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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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AUTHOR KATIE GRAYKOWSKI TAKES US ON A BAKING JOURNEY

Bestselling author Katie Graykowski has published more than twenty novels. She likes sassy heroines, Mexican food, glitter nail polish, and red velvet cake—even if she fails at baking them. Today she joins us to share a successful cake recipe. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

When Mustang Ridges, my heroine, needs comfort food, she turns to cupcakes. As long as they aren’t vegan, any flavor will do. But her favorite is red velvet. 

 

Just like my heroine, I love red velvet cupcakes. So why, do you ask, is the recipe below for strawberry cupcakes? 

 

The truth is … I make the worst red velvet cake in the world. As an amateur baker, I’ve tried dozens of red velvet cake recipes, and they all end up dry, flavorless, and dense. 

 

My husband’s grandmother, Nell Deplantis, made the best red velvet cake ever. We lost her a few years ago, and she took her red velvet cake recipe with her to heaven. I did get her potato salad recipe, so there’s that.

 

In my ever-ending quest for the perfect red velvet, I combined several different recipes. Normally, this yields fantastic desserts like double cheesecake brownies, chocolate rum tres leches cake, and chocolate covered strawberry custard parfaits. 

 

So armed with my Frankenstein-ed red velvet cake recipe, I committed one entire Sunday to the creation of red velvet perfection. 

 

Just look at the fantastic cake above.

 

I even made extra frosting.

 

And then I cut a piece. Not only was it dry enough to suck the spit out of my mouth, but it tasted like vinegar and salt. Here’s what happened to that cake.

 


To add insult to injury, I managed to get red food coloring on the bottom of my shoes so my kitchen floor looked like a murder scene. Did I mention I have concrete floors? Anyway, red velvet is permanently off my baking list.

 

Moving right along … strawberry cupcakes. This is what I make for myself on my birthday.

 

Strawberry Cupcakes

 

Ingredients:

I cup frozen strawberries*

2-1/2 cups flour

1-1/4 cups sugar

3 oz. box strawberry Jello

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

12 tbsp. butter (softened to room temperature)

3/4 cup juice from frozen berries

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

4 large eggs

 

Frosting ingredients:

2 sticks butter, softened

10 oz. frozen strawberries, drained

2 lbs. powdered sugar

 

* NOTE: Defrost strawberries ahead of time and allow to warm to room temperature. Drain berry water but retain for recipe.

 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour three 8-inch pans.

 

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, Jello, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add softened butter to the dry ingredients. Mix until butter is incorporated and soft crumbs form. It will look like sand. Add water from frozen strawberries, buttermilk, and vanilla to the crumbly mixture and mix to combine. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Scrape down sides of the bowl as needed. DO NOT OVERMIX.

 

Divide evenly between the 3 pans. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Or if you're making cupcakes, line the cupcake tins with cupcake wrappers and remember to grease those too. After baking, for layer cakes, remove from pans, cool and then frost. It's okay to leave the cupcakes in the pans to cool.

 

To make frosting, dump everything in a bowl and mix well. Spread on cooled cakes.

So what if my birthday is next month. Birthday candles are always a good idea.



PTO Murder Club Boxed Set

 

Rest In Pieces

Mustang Ridges isn’t a town, a stripper, or some old western movie. She’s a feisty, single mom living in the small town of Lakeside, Texas where money does buy happiness and keeping up appearances is much more important than the truth. Six months ago on her thirtieth birthday, her husband decided that married life, fatherhood, and his job as the Lakeside Chief of Police weren’t as exciting as a permanent vacation to Grand Cayman with his mistress and a million dollars in diamonds he stole from the police evidence lockup.

 

This makes Mustang a pariah in a Lakeside full of piranha. But she refuses to leave. If she can’t join them, then she’ll beat them at their own game. With a little luck, some intimidation, and the help of her good friends Monica and Haley, Mustang presides over her own little slice of Lakeside, the Bee Creek Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.

 

All is quiet in Lakeside until Molly Miars, the kindergarten teacher, is found dead. According to the new police chief, she overdosed on heroin. That doesn’t explain why her head was the only body part to make it to her funeral.

 

Vowing to do right by Molly, the PTO decides to investigate.

 

What do money laundering, a castor oil plant, gold coins, and a kindergarten teacher have in common? Mustang must figure it out before the killer finds her.

