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.

***

And here’s the cover!

I hope you love it as much as I do.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: July Edition

It’s going to look like I didn’t do a ton of reading in July, but that’s because I’m currently in the middle of four other books and I’ve been reading those, too. So August should be a big month.

The first book I finished since my last Reading Round-Up was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. A friend on Twitter suggested that I read it so we could talk about the writer’s style. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Here’s my review from Goodreads:

“This was a haunting book, based on true events that took place in the US in the first part of the twentieth century. It’s the story of a family of river gypsies and what happened to them as a result of the corrupt and horrifying practices of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It’s written from the point of view of two/three characters (you’ll see why I say that when you read the book), but I think that’s almost the way the story had to be told. The language is descriptive and evocative–I think this is going to be one book that stays with me.”

***

You may remember from last month that I read The Merlon Murders and that it was the first book in a two-book series. Well, I finished the second book and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it as much as the first one. The Merlon Murders II, by Victoria Benchley, is a great summer mystery. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“In this second book of The Merlon Murders, readers are treated to some exciting twists following the harrowing ending of Book One. Duncan becomes more deeply involved with the beautiful widow Menzies, he enlists the help of a Swedish expert in game theory, and he begins to form some alarming hunches about the identity of the person who killed Stuart Menzies. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good mystery, and especially one set in Scotland.”

***

I’m becoming more and more interested in eating a plant-based diet as often as possible, so I read The Mediterranean Table, which is a cookbook of easy Mediterranean recipes. The Mediterranean diet is largely plant-based, though there are recipes in the book featuring meat, poultry, and fish, too. The recipes are not only easy to follow, but they use ingredients that are widely available. The book includes a great description of the Mediterranean diet, along with the countries making up that region of the world and their individual contributions to the cuisine of the area.

***

This is a diverse collection of short stories about death. Most of the stories involve some element of whodunit, though not all of them are mysteries. The four I liked the most were by Robbie Cheadle and debut author Aly Locatelli. Cheadle’s stories are fictionalized accounts of historic events and legends and Locatelli’s story is a suspenseful read about a mysterious death. It’s an atmospheric treat that makes for a great debut.

I’m excited to get into August and finish all those books I’m working on! So many books…so little time…

Until next time,

Amy

Guest Blog: Robert Germaux

Today on Reade and Write I have a special guest: author Robert Germaux, who is celebrating the release of his new book, More Grammar Sex, by sharing some essays from the book (I’m told the book is not about sex!). He’s also offering free review copies to anyone interested in reading and (hopefully) reviewing his book. Take it away, Bob!

Robins and Me: The Never-Ending Story by Author Robert Germaux

My wife and I moved into our new home in a suburb of Pittsburgh in June of 1994, and early on we were delighted to see that there was a robin’s nest sitting atop one of the pillars supporting our deck. I thought it was kind of cool having some avian neighbors. Every day I’d go out and kneel down to peer through the wooden slats to keep track of the three light blue eggs that eventually appeared. Cynthia grew up in Kutztown, a semi-rural community in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, so she saw animals on a fairly regular basis. I, on the other hand, was a city boy through and through, so this was my first up-close-and-personal exposure to actual wildlife, unless you count all the episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that I watched, which you probably don’t. Anyway, I was pretty excited about my new flock of little friends. And I was especially thrilled the day I saw that the babies were beginning to emerge. Soon after that, we had a nest full of miniature robins, constantly craning their necks up as mom and dad arrived with their daily meals of worms, insects and the occasional berry. It was as though I was tuning in to my own personal episode of Wild Kingdom every day. I even named the robins. Since I had no idea how to determine the gender of a bird, I just went with Harry, Tina and Elliott. Cute, huh?

And then the little suckers learned to fly.

Apparently, newly-fledged robins can’t fly very far, just about five feet, which turns out to be the exact distance from their nest to the top of the railing on our deck. For the next couple of weeks, the three little robins spent most of their time perched on that railing, doing what came naturally after a hefty meal of worms and whatnot. In short, my cute little birdies had been transformed into big-time poop-producing machines, and our beautiful new deck soon became almost unusable. You for sure weren’t going to lean on that railing and admire the sunset.

Let’s back up here a minute. Birds relieve themselves on the windshield of our car all the time, but that’s different. That’s out on the highways and byways, but our deck? I mean, I don’t have to take this crap from no robin. As the guys in the NBA say about opposing teams coming in to try to beat them in their arena, not in my house.

