Author Spotlight: Maria Grazia Swan

Today I welcome Maria Grazia Swan to Reade and Write. Maria is a mystery author with a novella in the soon-to-be-released collection Summer Snoops Unleashed. I’ve helped the authors of the collection promote it, and there’s one more post featuring two or three other authors coming soon.

Ready to learn more about Maria?

Tell me about your new novella.

Pies, Lies and a Last Goodbye could be seen as a short book or a long novella. It’s about 24,000 words and will be released on July 23 as part of the boxed set Summer Snoops Unleashed, as you mentioned. The link to purchase the collection is https://books2read.com/SummerSnoopsUnleashed, and as you can see, for 99¢ readers will have plenty of stories to read. I’m honored to be in the company of such great authors.

Pies, Lies and a Last Goodbye is part of my Baker Girls cozy mystery series. As you read this, books 1 and 2 of the series are available only on Amazon, but very soon (in about 10 days) all the books in the series will be available at all major online retailers.

Click this link to find Book 1, Cooks, Crooks and a Corpse, on Amazon.

Click this link to find Book 2, Foods, Fools, and a Dead Psychic, on Amazon.

Here are the covers of the books currently on Amazon:

I’m really excited to be able to share my new covers with you here! Drum roll, please…

Congratulations, Maria! I love the new covers!

Book 3 in the Baker Girls series, Wine, Dine, and Christmas Crimes, is available for pre-order now. Here’s a look at the cover and link to pre-order the book.

https://books2read.com/u/mY1NZV

Back to Pies, Lies and a Last Goodbye. I wanted to write a short book for readers not familiar with the Baker Girls series. In this novella I introduce the main characters and the feelings driving their actions. I hope new readers will like the concept and read the rest of the series.

Readers, Maria is giving away two Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of Pies, Lies and a Last Goodbye today! All you have to do to be entered to win is comment on this post. I’ll choose the winners tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. EST.

Maria, tell us about your other books. 

Baker Girls is my 3rd series and the first one with a Phoenix/Arizona locale/settings.

My first series is the Mina Calvi Adventure mysteries. Anyone familiar with my books knows I only write about places where I have lived or at least visited personally. The Mina Calvi series has Orange County, California, as background because I lived there while writing most of the books…

…Except for book 3, Italian Summer. I wrote that back home in Italy and it’s 60% autobiographical as it pertains to settings, feelings, and habits. OK, I’m stopping here. You’ll have to read the book to fill the blanks…

My second series is the Lella York suspense series, and those books each have a different setting. Book 1, Gemini Moon: Murder Under the Italian Moon, was based on a real deadly event. A friend of mine was shot by the spouse and her blood spattered on one of my books she had on her desk at the time. It was returned to me years later and I just had to write about the shooting.

Describe yourself in three words

Loyal, passionate, truthful.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write from the heart: readers can tell. And keep in mind no one was born a writer. While some excel at it, it’s a craft. Practice makes perfect. Never give up.

Where can readers find you?

Email: mgsweb1@gmail.com

Website

Twitter

Amazon Author page

BookBub 

Subscribe to my newsletter

And where can readers find your books, besides the links you’ve already provided?

I’ve written short stories and non-fiction in addition to my mysteries. Check out my website for more information on my books.

Maria has graciously provided a recipe from one of her main characters, Monica, a cook who tends to take shortcuts. There are two versions of Pasta Primavera: the regular version and Monica’s shortcut version.

Monica’s Pasta Primavera

(This version works for vegetarians. If you are following a gluten-free diet, substitute gluten-free pasta for regular pasta. You can use your favorite brand. My choice is Barilla. ~Monica)

12 ounces of pasta (I use Barilla thin spaghetti)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

½ pound broccoli, trim thick stems

½ pound cauliflower

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream

***

Cook pasta according to directions.

While waiting for water to boil chop broccoli and cauliflower into bite size pieces.

Once the pasta is in the pot, melt butter in large skillet over low heat, but don’t let it brown. Set aside.

Two minutes before removing the pasta from the boiling pot add the chopped broccoli and cauliflower to the boiling water/pasta.

Drain well pasta and veggies, transfer to the skillet with melted butter, toss well. Add heavy cream and cheese, toss some more and serve.  (4 servings)

Buon appetito!

 

Monica’s One-Pot 15-Minute version…if you dare…serves 2

8 ounces pasta (half a package) (Barilla thin spaghetti cooks in 5-6 minutes al dente)

Salt and pepper as needed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1-10 ounces package frozen vegetables (I like the Oriental Stir-fry plain, but any frozen vegetables would do)

***

Cook pasta according to directions.

