The Last Tuesday Book Round-Up

If you’re anything like me, you can’t believe it’s already the end of October. How did that happen?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this month in a variety of genres, and I’ve enjoyed everything. As I was reminded over the weekend, sometimes getting out of our comfort zone is a good thing because it forces us to read something we might not otherwise have chosen.

If I could remember the order in which I read these books, I would present them that way. Since I don’t remember, I’ll present them in alphabetical order by author name.

The Secrets at Morocco House by Beverley Carter

I’m reading this one right now. I chose it because I was challenged on social media to pick a book on my Kindle written by an author I’ve never read. Do you have books like that on your ereader or in your To-Be-Read pile? If so, I issue that same challenge to you: pick a book you already have by an author you’ve never read. Come back next month and tell us what you read and what you thought of it!

If you don’t have any such books on your ereader or in your TBR pile, no problem. Just head to your closest library and do the same thing.

Devonshire Scream by Laura Childs

This was a cozy-ish mystery set in Charleston, South Carolina. The main character is the owner of a tea shop that I wish existed in real life where I live. A jewel heist, a tragic death, and a frenzied search for the killer(s) made it an exciting read.

Herbs and Herb Lore of Colonial America by the Colonial Dames of America

The title of this book tells you more or less everything you need to know about it. It was short and fascinating and I used it for research for an upcoming book.

The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper by Phyllis Entis

This is the second book in the Damien Dickens Mystery Series, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first book. Damien “Dick” and Millie Dickens, a husband-and-wife team of private investigators, are pulled into a devious plot that reaches across international borders and threatens their lives.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the category of Classics-and-With-Good-Reason, we have this masterpiece by one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. The Jazz-Age story of how the lives of Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, and Tom and Daisy Buchanan intersect reminds readers that you can’t leave the past behind, but you can’t relive it, either.

Teach Yourself Google Analytics by Michael Miller

For reasons that should be obvious, I wouldn’t recommend reading this unless you absolutely have to. That said, if you have to learn Google Analytics, this is a great place to start.

Next up for me is Bear Witness to Murder by Meg Mims. I’ll tell you more about it next month!

What are you reading? I hope you’ll share your current reads with the rest of us.

Until next time,

Amy

 

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday of the month–time again for some good news to take you into November with a smile.

The story I’ve chosen for this month is about the invention of a new technology that uses clean energy to provide drinking water in water-scarce regions of the world.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

These are the cohosts for this month: Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Mary Gieseand Roshan Radhakrishnan.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Author Interview: Jane Kelly

Today I welcome Jane Kelly, author of several books set in and around Philadelphia, PA, and south Jersey. She’s also very active in Mystery Writers of America. I first heard Jane speak on a panel at Malice Domestic, an annual conference for readers and writers of mysteries. She and I have kept in touch since then, and I’m honored that she’s here for an interview today.

Let’s start by talking about your new book. What’s the title and what’s it all about?

My amateur sleuth, Meg Daniels, visits another shore town in Greetings from Ventnor City.  After her successful mission in Missing You in Atlantic City, she finds herself viewed as somewhat of a missing persons specialist—as well as an expert in the 1960s. Reluctantly, she reaches back to 1968, a very different 1960s from the 1964 of the Atlantic City book, to locate a Ventnor college student who has not been seen since a day of protests at the Miss America pageant. She takes along a new, temporary, investigating partner, a rock star who aspires to see how the other 99% lives.

Tell us a little about your other books.

Killing Time in Ocean City, Cape Mayhem and Wrong Beach Island are light mysteries. I always call them polite and warn people, if they like blood and guts, my books are not for them. My amateur sleuth solves crimes in New Jersey beach towns where visitors do not expect trouble. Missing You in Atlantic City is the first book that adds a historical element when Meg takes on a cold case.

(Click on the covers below to be redirected to Amazon if you want to learn more…Amy)

  

 

   

I also have written books featuring different sleuths set in Philadelphia that I published as e-books for Kindle only. The Writing in Time series deals with cold cases set against the backdrop of significant moments in Philadelphia social history e.g. the September Swoon of the 1964 Phillies. I have only written the first of the Widow Lady series that starts out in 1960 in a neighborhood much like the one where I grew up.

Tell me about your inspiration for Meg Daniels, the main character in your New Jersey beach towns series.