 

Blown To Pieces

After restauranteur, Big Tommy Prather, is blown to pieces in his front yard, Mustang Ridges and her two best friends are on the case. While the local police have ruled the death an accident, Mustang and the girls suspect murder. They can prove it…sort of.

 

As the small community of Lakeside, Texas mourns the loss of one of its most beloved citizens, Mustang, Haley, and Monica do their level best to find someone who might want Big Tommy dead. Only…every single person they interview, loves Big Tommy.

 

What do missing people, a chili parlor, and audio cassette tapes have in common? Mustand must figure it out before her best friend is blown to pieces.

 

Just One Piece

When Mustang Ridges receives a severed penis in the mail, she knows it's going to be a bad day. She's sure there's a body to go along with the penis, but she can't find it.

 

While on the hunt for the owner of the penis, she stumbles across a dead body. It's Jane Dough, a substitute teacher at Lakeside Elementary. The Lakeside Elementary PTO is on the case. It appears that Jane might have been a prostitute who supplemented her income with a little substitute teaching on the side. After vowing to vet substitute teachers more carefully, Mustang goes head-to-head with the brothel’s madam.

 

What do a severed penis, a dead body, and a brothel have in common? Mustang must figure it out before the killer sends her another body part.

 

Bits And Pieces

When Mustang Ridge’s son goes off to middle school, all she wants to do is drown her anxiety with a gallon of coffee and a dozen red velvet cupcakes. Unfortunately, someone has bought all of the cupcakes at Lakeside Cupcakes except for the nasty vegan ones. She may be desperate, but she’s not that desperate. As she walks back to her car, something large falls from the sky and crashes onto the roof of her car. 

 

It’s a body.

 

It seems like she’s always stumbling over bodies, but now they’re falling from the sky?

 

The body currently acting as her new hood ornament turns out to be Marty Smith, the man everyone hates … especially, Jill, the owner of Lakeside Cupcakes. After she’s arrested for his murder, she offers Mustang a lifetime supply of free cupcakes if she finds out who really killed Marty.

 

Mustang and the girls are on the case. They start questioning suspects and have a hard to finding anyone who doesn’t want Marty dead. 

 

What do a Voodoo Priestess, a possible serial killer with a Barbie fetish, and the island of Bonaire have in common? Mustang must figure it out before Marty’s killer finds her.

 

Buy Link (Entire box set currently free!)

Monday, September 28, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR JEANNETTE DE BEAUVOIR'S SLEUTH TAKES A BREAK FROM MURDER AND DISCOVERS A HOBBY

Jeannette de Beauvoir didn’t set out to murder anyone—some things are just meant to be! Her mother introduced her to the Golden Age of mystery fiction when she was far too young to be reading it, and she’s kept following those authors and many like them ever since. She wrote historical and literary fiction and poetry for years before someone asked her what she read—and she realized mystery was where her heart was. Now working on the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series, she bumps off a resident or visitor to her hometown on a regular basis. Learn more about Jeannette and her books at her website. 

Taking a Break From Murder… With Crafts!

 

Wedding planner and super-sleuth Sydney Riley is looking ahead to the winter, the “quiet season” in her hometown on Cape Cod, and has decided that what she needs is a hobby. Winters are a nice respite from the tourist season, but the days are long and dark, and even Sydney admits there’s just so much reading you can do. Inspired by Anastasia Pollock’s crafty ways, Sydney decided to try doing something completely different with her time and energy (usually she reserves both for solving murders!), and then she couldn’t wait to share her first efforts with Anastasia. 

 

“It’s not exactly art,” Sydney told her best friend, Mirela, who actually is an artist. “Of course it is,” said Mirela. “It is called decorative art, sunshine.”

 

Mirela is from Bulgaria and thinks “sunshine” is an endearment. She’s never really caught onto the irony of it.

 

Sydney decided to start small—after all, she doesn’t really know if she’s going to take to this enterprise—and so has begun by playing with mirrors and picture frames she finds at thrift shops and yard sales. She cleans the pieces and then hot-glues artifacts to them: coins, seashells, sea glass, whatever strikes her fancy, creating a one-of-a-kind decorative conversation piece. 

 

Sydney’s first project was a gift, a request from a priest friend who wanted a frame. Sydney removed the mirror and created this frame encrusted with religious artifacts to encircle the priest’s favorite icon. What do you think of it?

 

“What on earth are you doing?” asked Ali, Sydney’s boyfriend. “Where did you get these ideas?”

