Summer Reading 2019

416705_3263221894117_1074320104_32720367_2122303055_oA.jpgI love this time of year when I get to share my favorite recent reads with you, my friends, and I get to hear about what you’re reading! I like to give you several options, spread across genres. So, get ready to add to your list of what you want to take to the beach, on the plane, or down to the pool. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Here are my favorite books from the past year (click on the book cover to go to its Amazon page):

{41E245C8-93B9-4941-9566-BE0E8031B5EB}Img100WWII Espionage 
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
One morning while passing through Grand Central Terminal on her way to work, Grace Healey finds an abandoned suitcase tucked beneath a bench. Unable to resist her own curiosity, Grace opens the suitcase, where she discovers a dozen photographs—each of a different woman. In a moment of impulse, Grace takes the photographs and quickly leaves the station.
Grace soon learns that the suitcase belonged to a woman named Eleanor Trigg, leader of a network of female secret agents who were deployed out of London during the war. Twelve of these women were sent to Occupied Europe as couriers and radio operators to aid the resistance, but they never returned home, their fates a mystery. Setting out to learn the truth behind the women in the photographs, Grace finds herself drawn to a young mother turned agent named Marie, whose daring mission overseas reveals a remarkable story of friendship, valor and betrayal.
My thoughts: The Lost Girls of Paris is one of those books that authors such as myself long to write. With just enough truth to hook you and more than enough heart to reel you in, it’s the best way to lose an afternoon.

{51AAB332-ACF1-447C-BD71-12135E37CD9B}Img100Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.
When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most.
My thoughts: When you wake up at 4am and feel compelled to reach for the book by your bedside, you know you’ve chosen a good story. Night of Miracles will make you laugh. It will make you cry. It will make you know that all is right with the world no matter the outcome of your situation. All things happen for a reason. Beautifully written. Thank you.

{4CAA1BA3-55E0-4B1E-A49D-16C771E36B38}Img100Heart-Stopping Time Travel
The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam war, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child. But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby. What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed. Something that will mean an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly’s part.
And all for the love of her unborn child.

My thoughts: All writers read a book or two and think, “I wish I had thought of this story and written it.” While that might be true of this book for me, I don’t believe I could have done any better than Diane Chamberlain already did. She wove a beautiful tale of love lost and love gained, twice over, spanning decades and cultures. Be forewarned, you won’t want to put this down.

{5A516DA4-494C-41B7-A3F8-806F4C1FE748}Img100A Mystery You Won’t Be Able to Put Down
Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks
Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.
Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter….
My thoughts: Charlotte made mistakes. Harriet made mistakes. We all make mistakes. Sometimes our mistakes cause us to lose our friends. Sometimes they cause us to lose sight of who we are. Sometimes they lead to death. And sometimes, they allow us to see what we should have seen all along. Gripping to the end, Her One Mistake will make you question every word you read. Your only mistake would be to put the book down before finishing.

{1DFDC141-E7CB-4524-9671-DFC635B60BB6}Img100Charming, Witty, Unforgettable Historical Tale
The Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
My thoughts: Sheer Perfection. Whoever thought that a book about a man under house arrest in a hotel for 40 years would be interesting? Interesting, provocative, emotionally charged, and worthy of praise, A Gentleman in Moscow more than delivers. It entertains, engrosses, and enraptures. The prose is literary intoxication while the story is literary genius.

51xTm5QG3UL._SY346_Crime Thriller at Its Best
The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson
Alex Cross is on the wrong side of the law. Charged with gunning down followers of his nemesis Gary Soneji in cold blood, he is being turned into the poster child for trigger-happy cops. Cross knows it was self-defense. But will a jury see it that way?
When his former partner Sampson shows up needing his help, Cross jumps at the chance, even if it may end up costing him what’s left of his career. When a string of young, blonde women go missing, the investigation leads Cross and Sampson to the most depraved, darkest corners of the internet, where murder is just another form of entertainment.
As the prosecution presents its case, and the nation watches, even those closest to Cross begin to doubt his innocence. If he can’t convince his own family that he didn’t pull the trigger with intent to kill, how can he hope to persuade a jury? But even with everything on the line, Cross will do whatever it takes to stop a dangerous criminal . . . even if he can’t save himself.
Struggling to prove his own innocence and uncover the truth lurking online, Cross must risk everything to save his most at-risk patient of all: himself.
My thoughts: I’ve been a long-time fan of Patterson, beginning with my first job as a librarian back in 1992, just as Along Came A Spider was hitting the bestseller list. Over the years, Patterson has written books for adults, children, and teens, ranging from police thrillers to romance to Christmas picture books. I’ve read most of them. However, lately I find myself disappointed in many of his offerings, and the reason is abundantly clear. I’m a writer, and I know what it would mean to be taken under the wings of a prolific, award-winning author, as Patterson has done with the co-authors of so many of his books. But when it comes down it, his best books, by far, are the ones he authors himself. There is a distinctive flow, an energy, a torrent of action, dialogue, and characterization in his writing that simply isn’t there when the book is co-authored. The People Vs Alex Cross is a reminder of the brilliance that is James Patterson when he writes without the aid of someone else stringing his story together.

