Just an Ordinary Tuesday…EXCEPT MURDER IN THISTLECROSS IS HERE!

 

I have been waiting for this day since September 8, 2017,  the day after Highland Peril was released.

Murder in Thistlecross is the third book in my Malice series and follows Eilidh Cameron, who left the Highlands of Scotland for a new life in Wales after the events that took place in Highland Peril. 

You’ll find family intrigue, murder (of course), upstairs-downstairs tensions, and secrets from the past that erupt in a present-day Norman castle in the peaceful Welsh village of Thistlecross.

Here’s the teaser you’ll find on Amazon:

“The emerald hills and violet valleys of Wales seem the ideal place to start over after murder—and divorce—shattered Eilidh’s life in the Scottish Highlands. But within the stone walls of an ancient castle, a family’s dark, violent past threatens much more than her newfound tranquility . . . 
 
For the past two years, Eilidh has called the quaint Welsh village of Thistlecross home, embracing her new life as estate manager of a restored fifteenth-century castle. But the long-anticipated arrival of her employer’s three estranged sons and their wives transforms Thistlecross Castle from a welcoming haven to a place seething with dangerous secrets. When the escalating tensions culminate in murder, Eilidh must sift through a castle full of suspects both upstairs and downstairs. She can trust no one as she follows a twisting maze of greed and malice to ferret out a killer who’s breaching every defense, preparing to make Eilidh the next to die.”

The book is available in paperback and as an ebook. The links are below:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

Google Play

Your favorite independent bookstore

As always, thank you for your support and a special thanks to everyone who has preordered the book! If you’ve read the book or plan to, I ask that you consider leaving a review, since the Amazon algorithms take into account the number of reviews of a particular book when promoting books in that genre.

Looking for a 99-cent deal? House of the Hanging Jade is available for just 99¢ for a few more days! Find it here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

Google Play

And thank you!

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. Shares would be greatly appreciated…and don’t forget to send your recipes for next week’s post to amymreadeauthor@gmail.com!

The Islands of Aloha

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As you probably know, Hawaii is called The Aloha State. The word “aloha” actually has more than one meaning. It’s commonly used when greeting someone or going away from them, but it means more than “hello” or “farewell.” It also connotes love and affection. But more than that, its meaning is inextricably linked with the spirit of the Hawaiian people and the idea that life should be lived with respect, love, and gratitude for family, friends, the earth, the sea, fish and animals, and anything else that brings goodness to people. To live with the spirit of Aloha means that a person spreads joy, peace, and respect to others and is grateful for the aloha given in return.

You don’t have to be Hawaiian to spread aloha. My son was once scolded and lectured (he was 4) by a Hawaiian woman who was offended that he used the word “aloha” when he greeted her, a stranger. In truth, my son was the one exhibiting the aloha in that encounter. The woman spread no joy, treated a small boy with disrespect, and showed her contempt for anyone not obviously of Hawaiian descent using a Hawaiian word. But that didn’t stop my son from continuing to greet people in that manner. And he found that most people did respond with aloha- with smiles, kindness, and gratitude.

So now that you know a little about the use of the word “aloha,” I’d like to tell you a bit more about the Hawaiian islands.

Hawaii is made up of eight major islands and hundreds of tiny uninhabited islands and atolls. The southernmost island is the Island  of Hawaii, commonly called The Big Island. It’s where my new novel (available next Tuesday- woo hoo!), House of the Hanging Jade, is set. What makes the Big Island so fascinating are its climate zones- its mass contains almost every climate zone on earth. You can go from a polar climate (yes, it does snow in Hawaii!) to dry and arid to rainforest in a single day. The island also has a green sand beach (one of four in the world), and black sand beaches, too.

Pololu Valley

Moving north, you’ll see tiny Kaho’olawe, an uninhabited island which the US government used for target practice. There is always a cloud cover over Kaho’olawe. No one is allowed on the island without special permission, as there may still be unexploded ordinance on the island.

Next you’ll come to Maui. Also known as the Valley Isle, Maui is the home to Lahaina, a former whaling town and now a great place to stay, play, eat, and shop. Maui has the largest dormant volcano crater in the world, Haleakala. Seeing the sun rise over Haleakala is an unforgettable experience.

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Not far off Maui’s western shore (just 9 miles!) is the island of Lanai, a sparsely-inhabited island with a population of just a few thousand. It’s commonly called the Pineapple Island, a nod to its important role in the history of the pineapple industry. It’s a dream destination for people who want quiet and calm- there are no traffic lights on the island!

North of Lanai and Maui is the Island of Molokai, which is probably best known as the place where a Hansen’s Disease settlement (often called a leper colony) was founded, just beyond the cliffs of Kalaupapa. Also called the Friendly Isle, Molokai is home to the world’s largest sea cliffs. Much of the population of Molokai are people of Native Hawaiian descent, and this is an island where Hawaiian culture thrives and lives on.

