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.

Friday, September 22, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR ANNE LOUISE BANNON

Anne Louise Bannon has made not one, but two careers out of her passion for storytelling. Both a novelist and a journalist, she has an insatiable curiosity. In addition to her mystery novels, she has written a nonfiction book about poisons, freelanced for such diverse publications as the Los Angeles Times, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Backstage West, and edits a wineblog. On the fiction side, she writes a romantic serial, a spy series, and her Kathy and Freddy historical mystery series, set in the 1920s. Her most recent title is The Last Witnesses. Learn more about Anne and her books at her website. 

Freddie’s First Day in Los Angeles
From the diary of Frederick G. Little, III, author of The Old Money Story and one of the protagonists of the Freddie and Kathy series, set in the Roaring 1920s. In their latest adventure, Freddie’s sister Honoria finds a body in her apartment. Freddie and Kathy take up the search with Honoria, and the three find themselves caught up in a conspiracy that could get them killed, no matter how unbelievable it is.

October 16, 1925, 10 a.m.
Amabassador Hotel, Los Angeles

Good Heavens, what an amazing day was yesterday. Joshua offered to drive me into Los Angeles, itself, all the way from his home in Placentia. He said it was only about forty miles and thought nothing of driving it.

The weather was and remains exceedingly fine. No, scratch that. It’s out and out hot. But then a breeze springs up from the ocean and it’s very pleasant. I can well see the attraction of the area, if this is normal for October, as I am told it is.

My first glimpse of the city was not overwhelmingly impressive. The skyline is not particularly distinctive, although there is a great deal of construction going on. And the oil derricks. They are everywhere. It’s one thing to hear and know that oil is a major business out here. It’s another thing completely to see it. I can well believe that they are pumping millions of gallons of oil.

The hotel is quite comfortable. However, Lowell did not do its splendors justice. Better yet, the concierge was able to provide me with excellent valet service and that went a long way to making me feel more at ease. Lowell, of course, was far more impressed with the easy availability of liquor in the hotel.

That being said, I remain profoundly grateful that my dearest friend is here. Not only are the reasons that brought me here utterly unsettling, there is the fact that we are in the heart of the movie business. In fact, Lowell introduced me to a couple of gentlemen from Riverwind Pictures. Never heard of them, but they’d heard of my book. I suppose I should be flattered by that, and their supposed interest in turning The Old Money Story into a film. Except that they clearly had not read it! How would they know what kind of film it would make if they haven’t read it? Lowell says that’s quite immaterial, which is not entirely reassuring, either.

All in all, there is a certain brash exuberance to this city that I confess, I did not anticipate. There is a great deal of money to be made here, whether one is in the oil business or the picture business, or in both, as I suspect many are. And the city is clearly growing. It’s not New York, but I do believe there is something special here, and it’s not just the weather.

Off to my meeting with Mr. Walsh. More to come.

The Last Witness
It's back to the 1920s with socialite author Freddie Little and his editor and not-so-blushing bride Kathy Briscow. In fact, Freddie and Kathy are happily enjoying their newly married bliss when Freddie's sister Honoria finds a dead body in her apartment. Honoria had taken the young woman in as a favor to a friend, but it soon becomes clear that the favor caught up. Honoria goes into hiding, and Freddie and Kathy take up a chase that will lead all three of them across the country and into a conspiracy that, no matter how unbelievable, could get them all killed.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

#TRAVEL TO THE JERSEY SHORE WITH GUEST AUTHOR CARIDAD PINEIRO

OG Surf and Skate Shop, Ocean Grove, New Jersey
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Caridad Pineiro has sold over a million romance novels worldwide. She’s a transplanted Long Island girl who has fallen in love with pork roll and the Jersey Shore but still can’t get the hang of tomato pies. As a founding member of Liberty States Fiction Writers and a speaker at writing conferences and writing organizations around the country, she uses her passion for writing to help others explore and develop their own writing skills. Learn more about Caridad and her books at her website. 

First of all, thank you so much, Anastasia, for letting me come by and share some of the location inspiration for my new release, One Summer Night, the first book in the At the Shore Contemporary Romance series from Sourcebooks Casablanca.

As you might guess from the series name, the stories are set at the beach in Sea Kiss, a fictional town that is a melding of several of my favorite towns along the Jersey Shore. Today I’m going to share a little bit about one of those towns, Ocean Grove, which is one of my favorite shore towns.

Located just south of neighboring Asbury Park, Ocean Grove is a quaint town filled with lovely Victorian homes and a shopping district with a hometown feel. You’ll get to taste some of that atmosphere in One Summer Night as the characters stroll through town. There’s even a little homage to my daughter’s surf and skate shop on Main Avenue.

