Author Spotlight: Jenny Kales

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It is my pleasure to welcome Jenny Kales to Reade and Write today. Jenny is here to talk about On the Chopping Block, her new cozy mystery.

Tell me about your new book.

On the Chopping Block is the debut novel in my new “Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series.” It follows the adventures of Greek-American food business owner and single mom, Calliope (Callie) Costas, as she tries to figure out who killed her new boyfriend – before she’s the next victim! She does this while dealing with her colorful family and running her now-faltering business. Of course, since this is a culinary cozy mystery, there are some great recipes at the end of the book.

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone who enjoys a twisty plot, fun, relateable characters and a mystery to solve will enjoy this book. If you are partial to culinary mysteries, even better!

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I chose to set my book in fictional Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, which is a picturesque waterfront town that is a destination for tourists, but with a very strong “small town” feeling where everyone knows each other. I based this setting on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, a place my family and I enjoy visiting. I’ve gone there since I was a child (I live nearby, in Illinois.) With its natural beauty and plentiful small businesses and restaurants, I found it to be an inspiring location for a cozy mystery. I visit often, so I get a lot of research just observing places and talking to people. I collect local magazines and news when I visit. I also researched the local law enforcement procedures.

Vintage silverware on rustick wooden background

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

The novel was thoroughly enjoyable to write, but writing a mystery was a big learning experience. You have to approach it knowing who did it and why before you start. There was a lot of advance planning and revision once I got going.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

This is hard! OK, let’s see. Callie Costas I see as a cross between Jenni Poulous (of the Bravo TV show “Flipping Out”) and Jenna Fischer (“Pam” on “The Office”).  I see Betty White as Grandma Viv and Detective Sands could maybe be played by Colin Firth, because, well, Colin.

Have you written any other books?

Yes! My next book in the Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series is called Spiced and Iced and it will be out in early November – the book is set in the Christmas holiday season so that will be fun. I’ve also written a non-fiction book about how to take care of kids with nut allergies (my daughter suffers from those).

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a few writer friends who I work with – they share feedback on my work and I share feedback on theirs.

Do you write every day?

Yes – in some way, shape or form. When I’m finishing a novel I work on it every day. Other times it’s a blog post, marketing, some other type of writing, like outlining chapters for a new book.

What authors do you like best? What genres do you like best?

I love to read everything. Besides cozy mysteries (and there are so many of those authors I enjoy – almost too many to mention. Linda Reilly, Susan Furlong, Lorraine Bartlett, to name a few), I enjoy suspense – Ruth Rendell is one of the greats – sad to lose her. I like Sophie Hannah – she writes great contemporary suspense. I love the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. I also love detective novels – Ann Cleves and Peter Robinson are two of my favorite authors in that genre. I also enjoy women’s fiction like JoJo Moyes, and one of my favorite women’s fiction writers just happens to be my writer friend Loretta Nyhan – she just had a new book come out on September 20th.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Three places I’d like to visit someday: Scotland, England and Greece.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Spend time studying your craft and most of all, don’t give up.

What is your favorite movie and why?

“The Sound of Music” – I used to watch it with my grandmother when I was a kid. It’s very positive and uplifting and I love Julie Andrews.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t worry so much.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative, funny and tall (I’m 6 feet).

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

No, these were great questions. Thank you for hosting me!!

Where can readers connect with you?

Lots of places! I love to connect with readers. You can find me on my  Facebook author page, Goodreads, my website, Twitter , Instagram and Pinterest. You can also keep in touch via my free newsletter.

Where can readers find your books?

Currently my books are available in e-book format on Amazon.com. More formats may become available in the future – I’m working on it!

I loved having you on Reade and Write, Jenny! I hope you’ll come back and let us know when your new book comes out!

Until next week,

Amy

 

How to Write a Review

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Someone suggested to me recently that I should write a blog post about book reviews. It’s a great idea and I’m glad the person suggested it, because I’m always gently nudging (read: badgering, pestering) people to leave online reviews of my books and any other books they read.

Here’s why: especially on Amazon, the algorithm used to determine which books to promote is heavily based on the number of reviews a book has. In other words, the more reviews a book has, the more likely readers are to see it promoted by Amazon say, under “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” or “Products Related To This Item…”

The reviews don’t have to be good, they just have to be there. Quantity over quality, if you will.

Quantity over quality is not generally a good thing, but it is a good thing for people who are hesitant to leave reviews online. So here are a few points to consider when you hear an author ask for a review:

First, reviews that you post online don’t have to read like the New York Times Book Review. There are very few rules about posting reviews. One of the only hard-and-fast rules is that you have to say something (you can give a book a rating–for example, four stars– but that’s not the same as a review if you don’t leave any commentary).

Second, the point of a review is to let other readers know what you thought about the book and possibly a quick explanation of why you felt that way. Did you read a book and love it? Tell people. If you’re shy, just write what you loved most about it. For example, it’s perfectly fine to write “I loved this book because the characters were funny.” Heck, you can even say “I loved this book” and leave it at that!

