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, February 26, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSTERY, THRILLER, AND HORROR AUTHOR FALLON RAYNES

Today we sit down for a chat with thriller, mystery, and horror author Fallon Raynes. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? 

I had written short stories and poems on and off since I was young. I never really thought about being an author until I came across self-published authors and loved their stories. The internet was a great resource to find them. That was in 2006. Once I realized people could publish their own books, I started writing. I would work on a novel when we were camping. But life got in the way, and here I am several years later finally with one novel under my belt and many more to go. That first novel that I started in 2006, will be finished this year.

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? 

Sadly, after calculating that number, it has been fourteen years. But, if we were to go from the thought of Dangerous Ledges popping into my head and finally being ready to publish—first draft, editor, second draft to final edits from my editor—that would be five years. Longer than I would have liked, but my day job ate my energy to put words on the pages. I work full time for now.

 

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

Indie Published. IF anyone reading this is thinking about publishing a novel/short story, one word of advice: use an editor that does it all—not someone who just cleans up the grammar.

 

Where do you write? 

I write anywhere. Wherever I am and the characters start talking, I stop and make notes, or record my thoughts. I’ll even email myself snippets on my lunch hour.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind? 

I’m a little of both. I write when it’s quiet, or sometimes I need to drown out my surroundings, so I’ll pop in the earbuds and listen to heavy metal—it’s fast-paced and helps me focus/drowns out the noise around me. It has lyrics I don’t want to sing along to.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? 

I get ideas for plots that aren’t always something from my life but also from some things I’ve seen happen to others. Basically an idea pops into my head, then my writer’s brain takes it from there, exaggerating things into a story, or part of a character. 

 

Dangerous Ledges has Ledge’s “crazy side” starting from a friend who went through a drug to stop smoking. It worked but it messed with their mind—friend is fine, Ledge went off the deep end, and thought he was doing better—when he found an “outlet with other women” to control his crazy—but he lost Liza. And then he lost the rest of his marbles. I also mention hypnosis in this story—something I actually used to become a non-smoker. 

 

Also, that novel that I had started back in 2006, I had gotten stuck with the story line. I needed a character’s backstory. That backstory showed itself to me while I was listening to another book. Since I was working on writing Dangerous Ledges I made notes on it. That novel is one I’m working on now. It has a few things in it that I’ve experienced. I’ll tell more about those when I write the After The Story—my version of the Author’s Note—for that novel. 

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

I don’t really have a process. The names just come to me. In one instance when I needed a character’s name in Dangerous Ledges, I just sat for a few minutes trying to think of a name. My husband was watching South Park while I was writing, and I happened to come out of my writer’s fog long enough to realize what he was watching. Then I heard one of the characters say, “Kyle”. And now when you read the book, you’ll know where that name came from. He’s not a main character, so he’s not mentioned very often. 

 

I also get names from actual people—first names or last names—when I run into someone or read a name that I like. One name I picked up from a server while my husband and I were eating out. Although most times when I’m writing, if new characters pop into the story, they usually come with names. I’m weird.

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

I like using real settings, with my own twist on them. Dangerous Ledges is set in Midland, Michigan, and I won’t say where the other setting is because that will be a spoiler. I used the basic layout of the town and created the characters “living and work” places as fiction. It helps me on my end because it saves me having to do a lot of scene set up. I can mention actual places/buildings/businesses because they’re places my detectives have to go to do their job--the employees are all in my head. However, the research for the locations in that story was a rabbit hole I fell in—from the cruise line, the planning for Liza’s trip, to the locations/scenes for the rest of the plot locations. A huge time suck!

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

I think I would go with Ledge. He’s a neat-nick. He needs to have things tidy and in their place. He does not work well in chaos.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

This is tough. I have a few pet peeves but this surpasses it, so I’ll call it a quirk. I cannot stand when people tsk their tongue when they’re counting something. It’s like fingers on a chalkboard for me. I’m not sure if that applies, but I am a pretty boring person.

 

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

Tough question… I honestly don’t have one. I love reading other authors, especially fiction because it’s something a mind creates. I have several favorite authors. I appreciate their writing, but to pick one book to call mine… I can’t do it.

