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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Friday, January 17, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--FROM ESCAPE ROOM TO HISTORICAL ROMANCE WITH GUEST AUTHOR LESLIE HACHTEL

Bestselling historical, historical paranormal, and romantic suspense author Leslie Hachtel has been a gypsy most of her adult life. Her various jobs, including licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled, and advertising media buyer have given her a wealth of experiences. However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. Today she joins us to tell how an escape room experience spawned an historical romance series. Learn more about Leslie and her books at her website and blog.

People always ask me where I get my ideas. The answer when asked about this series is an easy one. I originally got the idea in the strangest way. I went to an ‘escape room’. If you’ve never heard of one, it’s a place where you go and they “lock” you in a room with a theme. You have an hour to put together all the clues and find your way out. (Note: You’re not really locked in and they will let you out at the end of the hour-win or lose).

Here was our theme: Our room was an old ship and the story was we had been shanghaied. If we could not solve the puzzles and free ourselves, we would be taken to wherever the captain decided we should go. And we would have to serve him forever. Sadly, we did not win but they did let us out anyway. And the idea for the books was born. 

Then came the research. I loved the feeling of going back in time in that escape room. So, I wanted my books to be historical and with an exotic locale. After much reading, I discovered Sultan Moulay of Morocco. He was known as ‘the bloodthirsty’ and is said to have been not only ruthless, but managed to father over 900 children. It is true that in the 1700’s (and even earlier), women disappeared from various countries all the time and were never heard from again. It was believed they were captured and taken to a harem far away. Now, if that wasn’t an intriguing beginning, I have no idea what would be. 

One story led to another and now there are three. I definitely enjoyed the research and this was an eye opening time in history. I also learned some words in Arabic and the customs were fascinating.

I love it if you’d go with me on my journeys through time and locations. And, I’d love to hear from you.

Freed From Morocco
Morocco Series, Book 3

Snatched from her home and hijacked to Morocco, Lady Olivia prays for someone to come and save her. Help appears in the form of Tristan, the man she loves. He disguises himself as an English ambassador in order to rescue her, but he is betrayed. Now, she must find a way to help him. Can they escape? And will they ever be free from the clutches of the sultan?

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

THE WRITING LIFE WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR ALICE ZOGG

Mystery author Alice Zogg was born and raised in Zurich, Switzerland.  She moved to New York City and then relocated to Southern California, where she has resided for more than forty years. She is an avid traveler and plays racquetball and golf. Learn more about Alice and her books at her website. 

When doing a panel event, we authors are often asked, “What made you become a writer?” or, “Have you wanted to become a writer since childhood?” Most of my peers answer the first question with an elaborate account of having always been passionate about the art of creative writing, and the second with a definite “yes.”

My answer to question number two is, “No.” As a child, I could have never sat still long enough to write a few paragraphs, let alone an entire book. As to why I became a writer, I’m a bit embarrassed, but the following is the truth:

Between Christmas and New Years’ of 2002, I went to the local bookstore looking for new reading material. I had read all the books ever written by my favorite authors— Agatha Christie, P. D. James, Dick Francis, and others—and I hoped to find some mystery novels penned by more contemporary authors. I came home two hours later empty handed. Here is the dialogue I had with my husband:

“Where are the books you bought?” he asked.

“I couldn’t find any that appealed to me.” 

“If you’re so picky, why don’t you write your own?”

His sarcastic remark went ignored at the time. But a couple weeks later, I thought, why not? And so I gave it a shot. In October of 2003, I published my first mystery novelIt was not as simple as I make it sound, but I basically taught myself how to write and do research. Since then, I have penned ten books in the R. A. Huber series and four stand-alone works. I write in the traditional mystery genre; in other words, neither cozy nor hardcore. 

My series’ protagonist, R. A. Huber, was born in Switzerland and came to the United States as a young woman, where she made her home. Longing for excitement after she retires, Huber starts a second career and opens a private investigating business in Pasadena, California. With each book the gutsy private eye’s cases take her on new journeys. She is called to places like Catalina Island, Lake Tahoe, and the Central Mexico region, all the way to Davos, Switzerland, then back in the US to the Big Bear Lake area, the balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and to a location near Solvang, California. 

