We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

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

The story I’ve chosen for this month is full of great news for travelers who stay at any of the hotels owned by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG–the parent company of Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites, and many others). Over the next two years, in all its 5,600 properties around the world, IHG will be phasing out the miniature bottles of bathroom amenities in favor of providing guests these amenities from bulk-sized containers.

This isn’t the first time IHG has provided an example of sustainability for the hotel industry–back in 2018, it committed to removing single-use plastic straws from all its properties worldwide.

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 Sylvia Stein, Eric Lahti, Shilpa Garg, and Lizbeth Hartz. 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: September Edition

It’s the last Tuesday of September already, but there’s still almost a week left in the month! I intend to keep reading and adding to my Goodreads tally, but for this post I’ll summarize what I’ve finished reading since my last round-up. I’ve read a couple things outside my normal genres, and I was glad I did.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

This book, set in the Alaskan wilderness of the 1920s, was the author’s retelling of a fable about a man and a woman who want a child so badly that they make one out of snow. To their surprise, the snow child comes to life and…well, you’ll have to read it if you want to find out what happens. Spoiler alert: it’s not a happy ending.

Here’s the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

“Sometimes I read a book and I don’t quite know what to make of it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Snow Child is one of those books. It’s beautifully written and I could feel the raw emotions and the deathly cold of the Alaska winters as I read it.

I think I’m still processing my feelings about this enchanting book. It teaches poignant lessons about learning to love what we have while we have it, because nothing is certain in this life. It teaches us that love doesn’t mean ownership. It teaches us that hardships are easier when they’re shared.

I’m not sure I would recommend this to someone who normally reads genre fiction, but I would recommend it to someone looking for a book of literary fiction that evokes deep feelings and haunting questions.”

***

From Robe to Robe by Martha E. Bellinger

This was a memoir written by a lesbian woman who spent her life on two career paths: that of Methodist minister, then that of attorney-turned-judge. Both positions exposed her to the harsh realities of LGBTQ persons in ministry (and in organized religion in general) and in government. Here’s my Amazon/Goodreads review:

“I don’t normally read memoirs, but this one fascinated me and I read it in one sitting. Judge Bellinger has penned an honest, straightforward, and compelling look at the way society has viewed Christian lesbians for decades (and, really, throughout history). The book offers LGBTQ persons and their friends, families, and loved ones hope for the future within the framework of organized religion and within the halls of political power. She also makes it clear that there are powerful forces at work against meaningful progress.

Especially given the turmoil in the United Methodist Church at present, I found this book to be timely and important (even though it was published nine years ago, it’s still highly relevant). I think this book should be required reading for both men and women thinking of entering the ministry or the field of counseling. I also think it should be required reading for politicians.”

***

Cape Mayhem by Jane Kelly

This is the second book in the Meg Daniels mystery series. I started with the second book because I happened to have a hardcover copy. I’ll go back now and read the first book, Killing Time in Ocean City. I don’t think it’s necessary to read the books in order, but I know some people insist on it. 🙂

My review says it all:

“If you like capers filled with quirky characters, a lovely B&B, and a main character who has a penchant for self-deprecating humor and getting herself into all kinds of scrapes, this book is for you. It’s a fun read and what I loved most about it was the setting–if you’ve ever been to Cape May, surely you’ll recognize the places in the book. The author stays true to the special landmarks in Cape May, and it’s fun to visit them in pursuit of crime-solving!”

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People Lookin’ Half Dead by Marja McGraw

This is one of the many books I’ve read by Marja McGraw, and just like all the others, it didn’t disappoint. Marja has  a way with words that is funny, thoughtful, and full of suspense–and surprises. Here’s my review:

“There is so much to love about this book. It’s the story of Pamela and her husband Chris, who are in the process of opening a club reminiscent of an old speakeasy. In the midst of a crippling heatwave, Pamela and Chris, at the urging of Chris’ maternal grandmother (who is a dynamo), take several homeless people under their wings. Once they start getting to know these people from the streets, they learn of the mysterious disappearances of other homeless people. Naturally, they are drawn into the mystery and find that not everything is as it seems.

What I loved the most about this book is its honest, frank, and caring portrayal of homeless people. The author makes a strong point about the homeless and second chances, but manages to do it in a way that isn’t preachy or self-righteous. In addition to the mystery, there’s hope, new beginnings, and even a little bit of romance.”

