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, November 27, 2020

#BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--A POST FROM AUTHOR MARIS SOULE'S RETIRED ASSASSIN

Award-winning author Maris Soule has had thirty books published, ranging from romance to mystery/thriller. Today Mary Harrington, the protagonist of A Killer Past tells us something about the predicament Maris wrote her into when she wondered what a woman trained as an assassin in her twenties would be like in her seventies. Learn more about Maris and her books at her website.

Hello, my name is Mary Harrington. I’m seventy-four and some people say I look like Helen Mirren. I was seventeen and working the streets of San Francisco when I was invited to join ADEC. You probably haven’t heard of that organization. Congress funds it but has no idea of its true purpose. Nevertheless, everyone’s happy when a healthy drug kingpin, terrorist, or despot suddenly dies of a heart attack or in a freak accident. The training I went through before being sent out on assignments was grueling, and some of those assignments were scary, but I felt I was helping rid the world of evil. That was until I turned thirty and was given an assignment that ended badly. After that, I wanted out. But you don’t leave ADEC, at least not alive.

 

I arrived in the small town of Rivershore, Michigan as Mary Smith, opened a bookstore, and avoided having my picture taken. I made up a story about my parents being killed in a car accident, leaving me financially secure, that I’d traveled through Europe in my twenties and now wanted the simple life. I won’t say it was love at first sight when I met Harry Harrington, the town dentist, but we were married for forty years before cancer took him. Sweet Harry never knew about my past, nor does our son, Robert, his wife, Clare, or my eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Shannon. I’m facing a problem with the three of them. Robert worries about my safety and thinks I should move into a retirement home; Clare is into ancestry and wants to trace my family tree; and Shannon says, because I speak French fluently, I should go with her to Paris. I’m afraid if I did, I’d be recognized and either arrested or killed.

 

My major problem now is the night before Halloween, on my way home from Shannon’s birthday party, my car stopped running just two blocks from my house. Being so close, I hated to call anyone for help when I could easily walk home, but there were two young men seated on the steps of a vacant house watching me. Gang members. I decided I’d let them take my purse without making a fuss, but darn it all, when one of them grabbed my arm and went after my house keys, I forgot myself and reverted to my earlier training. At least I didn’t kill them, but I guess gang members don’t like being put in the hospital by an old woman. They think they have to teach me a lesson.

 

And darn that Rivershore police inspector, Jack Rossini. He won’t accept that it wasn’t me who put the boys down. He says he’s worried about my safety, and now he’s checking into my past. I like the man, he’s fun to verbally spar with, but he doesn’t realize what he’s doing is putting both his life and mine in danger. It really isn’t safe to dig into A Killer Past.

 

A Killer Past

When two gang members choose Mary Harrington as their target, the quiet widow has a secret to share of her own.

 

Most people in the town of Rivershore, Michigan view Mary Harrington as a quiet widow whose only oddity is that she spends a lot of time at the gym. Her son thinks it’s time for her to move into a retirement home. Two gang members think she’ll be an easy target. No one in Rivershore knows what Mary did in her younger years—really did—but the two gang members discover they’ve underestimated their victim . . . and Mary fears reverting to old habits may have jeopardized her future.

 

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR CAMILLE MINICHINO CRAFTS MYSTERIES AND MINIATURES

Camille Minichino is turning every aspect of her life into a mystery series and a miniatures project. Her protagonists in five series are a retired physicist, a miniaturist, a math professor, a postal worker, and the owner of a diner in Alaska. She’s published 28 novels and many short stories. Learn more about Camille at her website and blog.

Modeling Life

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by miniatures. Not teddy bears or baby dolls or little amorphous creatures with enormous ears (or no ears at all),  but very small replicas of real life things. Dollhouses, roomboxes, standalone scenes.

 

To be more exact: a world where one foot gets mapped into one inch, the standard dollhouse scale.

 

I’ve also been fascinated by novels, another sort of modeling, where as readers and writers we map the real world into a different universe with fictional people and the furniture of our choice.