While pasta is cooking, open frozen vegetables, discard wrapping and put vegetables in colander. Let hot water from kitchen faucet run over frozen vegetables. That way they will thaw but remain crisp.

When pasta is done, turn off faucet and pour pasta over vegetables in colander. Drain well.

Quickly return the pot in which the pasta was cooked to the same burner, add butter. Allow it to melt over a low burner but do not allow it to brown.

Pour pasta and vegetables on top of melted butter, add olive oil and toss well.

Serve with grated cheese to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sounds delicious! Thanks for visiting, Maria!

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

The First First Tuesday Recipes!

So my daughter, who is thousands of miles away, is sick. And the Dow fell off a cliff yesterday. And I was nursing a headache. And I forgot to schedule my car’s oil change. And today I have so much to do that I’ll never get it all done.

You know what?

I need food. And not just food–I need to cook.

Cooking is like food for the soul. I find it to be relaxing, meditative, comforting, and thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve wanted to share recipes on this blog for a long time, and this year when I realized I needed to do something new, food came to mind (as it always does).

So welcome to the inaugural edition of First Tuesday Recipes. On the first Tuesday of each month, I’ll be sharing some recipes I tried and liked over the past month and I hope you’ll share some, too. You can leave your recipes in the comments, or you’re welcome to email me at amymreadeauthor@gmail.com and I’ll include them the next month’s post.

This month I’ve got a fish entree, a soup, and a salad to share. Another soup recipe comes courtesy of Sharon Aguanno, who tells me it’s one of her favorites.

Fish entree: Pan-Roasted Salmon with Soy-Ginger Glaze

I found this recipe on Foodandwine.com. Click here to visit the page. This is the entree in the photo at the top of the post (now you see why I never became a food stylist).

1/4 c. soy sauce

1 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 six-ounce salmon fillets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, combine soy sauce and ginger. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat and stir in honey and mustard.

Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Sprinkle fillets with pepper and put them in the skillet, skin side up. Cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Turn the salmon over and spoon the ginger-soy glaze on top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake for 5 minutes.

I served this with wilted spinach and Jasmine rice. It was a big hit!

Soup#1: Slow Cooker Taco Soup

I found this on allrecipes.com. You can click here to visit.

1 lb. ground beef

1 med. onion, chopped

1 can (16 oz.) chili beans–do not drain

1 can (15 oz.) shoepeg corn–do not drain

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

2 c. water

2 cans (14.5 oz. each) peeled, diced tomatoes

1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles

1 pkg. (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning mix

corn chips, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

In a medium skillet, brown ground beef over medium heat. Drain and place in the bottom of a greased slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients except corn chips, sour cream, and shredded cheddar, and mix. Cook on LOW for 8 hours. Serve with garnishes, if desired.

Soup #2: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Sharon Aguanno found this recipe on allrecipes.com. Click here to visit.

4 c. chicken broth

2 c. water

2 c. boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves, shredded

1 pkg. (4.5 oz.) quick-cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

3/4 c. flour

1/2 c. butter

2 c. heavy cream

In a large pot, combine broth, water, and chicken over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then stir in rice, reserving the seasoning packet. Cover and remove from heat.

In a small bowl combine salt, pepper, and flour. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then stir in contents of seasoning packet until bubbly. Reduce heat to low and, one tablespoon at a time, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture to form a roux. Whisk in the cream, a little at a time, until fully incorporated and mixture is smooth. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Stir cream mixture into rice mixture. Cook over medium heat until heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

Sharon recommends adding vegetables to this soup, too. This is one I’m going to try before the end of February!

Salad: Rachael Ray’s Asian Charred Broccoli Salad

Thanks to my aunt, I get Rachael Ray’s magazine every month and I have to say I’ve never tried a recipe from that magazine that wasn’t a hit. This one, which I adapted a bit, is quick and easy. You can visit the page here.

3 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. peanut oil

1 1/4 lb. broccoli florets

1 tbsp. ponzu sauce (I used a citrus one I found in the grocery store)

2 tsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. finely chopped garlic

cilantro

chopped peanuts

In a wok or large skillet, heat 3 tbsp. oil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until broccoli is crisp-tender and beginning to char, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk ponzu sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, and remaining 2 tsp. oil. Toss with broccoli and sprinkle with cilantro and peanuts.

I served this with a lemony breaded cod–another big hit!

I hope you get a chance to try a few of these recipes and that you’ll send in your own suggestions for next month’s First Tuesday Recipes post!

Until next time,

Amy

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