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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Monday, August 31, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--CHICKEN FOR A QUEEN WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR AND SHERLOCKIAN SCHOLAR LIESE SHERWOOD-FABRE

The author's Texas take on Coronation Chicken
In recent years, awarding-winning author Liese Sherwood-Fabre has turned to a childhood passion in the tales of Sherlock Holmes by penning her own version of his origin story. A recognized Sherlockian scholar, her essays on Sherlock and Victorian England are published across the globe and have appeared in the Baker Street Journal, the premiere publication of the Baker Street Irregulars. Learn more about Liese and her books at her website. 

Scone Palace
A Recipe Meant for a Queen
A few years ago, my sister, some friends, and I toured Scotland for a week. One site we visited was Scone Palace (pronounced “scoon” and not related to the breakfast pastry). The palace was where Scottish kings were crowned. The grounds include a small chapel and stone bench where the king sat to be crowned (there’s a whole story related to that stone which you can check out here, if interested).

The Stone of Destiny

There is also a coffee shop (where you can buy scones), and that is where I was introduced to coronation chicken. Another woman in our party got it, and after one taste, I fell in love with it!

Originally created for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation banquet in 1953, Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume created a recipe of cold chicken with curry and dressing, most likely inspired by jubilee chicken prepared for George V’s silver jubilee in 1935. Theirs was more of a salad and lighter than what I had—which was more of a sandwich filling.

Here’s a recipe for the latter I have tweaked from one found on the Internet from Leslie Blythe’s blog (being from Texas, I prefer a spicy mix) and prepared for any number of gatherings—always to rave reviews.

Simply prepare the sauce, blend it with the salad ingredients, and enjoy alone on a bed of rice, greens, or in a sandwich. I often will shred or chop up any leftover chicken as the base—or you can poach or bake the breasts as needed.

Blend together for the sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I prefer salad dressing like Miracle Whip to add a bit of sweet)
1 tablespoon curry powder (I prefer Madras because its spicier)
2 tablespoons mango chutney (again, the spicier the better)
1 tablespoon vinegar (any variety)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice 
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix with:
3 cups of diced chicken
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup currants or raisins or chopped dried apricots

Garnish with:
Chopped cashews
Watercress

The Adventure of the Murdered Gypsy
The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes, Book 2

What’s a holiday without surprises? It’s Christmas 1867 at Underbyrne, the Holmes family estate. The house is filled with family, relatives, and three unexpected arrivals—all ready to celebrate the holidays. That is, until another uninvited guest appears: dead in the stables. Is someone in the household a murderer? Sherlock must discover the dead man's identity before another unwelcomed body materializes. 

Buy Links 
ebook  (Just released with a special $2.49 price!)

Friday, August 28, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--HISTORICAL AUTHOR, CRAFTER, AND PROCRASTINATION SPECIALIST JEANNIE LIN

Silk Parachute Cord Knotted Bracelet
USA Today bestselling author Jeannie Lin writes groundbreaking historical romances set in imperial China as well as an Opium War steampunk series, the Gunpowder Chronicles. The Hidden Moon, a historical romance and murder mystery set in the pleasure district of the Tang Dynasty imperial capital will be available September 1, 2020 in digital and September 8, 2020 in print. Learn more about Jeannie and her books at her website

I’m not just a procrastinator. I’m a procrastination specialist. My procrastination efforts are an artform. 

Normally this comes with a lot of schedules and to-do lists to try to keep myself on track. And guilt. Oh, the guilt – why can’t I stay focused?!

But over the last months as I was writing The Hidden Moon, I tried something different. I tried to be a little kinder to myself.  

I realized that labeling myself as a procrastinator – as I did above there -- or saying that I’m too easily distracted….these are all negative judgment. It’s me telling myself that I need to be different. What I was doing was not good enough, not productive enough. 