I started reading female sleuths in the 1980s: Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller. I especially loved Carole Berry’s books. Her amateur detective was an office temp, whose lack of investigative credentials made me wonder if I could overcome my own lack of technical knowledge and create an amateur detective.

Do you spend time at the Jersey shore? What are some of your favorite places to visit?

When I was a baby, my family always spent the summer in Wildwood Crest, but my mother protested that everyone else got a vacation and she just moved her job. So after the age of three, I never again spent the entire summer at the shore. For several years, my parents would take me to a very elegant guest house in Ventnor where my mother could relax. In the winter, my father, a fair-skinned redhead, would take us to Atlantic City for winter weekends.

As I got older, my Philadelphia classmates often got to bring ‘a friend’ with them on vacation. So I became a ‘friend’ and spent time in many different locales: Ocean City, Cape May, Long Beach Island, Stone Harbor, Strathmere, Sea Isle City. Even different areas within each locale. So, I love revisiting all these locales—at any time of year.

My favorite spot? I love the Oyster Creek Inn in Leed’s Point. No matter how often we go, my friends and I always take pictures. We age, but the scenery stays gorgeous.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I wish I had a typical day. I once set up a daily regimen that started with a brisk walk. On the first day, I took the walk, came home and slept for three hours. I abandoned that routine, but no matter what I have to do on any day, I make sure I write first.

Can you tell us something about Meg Daniels that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

She shares everything with her readers. They have full access to her internal dialog, but there may be some aspects of her past that she hasn’t revealed yet. Not even to me.

What is the hardest thing about writing, in your opinion?

I love writing. I adore editing. But putting the story together in a clear and well-paced order is the  most challenging aspect for me.

Who are your favorite authors to read?

I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly Cold War history and memoir.  Right now I have two fiction projects: 1) to reread classic mysteries, and 2) to read the books of the writers I meet. I am horribly behind on both.

What is your favorite movie and why?

The summer Jurassic Park opened I didn’t see it for weeks because Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing was playing in the same theater and I would walk up to the box office and say “One for Jur . . . Much Ado About Nothing.”

I also love older romantic comedies from the era when I was the same age as the characters. I would love to hang out with the crowd in Notting Hill.

What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self?

“When you are forty, you are going to discover that you like writing novels. You might want to get started now.”

Describe yourself in three words.

I can only say what I aspire to be. Open-minded. Humorous. Kind.

Are you in a writing group or a critique group?

No. I am afraid of them. Always have been. I think I would be too easily discouraged. On the flip side, I don’t feel qualified to give advice. I know what I like but I don’t believe that makes it right.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wanted me to?

Want to meet for lunch sometime?

Definitely! You name the time and place. Thanks so much for being here today, Jane.

Until next time,

Amy

The Williamsburg Book Festival

The Williamsburg Book Festival was held in Williamsburg, VA, on October 6, 2018. This was not only my first visit to the Williamsburg Book Festival, but my first visit to Williamsburg period. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to go back.

I thought I’d use today’s post to share some photos with you. I shared some of these on social media so you may have seen a few of them, but others I haven’t posted anywhere yet.

Garden cottage

The garden cottage was tiny, with moss growing on the roof (you can see that detail in the photo). Inside were heads of garlic hanging from the rafters to dry. Outside the cottage was a large trestle table with different heirloom vegetables:

tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers

Nearby there was a Linus-worthy pumpkin patch.

Because we got there Friday afternoon, left Sunday morning, and wouldn’t have much time to explore Colonial Williamsburg on Saturday because of the book festival, we didn’t buy an admission ticket. A ticket would have allowed us to tour inside the colonial buildings and see tradespeople demonstrating their talents, but maybe we can do that on another trip.

We also got to see a reenactment of a cannon firing, which was interesting and noisy. I especially loved the fife and drum corps, which entertained the small crowd with songs that would have been played in Colonial Williamsburg to mark the end of each day. I’ve tried to upload videos of both the cannon and the fifes and drums, but I wasn’t able to get them into this post.

I was lucky enough to go with my son and a friend of ours, so here’s the obligatory selfie with the three of us:

And here’s the photo of my two companions after they got in big trouble:

We went on a ghost tour after the festival, but I couldn’t take photos because it didn’t start until after dark (after all, what fun is a ghost tour that takes place during the day??)