 

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

The year of the winter that kept giving—I didn’t get to spend as much time with my Grandma, and she passed away that year.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

This is easy: Rude People!! They’re in the stores, on the roads. It seems there are more and more of them every year. I don’t understand when parents stopped teaching their kids manners. IE: I’m holding the door for someone, and that person keeps walking—no “thank you” no taking the door handle from me—as if it’s my job to hold the door open for them. I have to stop now, or I will write a book on all the rudeness.

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

I went with the basic “things” I would want to be stranded with should I have my family with me.

1)    Books

2)    Tacos

3)    Chocolate

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I worked at Wendy’s a loooong time ago. The worst part of that job was the few times that I had to clean the bathrooms. Pigs are cleaner than people—and you would think the men’s room would be the worst to clean, but no…

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Another tough question… I love a lot of books by different genre authors. I’m not sure this is the best book, but, in all the books I’ve read in my life, I’ve only ever read one more than once. And actually thinking about this right now, I want to read it again. That book was Birthright by Nora Roberts. I don’t read books more than once for one reason: there is so little time, and so many books.

 

Ocean or mountains?

Both!

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

Country!

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

This year I plan to write two more novels, and two short stories—one will be a horror for October. The Applicant will be written—and God willing—it will be published this year. I recently completed a short story that has a character that I’ll be working into a series—the other novel that may or may not be published this year. That’s if all goes well.

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

I love to read reviews. So if you get a chance to read Dangerous Ledges—and any of my future releases this year—please drop me a review at your purchase site. Or on Goodreads—you can find my links at my website. Good or bad, it is interesting to see how my story affected you.

 

Also, I do not write romance. If you need the romance aspect, you won’t find much of it in my stories. There might be a hint of it in my new series, but the stories are not based around that genre. Dangerous Ledgesdoes not have any romance. I think that part turned off some readers, but I also picked up a few romance readers from that story, too. Everyone is different.

 

Dangerous Ledges

Liza McAllister is newly divorced when she's talked into going on a cruise with her friend Chrissie. Determined to put her crazy ex behind her, Liza throws caution into the wind and indulges on some new clothes and a spacious cabin on the cruise ship. But someone else has other plans.

Ledge McAllister is hell-bent on reclaiming what is rightfully his. His life was turned upside down the day his wife walked out of his home. He will not lose her again. She belongs to him.

 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--SPINACH QUICHE IN A PINCH


Thanks to the pandemic, I had to quarantine recently. Although I started out a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry, towards the end of the quarantine period, I began running low on dinner options. But I did have a frozen pie crust, half a bag of frozen spinach, and some grated cheese left, along with a few eggs. The result was a rather tasty quiche.
 

Spinach Quiche

Serves 4

 

9-inch  frozen pie crust

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup dehydrated minced onions

1 tsp. dehydrated minced garlic

1 tsp. Herbes de Provence

4 large eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, packed 

1/2 cup shredded taco cheese, packed

1 cup chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and wrung free of water, packed

 

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw frozen pie crust about 10 minutes. Prick bottoms and sides about an inch apart with a fork. 

 

Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet. Bake on middle rack of oven until lightly golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. If crust puffs up while baking, make additional pricks to deflate. 

 

Set baked crust aside. Lower oven to 325 degrees F.

 

In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium to low heat. Briefly sauté the onions, garlic, and Herbes de Provence in the butter just until onion is translucent. Allow to cool.

 

In a stand mixer, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt.

 

Spread the sautéed onions and garlic over the bottom of the pie crust. Next, sprinkle the cheeses evenly over onions and garlic, then spread the spinach evenly over the cheese. Pour the egg and milk mixture over the spinach.

 

Bake 50-55 minutes at 325 degrees F until the quiche sets and top is lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow quiche to continue setting for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 22, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--CRAFTING IN THE TIME OF COVID

I believe that people are born creative. Just watch any baby or toddler exploring his surroundings, and you’ll see what I mean. Unfortunately, most adults start squelching that creativity (Don’t touch!) in their children early on. Eventually that innate creativity is so suppressed that it’s nearly impossible to retrieve. So why are we then surprised when our kids prefer to sit around for hours, staring at a computer monitor or TV screen?

