Reading Round-Up: September Edition

This was another great month for great books! I’ve got seven to share with you this week, and I’m well into the first book that I’ll share with you at the end of October.

I hope you’ll share your own reads in the comments below!

The first book of the month was The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I wish I had read this book when it was first published in 2008. There’s more wisdom and inspiration packed into this this volume than I would have thought possible. Randy Pausch gave his last lecture shortly before he passed away from pancreatic cancer, and this book was his gift to his children. I think it should be required reading for college students—and everyone else. Fair warning: it’s a tear-jerker. Read my review here.

 

Lou's Tattoos: A Comedy of Errors by [Iris Chacon]

I knew I would enjoy Lou’s Tattoos, A Comedy of Errors by Iris Chacon before the first page. I’ve loved every book I’ve read by Iris Chacon. Her characters are well-drawn and quirky, her scenarios are delightfully far-fetched yet plausible, and they are just so much fun to read. I read this in one sitting, as I recall I did with the last book I read by her…it seems to be a habit of mine when I read her books. Read my review here.

 

The Lions of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by [Fiona Davis]

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis is a book that will have library and architecture lovers swooning at the descriptions of the New York Public Library in the early twentieth century. The book slides between 1913 (and a few years afterward) and the late 1990s, and I enjoyed the different points of view. Read my review here.

 

Very British Problems Abroad

You may recall that I read Very British Problems by Rob Temple back in January (you can read the post here). And while Very British Problems Abroad wasn’t quite as funny as the first book, it was still quite an enjoyable read. My review can be found here.

 

The Innocents (The Innocents Mystery Series Book 1) by [C. A. Asbrey]

The Innocents by C.A. Asbrey was the kind of book I’d love to read again because I enjoyed it that much. It was fun, there were some laugh-out-loud moments, it was exciting, and I loved that the main characters were so taken with each other, though on different sides of the law. I highly recommend this one. Read my review here.

 

Florence Adler Swims Forever: A Novel by [Rachel Beanland]

Next up was the book club read you all chose! Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland was a fascinating read, made even more interesting for me and, I suspect, the people in my book club, because we live so close to Atlantic City, where the story takes place in the 1930s. To recap the plot if you don’t recall, it’s the story of a young woman who drowns off the coast of Atlantic City and the decision by her mother to keep her death a secret from the young woman’s sister, who is in the hospital on strict bed rest for a high-risk pregnancy. You all did a great job picking this book! Read my review here

 

Hearth Fires (The Haunted Book 1) by [Bibiana Krall, Veronica Cline Barton]

Hearth Fires, Book 1 in The Haunted series, is a collection of short stories by Bibiana Krall and Veronica Cline Barton. Full disclosure, these are the two terrific ladies with whom I share the BookEm show on YouTube. I love their writing styles, which are very different from each other, and this book was a fun way to get into the spirit of Halloween. With their Ouija board themes, these stories are spooky, dark, and atmospheric. Read my review here

So what have you been reading?

Until next time,

Amy

Author Spotlight: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Today I welcome author Nancy Lynn Jarvis to Reade and Write. Nancy doesn’t even know this, but I have a special fondness for her books because two of them were given to me as gifts by someone many of you will remember from this blog–Sharon Aguanno. Sharon loved Nancy’s books and I credit her with introducing me to Nancy’s work.

Nancy is here to talk about her new release, The Glass House. I’m looking forward to reading this one–I wish Sharon was here to enjoy it, too.

Tell me about The Glass House.

Santa Cruz County Law Librarian Pat Pirard is living a perfect life as the book begins, but she’s unexpectedly downsized on her thirty-fifth birthday and needs to reinvent herself before her severance package runs out and she and her Dalmatian, Dot, and ginger cat, Lord Peter Wimsey, face life on a friend’s couch.

When the instructor of a glass art class Pat received as a gift is murdered and the studio’s owner is charged with killing him, researcher Pat is hired by the suspect’s defense attorney to find others in the class who may have a motive for murder. The first thing she does is order business cards proclaiming herself CEO of PIP Inc., not necessarily the first thing most underemployed amateur detectives would do, but then, most people aren’t like Private Investigator Pat.

Who is the audience for the book?

Me. Well, me at all phases of my life. I like mysteries ―the more complicated the better―don’t like to read violence and cruelty, especially as it’s happening, although I love CSI and discovering how the killing happened from a safe distance, so that’s how I write.

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?

Like most of the books I’ve written, The Glass House is set in Santa Cruz. I’m a visual writer who needs to see my setting to get the details right. I know nothing about being a private investigator, but I have a friend who does. She’s my resource, and it’s great fun to collaborate with her.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Deciding it was time. Once I got past that hurdle, it was fun. I hadn’t written a mystery in almost a year because of other projects, and realized as I wrote, that I love writing in the cozy mystery genre.

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

Let me ask the real Private Investigator Pat and get back to you on that.