 

“It’s a matter of availability,” said Sydney. And it’s true that Provincetown is filled with the raw materials she needs and then some. A walk on the beach—any beach—provides shells, pebbles, and sea glass. The Shell Shop across from the Provincetown Town Hall has hundreds of different shells, seahorses, shark’s teeth, starfish, and so much more that she found herself entranced and stayed in the shop for an hour. (She also has to work fast, since The Shell Shop is seasonal only, and due to close soon!) 

 

Then there’s Marine Specialties, Ptown’s go-to shop for anything a little out of the ordinary—it’s been a landmark for more than fifty-five years. Often known simply as “the army-navy store,” it is an eclectic trove of salvage, surplus, closeouts, overruns, misprints, mistakes, spare parts, odd lots, cast-offs, and new and nearly-new items. What artisan could ask for more?

 

She’s had to take time off from her new hobby—because this year’s Women’s Week has brought a little more mayhem than usual when the Underground Railroad, a tainted legacy, and a murderer all come together and it’s up to Sydney to unravel what’s going on in The Lethal Legacy, the seventh book in the Sydney Riley Provincetown mystery series. But you can be sure that with winter coming, there will be a lot more decorate art projects to occupy the sleuth!

 

The Lethal Legacy

A Sydney Riley Provincetown Mystery, Book 7


Despite a slew of weddings to coordinate, Sydney Riley refuses to miss the Women’s Community Dinner—the high point of Women’s Week. During the festivities, she meets vocalist Jordan Bellefort, a direct descendant of a fugitive slave whose diaries suggest the Race Point Inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Then Jordan’s wife, Reggie, is murdered while Jordan performs onstage before a crowd of adoring fans. When Sydney probes Reggie’s death, she uncovers a tainted legacy that may provide a motive for the killing and place her own life at risk.


The Lethal Legacy explores the past’s influence on the present in a world-famous seaside resort with a rich history of diversity and acceptance. This seventh book in the Provincetown mystery series maintains the masterful blend of gripping suspense and unique characters Sydney Riley readers have come to expect.


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paperback 

ebook 

Friday, September 25, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR DEBRA H. GOLDSTEIN

Today we sit down for a chat with retired judge and award-winning cozy mystery author Debra H. Goldstein.  Learn more about Debra and her books at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Beginning in first grade, I wrote stories; however, the realization that I wanted to write novels didn’t become a goal until I took creative writing courses in college.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It feels like a lifetime because I talked about writing a book for years. When I finally got serious, it was in stop and go fits, so it took about ten years to write my first novel, Maze in Blue. The day I announced at a meeting that I had a mystery I thought was ready for public consumption, it took three hours for an editor a friend in the audience had contacted to express interest and one week more to be offered a contract. I thought getting published was a breeze.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
All my books have been traditionally published, but after I was orphaned by Maze in Blue’s publisher, I personally reissued the trade paperback and e-book versions and sold the mass market rights to another traditional publisher.

Where do you write?
In the beginning, I only wrote in my home office on the second floor of our home. After a foot injury prevented me from going upstairs, I divided my writing location between a big chair in my bedroom and a club chair in the living room. Where I really enjoy writing the most is if we go to the beach or visit a friend’s lake house. I stay in the airconditioned condo or house, look at the water, and write—that’s heaven.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind? 
I prefer writing with show music playing in the background.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I often take a gem of an idea or an impression of a person and blend them with my imagination to create plots and characters. That said, one aspect of Sarah Blair, the protagonist in One Taste Too ManyTwo Bites Too Many, and the new Three Treats Too Many, is true to my life. Like Sarah, I find the kitchen frightening. And, like her, when I was growing up, my sister shadowed our mother when she made dinner while I lay on the couch watching Perry Mason reruns. During the first commercial, I emptied the dishwasher; the second commercial was set the table time; my dad came home during the third commercial; and we sat for dinner when the credits rolled. Today, I eat out or make things from prepared ingredients while my sister is a gourmet cook.

Describe your process for naming your character?
Other than trying not to have more than one character whose name begins with the same letter, I have no rhyme or reason for my characters’ names. I may start with one name but find as I write that another suits the character better. 