51-sSDyfdkL._SY346_Best Beach Book
By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is where By Invitation Only begins at a barbecue engagement party thrown by Diane English Stiftel, her brother Floyd, and her parents to celebrate her son’s engagement. On this gorgeous, magical night, the bride’s father, Alejandro Cambria, a wealthy power broker whose unbelievably successful career in private equity made him one of Chicago’s celebrated elite, discovers the limits and possibilities of cell phone range. While the mother of the bride, Susan Kennedy Cambria, who dabbles in the world of public relations and believes herself deserving of every square inch of her multimillion-dollar penthouse and imaginary carrara marble pedestal, learns about moonshine and dangerous liaisons.
Soon By Invitation Only zooms to Chicago, where the unraveling accelerates. Nearly a thousand miles away from her comfortable, familiar world, Diane is the antithesis of the bright lights and super-sophisticated guests attending her son Fred’s second engagement party. Why a second party? Maybe it had been assumed that the first one wouldn’t be up to snuff? Fred is marrying Shelby Cambria, also an only child. The Cambrias’ dearest wish is for their daughter to be happy. If Shelby wants to marry Frederick, aka Fred, they will not stand in her way—although Susan does hope her friends won’t think her daughter is marrying more than a few degrees beneath her socially. At the same time, Diane worries that her son will be lost to her forever.
By Invitation Only is a tale of two families, one struggling to do well, one well to do, and one young couple—the privileged daughter of Chicago’s crème de la crème and the son of hard -working Southern peach farmers.
My thoughts:  Another winner by Dorothea Benton Frank. I laughed so hard at times, my husband told me I was keeping him awake. Other times, I needed a tissue or three. The end was just how it should be. Thank you, Dorothea Benton Frank.

front coverPirates, Hidden Treasure, Family Dynamics, and Unrequited Love – What More Could You Want in a Summer Read?
The Devil’s Fortune by Amy Schisler
As a child, all Courtney ever wanted was to own Riverview Terrace. As an adult, that was the farthest thing from her mind. Following a near-fatal accident and court-approved windfall, Courtney gains the funds to buy her ancestors’ colonial-era house, complete with rotting beams and a collapsing roof. The legends of pirate treasure, hidden passageways, and long-concealed family secrets intrigue Courtney, but when a vandal thwarts all progress, the house is suddenly much more than she believes she can handle. River Terrace may lead Courtney to her destiny, but will the journey be on a road paved with treasure or a dead-end street that leaves her with nothing but regret?
My thoughts: Okay, this is my latest book, but it’s my favorite of my books so far. Taken from the pages of my own family history, The Devil’s Fortune introduces readers to the infamous pirate Anne Bonny and weaves her story into those of the Tidewater Pirates who pillaged and plundered along the Chesapeake Bay, Patuxent River, and their tributaries. Anne reluctantly settles into life in the Colonies, making a home for herself on the shores of the Wicomico River. Hundreds of years later, Courtney, a caricature of my younger self, searches for many of the same things that Anne searched for, including an elusive pirate treasure. I hope you will feel as good reading this fictionalized excerpt from my family’s past as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: “A Tremendous Thing”.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Breaking The Rules

For anybody not involved in the world of publishing, you might be surprised to know just how many rules there are when it comes to writing and publishing books.

There are rules about the length of a book:

  • Historical novels must contain around 100,000 words.
  • Fantasy novels must contain more words than the Bible.
  • A cozy mystery can be short, but a regular mystery must be long.

There are rules about plotlines:

  • Particular publishers don’t allow time machines to be used for time travel. Obviously standing stones are permitted.
  • Mysteries should not contain the supernatural – those are two different genres. Hmmm. Wouldn’t the X Files qualify as mystery and supernatural?
  • Romance novels absolutely, positively, without question, must have a HEA – or for those not in the business, a “Happily ever after.” Never mind that Casablanca and Gone With the Wind are classified as romance….

