We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

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

The story I’ve chosen for this month is about female inmates inside Oregon’s Coffee Creek Correctional Facility and the conservation program they host to care for the endangered Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly. As you’ll read in the story, they care for the larvae and release the butterflies into the wild: good for the butterflies, good for the women. It’s a win-win!

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 worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Susan Scott, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Mary J. Giese, and Damyanti Biswas. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

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

Reading Round-Up: August Edition

I have some fabulous books to share with you this month! I wanted to have more than four, but that’s the way it worked out. My August reads ran the gamut from funny to suspenseful to historical to classic.

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The first book I finished this month was Jeeves and the King of Clubs. If you’ve read any of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books, I recommend you read this one, too. It’s a great addition to the collection. Here’s my review:

“This book, written in homage to the great P.G. Wodehouse, is a laugh-out-loud caper complete with espionage, aristocratic dalliances, clever disguises, jealous lovers, and a hard-headed aunt hell-bent on upsetting the balance of power among British condiment producers. Ben Schott did an exceptional job with his back-and-forth banter between Bertie and Jeeves. I loved every minute of this book.”

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The second book I read was I Am Mrs. Jesse James by Pat Wahler. This is an extraordinary work of historical fiction about the wife of the infamous outlaw. The amount of research that must have gone into writing the story is astonishing. Here’s my review:

“I had a hard time putting this book down for things like meals and sleeping. It is one of the best books of historical fiction that I’ve read. It tells the story of Zee James, as much as possible from the scant materials written about the wife of the infamous outlaw Jesse James. Where the historical record was too thin, the author supplemented realistic and highly likely scenarios based on her extensive research and knowledge of the time period and the real-life characters. Even though I knew how the story would end, this book kept me turning pages late into the night.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a great book of historical fiction as well as anyone interested in American society following the Civil War.

Read this book. You’ll be glad you did.”

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Many people have read Wuthering Heights, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking it’s one of the best books of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, some of the other best books of that century were written by the sisters of Emily Bronte. Here’s my review:

“*sigh* There are not many books that I will re-read, simply because there are too many great books out there, but this is one of them.

It is the story of madness, romance, and revenge–cold, brutal revenge for sins of fathers (and others). Heathcliff and Catherine are unforgettable characters that meet by serendipitous or ominous chance, depending on whom you ask. The love that grows between them is both fierce and poisonous.

Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights are characters in themselves: one is light and bright, the other dark and brooding. If you’ve never read this book, I recommend it as a great study in character and setting. And if you read it way back when (maybe in high school?), read it again. There’s something new to discover with every reading.”

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I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who has to get up early for work the next day, because you’re going to be reading past your bedtime. I can almost guarantee it. What She Knew is a fantastic psychological thriller full of twists and surprises, and I found it almost painful to have to wait to get to the last few pages to find out whodunit. Here’s my review:

“This story gripped me from page one and didn’t let go until I had read the final sentence. I felt like I couldn’t read fast enough, that I had to get to the end to see for myself how everything turns out. It was all I could do to slow down enough to digest every paragraph.

This is the story of a young boy who is abducted, his mother’s debilitating guilt over it, secrets that have the power to destroy a family, and the power of the media and, in particular, social media. This is a story that is going to stay with me.”

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What are you reading? I hope you’ll share in the comments below!

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Darlene Foster

Today on Reade and Write I’m thrilled to welcome Darlene Foster, who’s here to talk about her newest novel, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Book 7 in the Amanda Travels series (it’s available for pre-order now–it will be released on September 3rd). You will love the covers of these delightful books, and I love the idea behind the series because I enjoy reading stories set in places all over the world. Darlene’s books are a bit different from ones I normally spotlight on this blog because they’re written with a younger audience in mind, but so many adults love the books, too. And I think you’ll enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Congratulations on your next release! Tell us all about it. 

In Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah, travelling the canals of Amsterdam, visiting Anne Frank House, checking out windmills and a wooden shoe factory, and taking pictures of the flowers of Keukenhof Gardens. While there, she is keen to find out what happened to her great uncle who didn’t return from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy. While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange woman on a bicycle, and an overprotective goose named Gerald.