There wasn’t much I could do that first summer. Cynthia and I just had to live with it, spending a lot of time hosing off our deck any time we wanted to enjoy a meal out there. But the following year, I was ready. As soon as I saw the beginnings of a nest, I immediately knocked it off its perch with an old broom handle. My reasoning was that the robins would simply build the nest elsewhere, but I underestimated their affinity for our deck, or their persistence, or their stubbornness, or whatever. Who knows what goes on inside those tiny brains? Instead of building elsewhere, they kept trying to build in the same old location. As soon as I’d knock one nest down, another one would appear.

Apparently, robins can build nests, like, really fast. (When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who was a science teacher, Jack said, “They’re birds, Bob. What else do they have to do?”) The only adjustment they made was to shift to one of the other open spaces right beneath our deck. There were a total of five places suitable for nest-building, and one morning when I checked, there were the beginnings of four new nests. That’s when it got personal. It was time to bring out the big guns. Well, the big jugs of water. A colleague of mine at work had suggested I fill those spaces with containers of water. I discovered that the gallon size did a nice job of blocking access to the areas, and just like that, problem solved.

As I write this, it’s late March, and many years have passed since that summer of ’94. The cast of characters has changed considerably. Obviously, I’m the sole remaining combatant from that initial skirmish, but each spring brings a new flock of potential poop machines, many, if not most, probably descendants of that first wave over two decades ago. There’s a part of me that admires their determination, but there’s a larger part of me that doesn’t want bird crap all over our deck. So I am ever vigilant. Right now, I’m looking out at a small gathering of robins in our back yard. To the untrained eye, they might appear to be simply hopping around out there, but I know better. Slowly but surely, the red-breasted beasts are edging closer to our house, and one of them in particular is definitely eye-balling the deck.

He looks a lot like Elliott.

 

ABOUT ROBERT GERMAUX

Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to almost anything about distant and exotic places. I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, but the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English.

I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, my wife Cynthia’s idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including “Hard Court” and the recently released “In the Eye.” I also wrote “Small Talk” and “One by One,” both featuring Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes.

Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write “The Backup Husband,” the plotline of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game.

I then tried my hand at writing humorous essays, which resulted in “Grammar Sex (and other stuff)” and its sequel, “More Grammar Sex.” Coming soon is “Small Bytes,” the first Jeremy Barnes novel, to be followed by two other JB mysteries, “Leaving the LAW” and “Speak Softly.”

I love interacting with my readers and getting their input on my stories and characters. Please feel free to contact me via my website roberttgermaux.wordpress.com or his Amazon Author Page.

Thanks so much for being here today, Bob. I, for one, would love to review your new book. Let me know if you’re interested, and readers, I hope you’ll consider reading and reviewing Bob’s new book, too. Let him know in the comments.

Until next time,

Amy

Last Tuesday Book Round-Up

I’m happy to report that I was able to get more reading done in May than I did in April. As of writing this post, I’ve finished six books so far this month and I may be able to squeeze in one more. Here’s the round-up:

Eighteen Months by Glenn McGoldrick is a short story I first heard about on Twitter. This was the first story I’ve read by this author, and I thought it was thoughtfully written and full of darkness. I can’t tell you much without giving the story away, but if you like suspense, this is a good one to check out.

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert was the sequel to Moloka’i. You have to know a little bit about Moloka’i in order to understand what’s happening in the sequel.

The island of Moloka’i in Hawaii was widely known as a leper colony where people were sent decades ago to remove them from the general population. Moloka’i is the heart-wrenching, beautifully-written story of a woman who grew up on the island. As an adult, she gives birth to a baby girl and she and the baby’s father are forced to give up their daughter a day after her birth. Daughter of Moloka’i is the story of that little girl.

Moloka’i is an incredible novel and it was going to be pretty hard to beat it, or even match it. In my opinion, Daughter of Moloka’i doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, but it’s still a great book and well worth reading.

Desperate Deeds by Patricia Gligor is the third book in the Malone Mystery series. In this book, Ann Kern has to deal with her husband’s unemployment, the possibility he’s drinking again, the aftermath of her mother-in-law’s death, starting a new business, and the most unthinkable thing of all, her son going missing. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“This was the fourth book I have read by Patricia Gligor, and as always, she has crafted a story that is full of characters who could be your next-door neighbors. The book draws the reader in with the promise of suspense, and there is plenty of it in this book. Following the twists and turns is fun, and I was sure I knew what would happen on more than one occasion. I was wrong, which thrilled me! Looking forward to Malone Mystery #4.”

Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque is a book that you certainly don’t need to read if you have a newsletter, but if you do, get it, read it, and keep it for future reference. I’m in the process of changing how my newsletter is discovered by readers and I’m already implementing some of the changes the book suggests. I’m very excited about it!

A friend suggested that I read Thief of Corinth and I’m glad I did. It was an interesting story about corruption in the ancient city of Corinth and how a young girl and her father face choices they must make in the face of adversity. The main character, Ariadne, is complex and, at times, misguided and angry. Watching her grow and learn about this new system of beliefs called Christianity is uplifting and inspiring.

Organized for Homicide by Ritter Ames is a great cozy mystery full of twists, turns, and…organizing advice. When two women take on the job of organizing a cross-country move for a recently-divorced father of three and at least two of his children, they’ve got their hands full. And when the ex-wife shows up dead, there are suspects aplenty, beginning with the eldest child of the couple. Here’s my Goodreads review:

“I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the friendship between Kate and Meg, two of the main characters. The mystery was intriguing, with enough red herrings, suspects, and twists to please any discerning mystery lover. Highly recommend!”

So, readers, what are you reading these days? Please share!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. Have you seen my new book cover? Dead, White, and Blue, Book 2 in the Juniper Junction Mystery series, will be available for pre-order soon! If this is your first time seeing it, join my newsletter by clicking here! You’ll be among the first to see my cover reveals.

What do you think??

Sally Cronin is Back!

 

For many of us in the world of authors-marketing-ourselves, we know Sally Cronin as a treasure who selflessly promotes others, spotlighting their new books, re-showcasing their old ones, and offering endless encouragement and support to artists of all stripes.

But Sally is also an author, and a prolific one at that. Not only does she write blog posts that enlighten her readers on everything from the benefits of garlic to heart health to the weather in Ireland, but she also writes short stories and books, both fiction and nonfiction. And she’s here today to tell us about her latest work, What’s In a Name.

Welcome, Sally!

Thank you so much Amy for asking me over for an interview.. It is a real pleasure.

Tell me about your new book, What’s in a Name.

The short stories in this collection are about ordinary people who in some way bring their own unique spin on their names.  Can Alexander, a small boy with a mother who is a fan of Richard Burton, be great?  Can Clive conquer one of the most deadly predators in India?  There is romance, ghostly events, serial killers and those who need revenge and hopefully something for everyone who enjoys an eclectic mix of genres.

What made you decide to write about that particular subject?

Names are fascinating things. They often identify the decade you were born in and in the cases of some celebrities where you were conceived. We might be named after a favourite aunt or uncle in tribute and to keep their memory alive. In my case I was given the second name Georgina after my maternal grandmother. If we are named after someone famous it can also be a huge challenge to live up to their exploits. Imagine being called Napoleon, Caesar or Einstein!  The alphabet provided a great prompt for the stories and as there are stories for both male and females for each letter… There will be 52 tales by the time the second volume is finished.

How long did it take you to write it?

I spent about six months writing the stories and posting them on my blog. I wanted to get initial feedback before publishing and this was very useful. Also it was easier to fit in a story a week rather than sit down and write twenty all at once.

What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Probably coming up with a different concept for each name. It helped when the name was previously owned by someone with exploits or historical connection as the story could be geared to something similar. Also I wanted to avoid offending anyone on and offline if depicting a less than reputable character!  I still wanted friends at the end of the book.

Do you see aspects of yourself in the stories?

Certainly I have used locations that I know and have visited for example in France, Ireland and Sri Lanka where I spent some of my childhood. From that perspective it uses my experiences but with 52 stories over the two volumes, I am going to have to get creative.

Tell us about some of the other books you’ve written.

My books are a mixed bag. Non-fiction relating to health and media and then fiction in the form of novels and collections of short stories. I love the discipline of non-fiction where things have to be exact if the book is to be taken seriously. This is why I always have a fiction book of some description on the go at the same time for some light relief.

Do you write in a solitary environment or do you like to be around other people, noise, etc. when you write? I suppose what I’m asking is, do you write at home or in a coffee shop or another location?

I share an office with my husband who is a book designer and we tend to get on with our own work and confer from time to time on specific projects. I cannot write if there are distractions or lots of noise. I love music but keep that for the treadmill or when we are out walking.

Do you write every day? What does a typical day look like for you?