Ocean Grove was originally founded by the Methodists and is today still owned by the Camp Meeting Association. For that reason, the town is dry and many of the homes are on land that is owned by the Association and only leased to the homeowners. Not that long ago, residents could not park their cars in town on Sunday and to this day, the beach does not open until noon on Sundays to allow residents to attend religious services. Some of those services are actually held in a small pavilion on the boardwalk.
Ocean Grove tent camp
One of the most interesting elements in town that track to its faith-based mission are the tents which are erected every May and taken down in late September. The tents are a holdover from when the Methodists would hold their camp revival meetings on the beach. At some point the structures became more permanent with small sheds to hold the kitchens and bathrooms and the tented area for sleeping. They are lovely to see and are decorated quite nicely by the summer residents. Some of the residents are descendants of the original Methodists who constructed the tents. More than 100 of them remain in town.

In One Summer Night, the families of the heroes and heroines have lived in Sea Kiss for nearly a century and have grand Victorian homes on the beachfront. It was so much fun to craft these homes and the nearby town to give you a taste of what I love about the Jersey Shore and Ocean Grove in particular. The town is a unique gem, so much so, that the entire town has been designated a National Historic landmark.

But for me it’s not just the beautiful homes, main street and of course, the beach, it’s about the wonderful sense of community that exists in the town.

I remember going there with my daughter a week after Hurricane Sandy hit the area to see how her store had fared. She was lucky not to have damage, but the boardwalk area was hit pretty hard. When we got to the boardwalk there were dozens and dozens of residents out there cleaning up the mess. From little ones picking up small pieces of wood to adults of all ages, they were there trying to put things to right.

You’ll see some mention of that in One Summer Night as well, since the hero and heroine, Maggie Sinclair and Owen Pierce, are quite involved in Sea Kiss and helping to keep it thriving.

I hope you enjoyed this look into the inspiration for Sea Kiss, my little town in the At the Shore series. I hope you’ll check out One Summer Night, which is now available for pre-order and will be out in print and e-book on October 3. The second book in the series, What Happens in Summer, will be out in late Spring 2018, and you’ll get to spend some more time with Owen’s brother Jonathan and Maggie’s best friend Connie Reyes. Plus you’ll get to see a little more of Sea Kiss!

One Summer Night

An offer that’s impossible to accept…

Maggie Sinclair has tried everything to save her family’s business, including mortgaging their beloved beach house on the Jersey shore. But now, she’s out of options. 

The Sinclair and Pierce families have been neighbors and enemies for almost thirty years. That hasn’t stopped Owen Pierce from crushing on Maggie, and he’s determined to invest in her success. Now he has to convince her that he’s more than just trouble with a capital T…

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

JUDY BAKER'S HERB GARDEN

Judy Baker writes historical western romances and as Anna Sugg, writes contemporary/paranormal/fantasy stories Learn more about Judy/Anna and her books at her website. 

Now that fall is here – almost, September 22, 2017 and time for me to harvest my herbs, I thought I would share with you all the herbs that I’ve been growing throughout the season.

I decided to make a mixture for use during the fall, winter, and spring months. I’m excited. I took all my herbs that I grew in my herb box and flower garden: basil, red peppers, lemon balm, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I also grew chives, dill, Anaheim peppers, and Jalapeno peppers. By the way, I also grow lavender, spicy bell peppers, and pumpkins.


I cut and dried my herbs, then combined a mixture and put them in an air-tight jar. I labeled the jars (decided to give them as Christmas gifts to my family) and gave one to my husband who does a lot of grilling and smoking. He sautéed a spoonful of the herb mixture in butter, then coated the meat. It was delicious.



It seems that once fall arrives, it’s the holidays (my hubby is looking forward to using his herb mixture on his Thanksgiving turkey). My favorite holiday is Christmas, so of course, my newly released novel is a Christmas story. Who doesn’t love Christmas stories? You’ll be introducted to Santa’s brother in a fun romantic Christmas in the fictitous western town of Karibou, Wyoming

Karibou Magic
An old veterinarian brings Christmas magic back into her life with his special reindeer. Will his handsome son shatter that belief? 

Christmas is magic. At least that’s what Eva Mars Bowman thought until that tragic night. Running from her past, she accepts a job with an old veterinarian in a small town in Wyoming. With Doc’s help and his magical reindeer, she has a reason to believe in Christmas magic once again.

Her newly found Christmas magic shatters. Doc’s estranged son, Trebek Nickolas, returns with plans to change all that his father has built, including getting rid of the reindeer.

Compared to his father, Trebek is coldhearted and wants nothing to do with Christmas. Can she convince him that forgiving and loving will bring back the Christmas magic he knew as a child? Will Christmas magic be stripped away from her life again, forever?

