Reading Round-Up: November Edition

I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked during November because I was participating in NaNoWriMo (a novel-writing challenge, for those of you who are unfamiliar), but I did manage to sneak in a few reads. Add your own November reads to the comments below!

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The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by [Samantha Vérant]

First up this month was The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant. If you know me, you know why the title of this book intrigued me—I thought I would be reading scads of French recipes. But alas, there are only a few recipes in the back of the book, and those are not ones I’m likely to make.

Anyway, this was a romance. Let me start by saying I’m not a romance reader unless there’s a mystery to solve, too, and there wasn’t much mystery in this one. The beginning of the story is a little too dramatic to be believable, but who am I to say? I’ve never lost a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Once the main character moves to France, the story gets better. I think readers will find themselves getting hungry while they read this book and they are DEFINITELY going to want to travel to France. Read my review here.

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It’s time I let you all in on a shameful secret.

Until this month, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books. I have, likewise, never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.

I read this book because the Harry Potter books are among my niece’s favorites and she was appalled (read: disgusted, horrified, speechless) that I hadn’t read them yet. I promised her I would read Book 1 before Thanksgiving so we could discuss it together (it may have to be over the phone thanks to COVID, but we’ll still discuss it).

In short, the book is AMAZING. I can’t wait to read the second one. I would love to spend just ten minutes inside J.K. Rowling’s imagination and discover where she learned to tell stories like this. You can read my review and 7 million others here.

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I had never heard of Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet until I read a review of it on someone else’s blog (thanks, Debby Gies!). And what a book. First published in 1923, The Prophet is a collection of short essays that make up a story. The essays (there are almost 30!) cover every topic from good and evil to crime and punishment to eating and drinking to prayer to children to joy and sorrow and everything in between. The beautifully poetic essays are full of spiritual lessons and brilliant metaphors for human life and behavior. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Read my review here.

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THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT a cozy murder mystery full of twists (Dorothy Martin Mystery Book 1) by [JEANNE M.  DAMS]

The final book I had time to read this month was The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery, complete with English setting, a widowed main character, a much-loved cat, and plenty of suspects. I did manage to guess the killer, but the operative word there is “guess.” I was totally wrong about the motive and that was part of what made this book so much fun to read. I highly recommend it. Read my review here.

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Remember, every Wednesday afternoon at 1:45 Eastern, I and the other two authors who make up the BookEm channel on YouTube debut a new episode! This week I’m in the hot seat, talking about the importance of hobbies and introducing you to a few new-to-me reads! Join me here at 1:45 if you can. If you can’t join me then, drop by to watch the video at your leisure anytime after that!

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I wish all of my American friends a happy and safe Thanksgiving! And to the rest of you, have a great week!

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: July Edition

I’m pleased to say that I was able to read a variety of genres in July, and the three books I’m reading now, which will be in next month’s Reading Round-Up, just add to that diversity. Even though a couple of the books are out my preferred genres, I’m glad I read them. Which leads me to ask: how often do you deviate from the genres you most enjoy? Do you think it’s important to do that or not?

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

First up was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is one of those outside-my-normal-comfort-zone books, and wow. I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. The book was a selection for my book club (which I actually forgot to attend), and I’m so sorry I missed the discussion, because I had really looked forward to it. Read my review here and please ignore the typos. 🙂

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The Man from the Train: Discovering America's Most Elusive Serial Killer

I was really excited to read The Man from the Train by Bill James. Here’s the premise: there was a serial killer stalking families that were living near railroads across the United States in the early twentieth century. The author, a well-known baseball statistician, makes the tantalizing claim that he knows who the killer was. This book presents the evidence in support of and against his theory. I thought this was going to be a fascinating book leading to a dramatic unveiling of the killer. Parts of it were fascinating, yes, but the unveiling of the killer wasn’t as climactic as I thought it would be. In the end, I gave this book 3 stars because of the way it was presented, the author’s use of language, and a “subplot” that added nothing to the book. Read my review here

Please note that I had to think long and hard about whether to include this book in my post. My policy is to post a review of any book that I would rate 3 or more stars, so I included this in keeping with that policy. As many of you know, I almost always love the books I read. I was disappointed in this one, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t love it. Indeed, this book has plenty of 5-star reviews online.

