For My Friends in the United Kingdom and Ireland

Just in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, and 2017, my first two books, Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, are on sale through Kobo for just 90p/1,09€! Below are descriptions of each book and the links where you can find them. Thanks for your time and I wish you all the best as 2016 comes to a close and a new year begins!



Secrets Of Hallstead House (eBook)

 Macy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead. But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions. Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming. Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…



The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor_ebook cover

“Do you know what stories Sarah could tell you about the things that happened in these little cabins? They’d curl that pretty red hair of yours.”

Outside of Charleston, South Carolina, beyond hanging curtains of Spanish moss, at the end of a shaded tunnel of overarching oaks, stands the antebellum mansion of Peppernell Manor in all its faded grandeur. At the request of her friend Evie Peppernell, recently divorced Carleigh Warner and her young daughter Lucy have come to the plantation house to refurbish the interior. But the tall white columns and black shutters hide a dark history of slavery, violence, and greed. The ghost of a former slave is said to haunt the home, and Carleigh is told she disapproves of her restoration efforts. And beneath the polite hospitality of the Peppernell family lie simmering resentments and poisonous secrets that culminate in murder—and place Carleigh and her child in grave danger…



Book Club Resources


I’ve got book clubs on my mind this week. My first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, is being discussed at the inaugural meeting of a local book club during March and they’ve invited me to attend (woo hoo!). Once the meeting is over I think I’ll join the book club (because I already know I love their taste in books).

Recently I tried to join a pop-up book club which meets at a hotel about a half hour from my house. They meet for three months a year and this year the topic is Ernest Hemingway. They’re reading The Sun Also Rises by the man himself, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, and Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck. Alas, the book club was full by the time I heard about it, so I’m on the wait list and it doesn’t look like they’re going to have any open slots for me. I’ll just have to make sure I join early next year.

You may remember a while back I mentioned I was writing book club questions for my new novel, House of the Hanging Jade (coming out in about three months!). They’ll be in the back of the book. I also composed lists of discussion questions for Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, though those questions are not in the books– they’ll be going up on my website instead. While I was researching book clubs and discussion questions, I came across some useful and interesting websites. I thought I would share them with you in case you’re part of a book club and are looking for discussion ideas. They’re even good if you’re not in a book club and just want a way to dig deeper into a book you’re reading.

  1. The best site I found was for the Westfield Memorial Library in Westfield, NJ. It has an extensive list of discussion questions for fiction. You can find the list here:
  2. Another great site is It’s billed as a list for a kids’ book group, but I think the questions are great for anyone, adults or children.
  3. Here’s another:
  4. This is a good one, though you have to scroll down to find the sample discussion questions:

I’ve also composed a list of a few good websites to find discussion questions for non-fiction books. You’ll note the first website is familiar–the Westfield Memorial Library again!

  3. (this list contains questions for both fiction and non-fiction).

Want to know my favorite place to look for discussion questions? Go right to the source–the author! If there isn’t a list of discussion questions at the end of a book, email the author or visit his or her website to ask if there are any questions he or she could suggest for your book club. Trust me, the author will love it!

Do you have any resources you’d like to share?

Until next week,


Need Last-Minute Gift Ideas?


This year I’ve noticed something a little unusual on social media. With each passing day, there are more and more posts by people who can’t seem to get into the spirit of Christmas. Now, I know not all of you celebrate Christmas, but since I do, this is something that’s caught my attention.

It seems there are more than a few people who aren’t interested in decorating, baking, shopping, going to parties, hosting parties, singing carols, you name it. And many of them say the same thing: this year they just aren’t interested. Their apathy reminds me of a short story I read online recently by Nancy W. Gavin (to read the wonderful story yourself, click here). The story is about a man who didn’t like the commercialism of Christmas. He thought it was all too much– too much money, too much stuff, too much everything. So his wife came up with a solution. Every year she secretly invested in one thoughtful gift which would benefit a person or a group of people who were in need of help. Eventually, that one gift, which she shared with him and their children on Christmas morning in a white envelope tucked among the branches of the Christmas tree, became the gift the family most looked forward to opening.

Reading the story got me thinking about the post I wanted to write for today’s blog. With Christmas just ten days from tomorrow, time is getting short for buying stuff, having it shipped, wrapping it, etc. But ten days is plenty of time to think about opportunities out there for giving to those who are in need. Today’s post highlights just a few places you can visit online and in person to give a helping hand.

First, start local. Many communities have food banks which always need donations of food, toiletries, and school supplies. In my community, the grocery stores, churches, schools, and other organizations have food drives. Many of those same institutions also have “mitten trees,” which don’t collect just mittens, but all kinds of cold weather gear, including hats, gloves, scarves, and even coats.