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--OATMEAL BANANA BREAD

Ever start baking only to discover you were out of an essential ingredient? That’s what happened to me the other day. I had four over-ripe bananas and decided to whip up a couple of loafs of banana bread. I’d mashed the bananas and added the wet ingredients and sugar. I reached for my canister of flour and discovered I was a cup short. The recipe calls for three cups of flour. I only had two. No problem. I was sure I had another bag of flour in the pantry. Except I didn’t. What to do?

I substituted a cup of rolled oats for the third cup of flour. In any baking recipe you can substitute up to 1/3 of the flour for oats as long as it’s not the quick-cooking kind.

Turns out the banana bread came out even better than it usually does and with the addition of oats, it was healthier.

Oatmeal Banana Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

Ingredients:
4 very ripe bananas
2/3-cup melted butter
2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.

Mash the bananas with a fork until completely smooth. Stir in melted butter.

Mix in baking soda and salt, sugar, beaten eggs, vanilla, flour, and oats in that order. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Divide batter between the two loaf pans. Bake 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. 

Cool completely on wire rack. Remove from pans.

Hint: Serve one and freeze one for another time. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--GUEST AUTHOR PAMELA AARES SHARES HER PHOTOGRAPHY


Filmmaker turned bestselling romance writer, Pamela Aares is the author of the Tavonesi Series. Pamela writes sensual, intriguing romance with just the right touch of mystery and suspense in captivating novels that explore the deep power of love. Learn more about Pamela and her books at her website. 

We've all heard stories about how encounters in nature can change lives. In Until Loves Finds You, my latest release in the Tavonesi series, Evan Forbes finds himself more than a fish out of water. He's spent most of his life indoors in front of a computer monitor, developing computer codes, founding wildly successful companies (that have made him a billionaire three times over), and inventing devices that put communication in the hands of 9 out of 10 people on the planet. But communicating with another person? Nearly impossible. He knows the language of technology but the language of the heart is foreign territory.

When Evan meets heiress Coco Tavonesi on a garden tour, the spirited young nature photographer not only opens his eyes to the awe of nature, she blazes a path straight into his heart.

When Coco invites Evan on a photo shoot in the California High Sierra Mountains, he discovers territory in his heart he'd never known before.


Nature photographers take us to places we might never otherwise be able to experience. Great nature photographers capture not only the beauty of a place but the soul, too. I wanted to share a photo of the wild place where Evan has his first taste of overnight camping under the stars—and his first taste of love!

And not just photographers but painters capture the souls of places as well. Here's one of my favorites by Bierstadt:


Before I began writing romance, I spent decades working to improve the lives of wild animals, mostly ocean animals, but also the animals that live in the wilderness areas of America. I wrote, produced and directed films for PBS. But I discovered that story—love stories in particular—were a more powerful way to share not only the healing power of nature but also the healing power of love.

Forests, oceans, rivers, even regional parks and city parks, provide avenues to awe and portals to joy. In these places our souls are opened to something larger than us, to a power that supports and sustains us. For brief periods of time we can leave behind the hustle, the bustle, and the tech, and remember our playful selves.

I wanted to share the words of a couple of writers who have tasted the wondrous power of nature and how the beauty of nature can open us to worlds inside us we may have never imagined:

"As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest,
or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream,
the great door, that does not look like a door, opens."
~ Stephan Graham

"As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees."  ~ Valerie Andrews

"Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves." ~ John Muir, Our National Parks

But back to Until Love Finds You!

From his first encounter with Coco, our hero Evan has hidden his identity and posed as an everyday computer fix-it guy. Evan wants to be seen as a man, not as a wealthy billionaire who has changed the way the world communicates. And our heiress heroine Coco has betrayal issues that run deep in her soul. As pressures mount and a hacker steals Coco's nature photos—blocking her from being able to pursue her dream of creating a soul-touching masterpiece—to help her, Evan must risk revealing not only his identity but also his heart.

Have you ever had an experience in nature that opened your heart? I'd love to hear about it!

P.S. While we're at it, here's one of my photos of the mountain meadow that inspired the lead-in to Evan and Coco's love scene (and yes, that's my mom in the photo, admiring the Alpine wildflowers 😀)



Until Love Finds You
Reclusive tech billionaire Evan Forbes finds himself lost and lonely in the secretive world he's cloaked around himself. He may have changed the way the world communicates with his innovative, high-tech businesses, but the language of the heart has brought nothing but pain. 

When Evan meets the vivacious heiress Coco Tavonesi on a garden tour, she fires a spark of desire he can't resist. Pretending to be an ordinary computer geek, he conceals his true identity and accepts the thirty-dollar an hour job she offers, tracking down a hacker who's stolen her prized nature photographs. After years of hiding his famous name and his own incredible wealth behind a disguise, has he met the woman worth revealing himself to? Can he risk his heart?