 

Combining these two passions, I’ve created dollhouses or separate scenes to match all my cozy mystery series. (You can go to my website and find a “Slideshow” under Mystery Novels.)

 

Probably not every miniaturist has a replica of a mortuary like the one that’s featured in the Periodic Table Mysteries, or a post office to complement my Postmistress Mysteries, but to me it seems the obvious thing to do.

 

Now it’s time for me to build a scene from my newest series, the Alaska Diner Mysteries, written as Elizabeth Logan. It will be a while before an entire miniature diner is ready, but here’s a sneak peak for Lois Winston/Anastasia Pollack’s crafty blog. The photos are a glimpse into a typical scene in both of the first two books of the series—my protagonist Charlotte “Charlie” Cooke loves sitting in her rocking chair with Benny, her orange tabby, on her lap, sometimes sharing the ups and downs of her day, sometimes reading aloud. 

I’ve included photos with two versions of the scene. The photo above is a draft, much like the draft of a novel. I toss mini things around the way I toss ideas around, trying various combinations of words and scene elements. In the draft photo, I haven’t decided whether to use the brown or the white rocker, which plant to add, what “toys” to scatter on the floor, where to place Benny. Is the pizza stool good enough for a table or shall I use nicer furniture? Should there be a carpet in this family room? And so on.

 

The photo at the top of this post shows what I decided on as the final version, or close to it, one I was ready to glue down. You’ll see that I ditched the hat, for a possible Hawaii scene some other time! I added a tiny mouse, the way I might write a little humor, even into the plot of a murder investigation. I thought this second pose for Benny was more active, and the spoon was too over the top. I came up with a feather toy and more of the “yarn” that Benny likes.

 

In other words, I edited.

 

Which brings me to one more similarity between writing and miniaturing:

 

The mouse is no more a threat than a rodent that might appear in a chapter of my novel. They're both works of fiction. 

 

When I put a roof on a dollhouse I don't have to worry about the materials really being weatherproof. Like readers, dollhouse admirers assume all will be well if it rains. 

 

In the world of dollhouses, as in the world of novels, there's no laundry to do, and a houseful of carpeting can be changed in a matter of minutes. Complete remodeling may take a week! 

 

In my dollhouses, all the plumbing works, as do all the appliances. In my mystery novels, the good guys always win and justice is always served.

 

No wonder both are so satisfying.

 

Fishing for Trouble

An Alaska Diner Mystery, Book 2

 

Summer has come to Elkview, Alaska, bringing twenty hours of sunlight every day, not to mention a surge of tourists and seasonal workers. Chef Charlie Cooke is eager for a busy yet relaxing season, but when a young man working a summer job at the local fish processing plant dies moments after walking into the Bear Claw Diner, she’s quickly swept into the investigation.

 

Soon, through her best friend Annie Jensen, Charlie learns that another student worker at J and M Processing has disappeared, leaving more questions and fewer answers. The near-endless sunlight gives plenty of time to search for clues, but Charlie will have to work with Annie and local reporter Chris Doucette to net the killer before anyone else gets hurt.

 

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Monday, November 23, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MEET FANTASY AUTHOR HELEN HENDERSON'S MASTER MAGICAL WEAPONS FORGER

Today we sit down for a chat with Brodie from author Helen Henderson’s Windmaster Novels. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

I don’t know who this “author” is that you say controls of my life. I have seen Lady Helen called an author. If it is her of which you speak, she just chronicles events as they are told her. We first met when I was an unbearded youth on the eve of my first battle. My opponent was Lord Dal. Beside being the Archmage he was also a skilled mercenary. I was no match for him as a man or a soldier, and he disarmed me with a single blow. He spared my life, and we have since become close friends. Lady Helen noted the story in a manuscript she calls Windmaster.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?