I spent the last four years thinking I needed to cut things out of my schedule that were distractors. That I needed to focus and be more efficient. It led to me wanting to write, but not really writing. Yet still feeling guilty for it. 

It led to burnout at work. 

It led to a very sad me. 

Whenever I start writing a new book, I post a paper with a quote on the wall above my desk to give myself a little encouragement. 

My current quote is: “I hate writing. I love having written” along with a cute little stick drawing of the “Instant Gratification Monkey” from Tim Urban’s talk on Why Procrastinators Procrastinate.

There’s a reason for that monkey in my head. He’s not there to fight me…he’s there to tell me that all those “distractions”: googling trivial research, YouTubing craft tutorials, making cool swag that’s not really going to sell any more books …that was all more important to me than I realized. 

So I put up the sign, not only to remind myself to get to work, but to remember to let the monkey play. Which led to one late night when in the middle of writing, I wondered….hmm, what’s something my hero could make by hand that he ends up giving to the heroine? Which led to a YouTube journey on how to tie decorative knots. An hour and many videos later, I was ordering red paracord off the internet. 

Okay, Monkey, I said, you’ve had some time to play. We have some pretty red cord coming. Now I’m going to write, and I promise, I PROMISE when this draft is done, you’ll get to try it out. 

As a result, I developed a recurring motif in The Hidden Moon, created a neat little piece of swag to mail to readers, and had a fun craft project to reward myself with that I could do with my little girl once the draft was done. (see above)

My procrastination monkey is not there to hold me back. He’s there to tell me to remember the things that bring me joy. And that these inputs, this brain candy that I love, is there for a reason. They’re not needless distractions to be locked away. They are the fuel for my productivity and refill the well in little sips to keep me going. 

Confession: The silk bracelet wasn’t the only wandering I did with this last book, by far. Let me present to you the combination lock box I created out of cardboard and glue. I thought it would be fun to put together a mystery in a box adventure with games and puzzles for my readers since The Hidden Moon has a murder mystery! 

Combo box made out of cardboard with three cardboard dials.
Down, Monkey. Down. 

It was a lot of fun though. And a good six hours covered in glue.

What’s the brain candy that gives you joy and keeps you going? 

The Hidden Moon
A well-bred lady and lowly street hustler team up in a historical murder mystery set during China's glittering Tang Dynasty. Part of the best-selling Lotus Palace series.

Impetuous and well-educated, young Lady Bai has always been the forgotten daughter between two favored sons. However, when Wei-wei’s older brother is tasked with investigating a high-profile assassination, he turns to his clever younger sister for assistance.

Gao is a street-wise scoundrel with a checkered past and a shady reputation. He knows better than to set his sights on the high-born Lady Bai, but when she asks for his help, he can’t refuse. 

As the unlikely pair chases down a conspiracy that reaches from the gutters of the capital to the imperial palace, Wei-wei is intent on seeing justice done, while Gao is determined to solve the mystery just for her – even if the attraction between them can never be more than a moment’s longing.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--PEACH PIE

Unless you’re lucky enough to have fruit trees nearby and can pick peaches that have ripened on the tree, your fruit arrive in the supermarket rock hard. No telling when they were picked, perhaps weeks prior to finding their way to the produce department. So you never really know until the fruit ripens, and you take your first bite, if you’re going to experience sweetness or mealiness. 

This year I’ve had the incredible luck of purchasing fruit that has been exceptionally sweet once it’s had a day or two to ripen in paper bags on my counter. Eating a fresh peach is heavenly, but peach pie is also a wonderful treat on a summer day, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Peach Pie

Crust:
3 C. all-purpose flour + extra for dusting
3/4 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 C. ice water
I lg. egg
1 T. water

Filling:
4 pounds peaches
3/4 C., plus 1 T. sugar
1/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
2 T. unsalted butter

For crust, pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add cubes of butter. Pulse until mixture forms coarse texture with pea-size bits of butter. Slowly add the ice water and pulse until the dough begins to come together. 

