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WHAT WAS THE MOST DARING THING I’VE DONE?

Actually, the most stupid. The most daring is when Gary and I visited with Refusniks in Moscow and Leningrad during Chanukah 1980. But you can read about the most stupid – plus the answers to 11 other questions – on
Holli Castillo’s blog: http://www.gumbojustice.blogspot.com/2014/04/ilene-schneider-twelve-question-tuesday.html?m=1

SPECIAL PASSOVER SALE

Need a break from cleaning your kitchen for Pesach? (Or from filling Easter baskets?) You can read about someone else’s pre-Pesach travails instead. UNLEAVENED DEAD is on sale from now until 11:59 PM on April 22 for only $.99. You can purchase and download it from http://tinyurl.com/l443azw.

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NEW “BLOG GAME” IN TOWN

Since I have nothing else to do in the week leading up to the first Seder except worry and eat weird combinations (edamame and knishes, anyone?), I accepted the invitation of Sally Carpenter, the author of the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol Mysteries (The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper and The Sinister Sitcom Caper) to answer four questions about my writing process. After you read my answers, you can check out hers at http://sandyfairfaxauthor.com. And then in a few days, check out the answers given by Oak Tree Press authors Janet (writing as J. L.) Greger, author of the medical mysteries Coming Flu, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Ignore the Pain at http://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com/; and Denise Weeks, author of Nice Work, at http://deniseweeks.blogspot.com.

Questions (and answers!): 1. What am I working on?

It feels some days as though I’m working on everything except the third Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Yom Killer. While reading some novels by Oak Tree Press authors (have to scope out the competition … I mean, support my colleagues), I realized how many, including mine, contain recipes. “An OTP cookbook!” I thought in a moment of clarity or madness, and then compounded matters by suggesting it to the others (and the publisher). They all enthusiastically endorsed the idea, especially after I volunteered to compile and edit it. I figured, “How long can it take? A week? Two?” Five months later and I’m still gathering recipes and cajoling submissions.

And did I mention promo work, guest blogs, and conferences?

The more I do and the more I try to get ahead so I can concentrate on Yom Killer, the further behind I am. Somehow, retirement has not translated into more free time. Maybe I should stop lolling in bed reading until noon. (But it’s research!) Maybe I should take a break and put the brakes on guest blogging. Hmmm … wonder if Senior Sleuths would be interested in a blog on that topic?

2. How does my work differ from others of the same genre?

So far as I know, my books are the first and, as of now, only mysteries to feature a woman rabbi as the protagonist. But, except for a few non-gratuitous uses of Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, it does fit the general definition of a cozy mystery: amateur sleuth; no overt sex; no graphic violence or blood or gore; humor.

But the books are not just for Jews. They have cross-over appeal as well, as evidenced by the Public Safety Writers Association’s giving the first place award to Unleavened Dead at last summer’s conference and by the placement of Chanukah Guilt on many “best mysteries of 2007” lists.

3. Why do I write what I do?

As they advise, “Write what you know.” And the corollary: “Write what you enjoy reading.”  (Who are “they” anyway? And who appointed them arbiters?)

But a story about why I write: A woman I know (non-Jewish, by the way) loved Chanukah Guilt and was looking forward to Unleavened Dead. When the book came out, I made sure she received a copy even before the launch date. She was still in mourning for her husband of many years, and I hoped she’d welcome the diversion. A few weeks later, she came to the launch party, arrived early, and sat in the front. I asked her if she had read the book yet. “Read it!” she said. “I went home that night, got into bed, started to read, and went to sleep with a smile on my face. I did the same for the next two nights.”

And that’s why I write. Certainly not for the (still non-existent) fame and fortune. It’s to know that I’ve brought a smile to someone’s face.

4. How does your writing process work?

It doesn’t. (See answer to Question #1.)

I am a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I have a vague idea of the outline of my plots, but no idea how those plots will develop. I rely on my characters to tell me what will happen. And they always come through, although often not as I expect. For example, I added Aviva’s first ex-husband as an interim police chief as a way for her to have entrée to the police. I didn’t realize their relationship would become an ongoing “will-they-won’t-they” leitmotif. In fact, I hadn’t realized it had, until my friend (the one I talk about in Question #3) told me how much she loved him and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next between him and Aviva.