Real settings or fictional towns?
The Sarah Blair series is set in Wheaton, Alabama, a fictional small town. I modeled the marble buildings, bridge into the city, and white steeple church after things like that in Wetumpka, Alabama, but I created other parts, like the town square from my personal knowledge and impressions of many of the small town squares I’ve visited. Wheaton is geographically located fifteen minutes from Birmingham, Alabama. That lets me bring in the landmarks of a bigger city, with my own additions for the sake of my art.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Because of Sarah’s fear of being in the kitchen and lack of knowledge about food items, if she is preparing a recipe that is new to her, she takes picture of the ingredients to the store to make sure she gets the right item. Otherwise, she might bring home red peppers instead of green, acorn squash instead of spaghetti square, or whatever.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Not only do I take pictures, like Sarah does, to the grocery. When I’m preparing a meal, I like to use different songs from Broadway shows as my primary means to time things (the timer on the microwave is secondary).

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
My first instinct is to respond with one of yours, Lois Winston, because of the ease with which you integrate humor and characterization (Anastasia here: Lois says to tell you she’s blushing!); but, from an opposite viewpoint, I would pick Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t by Marjorie Osterman. It was a first novel and it successfully captured life in the time period it was set and demonstrated the inner workings as the characters changed. 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Although I was lucky and satisfied by my legal career (litigator, judge), I wish I had had the confidence to write fiction earlier in life. I’m proud of the content and clarity of my legal writings, but my short stories and novels bring me joy.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is people being rude. Their rudeness can take the form of a dismissive gesture or word or, in the world we now live in, the failure to care enough about others to wear a mask or refrain from doing the things that create breeding grounds for Covid-19.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
I should say water for survival, but I’d rather have cases of mini-Coca Colas. I’d also need good sunscreen or a way of making a shelter from the sun, because I burn easily. Something good to read would help pass the time, but a means of communicating to get off the island (a cell phone with service; an SOS radio that works), would be a better pick.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
The worst job I ever had was being an assistant to a Sunday School teacher who was too lazy to create lesson plans. Instead, he would say a few words and tell them to draw a picture, but he never collected them or discussed what the pictures signified. I was only fourteen, but I hated to see students in a classroom wasting their time.  

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t had a big impact on me because of how well it was written. It spurred me to want to tell stories like its author had.

Ocean or mountains?
Ocean

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
City girl

What’s on the horizon for you?
Kensington recently published Three Treats Too Many, the third book in the Sarah Blair series. I just turned in the fourth book, which will be published in June 2021 and am writing the fifth book now. I also have at least two short stories and two podcast readings of other short stories of mine that will be issued in the next year.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I write for the reader to have fun, to escape into a story. This is a passion for me, so sharing my joy is essential.

Three Treats Too Many
A Sarah Blair Mystery, Book 3

When a romantic rival opens a competing restaurant in small-town Wheaton, Alabama, Sarah Blair discovers murder is the specialty of the house . . .

For someone whose greatest culinary skill is ordering takeout, Sarah never expected to be co-owner of a restaurant. Even her Siamese cat, RahRah, seems to be looking at her differently. But while Sarah and her twin sister, Chef Emily, are tangled up in red tape waiting for the building inspector to get around to them, an attention-stealing new establishment—run by none other than Sarah's late ex-husband's mistress, Jane—is having its grand opening across the street. 

Jane's new sous chef, Riley Miller, is the talk of Wheaton with her delicious vegan specialties. When Riley is found dead outside the restaurant with Sarah's friend, Jacob, kneeling over her, the former line cook—whose infatuation with Riley was no secret—becomes the prime suspect. Now Sarah must turn up the heat on the real culprit, who has no reservations about committing cold-blooded murder . . .

Includes quick and easy recipes!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR JOANNE GUIDOCCIO SHARES A BLUEBERRY MUFFIN RECIPE WITHOUT WHITE FLOUR AND SUGAR

 


Joanne Guidoccio writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romances, and inspirational literature. Today she makes a return visit to share a special blueberry muffin recipe and tell us about her latest novel. Learn more about Joanne and her books at her website.
  

The Last of the White Devils

At the beginning of 2020, I resolved to eliminate the remaining white devils—white flour and sugar—from my diet.  A daunting goal, but one I was determined to achieve by the end of December (hopefully sooner). 

 

During January and February, I continued to struggle with desserts. I simply couldn’t give them up. In conversations with my naturopath, Emily Murphy, I discovered  that almond flour and erythritol can replace wheat flour and sugar in many recipes. 

 

A non-foodie, I don’t enjoy cooking or baking but if some extra time suddenly became available, I would consider experimenting with a few recipes.

 

The universe was listening. Two weeks later, we were in lockdown. 