Divide dough in half. Wrap in plastic wrap and press flat to form disks. Refrigerate until firm (at least 1 hr.)

Peel peaches and slice. Toss slices in a bowl with 3/4 cup sugar, flour, lemon juice and spices.

Lightly dust parchment paper with flour to use as rolling surface. Roll out one disk of dough into a 12” round on the parchment. Place dough centered into 9” pie pan. 

Add the filling, mounding slightly in the center. 

Cut butter into small pieces. Dot butter over filling. Refrigerate pie while preparing top crust.

Roll out the second piece of dough into 12” round. Cut into 1/2"-wide strips. 

Place half of the strips on the pie in one direction, leaving 1” between strips. Weave remaining strips on top to form a lattice pattern. Trim edges of the strips, leaving slight overhang. Fold overhanging dough under itself and crimp edge of the crust.

Beat the egg with 1 T. water. Brush egg/water mixture on the crust edge and lattice top. Sprinkle with 1 T. sugar. Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes.
Place baking sheet on lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place pie on preheated baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Continue baking 50-60 minutes, until crust is golden and filling bubbly. If crust begins to brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil. 

Place on cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing. Serve with scoop of vanilla ice cream.

After you’ve enjoyed your slice of peach pie, don’t forget to pre-order A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, on sale Oct. 1st.


A Sew Deadly Cruise
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancĂ© Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Pre-order links

Monday, August 24, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR GINI ATHEY COMBINES A PASSION FOR #QUILTING WITH A PASSION FOR WRITING

Gini Athey is the award-winning author of the small-town women’s fiction series, The Shops on Wolf Creek Square, which includes Quilts Galore. The Quilt Company is the first in her new Briarwood Series. She quilts, gardens, writes, reads, and lives with her husband in a rural area west of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Learn more about Gini and her books at her website

Write What You Know
Over the course of my life, I’ve delved into a variety of hobbies, pastimes, and occupations. I like to be busy, and I enjoy the challenging of mastering a new skill. After selling the small business I owned in 2004, I found myself with time to explore a new challenge—writing a novel.

According to one survey reported by The New York Times, 81 percent of Americans want to write a book. I was one of those people. But as I ventured into the publishing community, I discovered there is a huge difference between wanting to write a book and actually writing one.

Before I could begin putting the words on the page, I had to answer several questions to define my story.

·      What would the story be about? 
·      Where would it be set? 
·      What themes would it include? 
·      Who would the primary protagonist(s) be?

Some of the questions were easier to answer than others, but then I considered the sage advice often given to aspiring authors: Write what you know.

Initially, that raised more questions than it answered.

·      What did I know?
·      What did I know that would intrigue and engage readers?
·      What did I know that lent itself to the stories itching to spill from my fingertips onto the page?

I spent many hours pondering what I know and eventually came up with a list. 

Quilting and crafts. I inherited my love of quilting, both making them and admiring them, from my grandmother. As a young girl, I spent hours and hours with her, carefully cutting fabric into blocks and assembling them into a quilt which very often became a cherished family heirloom.

Independent women entrepreneurs. For several years, I owned and operated a full-time business that distributed original designs for professional quilters. This company was a labor of love, yet my ambition motivated me to make it profitable and successful. I later went on to sell the company to another individual who shared my love of quilting.

Home and hearth. It’s exciting to visit the big city, but at heart, I’m a small-town girl. I like the slower pace of life in small towns, being surrounded by friends and family, and the sense of community that binds people together. Many of my stories include journeys home, finding home, or creating a home through shared values and experiences.

Nine books later, these elements still define the stories I write. If any of these themes resonant with you, I hope you’ll check out my books.

The Quilt Company
The Briarwood Series, Book 1

A big loss could tear a family apart, but does a big dream have the power to reunite them? 

