featuring guest mystery 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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Marie Higgins is a best-selling, multi-published author of sweet romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Learn more about Marie and her books at her website/blog. 

Amazon’s Magical Rainforest

Many years ago, I read a romance novel set in the Amazon jungle, from one of those book-of-the-month clubs. At first, I didn’t think I would like the story, but it didn’t take long before I was pulled into the Amazon rainforest’s magical world. I remember reading about the exotic creatures in the jungle, the heat, and the dangers one can face, and this combination kept me enthralled until the very end of the story.

I was thinking of my next story, and I wanted something unique. I enjoy writing romances with suspense and a little adventure, but this time I wanted something completely different from what I’ve ever done before. Then I remembered that book I had read so long ago. What a perfect choice for my next story, a romance adventure in the Amazon Rainforest.

However, writing a story in that kind of setting would take a lot of research. But I enjoy research—I enjoy discovering new things about history or the world, so this story became a challenge for me. The first thing I wanted to know was how hot the rainforest got. After all, my characters are from the late 1800’s, so it’s not like they can put on a pair of shorts and halter-top and wear a pair of sandals. In my research, I found that the rainforest’s average temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter it’s 40 degrees. It rains on average from 130 to 250 days per year. Because humidity stays at a constant 80 percent, this is what keeps the rainforest living in like a ‘greenhouse’ effect.

Next in my research, I wanted to know what kinds of animals or any other form of creatures were dangerous, because naturally, I want something to happen to my characters that introduces vulnerability into the story. Crocodiles are always dangerous, so of course I had to add a few in this particular romance. The jaguar is the largest cat in the jungle and extremely dangerous…but aren’t they beautiful? The jungle has all kinds of snakes, so I used the Emerald Boa and the Coral. The jungle also has monkeys. I needed aggressive monkeys in my story, so I used the Howler monkey.

Another fascinating tidbit I found in my research was about the colorful frogs. The rainforest has some spectacular amphibians, but what I learned was the more colorful the frogs were—the more dangerous they can be. Not only is their bite venomous, but their skin is as well.  

I needed herbal plants…both good and bad, and I especially wanted to know what kind of reaction a person might have when they eat these herbs. Naturally, in the rainforest in the late 1800’s, there isn’t going to be a doctor’s office around every street corner. This means that herbal plants needed to be close at hand. I wanted to know what kind of food my characters could find in the jungle. Thankfully, there was a variety I could choose from; Maracuja (passion fruit), Bacaba (this one needs to be cooked before eaten), Kiwi, Papaya, Mango, and thankfully, nuts and seeds.

Out of everything I discovered about the Amazon Rainforest, my favorite had to be the waterfalls—not just one but several! This would be the only reason I would venture into the rainforest, because I adore waterfalls. Naturally, because I write sweet romance, you know there’s going to be a waterfall scene—or two.

I’ve learned so much about the rainforest, it really is magical!

All of these things I’ve mentioned (and more that I haven’t mentioned) help make my sweet romance, Amazon Sunset, a spell-binding, on-the-edge-of-your-seat book. I invite you to watch the book trailer, which gives you an idea of what my story is about. http://youtu.be/b4CtWmHz1Ic

I had so much fun writing Amazon Sunset, I decided I’m going to write two other books and put them in a series. So book #1 is Amazon Sunset, book #2 is Amazon by Moonlight, and book #3 is Amazon at Twilight. I can’t wait to write those other two stories. I know I’ll find more things to research and have just as much fun as I did with book #1.

Amazon Sunset
Katrina Landon’s life is about to change. The wealthy father she has never known wants to meet her. All she has to do is travel from the slums of Boston to Brazil. Her trek begins at the edge of the Amazon rainforest, and she'll journey from there to his rubber tree plantation. If that's not bad enough, she meets her guide—the handsome, too self-assured for his own good—Mr. Knightly, and immediately, he stirs her temper.

Felix Knightly isn’t looking forward to escorting who he assumes is a spoiled rich girl through the jungle, no matter how much her father pays.  He is shocked to find Katrina's distracting innocence, and charming demeanor makes it nearly impossible to concentrate on his job. He’d rather fight off the fire ants, howler monkeys and crocodiles than risk losing his heart to her.