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The Crown for Castlewood Manor (My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series Book 1)

Moving right along, next I read The Crown for Castlewood Manor, the first book in the My American Almost-Royal Cousin series by Veronica Cline Barton. What a treat! If you like cozy mysteries set in the English countryside with manor drama, murder, and parties fit for royalty, you’ll love this book. Check out my 5-star review here.

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The Silver Dollar Connetion: A Sandi Webster Mystery (The Sandi Webster Mysteries Book 13) by [Marja McGraw]

Last, but certainly not least, I read The Silver Dollar Connection by Marja McGraw. As I’ve noted before, Marja McGraw is on my auto-buy list because I love everything she writes, and this book didn’t disappoint. It’s the latest installment of the Sandi Webster mysteries, and in this one Sandi and her husband, Pete, are asked to help an older PI (Rocky) who has some serious family issues going on. His estranged son is being threatened and doesn’t even know it, and things are about to take a turn for the worse. But it’s not just a mystery you’ll find in this book. You’ll also find characters who are dealing with friendship, mental health issues (including PTSD), aging, and isolation. You’ll find my review here.

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That’s my list for this month. Care to share what you’ve been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

 

Cover Reveal AND Reading Round-Up

First things first. Yesterday my newsletter subscribers got the first look at the cover of my next book, Cape Menace: A Cape May Historical Mystery, and now it’s time to share it here! This is the first book in my new Cape May Historical Mystery Collection, a collection of standalone mysteries set throughout the history of Cape May, New Jersey.

Here’s the blurb of the new book, which will be available for pre-order soon (don’t worry—I’ll get all the details to you!):

The year is 1714. Two years have passed since Ruth Hanover vanished into the wilderness of the New Jersey colony without a trace, leaving behind her husband, William, and their daughter, Sarah. Though William and Sarah have never stopped hoping that Ruth will return, as time goes by it becomes less and less likely they will ever see her again.

Now William is acting strangely. He won’t tell Sarah why he’s conducting business with a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, he won’t explain the sudden increase in his income, and he won’t share with her what people in town are saying about her mother’s disappearance.

When the time comes for Sarah to face her father’s secrets and figure out why her mother never came home that December day in 1712, what she learns will shock her tiny community on the New Jersey cape and leave her fighting for her life.

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And here’s the cover!

I hope you love it as much as I do.

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And now it’s time for the Reading Round-Up. I never did post at the end of March, so this month I’ll share some of the reads I really enjoyed over the past 60 days. I thought I’d get more reading done because of the quarantine, but I was wrong. My reading schedule hasn’t changed much—this is actually good, since it means I’m sticking to my routine. Reading is always a part of my day, but so are a lot of other things, and that hasn’t changed.

Every book in this round-up gets 5 stars from me, and I will not share the only book I didn’t like.

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First up, No One Will Find Me by Marja McGraw. I loved this book, as I have loved all the other books in the Sandi Webster series. Set in the desert of the American southwest, this mystery follows Sandi, her husband, their friends Stanley and Felicity, and Sandi’s parents as they search for a serial killer who’s gotten away with murder for many years. Read my review here.

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Sprinkle with Murder, book 1 in the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries by Jenn McKinlay, was a fun cozy read that introduced readers to Mel and Angie, co-owners of the new Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery. Mel is accused of murdering the nightmare fiancee of one of her best friends, and the story unfolds delightfully from there. Read my review here.

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If you like thrillers, do yourself a favor and read this book. Ann Cleeves has done a fabulous job of putting the reader smack into the action of Raven Black, a whodunit that takes place on a remote Scottish island. Read my review here.

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This is the second book I’ve read by Bibiana Krall, and it was a superb and spellbinding tale of legend, paranormal suspense, and Irish folklore. I love the way Krall uses language to bring urgency and horror to Loftus Hall, Book 2 in the Irish Phantom series. Read my review here.

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Poison Branches is the first in the Perri Seamore series of genealogical mysteries by author Cynthia Raleigh. Main character Perri Seamore is off on a girls’ weekend and she’s combined it with a research trip to Kentucky to find information about her ancestors. When a murder takes place in the small town where Perri is staying, she is drawn into the investigation because the police need her expertise in ancestry research to find the murderer. Read my review here.