Second, many local organizations have an angel tree, sometimes called a giving tree. Instead of ornaments hung on the tree, there are tags with the gender, age, size, and a few wish list items of a person in need (usually a child, but not always). You simply take one or more tags, pick up a gift or two for the person on the tag, and return the gifts, usually unwrapped, to the place where you got the tag. These angel trees are a great way to help families who might not otherwise be able to provide their children with any Christmas gifts.

Third, go online and find a charity that needs your help. Some people like to give to the same charity every year, some like to mix it up a little. Whichever you prefer, there are about a gazillion charities to choose from. A good place to start is Give Well, which gives online visitors a primer in charitable giving. A valuable site if you want to make a charitable donation is Charity Navigator, which has a pretty cool tool for rating charities from around the world. The navigator scores charities based on objective data on financial performance, accountability, and transparency.

So now that I’ve listed the basics I think are important, let me suggest a few places which could use your help.

How about an organization which provides service animals? Check out 4 Paws for Ability.

Want to help defeat cancer? Check out Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Disaster relief? Try International Relief Teams.

There are so many organizations out there that need help, not only at this time of year, but every single day. I encourage you to check out Charity Navigator to have a look at the sheer number of charities seeking financial assistance.

And if you can’t provide financial assistance, how about reading holiday favorites to kids at the local library? How about visiting a nursing home and offering to play carols on the piano for residents? How about volunteering to ring the bell for the Salvation Army? There are lots of things you can do without having to open your wallet if you can’t do that this year.

If your holiday spirit has gone missing or if it just needs a kick-start, try visiting some of the places I’ve mentioned. Because sometimes it’s the act of helping others that puts people in the spirit of Christmas. After all, that’s what Christmas is all about, isn’t it? And if you find that missing holiday spirit? Share it with someone!

Until next week,


P.S. Show an author some holiday love! Is there a local author you like? Contact him or her and ask to buy an autographed copy of one or more books. I guarantee that author will be thrilled to accomodate you! And ahem, I know of one author in particular whose books make great gifts, in my humble opinion. Here’s her website, check it out: Just sayin’.

A HUGE Milestone to Share!

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor_ebook cover

My editor called me this morning to tell me that The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is now on the USA Today Bestseller list!!

Thank you to everyone who has read the book, read Secrets of Hallstead House, read my blog, visited me on Facebook or Twitter, and/or reviewed either of my books–it means the world to me!

Until next week,


House of the Hanging Jade Cover Reveal

Before you scroll down to see the cover for my new book, let me thank you for your support in making The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor Amazon’s #1 bestseller for Gothic Fiction! I am thrilled and honored.

And there’s more good news, too! Secrets of Hallstead House is on that same bestseller list at #20!

It’s been a while since I posted any information about where the books can be found, so I’m going to do it again today.

And bonus! The ebook version of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is on sale for 99 cents at all major online retailers. Here are the links:

Amazon: Secrets of Hallstead House

Amazon: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

Barnes & Noble: Secrets of Hallstead House

Barnes & Noble: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

Kobo: Secrets of Hallstead House

Kobo: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

itunes Secrets of Hallstead House The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

For international readers who may be interested in either of my books, they are available at, (Secrets of Hallstead House), (The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor), (Secrets of Hallstead House), (The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor), (Secrets of Hallstead House),  and (The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor).

So now for the cover reveal!

As you may already know, I am in the copy-edits stage of my third novel, House of the Hanging Jade, which is due out in April, 2016. It is the story of Kailani Kanaka, a Hawaiian-born sous chef in Washington, DC, who decides to head back home to the tropics to take a job as a personal chef to a family living on the Island of Hawaii. I’ll be telling you more about the book in future posts, but for now I’d like to share the cover with you.

Drum roll, please…


House of the Hanging Jade cover

What do you think? The Art Department at Kensington Publishing went a little more modern with this one. I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me.

Until next week,


P.S. If you’re interested in pre-ordering House of Hanging Jade, you can do it on amazon,, and!







The Waiting Game

Great Escapes post #1 ghosts

I heard from my editor last week about my third book, which comes out next April. He forwarded me the wording that will be on the back cover of the book and asked for my input. He hopes to send me his editorial notes on my manuscript this week and then I can get started on the serious business of editing.

His email got me very excited about the book all over again. He’s had the manuscript since the beginning of May; during that time I’ve been working on two other books and, of course, promoting Secrets of Hallstead House and The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, but I found that I’m chomping at the bit to get back into that manuscript.

But taking a break from a manuscript is essential.

Why, you ask?

