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 29, 2021

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR DEBRA SENNEFELDER BAKES UP A MYSTERY AND CHOCOLATE CHIP SCONES

Debra Sennefelder is the author of the Food Blogger Mysteries and the Resale Boutique Mystery Series. An avid reader who reads across a range of genres, mystery fiction is her obsession. When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food.Yeah, she’s that personLearn more about her and her books at her website. 

I have a few things in common with Hope Early, the protagonist in my Food Blogger mystery series. One of those things is that we love to bake. Like Hope, I bake for enjoyment, and I also bake to help sort things out. There have been times when I’ve worked out plot ideas while whipping up a batch of brownies or making a big pot of stew. In The Corpse in the Gazebo, Hope has a lot of sorting out to do because she’s a person of interest in her neighbor’s murder. Not only is she at risk of being arrested and possibly facing jail time, but she’s also at risk of losing her career.

 

Hope loves to feed family and friends, and because she’s a food blogger, there’s always something to serve up. Like these chocolate chip scones. They are slightly sweet and crunchy on the edges while soft and moist in the center. 

 

Yesterday The Corpse in the Gazebo released, and as a treat to myself, I baked up a batch of these scones. I may have had two!

 

If you’d like to try baking these chocolate chip scones, here’s the recipe. Enjoy! And thank you for celebrating the release of my new book.

 

Chocolate Chip Scones 

 

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1/2 cup heavy cream (plus 2 tablespoons for brushing and a little extra if dough is dry)

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 large egg

1-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-1/4 cups mini chocolate chips

Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on scones before baking

Confectioners’ sugar for sifting on scones after baking and cooling

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

 

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

 

Cut in butter, with pastry cutter, two forks or your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse meal but there are pieces of butter throughout. Set bowl in refrigerator while you combine the wet ingredients.

 

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2-cup heavy cream, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla extract.

 

Remove flour mixture from refrigerator. Drizzle wet mixture over flour mixture and add in the chocolate chips. Mix until everything appears moistened, but don’t over mix.

 

Transfer dough onto a floured surface and work into a ball. Dough will be sticky. Add a little more flour to work more easily or add up to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream if the dough is too dry. Gently pat and shape dough into an 8-inch disc. With a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut into 8 wedges.

 

Transfer wedges onto parchment paper covered baking sheet. Set them 2-3 inches apart. Brush scones with the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and then sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

 

Place scones in refrigerator for up to fifteen minutes before baking. If space is tight, you can place the scone wedges on plates and then transfer to prepared baking sheet just before putting them into the oven.

 

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown around the edges and lightly browned on top.

 

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and then serve.

 

These are best eaten the same day but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

 

The Corpse in the Gazebo

A Food Blogger Mystery, Book 5

 

Food blogging is turning Hope Early into a household name. But the dead body down the block makes her a #1 suspect...

 

It seems everyone loves Hope’s blog these days, and she’s busier than ever volunteering to help other women create their own paths to success. So she’s shocked when a neighbor petitions to run Hope right out of her small Connecticut town! Set in her ways, apparently Birdie Donovan doesn’t like the chaos Hope’s sleuthing creates, the police activity and crime scenes, and it’s happening way too often lately. Eager to make amends, Hope bakes Birdie a batch of her best muffins. The delicious treats might have smoothed things over—until Hope discovers Birdie dead in her gazebo the very next day...

 

Now instead of worrying about holding on to her beloved home, Hope is trying to stay out of jail. Because suddenly she’s the lead suspect in the case. Not even her boyfriend, Police Chief Ethan Cahill, is promising he can clear her name, much less discuss the investigation with her. It’s up to Hope to get to bake new ground on the case before the lifestyle brand she’s created—and her whole life—crumbles...

 

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paperback 

ebook 

Monday, September 27, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--FALL DECORATING WITH AUTHOR TERRI REED

Romance and romantic suspense author Terri Reed has notched up many writing awards and landed on quite a few bestseller lists during her career. She’s also had one of her books, A Family Under the Christmas Tree, adapted into the Hallmark movie Picture a Perfect Christmas in 2019. Learn more about Terri at her website where you will also find links to her other social media sites. 