I do write every day in one format or another. The blog is important to me and so is maintaining my social media platforms that I use for the promotions that I do for other authors. I spend an hour or so going through the overnight traffic and also boosting the posts that have been scheduled from midnight. I may then do one of the daily blog posts before getting on with a chapter of my latest book or a short story to post during the week. I do take breaks for shopping, cooking and exercise, but it is fair to say that when it comes to writing… I need to get a life!

Do you have a favorite story in What’s in a Name?

I do have a favourite and it is the story of the toddler Clive in Sri Lanka who finds himself in a dangerous place. I was his age when we lived there and my first memories are of my amah pulling me away from danger. Touching any of the wildlife could be lethal as rabies was rampant even in the dogs and of course plenty of poisonous insects and predators. But I also remember the smell of curry, the warmth of the sun and swimming with my sisters.

Did you design the cover? If so, what’s in the background of the picture?

The photograph of the peacock was taken in the royal gardens of the king’s palace in Madrid when we took my mother and sisters there when they visited in 2000.  We took a number of shots and so we can use a slightly different one for the second volume.  My husband designs my covers and in the last few books I have used photographs that mean something to me.

Do you like to do readings, say at a bookstore or a library? Do you get many opportunities to read your work?

I did do some readings in the UK when I was living with my mother from 2008 to 2012 and had the opportunity. I loved it but we returned to Madrid  after my mother died and of course the language was an issue. This is another reason to get some of my books translated into Spanish at some point.  Since coming back to Ireland last year we have been focused on getting our new home finished but I am keeping an eye open for book festivals coming up in the summer.

What’s next on your writing horizon?

I have three books that are on their way to the final process. Two non-fiction, one on surviving modern life and some of my thoughts on why we find ourselves at odds with the world at times. The other is a people management manual for home and work… There are parallels including working with outside contractors, communicating with those in authority, and teenagers! I am nearly finished with volume two of What’s in a Name and then I must make a start with the sequel to Tales from the Garden which will be set in Ireland.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are all on Amazon, most in print and Ebooks.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

My books are also available via my own publishing site, some at a reduced price.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books/

And where can readers find you on social media?

Blog: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sgc58

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.cronin

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

It has been such a treat having you on Reade and Write, Sally. I hope you’ll come back again sometime!

Thank you again Amy for asking me over.

Until next week,

Amy

 

 

 

50 Shades of Cabernet

It is my great pleasure to have THREE authors here today–Maggie King, Kristin Kisska, and Heather Weidner. They’re here to discuss their stories in the newly-released anthology 50 Shades of Cabernet. This book, perhaps more than any other I’ve discussed on my blog, fits in perfectly with the theme of my blog which, besides reading and writing, is wine!

I should apologize in advance that some of the links below have to be copied and pasted into another browser for them to work. I tried two dozen times to get the links to work for this post, and unfortunately not all of them do.

  

Let’s get started. Here’s how it’s going to work: the authors, arranged alphabetically, will each provide an answer to my questions.

How does an author get invited to participate in an anthology?

Maggie: I have stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Vol. II anthologies. They were collaborations with two Sisters in Crime chapters: Central Virginia and Mystery by the Sea (Virginia Beach). Participation was open to all chapter members.

Teresa Inge and Jayne Ormerod, editors for 50 Shades of Cabernet, honored me with an invitation to submit a story. I had worked with Teresa and Jayne on the Virginia is for Mysteries projects.

Kristin: Authors can contribute to anthologies in many different ways.  Some are contests which have calls for open submission, while others are through writing groups (Sisters in Crime has many local chapters which publish mystery anthologies).  In the case of 50 Shades of Cabernet, I was personally invited to contribute by the organizers of the anthology.

Heather: Each anthology has its own criteria for submitting stories. For 50 Shades of Cabernet, the organizers, Teresa Inge and Jayne Ormerod, invited short story authors to participate.

Tell us about some of the other short stories you’ve written.

Maggie:

“A Not So Genteel Murder”, Virginia is for Mysteries:

A birthday party at Richmond’s historic Kent-Valentine House sets the scene for this tale of betrayal, loss, and the power of family ties.

After two years, Sharon Taylor is still reeling from the deaths of her husband and daughter, but she drags herself to her friend’s party. Divorcee Olivia Thompson has her eye on Sherwood Aimsley as her new husband and is devastated when he shows up at the party with a statuesque beauty on his arm.