***

Diamond Doris by Doris Payne and Zelda Lockhart

I have mixed feelings about this last book. Written by Doris Payne, it’s an autobiographical account of the life and times of the notorious international jewel thief. I had seen the book promoted in several places, so I wanted to check it out for myself.

For the most part, I was disappointed. I don’t usually write negative reviews: if I don’t like a book, I simply won’t give it a rating. But this one is different, because I don’t think it delivered on the promise it made. Its Amazon blurb promises a book that is in the same vein as “Ocean’s 8,” “The Heist,” and “Thelma and Louise.” I didn’t find it exciting or, in many parts, even interesting. A great deal of time is spent telling side tales about Doris’ friends and coming-of-age experiences. And as for her jewel-heist exploits, many of them are glossed over as she explains that she confuses the jewelry store clerks and takes the merchandise.

The biggest problem I had with the book, though, is the author’s disingenuous attempt to get the reader to believe that she engaged in this behavior (and in other equally risky activities) to exact revenge on the diamond industry for using African slave labor to mine the diamonds she would eventually steal. I don’t believe for one minute that she broke the law for that reason. What becomes clear in the reading is that she is motivated almost entirely by greed and the thrill of getting away with something.

The one thing I admire about Doris Payne is her single-minded focus on making her own way in a world that gives black women far less respect than they deserve. Though I don’t agree with her choices or her actions, they show that she is determined to provide her small family with the life she never had growing up.

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Patricia Gligor

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Patricia Gligor back to Reade and Write. She’s been a guest several times, and she’s here today to talk about her new release, Murder at Maple Ridge.

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, Murder at Maple Ridge.

Thank you, Amy. And, thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.

Murder at Maple Ridge is the second book in my Small Town Mystery series. Kate Morgan attends a New Year’s Eve party at Maple Ridge, the home of Chad Hollingsworth, the man she’s been dating for over a year. Although Chad warns her “there will be a lot of drinking and drama” when his extended family gets together, neither of them expects there to be a murder.

Remind readers about the first book in the Small Town Mystery series, Secrets in Storyville.

When Kate stumbles upon a long buried family secret, she’s faced with a dilemma. Should she ignore what she’s learned? Or, should she reveal the secret, which could hurt the people she loves and which would change all of their lives forever?

Tell us more about the main character of the series, Kate Morgan: what motivates her to want to be a writer, what does she do in her spare time, etc.

Kate loves a good mystery. For years, she’s dreamed of writing a novel – and she finally has. But the similarities between her manuscript and what actually happens at Maple Ridge are uncanny – and unnerving.

When she’s not at her job, Kate divides her time between her eleven-year-old daughter, Mandy, Chad Hollingsworth and writing.

What was the hardest thing about writing Murder at Maple Ridge?

I’m a morning writer. That’s when I’m most productive. If I miss that window of opportunity, I lose a day of writing. Unfortunately, due to life’s circumstances, that happened several times when I was working on the book but, other than that, the writing went well. I’m a plotter and I always create an outline before I start to write. Granted, it changes as I write but it helps to keep the story flowing. I’ve tried being a pantser – just sitting down and writing off the top of my head – but that doesn’t work for me.

Is Maple Ridge based on a real place? If so, tell us about it. Did you stick close to the original in the story? Have you made changes to fit your story?

Yes. The fictional Maple Ridge is based on a house I’ve admired and been drawn to for several years. Every time I drove to one of our state parks about an hour from where I live – to swim, hike or just sit by the lake relaxing – I would see the house and think, “I wonder who lives there.” In my book, I created characters and a plot to answer that question. Although the description of the outside of the house is accurate, I adapted the inside to fit my story.

What’s next for Kate Morgan?

There will be a third book in my Small Town Mystery series and Kate will once again be the main character but that’s all I can say at this point. However, there’s a “hint” at the end of Murder at Maple Ridge, which will provide a clue as to what will happen in the next book.

Are you working on any other writing projects right now?

No. I’m a book-a-year writer and, although I have some ideas for my next book and I look forward to writing it, I’m currently in the “I need a break” phase of the writing cycle. It’s a chance for me to catch up on the many household chores I neglected while I was focused on the book.