Hello everyone! It’s a perfect fall day with its crisp air, cooler weather and changing of the leaves. I love the burst of color on the hillsides and the comfy clothes I get to unearth from the closet--like snuggly fleece jackets, cozy sweaters, and cute hats. One of my favorite things in fall is to stop by the apple orchards and bring home fresh picked apples to make all sorts of apple inspired desserts. 

 

There is one aspect of fall, however, that I don't look forward to—cleaning up all the fallen leaves and acorns. 

 

We have a giant oak tree in our front yard and for the past couple of years it's been throwing acorns like snowflakes. I hear them hitting the ground and the roof of our house all day and all night. I’ll admit the acorns fall every year, but not like this. I Googled to find out why this was happening and learned way more than I probably needed to know about trees that drop nuts, which by the way, are called mast. 

 

Apparently, because our weather here in the Pacific Northwest has been so warm and we've had no spring frosts, the trees are overproducing acorns. One theory I read, said the trees were throwing more acorns in hopes new trees would sprout. I can’t have another big oak tree in my yard; there’s no room!

 

I also learned that trees don’t drop nuts until the tree reaches 50 years old. Our tree is estimated to be 150 years old. 

 

While this overabundance of acorns makes a mess, it also brings an overabundance of birds—so many different kinds, though, I love to see the Blue Jays. There are also squirrels out in droves. We've even had raccoons and possums snacking on the acorns. It makes me happy to see the animals coming for nature's bounty. 

 

A few years ago, I made some fall decorations for our Thanksgiving table. I recently got them out and decided to incorporate some of our abundant acorns into my fall decorating. I have them sitting on my entryway table for now. And I just love how adding some acorns really makes it more festive.

 

To make these centerpieces, these are the items you need:

Mason jar [colored ones look nice]

silk flowers and fall foliage

glass rocks

ribbon trim

leaf stickers

a glue gun

an LED candle

acorns

 

In celebration of fall I wrote a novella, Protecting the Heiress, as part of the Dangerous Pursuits collection. These 15 original novellas of suspense are available for preorder now. The collection releases October 12 on all online retail platforms.

 

Protecting the Heiress

Time is running out...


On a damp Seattle night, Cecily Fairhaven is rescued from a mugger by the man who broke her heart, Malcolm Cruz. When she learns it’s not a coincidence that Malcolm has shown up out of the blue and that her life is in danger, she must set aside her hurt and anger to trust the man she once loved. But is she really safe? Or will she suffer another broken heart when he leaves? 

 

US Air Force Operations of Special Investigations Agent Malcolm Cruz received a cryptic message begging him to protect Cecily. To honor the man who’d been instrumental in his career, Malcolm wasted no time traveling across the world to safeguard the only woman he’s ever loved and to ensure she makes its home to deal with her father’s estate.  But as the threats against her escalate and his feelings for her resurface, he begins to wonder if either of them will come out of this unscathed. 

 

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Friday, September 24, 2021

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--HISTORICAL MYSTERY AUTHOR D.S. LANG ON THE DONUT DOLLIES OF WORLD WAR I AND A DONUT RECIPE

WWI Donut Dollies
Author D.S. Lang has been making up stories since she was a little girl. Along the way, she’s taught at the junior high, high school, and college level, and worked as a program coordinator, a golf shop manager, and an online tutor. Now, she spends much of her time reading, researching, and writing. Most recently, she has delved into the Great War era and the years immediately after it. Her Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery Series was inspired by her Great Uncle Brice who served in the American Expeditionary Force during World War One, and by her love of historical mysteries. Learn more about D.S. and her books at her website. 

My Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery series is set shortly after the Great War (World War I). The main character, Bella, was a United States Army Signal Corps operator. Her childhood friend, Constable Jax Hastings, served as a lieutenant in the American Expeditionary Force.

 

In doing research for the series, I have found many interesting details to weave into the books. One involves “Donut Dollies.” The “Dollies” were active from World War I through the Vietnam War.

