Social Media Primer

When my editor called me in August, 2013, with the good news that Kensington wanted to publish my first novel, one of the things he told me was that I should have a presence on Facebook as a writer. It would allow readers to find me online easily and also allow them to interact with me and with each other. So I got a Facebook author page. The publisher also wanted me to be accessible to readers not on Facebook, so I started my blog, got myself a website, and signed up for Twitter, too.

I’m supposed to update the status of my author Facebook page at least once a day, but frankly, sometimes I find that a little forced. Even boring. And I’m quite sure I’m not the only one who feels that way. For any of you who may be unfamiliar with Facebook, it is common for authors to dedicate a Facebook/social media page to news about their work, their author events, their publicity, etc. And it’s important to keep it updated so people know what an author is currently working on or promoting.

I like to use my author Facebook page to introduce readers to the places I write about. It’s common for a reader to find pictures of Boldt Castle, Singer Castle, the Thousand Islands, and other upstate New York locales on my author page. As I move into 2015 with a book out in April, I’ll be posting photos of South Carolina, the Lowcountry, and Charleston more frequently, since that area of the U.S. is the setting for my new book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor.

I also like to post funny things I find online that might be of interest to readers, such as grammar puns, literary cartoons, and jokes about books.

I try to limit bald-faced promotion on Facebook and Twitter to one day a week, usually on Tuesdays, when I invite people to have a look at my blog post for the week. As a release date gets closer, I do have to do more outright promotion, so those posts become more frequent. The same is true for this blog. As you know, I often mention my books in my blog posts, but it’s almost always in connection with another point I’m trying to make. And as the release date nears, I point my blog readers to the places online where my new book is being featured. You are free to check out those sites, or you don’t have to. It’s completely up to you.

If readers aren’t on Facebook (and believe me, there are plenty of reasons not to be part of Facebook) or Twitter or they don’t follow my blog, they can always go to my website, where they can send me an email to contact me. They can also read more in-depth about my books and find music and wines that I suggest for a nice evening of reading.

Here are the links to the places you can find me online:

Twitter: @readeandwrite

Are there things you’d like to see on my author page, my blog, my website, or in my tweets? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts with me.

Until next week,


P.S. If you’ve read Secrets of Hallstead House, would you consider leaving a review on Amazon,, or Goodreads? I never realized until I wrote my first book how important it is for readers to leave book reviews on these sites. Reviews help drive traffic to authors and businesses, and the reviews are very much appreciated. Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving

Last year at this time I made a list of the things I give thanks for all year ’round. I was going to make another list for this year when I re-read that old post and realized that nothing has changed, with one addition:

I am thankful for all the people who have read and enjoyed my first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, and for all those who have said they are excited to read my next book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. You people make me so happy, so thank you!!

So now that my list is updated for 2014, I’m going to share a different list with you.

Anyone who lives in my house knows that Christmas carols and Christmas movies are strictly forbidden until the day after Thanksgiving. This year has been a little different, though, since my daughters and I are singing at various local tree lighting ceremonies with a community choir group and the first one is before Thanksgiving. We have to practice, so I’m allowing an exception to the normal rules. We are allowed to listen to the practice cd.

But that’s it. No other Christmas music, no Christmas movies, period. Not until this Friday.

Once Friday comes, look out. I don’t want anything but Christmas playing until January 1st on any radio, any cd player, any electronic device, any television, any anything at my house. Having said that, here is the list of movies I’ll be watching starting November 28th. I’d list my favorite Christmas songs, too, but I only have so much time to write this post and the list is way too long.

1. The Bishop’s Wife. Please note that, while I have nothing against Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, I will be watching the black-and-white version starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. I was introduced to this movie many years ago by my aunt Jeanne and I watch it as often as I can during the holiday season.

2. White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. The singing and dancing in this movie are enough to make any child want to grow up to perform in a lodge in Vermont.

3. Holiday Inn. Another Bing Crosby classic, he stars with Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds in the story about an inn that only opens on holidays. There’s music, comedy, love, and snow. What more could anyone want from a Christmas movie?