Sharon and Olivia keep each other company while their happier friends whoop it up and spread cheer. Until truth and illusion collide … and the evening ends in tragedy.

“Reunion in Shockoe Slip”, Virginia is for Mysteries II:

One day bestselling author Nancy McGregor and Internet security expert Roger Rucker meet by chance in Richmond, Virginia’s historic Shockoe Slip. Thirty years before they were lovers in sunny Southern California. Their reunion sets off a series of memories and events that change their lives forever.

Kristin: All of my short stories have been loosely connected to the mystery genre.

“The Sevens” was a fictional origin tale of a very real secret society at the University of Virginia and included a murder.

“A Colonial Grave” is a contemporary mystery in which a William and Mary architecture student stumbles on the bones of a cold case murder at a dig in Colonial Williamsburg.

“Wine and Prejudice” is a flirty little bling-heist set in the Historic District of Savannah.

Finally, “To the Moon and Back” is a dark psychological suspense story in which a mother goes to extreme lengths to save her daughter.

Heather: 

In “Washed up” in Virginia is for Mysteries, a suitcase with a rusty gun and shriveled hand appears on the beach outside of a struggling bar near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in Virginia Beach. A friend of the bar’s owner seems to know where it came from, and he gains instant celebrity with his story about a paranormal experience. The attention does wonders for the bar’s profits until something ordinary provides the missing piece of the puzzle.

In “Spring Cleaning” in Virginia is for Mysteries II, medical records manager Douglas Weimer gets more than he bargained for when he’s moved onto a new team and receives a project with a drop-dead delivery date. His assignment in Roanoke, Virginia, gives new meaning to work deadlines.

Where can we find your other short stories?

Maggie: Wherever fine books are sold: in brick-and-mortar stores or on Amazon (print and e-book):

Virginia is for Mysteries: http://amzn.to/2oNlcdQ

Virginia is for Mysteries II: http://amzn.to/2qfTXsT

Kristin: The anthologies are available in ebook (Kindle & Nook) and paperback versions via Barnes & Noble and Amazon.  Below are links:

“The Sevens” in Murder Under The Oaks

A Colonial Grave” Virginia is for Mysteries: Volume II

“Wine and Prejudice” 50 Shades of Cabernet

“To the Moon and Back” Day of the Dark (available July 2017)

Heather: I’ve written short stories for Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II.

Do you also submit stories to magazines and literary journals?

Maggie: So far, no. That’s part of my long range plan.

Kristin: No, I haven’t. Yet.

Heather: No. I haven’t submitted stories to magazines and journals yet. I’m working on two different mystery novels at the moment.

If you also write novels, do you write short stories in the same genre as your novels or do you prefer to branch out?

Maggie: I do write novels and they’re very different from my short stories. My novels are traditional mysteries with a crime and an investigation; the killer, or killers, are nabbed in the end and justice is served.

My short stories are morally ambiguous. Justice is served, kind of, but not in the conventional way. I can’t say more—you must read them!

Kristin: Yes.  Both my novels, neither of which are currently published, are contemporary suspense, a subgenre of mystery.

Heather: Yes, all my short stories and novels are mysteries. They tend to be traditional mysteries. My Delanie Fitzgerald mysteries have a female private investigator, and I’m working on a cozy series set near Charlottesville, Virginia.

How long have you been writing short stories?

Maggie: Since 2012.

Kristin: I started writing short stories in 2015 after I’d penned my first novel.  My local chapter of Sisters in Crime was gearing up to publish a sequel anthology to their first successful one, Virginia is for Mysteries.  I wrote two stories, but the chapter had such a large response, they could only accept one story from each author.  I submitted my second story to Bouchercon’s Murder Under the Oaks anthology contest, and I won.

Heather: I’ve been writing short stories since the early 1980s (7th grade). I wrote and illustrated a mystery about a dog who was a detective.

How did the theme for 50 Shades of Cabernet come about?

Maggie: Teresa Inge and Jayne Ormerod were relaxing at their favorite wine bar, contemplating their next anthology project. As they sipped their Cabernet, they looked at each other and exclaimed in unison, “Cabernet! Wine-themed mysteries!”

They never would say how the 50 Shades came into play. Maybe they didn’t want to admit to reading the steamy bestseller, 50 Shades of Grey? Or did they decide that a send-up of a popular title that is now part of the lexicon was a smart marketing ploy? Whatever their thought process, I think it was inspired.

Kristin: I was never told how our organizers for the anthology were inspired, but I assume there was a lot of wine involved.