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I have read several of Sally’s books, and they’re always a treat. She has shown time and again, both in books and on her blog, that her writing skills go way beyond one genre or one kind of poetry. Life’s Rich Tapestry is a celebration of writing, of inspiration, of human nature, and of the natural world. But there’s so much more, and you’ll have to read it to fully appreciate Sally’s talents and wisdom. Read my review here.

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Every time I read a book of psychological suspense, I love the genre more. And The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides was no exception. If you’re looking for something that you can read quickly (because you’ll have no choice—you can’t stop turning pages), check out this novel. Read my review here.

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Please remember to review the books you read! Reviews are important for authors and we appreciate every single one.

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Cassidy Salem

Today I welcome Cassidy Salem to Reade and Write. Cassidy is the author of the Adina Donati Accidental Sleuth Mystery Series. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, Fit for Murder, the fourth book in the series. Welcome, Cassidy!

Congratulations on your latest release! Tell us a little about the book, Fit for Murder.

In the latest addition to the Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth Mystery Series, Adina is unable to restrain herself when it looks like someone has done in her Pilates instructor. So what if it was ruled an accidental death? She’s not convinced and sets out to discover the truth – with or without help from her favorite detective.

Tell readers about the first three books in the Adina Donati series.

The Adina Donati, Accidental Sleuth mystery series features a young college graduate and her experiences living alone in Washington, D.C. Adina works at a think tank that focuses on public policy, where current issues (environmental protection, immigration, cybercrime, healthcare, and more) are a natural part of the agenda.

The first book in the series, Think Murder, introduces the reader to Adina and her world as she addresses the challenges of making it on her own in the city. Then, when a friend and colleague is murdered and she finds the body, Adina is drawn into the middle of a murder investigation.

At the start of Dying for Data, her romantic evening with a hot guy goes downhill fast when their dinner is interrupted by the scream of sirens and the arrival of Adina’s favorite detective. Although this is still a cozy mystery, the plot in this one touches on issues related to illegal immigration and crime in the city and the plot is a tad edgier than in other books in the series.

Killer Reputation takes the reader back to the cozier side of Adina’s life. When a colleague meets a violent death, Adina’s not convinced any of the obvious suspects disliked him enough to want him dead.

Tell us more about the main character of the series, Adina Donati: What is her job like at the think tank? What does she do in her spare time? Anything else we should know about her?

Adina is college graduate in her mid-20s who is determined to make it on her own. She works at the Drake Institute for Public Policy Research as an admin assistant. Not her dream job, but it does pay the bills.  And she has a great boss.

Adina is smart and talented, and kind. She has an independent spirit, but she is willing to accept help from others.  In her spare time, she volunteers at an animal shelter, and a different dog from the shelter is featured in each story.

What was the hardest thing about writing Fit for Murder?

Figuring out who the killer was.  I confess, I don’t outline – I just sit down and write with only a vague idea of where a story will go. I knew who I was killing but I only decided who the actual culprit was after I had written more than half of the book.

Did you stick to real places in Washington, DC, to set the story, or did you make things up? What did you keep? What did you make up? Do you prefer one setting to another?

Of course, the well-known locations in city are based on real places and landmarks.  Nonetheless, the smaller parks, pubs, restaurants and such are entirely fictional.  That said, Adina’s basement apartment is loosely based on the apartment I lived in when I moved to D.C. after graduating from college. Like Adina, it was all I could afford when I was unable to land my dream job.

What’s next for Adina Donati?

I have yet to decide exactly what will happen, however  I think it’s time to take Adina and Jonathan out of the city for a weekend in the next book. Who shall I kill off this time? Suggestions anyone?

Are you working on any other writing projects right now?

Yes. Together with Christa Nardi, I am currently working on The Midway Mystery, the fifth book in the Hannah and Tamar YA Mystery series.  The series features two teenaged sisters with a knack for solving mysteries.

What’s your favorite way to promote your books?

I enjoy connecting with readers and other authors on Facebook and other social media.

