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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--PATRIOTIC TOPIARY

Happy Labor Day! Summer's last hurrah finds us taking the day off to picnic with friends and family. However, I thought I'd offer up a repeat of our very first Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers project from our inaugural blog post May 17, 2010. 

Patriotic Topiary
Materials: metal, wood, or ceramic container or clay pot, approx. 6” x 6” x 6”
15” long 5/8” wooden dowel
6” white Styrofoam® ball
1 yd. 1” wide blue print ribbon
3” x 45” piece blue gingham
scraps of red, white, and blue fabric
floral foam, enough to fit inside container
straight pins
green excelsior
hot glue gun and glue sticks
tacky glue

Note: Use hot glue for all gluing except where tacky glue is indicated.  Model shown made with red glitter metal container purchased from crafts store.

1.  Insert dowel halfway into Styrofoam® ball.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in ball.  Reinsert dowel.

2. Glue floral foam inside container.  Insert dowel into center of floral foam.  Remove dowel.  Dispense glue into hole in floral foam.  Reinsert dowel.

3.  Apply a thin coat of tacky glue to dowel.  Wrap ribbon around dowel to cover.

4.  Tear fabric into 1-1/2” x 6” strips.  Place two strips wrong sides together and tie a knot at center.

5.  Insert a straight pin into knot.  Dip pin in tacky glue and quickly insert into Styrofoam® ball.  Repeat until ball is completely covered.

6.  Glue excelsor over floral foam inside container.

7.  Tie blue gingham strip around container.

Friday, August 29, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--GUEST AUTHOR SANDRA MARSHALL

When romantic suspense author Sandra Marshall needs to take a break from life, she likes to ride with her hubby on his Burgman 400 motor scooter. Nothing relieves stress, like traveling the winding back roads of Missouri. You leave your cares at home and let everything go while you ride through the countryside. Learn more about Sandra and her books at her website.  

Sandra is offering a free e-copy of All Bets Are Off to one lucky person who leaves a comment. If you'd like a chance to win, be sure to include your email address so she can contact you.

Before I tell you about my story, I want to tell you why I wrote All Bets Are Off. Years ago, riverboat casinos were trying to come into our area. There was a real fight for and against allowing them into this region.

I was in favor of them, believing they would be good for the economy by providing jobs and much needed taxes for our schools. Besides, I thought people should have the right to make their own choices whether to gamble or not.

I ended up writing three books called the Riverboat Mysteries, (The Catalyst, Addiction and The Deceived) which highlight my feelings on gambling during the progression from riverboats to grounded casinos. The series culminates with All Bets Are Off.

Even though these stories deal with the gambling industry they are about family. Family is important to me, but every family has secrets, and the Dubois/Madison family, which is the family portrayed in the Riverboat Mysteries, is no exception.

Before you read the blurb below, I must add, I still believe we don't have the right to make choices for everyone, but now I understand the dangers in allowing gambling into our area. We have six gambling casinos in close proximity to us. Would I have changed my vote? No! I still think the same way, and that is we should be allowed to make choices, wrong or right. We just live with the consequences of those choices.

All Bets Are Off
Can a recovering gambling addict bet on a second chance at love?

Ana Torres has dug herself out of her gambling debts and started a business to help others with the same problem. Now she wants to show her soul mate she has changed and win him back.

Jason Gibbs meets his wife at a party and realizes he still loves her even after all she cost him with her gambling addiction. He wants to find out if she has changed, and if she has, he will woo her back.

Buy Links
audio  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

FASHION WITH TESSA--GUEST AUTHOR COLLEEN COLLINS AND THE FELONIOUS FASHIONISTA

Colleen Collins is a P.I. and award-winning author who has written several dozen novels in the mystery and romance genres, as well as three nonfiction books on private investigations. She and her attorney-husband write the blog Guns, Gams and Gumshoes, selected by Booklist Online as a “Web Crush of the Week” during its 2014 Mystery Month. Learn more about Colleen and her books at her website

Colleen has generously offered a free Kindle copy of A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms to one of our readers who leaves a comment. No Kindle, no problem. Amazon offers free apps for reading on your computer as well as on a variety of mobile devices.