That said, my short story, “Wine and Prejudice” was inspired by a recent trip to Savannah.  The fountain, the ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, the park squares, and even the old cotton warehouses along the river all created an enchanting setting for a short story.

My story is: When a bride-to-be’s diamond bracelet goes missing, only wine and time and reveal the true thief.

Heather: Mysteries pair well with a variety of wines. It’s a fun theme. And we held several of our anthology planning meetings at local wineries.

What do you think is harder—writing short stories or writing novels? Which do you prefer?

Maggie: I love writing both, but writing novels is harder. Aside from the length, novelists are expected to conform to exacting standards for plot, characterization, and writing style. With short fiction, an author is freer to experiment. An agent is not required. Still, the writing must be concise and  top notch. If I had to choose (thankfully, I don’t) I’d devote my writing to short stories.

Kristin: In general, I prefer writing novels because I have more pages and time to develop characters.  However, with short stories, I’ve been able to experiment with structure and storytelling techniques.  It’s also lovely to go from story idea to seeing my work in print in less than a year, which is an extremely short timeline in the publishing world.

Heather: I like writing both. I get to experiment more with themes, plot lines, and characterization in short stories. But I think short stories are harder to write because they are more compact, and every word counts. Many journals and anthologies have word limits, and you have to be able to have all of the elements of a mystery in just a few pages.

Tell us about yourselves personally. Where are you from, what jobs have you held in the past, and what do you love most about writing?

Maggie: I’m from New Jersey and have lived in Massachusetts and California. These days I call Richmond, Virginia home.

I started my career as a retail sales manager and customer service supervisor before taking on my longest stint as a software developer. In 1999 I took a break from IT. I’m still on that break! For a time I had a computer training business, did web design, worked and volunteered for non-profits.

What I love most about writing is creating great, but ordinary characters and putting them in extraordinary situations to test their mettle. I get much satisfaction from seeing justice served in an unjust world—even if it’s just make-believe. I also love mining my past experiences and people I’ve known for story ideas. I don’t expect the well to dry up anytime soon.

Kristin: I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband and three children. I own a marketing company and write whenever I can carve out a spare half hour.  That’s a tall order, some days!  I like to call myself an MBA-turned-fictionista because my first love was working on Wall Street as a financial analyst and a corporate banker.

I didn’t aspire to write anything more than a Facebook post or corporate memo, but one day I was inspired by an idea for a novel that I just couldn’t shake.  A week later, I had a detailed eight-page outline of the plot and started writing.  That was nine years ago, and I’ve been writing fiction ever since.

I love that my writing is about being a conduit for transcribing the creative ideas that ignite in my brain.  Nothing makes me happier than when my characters take over and write the story themselves. I’m only along for the ride (and the typing).

Heather: I am a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is my debut novel.

Originally from Virginia Beach, I have been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. I live in Central Virginia with my husband and a pair of crazy Jack Russell terriers.

I earned my BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and my MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, I have been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.

The thing that I love most about writing is the whole process. I love to research, plot stories, write, and revise. It’s a chance to create another world and a variety of people/characters.

Do you find it easier to promote an anthology rather than a novel? Why?

Maggie: In some ways, yes. Anthologies generate exposure for the participating authors.   Coordinating promotion efforts among the contributing authors can amplify the effects, making it an effective strategy.

However, while anthologies have gained in prestige in recent years, they still take a back seat to novels.

Kristin: Neither of my novels is published yet, so I don’t have much to compare from personal experience.  Logically though, I believe that sharing the energy, fan bases, and resources of nineteen authors to promote an anthology would be more effective than a single author promoting a novel.

Heather: The work is the same, but I think it’s easier to promote an anthology because there are multiple authors. Everyone has different skills and talents, and it’s nice to be able to divide up the work. Plus, there is power in numbers on social media. I am on the planning team for this anthology, and we worked with the authors to share the tasks. I chair the social media group, and we’re responsible for the website, Facebook, and Twitter pages. We’ve hosted online events and coordinated a blog tour.

Are you a wine drinker? If so, do you like cabernet?

Maggie: I am not a wine drinker. I do drink grape juice and eat grapes so I’m not too far off course ;-). I attend an annual winetasting fundraiser in Richmond (much like the one in “Wine, Women, and Wrong,” sans stabbing), so I get to observe the goings on and make up stories.