Tell me about your other books.

I’ve done seven books in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series; Mags and the AARP Gang, a coming of age comedy about a group of octogenarians who decide to rob the bank holding the mortgage on their mobile home park to pay off the loan and stave off foreclosure; and a little book called The Truth About Hosting Airbnb, something I do when I’m not writing. I’ve edited Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes and Santa Cruz Weird, a short story anthology with contributions from seventeen Santa Cruz authors.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I’m not sure if I’d call my group a partnership, but ten local mystery writers call ourselves The Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. We just did our first Noir at the Bar, which was great fun. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Do you write every day?

No. I’m very lazy. I only write when the mood hits.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I like all genres except dystopic…wait, I love Margaret Atwood and she does those; and fantasy…wait, except for JK Rowling and too many authors to list; John McPhee; Amy Tan; anything historical and most non-fiction. Oh, and of course, Agatha Christie and Tony Hillerman and any mystery I can get my hands on. Unfortunately, I can usually figure out who did it by page eighty-six which is, I think, an occupational hazard of writing mysteries.

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

I have never been to Ireland, and according to Ancestry, that’s where most of my ancestors came from. It’s also definitely where my protagonist Regan McHenry traces her ancestry, so it would be fun to see.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t make excuses and don’t expect to write a perfect book. It gets easier as you practice and your writing will improve. I look back on The Death Contingency, the first book I wrote, and can see me learning as the book progresses. The Glass House is polished from page one, so I’m getting better as a writer. The most important reason to write, though, is it’s just so much fun.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I would have to say either Raiders of the Lost Ark or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I know, I know, I have the taste of a seven-year-old boy. The Usual Suspects is my favorite grown-up movie because it’s complicated.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Do everything you can right now because you’ll be old sooner than you think.

Describe yourself in three words.

Tall, intelligent, introvert.

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

How long will you keep writing? Until it’s not fun any longer or my mind turns to mush, whichever comes first.

Where can readers connect with you?

You can click here for my website. All the books are there and most first chapters are up for you to read.

Where can readers find your books?

You can find my Amazon author page by clicking here.

The ebook version of The Glass House will go live on July 25, 2019, to be followed by a print version soon after that. Pre-order and save a couple of bucks because the price will go up after release. If you review the book and send me your email address, I’ll gift you a free copy of any other of my books that you chose.

Readers, if you want to order your copy of The Glass House, it’s only $2.99 until July 26, then the price goes up. If you pre-order the book by the 25th and email Nancy with proof of purchase and the email address of a friend, Nancy will send that friend a free copy. 

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

The Genesis of an Idea

Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of speaking at Career Day for one of my kids. The students who signed up to hear my author spiel were quiet, respectful, and asked some thoughtful questions. The question I received the most was “Where do you get your ideas?”

There are as many places to find ideas for stories as there are writers who write those stories.

This is what I told the kids: I start with my setting. I find that once I decide where my story is going to take place, the ideas flow from that. My first novel takes place in the Thousand Islands; as you might imagine, there are parts of my story that could only take place on an island in the middle of a river. My second novel takes place near Charleston, South Carolina, so a plantation great house has an important role in the story. Not every writer starts with a setting, of course. Some get an idea and the setting grows out of it.

One thing I told the kids on Career Day was that some writers get ideas from reading the obituaries. They read the obits and imagine things that may have happened during the lives of the people who have just passed, whether it was someone who survived the Holocaust or someone who emigrated from Italy as a teenager or someone who spent his or her life as a singer/songwriter. The obituaries are fertile ground for vivid imaginations.

Where else do writers get their ideas? How about newspaper articles? Some writers get ideas from reading the headlines and making up their own backstories. Some read regular columns and make up corruption and intrigue that amp up the excitement. Others use stories from their own jobs; there are more than a few ex-lawyers who use real legal cases in their books. The same is true with doctors and almost any other profession you can imagine.

Ever heard of the book Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night? It’s a book by Lawrence Schiller, an investigative journalist who studied a real case from Cape May Court House, New Jersey (not far from where I live), involving a husband, a wife, their daughter, and a tragic event. Though Schiller stuck very close to the original story, there are lots of real crimes that get fictionalized by authors who are looking for a realistic story line.

The last thing I told the kids was this: ask “what if?” every chance you get. You’re driving by an abandoned house. What if a murder took place there? What if the most recent owner was a recluse? Or you see a father strike his child at a grocery store. What if that father was stressed out because his wife just left him? What if that man wasn’t the child’s father? Maybe you see two people talking on a park bench. What if they’re undercover agents? What if it’s a clandestine meeting? The possibilities are endless.

So think of a place you’d love to set a story. Read newspapers and Internet news stories and the obituaries. Ask “what if?” every once in a while. You’ll stimulate your own imagination and you might just think of something fantastic.

Where do you get your ideas? I’d love to know.

Until next week,

Amy