First Book Signing!

This past Saturday I had my very first book signing for Secrets of Hallstead House. I was at Corbin’s River Heritage in Clayton, New York, as a guest of Alan “Hutch” and Marilyn Hutchinson, owners of Corbin’s. I never guessed that a book signing could be such a thoroughly enjoyable and fun experience. I will admit that I was a little nervous at first, but Marilyn and Hutch were friendly and gracious and put me at ease immediately.
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For those of you who have never been lucky enough to visit Clayton, it’s a small town right on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The public dock area has a well-kept, beautiful park with Adirondack chairs and comfy benches. I could have sat there all day watching the boats go by. The main streets down by the water are filled with boutiques and cozy restaurants nestled side-by-side with old-fashioned hardware stores, Save the River! offices, and one of my favorite cheese shops (River Rat), just to name a few. I even found a place I hadn’t visited before- an oil and vinegar store that invites shoppers to sample each and every one of their delicious offerings. The 1000 Islands Cruet is my new go-to spot for special oils and vinegars. This time I only bought one bottle (Black Mission Fig Balsamic Vinegar), but you can be quite sure that on my next visit I will pick up a Vermont Maple Balsamic Vinegar as well as at least one bottle of oil- probably the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil. If you get to Clayton, I highly recommend the Cruet.

Happily, Corbin’s is situated next to the best sub shop in Northern New York or anywhere else on earth- Jreck’s. Not to put too much pressure on Jreck’s, but I did read recently that one of my old friends traveled 1700 miles to get one of their subs. Okay, it was in conjunction with a visit to his family, but the fact that he wrote about how good the sub was tells you something, doesn’t it?

Corbin’s itself is a gem of a bookstore. The walls were covered with black and white photos and drawings of the river and its environs. My favorite was an old photo of a horse race that took place on the frozen river years ago. And as for the books, as I told Marilyn, I wish I could have bought at least one of every book in the place. If there is a book in print about the Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence River, or surrounding region, Marilyn and Hutch either have it or can get it. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction, a book for children or adults, a cookbook, or a book of photography, they’ve heard of it and can talk about it with authority. I saw them discussing books with countless patrons who came in looking for specific items or just general ideas of what they wanted to read. Marilyn and Hutch were able to tailor their suggestions to each and every person who asked for assistance.

The best part of my book signing was the opportunity it gave me to meet lots of wonderful people. I met locals and tourists alike of all ages, and enjoyed talking to each one of them. Several members of my family (close and extended) stopped by, so that was an extra-special treat. I loved the stories that people shared with me about the recipients of the books I signed and about the writings some of them have produced.

So to Hutch and Marilyn and all the people who were kind enough to visit Corbin’s on Saturday and share a few moments with me, thank you. You made my first book signing a wonderful experience that left me with many happy memories.

Until next time,

Amy

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Ode to the Cookbook

Before I begin, I’d like to thank everyone who has purchased my book, either in paperback or ebook form. It’s getting some really nice reviews online, and I appreciate each and every one of you. And if you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, please consider putting up a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are greatly appreciated by all authors!

This week I am blogging about a subject near and dear to my heart: cooking. Specifically, cookbooks and how much I love them.

There are certain people in my family (they know who they are) who read cookbooks like novels, and I am proud to count myself among them. (Incidentally, my family is also made up of fabulous cooks, and I get my love of cooking from them. Note that I didn’t say I am a fabulous cook myself, but I do love the process). I like to curl up with a good cookbook just like many other people do with thrillers and romances. I love those books, too, but there’s just something about cookbooks that is different from any other type of reading.

Whenever I eat a meal at home by myself, there is always a cookbook or a cooking magazine next to me. When I need to take a break from writing or editing or research, I reach for a cookbook. Sometimes I’ll read a cookbook before I go to sleep at night.

Just today, my husband was trying to have a conversation with me while I perused the pages of a cookbook devoted entirely to macadamia nuts. I have casserole cookbooks, dessert cookbooks, an ahi tuna cookbook, a Halloween cookbook, a million Christmas cookbooks, and even a butter cookbook. I also have countless regular cookbooks- you know, the ones with thousands of recipes of every variety. Think Better Homes and Gardens with the red-and-white checkered binder. One of the things I love to do is to find new recipes for my weekly menu. If nothing in my millions of recipes sounds good at the moment I make my grocery list, I go with one of the tried-and-true favorites, like tacos or Greek chicken salad, but I do like to try something new as often as I can.