You can’t miss Oahu as you travel north from Molokai. Often referred to as The Gathering Place, Oahu lives up to its apt name. It is the most densely populated island in the Hawaiian archipelago and is home to Hawaii’s capital, Honolulu, as well as Pearl Harbor. It’s where you’ll find the only royal palace in the United States and where you’ll find major surfing championships along its legendary Banzai Pipeline.

North of Oahu is the Island of Kauai, or the Garden Isle. It’s a haven for people looking for spectacular mountains, valleys, rainforests, and otherwise stunning scenery. Kauai is home to one of the wettest spots on earth, Waialeale. Kauai is not as busy as the islands farther to the south, so it’s a great place to go if you want to relax and kick back without a lot of people around.

And finally, the last of the inhabited islands on your trip north through the archipelago is the Island of Ni’ihau, also called The Forbidden Island, a privately owned island with a population of under two hundred people. Visitors to the Hawaiian islands generally do not make the trip to Ni’ihau, as it is home to only Native Hawaiians. Its inhabitants speak Hawaiian and live without most of the conveniences we take for granted in the rest of the United States- including indoor plumbing, paved roads, cars, emergency services, and much more.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual tour of the Hawaiian Islands, and I hope your day is filled with the spirit of aloha which gives the islands their name.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. There’s still time to support my Thunderclap for the release of House of the Hanging Jade! Click here to sign up- Thunderclap does all the work!

House of the Hanging Jade cover with USA Today (2)

Just Two More Weeks!

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House of the Hanging Jade comes out in two weeks: at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, April 26th. In case you’re counting (I know- I’m the only one who’s counting), that’s just 356 hours and 1 minute from the time this post goes live. So it’s time, don’t you think, for an excerpt? Maybe two?

***

I was still working for Geoffrey a couple weeks later, still floundering through the endless winter weather and finding our relationship a bit awkward. He made excuses to be wherever I was, whether it was in the kitchen or the basement of the restaurant or while I was coming to work or leaving work to go home. I was actively looking for a job on the Big Island, and didn’t want to return home without any employment prospects, but I was seriously beginning to consider going home without a job just to get away from Geoffrey. I had told all my friends and colleagues in DC and on the island of Hawaii that I was going back home; everyone wished me well.

One night I worked very late at the restaurant. I couldn’t catch a cab, so I had to walk home. I walked briskly on the dark sidewalk, trying to stay warm. I slipped on a patch of ice at one point, dropping my bag. As I stooped down to pick it up, I noticed a man walking not too far behind me. He had a toque pulled low over his forehead. I walked a little faster after that, not wanting to be the only woman on the street late at night. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed that the man walked a little more quickly too. A shiver of apprehension crept up the back of my neck. I ducked into a tiny twenty-four-hour grocery store and browsed for a few minutes, buying nothing, but giving the man plenty of time to walk past me and continue on his way.

When I went back outside, I looked left and right to make sure no one was following me. Seeing nobody, I kept walking, but it wasn’t long before I noticed the same man walking slightly behind me and on the other side of the street. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t because the sidewalks were too treacherous. All I could do was fumble for my cell phone and have it handy to call 911 if he came any closer. I looked over my shoulder again; he was crossing the street, walking a bit faster. I went faster too.

I took off my gloves and shoved them in my coat pocket so I could dial 911 quickly. I was almost in front of my building, pulling my phone out of my other pocket when I heard footsteps directly behind me. The man grabbed my elbow and I let out a cry.

“Kailani, it’s me.”

“Geoffrey! You scared me to death! What on earth are you doing?”

“I was just following you to make sure you made it home okay,” he said, still gripping my elbow.

“You’ve never done that before,” I said, my voice grating in irritation. “Why start now?”

“I was just concerned about you, that’s all.”

“Thank you, but I’m fine. Don’t ever do that again. You really scared me.”

“I’m sorry.”

I shook his hand off my elbow and walked away. As I unlocked the door to my apartment building, I saw him out of the corner of my eye, watching me. I shivered, but not from the cold. Now I really couldn’t wait to leave Washington. And Geoffrey.

***

I was crouched down, looking for a Dutch oven, when Akela came in. “Kailani, there’s someone here to see you.”

“Who is it?”

“He didn’t give his name. He’s waiting at the end of the driveway. The police wouldn’t let him come up to the house, so one of them came to escort you.”

I followed Akela to the front door, where an officer stood waiting. He explained that he and his partner could not allow anyone on the property and said he would take me to see my visitor. We walked in silence to the end of the driveway. Another officer was stationed by the large gate, and on the other side of it a tall man in shorts and a T-shirt stood with his back to me. Even before he turned around I knew who it was.