There are rules about what writers are allowed to write:

  • Romance writers can write in any subgenre—mystery, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc., but general fiction writers in any of those categories aren’t supposed to have a lot of romance.
  • Authors should not bounce between genres. I guess nobody ever told that to mega-bestselling author, James Patterson.
  • Children’s writers should write for children only, and adult writers should write for adults only. Again, James is breaking the rules.

There are even rules about the specifics of writing.

  • Fiction writing can contain phrases or even single words as whole sentences. Wow. Interesting. Got it? And fiction writers can begin sentences with conjunctions. And end them with adverbs, usually. Or with prepositions.
  • The POV (point of view) must be held by only one person at a time. You’re either reading the book from the POV of the antagonist, the protagonist, or the narrator. And switching between more than three POVs is a death knell. Sorry, Maeve Binchey – all those awards you’ve won should be taken away.
  • And never, ever, switch back and forth between POVs. Did you get that, Nora Roberts?

And the rules go on and on and on. In fact, there are so many rules that it’s nearly impossible for an author to keep track of them all. Some authors live by and insist on following all rules. Others bend the rules, and others, like the ones mentioned above, just throw the rules out the window. Which is fine with me. Just fine. Because I hate rules. I hate rules as much as I hate labels

When I sit down to write, I just write. My characters dictate the action, and the actions dictate the genre. I don’t want to follow rules. I just want to tell a story, and if that story doesn’t quite fit in with whatever the rules are, who cares? As long as the story is good, isn’t that all that matters?

Unfortunately, it’s not. Every time I publish a book, I must choose a specific genre, and for romance, a subgenre. In order to belong to many writing associations, a writer must declare that she write books only tailored to a particular audience. I recently spoke with a blogger who was shocked that men actually read my books. “Aren’t you a romance writer?” he asked. Ugh! Why the label? Why can’t I just be a writer? Why can’t I just write fiction? I get that readers have propensities toward certain types of books, but more and more I’m hearing from people who simply like to read good books, regardless of the genre.

So, I’m just going to say it. I’m going to admit something that will cause many of my colleagues to cringe. I am a writer. Period. I write the way I want to write. My stories unfold in the way they are meant to unfold. I don’t set out to write romance, or mystery, or suspense. I set out to entertain. I’ve spoken with other writers who balk at this notion. “You can’t bounce around like James Patterson unless you are James Patterson,” I’ve been told. To which I ask, why not? I’m often told that readers simply won’t continue to read my books if I don’t stick to one genre and follow all the rules. I beg to differ. Perhaps I’m wrong about that. Perhaps I am driving the nails in my own coffin, but I don’t think so. My readers seem happy with my books, no matter what genre I am forced into, so I don’t plan on changing my attitude or my style. I just wish it was easier to get my books out there without having to tow the line.

If you are a writer, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How do you feel about genres and labels?

If you are a reader, I’d love to know what you think as well. What draws you toward a particular book or author?

As for me, I must be going. I have work to do on my next novel. I’m not sure yet what the final genre will be or what rules I might break, and I really don’t care. I think I’m in pretty good company on that. James, Nora, don’t you agree?

douglasmacarthur1-2x.jpg

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Finding Joy in the Most Unlikely Places.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017)

The Voices in My Head

They’re back. The voices in my head that won’t leave me alone. They won’t let me sleep at night, won’t stop nagging me all day, won’t be quiet when I try to pray or concentrate on anything other than them. They are demanding, ruthless in their quest to break free, to be born into this world, to exist somewhere outside of my mind. And there are dozens of them. Men, women, children, young, old, of various ethnicities and backgrounds. They all want to be given a voice, a home, a story.

No, I’m not suffering from any kind of mental illness. At least, I don’t think I am. Unless this is how it begins. There were others, after all–Salinger, Poe, Kerouac, Hemingway, Plath, Joyce, and even Dickens. Some are even said to have gone mad while writing. But I’m pretty sure I’m still sane (though Ken and our girls may disagree at times).

The voices in my head are the characters that seem to multiply on, at least, a weekly basis. There are so many that I can’t decide which ones belong in which stories, which ones are main or supporting characters, and which ones are simply intruders with no business being in my mind or my stories. Those voices quickly die among the herd. But there are others waiting to take their place.