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#CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--AUTHOR LOIS WINSTON ON QUILLING

Summer Island by Paryse Martin
Quilling—which is also known as paper rolling, paper-scrolling, or paper filigree—is an inexpensive craft that anyone can learn in a very short amount of time. The basic quilling technique involves rolling a strip of paper into a coil, pinching the coil into shapes, and gluing them together. The paper strips can also be looped, curled, and twisted into various shapes. Nowadays quilling is mostly used to create jewelry and decorate greeting cards and invitations, but it can also be used to embellish boxes, pictures, or just about anything.

Detail from an 18th century quilled cabinet
Quilling is thought to go back as far as ancient Egypt. French and Italian nuns during the Renaissance decorated book covers and religious items with quilling. Well-to-do European women in the 18th century took up quilling as a leisure pastime. Back then quilling decorated everything from cabinets to cribbage boards to ladies’ purses.

Detail of Summer Island with quilling filling a bell jar
In the 1980’s quilling was very popular among crafters in the United States, but I haven’t seen much in the way of quilling in quite some time. That is, until my recent trip to Canada where I saw the most unique piece of quilled artwork I’ve ever come across. It’s called The Summer Island and was created by artist Paryse Martin in 2005.

Detail of base of Summer Island, covered entirely in quilling 

What do you think?

Friday, September 15, 2017

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR KELLI A. WILKINS

Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published nineteen romance novels in various sub-genres, 100+ short stories, and five nonfiction books. Today she shares a look at the making of her latest contemporary romance. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog

Readers are always curious about how books “happen” ‒ how do they start out as a random idea and become an actual book filled with great characters, drama, and sizzling love scenes? The answer varies, and each novel comes to me in a different way.

So how did Trust with Hearts come about? Is the sexy and sultry Curtis based on a particular country music celebrity? Here’s the scoop…

The idea for Trust with Hearts came to me before a country music concert. I was sitting in the front row before the show started, when all of a sudden the whole plot and all the characters jumped into my head. Naturally, I started scribbling down notes (on the back of an envelope, of all things!) before the house lights went down.

Although inspired by real-life, the character of Curtis isn’t based on that one particular country music superstar – rather, he’s a blend of three or four cowboy-hat-wearing singer/songwriters. Elements of the “inspirational” singer are there, but I used my imagination to fill in background details and invented whatever else I needed to make the story work.

Trust with Hearts is a bit different from my other romances in that it has a more “traditional” romance novel feel – but still contains plenty of heat. Although Sherrie and Curtis are attracted to each other, they’re total strangers and are hesitant about getting involved in a relationship. They’ve both been unlucky in love, and aren’t sure if giving their hearts away is even worth the time or trouble.

The book gives them the whole summer to get to know each other. Readers peek into their troubled pasts and follow along as Curtis and Sherrie heal their hearts, love, and learn to trust again.

The subplot of the book – Sherrie’s devotion to save Kitty Corner – was crucial because I wanted to give her a purpose, something to build her self-esteem. Sherrie’s cat adoption project lets her help unfortunate cats that need rescuing and good homes. It parallels how Dave takes Sherrie in (aka “rescues” her) and gives her a second chance at a new life.

And, on a more personal note, giving Sherrie the “job” of helping cats allowed me to make a social/personal statement. I’m a cat person, and I’ve written three cat care books. I always advocate adopting pets (of all kinds) from shelters and giving them a real home. (Would you want to live out the rest of your life in a wire cage?)

Back on topic: Knowing how I often write sequels, a reader asked if there will be another book following up Trust with Hearts. Will Dave get his own story?

I do have an idea for a sequel in mind. What if Curtis’s cousin Jen suddenly had to move in with Dave? Hmm… I already have a plot brewing in the back of my mind, so if readers would like to see a follow-up story, let me know!

And here’s a little-known fact: Once upon a time, Trust with Hearts had an entirely different ending. Curtis and Sherrie were driving back to Dave’s house when they got into a car accident. The Ventura was demolished, Sherrie was thrown clear, but she had to go back into the burning car and rescue Curtis.

I opted to delete the “car wreck” chapter after several people told me it felt too “tacked on” and was depressing. This version of the story has a new epilogue, and readers can see that Sherrie and Curtis are certainly living happily-ever-after.

Trust With Hearts
After a bitter breakup, Sherrie Parker seeks refuge at her cousin Dave’s house in rural West Virginia. Early one morning, she runs into Dave’s other houseguest, a singer named Curtis Taylor. The last thing Sherrie wants is to share living quarters with a country music crooner – even if he is sexy, in a cowboy sort of way.

Thrown together by circumstances, Sherrie and Curtis get off to a rocky start, but soon discover they have more in common than they ever imagined. Unable to fight their growing attraction, they give in to their desires and start a sizzling summer romance.

Everything is perfect between them until Sherrie discovers that Curtis is keeping secrets from her – and his biggest secret of all will change everything. Can their newfound love survive, or will destiny keep them apart forever?