Amanda travels around the charming country of Holland, filled with colourful tulips, windmills, and more bicycles than she could have imagined. Once again, this intrepid traveller encounters danger and intrigue as she attempts to solve more than one mystery in a foreign country.

Who is the audience for the book?

The book is written for middle grade or juvenile readers, about 8 to 12 years old. But many adults will enjoy it as well as they read it to younger children or for themselves.

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?

The setting is modern-day Holland. I chose it as it is a place I have been intrigued by ever since I read Mary Mapes Dodge’s book, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates when I was about ten years old. I finally visited the Netherlands with my husband three years ago and it was everything I imagined and more. I decided then that Amanda needed to visit this delightful country. I consider my trip part of my research since I took many pictures and kept a journal. I did more research on the internet while I wrote the story as well as asked my Dutch friends and family members many questions to ensure my facts were correct.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Since this is the seventh book in the series, I wanted to make sure that the story was unique and didn’t sound exactly like the others, while still maintaining the same traits of the main characters.

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

I find this question difficult as child actors grow up so fast making it a moving target. I actually see these books more as animations should they be made into movies.

Tell us about your other books.

I have written six other books in the Amanda Travels series, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel, Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music and Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind. I have also written a bi-lingual (English/Spanish) book called Pig on Trial/Cerdito a juicio.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I am a huge believer in critique groups and currently belong to three of them, one in Canada and two in Spain. Without my critique groups, I would have never completed and published eight books in ten years.

Do you write every day?

Yes, I do. It may not be much some days and it is not always on my current WIP (Work In Progress), but I write. It is what I do.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

My favourite authors are Jane Austen, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Atwood, Alice Monroe, Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory, and Amy Tan, to name a few. My favourite books feature strong female characters, contemporary and historical.

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

I would so love to visit Australia and New Zealand.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I know it has been said before by many other authors but DON’T GIVE UP. There will be many down days even after you have been published, when you question your sanity. But just keep writing. That first draft is never going to be a published book. There will be many rewrites and tons of editing but just keep going. Talk to other authors, listen to their advice, and learn from their mistakes. Join a critique group or two or three and read other writer’s blogs.

What is your favorite movie and why?

This is difficult but I guess I have to say, “Gone with the Wind.” Scarlett O’Hara is a flawed character but oh my, she is strong. The movie deviates from the book but it depicts the times so well and Vivian Leigh is the perfect Scarlett.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t worry, be happy, it will all work out.

Describe yourself in three words.

Creative, hardworking and compassionate

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

I was hoping you would ask me what my weakness is. My answer would have been chocolate. But you didn’t ask me so now no one will know. Haha! 

Where can readers connect with you?

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/darlene-foster

Where can readers find your books?

My books are available on all Amazon sites, Kobo and other quality bookstores such as Chapters/Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones, as well as many independent booksellers. If not on the shelves, they can be ordered.

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Action-Travels-ebook/dp/B07L9LVK4J/

Amazon.ca: https://www.amazon.ca/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Darlene-Foster/dp/1771681713/

Amazon.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Action-Travels/dp/1771681713/

Thank you so much Amy, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog.

Thank you, Darlene. Congratulations on your new book! I wish you all the best.

Until next time,

Amy

 

Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival: The Recap

On August 10, 2019, Suffolk (Virginia) Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts hosted the sixth annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival. As many of you know, this is my favorite bookish event of the year.

Visiting Suffolk

The Nansemond River, from my hotel room

Suffolk is the largest city in Virginia in terms of land area (430 square miles), but visiting the city is more like visiting a small town where everyone is friendly, welcoming, and eager to show visitors everything their corner of Virginia has to offer.

The history of Suffolk is fascinating and full, and much of it has been preserved for future generations. From its settlement in 1608 to its involvement in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to its international recognition as the home of Planters Nuts, Suffolk has played an important role in the cultural history of the United States.

Visitors can tour Riddick’s Folly (which served as a headquarters for the Union Army during the Civil War), Cedar Hill Cemetery (home to one of Virginia’s Civil War trail sites), Planters Peanut Center, and the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, among many other attractions.