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay/condesign

Third, if you want to share a little more or go into a little more depth, tell people what appealed to you about the book and what didn’t. For example, you can say, “The story moved at a quick pace and the characters were put into funny situations. The romance scenes may have been a bit stilted, but I’m happy the way the romance turned out.”

Fourth, it’s even okay to say “This book wasn’t what I hoped it would be,” or “This book wasn’t my cup of tea,” or something along those lines. But here I’ll make one request: if you’re going to say you hated a book with a passion, please please do so diplomatically. Reviews have the power to ruin an author’s day (or week), so think about being kind while you lower the boom. Perhaps you can write why you didn’t like the book, because negative reviews can be just as enlightening for other readers as positive reviews.

Here’s an example: “I really didn’t care for this book because I didn’t realize it would have paranormal elements and I don’t read paranormal.” This review could be helpful to other readers who don’t like paranormal books, but it can also be helpful for those who do.

Fifth, and here’s where I’ll make another request. You know how you hate it when someone spoils the end of a movie you’re dying to see? The same thing happens when someone posts a book review with spoilers. Don’t ruin the ending for others. If you feel compelled to put something in a review that reveals some big secret in the book (like who the killer was, or who the girl ends up with, or whether the dog survives), please make sure you mark it in the beginning as containing spoilers. That way people who don’t want to know the ending aren’t disappointed before they pick up the book. Or worse yet, decline to buy the book because they already know the ending.

So now that you’ve decided to write a review, where do you go to share it with the world?

After you’ve told all your friends how great the book is, there are lots of places where you can share your opinion. The most common are Amazon and Goodreads. You can also go to Barnes & Noble (bn.com), Kobo, iTunes, or pretty much anywhere you can buy books online. But that’s not all! You can put your review on Facebook, on Twitter (you may have to get creative with language, since you can only use 140 characters), Tumblr, or any of a host of other social media sites. And then there are blogs! If you have a blog, share your review!

Thanks for reading. Reviews are like gold to authors, as I’ve said many times before, so please consider writing a review the next time you get to “The End.”

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Michitogo

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. If you have any questions about anything in this post, please leave it in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.

Reader Spotlight: Fiona McVie

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In the second installment of my Reader Spotlight series, I’d like to introduce everyone to Fiona McVie, probably the most prolific author interviewer I’ve ever known! Fiona lives in Scotland and has an impressive portfolio of interviews on her website and Facebook page. Welcome, Fiona!

How often do you read?

I read every day, I always take a book when travelling on the bus to work or train to the city.

 

What is the name of the last book you finished?

Gabriel by M.A Abraham

 

What are you reading now?

Marious’ Story by M.A Abraham and Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts.

 

What is your preferred genre?

I read all genre as long as the book is well written I will read it.

 

Are you in a book club?

No.

 

Where do you obtain most of the books you read- from a bookstore, online, the library, borrowed from a friend, etc.?

I buy my books from book shops, supermarkets and Amazon.

 

How do you decide which books to read?
Cover most times.

 

What is in your To-Be-Read pile?
Too many to count I have over 200 on my wish list at Amazon and slowly buying a few each month.

 

Do you pay attention to especially bad reviews of books when deciding whether to buy or read them?

No everyone has a different thought about a book. One person might hate it while another will love the book. I make up my own mind.

 

Lots of people don’t have a favorite book for a variety of reasons. Do you have a favorite? What is it?

I don’t have any favorite book. I like so far all the books I have brought over the years.

 

Where is your favorite reading spot?
Nope I read anywhere: bus, train, bed, on a hill.

 

Anything else you want me to know?

I love reading so much I started a blog where I interview authors. You can check it out here: www.authorsinterviews.wordpress.com. I also write poems. Here are 2 of my poems:
Hero

You are my hero, Dad
You’re my secure foundation.
When I think of you, I’m filled with love
And fond appreciation.
You make me feel protected;
I’m sheltered by your care.
You’re always my true friend; and Dad,
When I need you, you’re always there.
You have a place of honor
Deep within my heart.
You’ve been my superhero, Dad,
Right from the very start.

2ed of June 1940 to 31st of December 1991 RIP

 
My little angel above
My little angel above
My heart sinks when I think
That God took you away from me
At 12 hours old

He must have something special for you
As it is just the good he takes
And I know your dad
Will look after you up there

I know you are looking down on me
On your angel cloud
But it does not stop me
Being heartbroken

John-Andrew 24/12/1980 – 25/121980

 

Those are beautiful. Thanks for being on Reade and Write, Fiona.

Until next week,

Amy

Author Spotlight: James Callan

This week on Reade and Write I welcome James Callan, author of the Crystal Moore Suspense series as well as numerous other books, both fiction and non-fiction.

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Tell me about your new book.

A Silver Medallion  highlights the problem of slaves in the U.S. today. These people are held, not by chains, but by threats to family members left behind in a foreign country.  My protagonist, Crystal Moore, discovers a woman forced to work for no money. Should she leave or even tell anyone of her situation, her two small girls held in Mexico will be killed.

Crystal would like to forget she ever learned this. But her conscience won’t let her. She finds she cannot sleep without hearing the children crying for their mother. But since the mother won’t admit her predicament, and the man holding her is well-connected in Dallas, Crystal realizes the only way to free the mother is to go to Mexico and rescue the two young girls first. If they are free, then the mother will be willing to escape.