It’s a shame, actually, to have so many people and stories in my mind because, right now, I haven’t got the time to bring all of these characters to life and tell their tales. But the time is coming. Our youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school. I imagine that in less than two years, I will have a much quieter, slower life, and that is when the fun will begin. That is when the multitude can be unleashed, when story after story can be written. And truth be told, it’s a little daunting. All my life, I’ve told stories, imagined worlds and people, contrived conversations, created events, and now I’m really just beginning to give them life. And I never want it to end.

Cover-001Which is good because the stories go on and on and on. So many stories. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and unable to write the first word because I don’t know which one to choose. Which voice is the loudest? Which is the most demanding? Which will be the most well-loved? And it seems I’m not alone. According to the Washington Post, James Patterson has “a three-inch-thick folder labeled ‘Ideas,’ one sheet listing 21 separate projects boiled down to their titles.” I have online folders, Apple notes, and a white board that boast a combined 16 stories at various stages of creation, including two that will be released in the coming months, the first being another children’s book. I’m not quite the next James Patterson, but I’d love to give it a try!

 

So, here’s to all of you who read my books and my blog. No matter how many voices are in my head or how many stories are on my docket, they would be worthless without you. With that in mind, I will raise a glass to you, my readers, the next time I open a bottle of wine. In fact, I’d love to have you join me in raising a glass. You’re all invited to my next book launch! It is being planned for the first weekend of December. Be on the lookout for more details. And who knows, yours might just become one of those voices in my head.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: “Without any doubting or quiddit”.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Advice From the Desk of A Writer

10371504_1493211267560036_1559440155953801216_nThis February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher.  Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now!  Since A Place to Call  Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers.  I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.”  Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned.  And believe me, I’m still learning.  Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that.  So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others.  Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned.

  •   Don’t rely on anyone else’s word that your final copy is without editing flaws, even your editor’s.  People make mistakes, and so do computers.  Read every word before you give the okay to print, or, better yet, have a professional proofreader read every word.  I really learned this the hard way.
  •   Marketing your book is up to you and you alone.  Your agent or publicist may have some good ideas or point you in a certain direction, but you will need to set aside an entire day once a week to market your book.  And marketing means everything from writing a blog to contacting booksellers to entering contests.  Some weeks, one day isn’t enough, and some weeks, that day might be spent in your car driving from one bookstore to another.
  •   Never stop looking for ways to promote your book whether it has been out for a week, a month, or six months.  Until the next book hits the shelf, that book is your livelihood.  Even when you’re at the point where you secretly hate that book because it won’t go away and you want to move on, keep promoting it.  Later in life, you may look back and realize it was the best relationship you ever had, a stepping stone to greater things to come.
  •   Learn to self-promote.  For some, including myself, that’s so very hard to do.  At first, my parents sold more of my books than I did.  And why should that surprise anyone?  Parents brag about their children their entire lives.  Writers need to learn to brag a little about themselves, too.  I’ll admit that I’m still working on that one….
  •   Choose book signings wisely.  Yes, every public appearance you make gets your name and face out there, but is every public appearance worth doing?  I’ve done signings where I am speaking to people and signing books constantly, and I’ve done ones where I’ve sat and stared into space all day without seeing a single soul.  While you can never predict what will work and what won’t, do some research, talk to other authors, figure out when and where the successful signings take place and take advantage of those.  But don’t overlook a great opportunity to network. The last signing I did was at a local library. We had a few dozen people wander in and out, and each of us sold two or three books, but I made some wonderful new contacts who have given me invaluable advice.
  •   Network, network, network.  Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to network.  There is so much to be learned from other authors and people in the industry.  Reach out to them, follow them on Twitter, talk to them at conferences (GO to conferences).  You will always come away with something useful as well as a contact you can go to when you need advice.
  •   Never dismiss anything as not being something worth writing about.  I keep notes of anything and everything that comes to mind that might be useful in a book.  Very often, while writing, something that I jotted down comes back to me and fits perfectly into whatever scenario I’m working on at that moment.
  •   And yes, write every day.  Dean Koontz says he writes 12 hours a day!  I’ve read that Sandra Brown writes at least an hour, seven days a week.  James Patterson puts in a full eight hour day every week.  Perhaps you aren’t able to do that at this point in your life (I know I’m not, but I’m getting there), but whatever time you can take to write, take it.  The biggest thing I have learned is that the more I write, the better my writing is.

What can you add?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com