The Book Festival was fun. I saw old friends and met new ones, which is always a treat. Here are some photos from the festival:

From left, author Kris Kisska Mehigan, author Heather Baker Weidner, and me

 

with author TJ O’Connor

 

from left, Heather Baker Weidner, TJ O’Connor, author Teresa Inge, and me

And finally, a photo of me at my table, ready to sell some books…

Thanks to everyone who came out to support the Williamsburg Book Festival! I had a great time, and I hope you did, too.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

Author Interview: Jenny Kales

Today we’re celebrating the release of A Stew to a Kill, Book 4 in the Callie’s Kitchen Mystery series by Jenny Kales.

Welcome, Jenny! Congratulations and happy book birthday!

Jenny has a busy day planned with book launch festivities, but she’s here for an interview about her characters and her books.

The main character in the series, Callie Costas, is the owner of Callie’s Kitchen; each book in the series finds Callie dealing with various seedy elements of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin. In A Stew to a Kill, a new employee in a neighboring shop, Tea for Two, is found murdered and Callie finds herself being drawn into the murder investigation. And when an old boyfriend shows up in town with his sights set on developing a mall that will hurt the small business vibe in Crystal Bay, Callie begins to wonder if his sudden appearance has anything to do with the murder.

I love Jenny’s books and I’m eager to read A Stew to a Kill.

So Jenny, tell us how you came to choose the setting of Crystal Bay, WI, for your series.

Two reasons that I created this fictional town: I love Wisconsin and I wasn’t coming across cozy mysteries set there. That got me thinking. The next time I visited the Geneva Lakes region of Wisconsin, a beautiful area filled with lakes, small scenic, towns, colorful local history and a bustling small community combined with tourists, I looked around and thought: this is it! Also, there is a presence of Greek people in the community, though it is small.

Specifically, I based Crystal Bay on the Lake Geneva and Williams Bay area of Wisconsin. Because I wanted to take liberties with the location, I decided to combine the two into one town: Crystal Bay. I visit the area often and have come up with my mystery ideas each time. It’s fun!

Are the recipes in your books ones that come from your own collection? Are there recipes you’ve wanted to include in the books, but didn’t?

Recipes come from my own collection, including family recipes from my husband’s side of the family. Now, sometimes Greek recipes are hard to track down because nobody writes them down and would look at you oddly if you asked for that. They seem to be absorbed through the DNA! I’ve been lucky in two ways regarding Greek family recipes. My husband’s grandmother (YiaYia) was involved in a 1950 Greek Orthodox Church cookbook produced in 1950. Several copies survived and were gifted to new members of the family. This book is amazing! True, I have tweaked many recipes for fat content here and there, but these are true-blue recipes and they are fabulous. Several years ago, my sister-in-law commissioned a family cookbook and captured many elusive recipes that we now all have.

There are always recipes I’m not able to include, but I try to find some way to share them. For example, I did not include Callie’s “Speedy Pastitsio” recipe in my latest book even though it is mentioned, because I just had too many other recipes to include. However, I plan to include the recipe in a newsletter soon, so make sure that you’re signed up! Speedy Pastitsio is my own creation and my whole family loves it.

Your knowledge of Greek food and culture is obvious, but in a beautifully subtle way. Have you been to Greece?

I have not been to Greece. My husband has been there several times and was briefly a student there. He also worked on an island for a while, many years ago. I get a lot of my knowledge from him! However, I’m hoping we can go at some point because I plan to set my next Callie novel in Greece!

Can you share something about your main character, Callie, that most readers don’t know?

She’s afraid of the dark! Not so convenient for her, considering she keeps finding herself in dangerous situations that often involve it.

Who are some of your favorite cozy authors?

So many! To name a few: Dianne Mott Davidson, Leslie Meier, Lorna Barrett and two I am lucky enough to call friends: Linda Reilly and new author Debra Sennefelder. This isn’t everyone, of course, so I guess you could say I love cozy mysteries, period.

When you’re writing a novel, do you read within your genre, or do you, like many authors, read only books outside your genre when you’re deep into the writing process?