Crystal is not an adventure seeker. But she is determined to help this woman and her two girls. Crystal goes to Puerto Vallarta where she is put in touch with Juan Grande, a mysterious man who agrees to help.  If they succeed, both mother and children will be free. But Crystal will have two powerful and ruthless men, one in Texas and one in Mexico, who want her dead.

This is a contemporary fiction book.

Cover - A Silver Medallion

Who is the audience for A Silver Medallion?

Anyone who likes a good suspense book. Of course, I think everybody should be aware of the problem of modern day slaves. If enough people realize this is happening, they might help eradicate this practice.

Tell me about the setting of your book–how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

A Silver Medallion is set in Dallas and a small east Texas town, and in Mexico.  I wanted the slave to be in a major Texas town with thousands of people around, but no one notices.   Crystal’s grandmother, an important part of the plot, lives in a forest of east Texas. This is the second Crystal Moore Suspense and book one had established east Texas as the home of Crystal’s grandmother. The two young hostages are held in the jungles of Mexico, near San Sebastian.  This is a mountain town not far from Puerto Vallarta. Since I spend a good bit of time in Puerto Vallarta, this is an area I know well. I was raised in Dallas, and I currently live in the middle of a forest in east Texas.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Facing the fact that this type of slavery is widespread in the U.S. today. When I first read a small piece in the L.A. Times about this, I didn’t really believe it. But as I did a little research, I discovered this crisis of virtual slaves is a very large problem here, today.  An editor suggested I write a non-fiction book on the subject.  I decided that would be too difficult emotionally for me to come that close to the problem. A fiction book would allow me to highlight the problem, without actually meeting those enslaved.  Even with the fiction approach, I still found it pretty emotional.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

That’s a tough one. But there are some choices. For Crystal, Jennifer Connelly. For Brandi, Leighton Meester. For Eula, Meryl Streep. And for Mark, Clive Owen.

Have you written other books?

A Silver Medallion, A Crystal Moore Suspense, is my eleventh published book.  The first Crystal Moore Suspense was A Ton of Gold.  I also have a cozy mystery series.  I have written two books on the craft of writing, requested by a publisher who liked my characters and my dialog. Plus another five books.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have been in several critique groups.  Currently, I am in one.  Partnership?  I wrote one adult mystery with my youngest daughter, a multi-published writer of middle grade books.

Do you write every day?

Yes.  I write something every day.  Frequently that is a blog or some marketing piece.

When you read a book, what authors do you like best? What genres do you like best?

I always enjoy David Baldacci. Caleb Pirtle is another favorite. I like mystery and suspense, but my wife insists I read an occasional romance because it will help me with the female characters I write. I like Nora Roberts.

Where would you like to go more than any place else on earth?

I’d like to float down the Amazon.  And I haven’t been to Russia yet, but now doesn’t seem to be the best time to go there.  We’ve visited six of the seven continents.  So, it would be nice to visit Antarctica, but I wouldn’t want to stay very long.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write, and write some more.  Let someone else read your work out loud while you listen.  Join a critique group which has some serious writers in it and who are not shy about pointing out weaknesses.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Cyrano de Bergerac with Jose Ferrer.  This is an old movie. Ferrer won an Academy Award for his title role. Why? Perhaps because Cyrano was such an exaggerated character. Or maybe because he said, “When I write a line that sings in my heart, I pay myself a hundred times.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Remember your successes; forget your failures; learn from both.

Describe yourself in three words.

Energetic, didactic, unfocused.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

What do I need as a writer?  Answer:  More readers.

Where can readers connect with you?

I have a website at: www.jamesrcallan.com  and a blog at: http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog/.  My e-mail address is jim@jamesrcallan.com.  My Facebook Page is at:  https://www.facebook.com/james.callan.33865

Where can readers find your book?

The best place is Amazon.  All my books are in print and digital.  The Father Frank Mysteries are also published as audio books.  My Author Page is at:  http://amzn.to/1eeykvG

Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to your site. It has been a pleasure working with you.

It was a pleasure having you on Reade and Write, James. I hope you’ll come back!

Until next time,

Amy

 

Mea Culpa

I must apologize for the absence of a post earlier today.

Here’s my excuse: I usually write my blogs on Monday, then schedule them to go live on Tuesday morning. As my eldest leaves for college this Saturday, our house is in upheaval this week, with packing, shopping, last-minute visits to see people she won’t see again for months, etc.

A couple weeks ago a friend suggested I write a post about what it means to write gothic mysteries. I thought it was a great idea, so I scheduled the post for today, thus forcing myself to make time to write it on a day I knew I would be very busy.

And I had every intention of writing the post last night.

But then my dog got sprayed by a skunk in the backyard and with the bathing, the tomato juice rinse, and the cleaning up and attempting to deodorize the house (didn’t work), my blog not only slipped completely to the back of my mind, but somehow fell off the face of the earth completely.

So please forgive me. I will write that post about gothic mysteries, but it won’t be for a few weeks.

Have a great day.

Until next time,

Amy