You Have Homework

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I’ve spent much of the last two weeks researching the history of the county where I live in preparation for a new series I’ll be starting soon. I’m nowhere near done, but I’ve enjoyed the journey and I’ve learned a lot. It struck me while I was working that I always assume the history of the place where I live is boring–it doesn’t matter whether I’m talking about the town where I grew up, the town where I went to college, or any of the other places I’ve lived–but time and again, I’ve been proven wrong.

History takes place everywhere, so it stands to reason that every place has a history.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But it’s easy to forget.

The county where I live now has been plagued by pirates, fires, disease outbreaks, wars and battles, natural disasters, and any number of other horrors. It’s fascinating! And as has been the case with my other books, I’ve enjoyed the research so much that I have been reluctant to put on the brakes and actually start writing.

This misconception of mine, this belief that nothing interesting has ever happened where I live, reminded me of a similar phenomenon that I’ve noticed before. I call it “ignoring my own backyard” and I’ll give you an example. I lived in and near New York City for almost nine years. I never visited the Statue of Liberty. Never saw Ellis Island. Here’s another example: I lived in Louisville, Kentucky, during late spring/summer one year. Never visited Churchill Downs (not that I’m a fan of horse racing, but the racetrack looks pretty interesting).

I could give anecdote after anecdote until I’m blue in the face, but you probably get the picture. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of your own life and never venture out to see what your community or your environment has to offer. Sometimes those offerings are tourist traps, but often they’re not. I think we get involved in the busyness of every day and when we contemplate visiting some of those places, we tend to think, “I can visit that place anytime. It’s just down the road.” Or “My kids went there on a school trip, but I just haven’t had time. I’ll get there one of these days.” But very often we never get there.

I’m thinking of one place in particular, a place near my home, a place I’ve never been, a place I’m planning to visit soon. It’s been there for three hundred years and it deserves a closer look. It’s on my list of places to see before summer is over. Who knows? It may end up in my next book.

So that leads me to your homework assignment. Try visiting someplace new this week-someplace near your home, someplace you’ve never been. A place you’ve overlooked driving down the road, a place you pass every day on your way to work. If it’s a museum or other facility that helps you learn more about the history of where you live, you get bonus points.

Where are you going to go? I’d love to hear about it.

Until next week,

Amy

A Review: The Impersonator

I am a member of Goodreads, a website I’ve mentioned on this blog before. As a quick review, there are lots of things I like about Goodreads: first, once a reader reviews a certain number of books, the site offers suggestions of books to read that are specific to the reader’s preferred genre(s). Second, the site allows readers to tag books that they want to read, books they’ve read, books they’ve reviewed, and many other categories. Third, readers can make friends on Goodreads that also post their reviews, suggestions, and reading progress. Fourth, a reader can join as many groups as she’d like. These groups have discussions that can be very interesting.

One of the groups I’m part of on Goodreads is called Gothicked. I’m also a member of the group called Ladies & Literature and one called Retro Reads. On the Gothicked feed one day, I came across a woman by the name of Mary Miley. She caught my attention because she asked me a question about one of my books. She indicated that she’s also an author of The Impersonator, a Roaring Twenties mystery. Not long after I heard from Ms. Miley, I went to Virginia to the Suffolk Mystery Writers Festival. While I was there my husband took our three kids to Colonial Williamsburg and explored the sights in the village. One of their stops was a bakery, where they bought me a treat – one of the best muffins I’ve ever tasted. It was a sweet potato muffin, and it’s not something I ever would have ordered. But it was delicious. At that bakery they also bought me a souvenir – a cookbook featuring recipes of some of the goodies at the bakery. Alas, the sweet potato muffin recipe wasn’t in the book, but something else was: the foreward, written years ago by none other than Mary Miley.

I emailed Ms. Miley and asked her if she was the same person who wrote the foreward to the cookbook and she answered that yes, she was the one who wrote it, long ago in a former life when she worked in Colonial Williamsburg.

It seemed like a sign: I was running into Mary Miley everywhere, so I needed to read her book.

I’m so glad I did.

The book follows the story of a young woman who is hired to play the role of Jessamyn Carr, the daughter and heiress of a couple who drowned at sea in the early 1900s. Jessamyn, or Jessie, herself disappeared in 1917 at the age of fourteen. Whether she ran away, fell to her death along the rugged Oregon coast where she lived, or was the victim of some other mishap, no one knows.

Well, almost no one.

Almost seven years after Jessie’s disappearance, her maternal uncle, Oliver Beckett, thinks he recognizes Jessie in a vaudeville performance. When he approaches the actress after the show, he finds out that the actress is not Jessie, but is, in fact, Leah Randall, who has been in vaudeville since early childhood. Oliver, a hard man with a love of money, asks Leah if she would be willing to take on a new role: that of his niece, Jessie. If Leah, a dead ringer for Jessie, can convince the trustees of the Carr estate and more importantly, the rest of the family, that she is really Jessie, then she and Oliver can live out their lives in leisure. There are only a couple problems: the charade has to go smoothly and quickly, before Jessie’s twenty-first birthday (at which time her cousin will inherit the fortune), and there’s a lot to learn. Oh, and there’s at least one person who really knows what happened to Jessie, so that person will know Leah’s an impersonator.