The Felonious Fashionista
My husband and I ran a private investigations agency for a decade, which has since morphed into his criminal law practice where I’m his part-time P.I. Or as I  call myself, his “live-in P.I.”

Occasionally, we’ve had clients give us thank-you gifts for handling their cases, from Starbucks cards to homemade tamales. But the most surprising gift offer was from a client who committed crimes in the high style she also liked to wear.  For this article, I’ll call her the felonious fashionista.

How We Met the Felonious Fashionista
A case came into our office a few years ago, where a man said his sister had been arrested on drug charges, and could our law firm handle her case? We get similar calls every month or so, usually for someone who’s been busted for recreational amounts of illicit drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, Oxycontin. When we asked the particulars of his sister’s charges, he said, “She had ten pounds of heroin packed in the air cleaner of the Mercedes she was driving, and fifty pounds of marijuana in the luggage carrier on top of the car.”

Our jaws dropped.

“Walk like you have three men walking behind you.”
- Oscar de la Renta

Because we were hired quickly after the fashionista had fired another lawyer, we didn’t meet her until her second appearance in court. Imagine our surprise when a Sofia Vergara clone sashayed into the courthouse as if she were prowling a catwalk. She wore insanely high heels, a silk blouse and a front-split skirt that flashed glimpses of her tan, toned thighs. Later we learned she had been a fashion model in a European country.

Other lawyers in the hallway looked like a tableau, frozen as they stared in awe at this beautiful woman, their looks turning to surprise and curiosity as she greeted us warmly. As the three of us walked into the courtroom, she glanced at my husband’s green nylon briefcase decorated with several ink smudges, then at my purse, which is more like an oversized messenger bag as I cram everything into it, from books to my computer.

After the hearing, she took us aside and said she wanted to gift us both with designer luggage briefcases as ours were in serious need of an “upgrade.” Did we like Saint Laurent?  Gucci?

“We like REI,” my husband quipped.

That evening, I found him looking up Gucci briefcases on the internet.

Let’s pause a moment and discuss what this drug smuggler gained from her fashionista ways.

“Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.”
- Kimora Lee

She used her beauty and fashion sense to create a smokescreen behind which she conducted high-level smuggling activities. Although we didn’t know how many other smuggling activities she may have previously conducted or was currently involved in, we do know she drove a new Mercedes, always wore designer labels, wore expensive jewelry and spoke of vacations at pricey resorts.

In our legal case, she must have impressed the judge with her fashion sense because he gave her probation, which she viewed as if it were a charm on a Harry Winston bracelet. In other words, she believed her fashionistaism to be invincible. 

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.”
- Alexander McQueen

Our felonious fashionista soon became an escape artist. After her flashy second court appearance, she failed to show up for her next several court-ordered hearings. In fact, she was failing to show up anywhere in life, which led us to believe the fashionista was on the run.

“I don’t think she ever intended to buy us Gucci anything,” I told my husband one day.  “She just said it to make us feel good.”

Which is the unspoken promise of fashion, I suppose.

A Surprise Call About the Fashionista
Almost two years later, we were contacted by a lawyer from the Midwest. “This beautiful woman was stopped by the police who ran an ID on her, but she denies being the individual who had been sentenced to a probationary term in one of your state courthouses. I looked up her court records, and saw that you once represented her. What’s going on?”

My husband explained the whole story, including her being a fugitive from justice in our state as well as an accomplished drug smuggler who used her beauty and fashion sense to derail law enforcement and judges.

The lawyer laughed. “So I shouldn’t believe that she wants to buy me a designer leather briefcase?”

I’ll leave that for you to answer, dear reader.

A Lawyer’s Primer for Writers: From Crimes to Courtrooms
by Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins (June 2014)
Topics include a history of trials, players in the courtroom, types of lawyers, trial preparation, the steps of criminal and civil trials, articles on crimes and much more.