What’s your favorite way to promote your books?

First of all, I tell everyone I know that I have a new book out. Secondly, I use social media to promote it. My favorite place to promote is Facebook but I also post on Goodreads, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. and my books are listed on BookBub.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

My favorite part of the whole process is the actual writing. When characters and plot ideas spring to life. My least favorite is waiting with bated breath to see how my “baby” will be received by readers.

Now for some fun rapid-fire questions:

Coffee, tea, or some other beverage? Coffee.

Early bird, night owl, or something in between? Early bird – but not too early. LOL

Snacks: sweet or salty? Both but mostly sweet. I love chocolate!

Favorite season? Summer, well except for the high humidity.

Favorite color? Turquoise. All shades from aqua through teal. The color makes me think of the ocean, my favorite place to be.

Where can readers find you online?

Blog: http://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patricia.gligor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PatriciaGligor

Amazon author page

     

 Thanks for visiting, Pat, and best wishes with your new book! I have it on my Kindle, and I’m eager to get started on it!

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Today I welcome author Andi Cumbo-Floyd to Reade and Write. Andi’s books are not like the ones I typically have on my blog, but I have a feeling you’re going to find her work really compelling. She is the author of the new release, The Boy Who Could See Stars, and I’ll let her tell you a little more about it and her other books.

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, The Boy Who Could See Secrets.

The book tells the story of 12-year-old Jedidiah Wilson and his imaginary friend Mavis, who is 63.  Jed has always been able to see things people wanted to keep hidden, and one day, he sees a figure in the woods and follows her. He then takes his first journey through time. When he returns, he fills Mavis in, and they begin a great adventure to save their new friends.

This is my first middle grade book, and I find that very exciting. I have a son who is a toddler, so I enjoyed imagining him as a 12-year-old – who is much like his dad – and thinking about reading this book with him when’s he’s older. Plus, Mavis is modeled after my mother, Ruth, who died when she was 63. I love to have the opportunity to imagine how she might be with her grandson.

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone over the age of 8 or 9 or enjoys a story with a little history, a fair bit of magic, and a lot of adventure.

Tell me about the setting of The Boy Who Could See Secrets—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

Oh, that’s a great question. The book takes place on a fictional farm that is based on the farm my husband and I recently sold here in Central Virginia.  I got the idea for the book one evening while I was watching the treeline beyond our pasture, and so it seemed fitting to use the landscape of that place for this story. Thus, research was pretty minimal. 😉

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Because this was my first middle grade book, the hardest thing was making sure I kept the story appropriate for that age of reader – mostly in terms of style but also in terms of some content – while also not dumbing down the book. I was an avid reader as a child, and I hated when writers assumed I was dumb just because I was young.  I wanted to avoid that mistake if at all possible.

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

OOH, another great question.  For Mavis, I’d love to see Kathy Bates. I love her ability to be down-to-earth with characters, and she’s wickedly funny, just like my mom.  For Jedidiah, Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things would be a great choice.  He needs to be someone who can make us believe in magic.

Tell us about your other books.

I’ve written a YA magical realism series entitled Steele Secrets, which deals with history through the lens of magic, as well. Mary Steele can see ghosts, but only the ghosts of African American people who were killed in racially-motivated violence.  As she meets these long-dead people, she comes to understand that her small Virginia town’s history is complicated and that a lot of secrets need to be told in order for healing to take place.

I’ve also written a work of nonfiction about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I grew up. The Slaves Have Names tells the story of 22 of those incredible people and my journey to get to know them.

Finally, I’ve written several books for writers, including Love Letters To Writers, which is a collection of 52 notes to give writers encouragement and accountability in their writing lives.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

You know, I’m not. But I am friends with a lot of writers, and I have great teams of beta readers who read all my work before it comes out to be sure its solid.

Do you write every day?

I don’t. I have a one-year-old, work full-time as an editor, and enjoy TV. But I do write five days a week whenever possible.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I love Margaret Atwood, Chaim Potok, Toni Morrison, Jesmyn Ward, A. S. Byatt, Marilyn Robinson, and Anne Lamott best of all.  In terms of genres, I read a lot of magical realism and fantasy since that’s what I write, and I’m going to be writing some cozy mysteries under a pen name starting later this year, so I’m reading a ton of those.  I do love literary fiction, though, too.