“Geoffrey? What are you doing here?” I asked, incredulous. I had only emailed him a couple times since leaving Washington, and none of those emails had included an invitation to visit or the location of my new job. I opened the gate slowly.

He turned to look at me, a big grin spread across his face. “Surprise!” He came forward and gave me a big hug. I pushed myself away gently.

“I can’t believe you’re here! What made you decide to come all the way to Hawaii?”

“You! What else?” I stole a glance at the officers, who were politely looking in the other direction.

“Wow. I’m flattered. I wish you’d told me you were coming, because I could have met you at the airport or something.” I faltered, searching for the right thing to say. I thought he had realized that I didn’t want to see him anymore. That he wasn’t part of my life in Hawaii the way he had been in Washington.

He stepped back a bit. “Is it okay that I’m here? I mean, do you mind? I just thought it would be a nice surprise.”

“Oh, no,” I assured him quickly. “It is a nice surprise. I just can’t believe you came all this way, that’s all. How did you know where to find me?”

“It’s a long story,” he said vaguely. I let that go for the moment.

“Why are the police here?” he asked.

“Someone died here last night.”

His eyes widened. “Really? Who?”

***

As release day approaches, I will be updating my blog about my blog tours (lots of giveaways!) and other places online where you can find excerpts of House of the Hanging Jade, other guest blogs, and interviews. I hope you’ll take a look!

And one more thing: I’m 51% of the way to my goal in my Thunderclap campaign! I hope you’ll consider lending me your voice of support on the day my book comes out- Thunderclap does all the work. All you have to do is click the link and sign up to support me on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr! Here’s the link: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/38945-be-a-part-of-a-book-birthday. And thank you!

Until next week,

Amy

 

Book Recommendation: Honolulu

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Ever since I read Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, I have wanted to read Honolulu. And I’m happy to report that Brennert did not disappoint.

Honolulu is the story of Regret, a Korean picture bride who emigrates to Hawaii for the opportunity not only to be free from the land ruled by the Imperial Japanese, but also to be free from the oppression suffered by women and girls in the Korea of long ago. Regret learns from an early age that she is inferior to her brothers (hence her given name), that her dream of getting an education is hopeless, and that her only path in life is a choice between spinsterhood and destitution or marriage in a culture where daughters-in-law are mistreated and humiliated by their husband’s families with impunity.

Regret’s decision to become a picture bride, much to her father’s mortification and dismay, is one that will alter the course of her life in ways she could not have imagined. As was the case with thousands of picture brides over the years, Regret was misled as to the social circumstances of her betrothed (she is led to believe he is handsome and wealthy, but…you’ll have to read the story to find out the truth) and as to the brutal realities of living on a tropical island during the early twentieth century.

The troubles which befall Regret as she tries to build her life in Hawaii seem almost insurmountable, and the story is told in a way that brings the reader straight into Regret’s home and into her thoughts.

I loved Honolulu. It took me a long time to read, but that was my fault–I started the book at the beginning of the holiday season and every time I picked it up to read, I was too tired to keep my eyes open for more than a couple minutes.

Regret’s story is woven into the history of Honolulu and the Hawaiian islands. It is a story of family, love, loss,joy, sadness, fear, resignation, contentment, racial injustice, poverty, and success. Though Honolulu is a work of  historical fiction, much of the story is a carefully researched commentary on the relations among all the different cultures and peoples struggling to live alongside each other in the growing city. Though Regret doesn’t always realize it at the time, she is part of the important events which shape the city of Honolulu into the modern place of mingled races and traditions it has become. Instead of calling the city a “melting pot,” Regret refers to it as a “mixed plate,” which is a Hawaiian dish consisting of different types of food, often from different parts of the world, arranged to complement each other.

I highly recommend Honolulu and I’m looking forward to reading another of Brennert’s works, Palisades Park. If you read Honolulu, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.

Until next week,

Amy

My Five Favorite Hawaiian Foods

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Today I’ll be working on the page proofs for House of the Hanging Jade which, as you may know, is set on the Big Island of Hawaii. Re-reading the manuscript has got me thinking about Hawaii all over again, as if I need an excuse to do that.

But it’s also Thanksgiving week, and on Thursday (which, coincidentally, is exactly five months before the release of House of the Hanging Jade), we here in the United States will be enjoying one of the most traditional meals of the year. So is it any wonder that I have food on my mind? (Again, not that I need a reason to think about food, but it is a good excuse.)

Specifically, I’ve got Hawaiian food on my mind. That’s why today’s post is all about Hawaiian foods and the ones I love best.

1. Poke. For those of you who don’t know what poke (pronounced “poh-kay”) is, it’s cubes of fresh raw fish, often ahi, usually with a marinade or dressing. My personal favorite is spicy ahi poke, which is made with ahi, regular or Japanese mayonnaise, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, green onion, and masago (roe of the capelin fish). Before I tried poke the first time, I never could have guessed it would end up to be one of my favorite foods, but I fell in love with it.