"This intelligently organized handbook for practicing writers will make you sound like a practicing lawyer. ~Warwick Downing, former DA in Colorado and author of The Widow of Dartmoor, a sequel to Hound of the Baskervilles




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

HEALTHY LIVING WITH JANICE--FOOD SAFETY

They may look pretty under a microscope, but e coli can be deadly.
Several years ago I landed in the hospital for three days, thanks to a serious case of food poisoning. The hospital was never able to determine what had caused the food poisoning. I’m not someone who will eat something that looks or smells bad. But it turns out you can’t always tell if food is contaminated by looking at it or smelling it. “Use by” and “sell by” dates aren’t reliable gauges of determining if foods are safe safe. They focus on quality, not safety. Besides, once the package is opened, all bets are off.

Frozen foods keep indefinitely, but the quality of the food can deteriorate over time. For refrigerated food follow these recommendations. And remember: when in doubt, throw it out.

Eggs: 3-5 weeks for fresh eggs, 1 week for hardboiled

Bacon: 1 week for raw, 4-5 days for cooked

Ground meat: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Hot dogs: 2 weeks if the package is unopened, 1 week if opened

Deli meats: 2 weeks for unopened packages, 3-4 days if opened or for freshly sliced from the deli counter

Meats: 3-5 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Poultry: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Fish/shellfish: 1-2 days for raw, 3-4 days for cooked

Milk: 2-3 days beyond sell-by date

Prepared deli salads: 3-5 days

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

COOKING WITH CLORIS--GUEST AUTHOR BARBARA RAFFIN AND SAUSAGE & EGG BISCUITS TO GO

Award winning author Barbara Raffin writes paranormal, contemporary and historical, all containing romance and some with suspense. Her latest book, Finding Home, made the finals of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, Wisconsin Romance Writers' Write Touch Award, and is a BTS eMag's Red Carpet Review nominee for 2014. You'll find Barbara most mornings in her home-based office where her window overlooks the wooded beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Learn more about Barbara and her books at her website and blog.

I'm currently working on Book Four of my St. John Sibling Series with Book Three, Craving a Hero coming out in October of 2014. This is my first series and I'm having a blast discovering the stories of these five remarkable siblings who grew up living a nomadic lifestyle, yet have stability with parents who created a home for them wherever in the world they lived.

When I was writing Book Two, Finding Home, I realized the St. John Siblings weren't the characters with the big issues. It was the people they fall in love with who each need a healing dose of St. John love. Even in Taming Tess, Book One, which is a modern day Taming of the Shrew story, while big brother contractor Roman St. John may need to loosen up, it's the career minded architect Tess whose father has betrayed her and who needs to learn not all men believe women belong in the bedroom not the boardroom.

Even middle brother Dane St. John, the golden boy action movie star in Craving a Hero, into whose lap all good things fall, needs to learn what it feels like to almost lose something, or rather someone, he truly loves. Yet it's Conservation Officer Kelly Jackson, the love of Dane's life who comes along at the wrong time, who must face down her fear of abandonment in the most emotional book of this series so far.

But, it's Finding Home, set in an old Victorian Farmhouse turned restaurant by the only female St. John sibling, Dixie, that's the perfect focus of this blog. Owner Dixie is as sweet as her homemade cinnamon buns, while Chef Sam Ryan is like the breakfast sandwiches in my recipe: tasty, multi-layered, and a little rough around the edges with a tendency to be eaten on the go.

Sam so badly wants a family, he's willing to do anything the uncle who raised him requests, and Uncle Stuart wants Sam to dig up dirt on Dixie, Sam's cousin's widow, so Uncle Stuart can gain custody of Dixie's son Ben. But, practically from the minute Sam meets Dixie, he knows there's no dirt to dig up and his modus operandi to run from responsibility kicks in.

But Somehow, every time he tries to run, he can't seem to make himself leave Dixie, her family, and her barnyard of cast off animals. Sam not only finds the right family for himself In Finding Home, but this family black sheep even manages to stand up to his uncle and make things right for the woman he's fallen in love with. He even faces down her quartet of protective brothers. Ya gotta love Sam.


As for that breakfast sandwich I liken Sam to… It's as satisfying and yummy as he is.

Sausage Egg Biscuits to Go

Ingredients:
8 pack tube of Pillsbury Biscuit dough (original, flaky, buttermilk, another brand, your choice,)
1 lb. bulk sausage (I use Italian, but you can use whatever kind you like)
2-3 eggs
salt and pepper
a dollop of milk
enough butter or butter substitute to lubricate your pan when frying eggs.