 

No more excuses. I started researching and experimenting.

 

About Almond Flour

Made from blanched almonds that have been ground and sifted, almond flour is low in carbs and high in healthy fats and fiber. One ounce (28 grams) contains 6.1 grams of protein, 5.6 carb grams, and 3 grams of fiber. Rich in Vitamin E and magnesium, almond flour is gluten-free and an excellent alternative to wheat flour. 

 

While almond flour can replace wheat flour in a 1:1 ratio, the baked products will be denser and flatter. 

 

About Erythritol

Substituting erythritol (a sugar alcohol that is found naturally in foods such as grapes, pears, melons, and mushrooms) for sugar is also easy. For starters, it contains significantly fewer calories than sugar. With only 6 percent of the calories of sugar, it still maintains 70 percent of the sweetness. And more importantly, erythritol does not raise blood sugar levels. 

 

A 1:1 ratio works well for erythritol to sugar. If you miss the sweetness, try a 1.25: 1 ratio.

 

I experimented with almond flour and erythritol and created the following quick-and-easy blueberry muffin recipe:

 

Blueberry Muffins

Yield: 12 regular-size muffins 

 

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups almond flour

1/2 cup erythritol (I use the monk fruit blend)

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup butter

1/2cup unsweetened almond milk

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup frozen blueberries

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

 

Line a muffin pan with paper or silicone muffin liners. 

 

In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to stir together the almond flour, erythritol, baking powder, and salt.

 

Melt butter. Add to the dry mixture. Add in the almond milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Blend well using an electric mixer.

 

Fold in the blueberries with a wooden spoon.

 

Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Muffins are done when the tops are golden, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

 


No More Secrets

Angelica Delfino takes a special interest in the lives of her three nieces, whom she affectionately calls the daughters of her heart. Sensing that each woman is harboring a troubling, possibly even toxic secret, Angelica decides to share her secrets—secrets she had planned to take to the grave. Spellbound, the nieces listen as Angelica travels back six decades to reveal an incredulous tale of forbidden love, tragic loss, and reinvention. It is the classic immigrant story upended: an Italian widow’s transformative journey amid the most unlikely of circumstances.

 

Inspired by Angelica’s example, the younger women share their “First World” problems and, in the process, set themselves free. 

 

But one heartbreaking secret remains untold...

 

Watch the Book Trailer

 

Buy Link 

Monday, September 21, 2020

AN INTERVIEW WITH ONE OF AUTHOR BONNIE EDWARDS'S ROMANCE HEROES

Today we sit down for a chat with Rayder Cole from romance author Bonnie Edwards’s The Brantons series.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?
I moved around the world freely, retrieving stolen art. 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 
I gain people’s trust easily.

What do you like least about yourself? 
Sometimes I use their trust against them.

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? She had me arrested in a sleazy motel.

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? 
We don’t argue. I let her believe she’s in charge. Like I said, I gain their trust…

What is your greatest fear? 
That I’ll never find another Ellie.

What makes you happy? 
Being with Ellie again. Even for a short while.

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 
I never would’ve conned Ellie in the first place, and we wouldn’t have wasted the last decade.

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why? Shaughnessy, the dirty Interpol agent, because I should’ve stopped him years ago.

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 
There’s no one I’d rather be than myself…but my better self. The one who shows up when I’m with Ellie.

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog? 
Author Bonnie Edwards lives with her husband and pets on the rainy coast of British Columbia. She has written novels, novellas, and short stories for various publishers and now publishes her work herself. 
With four ongoing romance series: Tales of Perdition, The Brantons, The Christmas Collection, and Return to Welcome, she rarely spends a day without writing. Learn more about Bonnie and her other books at her website. 
What's next for you? 
I plan on helping Ellie’s art gallery grow and to help bring more criminals to justice with a consulting business. Excuse me, Interpol’s calling…

Rayder’s Appeal
The Brantons, Book 4

What can a reformed con man do when the woman who changed his life needs his help?

Eleanor Macklin has overcome her past and repaired the damage done by her first, and only, love. She has all she’s ever wanted, her family’s art gallery. If she’s not as spontaneous, or giving, or loving as she once was, well… that’s a life lesson she learned the hard way from a master of deceit. And trust is a thing of the past…

Rayder Cole has stumbled on a plot to forge stolen art that could ruin Ellie Macklin’s art gallery. He must get the forgery back before Ellie’s life is in ruins. He’s done enough damage to the only woman he’s ever loved, and now, he’s back to save what Ellie’s worked hard to build.