The authors who have participated in the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in past years have had the opportunity to visit Riddick’s Folly and the Cedar Hill Cemetery, as well as participate in Ghost Walks and storytelling walks.

The Festival

Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts

The festival itself is always held on a Saturday afternoon at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, a beautifully-restored building that operated as a high school until 1990. Since its reopening in 2006, it has become widely known as a popular venue for musical and theater productions, lectures, art exhibits, and visual and performing arts classes. It is a breathtaking backdrop for the authors to participate in panel discussions, hold workshops, and most importantly, meet and mingle with readers.

This year, the festival highlighted forty mystery authors of all subgenres, from traditional to paranormal to horror and romantic suspense. The featured author was Julie Hyzy, the New York Times bestselling author of 22 mystery novels and lots of short stories. Her interview, conducted by the talented and hilarious mystery writer E.A. Aymar, was a delightful way to learn about her journey as a writer from her beginnings to her crowning achievements.

Panels and Workshops

I was on a panel called “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and the authors on the panel talked about the importance of setting and story ideas. The writers had interesting views on setting and it was great to hear about all the different ways they use setting and atmosphere in their books to heighten suspense.

Other panels included “Strong Women in Fiction and Why We Love Them” and “License to Thrill: Shivery Suspense to Keep You Turning the Pages.” Workshops included “From Novice to Novelist: How to Write a Novel,” “You Wrote Your Novel, Now What?: Publishing World Options,” and “Short Stories vs. Novels: Pathways to Publication.”

The Best Part

Me with my table-mate, the incomparable Nancy Herriman

 

With two awesome readers, Tammy and Greg Porter

 

With a perennial favorite, author Julie Moffett

 

With Festival coordinator and all-around fabulous person, Katie Kelley

 

With good friend and fantastic author Maggie King

 

My table

The art gallery spaces of the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are used to showcase the authors and their books, which are available for purchase and signing all afternoon. It’s a great place for readers to meet authors, talk with them, and take photos. These rooms are where the most enjoyable parts of the day take place.

Every year hundreds of readers come to see the writers, to reconnect with them, to chat, and to talk books. For the writers, it’s a wonderful time to see readers that we can only see once a year and to meet new readers.

For a full list of attending authors, visit https://www.suffolkmysteryauthorsfestival.com/.

As always, Suffolk Tourism and the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts are due a huge debt of thanks and gratitude for hosting what many readers and writers consider to be the friendliest and most welcoming book festival of the year.

The Paparazzi

If you’re interested in reading what the Suffolk News Herald wrote about the festival, you can check out the article here.

I hope to see you there next year!

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Phillips Dahlke

I just came back from the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in Suffolk, Virginia, and it was wonderful, as always. I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday.

But today I welcome author Rebecca Phillips Dahlke to the blog to discuss her newest book, A Dead Red Gamble, the latest in her Dead Red Series. Welcome, Rebecca!

I’m eager to know more about your books.

You know how they say to write what you know? Well, I ran my dad’s crop-dusting business for two years and thought readers might find this an interesting job for a woman sleuth.

The first three books in the Dead Red Mystery series are set in the central valley of California where Lalla Bains comes home to help her dad as he recovers from a heart attack.

In Book #1 her vintage red Cadillac, a trophy from a recent divorce, is found tail-fins up in a local lake with an elderly widow strapped in the driver’s seat, leaving Lalla dangling on the hook as suspect number one and her father in the cross-hairs of a killer.

Murder solved, romance blooming, Lalla promises to stay out of trouble, but much to her father’s dismay, Lalla Bains will continue to get more involved with murder and crime in Books 2 and 3.

In Books 4, 5 and 6, the entire family decamps from California to Arizona where, as it happens, I now live and write. For those who are familiar with Bisbee, Arizona, it’s a charming little town set on a hillside, and it’s also the county seat for Cochise County.  I changed the name to Wishbone as I didn’t fancy the idea of getting tarred and feathered whenever I killed off another city official in my books.

In my latest novel, A Dead Red Gamble, Lalla Bains and cousin Pearlie are struggling to gain a foothold as licensed private investigators. I started with an interesting, and I hope original, premise when a friend who was municipal county judge at the time, ruled that city residents could not keep chickens.