Tip: you can also bake your own biscuits, use croissants, or English muffins

Preheat oven per direction on biscuit container. Bake biscuits according to directions on package. While biscuits are baking, divide bulk sausage into eight thin patties no large than the size of your biscuit. Fry on medium heat.

Split baked biscuits in half. Set cooked sausage patties aside.

Whisk eggs, add dollop of milk, and salt and pepper while butter is melting in 8”-9” frying pan on medium heat. When butter sizzles, pour half the egg mixture into the pan. Add remaining egg. Use spatula to lift edges of egg and tilt pan so some of the uncooked egg slips under the cooking egg. This will help eliminate the hard crust on the frying side (unless you like your eggs like that.) Cut egg into four wedges and flip each wedge to finish cooking. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. It'll still taste great.

Layer a sausage patty on the bottom slice of biscuit, fold egg on top of sausage, and cover with biscuit top. Add optional cheese or a slice of tomato. Use your imagination and create what you like.

Let those biscuits you don't eat immediately cool, wrap the leftover biscuits in paper toweling, and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. Reheat 35-45 seconds in a microwave.

Finding Home
When life handed Dixie Rae Carrington lemons, she made lemonade. When life handed Sam Ryan lemons, he ran. Good thing for him he's run head long into love with Dixie, the one woman who can teach him how sweet lemons can be. Now he just has to hope she doesn't find out what really brought him into her life.


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Monday, August 25, 2014

CRAFTS WITH ANASTASIA--DREAM CATCHERS WITH GUEST AUTHOR PATY JAGER

Paty Jager is an award winning author who has been a member of RWA, EPPIE, COWG, and EOWG. She’s taught workshops at local and national level writer’s conferences and online. Her seventeen published novels, two anthologies, and five novellas have Western or Native American elements in them, along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story. Today Paty joins us to talk about Dream Catchers. Learn more about her and her books at her blog and website.

Native American Dream Catchers
How many of you have shot up out of bed after a bad dream and wished you’d never had that dream? I think many of us can raise our hands at that.

The Native Americans have a craft they make that is believed to catch bad dreams and only filter good dreams down to the sleeping person. This spiritual sieve or strainer is surrounded by the hoop. Several of the North American tribes believe the hoop or circle symbolizes strength and unity. The best material for this hoop is a willow twig or any other flexible twig that can be bent into a circle and dried. Sinew or stringy stalked plants would be used for the weaving of the web. One semi-precious stone is added to each web, because there is only one creator. Or in some tribes it is the spider who is given credit for weaving a web that can catch bad things. And natural feathers found in nature are hung from the circle to allow the good dreams to filter down to the sleeping individual.

Dream Catchers were made by grandparents for newborn children. When they were still in the cradleboards the dream catchers hung above the child to give them pleasant dreams. The dream catchers are to hang and move freely so they may better catch the good and bad dreams. Good dreams slip through the center hole and slide down the feathers, softly dropping onto the sleeping person. The bad dreams are caught in the webbing and dissolve at daybreak.

The tradition of putting a feather in the middle of the dream catcher is to give breath or air, an ingredient essential for life. A baby watching air move the feather on the dream catcher above is entertained and taught how important good air can be. Children’s dream catchers have feathers; adults do not. On a child’s dream catcher an owl feather may be used for a girl. This means wisdom. For a boy an eagle feather, symbolizing courage.

In my trilogy of books set among the Nez Perce Indians, Spirit of the Mountain, Spirit of the Lake, and Spirit of the Sky, I found many interesting bits and pieces of information about the Nez Perce culture and their daily lives that I incorporated into the three books.

I have always been fascinated by dream catchers and thought it would be a fun thing to share with you.

How to Make a Dream Catcher

1. Using 2-6 ft. of soaked willow (or grapevine), carefully bend the vine around to form a circle with a 3”-8” diameter. You decide on the diameter, but traditionally dream catchers are no larger than 8”.

2. Twist the piece you are bending, around the circle you have made to strengthen the vine hoop.

3. Use 4-16 ft. of strong but thin string (the length is determined by the diameter of the hoop.) Knot a loop in one end from which you will hang your dream catcher when it is done.