If Eleanor doesn’t take a chance on Rayder, she’ll lose everything. But trust lost is almost impossible to regain.

While the race is on to find the forger, Rayder’s appeal begins to work its magic again and Eleanor hates that she still finds him sexy. 

Rayder’s determined to reclaim the woman who stole his heart before he even knew he had one…

Friday, September 18, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AN INTERVIEW WITH REGENCY AUTHOR ELF AHEARN AND HER MEAT MARINADE RECIPE


Today we have a double treat, an interview with Regency romance author Elf (yes, that’s her real name) Ahearn and her marinade recipe. Learn more about Elf and her books at her website where you can find links to her other social media and subscribe to her newsletter.
 

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

I’m a hybrid author by default. My books were published by Crimson Romance, which was sold to Simon & Schuster, which passed on keeping both novels on its backlist… alas. 

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I would love to have the skill to make people laugh and cry the way Steinbeck does with that story. The characters are brilliant and the problem of Lenny’s brute strength and inability to control it is the most heartbreaking situation in literature. A class I teach for Romance Writers of America is called Conflict, Action, and Suspense, and I use Of Mice and Men as an example.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? 

For nearly 20 years, I struggled as a New York City actress. Instead, I wish I’d lived in the country and gone straight to writing. Rejection is face to face in the theatre, whereas an author gets to read a no-go weeks after the submission. Believe me, that’s a lot easier to take.

 

New York is an amazing place—Broadway, SoHo, Fifth Avenue, Central Park—it’s got so many things to offer, it takes your breath away, yet every chance I got, I dashed home to the country. If you take a gander at A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, you’ll see it’s a story about a girl, a boy, and a horse. The horse is her best friend; that was me, except I had a pinto pony named Bettikins whereas in my bookthe horse is Manifesto, a dapple grey stallion.

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? 

I was the personal secretary to two sadists who owned a radio station in Connecticut. Example: One of them took an incredibly nasty poop, and then made me search for something nonexistent in the attic where the bathroom fan vented. The same guy didn’t want to know when callers were on hold: “You are to treat me like the governor and make them wait until I’ve finished my other business.”

 

They were also yellers, and they yelled at me for everything. Example: One night, long after I’d gone home, the office alarm went off and the police showed up. The owners had visited the office, and one of them blew it entering the alarm code. When I said he’d probably made a mistake, he started screaming, “I never make a mistake! Never!” 

 

Less than six months later, knowing my husband and I were applying for a mortgage, they terminated me. It would have been devastating except they fired employees all the time for the slightest infraction. In fact, by the time I lost my job, they’d racked up the second highest number of unemployment claims in the state—this from a tiny, rinky dink radio station. Ironically, the only employee they hesitated to dismiss was this crazy receptionist who came in early and lit a shelf on fire. Why didn’t they dump her immediately? Because they were scared. You see, they’d weaseled their way onto the board of directors of the local hospital and had the nursing staff cut so the lobby could be decorated with high-end furniture and the president supplied with a $10,000 desk. People in that peaceful Connecticut community hated them so bitterly, their tires were regularly slashed. 

 

They’d spread their personal brand of lousiness so far and wide, they needed a bodyguard to visit New York City. You see, one of them had had a prime position in the fashion industry but lost his job due to lawsuits claiming employee abuse. 

 

There is a happy ending, though: my husband and I got a mortgage on better terms, and I became a journalist—a job I absolutely loved. And here’s the kicker—my newspaper printed the story of how those two bankrupted the radio station and had to sell for less than it was worth. Karma, baby.

 

What’s on the horizon for you? 

I’ve completed two more Regency romances with my signature “Gothic twist.” The moment I find a publisher, I’ll be building the suspense till their release.

 

Elf’s Marinade

I use this marinade on chicken, lamb, and pork. It’s super tasty and easy to make. 

 

Ingredients:

Chicken, lamb, or pork

Lemon juice

Mustard

Minced garlic

4C seasoned breadcrumbs

 

Pour enough lemon juice to cover meat. Add approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup mustard. Add a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic.

 

Allow meat to marinate for 10-20 minutes. I usually turn on the oven and wait for it to reach 350 degrees F (approx. 10 minutes), then remove the meat from the marinade.