By the time a manuscript is sent to the editor, the writer has read the book at least a billion times and it’s hard to take a step back and look at it critically. It’s like trying to take a critical look at a newborn baby. It’s impossible. Taking a break and working on something else allows the writer’s subconscious to ruminate on the manuscript. It also allows the writer to read the manuscript, once it comes back from the editor, with relatively fresh eyes. It’s easier to catch mistakes, easier to see plot holes, easier to see the story arc. I know my manuscript contains mistakes and plot holes–I just couldn’t find them when I submitted it. The story was too fresh–it was the only thing I could think about. I needed to get away from it for a while and now I’m ready to delve into it again, to polish it and make it better.

This isn’t just true with manuscripts, by the way. I’ve found that taking a break from something, a problem or an issue, often helps me see things more clearly. Even if it’s just overnight. You’ve probably heard it said that “everything looks better in the morning” (can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that). It’s good advice. There’s a reason people say they have to “sleep on it” before making a decision. Taking a break before making a decision or taking some kind of action gives you the distance you need to see an issue more clearly, to see options and alternatives.

Try it. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m glad I got a break from that manuscript, but I’m ready to tackle it now. I hope to get the cover art soon, too, and when I do I’ll share it here first. I can’t wait!!

Until next week,


A Few Photos…and Thanks!

Last Thursday I had a wonderful book signing attended by very good friends and wonderful strangers alike. The signing was held at Sun Rose Words and Music in Ocean City, NJ, and I’d like to thank Nancy at Sun Rose for setting up the signing. The weather was perfect and the signing was held on Market Day in Ocean City, which means there were crowds out in full force listening to live music, laughing at the jokes of the man on stilts, and getting faces painted, along with participating in lots of other family-friendly activities.

Here are some photos:

Sun Rose signing

Sun Rose signing 2

Sun Rose signing 3

Sun Rose signing 4 (I call this “the action shot”)

Thanks to Sue Murphy, the Denton Clan, Rich and Carol Thompson, Carolyn Reade, and the nice man in the sunglasses who took the pictures!

Next up: a talk and book signing at the Avalon Public Library (Avalon, NJ) on August 5th at 7:00 p.m. If you’re in the area, please stop by and visit!

This week’s post is short because I have a lot going on. I’ll be back full force on Tuesday, July 28th!

Until next week,



My Eleven Favorite Quotes on Writing

photos from Amy's phone 240

I think every writer has a favorite quote about writing. I have eleven. An odd number, I know, but I just couldn’t stop at ten. This week I want to share them with you:

11. “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” Agatha Christie

10. “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann

9. “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” Saul Bellow

8. “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Louis L’Amour

7. “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” Joseph Heller

6. “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing anything else.” Gloria Steinem

5. “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov 

4.” Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow

3. “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” Harper Lee

2. “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham

1. (Okay, so this one isn’t necessarily about writing, but it applies and I love it) “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost

Do you have a favorite quote? It doesn’t have to be about writing. I’d love to hear it.

Until next week,


P.S. The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is released in just two weeks, so I’ll be posting more often as I have guest blogs going live. I hope you’ll take some time to visit! The first one is here:

Book Recommendation: The Vintage Caper

The Vintage Caper

The comments to last week’s post got me thinking about the books I review on my blog and how I go about deciding which books to review. Here’s what I concluded: when I tell readers about a specific book, I shouldn’t really call that post a “book review” because I’m not a book reviewer. I’m just a reader who loves to share the books I think are great.

In other words, if I enjoy a book and I think there are other people out there who would enjoy reading it, too, then I’ll recommend it and write about it. If I read a book and don’t enjoy it, you won’t find it on my blog.

I keep it to myself. I know very well how a writer feels to read a less-than-positive review, and I’m not going to ruin another writer’s day by writing one.

So from now on, my book reviews will be called “book recommendations.” That’s because I won’t review a book that I can’t recommend.

That takes care of the housekeeping issues for this week. Let’s move on to the real reason for today’s post: my recommendation of A Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle.

I loved this book!

As its title suggests, this book is a caper, not a hard-boiled thriller. It’s a story that contains a bit of a mystery. There is criminal activity, yes, but there’s no violence, no sex, and I think the limited amount of swearing is in French. It’s a fun, light-hearted story that doesn’t take long to read and that peels back aspects of French culture in a way that reveals much about the differences between France and America. I found these parts of the book to be especially interesting.

A Vintage Caper is the story of Sam Levitt, a former lawyer-turned-criminal-turned-good-guy who also happens to be a wine connoisseur. He is hired by an insurance company to investigate the theft of a fortune in wine from the cellar of prominent LA lawyer Danny Roth, a thoroughly unlikeable character who uses bullying and threats to get what he wants.

In his search for the wine, Levitt travels to Paris, Bordeaux, and Provence, following leads that he finds with the help of Sophie Costes, a Bordeaux-based agent specializing in wine insurance. Their job is to find the wine, but they manage to creat a twist that makes for a surprising and very satisfying ending.