4. Tie the hanging loop around the top of your dream catcher (or at the weakest point of your hoop.)

5. The dream catcher repeats the same stitch from start to finish. To start, hold the string and place it loosely over the top of the hoop. Move the string around to the back of the hoop (forming a hole) and pull the string back through the hole you just made.

6. Pull each stitch taut but not too tight or it will warp the hoop of the dream catcher and it will not lay flat when it is done.

7. Continue the same stitch for the first round around the hoop of the dream catcher. Space the stitches evenly, about 1-1/2”-2” apart (making 7 to 13 stitches around the hoop.)

8. The last stitch of the first round should be placed about a half inch away from the hanging loop.

9. On the second and subsequent stitching rounds, place the string around the center of each stitch from the previous round (rather than around the hoop.)

10. As you pull each stitch tight, the string from the previous round should bend towards the center of the hoop slightly, forming a diamond shape. You should see the spider web beginning to form.

11. On the third or fourth round add a bead to represent the spider or creator in the web. Simply place the bead on your string and continue stitching as usual.

12. Continue stitching towards the center of the hoop. Eventually, the stitches become so small that it is difficult to pass the string through. Make sure you leave a hole in the center of the dream catcher.

13. Stop stitching at the bottom of the hole in the center of the dream catcher. End by stitching twice in the same place, forming a knot, and pull tight.

14. You should have 6”-8” of string to tie 2 or 3 feathers which dangle from the center of the dream catcher. Tie on 2 or 3 feathers and knot.

15. Wrap a 1” square of felt around the knot of string and over the base of the feathers. Tie two 4” pieces of string around the wrapped felt. (Your dream catcher is now complete)

These are the websites I used while researching this topic.
http://www.american-native-art.com/publication/dreamcatcher.shtml

Spirit of the Mountain
Evil spirits, star-crossed lovers, and duty…which will prevail?

Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, loves the mountain and her people—the Lake Nimmipuu.  When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, she knows it is how she must fulfill her vision quest. But she is torn between duty and her breaking heart.

Himiin, as spirit of the mountain, watches over all the creatures on his mountain, including the Nimiipuu. When Wren shows no fear of him as a white wolf, he listens to her secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he must watch her leave the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.

When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin rushes to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…

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paperback
ebook

Friday, August 22, 2014

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AUTHOR BOBBI A. CHUKRAN

Bobbi A. Chukran writes contemporary and historical mystery novels and short stories, as well as comedy plays and some macabre short stories. Today she sits down for a round of Q&A. Learn more about Bobbi and her writing at her website and blog.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

When I was young, I constantly wrote stories and plays and "published" them with construction paper covers, stenciled titles and brads. The urge was there; I just didn't have any guidance.

I was working in a Walden's Bookstore in '77 when The Thorn Birds came out. I remember unpacking the books and immediately bought one. It wasn't the type of book I usually read, but I finished it and told a co-worker, "Wow, I'd LOVE to write a book like that some day."  But it was just a passing comment and not something I really thought I could do.

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

I was convinced to go into art in college and studied textile design because I loved fabrics and patterns. Afterwards I worked as a surface designer making fabric projects and selling them.

I got published in non-fiction fairly soon with some craft projects in magazines. My first article was published after one query (to Needle & Thread magazine), and my first book, The Fiberworks Sourcebook, a resource guide for fiber artists, was also published in '85 after one query. I was 29 at the time, and decided to pursue writing fulltime. I continued writing other non-fiction books and magazine articles and eventually started an indie publishing company for craft and garden books.

(Bobbi: Now I'm wondering if we ever crossed paths, Lois? J
Lois: It’s highly possible. I used to design for Needle & Thread.)

A few years later, I met a woman who wrote romances for Silhouette. She said "I bet you could write one of those!" and a light bulb went off in my head. I started researching and reading every how-to book I could get my hands on, although it was years before I actually sat down to start a novel.

I started writing a time-travel/mystery/romance, then took a class from Susan Rogers Cooper, Austin mystery author, and discovered writers like Joan Hess, Dorothy Cannell, Katherine Hall Page, Carole Nelson Douglas, and Tony Hillerman. Boom! The world of mysteries opened up to me.