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I just stick with the original animated version. I like it better than the feature film because I have all the lines memorized and I sing along with Thurl Ravenscroft.

5. A Christmas Carol. I will watch any version of this movie, but my favorite, for reasons I haven’t figured out yet, is the 1938 version starring Reginald Owen, Gene Lockhart, and Kathleen Lockhart. The acting can be a little over-the-top and corny, but I love it anyway.

6. It’s a Wonderful Life. There was a time when I refused to watch this movie because it was sooo depressing, but I’ve changed my mind and I watch it every year now. I’m glad my husband insisted on me watching it with him years ago, because it’s become an annual tradition.

7. Elf. Because it’s hilarious.

8-9. Home Alone and Home Alone II. You can never get enough Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. They make the two greatest bandits in the history of Christmas, with the exception of King Herod.

10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. I know there are a lot of people who don’t like the Charlie Brown movies, but I love the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas ones. My two favorite parts are when Linus recounts the Christmas story on stage and when the Peanuts gang is singing together at the end, mouths open and little noses pointed straight up to the sky.

I wish you all a very happy and safe Thanksgiving and a beautiful start to the holiday season.

Until next week,


Cover Reveal!

If you’ve visited my website in the past week or so (, you’ve already seen the cover for my new novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor.

But if you haven’t, here it is!

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor_ebook cover

I would make the picture bigger if only I could figure out how to do it.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is set outside Charleston, South Carolina. It’s the story of Carleigh Warner, a specialist in building restoration who takes a job at an antebellum plantation that belongs to the family of an old college friend. Carleigh leaves Chicago with her daughter, Lucy, and arrives in South Carolina ready to begin work, but finds that members of the Peppernell family are at odds over the future of the plantation. The owner wants to change her will to provide for the management of the property by the state of South Carolina upon her death. But there are others who think the family would stand to benefit much more if the plantation were turned into a tourist destination and managed by an investment group.

Though Carleigh doesn’t want to get involved, emotions run high at Peppernell Manor and she is forced to take sides in the battle over the preservation of the manor and its property. And to make matters worse, someone doesn’t want Carleigh around. As violence visits the South Carolina plantation, Carleigh is left wondering whether she should go back to Chicago for her own, and Lucy’s, safety, or stay in the Lowcountry to make a new life for herself and her little girl.

Shameless plug: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is available for pre-order on Amazon. It’s not yet available for pre-order as a paperback, but only in ebook form. Here’s the link:

Pre-orders are important to authors and publishers, so if you’d like to read the ebook, please consider pre-ordering it! It comes out in April, 2015.

Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival

Before I get started, I’d like to let everyone know that Secrets of Hallstead House was featured as the Cool Book of the Week on Amy Metz’s blog, A Blue Million Books. I’d love for you to check out the post: you can find it at You may have to scroll down just a bit, but I promise it’s there. Many thanks to Amy Metz for the opportunity to appear on her blog!

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Suffolk, Virginia Mystery Authors Festival, hosted by the Suffolk Division of Tourism in partnership with the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts and the Suffolk Public Library. It was a gathering of twelve very talented and prolific mystery writers, a literary agent (Dawn Dowdle), a freelance editor (Jeni Chappelle), several members of the Virginia chapter of Sisters in Crime, and hundreds of very happy readers.

suffolk poster and Amy

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with the likes of Ellery Adams, Mollie Cox Bryan (who shares my Kensington editor), Mary Burton, Erika Chase, Vicki Delany (who also writes as Eva Gates), Linda O. Johnston, Joyce and Jim Lavene (who write together as Ellie Grant and J.J. Cook), Maggie Sefton, Gayle Trent (who also writes as Amanda Lee), LynDee Walker, and Wendy Lyn Watson (who also writes as Annie Knox).