My ability to imbue life into steel. The weapons I make for the journeymen mages will serve as their tool for the rest of their lives. Even though I don’t know who will select what token for the hilt or what blade, each piece is special and customized for their future owner. Although I haven’t witnessed it myself, as I have no powers of my own, those who are summoned to the council fire say the token, hilt, and blade that are meant to go together call out to the mage who will use the dagger to focus their powers. The pieces have been said to emit a beam of light skyward that only the intended future wizard can see.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

Almost every day since I came to the isle of the wizard’s council and school of magic, I have rued the fact I don’t have the ability to work magic. The other mages have never treated me less because of it. We are friends…They are my family…I am just not fully one of them.

 

As a fighter and a mercenary, I know the tactical advantage of harnessing the power of wind and rain. And with a rogue mage out and about the land, I need to be able to command every weapon available

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

Lady Helen merely recounts the story. As long as she is accurate, there is nothing to argue with her about. It is not her fault I was born without any magic of my own.

 

What is your greatest fear?

That I will fail Dal and his mate, Ellspeth. The archmage and his lady are my friends. They and their daughters treat me as a member of their family. I would never forgive myself if they fell in battle because I did not train them well enough … or if I failed to protect them.

 

What makes you happy?

Besides turning metal into a tempered weapon, I am honored that Wirake, the son of the head stallion of the herd of fàlaire that resided in the valley beyond the Isle of Mages, chose me as his rider. Long rides allow me to forget my troubles and ease my soul. The fàlaire are more than just horses, they have an earth magic of their own … and they are great listeners for their special friends.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

I would have liked to have a family of my own. I never knew my parents and the mountain village they came from never accepted me. Which is why I signed up with Ruaridh, the head of the mercenary troops serving the false oracle. Of course, if I had had a happy childhood, I would never have met the archmage. While I may not have a family bound by blood, I ended up with one with even stronger ties.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

Relliq. When the Archmage asked me for my opinion of Relliq, I had to admit that I didn’t like him. He is a mage, but he doesn’t use his powers for good. Instead he wields them against innocents and uses black magic to gain his ends. However, in all honesty, there is another reason I dislike him. He used his powers to stalk Kiansel, sister of the current Oracle of Givneh.

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

Although the author of several local histories, and numerous articles on the topics of American and military history, antiques and collectibles, Lady Helen’s first love is fiction. Her work in the museum and history fields enables a special insight into creating fantasy worlds. The descendent of a coal-miner's daughter and an aviation flight engineer, her writing reflects the contrasts of her heritage as well as that of her Gemini sign. Her stories cross genres from historical westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of fantasy romance, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster Novels. In her books, she invites you to join her on travels through the stars, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

 

What's next for you?

My fate... my future... is revealed in Windmaster Golem. I haven’t read the tale that Lady Helen has penned so I can’t tell state anything with certainty. Between Kia’s invisible stalker, a rogue mage and the wasting disease he set on the land, there is darkness on the horizon.

 

Windmaster Golem 

Kiansel, sister to the current Oracle of Givneh, is expected to one day assume the mantle and lead the temple’s followers. Her emerging powers force an impossible decision. To answer the siren call of magic requires she turn her back on her family, her heritage and the teachings of the oracle.

 

Banishment to a remote village as healer, a position he despised, fueled Relliq’s desire for revenge. The discovery of a mythical city and an army of clay soldiers provided the means to control all mages--including the one he wanted most—Kiansel.

 

Brodie, weaponsmith for the School of Mages couldn’t refuse the archmage’s request to act as escort for a healing team fighting a curse upon the land. But how can a man without any magic of his own fight a curse or protect a friend from an invisible stalker?

 

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Friday, November 20, 2020

#BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST TRUE CRIME AND COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR JANIS THORNTON

Janis Thornton is the author of a true crime-oral history-memoir, two cozy mysteries in the Elmwood Confidential series, a romantic mystery, and three pictorial-history books in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. Her eighth book, No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest, is an historic true crime anthology. Learn more about Janis and her books at her website. 

Stories Bring Harmony to Lives, Even When the Stories Are Murder

Throughout history, even in places as unspectacular as tiny Strawtown, Indiana, an ordinary person living a predictable, everyday life suddenly snaps — a drunken father shoots his two young sons execution style, a young man with a social disorder grabs a claw hammer and pulverizes his mother’s skull, an embittered mother poisons her son’s unsuspecting wife — and the world around them shatters.