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

I enjoy letting the characters tell me where they want to go and that “ah-ha” feeling when I have solved my own plot puzzle.

Where can readers find your books?

On Amazon, in paperback and digital editions. They are also available with Kindle Unlimited.

Where can readers connect with you?

Now for some fun rapid-fire questions.

Coffee, tea, or some other beverage?  Diet Coke.

Early bird, night owl, or something in between?  Night owl.

Snacks: sweet or salty? Sweet. Chocolate if possible.

Favorite season? Fall

Favorite color?  Blue

 

Author Bio – Cassidy Salem

Cassidy Salem has always been an avid reader. She is especially fond of mysteries (both cozy and traditional) and police procedurals. Over the years, her favorite mystery authors have included Agatha Christie, Kathy Reichs, Mary Higgins Clark, and John Grisham. When she’s not reading, she enjoys music and spending time with family and friends, and travels with her husband and son whenever possible. Her travels have taken her to destinations throughout the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia.

A member of Sisters-in-Crime, Cassidy is the author of the Adina Donati Mystery Series, which includes Think Murder, Dying for Data, and Killer Reputation. Cassidy co-authors, together with Christa Nardi, a YA mystery series, which includes The Mysterious Package, Mrs. Tedesco’s Missing Cookbook, The Misplaced Dog, and Malicious Mischief.

Until next time,

Amy

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

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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)

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: CeeCee James

Today I welcome CeeCee James, USA Today bestselling author of several mystery series. She’s here today to talk about her Flamingo Realty Mysteries and, in particular, Duplex Double Trouble. Glad you’re here, CeeCee!

Tell me about your new book.

This whole series has been incredible to write. It’s called The Flamingo Realty Mysteries, and the running story is about Stella O’Neil, who returns to her home state to try and reunite her family of stubborn men. She never expected the personal growth she would go through herself. Each story builds on the next, woven in super fun murder mysteries that she always seems caught in. The newest is called Duplex Double Trouble and I honestly love it. Stella is my hero!

Who is the audience for the book?

Anyone who loves a good clean mystery with some humor, crazy clues, and a dead guy!

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?

I chose Pennsylvania because one of the characters is in another series, The Baker Street cozy mysteries. That’s Stella’s home town that she returns to!

Interesting! I saw the covers and I assumed Florida. But Pennsylvania is near me, so that’s cool!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

The hardest thing is to make sure there are enough clues without giving too much away. ❤

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

If it were made into a movie I’d freak out so much I probably wouldn’t care!

Have you written any other books?

Yes! This is number 25!

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a few critique partners I really adore. They help me keep the story in line.

Do you write every day?

Yes!

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I have so many favorite authors! Terry Pratchett, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lucy Maud Montgomery, C.S. Lewis, Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King, James Herriot and Neil Gaiman just to name a few. I read all sorts of genres.

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

Right now, Hawaii!

I’m with you there.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Do it for yourself. Get that first draft done and save the editing for the second time through. Advice is good, but trust your own gut as well.

What is your favorite movie and why?

My favorite movie is the Lord of the Rings series. Why? Because Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and I love the series. But the books weren’t something my husband could get into. So when the movies came out, we could finally discuss it. Loved that!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Ohhh such a good question. I’d tell myself that you’re going to be okay. Keep looking up.

Describe yourself in three words.

Loyal, Hobbity (in the ‘I really really like my home’ way, not the ‘hairy feet’ way), and Creative

Where can readers connect with you?

Find me on Facebook! Or my Amazon Author page!

Where can readers find your books?

https://www.amazon.com/CeeCee-James/e/B00IJNN6LA

Thank you so much! This was so fun!!

Thanks for visiting, CeeCee! I enjoyed having you here.

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Today on Reade and Write I welcome Carolyn Ridder Aspenson to the hot seat. She’s here to talk about her newest release, Get Up and Ghost. Welcome, Carolyn!

Tell me about your new book.

I just published the first book in a new paranormal cozy mystery series. Get Up and Ghost is a psychic medium mystery about a woman who works for the historical society in a small North Georgia town called Castleberry. She falls down the last part of the stairs at work, bumps her head and suddenly starts seeing ghosts. She doesn’t realize it at first, but it becomes fairly obvious quickly. When a local resident is murdered, and she’s the last one to see him alive, she’s determined to prove her innocence, with the help of a long-dead woman from the town, who’s also in need of her help.