 

The “Donut Dollies” of World War I brought a taste of home to the American Expeditionary Force serving in the trenches of France. All were Salvation Army volunteers who were best known for providing coffee and donuts at the front, where they faced being gassed and bombed along with the troops. More than 100 ladies were involved.

 

Because the donut-making machine was yet to be invented (that happened in 1920), the women had to be creative in producing the fried concoctions. Sometimes, they used baking powder cans to cook the donuts, tin cans to cut them, and used artillery shells to roll out dough. 

 

In addition to making donuts and coffee, the women mended uniforms, helped nurse the wounded, and wrote and read letters for illiterate soldiers.

 

The original Salvation Army recipe has very basic ingredients. Some were provided to the women; others (like eggs and fresh milk) were purchased from local farmers. The recipe is available from various sources. The following one is from https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/metro/famous-donut-day-recipe/

 

Salvation Army Donuts

Yield: 4 doz. doughnuts

 

5 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cup milk

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 tablespoon salt

1 tub lard

 

Combine all ingredients (except for lard) to make dough.

 

Thoroughly knead dough, roll smooth, and cut into rings that are less than 1/4 inch thick. (When finding items to cut out donut circles, be creative! Salvation Army dohnut girls used whatever they could find, from baking powder cans to coffee percolator tubes.)

 

Drop the rings into the lard, making sure the fat is hot enough to brown the doughnuts gradually. Turn the donuts slowly several times.

 

When browned, remove donuts and allow excess fat to drip off.

 

Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.

 

The Salvation Army began conducting “Donut Day” in 1938. The event is still marked the first Friday in June.

 

A Lethal Arrogance

An Arabella Stewart Historical Mystery, Book 3

 

After returning home from serving in the Great War, Arabella Stewart’s goal, to save her family’s resort, seems within reach as the summer season progresses. She and her business partner look forward to re-establishing a successful championship golf tournament, once the signature event of the resort’s year. Trouble arises when a participant clashes with more than one person, including Bella’s best friend Ida Byington. When the man is found dead as the result of a suspicious automobile crash, Ida becomes a top suspect. Eager to clear her friend and ravel the mystery, Bella once again helps Constable Jax Hastings investigate and discover if the man fell victim to his own lethal arrogance.  

 

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH SPECULATIVE FICTION AUTHOR JAMES SHADE

Today we sit down for a visit with speculative fiction (both fantasy and horror) author James Shade. Learn more about him and his books at his Facebook page. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I was young when I started writing stories; I used a composition book to write the adventures of my action figures in grade school. I don’t think I had formed the idea of writing a novel until junior high school.

 

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

Heh. A long time. Even in my engineering career, I wasn’t published until a few years after I graduated college. Once I started taking my novel seriously, it still took almost ten years.

 

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

Indie. But with my current horror project, I am querying for traditional publication.

 

Where do you write?

Almost anywhere if I have a notebook with me. And sometimes I still note ideas in my phone. But my dedicated writing editing is done in my home office.

 

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

Occasionally I will write with music in the background. Usually movie soundtracks, like Lord of the Rings.

 

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

Plots, none, aside from the way the human subconscious works, I suppose. But character traits, I use real people all the time. Either people I know, or ones I observe. Airports, restaurants, and bars are great places to people watch.

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

For fantasy setting characters, it’s a challenge. I try to find something that can be spoken smoothly but still feel unusual enough to evoke the setting. But for my modern work, I used to use a phone book—generally for surnames, as first names just come to me. Now it’s a little more difficult and I rely on odd internet searches, like “What are the most common Italian surnames in Nebraska?”

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

Fictional, with references to real places.

 

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

One of my character’s grandfathers has a belt buckle collection—you know, those over-the-top pewter, North American wildlife kind that you find at state fairs. An entire drawer of them.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I write my first draft longhand. I can’t seem to be as creative typing on a keyboard.

 

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

Elric of Melnibone. Or Foundation. Because I can only hope to come close to the scope of these stories and the characters in them.