 

These are the sorts of stories I explore in my new book, No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest, a collection of 20 historic true crimes that stunned their Indiana communities, titillated the curious, and dominated newspaper headlines between 1869 and 1950. Throughout the book, I try to make sense of the previously upstanding people who crossed over to the dark side and became cold-blooded killers.

 

No Place Like Murder is my second true crime project. True crime is a topic that evolved from my passions for history and mystery, which were the genres of my first few books. 

 

I found my love of history about eight years ago as I gathered material for a book I was writing on the formation of my Indiana community. That project introduced me to many intriguing events and people that, more than a century before, had been rooted in the same patch of earth that I called home.

 

The history project was followed with a pair of cozy mysteries that featured a resourceful small-town newspaper editor, who reluctantly, but relentlessly, solves the crime du jour by cleverly outsmarting the wily characters out to stop her. 

 

I was gripped by a fascination for true crime once I began digging through official records and news reports concerning the 1965 unsolved murder of my high school classmate, who was reported missing after a Saturday night date and found dead two days later alongside a remote country road. That book was released in 2018. 

 

At first glance, these three genres may seem vastly different, but a closer look reveals that they are connected by a common thread — a strong, compelling story.

 

Story allows us to see the world through someone else’s perspective, to experience their situation, feel their emotions, accept or reject their consequences, and to make a judgement. We tell stories to bring order to our lives; or, as Bill Moyer wrote in his book, The Power of Myth, “We tell stories to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality.” 

 

When I started writing No Place Like Murder, I vowed to capture the horror of the long-ago, despicable stories in a way that modern readers could relate to. I combined my journalism, fiction, and creative nonfiction writing skills in an effort to transcend time and ensure the stories remained as relevant and relatable in 2020 as they were to readers in 1920. 

 

In addition, I hoped readers could identify with the individuals populating the stories. The deeper I dove into the project, the more I came to know the people I was writing about in almost a personal way. I even traveled to cemeteries throughout the state to visit, photograph, and blog about as many of their graves as I could find (www.janis-thornton.com/blog). Victims became friends I admired and grieved for; while their killers — some of them repulsive monsters, others remorseful wrongdoers — became characters that both fascinated and repelled me. 

 

But it was the victims that called to me. They, more than anyone else featured in this collection of heartbreaking stories, deserve a resurrection — their moment in the spotlight — so they can be heard, mourned, and remembered. Now that my fondness for history, mystery, and true crime has manifested as a published book, my hope is for the stories to resonate with readers as much as they have with me. •

 

No Place Like Murder: True Crime in the Midwest 

A modern retelling of 20 sensational true crimes, No Place Like Murder reveals the inside details behind nefarious acts that shocked the Midwest between 1869 and 1950. The stories chronicle the misdeeds, examining the perpetrators' mindsets, motives, lives, apprehensions, and trials, as well as what became of them long after.

 

True crime author Janis Thornton profiles notorious murderers such as Frankie Miller, who was fed up when her fiancé stood her up for another woman. As fans of the song "Frankie and Johnny" already know, Frankie met her former lover at the door with a shotgun. 

 

Thornton's tales reveal the darker side of life in the Midwest, including the account of Isabelle Messmer, a plucky young woman who dreamed of escaping her quiet farm-town life. After she nearly took down two tough Pittsburgh policemen in 1933, she was dubbed "Gun Girl" and went on to make headlines from coast to coast. In 1942, however, after a murder conviction in Texas, she vowed to do her time and go straight. Full of intrigue and revelations, No Place Like Murder also features such folks as Chirka and Rasico, the first two Hoosier men to die in the electric chair after they brutally murdered their wives in 1913. The two didn't meet until their fateful last night.

 

An enthralling and chilling collection, No Place Like Murder is sure to thrill true crime lovers.