 

Coat meat in 4C seasoned breadcrumbs. Place coated meat in a baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until specific meat reaches proper temperature.

 

A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing

The Albright Sisters, Book 1

 

In Lord Hugh Davenport’s opinion, women of the ton perpetually hide behind a mask of deception. That’s hard for Ellie Albright, the daughter of an earl, to swallow—especially since she’s disguised herself as a stable hand to get back the prized stallion her father sold to Hugh to pay a debt. If Hugh learns her true identity, she’ll lose the horse and her family will go bankrupt. Somehow, though, losing Hugh’s affection is beginning to seem even worse…

 

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--AUTHOR JUDY ALTER'S HAMBURGER STROGANOFF


We’re always happy to welcome back award-winning author Judy Alter. After a long career writing historical fiction about women of the nineteenth century American West for adults and young adults, Judy began writing contemporary cozy mysteries. She now has three series as well her current release, a standalone—which may eventually wind up being the first in a new series. Judy currently lives in a small cottage with a postage-stamp sized kitchen without a stove. So, she wrote a cookbook about it, 
Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Today Judy shares a recipe that plays a part in her latest book. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website.
 

Let’s Hear it for American Food

 

When Henny James tries to add hamburger Stroganoff to the menu her chef/boss Irene Foxglove will cook on the TV show, Madame, a French-ish snob about cooking, is indignant that she would be asked to cook with ground meat, the stuff peasants eat. Stroganoff is traditionally made with beef tenderloin, which is expensive; if you want to cut corners, you can use a cheaper cut and simmer it a long time. Henny points out that hamburger is both quick and inexpensive, which will appeal to American cooks. Besides, it retains all the flavor of the original Russian dish.

 

But this incident in Saving Grace illustrates a larger theme in the cozy mystery—the return of American food to popularity in a nation that has wildly embraced everything from Japanese to Middle Eastern cuisine. In the Sixties and Seventies, James Beard, himself a French-trained chef, was the spokesman for the American menu, pointing out that it is, like the nation, a melting pot of international cuisines. But Beard died in 1985, and no one major took up that banner. International cuisines—please don’t call them ethnic, which is a bit derogatory—became the fashion. Today, that trend is reversing, thanks to some prominent TV chefs and such enduring publications such as Southern Living.

 

So what is American cuisine? It’s hard to define because it encompasses so many regional cuisines—southern, Cajun, southwestern, Pacific rim, etc.—and incorporates many cooking techniques, from Native American to European (yes, Madame, and French!). If there is one key to American food, it is variety. Among the most popular dishes are cheeseburgers and hot dogs, nachos and barbecue, po’ boy sandwiches and fried chicken, apple pie and s’mores. See a pattern here? They are all accessible dishes, easily duplicated by the home cook, and the ingredients are readily available in most grocery stores. No need to go on a desperate search for gochuchang (a red chili paste) or truffles (a French delicacy). Hamburger Stroganoff fits right in as an American dish.

 

Hamburger Stroganoff

Serves six; may be halved easily; makes good leftovers

2 lbs. ground sirloin

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

4 Tbsp. butter, divided

1/2 cup finely diced onion

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced

2 cups beef stock

1 lb. egg noodles

1 cup sour cream

3 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

 

Brown ground meat in 2 Tbsp. butter. If necessary, brown in batches. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Remove meat from skillet. Brown onion in remaining 2 Tbsp. When onion is translucent, add mushrooms and sauté until nicely wilted. Add beef stock and bring to slight boil, cooking until sauce thickens. Add meat to mixture and heat. 

 

Cook noodles and drain.

 

Mix sour cream, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Stir a spoonful of hot beef mixture into the sour cream, and then stir the whole thing back into the meat. DO NOT LET IT BOIL. Mix thoroughly and stir to warm the sour cream. 

 

Serve immediately, either over noodles or separately. 

 


Saving Irene, 
A Culinary Mystery

Irene Foxglove wishes she were a French chef. Henrietta James, her assistant, knows she is nothing more than a small-time TV chef on a local Chicago channel. And yet when Irene is threatened, Henny tries desperately to save her, wishing always that “Madame” would tell her the truth--about her marriage, her spoiled daughter, her days in France, the man who threatens her. Henny’s best friend, the gay guy who lives next door, teases her, encourages her, and shares meals with her, even as she wishes for more. 

 

Murder, kidnapping, and some French gossip complicate this mystery, set in Chicago and redolent with the aroma of fine food.

 

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