Now, when most kids are on screens in virtual classrooms for hours each day, crafting is needed more than ever. Solving problems and resolving conflicts require creative thinking. Creativity needs to be nurtured in order that today’s children grow up to become tomorrow’s leaders, but too many outside forces are at work, influencing our children to “color within the lines.” Now think about this: people who color within the lines never learn to think outside the box. It’s that outside the box thinking that finds solutions to the world’s problems. 

 

One of the ways we can help our children continue to grow their creativity is to encourage them to craft, beginning at a very early age. The first step is to have creative materials around the house for children to use. Keep ample supplies of paint, glue, markers, chenille stems, craft sticks, pompoms, and other basic craft materials handy for those “I’m bored; there’s nothing to do” days or when the virtual classroom closes for the day.


Once life returns to normal and birthday parties resume, buy craft kids instead of yet another video game for that next birthday party or special occasion. Keep a few kits on hand for rainy days and snow days and when sleepovers with friends resume. Encourage children to make gifts for family members’ birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. instead of buying gifts.


Remember that your children’s efforts don’t have to be perfect. Always praise the attempt and encourage children to continue creating. The act of crafting develops small motor skills and hand/eye coordination. Creativity helps grow their brains. By encouraging your children to craft, you’re giving them an incredible foundation for future endeavors. 

 

All it takes for children to learn to love crafting is an environment in which they can satisfy their creative nature. Nurture that inborn talent, and you’ll help your children grow into creative adults that just might wind up solving many of the world’s problems.

Friday, February 19, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--INTERVIEW WITH OFFICER JESSALYN "JESSE" ELLEN QUINN FROM AUTHOR SKYE TAYLOR'S JESSE QUINN MYSTERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Jessalyn “Jesse” Ellen Quinn from author Skye Taylor’s  Jesse Quinn Mysteries.

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

Seems like someone else was pulling my strings for as far back as I can recall. First it was my mother who thought I was a demure debutante. I tried. Really. I even married the man she thought my perfect foil. But Elliot was as bad as she was. I did the dutiful wife, stay at home mother, involved in all the appropriate civic activities until I discovered Elliot had been cheating on me. That’s when I decided it was time to pull my own strings and become what I’d always wanted to be, a cop, like my dad. 

 

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

I’m a survivor. I think that includes strength and a sense of purpose, but I’ve weathered a lot in my life and it’s made me stronger, and a better person.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

My impatience. I want everything to happen yesterday once I make up my mind to a thing.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

There are a few things she had me doing in my backstory, but those are better left unmentioned. In Bullseye, she had me defying my boss and getting suspended. Even then she thought I needed to stay with the action and pursue the perp. But I got them in the end, so, that justifies my impatience and impertinence, don’t you think?

 

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

Frequently. She thinks I need to have a little love in my life. Probably because she used to write romance. I admit Seth Cameron, the guy she keeps throwing at me is sexy, interesting and fun, and I can’t deny the attraction, but really – I’m trying to make my bones in a mostly male world, I’ve got two teenagers and a meddlesome mother to juggle along with my career in law enforcement, so I wonder if I really have the time or energy to pursue anything beyond a satisfying roll in the sheets. 

 

What is your greatest fear?

Failure.

 

What makes you happy?

Solving a case and catching the bad guys, time spent with my kids, and walking the beach with my puppy, Murphy.

 

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

That’s a tough one. If I could rewrite my whole history I’d never have been taken in by Elliot the Rat, but then, if I hadn’t married him, I wouldn’t have Mike or Jacqui in my life. I guess the biggest thing I’d have changed was having the cajones to stand up to my mother right from the start and going into the police academy instead of heading off to the all-girls college my mother had attended. Who knows, I might have been a sergeant by now if I’d gotten an earlier start. 

 

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

Zack Oliver. He’s such an egotistical ass, and he thinks women belong in support roles and not in uniform or especially not as the only female on the Major Crimes squad.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

If I had to choose one, I guess it would be my partner Rafe. He’s a great guy who loves every part of his life, both on the job and off.