 

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE AUTHOR MAGGIE TOUSSAINT ON OLD BUICKS, BLACK CATS, AND MOLASSES COOKIES


Award-winning Southern author Maggie Toussaint writes mystery and suspense. She lives in coastal Georgia, where secrets, heritage, and ancient oaks cast long shadows that often inspire her stories. Learn more about Maggie and her books at her website.
 

The Old Buick and the Cat

My catering sleuth in my latest release, Spawning Suspicion, is named River Holloway Merrick. She loves being creative with her cookie baking. She makes them in all shapes and sizes, using cookie cutters to make seasonal shapes or sometimes hand-shaping them. This time of year her specialty is molasses cookies. All the folks on Shell Island, her hometown, are wild about her cookies and her cooking.

 

Cookies always make everything better, but then so do pets. Here’s how River tamed a feral cat.

 

For the longest time, River felt like she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders as she parented her errant brother and failing mother. After her mom passed, her brother went through a rough patch before getting his life on track.


At the same time, River encountered a wildling cat at a catering job and gave it some bites of her delicious grilled sea bass. The cat followed her home. Turned out the cat needed a mission, and River needed a cat. It was a match made in heaven. River named her black cat Major because he likes to patrol the yard.

 

In addition, the cat fell in love with the old Buick that formerly belonged to River’s Mom. When River prepares to run errands, Major is usually waiting atop the Buick and staring at her intently. The message is clear. He expects a car ride—and he gets one!

 

Major is a bit of a sleuth too, and he often sniffs out clues to help River with her investigations. Islanders jokingly call Major River’s hood ornament due to his tendency to perch on the hood and watch the action when River is gathering information.

 

River’s delighted with her new pet, and she hopes you’ll root for Major as well.

 

River’s Yummy Molasses Cookies

 

Cookie Ingredients

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup butter softened

1 c packed brown sugar

1/3 cup molasses

1 egg

 

Icing ingredients

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

2-3 TBSP milk, as needed

1-2 drops food color (optional)

 

Stir flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed for about 1 minute or until creamy. Beat in molasses and egg. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Chill covered dough for 1 hour or more.

 

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll cookie dough into one-inch balls. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Flatten balls slightly with your fingers. (Note: keep dough chilled between batches.)

 

Bake 12-14 minutes until edges are set. Do not overbake. Cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.

 

Icing

Mix powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 TBSP milk in a small bowl until combined. Add 1-2 drops food color, if desired. Stir in additional milk, a little at a time, until icing spreads easily.

 

Spoon icing on cooled cookies and spread it around with the back of a spoon. Allow icing to set. Store in an airtight container.

 

***Note: if you double the recipe, make in separate batches***

 

To create River’s pumpkin-shaped cookies: When making the icing, add 1-2 drops each of red and yellow food coloring. Adjust color to the intensity you prefer. Spread orange-tinted icing on cookie. Before icing sets, use a toothpick to draw three vertical lines to simulate the indentations on a pumpkin

 

Spawning Suspicion

A Seafood Caper Mystery, Book 2

 

The death of island playboy Curtis Marlin doesn’t register on busy caterer River Holloway’s radar…that is, until her brother and his girlfriend are arrested for the former athlete’s murder. Certain of the pair’s innocence, the amateur sleuth sets out to investigate. Suspicion on the island spreads like chocolate sauce when River questions the victim’s teammates. The suspects don’t appreciate her stirring up trouble, but she won’t let an election-hungry sheriff make her brother a sacrificial lamb.

 

But there’s more than murder on River’s to-do list. A missing groom, catered banquets, and River’s own wedding plans keep her hopping like a short order cook. And as the cherry on the sundae, she has a wild kitty to tame. Under mossy oaks and rustling palmettoes, fact and fiction blend in a mouthwatering romp of good eatin’ and yummy recipes. Spawning Suspicion is the second in Toussaint’s Seafood Capers Mystery Series.

 

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Monday, November 16, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR JUDY PENZ SHELUK WEAVES A TALE AROUND OLD DAGUERREOTYPES

 

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including The Best Laid Plansand Heartbreaks & Half-truths, which she also edited. Learn more about Judy and her books at her website.