Peter Mayle is the author of quite a few books about Provence, an area of France I’ve always wanted to visit– even more so now that I’ve read this book. His other books include A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, Provence A – Z, Anything Considered, Chasing Cezanne, Hotel Pastis, A Good Year, French Lessons, Up the Agency, The Marseille Caper, and A Dog’s Life. I want to read all of them!

If you do check out A Vintage Caper, let me know what you think of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next week,


P.S. The release of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is less than a month away! Stay tuned for links to my guest blogs and interviews!

5 Steps to Effective Book Promotion

This week’s topic is book promotion. As many of you may be aware, I am currently working on promoting my next book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, which will be released on April 28th, so this topic has been on my mind lately. Actually, it’s been on my mind constantly. Even when I sleep.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor_ebook cover

When I first started writing, I had no idea how much work is involved in getting books into the hands of readers. I assumed that once a writer had a contract with a publisher, the writer could just sit back and wait for the royalty checks to start rolling in.

*Face Palm*

I couldn’t have been more wrong. While that scenario may be a bit closer to the truth for superstar writers (does anyone recognize the name John Grisham? How about J.K. Rowling?) who sell gazillions of books, the vast majority of writers toiling to get their names out there have a tremendous amount of work to do. I am one of those toiling writers, and this is what works for me.

1. Website and Blog

If you don’t have a website and/or blog, get one. Give serious thought to getting both.

I use WordPress for my blog, as you may have noticed. It’s free (you can pay for extra services, but I don’t) and once you’ve set up your blog the way you want it, it’s really very easy to publish your posts. There are other blog hosts, too, such as and, but WordPress happens to be the site that works best for me.

I use Wix for my website ( Wix has tiers of services with accordant fees; I use the free service. I do pay for my domain name because it looks professional and is very inexpensive. Since a website is where your readers (and potential readers) connect with you, learn about you and your books, and contact you, it’s a necessary part of your marketing repertoire. It cost me a bit of time and a hint of frustration to design my website myself, but I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do it and I love a challenge. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Once you have a website, periodically check to make sure your links work and that you keep it updated with fresh information.

When setting up a website, you should have a way for readers to contact you. I suppose you don’t have to, but I would strongly recommend it.  And I would also suggest that you set up a separate email for users of your website, rather than putting your personal email out there for anyone to contact you.

2. Social Media

I am on Facebook ( and Twitter (, but there are a number of social media outlets you could use to promote your work. Try any or all of these: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, and Vine. The list gets longer every day.

And if you only have a personal Facebook page, consider a Facebook fan page. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with the people who want to know more about your books.

3. Cross-Promote

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met through Facebook and Twitter that have books coming out near the time of my book’s release. Many of these writers have books being released by my own publisher! When I find someone like that, I reach out to them and offer to cross-promote. It can be a great way for an author to get some exposure on another blog, thereby opening the door to lots of potential new readers. The possibilities are many: you can write a guest blog, do an interview (those are my favorite), host a giveaway, have a quiz, play a game, etc.

4. Author Swag

The first time I mentioned “author swag,” my family looked at me with utterly blank expressions. Then I said, “You know, postcards, bookmarks, stuff like that.” Then the lightbulbs went off and they got it.

It’s nice to have something handy to give to someone who’s interested in my books. I keep a stash of postcards in a special pocket in my purse and if I meet someone who wants to know more about my books, I simply give them one. No searching for a piece of paper and a pen to write down my website or blog (this is especially useful this week, since a package of Junior Mints melted in my purse a few days ago and the goo is all over everything).

And bookmarks–everyone can always use another bookmark. If you have pictures of some or all of your book covers on it, that’s great for readers who are new to your work. They don’t have to look far to find the names of your other books.

5. Promote Others

Always remember that an unending refrain of “Buy my book! Buy my book!” on your social media pages and on your blog is annoying and probably self-defeating. I know I’m not alone when I say that I am drawn to authors who promote other authors. For every tweet about my own books on Twitter, I try to promote at least five other authors. For every Facebook post about my own books, I repost and share at least five to eight things that other authors have put online. The very best place I’ve found for selfless promotion of authors is at And when I promote others, I find that they very often return the favor. It’s a win-win.

Do you have other ideas? I hope you’ll share them below.

Book Winners

Remember I told you last week that I wrote a guest post for Fifty Authors from Fifty States? Well, two commenters won copies of my books:

Congratulations to Mary Deal, who won a copy of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and to Cara Marsi, who won a copy of Secrets of Hallstead House. I hope you both enjoy the books! If you didn’t get a chance to visit Fifty Authors from Fifty States, you can go there anytime for my virtual tour of the Island of Hawaii (aka the Big Island). You can find it

Until next week,