Many of these authors write cozy mysteries. The cozy is a sub-genre of crime fiction in which the main character, generally a woman, is an amateur sleuth with a day job that allows her to interact with members of the close-knit community in which the crime usually takes place. The cozy is populated with quirky-next-door-neighbor-type characters and the reader gets to know many members of the community as a cozy series progresses. Often the main character has a close relationship with a member of law enforcement (say, a brother, best friend, boyfriend, ex-husband, etc.) and you’d be amazed at how often cats, dogs, and other animals are important cast members. Cozies tend to be on the milder side of crime fiction and generally avoid strong cursing and graphic descriptions of violence and intimacy. It is common to find the main character’s job or hobby (such as knitting, scrapbooking, or animal rescues) as a theme throughout a cozy series.

But not all the authors I met write cozies: some write novels and stories that are a bit darker, such as Mary Burton’s Cover Your Eyes or her Texas Rangers series or Maggie Sefton’s newest political mystery Poisoned Politics. I’m happy to report that both Mary and Maggie are charming in real life and exude none of the danger they write about.

I wish I had time and space to write more about the books I discovered and the authors I talked to, but I will provide their website addresses below for you to check out.

The festival included presentations throughout the day that focused on everything from the History of the Mystery to a talk by Dawn Dowdle, literary agent, about the importance of finding an editor that fits a writer’s needs and genres. While the presentations were being held, many of the authors read from their most recent releases, which was a treat for the readers who attended.

If you ever have a chance to visit Suffolk, Virginia, I have a couple pieces of advice. First, try to avoid I-95 at all costs, even if it means walking the entire distance (you’ll get there faster if you walk, anyway). Second, get there on a day when the Suffolk Division of Tourism is hosting one of its tours, such as the Suffolk Ghost Walk (which I missed because I was sitting on I-95) or the Great Dismal Swamp Guided Nature Walk. Third, don’t leave until you check out the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts, which is housed in a restored high school and is a beautiful space that houses, among other things, art galleries, a gorgeous theater, a ballroom, and studios for dance, weaving, pottery, photography, and much more. The Suffolk Division of Tourism couldn’t have picked a more breathtaking and inspiring place to hold its Mystery Authors Festival.

Here’s that list of the authors’ websites:

Ellery Adams:
Mollie Cox Bryan:
Mary Burton:
Erika Chase:
Vicki Delany:
Linda O. Johnston:
Joyce and Jim Lavene:
Maggie Sefton:
Gayle Trent:
LynDee Walker:
Wendy Lyn Watson:

Jeni Chappelle:
Dawn Dowdle:

Sisters in Crime:

Suffolk Division of Tourism:

I’m already looking forward to next year’s Mystery Authors Festival!

Until next week,


Time to Vote

In honor of mid-term election day here in the United States, I’ve decided to take a quick poll on my blog. Please note, the last question allows you to say whether you’re from the U.S. or from outside the U.S. It also allows you to write in an “Other” answer. Sorry about that–couldn’t get that choice off there! I assume all of my readers are either from the U.S. or they’re not!

Thanks for participating!

Until next week,


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,


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

A Review: Twelve to Murder

I wanted to give you all a sneak peak of the cover of my new book that comes out in April, but unfortunately I don’t have the cover art yet. So stay tuned! Maybe next week.

It’s been a while since I reviewed a book on my blog, so I want to do that today. Twelve to Murder by Lauren Carr is the seventh book in the Mac Faraday series. It’s the first one I’ve read, but I intend to read the rest as soon as I make a dent in my to-be-read pile. I won a copy of the book and promised that I would give an honest review of it.

Lauren Carr is a very good storyteller. Her mystery starts with the discovery of two dead bodies, a husband and wife, in their home on the shore of Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The couple is discovered by their son, who quickly becomes a suspect in their deaths. But he’s not the only suspect, and the clues and bodies and persons of interest continue to pile up right until the end of the story, when the twists and turns iron themselves out into a very satisfying conclusion.