 

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

Skye Taylor got her start with a mainstream, The Candidate, which she still feels is one of her best books. Then she got sidetracked into romance with a series, The Camerons of Tide’s Way and a single title historical time travel. But Skye has always been an adventurer, always looking for a new challenge so she created me and dove into the mystery genre. You can read about her adventure in the Peace Corps (which she joined in her mid-50s) in the South Pacific, her own books, her history jaunts to a bunch of interesting places and books she recommends on her website: www.Skye-writer.com. She’s got a blog there as well. 

 

What's next for you?

Right now I’m in the middle of solving a crazy murder with too many suspects and just to make it more difficult, Rafe’s dad died and he had to take some time off so I got stuck working with Zack Oliver who is determined to arrest a man I am convinced is innocent so he can close the case and make himself look good. Framed will be out later this spring. 

 

Bullseye

A Jesse Quinn Mystery, Book 1

 

Jesse Quinn, the only female detective on the major crimes squad in St. John’s County Florida, and her partner Rafe are sent to investigate the bludgeoning death of a well-known socialite. Dan Hoffman, the dead woman’s husband found her in a puddle of blood and called 911. Jesse has known Dan for years and doesn’t believe he would kill his new bride, but the woman’s father, who never liked Dan, wants him arrested. But then, Dan himself is found nearly dead in his hotel room of what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot.

 

As Jesse and Rafe hunt for two men, one mentioned in the dead woman’s diary, and another whose fingerprints were found on the murder weapon, a man on the run claims the woman’s murder is tied to a cover-up over an incident in Afghanistan and to two previous deaths, but before he can reveal more, he is shot. 

 

Four people are dead, and two more attempts have been made. A rival in the Sheriff’s office wants to take over the investigation and pressure is mounting to arrest Jesse’s friend. Will she and Rafe be able to put all the pieces together before she is sidelined and Dan is put on trial for his wife’s murder?

 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

AUTHOR ERICA OBEY ON FAIRIES, FLOWERS, AND MYSTERY

Award-winning author Erica Obey writes  romantic mystery, historical mystery, and paranormal mystery. She’s also the author of a nonfiction book on female folklorists of the nineteenth century. Today she joins us to talk about flowers, fairies, and mysteries. Learn more about Erica and her books at her website.  

Try a Little Garden Magic

Kate Ames, the heroine of my latest historical mystery, Dazzlepaint, earns her living by illustrating Flower Fairy books. But you don’t have to believe in fairies to practice a little garden magic all your own. Here are a few of my favorite magical garden plants.

 

Snowdrops are always magical – poking their heads through the snow in the dead of winter to remind us spring will happen. According to Dr Thomas Forster’s Perennial Calendar and Companion to the Almanac,  

 

The Snowdrop in purest white arraie 
First rears her hedde on Candlemas daie; 
While the Crocus hastens to the shrine 
Of Primrose lone on St Valentine.’

 

And here it is! (photo above) Poor thing is looking like it’s having serious second thoughts, but I found this one on January 31, two days before Candlemas – or as we call it in America, Groundhog Day. Perhaps because they fight the elements so hard outdoors, it’s considered unlucky to bring snowdrops indoors, lest they ruin the cow’s milk or affect the laying hens.

 

Hellebore is another early blooming favorite in the cottage garden. It is often referred to as the Christmas rose, partly because of its blooming season, but also due to a legend that it sprouted in the snow from the tears of a young girl who had no gift to give the Christ child in Bethlehem. Hellebore has a reputation as a hallucinogen, but it can also be used to cure madness. Melampus of Pylos saved the daughters of the king of Argos from a Bacchus-induced madness, and Herakles was cured from a fit of madness induced by Hera – both using hellebore. 

 

Foxglove – also known as Fairy Caps, Fairy Gloves, Fairy Thimbles, Fairy Herb, Fairy Bells, Fairy-fingers, Goblin Gloves, Fairy Petticoats, and Fairy Weed – is so closely associated with the fairies, it’s hard to know where to begin. Some stories suggest that the word ‘foxglove’ is merely a misrepresentation of ‘folk’s glove’, i.e. gloves belonging to the little people. This story is echoed in the belief that the mottled spots inside the flowers are actually fairy handprints.