Deanna Westford may have lost her husband, but she’s determined not to lose her big dream along with him. A quilter with a flair for design, Deanna will do whatever it takes to transform her passion for quilting into a thriving business. She finds the perfect studio-condo location in a renovated factory building repurposed for businesses just like hers. Even better, she knows and trusts the builder, Paul Silverman. Paul is acquainted with loss himself, but that doesn’t stop him from becoming a generous friend and confidant for Deanna. 

With three children in their twenties and on their own, Deanna assumes she can organize her life to please herself. She happily embraces the long hours it will take to establish her business. along with newfound friendships. But her best-laid plans don’t leave room for her kids’ complicated crises, which bring extra demands just when her company needs her the most. 

Deanna—and her children—soon discover that disasters sometimes offer great opportunities. Deanna must waste no time deciding what she’s willing to risk.

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Friday, August 21, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--CIVIL WAR ROMANCE WITH AUTHOR GINA DANNA

After years of writing historical academic papers, USA Today bestselling author Gina Danna has found the time to write her own historical romance novels. Under the supervision of her dogs, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break spending time with her other lifelong dream, her Arabian horse. With him, her muse can play. Learn more about Gina and her books at her website. 

The Better Angels & The Civil War

The American Civil War – not quite the normal setting for an historical romance. But for a historian and Civil War reenactor/living historian, it has a huge array of possibilities for a book. So the result for me is my series Hearts Touched by Fire. My 4th book in the series has just been released this summer and I’m thrilled to be able to tell you about it. It is titled, The Better Angels, the phrase pulled from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in March, 1861, when he says directly to the seceding South:

“…We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

This book is the story of Francois Fontaine of Louisiana and Ada Lorrance of Pennsylvania. Francois was introduced in book 1, The Wicked North, as Jack’s older brother. Francois is a bit of a scoundrel, and his character definitely needed to be saved so this book is his redemption story.

Ada is a doctor with the Union Army, though she serves as a nurse, because U.S. Army regulations refused any female physicians. In the 19th century, few universities had medical schools with a slim number allowing women. Any woman doctor of the period was mostly refrained to treating women and children and that attitude applied to the Federal Army, despite their need for help. Wanting to aid the North as best she could, Ada signs on as a nurse, of Dorothea Dix’s nursing corps, and is assigned to help the field hospitals of General Meade in Virginia. There, at times, she finds a way to utilize her medical training in helping the wounded, though that brings many conflicts with the commanding surgeon. Ada is a very strong-minded lady, and her determination to help is her driving factor. 

She is also an abolitionist, hoping the Union wins to free the slaves. But Francois comes from a wealthy plantation in Louisiana, where they raise sugar, using slaves as their laborers. His family has done this for generations, and he saw no issues about it. But when he ends up wounded and under her care, the war takes on a new meaning, because to her, he stands for everything she hates….what will she do when he steals her heart?
  
Writing this series has been fabulous and involved. As a trained historian (I have my BA, MA and work towards my PhD in History), I want to craft a tale that is accurate and takes my reader back to that time. To get a glimpse into these people who went to war during the most pivotal time in U.S. history. These people are real – you meet the generals and politicians who went to war, both the North and South. Their lifestyles, thoughts are pulled from research books and time actually portraying them as a Living Historian. As an historian, it is the most fascinating time in defining this country, and in so many ways, has yet to be resolved.

So come back with me, to the time of Antebellum US and the War Between the States (the US Government’s official name of the rebellion), and explore how these people lived, their fears, their excitement and loss. And see if Francois can be redeemed!

The Living Historian's Creed
By Bruce Catton, Civil War Historian
  • We are the people to whom the past is forever speaking.
  • We listen to it because we cannot help ourselves, for the past speaks to us with many voices.
  • Far out of that dark nowhere which is the time before we were born, men who were flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone went through fire and storm to break a path to the future. 
  • We are part of that future they died for.
  • They are part of the past that brought the future.
  • What they did--the lives they lived, the sacrifices they made, the stories they told and the songs they sang and, finally, the deaths they died--make up a part of our own experience.
  • We cannot cut ourselves off from it.
  • It is as real as something that happened last week.
  • It is a basic part of our heritage as Americans.