Kristin: I love wine and try to go to the Virginia Wine Trail vineyards every year!  My book club jokes that we’re technically a *wine club with a book problem*.  My favorite go-to wine is Italian pinot grigio, but I definitely reach for a good cabernet sauvignon on occasion.

Heather: I am a wine novice, so I’m doing my 2017 wine tour on my blog as we promote the book at wineries, wine shops, and vineyards. I’m posting what I learn and stories of our adventures. (I’m allergic to sulfites, so I stick mostly with iced tea.)

Tell us where we can find 50 Shades of Cabernet.

For the answer to this question, I’m taking the liberty of combining the responses of my three guests.

You can find 50 Shades of Cabernet at your favorite bookstore or online. The link to the book on Barnes & Noble is http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/50-shades-of-cabernet-various-authors/1125894631?ean=9781633933576. The link to the book on Amazon is https://www.amazon.com/50-Shades-Cabernet-Mysterious-Anthology-ebook/dp/B06XH65CP7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493665772&sr=8-1&keywords=50+shades+of+cabernet

50 Shades of Cabernet also has its own website, Twitter page, and Facebook page! You can find the website at https://www.50shadesofcabernet.com/, the Twitter page at https://twitter.com/50ShdsCabernet, and the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/50ShadesofCabernet/.

And last but not least, the anthology authors are appearing at a variety of locations and events. This is the link to their events calendar. Stop by and see them. https://www.50shadesofcabernet.com/events/

Please share your social media links with us.

Maggie:

Website: http://www.maggieking.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: maggie8208

Kristin:

Website – www.KristinKisska.com

Twitter- https://twitter.com/KKMHOO

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/KristinKisskaAuthor

Heather:

Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner

Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233?trk=hp-identity-name

Anything you wish I’d asked? Anything else you’d like to say?

Maggie: Amy, your questions are great and we appreciate the chance to promote 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Kristin: Aside from buying their book(s), how can a reader support a starting-out author? All the following suggestions are completely free:

  • Request their local library stock the author’s book(s).
  • Follow the author on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Goodreads, etc.
  • Tweet or post pictures of the author’s book *in the wild* (either on a trip you take or if you see it in a local bookstore). Be sure to tag the author and the location.
  • Encourage your book club to read it. Many authors will Skype/Facetime with the club to answer questions and comments!
  • Sign up for the author’s newsletter/blog (usually via their website).
  • Attend one of the author’s book events (in person or online).
  • Participate in giveaway contests the author hosts. Encourage your reader friends, too!
  • Connect with an author. Leave comments on their blog. Ask questions.  We’re people, too!
  • And probably the single most important, leave reviews! Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, or anywhere.

Heather: I am honored to be a part of this anthology with so many talented and creative writers. I love anthologies because you can read one or two stories in a sitting, and you get to sample a lot of different literary styles.

Ladies, what a treat it’s been having all of you here today. I wish you continued success with 50 Shades of Cabernet and I hope that you’ll each come back to Reade and Write when you have other projects coming out!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. Heather’s debut novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes, can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Lives-Private-Eyes-Fitzgerald-ebook/dp/B01FGRFI1C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493664322&sr=8-1&keywords=secret+lives+and+private+eyes. You’ll have to copy and paste the link into your browser like some of the others above.

No Symbolism Here

With apologies to any English teachers who may read this blog…

Think back to when you were in high school. Remember your English classes? Remember how the teacher would insist that there was deep and profound meaning in something that you were taking at face value?

Let me give you an example. A character takes a walk in the woods. You thought, “Okay. So the guy takes a walk in the woods. So what?” Your English teacher said, “Don’t you see? The walk in the woods symbolizes something. It represents the sadness of the character, the character’s loneliness and self-fulfilling limitations.”

Breaking news: sometimes a character just wants to take a walk in the woods. No symbolism there. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s pretty in the woods. It’s a nice place to take a walk. It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is sad or lonely or suffering from self-fulfilling limitations.

You can probably think of a thousand other examples of symbolism being forced on a story where, perhaps, the author never meant anything more than what is written on the page.

I was thinking about this because I was helping a person-who-shall-remain-nameless with an English paper recently. It was based on a short story and the person-who-shall-remain-nameless did a great job on the paper and I told that person as much.

Long story short, that person got a pretty poor grade on the essay. I think I felt worse than the student did because I had helped with the paper. Turns out the English teacher thought certain crucial elements of the story had been left out of the essay. The student (and I) didn’t agree.

It’s an embarrassing situation because my job is writing. I didn’t just decide one day to sit down and start writing. I took countless writing classes in college, I took writing classes in law school, and I wrote daily and endlessly as a lawyer. I like to think I can take a piece of writing and pick out what’s important and what isn’t. But I know there are plenty of English teachers out there who disagree with me. Who think that if I don’t see a deeper meaning in much of what I read, I am reading it wrong.

Sometimes it’s important to read a story just because it’s a good story.

Thousands and thousands of authors write for the simple joy of entertaining, and millions and millions of readers read for the simple joy of being entertained.

I’m not saying that symbolism in writing isn’t important. It is. But sometimes that simple joy of reading can be squelched by the demands placed on the written word. I would never make a good English teacher-I’m too literal. When I read a book I want to escape into the plot, not be bogged down by a hidden meaning that may or may not exist.

I’m thankful that kids today have the opportunity to dig deep into books at school and that they have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of their English teachers, whom I respect and admire. I just want to make sure that kids don’t stop reading outside of school because they’re afraid of missing something important in a book, because they’ve been taught that books have deeper meanings that the kids just don’t understand.

Because sometimes a walk in the woods is just a walk in the woods.

Until next week,

Amy

P.S. With a little bit of luck, maybe the cover of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor will be revealed next week!

Why Bother with a Critique Group?

I’ve been hearing about a movie, called “Authors Anonymous,” in which critique groups are presented in a rather poor light. Before I go on, let me make it clear that I have not seen the movie, nor do I plan to. The reviews I’ve seen haven’t been good, and the truth is I don’t go to a lot of movies. I’d rather stay home and read a book.

The point of this post is not to bash the movie, but to offer my own take on the importance of critique groups (One of my children suggested that I write this post on the topic of how-to-accomplish-any-writing-while-your-kids-are-hyped-up-on-Easter-candy, but I’ll save that for another day). Back to the critique groups; I’ll use my personal experience as an example.

I am by no means a critique group expert, but I’ve been a member of one for about a year so I feel somewhat qualified to give my opinion. And my opinion is that it’s been a great experience. I am a member of an online critique group that I found through Women Who Write, a nonprofit writing organization for women. There have been a few comings and goings in my group, but there is still a core group of women who have been there from the online group’s inception. I like to stay in touch with the women who have left our group to continue to offer support and encouragement. The members of the group are at different places in our writing journey, and we all need and offer support and constructive criticism to each other.

This is how it works: there are rules about the length of our submissions to the group. We all adhere to the rules. We submit our writings on a designated day every month and two weeks later, everyone’s critique of our writings are due. The critiques are done in the “sandwich method,” which means they start and end on a positive note and in the middle are the constructive comments about flow, characters, plot speed, and any other issues the writer or critiquer may have. It works because we all understand that our writing can always improve and we are not shy about receiving criticism because of the positive way in which it is given.

One of our members is a memoir-writer, one writes prose that is often in short story form, one is writing an edgy young adult novel, one writes women’s commercial fiction (what used to be called “chick lit”), and then there’s me, a novel writer. What I love most about reading their work is that it’s so different from what I write; I love reading something different once in a while. I respect them all for their amazing abilities in their chosen genres. I sometimes feel ill-equipped to offer critiques on their work, since I don’t always know the nuances of their genres, but they know that and they can always feel free to take my suggestions with a grain of salt.

The nice part about an online group is that we submit our writings and our critiques electronically, so if I don’t have time to submit my writing or my critique until I’m in my pajamas at 11 o’clock on a Monday night, that’s okay. I can work and submit whenever I want before the deadline, and if I’m a day late, that’s okay, too. You can’t do that in a face-to-face meeting; if a group member is unprepared in a face-to-face group, that member doesn’t benefit from a critique and the other members don’t benefit from that member’s suggestions.

I also have a critique partnership with a wonderful woman who is writing a satirical romance novel. She and I trade work once a month and give our critiques over the phone. Again, I can be in my pajamas if I want, but I have to be ready to critique at the appointed time, or we both suffer. I love the flexibility of this critique partnership; we decide during our phone call when we can both be ready for our next submissions, and when we have time to discuss our critiques on the phone. It works well and I’m really enjoying and benefitting from the experience.

So that’s how I view critique groups. They probably don’t all work as well as mine, but that’s why movies are made. And I have to admit, our group works so well that we would make a pretty boring movie.

Have you had any positive- or negative- critique group experiences? I’d love to hear about it.

Until next week,

Amy