 

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

There are probably a thousand little things, but mainly they involve saying “yes” to something that was a new experience instead of being afraid to try it.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Being late.

 

Ocean or mountains?

Mountains.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

Country.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

Last year I graduated from the Denver Lighthouse Writers Book Project program, and I am actively querying my horror project that I finished there. I am also working on my next horror novel, tentatively titled “The Metallurgist” which is a Cthulhu-homage that incorporates a lot of my experience in aerospace engineering and project management. I am looking forward to an upcoming writing retreat in Fairplay, CO this fall and hope to finish my first draft on that trip.

 

Thieves of Islar

Jaeron thought he understood the streets of Islar. He thought he had come to accept his decision to follow his father’s plan for him, to become a thief in a city rife with corruption rather than pursue his own interest in the priesthood. Family came first. Then he and his siblings return home from their first ‘job’ to find their father dying–murdered–and a package stained in his blood. A package containing three exceptional wooden toys and a decade-old letter hinting at their lives prior to their adoption.

 

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ebook 

Monday, September 20, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH GRANT CASEY FROM AUTHOR E. CHRIS AMBROSE'S BONE GUARD SERIES

Today we sit down for a chat with Grant Casey from author E. Chris Ambrose’s Bone Guard series.

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

I was trying to get my business started, security services for archaeological sites, like that, but it was pretty slow until this guy showed up with a gun, trying to kill someone who wasn't even a client. Kinda jumpstarted things, so I'm grateful for that. Not so much for the scars that followed.

 

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

I am supremely adaptable. I take no time to pivot to a new plan, new solution, new approach to whatever I'm facing. Doesn't matter what that is or how dangerous.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

Ooh. Getting personal. Okay. It's hard for me to connect with people. They latch onto me pretty quick, because of who I am and what I can do. I’m slower to open up to them.

 

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

There's the makeup scene. Not like, apologizing and making amends, more like, applying cosmetics. It makes sense, it's a good idea in context, but yeah, never thought I'd be applying eyeshadow to my old commander, hoping to maybe save his life.

 

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

I spent fourteen years in the army. I don't argue. I do, sometimes, go my own way. Let's just say that's why I'm not in the army anymore.

 

What is your greatest fear?

Nobody's gonna miss me when I'm gone. Given my lifestyle, nobody's gonna notice for way too long.

 

What makes you happy?

Seeing something that hasn't been seen for a thousand years, seeing it with my own eyes. I guess there's something reassuring in the idea that if a pyramid or a tomb could be lost for centuries, and finally re-discovered, then maybe I don't need to be afraid on my own account. Somebody's gonna look back and see what I've done, or what I tried to.

 

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

Here's the trouble. I would love to have the Phantom come home to me at night. Love it. But even in my own mind, I can't picture it happening. She'd what, marry me, get a regular job, welcome me home with a peck on the cheek and say, "How's your day, Honey? Did you kick some a** today?" Just as likely to be the other way around. Neither of us is that person, the one who can settle down and lead an ordinary life. I'd have to go way back in my history if I wanted to rewrite my story so I could become that guy. And you know what would happen if I did? I never would have met her.

 

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

Oh, God. Gooney. Gooney, Gooney, Gooney. The guy never quits. He was a jerk of a sergeant, now he's a jerk of a cop. And what drives me nuts about him, is I know him well enough to like him anyway. It's like I can see through the armor, through the anger. I can see what's going on in there, but I still want to punch him in the mouth on a daily basis. Is that how people become friends? Crazy way of showing it.

 

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

Ha! Okay, crazy impulse is, I want to be Raxha. She's got this whole jungle empire thing she's working on, and she's got a loyal team around her, just like mine, but at any moment, she could stumble on the next great Maya city. I don't think she'd care; that's not what she wants. She's got no idea where the real treasure lies. Is there somebody else I'd trade places with? Y'know what? As much as I hate the guy's guts half the time, I wouldn't mind having someone look up to me the way Lexi looks up to her dad. Gooney. Is that even more nuts, that he drives me up the wall, and I still envy him? 