I decided I wanted to try a traditional mystery and taking the advice of "writing what you know," I came up with a sleuth who was a weaver and fiber artist. I went to my first Sisters in Crime conference and talked to editors.

I got lots of encouragement from several who loved my book but wanted more romance. They also weren't quite sure that a weaver sleuth would be popular enough. That seems ironic to me given the popularity of the subject now.  

After going through some horrible experiences with two publishers, I finally decided to take my self-publishing know-how and put it to use. I put the contemporary story aside and wrote an 1880s western mystery, Lone Star Death. I published it for my 50th birthday gift—from me to me. I still don't know why I started with that one.

After a few years, I basically quit submitting my novels to others and revamped my publishing company to publish fiction instead of non-fiction. Since then, I've published a number of my short stories and novellas.

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

I've been a hybrid author in non-fiction, but my fiction books are all indie published, so far. I do still submit short stories to anthologies, online 'zines and magazines published by others. If the right situation came along, sure, I'd work with a traditional publisher on a book project.

Where do you write?

I write in a tiny room at the front of my 1930s home. It used to be the "preacher's parlor"—the nice room where company was invited.  It's painted a beautiful cool blue, it's cozy, I have a partial view of the garden and I still have the original curtains from the '50s. I have a collection of original art on the walls, a few muses (art dolls and glittered skeletons) sitting around and am surrounded by books. An original '50s chair that used to be in my house was gifted to me by a friend, and it sits in the corner with a quilt my great-grandmother made in the '30s draped across it. My computer sits on a wobbly table made from antique long-leaf pine that was salvaged from another old house. But I do carry the laptop from room to room seasonally, depending on the view of the garden at the time or whichever room is the quietest, coolest or warmest.

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

I've never been able to write while listening to music because I make up new lyrics or harmonies in my head to go with the music and that distracts me.

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

Plots can get inspired by real life (like my "Dewey& the Peckerwood Tree" short story), and I do love watching people and pick up quirky or interesting characteristics from them. I've never based any one character on a real person. My characters are more of a composite of real life people. My Aunt Jewel character (in Dye, Dyeing, Dead and the other Nameless short stories) is a composite of older, feisty Texan women who had a sense of humor, even though they didn't often show it.

Describe your process for naming your character?

For my historical fiction, I look up names that were popular at the time. There are lots of resources online. Back before I had the 'net, I'd look in old phone books, newspaper articles or obituaries in libraries. I "audition" names for my characters. When I hit on the right one, I know it's right, and go with it. I once named my contemporary sleuth Kendra O'Keefe. I love playing with alliteration, but didn't feel her name was quite right. Now she's Kendra Louise Harper.

Now, I "collect" names I like and have lists of them in notebooks and mix and match them up. Naming characters is important to me. And fun. I love to play with language, and names are one way to do that.

Of course, all my female characters have middle names and nicknames, because that's just the way it's done here in Texas and the South.

Real settings or fictional towns?

A little of both. My "Nameless, Texas" location is a fictional town outside of Austin, and is a composite of four small towns I've lived in.  I've visited hundreds of other small towns, too, and take photos, write down descriptions and impressions, etc. and use those. I'm a keen observer of people and always find something to use in a story.
My first novel, Lone Star Death, had some added real places and people that were in Austin at the time.

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

Oh, Jeremy Clifford! He's a theatrical fellow, into drama, very flamboyant and colorful, and is a bright spot in everyone's day. I'd LOVE to have a friend like Jeremy. He loves vintage fashion, dressing like TV characters, loves to burst out with a song and is just a hoot. I'm not sure where he came from, to tell the truth. He's been lurking around for a while.

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

Not sure it's a quirk, but I have a strange sense of humor that can be wicked and a very vivid imagination. I still paint now and then, and some very bizarre creatures appear on my canvases. Day-glo robots, all sorts of winged creatures and monsters cavorting with blue cats and strange little girl creatures with big off-centered eyes. I write captions for them, make up stories, etc.

Oh, and I do voices for animals, cars, etc. And sound effects. I love doing sound effects.

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

I don't think it was written originally as a book, but I love The Nightmare BeforeChristmas.  And I recently fell in love with The Stupidest Angel. It's a hilarious satire. I love crazy satire.