 

Another says that the gloves do indeed belong to foxes and that fairies gave them to the foxes so they could sneak into the hen house without being heard. Another tale goes that the bell-shaped flowers would make a magical noise when rung and the fairies rang the bells of foxgloves to warn the foxes when a fox hunt was nearby. 

 

Yet another legend explains that because foxglove is sacred to the fairies, it has the power of recognizing them, and it bows in deference to them as they pass by. So if the foxgloves in your beds begin to sway, it is possible the fairies are paying your garden a visit. Given all these stories, it is no surprise that foxgloves symbolize riddles, conundrums, and secrets in the language of flowers.

 

Hollyhocks are so easy to grow, they are known as alley orchids. And any well-bred woman at the turn of the century knew that they were a subtle signal of where to find the outhouse. 

 

One of my first gardening memories was a great-aunt teaching me how to make hollyhock dolls. Do you remember how?

 

1. Pick a large, newly opened blossom for the skirt.

2. Remove the stamen and pistils and replace with a toothpick, with the blunt end at the bottom.

3. Select a slightly smaller blossom or flower bud for the cape/body.

4. Choose a bud for the doll’s head, and thread on the last 1/4” of the toothpick.

5. If you like, find one last flower to give your doll a proper picture hat.

 

These are only four of my favorite flowers in the spring garden. Later in the year, I look forward to the reblooming Miracle Lily and the fabulous Miracle on the Hudson rose. I live and garden in Byrdcliffe, the arts colony in Woodstock that inspired Dazzlepaint’s fictional setting, Ker-Ys. And while I haven’t encountered any of the fairies you might find in my book, the magic of the Green World is never far away in this special place. 

 

Dazzlepaint

A Romantic Mystery of the Husdson River Valley

 

Gavin Fellowes, a damaged WWI veteran turned cynical psychic investigator, arrives in Ker-Ys, a Utopian art colony in Woodstock, NY, to investigate a series of purported fairy kidnappings of Communist garment workers who have taken over the failed Overlook Mountain House above the village. He is rapidly confronted with the willful blind spots of the well-meaning artists and the burgeoning anti-Semitism of the Catskills. With the help of Kate Ames, an illustrator and dazzlepaint designer who once might have been kidnapped by the fairies herself, Gavin must dig beneath the myth and legend to uncover an all-too-real occult threat that looms over Europe in the aftermath of the Great War.

 

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Monday, February 15, 2021

MYSTERY AUTHOR MARILYN MEREDITH ON WHERE HER IDEAS COME FROM


Marilyn Meredith is the author of forty-plus published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Besides writing she enjoys spending time with her husband, children and the greats and grands. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.

The Hatching of Ideas and Characters

“Where do you get your ideas for your books?” is probably one of the most asked questions of authors. Second, is “How do you develop your characters?”

 

Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes a newspaper story sparks an idea for a plot or sub-plot, or it could be a place. The Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries began after I moved to a small foothill community, which is much different from the larger cities I’d lived in before. Most of the stories are based in and around where I live with some fictional changes. Tempe has also gone to other places, including the mountain town of Tehachapi which has the most wind turbines in California, and became the kernel of the plot for Spirit Wind

 

Three women gave me the idea for the Tempe Crabtree character. One was a female resident deputy in the town I lived in, the second, the only woman police officer at the time in the city closest to where I lived, and a young Native American woman I met. I had interviewed the deputy for a newspaper article. I went on a ride-along with the police officer, and she told me about her job and being a single mother. I was fascinated by the native woman, her appearance, and her stories. Together, these strong women became Tempe.

 

When I did a book signing in Crescent City, I met a Totowa native and she told me so much about her life growing up, stories about her people, and so much more. We became good friends, and she became two characters in Kindred Spirits.

 

My Rocky Bluff P.D. series is set in an imaginary beach town on the coast between Santa Barbara and Ventura and resembles the beach town I lived in for more than twenty years. My son-in-law, a police officer, fascinated me with his stories when he stopped by for coffee at the end of his grave-yard shift. I heard more tales from the several officers who lived in our neighborhood. And I have to admit, some of those men became the inspiration for characters in this series.