Mac Faraday is a retired detective who has come to Deep Creek Lake to live following his divorce and the death of his birth mother, a world-famous mystery author. Upon her death, Mac inherited a huge fortune from her as well as her estate on Deep Creek Lake. Mac’s trusty sidekick is a German Shepherd, Gnarly, who is also retired from service, though Gnarly served the U.S. Army, not a police force. Both Mac and Gnarly have love interests in the book, and both are charming and entertaining. Mac’s lady love is Archie Monday, who was the research assistant to the author who gave birth to Mac; Gnarly’s lady love is Molly, a white German Shepherd who is trained to detect and warn her master of impending seizures.

The story centers around Lenny Frost, a washed-up actor who was a big star as a child and teen and who sank into drug abuse and alcoholism as an adult. The woman who is discovered dead as the story opens was Lenny’s agent, mother of Lenny’s former best friend, and the owner of the comedy club where Lenny appears regularly, mostly in front of audiences who do not find him all that funny. When the dead couple is discovered, it’s Lenny’s name that’s written in the wife’s blood at the crime scene. Did Lenny do it? Or was he framed? Lenny swears he’s been framed, and to “prove” it, he takes a number of bar patrons hostage and threatens to kill them if the real killer isn’t caught by midnight.

I really enjoyed this book. I found the plot to be sophisticated and fast-moving, with realistic dialogue and clues that kept me guessing until the end. The romance, to me, was secondary to the mystery and that’s the way I like it. And the story is timely, too. With all that’s been in the news lately about former child stars, this story makes the reader think about many such kids and how their lives don’t always reflect the promise they held as children.

I recommend Twelve to Murder to anyone who likes a good mystery paired with a little romance and fun. Four stars!

Dog Days

One of my daughters has to give a speech this week on the topic of “something she is passionate about.” She chose dogs, and it got me thinking that I would like to write a blog post in honor of our dog. So, since I had already decided to write today’s blog post about dogs, how’s this for coincidence?

As I opened up WordPress to start writing, my dog got up and sat next to me with one paw on my leg, looking up at me with her huge dark brown eyes. She had just shifted positions- for the previous half hour she had been lying directly behind my desk chair, almost as if she knew I would rather go in search of almost anything to eat instead of being chained to my desk. But she also knew that I wouldn’t move my chair while she lay behind it, thus forcing me to get some work done.

Brilliant, I know.

There are probably thousands- no, millions- of people who feel the same way I do about dogs. That is, that their dog is the best dog in the world. In my case, I know it to be true. Sorry to all you other dog owners, but there can only be one best dog. And her name is Orly.


This is a picture of Orly, albeit a bit blurry. She likes to be near me when I write, and she follows me around like, well, a puppy dog. When I get up, she follows. When I sit down at my desk, she lays down next to me on the floor. When I sit at the kitchen table, she takes up her post there. My husband and I have a long-running debate over which one of us is Orly’s favorite, and I think we all know the answer.

It’s me. He won’t like to read this, but I speak the truth. Besides, the cats like him best, so it’s only fair.

Anyways, thinking so much about dogs this week got me wondering how many stories out there have dogs as characters. There must be too many to count. Some of my favorites are by James Herriot. I can honestly say his stories changed my life. When I was in high school, I read his books and made the decision to go to veterinary school largely on the basis of his writings. I went to college as a major in Animal Science, hell-bent on going to school to be a vet.

Alas, it didn’t work out. I became a lawyer instead. I can practically see you scratching your heads in confusion, but that’s a story for another time. The point is that James Herriot wrote some wonderful stories and if you haven’t read them, I encourage you to check them out.

There’s actually a dog in my second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor. Her name is Addie, and she’s a stray. Though there’s one character that doesn’t trust her, most of the others grow to love her.

But as much as I adore Addie as well as James Herriot and his furry characters, my all-time favorite animal character has to be the dog in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Here’s a short synopsis: a dog shows up at the Wilders’ house around the same time as a shifty character who is there to case the joint (my words, not Laura Ingalls Wilder’s). The family feeds the dog out of compassion, wondering where he came from and where he’s headed. The dog stays overnight and as luck would have it, is there to dissuade the shifty guy from robbing the house while the family sleeps. The dog disappears shortly after the incident, just as mysteriously as he showed up.