As they delve deeper into the rainforest, they discover nothing is as it seems.  It's more than the unseen dangers of the jungle.  Someone wants them dead. Will Katrina and Felix solve the mystery before it's too late?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


photo by Pbj2199
Mystery author Lesley Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York where a shy ghost serves as her literary muse.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Learn more about Lesley and her books at her website and blog. 

The Chocolate-Filled Donut Sleuthing Approach to Losing Weight
(This diet won’t kill you!)

Don’t be put off by the protagonist in my newest cozy mystery, Murder Is Academic.  Sure, Laura Murphy, college professor, has a lot of degrees, but at her stage of life, they don’t mean a lot when she spends so much time plunging her head in the freezer to corral her hot flashes. And she notices something else.  She can be described as a short, voluptuous blond whose best asset according to herself is her chest and narrow waist, but a look in the mirror tells her something is going south.  Could it be that a combination of being a woman of a certain age and all those chocolate-filled donuts are catching up with her—  metabolically-speaking?

Here’s Laura’s so-easy, chocolate-filled donut approach to getting back in shape.  You can eliminate any one of the steps, although the results won’t be as radical.

First, try an exercise program.  Oh, sure you say.  Everyone recommends that.  But this one is different.  Laura and Annie, her best friend decide to enter a fifty mile canoeing race, although neither of them had tried the sport before.  The first day on the water they discover the dead body of the college president shoved under a pile of gravel at a bridge construction site.  You may want to just skip this last part.

Next you should extend your exercise program to include a variety of activities, not simply one.  Laura discovers dinner with a hunky biker dude can result in more than messed up hair from the wind.  It can result in messed up hair from a night spent in bed.  This is a highly recommended part of the diet regimen.  Don’t skip it.

On to the next part of the plan in which Laura investigates the murder of her president and gets herself into all kinds of trouble, but all the running around is a kind of exercise (see step two above, variety in your exercise program).  Another unexpected benefit of this is she also creates trouble for others, some of them people at the college she doesn’t really like.  Here is where you give yourself permission to be annoying to others you find annoying.  It doesn’t burn calories per se, but it is satisfying. 

Snooping a la the Laura Murphy approach results in a diminished appetite for donuts while maintaining an excellent appetite for the biker in her life.  If you think this part of the diet is easy, you should be forewarned that too much snooping can make the killer angry and lead to attempts on your life.  Take on this part of the plan only if you’re either a good runner or really smart.  Laura can’t run, but she’s pretty smart, smart enough to outwit a killer.

Once your weight has stabilized at the desired level of maintaining a zealous interest in the biker guy or any man of your choice, and the bad guy has been caught because of some clever, rigorous sleuthing, you may begin the donuts once more.  You didn’t really think you were going to give them up forever, did you?  That’s why it’s called the chocolate-filled donut approach to dieting.  Duh.

A final note: Taking up chocolate-filled donuts again will result in weight gain, so like Laura, you’ll have to find another murder to solve.  Laura does, and it’s called Failure Is Fatal.  In this one, the bad frat guys give her a real run around.  Expect Laura to be positively slim at the end.

Murder is Academic
Laura Murphy, psychology professor, thinks there’s nothing she likes better than coffee and donuts on a summer morning until she says yes to dinner with a Canadian biker and finds herself and her date suspects in the murder of her college’s president. Laura’s friend, the detective assigned the case, asks her to help him find out who on the small upstate New York college campus may be a killer.  The murder appears to be wrapped up in some unsavory happenings on the lake where Laura lives.  A fish kill and raw sewage seeping into the water along with the apparent drowning suicide of a faculty member complicate the hunt for the killer.  And then things become personal.  The killer makes a threatening phone call to Laura. With a tornado bearing down on the area and the killer intent upon silencing her, Laura’s sleuthing work may come too late to save her and her biker from a watery grave.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


courtesy of TheOriginalSoni,
based on the fixture File:NASA Earth America 2010.jpg
Earth Day began in 1970 as a way to promote environmental awareness. 

Here are some easy things you can do to help preserve our planet:

Use as many locally grown foods as possible. 

Walk or ride your bike instead of driving everywhere. It's not only good for reducing your carbon footprint, it's good for reducing your waistline.

Keep your neighborhood clean. Never litter, and if you see litter, pick it up and toss it into a trash can.

Recycle everything you can. Many communities now pick up recyclables at your curb. These include newspapers, magazines, office paper, cardboard, metal cans, glass, and plastics. It's just as easy to put out the recycling as it is to put out the trash. Just use separate receptacles.