 

Ideas come from all around. As a writer, I pay attention to what goes on around me and take notice of interesting people, what they look like, what they wear, and I admit, on occasion, I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations.

 

The latest offering in the RBPD series, Not As We Knew Itfocuses on the officers and their families as they cope with Covid-19. My grandson, who is a police officer, gave me some insights into what might be happening in Rocky Bluff. I know my characters well enough to figure out how each of them would react to all the restrictions they face. Since the series is more or less in real time, I didn’t think I could ignore what is going on all around us.

 

Not As We Knew It

A Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery, Book 16

 

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle--from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire. With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.

 

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Friday, February 12, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH FAITH BLESSING FROM THE AMAZING GRACE TRUCKING COMPANY SERIES BY D.K. LUDAS AND N.L. QUATRANO

Today we sit down for a chat with Faith Blessing from the Amazing Grace Trucking Company Series by writing team D.K. Ludas and N.L. Quatrano (also known as Daria and Nancy.) 

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

Well, before my authors started pulling my strings, my life was pretty predictable. That’s if you can call life with twin teenage boys predictable. But I had my own business in McLennan County, Texas, and metal art is a fun, good paying business. The boys are good boys–and quite different from each other so they keep me on my toes. And mostly my ex-husband stayed away–and my wonderful ex-in-laws visited often. 

 

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

The one trait I like most about myself is that I’m never bored. I don’t think I have ever been bored, so I’m a content person. Comfortable, I guess. 

 

What do you like least about yourself?

The thing I like least about myself is how naïve I can be. It irritates me when someone pulls one over on me. I’m not a dumb woman – I just don’t look behind the curtain enough. My sister Hope used to tell me that when I was a teenager. “Don’t accept everything at face value.” I thought she was just being a know-it-all back then. Now I understand what she means but I still don’t always do it.

 

What is the hardest thing your authors have had you do or had happen to you?

These authors are quite a pair. They seem to think that the more pain they can inflict on us characters, the better the story will be. So, in Merciful Blessings, when NL wrote me into a scene where a crazy dude takes me hostage in my sister’s hair salon, I wasn’t too sure I’d get out alive. In Keeping Faith, my boys are kidnapped, and I didn’t like that one single bit, either! 

 

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

I don’t really argue too much with DK or NL. In the hair salon scene in Merciful Blessings, I probably argued the most, but in Keeping Faith, I think they pretty much told the story right. I had to mention a couple of times that I’m not really a whiner, so they needed to tone that stuff down. And they did that in the last edits. 

 

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is that something will happen to my sons that I can’t fix. You know, they both ride horses in competition and get their injuries, and in Texas as well as in Florida, there are some dangerous snakes, but these days, people scare me more than those non-human creatures. Mean people, stupid people, whatever. You know what I mean if you have a teenager around. Gads. I pray a lot for their protection.

 

What makes you happy?

Family is what makes me happiest. I’ve learned a lot about what family really is and it’s more than my sons and my sisters, though they are the core for me. You know that joy that just fills your chest until you think you might bust wide open when a friend has good news, or when your fella show up with a single rose for you when he can come visit? Those sort of simple things, I guess. I’m always happy at the church suppers on Sunday evenings, too. In such a small town, a lot of the community are part of our family, too.

 

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

If I could rewrite part of my story, maybe it would be the part when the cancer took our mother. My twin, Grace, and I were only eleven when Mom died. Our older sister Hope did the best she could – she was twenty-one and planning to go to college. She didn’t go, though. All of our lives would have been different, I’m sure. But then, maybe we wouldn’t be who we are now if that wasn’t part of our story. I understand now that the Lord always has a plan, even though we don’t know what it is–and don’t always like how it feels.