Isn’t that incredible? The dog appears on the scene to help the family before they even know they need him. Amazing.

As almost anyone with a dog will agree, all dogs are amazing, not just the one in Farmer Boy.

Do you have a favorite dog story from a book you’ve read? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week,


New Year’s Resolutions: Breaking News

I am happy to announce that I have completed one of my New Year’s resolutions: this past weekend I ran my first 5K! I was on Maui to watch my husband compete in the ‘Ulalena Warrior Challenge (10K, followed by a mile race, then a full marathon the next morning) and he convinced me to give the 5K a try. I was passed by everyone from a 5-year-old to an octogenarian, but I managed to finish the race and I am very happy with my results. I even plan to do another one someday! My training for this race consisted of walking a 5K on the treadmill exactly three times before the race, so I figure that I can do even better in the next race if I actually do a bit of training! At some point I will post pictures of the 5K, but I haven’t quite gotten around to doing that yet.

If you remember my list of resolutions for 2014 (not that I expect you to), I also wanted to improve my writing. I don’t think that kind of resolution can be quantified, but I do know that I’ve done a lot more writing this year than last year, and that’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’ve also spent more time this year reading what other authors have to say about writing and hopefully learning from them.

I’ve also increased the number of Twitter and Facebook posts that I put up, so those resolutions are being fulfilled, too. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, I invite (is “beg” too strong a word?) you to follow me and “like” my posts!

I am not as happy to announce that some of my other New Year’s resolutions have gone largely ignored for the first two-thirds of the year. My kids do not yet have new closet doors and my garage and attic are still nothing short of dangerous. But it’s only September, so I’m optimistic!

I know I’ve been remiss the past couple of weeks getting blog posts up on time, but I intend to be back on track next Tuesday.

In the meantime, I’d love it if you would share with me the status of your 2014 resolutions!

Until next week,


What’s Today?

When this post goes live, it will be Tuesday, September 9th. For those of you who aren’t aware, September 9th is National Teddy Bear Day. It is also the second Tuesday of the month, making it National Ants on a Log Day. It is also the anniversary of my husband and me, and of my mom and stepdad (but those are, alas, not national holidays).

In honor of National Teddy Bear Day, I am posting a picture of a bear who lives on my bed. I would tell you his name, but some things just have to remain private. He has been a fixture in my room since I got him (when I was about twelve years old). He went to college with me, then law school. He’s been on vacation to lots of places that most teddy bears don’t get to go.

National Teddy Bear Day

And before you say it, I already know he isn’t a “real” teddy bear. He’s a koala bear, but I’m celebrating his existence on Tuesday anyways.

And that, finally, brings me to my point.

Especially in these last few weeks, I have been reminded how important it is to celebrate and be thankful for the little things in life. And the big things. Sometimes I get so caught up in the day-to-day busyness on my family’s schedules that I forget how lucky we really are to be so busy and to have such full lives. It took something drastic to remind me that it’s easy to take small things for granted and that I need to spend more time celebrating the so-called “mundane.”

So here is a short list of some of the things I celebrated this past week:

kayaking for the first time with some wonderful friends in a beautiful place; phone calls with my grandfather; being able to write every day; having three kids who love (well, two kids love–one kid likes) to go to school each day; Facebook and the ability it gives me to connect with distant members of my family and lots of friends; dentists (I know–not something I usually celebrate); my husband’s jokes; and seafood risotto. There are so many other things I’m thankful for, but I gave myself just a few seconds to brainstorm and those are the ones I came up with first.

In the limited research I did for today’s post, I also found that September 9th is also National Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Day, Wonderful Weirdos Day, and Wienerschnitzel Day. Here’s a list of the online sites I visted:

So on September 9th I’m going to have myself a plate of ants-on-logs and celebrate the little things in life. There are so many! Happy Anniversary to my husband and to my mom and stepdad!

Until next week,