Facts in Fiction: Daguerreotypes

 

“There is, at least, no flattery in my humble line of art. Now, here is a likeness which I have taken over and over again, and still with no better result. Yet the original wears, to common eyes, a very different expression.” Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851).

 

What Hawthorne is referring to is the daguerreotype, an early photographic process using silver-plated copper and mercury fumes (doesn’t that sound safe?), which results in a mirror-like image, similar to a hologram. While the use of negatives in photography would eventually become the norm, in 1840s and 50s America, the daguerreotype had little competition, especially in the area of private portraiture. Until the daguerreotype, portraits and miniatures were considered luxuries for the rich. 

 

Nevertheless, the heyday of the daguerreotype was short-lived. The beginning of the end came in 1854, with the patenting of the ambrotype, a less expensive photographic process, followed by the tintype in 1856. Although the images produced were clearly inferior to the daguerreotype, soldiers in the Civil War embraced the lightweight tintype; almost as quickly as the daguerreotype had risen to fame, it became obsolete.

 

The shift towards renewed public recognition began in October 1995, when Sotheby’s sold a half-plate of the United States Capitol, circa 1846, for a [then] world record price of $189,500. Other auction sales followed. One of the most significant was The David Feigenbaum Collection, which included 240 daguerreotypes from the renowned Boston partnership of Southworth & Hawes. The sale totaled $3.3 million.


 

I first became familiar with daguerreotypes in my early days as a freelance writer specializing in antiques, and my fascination with them increased with every article written. Later, as the Senior Editor of New England Antiques Journal, I would interview Keith F. Davis, a renowned expert in the field, as well as members of the Daguerreian Society. One of those members was kind enough to send me a copy of The Daguerreian Annual 1998: The Official Yearbook of the Daguerreian Society. Inside, there’s an article on Reading Daguerreotypes written by Keith F. Davis, and while it took a few years, it eventually inspired one of the plot points in my latest Glass Dolphin antiques shop mystery, Where There’s A Will

 

In the book, the beneficiary of the old Hadley house estate, Faye Everett, asks Arabella Carpenter, owner of the Glass Dolphin, to appraise a reading daguerreotype found hidden inside the house. Of course, the daguerreotype is not the only thing hidden inside the old Hadley house, as Arabella soon finds out. 

 


Where There’s a Will

A Glass Dolphin Mystery, Book 3


Emily Garland is getting married and looking for the perfect forever home. When the old, and some say haunted, Hadley house comes up for sale, she’s convinced it’s “the one.” The house is also perfect for reality TV star Miles Pemberton and his new series, House Haunters. Emily will fight for her dream home, but Pemberton’s pockets are deeper than Emily’s, and he’ll stretch the rules to get what he wants.

 

While Pemberton racks up enemies all around Lount’s Landing, Arabella Carpenter, Emily’s partner at the Glass Dolphin antiques shop, has been hired to appraise the contents of the estate, along with her ex-husband, Levon. Could the feuding beneficiaries decide there’s a conflict of interest? Could Pemberton?

 

Things get even more complicated when Arabella and Levon discover another will hidden inside the house, and with it, a decades-old secret. Can the property stay on the market? And if so, who will make the winning offer: Emily or Miles Pemberton?


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Photo credit: An example of a reading daguerreotype. Mary H. Lee, half-length portrait, seated, holding a book; McClees & Germon, photographer, 1850-55. Library of Congress #2008680501. Used with permission.

Friday, November 13, 2020

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--CHRISTMAS WITH ANASTASIA

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I suspect more and more of you are doing most of your shopping online this year. Maybe by next year life will return to normal, and we’ll be able to shop in and enjoy the holiday decorations in all the local stores—assuming there are any brick and mortar stores left.  

Lois Winston, my author, hasn’t yet dropped the bombshell about the demise of Lord & Taylor. The chain was still hanging on by a thread when she finished writing A Sew Deadly Cruise, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. When Mama learns of the iconic department store’s demise, it will send her reeling. My mother’s relationship with Mr. Lord and Mr. Taylor has lasted far longer than any of her marriages, including the one to my father. I’m assuming Mama will learn of the bankruptcy in the next book Lois writes about me. If I’m lucky, she’ll make sure I’m out of town when Mama hears the awful news.