Cooking is how I relax. It’s how I show people I love them. I love to cook for friends and family; I cook as often as I can for people who have been sick and for mission groups that come to my church.

My favorite thing to cook, unfortunately, is dessert. I love making anything sweet. Luckily for me, my husband does not love dessert, so I don’t make it all the time. If I did, we’d all be fifty pounds heavier. The kids love it when I make dessert, though, so I do try to have it once in a while.

If any of you have visited my website, you’ll see that I have a section devoted to wines that I enjoy. The truth is that I also wanted to include a section devoted to the meals that my characters eat. My first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, has lots of meals in it. My hope was to include recipes for all the dishes I named in the book, but in the end I decided that I didn’t have the time to make up and test the recipes for those meals. My second book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, has food in it, too, but not as much as in the first book. And I can’t wait to start writing my third book. I don’t have a name for it yet, but the main character is a personal chef in Hawaii. That’s right- a book that combines two of my great loves- Hawaii and food!

One of my favorite cookbooks (don’t laugh) is Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs. It’s full of recipes from the various Disney properties. It’s got everything in it from Coconut Curried Chicken Stew from Boma-Flavors of Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to Fantasia Cheesecake from Plaza Inn on Main Street, USA, to Grapefruit Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting from the Hollywood Brown Derby. But my hands-down favorite is Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup from Le Cellier Steakhouse at EPCOT. My son, whose normal response to my home-cooked meals is “I hate chicken” or “can I just have cereal?” begs for this cheese soup all year long. Fortunately for our waistlines, I only make it in the fall.

There’s a movie out right now called “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” I can’t wait to see it. I don’t go to the movies often, but this is one I want to see in the theater rather than waiting for its release on DVD. It’s about a family from India that wants to open a restaurant in a small town in France. It’s actually based on a book of the same name by Richard Morais, and I may just have to read the book first.

So what’s on the menu at your house this week? Got any good recipes that you’d like to share?

Until next week,

Amy

Forgotten Favorites

In keeping with my months-old New Year’s resolution, I went up into the attic last week intending to clean. Alas, it was too hot up there and I ended up going back downstairs, filthy and frustrated. But while I was up there I took a peek into a couple boxes whose labels had been torn off. I love doing that because I forget what’s in the boxes and it’s like opening a treasure…sometimes.

One of the boxes held Easter-egg-coloring kits at least five years old. Boring. I should have brought them downstairs to throw away, but I didn’t. Next time I go up there to clean (stop snickering) I’ll start with that box.

But the second box was much better. It held books that I loved as a kid and that I’m sure I would get just as much enjoyment from now. My kids love those books, too. Many of you probably have the same or similar books in your attics.

The book on top of the pile in the box was Heidi. It was the hardcover Junior Illustrated Classics edition. Did you ever read the story? It was my favorite as a child. My middle child loves it; I think it’s her favorite book, too. She has a paperback copy, but there’s nothing like that hardbound copy with its gorgeous pictures. Part of Heidi‘s charm was its setting–the Swiss Alps. To this day I think of that story every time I hear the wind whooshing through evergreen trees. And I always felt sorry for the grandfather; his gruffness hid a deep love for Heidi and a profound sorrow over the past. And my love of cheese? I think it just may stem from the lunches that Heidi always shared with Peter up on the mountain.

Another book in the pile was Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. Again, a Junior Illustrated Classic that took place in another country far from where I grew up. Holland was then, and still is, a country that I only visited in my imagination, but the author did a beautiful job of transporting me to a place I’ve always wanted to see for myself. If you’ve never read it, I can highly recommend it.

And then I found The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Another great one, though there were a few scenes in that book that gave me nightmares as a child. Anyone remember Injun Joe? My son likes Tom Sawyer, too.

There were books that I loved that didn’t make it into that box, too. In fact, there were lots of them. The one I remember best was Down Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle. Ever hear of it? It’s the story of a brother and sister, Hetty and Hank, who go from their home at the top of the mountain to the town down below to buy squeaky new shoes. They’re planning to buy their new shoes with the money they make from selling turnips. But as they make their way down down the mountain, they keep giving their turnips away to people in need. You’ll have to read the book if you want to find out whether they get their new shoes…

Think back to your childhood. Are there favorite books you remember? I’d love to hear about them.

Until next time,

Amy