Use both sides of the paper. This cuts down on paper waste by fifty percent. The reverse side of mail, homework, office memos, etc. can be used for scrap paper, shopping lists, or your kids' arts & crafts projects. The Sunday comics section of the newspaper makes for fun wrapping paper.

Purchase paper towels that allow you to tear off smaller sheets. Not every spill needs a full sheet of paper towel. And use sponges instead of paper towels whenever possible.

Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth and floss.

Showers use less water than baths.

If you have in-ground sprinkles, turn them off when it's raining or if there's been rain recently.  I can't tell you how many times I see sprinklers going on a rainy day or the day after we've had storms.

Turn off lights when you leave the room, and switch out your incandescent bulbs to energy efficient ones.

Don't stand in front of the open refrigerator, contemplating the contents.

Remember, only you can save the planet. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 21, 2014


copyright 1991 Lois Winston
Tomorrow is Earth Day. Here's an Earth Day poster you can print out for your kids to color.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Lynn Cahoon makes a return visit today to tell us about her latest book. A multi-published author, Lynn has written for the Chicken Soup anthologies, some of the confessional magazines, and had short stories published in Women’s World in addition to writing contemporary romance and mystery. Learn more about her and her books at her website

I’m a sucker for tourist stops. There’s just something about a store selling regional items along with the road trip necessities like a clean bathroom or a passable cup of coffee. 
Driving cross-country with no agenda in mind, I love stopping at those spots off the highway. Places where you can get a pink felt cowboy hat for less than ten dollars or a variety of souvenir spoons for display. (Yes, I do have a collection.)

A few years ago, I took a freedom trip to see my sister on spring break. I was in the middle of a divorce and trying to re-invent myself as an individual instead of the half of a couple I’d been for close to twenty years. During the day, I drove to local tourist spots, enjoying the weather and the scenery. At night I’d come back for dinner with my sister and brother-in-law and talk about my day.

Several times I found entire towns that had one function – to cater to tourists. Small craft houses where local artists sold their designs. From glass blowing, to country crafts, soap makers, and even landscape artists, each house on the main street focused on one skill.

As I walked through the towns, I wondered about the people behind the sales counter. Were they residents of the town? Did they live upstairs over the shop? Was the woman who sold the homemade fudge the same person who made the delight?

I loved the small town feel and uniqueness of each shop. Not a Target or Lowes on the street. Not even a McDonald’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those stores; don’t get me wrong. I went to Target today. But on vacation I want something different from my day-to-day life.

Guidebook to Murder was based on my personal fantasy about living in one of these tourist towns.

Today, I live near a touristy river town. We visit the flea market in the summer, walking through the many booths, then grab lunch in one of the many restaurants located on the deck overlooking the river. A mini vacation stop.

I always buy something to add to my souvenir collection. I love coffee mugs right now.

What’s your favorite souvenir to collect? 

Guidebook to Murder
In the gentle coastal town of South Cove, California, all Jill Gardner wants is to keep her store--Coffee, Books, and More--open and running. So why is she caught up in the business of murder?

When Jill's elderly friend, Miss Emily, calls in a fit of pique, she already knows the city council is trying to force Emily to sell her dilapidated old house. But Emily's gumption goes for naught when she dies unexpectedly and leaves the house to Jill--along with all of her problems. . .and her enemies. Convinced her friend was murdered, Jill is finding the list of suspects longer than the list of repairs needed on the house. But Jill is determined to uncover the culprit--especially if it gets her closer to South Cove's finest, Detective Greg King. Problem is, the killer knows she's on the case--and is determined to close the book on Jill permanently.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Romance author Kathy L. Wheeler, who also writes as Kae Elle Wheeler, joins us today to talk about a subject near and dear to her heart and the heart of one of the characters from her Bloomington series. Learn more about Kathy and her books at her website.  

What girl does not love shoes? I ask you. Me, for example, I have tons of shoes. And lately I’ve been buying up all the boots, booties I can find. I love shoes of all kinds. For instance, I just bought the cutest pair of booties from Nine West. Of course, mine don’t have the tassel.

I also picked up a pair of gladiator sandals. They’ve been big the last couple of years, and it looks as if this year will not be any different. (Also, Nine West.)