 

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

If you want all the books, then you go to http://rocinantebooks.com/, but she writes fantasy, too, historical stuff and traditional stuff with magic and all of that. I feel a little kinship with that Elisha, the leading man in one of her series. He's like my mirror self, but I can't work out which one of us is dark, and which one's light.

 

What's next for you?

It's looking like I get to spend some time in Europe. Team up with an old friend—and an old adversary, take a deep dive into medieval Jewish culture. That's gonna be fun. 

 

The Maya Bust

A Bone Guard Adventure

 

A secret stash, a hidden tomb, a father's love—sworn in blood

 

When his former commander's estranged daughter vanishes in Guatemala, Grant Casey treks a deadly jungle and dives a sacred cenote to free her from a drug smuggler looking for a stash in an ancient pyramid.

 

Before his death in a rain of gunfire at her QuinceaƱeria, Raxha Castillo's druglord father encoded a map on a cacao cup, a map that might lead her to millions in drugs in the tomb of Maya royalty. A decade later, his mistress gave the cup to some Americans to prevent Raxha from completing the delivery and re-establishing the influence of the deadly Zetas cartel. Determined to claim her father's legacy, kidnapping is only the beginning of a quest that may end with Raxha tearing out the heart of her enemy.

 

Awakened by a call from his commander's ex-wife, and sworn to secrecy about his rescue mission, Grant's integrity is torn. Does he betray his client's trust, or the man who hated him for so long, the man who risked his life to save Grant's own? He sets up for his former CO to follow the clues while he tracks down Lexi's friends to find the cup—and only then finds out Lexi's boyfriend is missing, too. How complicated could this get? Oh, yeah, Lexi is deaf, the police are complicit, and their adversary keeps a pet jaguar. When the ransom exchange goes south, Grant embeds with the bad guys in a desperate attempt to rescue the victims before they become the latest blood sacrifice.

 

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paperback 

ebook 

Friday, September 17, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH BETH CHAMBERS FROM ROMANCE AUTHOR JOSIE MALONE'S THE MARSHAL'S LADY

Today we sit down for a chat with Beth Chambers from romance author Josie Malone’s The Marshal’s Lady, part of her Liberty Valley Love series. 

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

I was working hard to prove I’m as good a homicide detective, or better than the men in the department. They don’t believe we have a serial killer leaving bodies all over Liberty Valley, even if the computer finds an incredible amount of matches. They think it’s some kind of technical glitch, but now my best friend was attacked, and I swear I’m going to bring her assailant to justice.

 

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

I’m not a quitter.

 

What do you like least about yourself? 

I’m not a quitter.

 

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

I was hot on the trail of Gary Smith, a suspected serial killer and yes, he’d stolen a horse and hightailed it into Mount Baker National Forest in Washington State. But after he ambushed me, I’m supposed to believe we’ve gone through some sort of time warp and landed in 1888? Get serious! Time travel is pure fantasy.

 

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

Marshal Rad Morgan, the arrogant lawman who is trying to convince me I’m in 1888. Yes, he’s smart, brave and super sexy, but if he doesn’t stop telling me how to dress and to pin up my hair, I’m seriously considering leaving him in the backwoods to survive on his own. Oops, I can’t do that. He was shot and left to die and as a former Army medic, the patient comes first even if I’m out of patience.

 

What is your greatest fear? 

I may be stuck in the Land Time Forgot – 1888 in Washington Territory is not paradise for a woman.

 

What makes you happy? 

Marshal Rad Morgan, but don’t tell him I said so!

 

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

Not having my best friend attacked. 

 

Why? 

I’d still pursue Gary Smith and arrest him for his crimes. It’s my job.

 

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

It must be Marshal Rad Morgan. Yes, he rocks my world when we’re in bed, but he also forgets that he’s not the boss of me. He gives me way too many orders and then leaves me behind when he knows he needs me to watch his back. Last time he rode off alone, Smith bushwhacked and left him to die in the middle of nowhere. Rad was lucky I showed up and knew how to deal with a sucking chest wound (lung-shot).