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

South Africa. Hands down.  Second up would be Moscow.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Only you can give yourself the time, space, and motivation to write. So do that. Don’t wait for it to happen for you. Make the time, create the space, encourage yourself. We need your stories.

What is your favorite movie and why?

Dead Poets’ Society. Robin Williams was a genius in that film, but I also loved the message about originality, about speaking truth, about the value of community, about grief and mental illness. And since I once was a teacher, I loved Mr. Keating as inspiration.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Forget what you’re supposed to do or supposed to be. Follow your heart. Let it guide you.

Describe yourself in three words.

Introverted, Passionate, Wild.

I know you recently sold your farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains and have moved to another home. I followed your posts on Instagram and other social media outlets as the move happened and I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to write books. 

We recently sold off the farm that had been my dream for many years in order to make our life as a family a bit more manageable and to give me more space to write.  We loved that little 15 acres and our animals, but now we live deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains with our three cats and three dogs in a log house on a ridgeline. It’s a lovely space, much quieter and simpler than our farm life. It’s good for us, and it’s especially good for my creativity and writing energy.

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

I’d love to tell folks about the free, online writing community I coordinate. It’s a casual group full of writers to talk about all aspects of the writing life.  We’d love to have folks join us.  Details are at my website.

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m over at Andilit.com writing about writing, and you can find out about all of my books there.  I’m also on Facebook at facebook.com/andilitwriter, Twitter at twitter.com/Andilit, and Instagram at Instagram.com/andicumbofloyd.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are available wherever books are sold including indie bookstores, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Plus, they’re readily orderable (is that a word?) by your local bookshop.

Thanks, Andi! 

Until next time,

Amy

 

First Tuesday Recipes for September

photo courtesy of stanbalik, pixabay

This year is just flying by! The summer has been busy and the fall promises to be even busier. I’ve got a few recipes for you this month that are good for that transition from summer to fall: filling, but not heavy. There’s a dish that’s great to take to potlucks or get-togethers, a quick meal that’s cooked on the grill, and an easy, cool dessert.

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UFO

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese

2 c. sour cream

onion powder

1 jar salsa, divided

2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

1 can black olives, sliced

1 green pepper, chopped

tortilla chips

Cream together cream cheese and sour cream. Spread evenly over 12-inch pizza platter. Sprinkle generously with onion powder. Layer the following ingredients in order:

3/4 jar salsa

1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

scallions

tomato

black olives

green pepper

remaining cheese

dots of remaining salsa

Chill until ready to serve. Serve with tortilla chips.

***

Fig and Your-Choice-of-Cheese Pizza

4 mini flatbreads (I buy the mini naan at the grocery store)

olive oil

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 c. grated mozzarella cheese

1 c. crumbled bleu or goat cheese (or any other kind of cheese you prefer–Asiago is good, too)

8 figs, sliced into sixths

salt and pepper to taste

handful arugula

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar

Heat vinegar in saucepan over medium heat until it bubbles. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until vinegar is thickened and reduced by half. Remove from stove and set aside.

Preheat grill to high. Brush tops and bottoms of flatbread with olive oil. Place flatbreads, top side down, on the grill for about two minutes, long enough to get grill marks. Remove flatbreads from grill.

Rub tops of flatbreads with garlic, then discard garlic. Sprinkle flatbreads with cheese and figs, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to grill, bottom sides down. Cook for another two to three minutes, until cheese is melted, and remove from grill. Sprinkle with arugula and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

A variation of fig pizza. I used chopped walnuts instead of arugula. Yum!

***

Chocolate/Pistachio/Lemon Lush (recipe courtesy of my dad)

1 stick butter, melted

1 c. flour

1/4 c. chopped walnuts

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

2/3 c. powdered sugar

Large container whipped topping, divided

2 packages instant pudding, your choice of either chocolate, pistachio, or lemon

3 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, flour, and chopped walnuts in a medium bowl. Mix well and press into bottom of 13 x 9″ pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely.

In another medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, and one-half whipped topping until fluffy. Spread over cooled crust.

In another bowl, mix pudding and milk for two minutes. Spread over creamy layer.

Cover top with remaining whipped topping and chill until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy