s recipes are guaranteed to be simple. Of course, the books might contain a few recipes that are a tad more complex because I didn’t abandon the cozy formula entirely.

I may have gone with a non-traditional protagonist, but I gave her a twin sister, Emily, who is a gourmet chef. Although she is a secondary character, Emily shudders at the thought of making anything with pre-made ingredients. Consequently, if I can overcome my fear of typing a recipe for food made from scratch, one of the books may have a “true” cook’s recipe. In the meantime, please enjoy Jell-O in a Can and the Sarah Blair cozy mystery series.

Jell-O in a Can:
20 oz. can of sliced pineapple
3 oz pkg of Jell-O gelatin, any flavor
1 cup boiling water

Open the can and pour off the pineapple juice, but leave the pineapple in the can. Dissolve the Jell-O in boiling water and permit it to cool slightly before pouring it into the can, over the pineapple. Chill until set.

To serve, run a knife around the inside of the can and either tip it out or push it through using the bottom of the can.

Slice between the pineapple rings and serve.

Two Bites Too Many
A Sarah Blair Mystery, Book 2

Things are finally looking up for Sarah Blair following her unsavory divorce.  Settled into a cozy carriage house with her Siamese cat, RahRah, she has somehow managed to hang on to her law firm receptionist job and – if befriending flea-bitten strays at the local animal shelter counts – lead a thriving social life. For once, Sarah almost has it together more than her enterprising twin, Emily, a professional chef whose efforts to open a gourmet restaurant have hit a real dead end…

When the president of the town bank is murdered after icing Emily’s business plans, all eyes are on the one person who left the scene with blood on her hands – the twins’ sharp-tongued mother, Maybelle.  Determined to get her mom off the hook ASAP, Sarah must collect the ingredients of a deadly crime to bring the true culprit to justice. But as neighbors turn against her family, can she pare down the suspects before another victim lands on the chopping block?

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ebook  

Monday, October 21, 2019

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HALLOWEEN CAKE ART FROM AUTHOR N.M. CEDENO

N. M. CedeƱo lives near Austin, Texas, where she writes mystery short stories and novels, including the paranormal mystery series Bad Vibes Removal Services. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

Halloween Spider Cake
Do you need a quick, inexpensive Halloween cake for an office party or kids’ party? This spider cake is simple to throw together and makes an eye-catching contribution to any party.

What you Need to Make the Cake:
To make the cake, you will need your favorite cake recipe divided into a Bundt pan and a four-inch dome pan or bowl. I used a dark chocolate pound cake recipe, but any kind of cake will work. A single recipe for a 12-cup Bundt cake is enough to make both cakes. Fill the dome pan first with about 1/2 cup batter and put the rest of the batter in the Bundt pan. If you don’t have a 4-inch dome pan handy, a small, oven-safe mixing bowl works perfectly as a pan.

To frost the cakes, you will need 3 to 4 cups of buttercream frosting. I used a basic chocolate buttercream, but you could use a ganache frosting if you prefer. Brown or black frostings are best for spider coloring, which is why I recommend chocolate.

The decorating is very quick and allows room for variations, so you can use what you have on hand. I used eight full-size Twix bars to make the spider legs, eight red M&M’s for eyes, and a small tube of orange decorating gel icing for the final touches. As an alternative, you can use eight black licorice twists or eight chocolate dipped pretzel rods for the legs. Any small round candy will work for eyes. I recommend red, orange, or black gel icings for the details, but playing with the colors is allowed.

Put it Together:
To assemble your spider, first bake the Bundt and dome cakes. Allow them to cool completely and place them side by side, touching each other, on a cake board, serving tray, or platter. The Bundt cake is the spider’s body. The dome cake is the head. Frost both cakes with chocolate frosting. 

Place the eight Twix bars, pretzel rods, or licorice symmetrically around the Bundt cake to create the spider’s legs. Set the eight M&M’s, skittles, or other round candies on one side of the dome cake as eyes. Using the gel icing, draw pincers or fangs at the base of dome cake beneath the eyes to create the spider’s mouth. Add a single dot of gel icing to each candy eye to make reflective eyespots.

For parties, the hole in the Bundt cake can be filled with candy. For example, if you place a red plastic cup in the hole and fill it with red M&M’s, red Skittles, or red-hots, you can call it a “Black Widow Spider Cake.” Individually wrapped candies or strawberries are also a great touch. With a minimum of effort you can create an amusing party centerpiece!

The Walls Can Talk
The Hanovers inherited an ancient Irish castle . . . that’s been moved to central Texas. When things are moved in the night, is the explanation treasure hunting teenagers or something more malicious? With a terrifying ghostly presence haunting their days and break-ins threatening their nights, the Hanovers reach out to a private detective, Montgomery of Montgomery Investigations and his employees at Bad Vibes Removal Service for help.  