So how on earth would this become a mystery you ask?  It becomes a mystery when protestors gather outside the courthouse, someone pays two local kids to release a cage full of chickens into the courthouse lobby, and a killer uses the diversion to murder the judge. The why is what makes for a good mystery.  I enjoyed writing this book and I’m happy to say my readers seem to agree.

Courthouse interior

Lalla and cousin Pearlie aren’t the jaded, world-weary gum-shoe types of Dashiell Hammett fame. Don’t get me wrong, I loved his books, but my protagonists aren’t loners, they have family they love and trust and they hold onto hope for the best in people—even when those people try to kill them.

All of my books are available on Amazon Kindle and I have a monthly newsletter with deals and steals on books by authors I love to read, as well as raffles for goodies. I even give my readers a chance to be a character in my next book with a raffle. A fun way to be a bad guy/gal in fiction!

Here’re my links:

Website: http://rpdahlke.com

Contact me: rp@rpdahlke.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/RP-Dahlke/e/B004S2NJFO/

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4714290.R_P_Dahlke

Faceboook: https://Facebook.com/rpdahlke

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/r-p-dahlke

Thanks for visiting, Rebecca! Best wishes on your new book!

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for August

The summer is flying by! In my neck of the woods, this is the best time of year for sweet corn, watermelon, peaches, and of course, tomatoes straight from the garden. I love all the fresh produce that’s available in the summertime. It makes for healthy eating this time of year. Today I’ve got three great recipes for you!

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The first one comes from reader Darlene Foster, who tells me that this is a delicious and easy dish that she often shares at barbeques and  potlucks. I can’t wait to try it. She found this Arabian Gulf recipe from Classic Vegetarian Cooking from the Middle East & North Africa by Habeeb Salloum.

Rice Flavored with Cardamom

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups slivered almonds

1 cup rice, rinsed

1/4 cup raisins or chopped dates

2 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

 

Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté almonds until they begin to brown

Add rice and stir fry for another 3 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients, except parsley, and bring to a boil

Cover and cook over medium low heat for 25 minutes

Turn off heat and allow to steam for 30 minutes

Stir, place on serving platter and garnish with parsley

Serves 6

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Watermelon Ice

1/3 c. water

1/2 c. sugar

1 3-pound piece chilled watermelon

1 T. fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan, sinner water with sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Stir syrup until cold. Discard rind from watermelon and cut fruit into 1-inch chunks.

Place watermelon, syrup, and lemon juice in a blender and purée. Pour from blender into a fine sieve over a 9-inch square baking pan. Press hard on the solids, then discard remaining solids.

Cover mixture and freeze until frozen, 6-8 hours, and up to 2 days.

Just before serving, scrape watermelon with a fork to break up crystals and lighten the texture. Serves 6.

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Zucchini and Tomato Sauté

1/2 t. olive oil

1 c. chopped onion

1 lb. zucchini, sliced about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick

1/2 t. salt

1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper

2 c. cherry tomatoes

1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

2 t. chopped fresh dill

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and salt and pepper and sauté for 3 minute. Add tomatoes and sauté for 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and dill. Serves 4.

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Many thanks to Darlene for submitting her recipe this month! Please remember that I love to include recipes from readers, so just drop me a note and I’ll put your recipe(s) in a post.

Until next time,

Amy

Do No Harm Book Collection

A quick post today to let you know about a new boxed set of books that was released this week: Do No Harm, a collection of 17 medical thrillers by USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestselling authors. Here’s the blurb:

“Do you crave reading books with nail-biting suspense, twisted plots and great characters who get caught up in whirlwinds of crime, deception and lies?

Do you love sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering who will survive…and who won’t?

From the mountains of West Virginia, to acute care hospitals, the battlefields of the Middle East and the hallowed halls of our educational system, join us for these incredible stories of healthcare gone wrong.

If you like Robin Cook, David Baldacci and Patricia Cornwell, this collection is for you!

Do No Harm is a binge-readers dream – 17 medical thriller books in one! And you can only get this collection of books from this group of authors here!”

29 of the 30 reviews on Amazon–just in the past two days!–are 5 stars!

Find it here for just $1.99!

Until next time,

Amy