In Murder at the Cubbyhole, she stays close to home in Pasadena, where she gets a glimpse into the theater world, and in Guilty or Not, an investigation takes her and her sidekick Andi on a cruise to Alaska. Evil at Shore Haven is my tenth and final mystery in the series, where Huber goes undercover. She checks herself in as a resident at a senior community near the Ventura pier to investigate several sudden deaths that occurred at the facility.

I am working at improving my writing with each new book, and I am particularly proud of having penned my stand-alone mystery novels, A Bet Turned Deadly, Accidental Eyewitness, The Ill-Fated Scientist, and the most recent, No Curtain Call. I write for my own pleasure, and if readers enjoy my stories, I consider that a bonus.

No Curtain Call
When the curtain falls, the story begins...

Nick Fox, a retired sheriff’s department lieutenant, is trying to get his act together after nearly being blown up in a targeted explosion that cost him the loss of part of his leg and a kidney, resulting in his subsequent retirement. 

Then a friend asks him to investigate the death of his son, who died from an opioid overdose at the end of a musical performance at Citadel High School three-and-a-half years earlier. His friend insists that his kid would never do drugs or commit suicide. Instead, he suspects murder. 

Despite the trail being cold after the time lapse and a crisis within his own family, Fox cracks open the inactive case and takes another hard look. Can he finally raise the curtain on the killer?

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Monday, January 13, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR KRIS BOCK WHIPS UP CHERRY SCONES AND A CAT CAFE SWEET ROMANCE

Kris Bock writes romance, mystery, and suspense. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Her romantic suspense novels, set in the Southwest, feature treasure hunting and archeology, along with intrigue. Learn more about Kris and her books at her website where you can also learn how to get a free Furrever Friends short story and printable copies of the recipes mentioned in future cat café novels. 

Have you heard about the growing trend of cat cafés? They're a recent phenomenon, but now you can find several hundred around the world. Each café partners with local shelters, choosing 15 to 20 healthy, sociable cats to house at the café. People can spend time with cats if they can't have a cat for some reason, or if they simply love the idea of hanging out with a bunch of cats. 

If you happen to fall in love with one, all the cats are available for adoption. For example, Catopia Cat Café in Albuquerque has had over 100 adoptions in its first year.

Some cafés charge an hourly fee, while others require a minimum food and drink purchase. In case you’re worried about health codes, no cats are allowed in the food prep areas. Either the café has a separate room for the cats, or all food is made and wrapped elsewhere.

My cat café series features a bakery, so I'm collecting wonderful recipes for baked goods. Each book has a recipe at the end, and I'll eventually put together a collection.

The recipe below is something my mother made on Christmas morning for many years. We have it for breakfast along with Mexican hot chocolate. Of course, it's good at any time of year. Now that the busy holiday season is over, but it's still cold in most places, how about curling up with a good book, a cup of hot tea, and one of these lovely scones?

Cherry Scones 
(featured in Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup dried cherries, cranberries, or currents
approx. 1/2-cup apple or grape juice
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (full-fat preferred)
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest

Preheat oven to 375°

Soak cherries in juice for at least 10 minutes while you mix other ingredients.

Mix the flour and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Blend in the baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. 

Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture has fine crumbs. 

Stir in the egg, yogurt, and zest. Drain the cherries or other dried fruit well. Mix them in.

Spray a baking sheet lightly with oil. Turn the dough onto the baking sheet. Pat it down into a 9-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 wedges. Separate them slightly. Sprinkle with additional sugar if you want them to sparkle a bit.

Bake until golden and firm, about 20 minutes. 

Serve warm with butter, clotted cream, orange marmalade, or jam.

What would you serve at your cat café?

Coffee and Crushes at the Cat Café
A Furrever Friends Sweet Romance

What do you do when you meet the guy of your dreams? Set him up with your sister, of course.

Kari doesn't have time for love when she's opening her new cat café. Renovating an old restaurant, hiring employees, fighting with the health inspector – oh, and welcoming 16 shelter cats – keeps her plenty busy. She's doing this for the cats, the community, and most of all her family. The café will give her sister, Marley, a job worthy of her baking skills.

Then a tattooed military vet wanders in claiming to be a master baker himself. The café doesn't need another baker, but maybe Marley needs a man. Surely she'll fall for a guy this sweet, this sexy, this tasty.

Colin has other ideas. It's Kari who makes him want to pour on the sugar and turn up the heat. But he's spent the last two years recovering from physical and psychological wounds. Is he really ready for a relationship? He's not even sure he should commit to Samson, the fluffy marshmallow of a cat who steals his heart.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--FROM DESIGNING CRAFTS TO DESIGNING WAYS TO KILL PEOPLE BY LOIS WINSTON

Because our scheduled guest bailed on us today, Lois Winston, that sadistic mystery author who spends her life tormenting me, is stepping in to tell you a little bit about herself and how she came to spend her life tormenting me. She does have ulterior motives. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book about yours truly (there are now eight, plus three novellas), is currently on sale for .99 cents for a limited time at Kobo and Amazon. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website

From Designing Crafts to Designing Ways to Kill People
By Lois Winston

Life’s journey is rarely a straight line. It certainly hasn’t been for me. Way back when I was working toward my BFA in graphic design and illustration, I never would have imagined that someday I’d be writing novels. Since graduating from college {{cough! cough!}} years ago, I’ve worked as a layout artist for two advertising agencies as well as the world’s oldest department store, an illustrator for the publications and alumni departments of two major universities, a freelance designer of needlework kits, a designer and design coordinator for a major manufacturer, a craft book editor, and a magazine freelancer. And that was all before I got the crazy idea to write my first novel.

Even then, my career didn’t proceed along a straight line. I started out writing romance, and now I’m killing people for a living—but only in my novels! I also spent twelve years as a literary agent, working for the agency that represented me. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is just thinking about my rollercoaster of a professional life!

I’m now a retired designer, a retired literary agent, and a retired romance writer. Truthfully, I find killing people (on paper) far more fun than writing sex scenes. I spend my days getting my reluctant amateur sleuth, Anastasia Pollack, into trouble while sitting at my computer recording her antics as she attempts to thwart my efforts. 

I don’t think Anastasia likes me very much, but I can hardly blame her. Before I came along, she was leading a typical middle-class life in the suburbs with her husband and two teenage sons. About the only not-so-typical part of her life was the Shakespeare-quoting parrot she’d inherited from her great-aunt. 

That all changed when I decided to kill off Anastasia’s husband prior to the opening pages of the first book. Unbeknownst to her, the two-timing louse was having an affair with Lady Luck. He gambled away all their money, leaving her to deal with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a demanding loan shark. You can read all about it in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. And as Anastasia mentioned above, the ebook is currently on sale at Amazon and Kobo for only .99 cents.

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 1

“Crafty cozies don’t get any better than this hilarious confection...Anastasia is as deadpan droll as Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon....” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

When Anastasia Pollack’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her hateful, cane-wielding Communist mother-in-law. Not to mention stunned disbelief over her late husband’s secret gambling addiction, and the loan shark who’s demanding fifty thousand dollars.

Anastasia’s job as crafts editor at American Woman magazine proves no respite when she discovers a dead body glued to her desk chair. The victim, fashion editor Marlys Vandenburg, collected enemies and ex-lovers like Jimmy Choos on her ruthless climb to editor-in-chief. But when evidence surfaces of an illicit affair between Marlys and Anastasia’s husband, Anastasia becomes the prime suspect. Can she find the killer and clear her name before he strikes again?

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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: JANICE SEAGRAVES

Today we sit down for a chat with romance, science fiction, and paranormal author Janice Seagraves. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 
When I was twenty.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 
I had to work for it starting at age forty. It took me eight years, so before I turned fifty.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? 
I’m a hybrid author.

Where do you write?
In my bedroom I had a desk right up next to my bed. I literally roll out of bed and into my office chair and I start writing. 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I like it quiet so I can concentrate on the voices talking in my head.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Sometimes something will happen that will trigger an idea.

Describe your process for naming your character?
I have the Character Naming Source Book that I use for my characters’ names.

Real settings or fictional towns?
It depends. In Windswept Shores my setting is a deserted island in the Bahamas. In the Matrix Crystal series, it’s the planet Zenevieva. In The Year of the Cat, the setting is a ski lodge and later a neighborhood in a small California town.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
In Windswept Shores my hero was addicted to beer and ketchup.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I’m an old softie. I cry when people are hurt.

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I could have finished college.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People not stopping at stop signs. Someone I know lost their son to someone barreling through a stop sign and right into his truck killing him instantly. So, if I see someone not stopping at a stop sign…in my head I’m telling them off.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Knife, blanket, and a pot.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Being a human inserting machine for our local newspaper.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
God Stalk (Kencyrath, #1) by P.C. Hodgell

Ocean or mountains?
I like both.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Country girl at heart since we moved back into town.

What’s on the horizon for you?
Working on the very first book length manuscript I ever wrote. It needs a lot of work and that’s what I’m working on currently. I have the cover already done by the wonderful Lex Valentine of Winterheart designs.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Only that I grew up with a deep love of science fiction and adventure stories. Always the consummate artist, I traded in my paintbrush for a desktop to write breathless life-affirming novels that celebrate enduring love.

Year of the Cat
Morgan isn’t expecting romance when she accompanies her friend for a week of skiing, but when she meets Jared, all bets are off.

Haunted by the loss of his parents, werecat Jared Catterick earns his keep working for the Catclaw Clan. Jared has secrets that he doesn’t mind sharing with a special lady, and he hopes Morgan is that special someone. When his past and present collide, it’s worse than he imagined, and he’s forced to fight for his life.

Monday, January 6, 2020

HOW AUTHOR JANET LANE WALTERS USES ASTROLOGY TO CREATE CHARACTERS

Janet Lane Walters has been a published author for fifty years. She writes romance. fantasy, paranormal and mysteries. Today she joins us to explain how she uses astrology to create the characters in her books. Learn more about her and her books at her blog. 

Using Astrology to Develop Characters
   
Many years ago, a friend and I studied astrology and made enough money casting charts for friends to travel to Ireland. Then life changed and became different for both of us. She became an attorney and I became a writer. But I continued to study and read about the various signs and adding many books on my shelves about the subject. 

One day a way to use what I was still learning occurred. I would use astrology to develop my characters. When my computer crashed and I lost my program for setting up the charts, I sort of put my interest away. Then I had some trouble developing a character from one of my early books. I decided the main elements for developing my characters was to use the Sun Sign, the Rising Sign and the Moon Sign. This worked wonders and is now part of the way I learn about those who people my stories.
   
Let me tell you how this works. The Sun sign gives their inner nature and this is usually where their secret arises. The character may or may not show this nature to the world. This is where their reasons for wanting to achieve their goal are either hidden or not shown in full.
   
The Ascendant shows the face they present to the world. The way others see them may not be what they truly are unless I give them the same Sun sign as the Ascendant. Many times the two sides of their personality can be in conflict, thus giving them a great internal conflict. 
   
The Moon shows their emotional nature. Think of the hero with a soft spot in his heart or the heroine who hides her emotions from others. The emotional nature can be in conflict with the character’s goals and usually points to the reason for this.

While this may not work for every author when developing characters, this method certainly works for me. In Forgotten Dreams Emma, the heroine, is a Cancer and Chad, the hero, is a Leo.
   
Forgotten Dreams 
The Moonchild Series, Book 5
   
Chad Morgan is tired of his Hollywood life and his role as action hero Storm. He's ignoring the contracts for two more movies in the franchise. He wants to take a different direction and make a movie of his friend's book. He has bought the rights. But his agent and the studio want more Storm. His personal life is also bouncing from one woman to another. His thoughts have turned to Emma Grassi, the woman he left behind in his quest for fame. He decides to return to Fern Lake and speak to his friend and renew his friendship with Emma.

Emma is now a nurse practitioner sharing an office with her doctor friend. She has waited for Chad to return and has decided this isn't going to happen. She's decided to confront him and put an end to the dream she has remembered and he has forgotten. Life takes a twist when Chad 's auto accident on the outskirts of Fern Lake bring them together. She wants out. He wants in.

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Friday, January 3, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR DONNA SCHLACHTER ON THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Multi-published author Donna Schlachter writes historical suspense under her own name and contemporary suspense under her alter ego, Leeann Betts. She facilitates a critique group, teaches writing classes online and in person, ghostwrites, edits, and judges writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. Today Donna joins us to talk about the story behind the story of Double JeopardyLearn more about Donna and her books at her website.

Double Jeopardy – The Story Behind the Story
The story behind the story is often told in the form of back cover copy on the book, but I think it goes way beyond that. Sure, that bit on the back tells us a little about the main characters, the overall plot, and perhaps some about the decisions the main characters must make, because always—let me repeat this—always the choices they are faced with conflict with each other. At first glance, it seems they cannot have everything.

So let’s delve a little deeper into the story behind the story. 

Rebecca Campbell was born in New York City, the only child of wealthy socialite Matilda Applewhite Campbell and Robert Campbell. Her mother is everything Rebecca—Becky to her friends—wants to be. Beautiful. Poised. Confident. Instead, she seems doomed to inherit all her traits from her father, who she adores. Reckless. Impulsive. A daredevil. 

Becky’s father is gone more than he’s home. When a year passes with no word from him, she sets out, on her own, for his last known location—Silver Valley, Colorado. On her arrival, she learns he has been murdered. Determined to make his mine a success—his last letter promised that as soon as he struck it rich, he’d send for her and her mother—and to find his killer, she settles in at the mine.

But somebody doesn’t want her to succeed. And after a series of accidents and near misses, she admits she’s in over her head. And the only person she can trust is Zeke—or can she? 

The hero is Ezekial Graumann. Most everybody calls him Zeke. Zeke and his family own a fairly large piece of land in southwestern Colorado near the town of Silver Valley. Zeke has two married brothers, as well as two unmarried sisters. In good years, with enough rain, their land can support the three families if they are diligent and careful with their stock. However, the last few years have seen droughts and not enough snowfall, and the grazing is poor. Zeke wants to build his own house, maybe get married and have his own family, but the land won’t support another household.

Unless he can buy water rights from a spread upstream. But he doesn’t have the money to do that. So he looks around town for some weekly work to earn enough to buy the water rights and receive his share of the family land.

And along comes Miss Rebecca Campbell. She is feisty, stubborn, and doesn’t know anything about mining. Yet her determination to find her father’s killer and her resolve to make his mine successful gnaws at Zeke’s heart. And soon he finds himself imagining what it would be like to have her at his side as his wife. Except she’s obviously not ranching material, either.

But when accidents happen at the mine that threaten her safety, he must acknowledge that his feelings for her are more than mere curiosity. Now he must choose between saving his ranch and saving this woman who has stolen his heart.

So what keeps them from getting what they want? The villain, of course. Suffice it to say, it is a man. This man is one of the longest-term residents of Silver Valley, a man of impeccable reputation. On the outside, he looks wealthy. Wears nice clothes. Speaks well. Sounds well traveled and educated.

But on the inside, he’s dark, greedy, and lazy. Well, lazy only in the sense he wants to get rich quick. He actually spends a lot of energy trying to cheat and steal his way into wealth. If only he’d use his superpowers for good.

Stop by the Launch Event

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON MIXES THINGS UP IN 2020 ON KILLER CRAFTS & CRAFTY KILLERS

Mixing It Up in 2020
By Lois Winston

It’s hard to believe that 2020 marks ten years for Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers. The blog started out as the “online version” of the women’s magazine where Anastasia Pollack, reluctant amateur sleuth of my eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, works as a crafts editor. 

Over the ensuing years, the blog has gone through several changes. I found early on that readers really enjoyed the Monday craft segments and the Tuesday recipes. In addition, Book Club Friday, where authors showcased their books, was extremely popular with our blog readers and so popular with my fellow authors that guest spots began creeping into other days of the week, taking over the days originally designated for the other “editors” of the “magazine”.

Now, after ten years, I’m once again mixing things up a bit. In 2020 new posts will appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays instead of Monday through Friday. This will allow for more exposure for each post. In addition, you may find crafts on days other than Mondays and recipes on days other than Tuesdays. 

I’ve already had quite a few authors, both reader favorites and ones new to Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, ask for spots in the coming months. I hope all of you will enjoy the change.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Anastasia and the gang wish all our readers 
a very happy New Year! 
May 2020 be filled with peace, joy, and love for everyone.