 

Who is the audience for the book?

This is a cozy, so it’s clean — no sex, no swearing, no death on the page. The main character is a mother in her mid-forties and recently divorced, with two senior aged friends and a younger coworker, so I feel like I’ve hit a lot of the variants for different types of women.

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?

I live in the southern part of North Georgia, and I know this area well. The town is fictional, but I modeled it after a few local towns nearby to give it a traditional small town, North Georgia appeal. Since I’ve lived here for 23 years, I have a fairly decent handle on the area, and have incorporated some of the local flare and stories into this first book, and the second one I’m working on for the series. Each of the ‘haunting’ type stories (the ghosts of time past) will have a bit of truth to them for the area. Well, truth in the sense that it’s a story from here, though I’m not sure the ghosts are actually real. I’ve yet to see any, though I’ve certainly looked!

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Two things tie as the hardest part. First and foremost, I have another mystery series (it’s NOT a cozy by definition at all) with a psychic medium. I needed to make the character unique, and the storyline different. That character does make an appearance though, because she’s from an area close by. I also have another cozy series in a similar area, so I had to keep them different also. They are similar in some ways because there are two older women characters, but they are different types of older characters, and the main character is different. I’m hoping they will all be unique in their own ways.

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

Oh gosh. That’s a tough one. I’m still getting to know them all. I do feel like one of the older women is a bit similar to Betty White’s character on “Golden Girls,” but I think Betty’s retired by now! I’d definitely go with a Hallmark actress, because this series has that appeal, other than the paranormal element. I could see Erin Krakow as the lead. I think the two older women would be well played by someone like Sissy Spacek. Wouldn’t that be great to have someone of that caliber in a movie about my book? Gosh, I’d be so excited!

Have you written any other books?

I have, I think, 21 books out now. Some are novellas, but I’ve got about that many published. I’ve got my Angela Panther Mystery series, which is not the cozy mysteries, and then the Lily Sprayberry Realtor Cozy series. I also have a few romances, but those weren’t my thing. I guess I’m not very romantic! I’ve also done a great deal of ghost writing, but those books are all business and nonfiction.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I have a partner that I swap books with and we help each other, but other than that, no. I’ve found everyone has their own unique writing style, and I don’t like to infringe on that.

Do you write every day?

Since I’m now completely self-published (I was traditional for a while, but no longer) I consider this a business and treat it as such. I write for about 5 hours a day at this point and handle other business related things for an hour or so also.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I’m such a book snob! It’s a horrible thing. I grew up reading mysteries from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to more intense thrillers by Jonathan Kellerman and the like. Hands down, my favorite writer is Robert B. Parker. The Spenser series is my favorite series. When Mr. Parker died, I cried. I am also a big fan of Robert Crais, and I love the Elvis Cole books so much.

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

Back in time. I’d like to go back fifteen years to when my parents were both here and healthy and spend more time with them.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I think the same thing most people would. Write every single day. Learn the craft and do what you can to improve. Hire an editor. Writing a novel isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn to make it something others want to read. Learn that ever-changing element.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I have two. I love “Shawshank Redemption” because the friendship theme is astounding. I recently found out that Mr. King wrote that, (Yes, I live under a rock) and I was shocked! It’s not his typical book at all, but it was so good.

My second favorite is “When Harry Met Sally.” I just loved the concept of that and Billy Crystal? He was the perfect pick for that lead. I loved that story.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Care less about what other people think sooner.

Describe yourself in three words.

Wife. Mother. Friend.

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

Nope!

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolynridderaspensonauthor

My website is carolynridderaspenson.com where you can access my newsletter. I send it out once a week.

And I am also on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carolynridderaspenson/.

I’m not a Twitter gal. I’m Italian. I need more than a few characters to say my thoughts.

Where can readers find your books?

Right now I’m primarily on Amazon, but Get Up and Ghost is on Kobo, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for a limited time. It just released there today!