Leah initially refuses Oliver’s suggestion, but after she finds herself out of work and out of money, she agrees to take on the role. As the days and weeks go by, Leah finds that being part of a family, something she’s never experienced, has its highs and lows. She has made a promise to herself that she will find out what really happened to Jessie, and her investigations lead her into speakeasies, the seedier areas of 1920s-Portland, and some very dangerous circumstances.

I loved The Impersonator. Ms. Miley does a beautiful job exploring the worlds of vaudeville and Prohibition-era speakeasies. I love the descriptions of the Oregon coast and the house Leah moves into; it’s fun to read about the lives of the wealthy in the 1920s. Leah and the members of Jessie’s family are a group of well-developed characters; Leah is tough, but spunky and kind; her cousins, twin girls, are naive and fascinated by her; her male cousins are less so-they have a hard time believing that Leah is really Jessie and aren’t afraid to tell her so; Jessie’s aunt is cautious and can be overbearing; Jessie’s grandmother can be distant, but is shrewd and has a soft spot for Jessie.

The book is fast-paced and never feels like a history lecture. It had me guessing up to the very end, and what a satisfying ending it was! I found myself suspicious of almost everyone at one time or another, and it was great to be kept on my toes throughout the novel.

The Impersonator was the bee’s knees!

Until next week,

Amy

New Year’s Resolutions 2.0

Happy 2015!

Last year at about this time, I shared with you the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014. I was successful with some, not so much with others. This year I’ve decided to give resolutions a different name: a wish list. The word “resolutions” has a do-or-die sound to it, and I don’t want to feel bad at the end of the year when, inevitably, I haven’t accomplished everything I wanted to do.

For example, you may remember (I know certain people do and they keep mentioning it to me) that I wanted to clean the garage. Didn’t happen.

I also wanted to clean the attic. Also didn’t happen. I  tried, believe me. But it wasn’t to be (nor was the replacement of my kids’ closet doors).

But I did write more and I hope I improved, I took more pictures, I became more active on social media, and I ran a 5K.

So I know you’re dying to find out what I have planned for this year. Not surprisingly, I’d like to clean the attic and the garage. I’m not going to call these resolutions, but I will simply refer to them as two items on my 2015 wish list. By the way, these will probably be on my wish list every year until I die. Replacing my kids’ closet doors should also go on the list.

Here are some other things I’ve added to my wish list:

1. start another new novel (more on this later in the year) (this is actually more of a resolution than a wish);

2. start writing a series (again, more on this later in the year–hopefully) (ditto about being a resolution);

3. replace the garage doors, one of which is held in place with a broom handle;

4. landscape my yard with something other than dead plants;

5. run another 5K; and

6. help my daughter sew the tote bag I’ve been promising to help her with for two years.

Wait! I’ve already done #6! Cross that right off my wish list!

Want to see pictures? I knew you would (some of you may already have seen these on Facebook).

tote bag 1tote bag 2

As I think of other things I want to add to my list, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, what’s on your wish list for this year? I’d love to know!

Until next week,

Amy

 

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:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor
Website: http://www.amymreade.com
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,

Amy

P.S. If you’ve read Secrets of Hallstead House, would you consider leaving a review on Amazon, bn.com, 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,

Amy

Cover Reveal!

If you’ve visited my website in the past week or so (http://www.amymreade.com), 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: http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Peppernell-Manor-Amy-Reade-ebook/dp/B00OEW5SR0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416257542&sr=8-1&keywords=ghosts+of+peppernell+manor.

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 http://abluemillionbooks.blogspot.com/. 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: http://www.elleryadamsmysteries.com/
Mollie Cox Bryan: http://molliecoxbryan.com/
Mary Burton: http://www.maryburton.com/
Erika Chase: http://www.erikachase.com/
Vicki Delany: http://vickidelany.com/
Linda O. Johnston: http://www.lindaojohnston.com/
Joyce and Jim Lavene: http://www.joyceandjimlavene.com/
Maggie Sefton: http://www.maggiesefton.com/
Gayle Trent: http://www.gayletrent.com/
LynDee Walker: http://lyndeewalker.com/
Wendy Lyn Watson: http://www.wendylynwatson.com/

Jeni Chappelle: http://www.jenichappelle.com/
Dawn Dowdle: http://www.blueridgeagency.com/

Sisters in Crime: http://www.sistersincrime.org/?7

Suffolk Division of Tourism: http://www.suffolk-fun.com/

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

Until next week,

Amy