 

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

Wow, what a question. Of the other characters in the first book, Merciful Blessings, Betty Jo was the character that bugged me the most. She was a vicious woman and all she wanted to do was hurt Hope. She was jealous, mean as a hungry gator, and vindictive to boot. In Keeping Faith, Beau comes back allegedly to woo me back–and that man is someone who bugs me more than anyone I know, anyway. But, in the book, he’s the one that pushes my buttons most. He’s like a little boy who never grew up–he’ll lie, turn on the charm, buy flowers, whatever, to get what he wants. But we were married a good while–I know how he operates, and I trust him as far as I can throw him. Still, he was most annoying!

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

You know, I don’t think I’d trade places with any of the other characters in either book. Remember I mentioned that DK and NL loved to put the screws to their characters? Well, I think they go a little easy on me. But maybe, in Keeping Faith, I’d like to be the lady sheriff in Alachua County. She’s respected, has good character and moral fiber, and nobody messes with her. She helps people and she’s really comfortable in her own skin. Yeah, when I grow up–I’m only forty-nine now–I want to be Sadie. 

 

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

N. L. (Nancy) Quatrano is an award-winning short fiction and mystery writer, and a correspondent for the St. Augustine Record. When she’s not working with Rotary or her church, she does developmental editing, copywriting, and specialty publishing at her business, On-Target Words. 

 

D. K. (Daria) Ludas is a retired elementary school teacher, a New Jersey Realtor, and an award-winning short fiction writer. She’s usually working on ideas for the next book in their Amazing Grace series and is becoming quite adept at attending Zoom meetings. 

 

DK lives in New Jersey and NL lives in Florida. But they are both small town ladies who love all the interesting characters that make small towns tick. Daria and Nancy lived a mile apart until Nancy’s husband decided they were leaving New Jersey for warmer places. Nancy’s website is located at https://NLQuatrano.com, and they are working on Daria’s website. But, they made a Facebook page for us and you can visit us there:https://www.facebook.com/Amazing-Grace-Trucking-Company-Series-100394514983813/ Nancy also has a blog that’s called Words Count: Faith, Hope, and Grace and the address is https://nquatrano.wordpress.com/

 

What's next for you?

Well, without giving away too much, I have some big celebrations to plan! The authors are working on the next two books in the series for Two Stone Lions Publications, their publisher. We’re all in each of the books, just to varying degrees. Nancy is writing the first draft of By God’s Grace, which will feature my twin sister, Grace, who has just retired her bars after thirty years in the US Army Corp of Engineers. Not one to take it easy, she takes up service-dog training to help PTSD victims. Daria is writing the fourth book in the series, Belated Blessings, which is about our dear friend Margaret Ann and the good Reverend. Knowing them, there will be a bad moon rising in both those books, too. 

 

Thanks for having me today, Lois! I gotta tell you–I just love your Anastasia–she makes me laugh but she keeps me up at night, too. Poor thing is just a bad-luck magnet, isn’t she? I just finished A Sew Deadly Cruise. Holy Molasses Junction! Give her our best regards, will you? And tell her I’ll be praying for her to have patience with that mother-in-law of hers! (Anastasia here. Thank you, Faith. I’ll pass along your regards and kind words to my doppelganger Lois.)

 

Keeping Faith 

The Amazing Grace Trucking Company Series, Book 2

 

Who says nothing ever happens in the small, backwater towns of northern Florida? Not Faith Blessing-Walker who’s just home from months of surgeries and physical rehabilitation, all necessary due to the actions of a madman.

 

She arrives to the farm where she was raised to continue her recovery, welcomed by her twin sons, her sister Hope, and new friends from Merciful. Her recent brush with death has taught her that bygones are best left in the past if you can–and love and joy are best appreciated on a daily basis–otherwise fear wins.

 

But when her ex-husband shows up and her sons disappear, will Faith have what it takes to get her boys back safe and sound and keep her sanity? And will her struggling confidence in God provide what she needs to find peace again and teach her sons what really counts in the life of a good man?


Keeping Faith will be released later this spring. For now, check out Merciful Blessings, the first book in the Amazing Grace Trucking Series.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--VEGGIE MEAT PIE

Nothing tastes better on a cold wintry day than comfort food. This veggie meat pie is stick-to-your-ribs satisfying on just such a day. 