The Better Angels
Hearts Touched by Fire Series, Book 4

In 1864, Francois Fontaine has a life of leisure as part of the planter class in Louisiana.

Everything changes when the woman he loves marries another man. Heartbroken, he flees east to joining the army in an attempt to forget. But in Virginia, wounded and captured, he quickly discovers that an injured Confederate soldier faces a bleak future.

Dr. Ada Lorrance wants to help in the cause against Southern slavery, but the army medical department will not take a women doctor, yet they need nurses so she bites her lip and joins as one, soon to discover that when the surgeons are overwhelmed, she is left to doctor the prisoners. She finds herself attracted to a rebel, a man who stands for everything she despises, making her hope he rots, but her heart falls for him.

Thrown together by war, Francois and Ada find themselves battling over their beliefs and fighting against the growing affections that is fragile enough to pull them apart.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

INTERVIEW WITH CAT MIRANDA, AUTHOR C.J. SHANE'S NEW SLEUTH

Today we sit down for a chat with Catalina “Cat” Amalia Miranda from author C.J. Shane’s Cat Miranda Mysteries. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
Sad really. My big brother died recently, and I’m still grieving.

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 
I like to help people whenever I can.

What do you like least about yourself? 
I don’t have enough self-confidence.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?
There was a plumbing leak in the art gallery. The plumber came, he moved that big painting “Kissed,” and he opened the wall to fix the leak. That’s when he found something really awful behind the painting. A dead body!

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?
Yes, she wants to show her paintings in my art gallery and also do a public reading of her latest book. I told her no. I think she’s funny. My art gallery is imaginary. Her paintings and her books are real.

What is your greatest fear?
I’m really scared of that guy who made me his target. He attacked me during the Great Stair Climb race, and he threatened to kill me if I didn’t leave Bisbee immediately. Miles helped me.

What makes you happy?
Miles makes me happy. He’s English. He’s handsome and sweet and funny, and I really like him. Also, it makes me happy to be home in Bisbee again.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?
Yikes! I’m a graphic designer, and I run an art gallery. I don’t know anything about writing or rewriting.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?
Jeremy Flores, my attorney. He’s a really good friend going all the way back to high school. Jeremy works way too hard. He does a lot of free work for poor people. He doesn’t get enough sleep, and he doesn’t get to spend enough time with his lovely wife. Maybe I can figure out a way to help him.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?
I think I’d trade places with the librarian at our public library. She knows everyone, and she’s surrounded by books all day. I like books and I like people so that’s a great combination.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?
Shane is an artist and a writer, too. Every day she has this existential dilemma. Should she write or should she paint? You can see her art here  and hereand learn about her books here, including the steamy romantic ones she writes under the pen name Aylen Ainsley.

What's next for you?
Shane tells me that Miles is returning to Bisbee soon. He’s going to help me solve a mystery that has to do with some land out west of town that my brother left me in his will. Also, I’m going to adopt a rescue dog – a big dog.

Kissed
A Cat Miranda Mystery, Book 1

Cat Miranda returns to her childhood home in Bisbee, Arizona, to take over her brother’s art gallery following his untimely death. On her first night home, an intruder breaks in. Cat quickly realizes that she is being targeted by a murderer with links to an 8-foot tall painting in the gallery titled “Kissed.” In her struggle to stay safe, Cat finds an ally in Miles Trevelyan, a charming visiting British scholar. The heat rises with more assaults on Cat and between Cat and Miles, too, as their feelings for each other grow. Can they discover what is behind the painting “Kissed” before Cat becomes the next victim? Kissed is a cozy mystery with a big spoonful of sweet romance in this Sonoran Desert Borderlands tale.

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