There are all kinds of goofy shoes, and truly fabulous shoes.  Here are some really great shoes, though they have a very specific purpose, as you can see. My daughter was the genius behind this little gift (as in giving). They were perfect this winter when my critique group went to the Embassy Suites in Tulsa for a little writing pow-wow. 

Some shoes I’ve acquired were not necessarily meant for me. Take these size 14’s of Eric Maynor’s.  An NBA ex Oklahoma City Thunder player. Yes, you read that right: size 14!!!

Oh, here’s Eric and I:   He’s cute, isn’t he? Alas, the shoes are unsigned, and believe me, I tried for a couple of years to no avail. Guess you have to be some adorable little kid, age 5 or so....

Speaking of Thunder: This guy was in the bar, and I don’t know what he was thinking. Yes, I took the picture to totally make fun of some guy wearing purple shoes. I’m not that nice. (At least I didn’t show his face.)

I just love shoes. So when I was writing my Bloomington Series, it turns out that Lorianne loves shoes too! In fact, she is notorious for spending loads of money she does not have on shoes when she is really upset. Take these fuschia Mary Jane platforms. She has them in a couple of colors. And when she is angry? Well, watch out. You never know what might come flying at you.

Happy shopping!

Genna Lyndsey is not a people person. A short, too-skinny, wild haired waif, with crazy hair and sturdy nerdy glasses who lives through books. So it’s lucky she and her best friend own their own bookstore. Her college days taught her that dating was too unreliable to depend on others. It was then that she started resorting to obscure quotes to shield herself from others who ventured too close.

Rick Johnson, Fraud Insurance Claims Investigator, is assigned to look into an unusual number of claims filed by Genna Lyndsey. He suspects Genna of sabotaging her own property for insurance money. His investigation uncovers an adorable introvert determined to keep everyone at bay, while someone else resolves to put her out of business—no matter how great the risk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Patricia Flaherty Pagan writes, edits and facilitates writing workshops in Texas. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Spider Road Press, an independent press specializing in short fiction. Today she joins us to discuss a passion very close to her heart. Learn more about Patricia at her website. 

Heroines Reading Heroines

Lots of us like to read books about strong women. I know that I enjoy reading about clever sleuths like Cordelia Gray, gritty truth seekers like Tess Monaghan, adventurers like Elizabeth Gilbert, and helpful optimists like L. M. Montgomery’s Anne. While revising my mystery novel, I fell into the intense and exciting practice of writing flash fiction. Precision rules. Every word must prove its merit. When I recently began assembling a collection of flash fiction by strong women, I had an idea. I could do more than marry these very short tales of suspense to literary explorations and entertaining Sci-Fi stories. There were real heroines out there, making a difference in women’s lives every day. Why not donate part of the proceeds from the collection to these women helping women? In that way, those who purchased the book could become heroines as well.

But how to best help women? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects 7.7 million American adults, and women are more likely to suffer from this serious health issue. Brave servicewomen, reliable first responders, and strong survivors of the private wars of rape and domestic violence can all face this disorder. Yet hope exists. Across America, counselors at rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters and veterans’ organizations are making a difference. Personally, I count as friends a couple of women who counsel those with PTSD, and a couple of women who live with it every day.

So, I decided to donate five percent of the proceeds from the anthology that I edited, Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers, to rape crisis and veteran’s services. Giving back felt great! I selected agencies and groups in the states where I have lived and traveled, as I have seen the impact that these organizations have on their communities. In my adopted city of Houston, the Houston Area Women’s Center offers an array of vital services, including helping survivors of sexual assault. Both the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and SARSSM of Maine have supported rape survivors in cities that I know and love. In addition, Disabled American Veterans helps returning female (and male) vets access many forms of concrete and emotional support.

I am proud to announce that through initial sales of the Up, Do anthology, my small press, Spider Road, has been able to make small donations to each of these important charities. If sales continue at the same rate, I hope to donate to rape crisis services in Rhode Island and Vermont, as well as to other veterans’ groups. Furthermore, I am so excited by the process that I have decided to give five percent of the proceeds from every title that Spider Road Press publishes to charity from this point onward! 

Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers
A collection of thirty-three intriguing, very short stories by talented women. It includes surprising tales by award-winning short fiction writer Kathryn Kulpa, popular romance novelist Donna Hill, suspense writer Eden Royce, award-winning science fiction writer Melissa J. Lytton and many others. A part of the proceeds from each sale is donated to rape crisis and veteran’s services.