The Lily Sprayberry Cozy Mystery Boxed Set (books 1-3) are at books2read.com/u/49oGEX.

Congratulations on your new release! Thanks for visiting. 

Until next time,

Amy

 

The 12 Slays of Christmas is Here!

Today’s the day–The 12 Slays of Christmas is live!

Thanks to everyone who has preordered the set and to everyone who plans to order it. We’re very excited to be donating all the proceeds from the sale of the set to pets displaced by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, you can click this link and it’ll take you to our website, where you can click to order the set for 99¢ on your ereader of choice.

Anyone who gets my newsletter will find this post redundant–I’m too tired at this point to come up with something sparkly and new!

I’ll be back here next Tuesday with a recap of a chocolate tasting I attended last weekend, so stay tuned!

Until next time,

Amy

Spotlight: Rabbi Ilene Schneider

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Today on Reade and Write I welcome Rabbi Ilene Schneider, who is both an author and an avid reader. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’m thrilled to finally host her here. Ilene answers my questions for readers today, but I hope to have her back soon to answer my questions for writers, too!

Welcome to Reade and Write, Ilene!

How often do you read?

Constantly. When do I not read is easier to answer: when I’m talking with someone, when I’m driving, when I’m sleeping, when I’m in the shower, when I’m at the movies or a play or concert, when I’m at religious services … I can’t think of any other times I don’t read. I even read while watching TV. 

What is the name of the last book you finished?

The Cat in the Living Room, a natural and cultural history of house cats.

What are you reading now?

I just started Alexandra Sokoloff’s Huntress Moon.

What is your preferred genre?

Cozy mysteries, with ventures into natural history books (recently reread John McPhee’s Pine Barrens for the umpteenth time) and popular history (anything by Erik Larson).

What was the last book you read outside your preferred genre?

The Cat in the Living Room.

Are you in a book club?

No.

Where do you obtain most of the books you read- from a bookstore, online, the library, borrowed from a friend, etc.?

Kindle. I’m addicted to it. I realized a while ago it’s not books I love but reading.

How do you decide which books to read?

Recommendations, reviews, new releases by authors I’ve enjoyed in the past, books by authors I’ve met.

What is in your To-Be-Read pile?

How much time and space do you have? 28 on my to-be-read list, 39 on my “classics” (books I may reread, including such books as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Maltese Falcon, as well as Sherlock Holmes, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, etc.), 26 nature, history, biography, and research.

Do you pay attention to especially bad reviews of books when deciding whether to buy or read them?

Yes, I want to see if any of the negative reviews contain criticisms of things I dislike, like excessively gory or gratuitous violence, explicit or gratuitous sex, lack of character development, stilted dialogue …

Lots of people don’t have a favorite book for a variety of reasons. Do you have a favorite? What is it?

Whatever I’m currently reading. Assuming I like it to begin with.

Where is your favorite reading spot?

Wherever I am.

Anything else you want me to know?

If I have to lose a sense, I’d prefer anything but sight. I am a visual learner, so audio books won’t do it for me.

 

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D., one of the first six women rabbis ordained in the U.S., has finally decided what she wants to be when she grows up. She retired from her day job to devote full time to writing. She is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries: Chanukah Guilt, which was nominated for the Deadly Ink David Award for Best Mystery of 2007, was one of My Shelf’s 2007 Top Ten Reads, and was a Midwest Book Review Reviewers Choice Book; and Unleavened Dead, which won First Place from the Public Safety Writers Association, and was nominated for the Deadly Ink David Award for Best Mystery of 2012. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine called Unleavened Dead “… a solid, funny mystery that provides an insider’s look at Jewish life.” A resident of Marlton, NJ, near Philadelphia, she has completed  the third book in the series, Yom Killer, and is also the author of Talk Dirty Yiddish.

new-cg-front-cover          unleaveneddead-cover

Please visit her website/blog: http://rabbiauthor.com or email her at rabbi.author@yahoo.com.

Thanks for stopping by, Ilene!

Until next time,

Amy

Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival

Before I get started, I’d like to let everyone know that Secrets of Hallstead House was featured as the Cool Book of the Week on Amy Metz’s blog, A Blue Million Books. I’d love for you to check out the post: you can find it at http://abluemillionbooks.blogspot.com/. You may have to scroll down just a bit, but I promise it’s there. Many thanks to Amy Metz for the opportunity to appear on her blog!