Veggie Meat Pie

(serves 4)

 

Ingredients:

1 9-inch frozen pie crust, defrosted

1/2 lb. ground beef

1/2 tsp. salt

I clove garlic, minced

1 lg. onion, chopped

3 T. flour

1 cup mixed frozen vegetables

1 tomato, sliced

1 cup grated taco cheese

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

 

Place pie crust in pie pan. Crimp edges. Place in refrigerator to keep cold.

 

Brown beef with salt, garlic, and onion. Stir in flour. Add vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are heated through. Pour mixture into pie pan. Arrange slices of tomato over top.

 

Sprinkle cheese over tomatoes.

 

Whisk together eggs, milk, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over cheese.

 

Bake at 400 degrees F. 45-50 minutes. Allow to set for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Monday, February 8, 2021

THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A FICTIONAL CHARACTER

Today marks the official release of Moms in Black, a Mom Squad Caper. I discussed the origin of this novella by my author, Lois Winston, last month. You can read that post here. I also mentioned how I was hoping for the novella’s success, not just because of my connection to Lois, but primarily because if she focused her attention on getting another unsuspecting character in trouble, she’d give me a bit of a reprieve.

Sad to say, Lois didn’t see it that way. She isn’t waiting for data to come in to indicate whether or not sales of Moms in Black, a Mom Squad Caper, is successful. Whether she writes more Mom Squad novellas or not, she has no plans to give me a break. She’s already hard at work on my next adventure. Sigh! 

 

Is there no rest for an overworked, reluctant amateur sleuth? Apparently not.

 

Meanwhile, I’ve taken the time to get to know Cassandra Davenport, heroine of Moms in Black. She’s pretty cool. I think you’d like her. Unlike me, she doesn’t seem fazed by Lois thrusting her into a life of danger. Then again, Lois has given Cassandra a team of experts and insisted she not only learn self-defense techniques but also how to handle a gun. And although Cassandra shares my distaste for all weaponry that goes bang or boom, she isn’t opposed to using one if necessary. Cassandra is on her way to becoming a trained operative. 

 

On the other hand, as an amateur sleuth, I’m left to muddle through from one dead body to the next with few resources other than my instincts and quick wit. How fair is that? I’ve been around much longer. Doesn’t seniority count for anything?

 

I actually broke down and suggested to Lois that I might be willing to learn how to use a firearm if she allowed me to become a member of the Mom Squad. The training is working wonders for Cassandra’s underarm jiggles and muffin top. Given my addiction to anything sweet and chocolatey, I could use some muscle tightening and flab reduction, especially with a wedding on the horizon. Unfortunately, Lois immediately nixed that idea. She explained that I was a character in a cozy mystery series, and there were certain rules she needed to follow, like maintaining my amateur status.

 

Again, I ask, is that fair? However, according to Lois, no one ever promised that life would be fair. So there you have it. I’m at her mercy—as always. Such is the life of a fictional character. No matter how much we’d like to think otherwise, in the end, we have no self-determination.


However, just to show you that I don't hold grudges (much), Lois was recently interviewed on the Chatting with Authors YouTube channel. Check it out.

 

Moms in Black

A Mom Squad Caper

 

When Cassandra Davenport applies for a job at www.savingtheworld.us, she expects to find a ‘green’ charity. Instead, she becomes the newest member of a covert organization run by ex-government officials. Dubbed the Mom Squad, the organization is the brainchild of three former college roommates—attorney general Anthony Granville, ex-FBI agent Gavin Demarco, and tech billionaire Liam Hatch—all of whom have lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists. Financed by Hatch, they work in the shadows and without the constraints of congressional oversight, reporting directly to Granville.

 

Demarco heads up one of the six groups that comprise the new operation. He hires Cassandra as the newest member of his New Jersey based team. In the course of monitoring possible terrorist threats, the Mom Squad discovers a link to Cassandra’s ex-husband. Before she’s fully trained, Cassandra is thrust into a world where her ex may be involved with radicalized terrorists bent on killing as many Americans as possible.


And while they’re saving the world from an imminent attack, what in the world will Cassandra do about all that sexual tension simmering between her and her new boss?

 

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