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

I wish I had started seriously writing fiction earlier than I did. I wish I had majored in creative writing or playwriting in college instead of studio art/graphics. I wish somebody other than my high school English teacher had told me early on, "YES, you can write fiction." It took me years to convince myself I could do it.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I have two. First, people who hurt animals. I have a long list of delicious punishments that should be inflicted on them.

And secondly, people who have no respect for other people's rights. People who drive down residential streets going 90 mph where children play and people walk. And bozos who drive down those streets with their car stereos blasting every hour of the day or night. I honestly don't know where their sense of entitlement comes from. I'm working on several extreme revenge stories to deal with them, though.

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

My husband Rudy. At least one cat.  My Kindle with Wi-fi? LOL

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

There is a tie between my first two jobs out of high school. I worked at a rubber factory for two days before I got sick from the fumes. I was the person who checked to make sure little rubber balls were round enough. The second worst was at the DFW Airport as a cleaning lady. Travelers can be nasty.  (Although, I did get a couple of stories out of it—one was about a flasher.)

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

The Bottoms, by Joe Lansdale.  It has everything I admire in fiction. And then some.

Ocean or mountains?

Ocean. I'm a Pisces and dream about large bodies of water I've never seen, although I still can't swim. Some research I've done suggests that one of my ancestors might have been an Irish or English sea captain, so maybe that explains it. I'm a flatlander at heart.

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

Country girl, definitely, although I love to run away to the city for very short periods of time for a culture fix--to visit bookstores, see plays/musicals, eat at a great restaurant and hear live music.

What’s on the horizon for you?

Right now I'm working on putting a collection of my stranger macabre short stories into a book that hopefully will come out by Halloween.  And I'm working on the final edits and the cover for a Christmas comedy/satire novella that started out as one of my prize-winning plays.  

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

Somebody recently mentioned on the wonderful Dorothy-L group that they wanted to read books by authors who are "bona fide" — authors who know what they're talking about. I have finally embraced the whole "small town" thing and that's been very freeing. Yes, I lived in Austin, but that's not where I’m most comfortable. In my stories I try to capture some of the sheer bizarre nature of small town life and the funny people who live there.  As they say, some of this stuff I couldn't make up if I tried!

I have lots of stories I want to tell and they don't all fit easily into some box. I want to write mystery, AND comedy, AND horror, etc. Why not? I've followed a lot of muses over the years to get where I am now. And for the first time ever, I feel comfortable with it. I'm a storyteller at heart. That's one thing that has never changed.

Dye, Dyeing, Dead, the first contemporary cozy novella in the "Nameless, Texas" mystery series featuring Kendra Louise Harper, Folklorist.

Kendra Louise Harper is a folklorist, avid gardener and accidental sleuth in Nameless, Texas, a small agricultural town (population 2,354) located about 30-miles east of Austin.

All Kendra wanted to do that day in September was help her Aunt Jewel with a Natural Dyeing with Plants workshop for the local garden club. Before the workshop is over, a dead body lay face down in a pool of glass and indigo in Kendra's courtyard garden. The neighbor swears that he saw Aunt Jewel whack the victim over the head with a silver hammer.

No one else really believes Aunt Jewel killed Mrs. Bunch--that is, except maybe the sheriff.  But he has no proof; he's not going to waste his time trying to prove her innocent. He'd rather bide his time and wait for the murderer to slip up and come to him.

Kendra decides that if anything is going to be done to get her aunt off the hook, she'll have to do it. Along with Kendra's friends---a very colorful waiter at Do-Lolly's Diner named Jeremy, Deputy Jim Wyman (Kendra's love interest), Ginger Marshall (a local art quilter) and her friends---she sets out to prove that her aunt is innocent.

The victim, Mrs. Eula Mae Bunch, was not a popular person in Nameless. As one resident said, "That old woman is meaner than a room full of peckish wolverines."

And there are other mysteries in town. Who is the inebriated stranger that shows up to Eula-Mae's funeral? And what does an erotic romance novel have to do with all of it? Tongues are waggin' in Nameless! Things haven't been this exciting since George Leroy Johnson got the back of his britches caught in the revolving door at the old Railroad Hotel and was pitched out the middle of Main Street with his wherewithalls showing.