 

Anyway, since most holiday shopping this year will occur on our smart phones, tablets, and laptops, that leaves more time for holiday reading, which is less fattening than doubling your usual Christmas cookie output. (This pandemic is making the Freshman Fifteen look like a fond memory!)

 

There are two books in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series that take place during the holidays, Drop Dead Ornaments and Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide. The two books are available individually, both as ebooks and in print, but they’re also bundled together in one ebook set. They’ll go great with a cup of hot cocoa, tea, or coffee and a few Christmas cookies. 

 

Drop Dead Ornaments

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

 

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

 

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

 

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

 

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Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

 

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

 

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

 

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Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, Books 7-8

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Wednesday, November 11, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--ROMANTIC SUSPENSE AND MEDICAL THRILLER AUTHOR BEVERLEY BATEMAN'S GLASS FUSION HOBBY

Glass Fusion Peppers Dish

Canadian author Beverley Bateman's life writes contemporary romantic suspense and medical thrillers and loves to plot, kill, and hopefully baffle her readers along the way. Today she joins us to talk about one of her hobbies. Learn more about Beverley and her books at her website and blog.

Thank you for inviting me. I thought I’d talk about a hobby of mine. It’s Glass Fusion. I’d never heard of Glass Fusion, also referred to as fused glass, until a few years ago. When winter arrives, we head south to a warmer climate for about five months. The place we winter has multiple craft opportunities. I thought I’d like to try something new. I checked the large display of projects in the window of a glass fusion shop. One of the volunteers saw me, took me on a tour, and talked me into trying it. Cutting glass? I don’t know.

 

I signed up for the introductory class, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Glass fusion is the process where different forms and colors of glass are bonded through heat in a kiln. Glass fusing allows people to create an endless range of objects that capitalize on the unique properties of glass. As a beginner, you learn to cut glass with a glass cutter and fuse it together in a large or small kiln into multiple projects. 

 

You do not use window glass or regular glass. You purchase the glass you want for your special projects from Bullseye glass. There is an amazing amount of colors and patterns. You can check these out on their website. http://www.bullseyeglass.com/  There may be other suppliers, but this is the one I’m familiar with and have used.

 

Bullseye also sells supplies you need to do this hobby – safety glasses, running pliers, and breaking pliers. You also need access to a grinder to smooth edges after you’ve cut the glass into the shape you want. I started small, making jewelry in the small beehive kiln. Many people have one like this at home. It can hold any projects up to about 4” or smaller. I advanced to Christmas ornaments, things for Valentine’s and small dishes, still using the small beehive kiln and doing most cutting by hand. 

 

I got addicted and advanced to appetizer trays, plates, candle holders, sushi dishes, pictures, etc. I even made a clock which actually works. Because these items are larger, they get fused in the largest kiln, the Scutt kiln, or the medium Paragon kiln. Some people have the beehive kiln and/or the Paragon at home to fuse their home projects. 

 

You can also buy, or make Frit, which is finely chopped glass. I used it to make the desert sand on one plateand to make grass on another one. For last Christmas I made a Mr. Peanut bowl for my husband for his peanut shells.

 

At the moment I don’t do Glass Fusion at home, just when I go south and have access to the glass fusion shop. I’m Canadian so with Covid this year we can’t cross the border. I have some equipment, but I may buy a small kiln. If you’re interested in trying this, you may be able to find a glass fusion store or studio near you that offers classes and the use of their equipment.  

 

Death Southern Style

When Perrine Dupré dies under suspicious circumstances her daughter, Julie Ann Dupré, returns to New Orleans to find the truth about her mother’s death. She uncovers a family secret, hidden for years. Now someone is trying to kill her. Will the little dog who appears after her mother’s death help her? Is the sexy detective out to help her, or is he part of police corruption?