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2. Lilikoi, or passion fruit. There are two main varieties: red and yellow. Though most people recommend the red because it’s sweeter, I prefer the yellow. It’s tangy with a zing that no other fruit can replicate. When you open a lilikoi, there is a pulpy mass of seeds inside. That’s the delicious part (don’t eat the white layer inside the skin, which is bitter). My favorite way to eat lilikoi is straight out of the fruit, stirred into yogurt, or pureed and added to any drink.

3. Pineapple. The island of Maui is home to the Hali’imaile Pineapple Plantation, the only working pineapple plantation in the United States, where visitors can take a tour and see first-hand what goes into growing and harvesting the sweetest, most delicious pineapples you’ll ever taste. Click here to see a video of how to cut a pineapple. The juice just runs out of the pineapple and it’s got an amazing sweetness that has nothing in common with the pineapple you find in the grocery store.

4. Loco moco. This is a local specialty that you have to taste to believe. It’s a conglomeration of white rice topped with one or two hamburger patties, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The first time my eldest daughter ate one I told her it looked disgusting, that I wouldn’t try it if she paid me. Long story short, it’s now our traditional New Year’s Day meal,  served with a side of macaroni salad.

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5.   Shave Ice. Some people compare shave ice with snow cones, the ubiquitous treat of state fairs all over the US, but the comparison is misguided. Shave ice has nothing to do with those scoops of tiny ice balls that are thinly coated with colored sugar water. Shave ice is more like a mound of loosely-packed light and fluffy snow, completely permeated with a delicious fruity syrup. The best shave ice is mixed with vanilla ice cream and includes real coconut. See the holes in the shave ice below? Those are from a straw, which is poked repeatedly through the shave ice to ensure the flavor reaches every part of the dessert.

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Are you hungry yet?

Finally, since Thanksgiving is just a few days away, I wanted to tell you all that I’m thankful for YOU! I wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you’re going to be on the road this holiday weekend.

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Until next week,

Amy

 

The Top 10 Things I Learned Doing Research About Hawaii

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It’s on my website, the “About Me” section of my blog, and my Facebook and Twitter pages, but some of you may not know how much I love Hawaii. I first went there on my honeymoon in 1995 and it’s been an obsession ever since. My third book, which is still without an official title, comes out next April (you’re right– I said it would be March, but things change and, unfortunately, I have no control over that) and you may or may not know that it’s set on the Island of Hawaii (yes, just like the state’s name. It can be confusing, so sometimes the island is referred to as the “Big Island”). It’s the story of Kailani, a sous chef living in Washington, D.C., who moves back home to her native island of Hawaii to take on the job of personal chef to a family of four. Beyond that, I don’t want to give much away because the book is still in the edits stages.

But I did tons of research for the book, and I wanted to share with you some of my favorite fun facts.

1. There has never been a case of rabies in Hawaii.

Learned that the hard way.

My husband and I were eating dinner in a nice restaurant (open-air) when a cat wandered up to our table. He (she?) was beautiful, gray and white, and I reached down to pet him. You know what happened next. So we called the ER when we got back to our room to see if I should go in for rabies shots and we were told, to my great happiness, that Hawaii is rabies-free.

2. Many years ago, Hawaiians brought mongoose (the plural of this word is up in the air–some say mongeese, some say mongooses, neither sounds right to me) to the islands to rid the land of rats.

What they didn’t realize is that mongoose are diurnal. And since rats are nocturnal, the two species have never met.

3. The state fish is something is called the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Say that ten times fast, or even one time slowly.

4. The Big Island is approximately double the size of the other seven major islands combined.

5. The Big Island has eleven of the thirteen climate zones in the world. Yes, there is snow in Hawaii. People actually ski and snowboard there, but only on the mountaintops.

6. Hawaii is the only U.S. state that grows coffee.

7. There are only twelve letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and the words in the Hawaiian language are more fun to pronounce than any other in the world (this last part was my opinion, not actual searchable fact). See #3, above.

8. Hawaiian cowboys are called paniolos. Their culture is exciting and their history is diverse and they are responsible for some fabulous food and music that come from their mixed heritages.

9. The island of Moloka’i is where people with Hansen’s Disease, commonly known as leprosy, were sent forcibly until as recently as the 1960s. If you’re ever in search of a great read about this, pick up Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. It’s a beautifully-written, honest, and heartwrenching story about the leper colony on the island.

10. If you ever find a gecko indoors, don’t worry–they’re good luck!

Cockroaches, not so much.

11. BONUS! Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two mountains located on the Island of Hawaii, are the two largest mountains in the world when measured from the sea floor.

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Got any fun facts from somewhere you’ve been? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week,

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