 

Why? 

He’s convinced that I’m here to stay and I know I’m only here to capture the killer I’m after, and then I’m headed home. I want to live somewhere I can take long, hot showers, order in pizza and have a beer while I watch baseball on my flatscreen TV.

 

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

Trace Burdette. 

 

Why? 

She’s smart, savvy and kicks butt. She reminds me of the women I served with in Afghanistan. Yes, I can believe she fooled people in Liberty Valley and made them think she was the toughest man around. I know we’ll be good friends.

 

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

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington State. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses, she finds in many cases, she's taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master’s in teaching degree, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve - all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website, www.josiemalone.com to learn about her books.

 

What's next for you? 

Letting my family know I’m safe and happy, but they’re in 2018 Liberty Valley and I’m in 1888.

 

The Marshal’s Lady

Liberty Valley Love, Book 3

 

While trailing a serial killer on horseback, homicide detective Beth Chambers finds she has somehow ridden back in time—to 1888! When she comes across injured Marshal Rad Morgan, she has no choice but to try to save his life. Though the handsome marshal believes a lady should stand behind her man, Beth is determined to catch the killer she’s chased through time and prove she’s a capable law enforcement officer in any century.

 

A former Union soldier, Rad has survived the Confederate hellhole of Andersonville Prison—but his toughest challenge is beautiful Beth Chambers. As the headstrong female detective from the future lets him in on why she’s there, Rad becomes convinced that her stubbornness may get her killed. But when he is shot and left for dead, the marshal has no other choice but to put himself in Beth’s hands—and hope they can both survive!

 

Two officers of the law from different centuries chasing the same killer could be a recipe for disaster—especially with the distraction of love!

 

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ebook 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

HISTORICAL AUTHOR ALYSSA ROBERTS CHANNELS HER LOVE OF SAILING IN HER REGENCY ROMANCE

*Photo 1
Alyssa Roberts writes historical fiction and historical romance. Her historical romances to date are set in Regency England and Wales, and in American Revolutionary War Vermont. Learn more about her and her books at her website. 

I’ve always heard you should write what you know. Naturally, that can’t always happen, but sometimes it works out. A lot of us have some entertaining interests, and one of the things my husband and I love is sailing. 

 

My recently released historical romance Duchess Deceived includes sailing scenes inspired by the adventures I have had with my very competent sailor husband. We have raced over the frothy waves to beat a dark, thundering storm behind us. We have battled tides and winds for exhilarating, unexpected rides into safe harbors.

*Photo 2

Duchess Deceived includes a wild sail across the Bristol Channel as our hero and heroine race against time. The Bristol Channel’s tides can be compared to the similarly huge tides in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia where within hours boats go from bobbing peacefully on the water to being moored on the sand! I have been lucky enough to see the strength of the Bay of Fundy tide as it comes in—and goes out. The moving water held me spellbound, just staring as it came in fast enough to cover a stone in minutes. It inspired me so much, I was determined to capture that power in my debut romance.

 

Our heroine in Duchess Deceived, Juliana, does not want to go anywhere near the Bristol Channel because, as the result of an event in her childhood, she fears the water. The wild ride in this book helps Juliana overcome that fear. That result might sound unlikely, but when I faced my first storm on a sailboat, I was pretty scared. I found, though, that riding out a storm with someone who knows what they are doing, is careful and attentive about it, and actually enjoys themselves while doing it helped me overcome my fear. Later, when we raced ahead of a different storm, we ended up having a rollicking good time. 

 

In writing this book, I used what I saw of the Bay of Fundy (although I did not sail there), but I would love to also see the Bristol Channel. Has anyone been to the Bristol Channel? To the Bay of Fundy? Both? Do you have any great stories about either—or both?


*Photo 1: This is a picture taken near Brier Island, which is far south in the Bay of Fundy, so does not even experience the full extent of its tides, yet a boat is resting on the bottom – and the water is far out.


*Photo 2: This picture of a pier shows how high they must be built to accommodate the tides. Again, this is not even at the northern end of the Bay of Fundy! 