 

Detective Connor O’Reilly, a native of New Orleans, comes from a family of police. He’s an honest cop but realizes there is corruption in the division. His father may have died as part of that corruption. He meets Julie Ann, checks out her mother’s death and finds it was badly handled. Julie Ann deserves the truth and he wants to find it for her. 

 

Julie Ann and Connor work together to unravel the real reason behind Perrine Dupré’s murder, Julie Ann’s mysterious past, and why people want her dead, while developing their challenging relationship. Can they both survive? And can their relationship survive?

 

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Monday, November 9, 2020

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR RADINE TREES NEHRING CRAFTS MYSTERIES AND MINIATURES

Radine Trees Nehring’s broadcast and writing career began when she fell in love with the Arkansas Ozarks and beginning in the 1980’s, wanted to tell people why. Her many magazine and newspaper articles, radio broadcasts, and now, her multi award-winning Carrie and Henry amateur detective series, environmental writing, and short stories bring readers the gift of exciting adventures featuring right, wrong, human kindness, and redemption. Learn more about Radine and her books at her website and blog

How Many Ways Can You Tell a Story? 

I wanted a doll house. There was no money for one, so, using pick-up-sticks, I outlined rooms on my bedroom rug. I furnished my house with small, discardecontainers, lids, and scraps of fabric. There is only one piece of my imaginary furniture left—a discolored and bent matchbox bed with my baby brother’s worn cotton diaper scraps for sheets. Various imaginary occupants lived within the house walls as I made up the stories of their lives.

 

Fast forward more than a half century. Though employed full time, I was now also an author writing a series about an amateur detective couple, Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Two Indy bookstores in my area, now closed, were among those that carried all my books. The owner of one store became a good friend, and I did at least four bookish events for heevery yearOne Christmas her window display featured toys along with children’s books. There was a wooden doll house in the display. was seated at a signing table across the store entrance from the doll house window. The store owner noticed my reaction to that house. Pure love. She said after Christmas, I could have the house so she wouldn’t have to store it. She had paid $3.99 for it at a thrift shop.

 

In January I carried home my vintage, autographed Melissa and Doug solid wood Fold and Go doll house. It had been badly damaged. My husband, a master carpenter, repaired much of the damage, and where bits of wood veneer had broken off, I “planted” miniature flowers and vines to cover damage. We had yet to learn about Hobby Builders Supply, miniatures.com, or even the small doll house display at the local Hobby Lobby. So John and I created furnishings for our doll house. Four small wooden letter I’s” intended for signs were bed posts. My husband cut shapes and glued. I made wall art out of costume jewelry and small pictures from magazines. Books were cardboard covered in colored shelf paper. Furniture was all wood, and unupholstered. You get the idea.

 

I still made up stories for miniature settings even aI wrote other stories on my computer. I was hooked by both ways of using creative ability and imagination.

The next problem was finding places for the Nehrings to display their miniature art. Some books had to go from living room shelves, and, in my office, my husband built and I decorated and furnished a two story log home that now sits on top of my filing cabinets. (I shingled the roof and am proud of that.) These days, interior furnishings often come from retail outlets serving thousands of hobby miniature builders around the world. As a miniaturist, as well as an author, I am far from alone.

 

Did you know that, in every box of plain Cheerios, therare a few small, round, brownish Cheerios? My doll house breakfast tables serve these “donuts!

 

And, since my husband is gone now, there will be no more miniature settings. But I am still writing mystery fiction. The latest? Solving Peculiar Crimes is available December 1st, but you can pre-order the Kindle version now.

 

Solving Peculiar Crimes

This short story collection stars Carrie McCrite, her retired police detective husband, Henry King, and their Ozarks friends, (including, in two stories, pre-school twins). Included are thirteen unusual crimes ranging from “The Hanging” to an adventure with a tracking dog, to “Planning a Crime—and a Wedding.” The crimes range widely--from misdemeanor to murder--but each gives the reader an opportunity to enjoy spending time with characters who, one reader states, “you would like to have as your neighbors.” All stories lead to surprising resolutions! 

 

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