I try to avoid cozy mysteries when I’m deep into writing a novel. One, because I don’t want to unconsciously copy anyone and two, because I don’t want to feel inferior to the author I’m reading, lol. You never want to let the self-doubt creep in while you’re writing. I like to read historical fiction, contemporary fiction, “detective” fiction like the Shetland novels and suspense when I’m writing.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to spend time outdoors, travel with my husband and family, hang out with my kids, bake and cook, of course, and browse vintage stores. I love vintage clothing, cookbooks, jewelry and I collect classic Nancy Drew novels. I also love to read, (no surprise) and I love mystery TV like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She is my idol.

Where do you do your best writing?

Not at home! I have two favorite libraries where I have written most of my books. The key is to find a library with a “quiet room,” and then I go to town.

Do you have a favorite character in your Callie’s Kitchen series? Who is it and why?

That’s a tough one, but I’d have to say George, Callie’s father. I can picture him so clearly in my mind’s eye and his dialogue just flows out of me. Also, he’s funny, sometimes unintentionally, protective to a fault, but loving as can be.

What’s next for Callie?

She is about to set off on a big adventure! I can’t give too many spoilers but as I said above, I’m about 90% sure I will have her visiting Greece and, of course, encountering a mystery there.

Thank you, Amy, for having me on your blog today. It was a lot of fun!

It was my pleasure. Congratulations and best wishes for lots of success with the new book! Readers, you can find A Stew to a Kill by clicking here or by clicking on the picture at the top of the post.

Jenny has a seasonal newsletter: sign up here!

To learn more about Jenny, visit her online!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Instagram

Pinterest

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

First Tuesday Recipes for October

October is my favorite month.

There. I’ve said it. Where I live, most people love summer, but I can’t wait for it to end.

I love fall and everything about it: the cooler weather (but not too cold), the dip in humidity (hear the angels singing?), and the food! It doesn’t get much better than in-season fall ingredients. I’ve got a great fall recipe in today’s selections, plus a couple other creations that are just plain delicious.

First up, the fall recipe. My father gave me this recipe and I keep it in the “Casseroles” section of one of my cookbooks. I use it as a dessert, but it would make a great side dish to turkey or pork.

* * *

Apple-Cranberry Casserole

3 c. peeled, chopped apples, any variety

2 c. fresh whole cranberries

1 1/4 c. sugar

Topping:

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. rolled oats

1/3 c. flour

1/4 t. salt

1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish, mix apples, cranberries, and sugar. Mix all topping ingredients, except nuts, until crumbly. Spread over apple mixture.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Add chopped nuts to the top and bake 15 minutes longer.

* * *

The next recipe was given to me by my mother-in-law before my wedding. My husband’s family is Swedish, and this is delicious.

Swedish Meatballs

1 c. breadcrumbs

3/4 c. milk

3 T. diced onion

2 T. butter

1/4 t. nutmeg

1 1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. pepper

1 lb. ground beef

1 egg, slightly beaten

10 1/2 oz. (1 can) beef consumme

1 1/2 T. cornstarch

1 1/2 T. cold water

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Soften the breadcrumbs in the milk. Saute onions in the butter until light brown. Add this to the breadcrumbs. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, ground beef, and egg. Mix lightly with your hands. Form mixture into balls about 1 inch in size.

Place meatballs on greased cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until browned. Do not turn them over.

Blend consumme, cornstarch, and water until smooth and thickened. Pour over the meatballs.

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And the last recipe comes from a good friend, Sue Murphy. She tells me the original recipe is from Willow Bird Baking–you can find the recipe here. This is my eldest daughter’s favorite!!

Ice Box Cookie Trifle

3 c. heavy cream

1/4 c. almond liqueur (optional–I used 1/2 t. almond extract instead)

3 T. sugar

2 t. vanilla extract

2-3 packages chocolate sandwich cookies (Oreos work well, as do Famous Chocolate Wafers. If you use Famous, use three packages)

Using a mixer, beat heavy cream, almond liqueur, sugar, and vanilla in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. In a trifle dish, arrange a single layer of cookies in a circle and put one or two cookies in the middle. Carefully spread about 1/2 c. whipped cream mixture over the cookies. Repeat layers of cookies and whipped cream, ending with a layer of whipped cream on the top. Crumble a few leftover cookies on the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

* * *

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy