Author Spotlight: Sally Cronin

I’m thrilled to host Sally Cronin this week on Reade and Write. Sally is the author of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and an incredible wealth of blog posts where you can read about topics ranging from healthy eating to holiday customs to music and travel. She is also a tireless promoter of other authors’ works and is beloved in the blogging and writing communities.

She’s here today to discuss her latest release, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet. If you read my Reading Round-Up two posts ago, you know how much I enjoyed the book. If you didn’t or if you need a refresher, click here to see my review.

Welcome, Sally!

Thanks very much Amy for inviting me over today and appreciate your support in getting my new collection of stories promoted.

The pleasure is mine, Sally.

When I read your books, I always wonder if there’s a lot of you in your stories. Would you say any of them are autobiographical?

There are definitely elements of my life woven into the fabric of several stories in this collection and others that I have written. I don’t want to waste any of my experiences in life or the amazing people I have met, and I hope that it adds a touch of authenticity to the emotional content. Nobody’s life is perfect, however much we wish differently. Whilst there have been times I have wondered ‘Why Me!’ in all honesty in hindsight, there were valuable lessons to be learnt and it usually sent me off in a direction where I was meant to be. Bringing characters I have met in life, many of them now gone, is a great way to keep them alive in my memories.

A related question, and one you’ve partially answered: Do any of your story ideas come from people you know, or things you hear on the news, or snippets of conversation you overhear?

I think probably apart from my own experiences, the state of the world is the next trigger for stories. I enjoy writing stories around topics which are close to my heart such as animal welfare, domestic violence and the elderly. I love reading stories of feisty old people, and in all the collections I always leave room for one or two old but inspiring characters, and of course dogs and cats. I get some prompts from images which I think are very powerful creatively. This is particularly the case for the poetry that I write.

Do you prefer writing short stories, or longer books/novels, or poetry? Or are they just different forms of expression for you?

I have written a couple of novels in the past and two books of linked stories which is a medium that I rather enjoy as they offer continuity throughout the stories and an opportunity for some interesting character interactions. I am not sure it is the same for other readers, but I find that I cannot face the 400 to 500 pages of an epic novel in the same way as I used to, and this is reflected in my own writing. Certainly, with the blog and book marketing, I am not spending as much time writing as I might, so short stories actually fit in well with my schedule. This year the focus is on a return to non-fiction which is requiring me to have a different focus and writing schedule.

And as long as we’re on the subject of writing preferences, do you have a favorite story or poem in the new collection?

One of my daily pleasures is the antics of the garden birds who we built a pyramid feeder for this year. They also have a meter square bird bath created from a seed tray which they love to play in and during this year of lockdowns they have brought a ray of sunshine into our days. This was a Garland Cinquain that I wrote in tribute to them and included in the collection.

Garden Birds

The birds

in the garden

have created a world

removed from the reality

of life.

The Doves

wary and shy

hover on the side lines

waiting to be invited to

the feast

Ravens

fall from the sky

bring ancient mystery

intent on plundering the stores

of seed

Starlings

a raucous flock

delight in the water

splashing and preening their feathers

of jet

Sparrows

agile and swift

dart backwards and forwards

eager for the sunflower seeds

that gleam.

The birds

wary and shy

bring ancient mystery

splashing and preening their feathers

that gleam

That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

Was the new book written in response to any of the events of 2020, or did you write the stories before then?

I had written some of the stories earlier in the year before the crisis began, but I actually made a conscious decision not to mention the pandemic as the collection progressed in the later months. I felt that everyone was already living daily with COVID, events in the USA and in the UK with Brexit, and more importantly I was too.  I have to say I found it very difficult to fictionalize the situation, and as writing is a form of escapism for me, I wrote stories and poems that made me feel hopeful.

The stories in the book are divided into categories, such as “Winning Streak” and “Technology.” Do you write the stories to fit into the categories, or do you find that the stories categorize themselves organically once you’ve written them?

I like to write to a theme, such as in What’s in a Name?, where I wrote stories about men and women (and some animals) with names according to the alphabet. So I decided on the categories first and then wrote the stories to fit into them. The poems were already written and luckily I was able to slot those in appropriately.

Do you have stories (short stories or novels) or poems that you’ve written and not published? If so, how many? Will you eventually publish them?

I do have several short stories and poems that are already written and will be published later in 2021. This year images are the focus and I am working through our archive of photos from all our travels and the countries we have lived in and I am using those as prompts.

I’m already looking forward to it, Sally. What else do you have coming up?

This year it is 25 years since I lost 150lbs and wrote my first non-fiction book ‘Size Matters’, which eventually was published in 2001 as the first edition. I have since revised the book, and want to publish this as a sequel in the spring to celebrate that turning point in my life. I also have a book of linked longer stories based in the village where I was born during the war years, and the collection of short stories and poems I mentioned in November/December.  And in between writing those, I will continue to keep the blog going with the focus on book promotion for other authors (as well as myself) and writing new health series.

Congratulations on such a terrific milestone. I know you’ve inspired so many people to have a more positive relationship with food and weight.

Thanks so much Amy for letting me talk about my writing and thoughts on the year. It has been a lovely experience.

Again, thank you for being here, Sally. It was a wonderful experience for me, too.

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: June Edition

It’s been two months since my last Reading Round-Up because I’ve been reading very slowly lately. But I have some great books to share this week and I think I’m back on track for another Round-Up on the last Tuesday in July.

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Man of the Year

The first book I read was Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker. This was a book of psychological suspense that I enjoyed but thought could have been shorter (it’s about 500 pages). Read my review here.

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The Penitent Priest by J. R. Mathis

The Penitent Priest by J.R. Mathis is the first book in a new series, and I found it very enjoyable. Quick synopsis: a man who joined the priesthood in middle age is sent back to pastor the parish where his wife was murdered. If you like the Father Brown mysteries, you’ll like this book. Read my review here.

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Let it All Burn by Denise Grover Swank

My book club read Let It All Burn by Denise Grover Swank in May. This was a paranormal book with a heavy dose of mythology, and I enjoyed it. I hadn’t expected to, since paranormal is usually not my thing, but I was wrong and happily so. Check out my review here.

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Murder Aboard the Flying Scotsman by Lee Strauss

Next up was Murder Aboard the Flying Scotsman by Lee Strauss. Though this is the 8th book in the Ginger Gold Mysteries, it was my first and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes cozies set in the 1920s. This one is set aboard a train, making it appear to be a locked room mystery, but it branches out to other venues and we get to see a bit of England in the process. You can read my review here.

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Emerald's Secret by Iris Chacon

I read Emerald’s Secret by Iris Chacon in under two hours. It’s a short, delightful novel that is typical of Iris’ fun style, quirky characters, and fast-moving plots. In this book, four police officers go undercover to bust a gambling ring, and each of the four is assigned an undercover identity that is nothing like his or her real personality. A great book that I think you’ll enjoy. Read my full review here.

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The Gallery of Ghosts by Victoria Benchley

The Gallery of Ghosts by Victoria Benchley is the second book in her Marsden Murder Club series. The Marsden Murder Club is a group of people who come together to solve cold case murders. Each member of the club has a specific and unique talent which is the reason he or she has been invited to join. The main character, Charlotte, has an uncanny ability to read people—to discern their pasts and uncover their secrets. This book takes place along the Hudson River and flirts with a hint of mysticism when Charlotte can sense the ancient drumbeats of the original dwellers along the river. This was a great read and you can take a look at my review here.

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The final book this month was Rail Head by Stephen Honig. This is a book of poems all about trains—commuting, traveling, collecting, etc. I don’t read much poetry, but this is the second book I’ve read by Stephen Honig and I find his poetry insightful and interesting. I love the author’s note at the end explaining why he wrote the book. I would recommend it to lovers of unique poetry.

What have you read lately? Please share in the comments.

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

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up for March

Happy Last Tuesday in March! I don’t know if it’s going out like a lamb, as the old adage says, but it’s going out in a flurry of springtime weather, and I love it!

I read three books and one manuscript in March–I can’t tell you much about the manuscript except that it was by D.B Corey, an author skilled in the art of the thriller. The manuscript will hopefully be the eventual sequel to his book The Lesser Sin. I can tell you more when it’s available!

So on to the books I can tell you about: the first one, Messing Around with Words, is a stark, heavy-hitting book of poetry written over the span of fifty years. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

“Stephen M. Honig has amassed a collection of poetry written over fifty years of his life, and the collection is like no other I’ve read. It’s passionate, raw, and poignant, yet relatable and accessible. The reader is both invited and thrust into the mind of the author, and the collection offers a fascinating look at the ways he and his world view have evolved.”

The second book is A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. I had read his book The Vintage Caper years ago, so I knew I would enjoy this one. I wasn’t disappointed. This follows the lives of Mr. Mayle and his wife just after they move from England to the Provence region of France. Their first year is filled with new neighbors, a new language, a new and befuddling work ethic, and lots of wonderful food. This was an enjoyable read from the first page to the last.

And finally, a friend told me of a book she was reading by Kimberly Belle. I looked for Ms. Belle’s books at one of my local libraries and I chose Three Days Missing, a chilling account of a young boy who goes missing from a class camping trip. The book is told mostly from three points of view, but I won’t tell you who does the talking. And the narrator of the last chapter brings a little twist to the story. This is a book that will leave you breathless and reading long past your bedtime.

Please share what you’ve been reading in the comments below!

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

 

Reader Spotlight: Fiona McVie

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In the second installment of my Reader Spotlight series, I’d like to introduce everyone to Fiona McVie, probably the most prolific author interviewer I’ve ever known! Fiona lives in Scotland and has an impressive portfolio of interviews on her website and Facebook page. Welcome, Fiona!

How often do you read?

I read every day, I always take a book when travelling on the bus to work or train to the city.

 

What is the name of the last book you finished?

Gabriel by M.A Abraham

 

What are you reading now?

Marious’ Story by M.A Abraham and Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts.

 

What is your preferred genre?

I read all genre as long as the book is well written I will read it.

 

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.?

I buy my books from book shops, supermarkets and Amazon.

 

How do you decide which books to read?
Cover most times.

 

What is in your To-Be-Read pile?
Too many to count I have over 200 on my wish list at Amazon and slowly buying a few each month.

 

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

No everyone has a different thought about a book. One person might hate it while another will love the book. I make up my own mind.

 

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

I don’t have any favorite book. I like so far all the books I have brought over the years.

 

Where is your favorite reading spot?
Nope I read anywhere: bus, train, bed, on a hill.

 

Anything else you want me to know?

I love reading so much I started a blog where I interview authors. You can check it out here: www.authorsinterviews.wordpress.com. I also write poems. Here are 2 of my poems:
Hero

You are my hero, Dad
You’re my secure foundation.
When I think of you, I’m filled with love
And fond appreciation.
You make me feel protected;
I’m sheltered by your care.
You’re always my true friend; and Dad,
When I need you, you’re always there.
You have a place of honor
Deep within my heart.
You’ve been my superhero, Dad,
Right from the very start.

2ed of June 1940 to 31st of December 1991 RIP

 
My little angel above
My little angel above
My heart sinks when I think
That God took you away from me
At 12 hours old

He must have something special for you
As it is just the good he takes
And I know your dad
Will look after you up there

I know you are looking down on me
On your angel cloud
But it does not stop me
Being heartbroken

John-Andrew 24/12/1980 – 25/121980

 

Those are beautiful. Thanks for being on Reade and Write, Fiona.

Until next week,

Amy