Duchess Deceived

Widowed duchess Juliana Barrington fears that men who covet her son’s title are trying to kill him. When greedy relatives discover her whereabouts, she flees her seaside hideout. Will she be running forever? 

Ransom Wolfe Hawkins, a Royal Navy officer in hiding, wants to protect Juliana and her son, but fears he'll lose her trust if she learns he's been accused of murder. Will he have to choose between clearing his name and protecting the woman he loves? 

Or will he deceive the Duchess?

 

Buy Link 

 

Monday, September 13, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--DEBUT MYSTERY AUTHOR LIZ BOEGER ON HOW WRITING A MYSTERY IS LIKE BEING A CRAFTER

Crayola's box of 64, 1958. Notice the randomness of the
crayon placement. Still makes me twitch!
(Wikipedia-4 September 2021)
Today we welcome award-nominated debut mystery author Liz Boeger who writes the Moccasin Cove Mysteries. She describes them as mysteries with a cozy edge, a hint of Southern snark, and always a happy ending. Learn more about Liz and her books at her blog.

I don’t remember being a particularly crafty kid, nor was I a wannabee writer, despite reading most of the Nancy Drew series as a preteen. However, I can trace my concrete-sequential origins back to coloring in the lines and to sorting my box of 64 Crayolas into the proper order before I could even consider any doodling. I had the same issue with LEGO. 

Luckily, my artsy side emerged when I was in high school. I was drafted to spray-paint the school’s mascot on the football field before home games. Think of it as a flat mural on grass with thirty cans of spray paint. I still have a couple of watercolor trays from my art classes, both good as new 40+ years later. My artsy interests morphed from painting, to crafting dolls, and stitching needlework in my twenties and during the fraught young parenthood years. That’s also when I discovered the traditional mystery and series that kept me sane. 

 

In retrospect, I think my fabric and books fetishes may be genetic. My maternal grandmother was a single, city girl working in a bookstore before she become a farmer’s wife. During snowy midwestern winter evenings she honed her needlecraft and quilting skills, stitching lovely textiles for her children, and later for her fourteen grandchildren. I still have a few of her unfinished quilt tops and the log cabin quilt she made me for my eighteenth birthday. 

My early experimentation with cross stitch was probably inspired by her pillowcases. But the quilting eventually wiggled its way into my creative corner and by the time I was in my mid-forties, I had a full-blown addiction to fabric and freestyle quilting. I say freestyle, because I am not disciplined enough to perfectly match my corners or make my points pointy. 

 

I also took a happy detour into scrapbooking when the craze hit—what better way to enjoy the gazillion photos of our son and family outings. Many years past my son’s childhood, my current project is a collage quilt featuring a sea turtle I am planning for my future daughter-in-law. The planning stokes my creative muscle between writing stints.


So, what does all this chatter about my artsy-craftsy-quiltsy endeavors have to do with the publication of my first mystery? Crafting and quilting were largely self-taught, like my writing. The creative process gave me the courage and fortitude to experiment. Being a crafter requires risk, and planning, and thinking step by step from start to finish. Just like writing a mystery. The mental and emotional benefits of being a crafter are so tangible, that I’ve instilled some of these talents in my main character Ana Callahan. 

 

Ana is a veteran school principal who spent her entire career moving from one troubled school to another, attempting to turn their failures into success stories. She has a heart for children in impoverished communities, and luckily, her hard work has paid off. But in her demanding career, she’s never had time for relationships nor time to mend her broken heart. Her limited leisure time was devoted to quilting and the occasional dabbling in watercolors. Neither hobby takes up much space and is easily portable for her frequent interstate moves.

 

By the time she makes her way back home to Florida to turn around the troubled school of her childhood, she’s still single. Then, an interesting man captures her heart, just as she finds herself investigating a murder. But as any school principal will tell you, progress does not come easily. Ana is confident she can save the school but solving a murder and mending a broken heart are not in her skillset.