This paranormal mystery ebook is on sale for $0.99 for the month of October!

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Friday, October 18, 2019

CHARACTER INTERVIEW--ROTHGAR, NORSEMAN HERO OF KELLI A. WILKINS' THE VIKING WITCH

Today we sit down for a chat with Rothgar, the hero from award-winning author Kelli A. Wilkins’ The Viking’s Witch.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Before Kelli brought me and my fellow Norsemen to Stronsay, I was living a very different life. Once upon a time, I was known as “Rothgar the Ruthless” and I was a fierce and respected warrior. However, after my wife and son died, I gave up raiding and traveling and was considered “soft” by many of my fellow warriors. I was content to live on my farm and tend to my animals. I’ll admit, when Kelli gave me this mission, I was reluctant to take it. But I resurrected my stronger side and became a warrior once again. I’m glad I did, because sailing to Scotland and meeting Odaria renewed my strength and self-confidence, and gave me a second chance at a happy life.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?
I’m most proud of my integrity and loyalty. I’m a disciplined warrior who stands by my word, and I expect the same from others. 

What do you like least about yourself?
Sometimes I get too emotionally involved in a situation, and I may react harshly when my temper flares.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
The first time Kelli had Odaria display her “witch powers” to me, I was blown away. I didn’t believe that such things were possible. It was strange to think that this beautiful young woman could move objects with her mind, conjure storms, and more. The other people in the story were frightened of Odaria, but I had nothing to fear from her. I trusted that Kelli knew what she was doing.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Yes! Over the course of the book, Kelli put me through several emotional trials. I didn’t want to do some of the things Kelli made me do, but I was under her spell, so to speak. I had to discipline (and battle) my fellow Norsemen, contend with the local villagers, protect Odaria, and still look for my cousin. It was an exhausting few days, but I know that Kelli did it all for a good reason. She brought Odaria and me together and changed our lives forever. We’re both very happy now and quite indebted to Kelli for all she’s done for us. (Although she could have made things a little easier!) 

What is your greatest fear?
Losing Odaria. I lost my first wife and newborn son in a fire, and I would never be able to live through losing someone I love again. 

What makes you happy?Being with Odaria. Now that we have settled into a peaceful home life, my main goal is to provide for her and keep her safe. Most days, we’re content to live on my farm, but Odaria likes adventure, so I also strive to keep our lives interesting and make sure we never grow bored. 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Over the course of the book, Odaria’s home was destroyed and her beloved cat died. She was heartbroken. Her cat was the only thing she had left in her life. If I could change that part of the story, I would, because I saw how that loss tore her apart. It reminded me of the death of my wife and son, and I knew how much Odaria was hurting. If I couldn’t change that, then I’d change a part of the book where Odaria thought I had betrayed her. I can’t give away more about the situation without spoiling the plot for readers, but it’s a turning point in the story.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Odaria, of course! (Laughs) I had never met a woman like her before – soft and tender one minute, then feisty and fighting the next. She’s very strong-willed and opinionated and likes to do things her own way, no matter what. When I first met her, this was very frustrating and drove me crazy, because I knew what was best for her, and yet, she fought me at every turn. Only later did I come to realize that all these traits made me love her even more.I was impressed by her inner strength (she had just been tied to a stake and nearly burned to death), and her ability to cope with tragic situations. Later, when she wept like a frightened girl, I saw how vulnerable she was deep down, and my heart melted.

If Odaria could describe you in one word, what would it be?Sexy? Strong? Virile? Brave? Bold? (Laughs) Although all of those are true, knowing Odaria the way I do, if you asked her the question, she’d tell you: “Mine.”

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I wouldn’t trade places with anyone, why would I? I’m the strong, powerful hero in love with a beautiful woman. Who would want to give that up? 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, nineteen romance novels, five nonfiction books, and two online writing courses. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories. Readers can learn more about Kelli and her books at her website and blog.

The Viking’s Witch
Scotland, 803 A.D.

About to be burned at the stake by her fellow villagers, Odaria does what any betrayed witch facing certain death would do. She calls down a curse. Within seconds, rampaging Norsemen raid the village, capturing everyone except her.

But her reprieve is short-lived, and Odaria lands in the clutches of the Norse leader Rothgar. Can she remain true to herself and fight her growing attraction to this domineering man, or will she fall under his influence and be used for his ambitions?

After Rothgar witnesses Odaria’s powers firsthand, he strikes a bargain with her. The raven-haired beauty will use her magical abilities to help him with his quest in exchange for safe passage off the isle. But can this cunning woman be trusted, or is she using him to exact vengeance on her village?

Together they must fight bloodthirsty villagers, battle a mutinous band of Norsemen, find a missing Norse ship, and learn to trust each other…before time runs out.