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival, hosted by the Suffolk Division of Tourism in partnership with the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts and the Suffolk Public Library. It was a gathering of twelve very talented and prolific mystery writers, a literary agent (Dawn Dowdle), a freelance editor (Jeni Chappelle), several members of the Virginia chapter of Sisters in Crime, and hundreds of very happy readers.

suffolk poster and Amy

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the likes of Ellery Adams, Mollie Cox Bryan (who shares my Kensington editor), Mary Burton, Erika Chase, Vicki Delany (who also writes as Eva Gates), Linda O. Johnston, Joyce and Jim Lavene (who write together as Ellie Grant and J.J. Cook), Maggie Sefton, Gayle Trent (who also writes as Amanda Lee), LynDee Walker, and Wendy Lyn Watson (who also writes as Annie Knox).

Many of these authors write cozy mysteries. The cozy is a sub-genre of crime fiction in which the main character, generally a woman, is an amateur sleuth with a day job that allows her to interact with members of the close-knit community in which the crime usually takes place. The cozy is populated with quirky-next-door-neighbor-type characters and the reader gets to know many members of the community as a cozy series progresses. Often the main character has a close relationship with a member of law enforcement (say, a brother, best friend, boyfriend, ex-husband, etc.) and you’d be amazed at how often cats, dogs, and other animals are important cast members. Cozies tend to be on the milder side of crime fiction and generally avoid strong cursing and graphic descriptions of violence and intimacy. It is common to find the main character’s job or hobby (such as knitting, scrapbooking, or animal rescues) as a theme throughout a cozy series.

But not all the authors I met write cozies: some write novels and stories that are a bit darker, such as Mary Burton’s Cover Your Eyes or her Texas Rangers series or Maggie Sefton’s newest political mystery Poisoned Politics. I’m happy to report that both Mary and Maggie are charming in real life and exude none of the danger they write about.

I wish I had time and space to write more about the books I discovered and the authors I talked to, but I will provide their website addresses below for you to check out.

The festival included presentations throughout the day that focused on everything from the History of the Mystery to a talk by Dawn Dowdle, literary agent, about the importance of finding an editor that fits a writer’s needs and genres. While the presentations were being held, many of the authors read from their most recent releases, which was a treat for the readers who attended.

If you ever have a chance to visit Suffolk, Virginia, I have a couple pieces of advice. First, try to avoid I-95 at all costs, even if it means walking the entire distance (you’ll get there faster if you walk, anyway). Second, get there on a day when the Suffolk Division of Tourism is hosting one of its tours, such as the Suffolk Ghost Walk (which I missed because I was sitting on I-95) or the Great Dismal Swamp Guided Nature Walk. Third, don’t leave until you check out the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, which is housed in a restored high school and is a beautiful space that houses, among other things, art galleries, a gorgeous theater, a ballroom, and studios for dance, weaving, pottery, photography, and much more. The Suffolk Division of Tourism couldn’t have picked a more breathtaking and inspiring place to hold its Mystery Authors Festival.

Here’s that list of the authors’ websites:

Ellery Adams: http://www.elleryadamsmysteries.com/
Mollie Cox Bryan: http://molliecoxbryan.com/
Mary Burton: http://www.maryburton.com/
Erika Chase: http://www.erikachase.com/
Vicki Delany: http://vickidelany.com/
Linda O. Johnston: http://www.lindaojohnston.com/
Joyce and Jim Lavene: http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/
Maggie Sefton: http://www.maggiesefton.com/
Gayle Trent: http://www.gayletrent.com/
LynDee Walker: http://lyndeewalker.com/
Wendy Lyn Watson: http://www.wendylynwatson.com/

Jeni Chappelle: http://www.jenichappelle.com/
Dawn Dowdle: http://www.blueridgeagency.com/

Sisters in Crime: http://www.sistersincrime.org/?7

Suffolk Division of Tourism: http://www.suffolk-fun.com/

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Mystery Authors Festival!

Until next week,

Amy