 

As an author I felt badly about layering on Ana’s troubles, but that is my job. So, I thought I’d soften the plot blows I’d inflicted by giving Ana time to build a scrapbook and take out her watercolors to ease her pain. In future books I am certain her quilting will emerge, probably with more skill than mine. Such is the stuff of fiction. I wish you happy crafting and hope you have a chance to get to know Ana and the kind folks of Moccasin Cove.

 

ChainLinked

A Moccasin Cove Mystery, Book 1

 

Principal Ana Callahan knows a thing or two about turning around troubled schools, but she can’t fix the grief constricting her own heart. Now she must do both…while solving a murder.

 

Ana Callahan’s life fell apart, so she went out to save the world, one failing school at a time. Fifteen years later she’s back home in Florida, working her magic on the floundering elementary school of her childhood. But Moccasin Cove is not the sunny, middle-class beach town she left behind. With one eye on her school rescue plan and the other on her exit plan, Ana gets to work and chalks up a few small victories. 

 

Her confidence falters when a school contractor is killed, and a friend is implicated in the murder. An ambitious journalist tries to link Ana’s tragic past to the crime, and a powerful charter school corporation seizes on the political chaos by threatening a takeover of Ana’s school. Adding “investigate murder” to her lengthy to-do list, Ana finds herself paired with the school district’s handsome new security chief. The disturbing secrets they uncover about her friend and the killer’s twisted motives force Ana to admit she has a lot to learn about murder

 

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--MYSTERY AUTHOR SUSAN OLEKSIW'S LOVE OF INDIAN EMBROIDERY

Susan's Hut and Palm Tree Indian Scene

Mystery author Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series along with the Mellingham series, set on the New England coast. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. She is a co-founder of Crime Spell Books, which will continue the tradition of publishing Best New England Crime Stories with Bloodroot, due out in November 2021. Learn more about Susan and her books at her website and blog.

Rediscovering Embroidery

When I lived in India in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, I discovered much that was unexpected. Almost everyone knows about the gorgeous silks Indian artisans produce, or the finely crafted silver or gold jewelry. For my marriage, an Indian friend of my mother’s sent me a piece of red silk threaded with gold (red is the traditional color of wedding saris in North India) and a shawl threaded and tasseled with real gold. From my grandmother I inherited a shawl, probably owned by her mother-in-law, woven and embroidered in the Kashmiri durokhu style, in which the shawl is embroidered on two sides with the same design in different or the same colors. 


Durokhu Embroidery

But the handwork that surprised me was that produced by Catholic women at a local nonprofit overseen by my landlady. The women made various crafts for sale, including handkerchiefs embroidered with Indian women in various traditional costumes in one corner, replacing a monogram. I bought loads of them to give to friends, along with other goods.

 

When I returned to the States I brought with me a new love of needlework beyond sewing (and my attempts as a child), and began doing needlepoint, again to give to family and friends, and later embroidery. My first project, however, was a free-hand image. One night in the middle of winter, I was sick of the cold, the gray, the general gloom of January in New England and pulled out a frame and fabric, and went to work. (see above Indian scene) I missed Kerala. 

 

I don’t claim any great skill. But I’m always willing to learn and try something new, including mastering various stitches. During the pandemic I’ve been working sporadically on a sampler. Sometimes I think of this as a way to decompress from the stress of the pandemic, or a way to let my mind wander while I’m in the middle of a novel or story that isn’t going well. But lately, I’ve had the same image come to me while I’m working, and now I think I know what it is. Look for Anita Ray to solve a murder using a hotel guest’s embroidery. 


Susan's Sampler


Until that story is written and published, look for the fourth book in the Anita Ray series, When Krishna Calls, soon to be available in trade paperback and ebook.

 

When Krishna Calls

An Anita Ray Mystery 

 

Anita is dismayed when an employee disappears and is later accused of murdering her husband, who was involved with a loan shark. But things get worse when she learns that Auntie Meena has taken out a crushing loan and tried to keep it a secret. How far will Anita go to protect her aunt and her home, and to rescue an innocent woman?

 



Hardcover Buy Link 

(trade paperback and ebook coming soon!)