Being a pantser makes the writing process more fun, as I’m never quite sure what will come next. I find writing from an outline to be a chore. But there’s always the problem of the characters’ deciding they’re going AWOL and leaving me with a blank computer screen.

I also have a lack of self-discipline. If I don’t have a specific deadline, I procrastinate. The guest blogs I’ve finished are ones I was asked to submit by a definite date. The open-ended ones are still in my “guest blogging” folder in my inbox. I’ll get to them. Soon. I promise. Maybe.

 

A NICE MENTION …

 … on DorothyL from Carolyn J. Rose, whom I’ve recently discovered and recommend to anyone who enjoys humorous cozies:

 
Date:    Wed, 2 Apr 2014 14:06:59 -0700
From:    “Carolyn J. Rose, Author” <cjrauthor@GMAIL.COM>
Subject: My bookmark . . .

. . . recently departed from Unleavened Dead, an enjoyable “quiet” or
“gentle” mystery – meaning very little, if any, gore or gunfire.

APRIL FOOL

For those of you not on FaceBook (or who didn’t see my status update there), I just added the following post:
 
In honor of April Fools’ Day (a day early), a quote from UNLEAVENED DEAD:
“I particularly liked the story about the history professor who, in nineteen eighty-three, publicized his theory that April Fools’ Day originated when Constantine allowed his court jester to rule the empire for the day. The punch line is that the professor’s story was itself a hoax, a perfect example of an April Fools’ Day joke. And the Jewish connection (and probably a tipoff that the story was a fabrication): the jester’s name was Kugel.”

HOW (AND WHY) I BECAME A WRITER

You can read all about the topic on Lorna Collins’ blog: http://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com/

AND ANOTHER GUEST BLOG

Fellow author Jennifer Eaton was about to reach her blog #666 (or, as she puts it, 665+1). Being superstitious (or cautious), she asked me, as a skeptic and cynic, to write the blog for her. You can read “Post #662, 663, 664, 665… Oh No! What blog post is this?  Nope Not gonna do it. Quick! Call in the Rabbi!” here: http://wp.me/p1HIMV-1Q7

OPT BLOG: ALL ABOUT EAVESDROPPING

Want to know one of my sources for story ideas?
Check out my latest blog for Oak Tree Press. It’s all about “The Power of Eavesdropping.” http://otpblog.blogspot.com/

NOT “JUST A PET”

   A friend’s dog recently died. Her son, in his early 20s, is on the autism spectrum and missing the dog a lot. She wrote in an email: “[He] is able to verbalize a bit.  Not much but a bit.  He did say he was trying to keep the tears back, but I told him it was all right to cry.  [He] has lost a companion and he’s grieving.  It’s kind of like they were brothers growing up together.”

   In response, I sent her a copy of the reading for the online memorial service fellow author Barb Goffman had requested I write for her dog, Scout: “Two thousand years ago, the sage ben Sira wrote: ‘Bewail the dead, hide not your grief, do not restrain your mourning. But remember that continuing sorrow is worse than death. . . . Death is better than a life of pain, and eternal rest than constant sickness.’

   “He was talking about our human loved ones, but the same can be applied to our animal companions. What do we want from a loved one? Loyalty, affection, empathy, companionship; we want someone who will love us unconditionally and make us laugh, someone who comforts us and keeps us from feeling alone. Those attributes can apply to our pets as well as our human families. And pets are part of our families.

   “In Judaism, there is a lot of respect for animals. We are forbidden from harming them or causing them pain. They are not allowed to work on the Sabbath. We must feed them before ourselves.

  “Each ‘dog year’ is supposedly equivalent to seven human ones. The number seven is significant in Judaism: the seven days of the week, the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, the seventh year during which fields lie fallow, the seven circuits a bride makes around her groom in a traditional wedding ceremony. Seven is the number of completion and renewal. After six days of work, God rested; we, too, work six days and rest on the Sabbath. But then the cycle begins again, just as the cycle of life renews itself.

   “I’ll end with a quote from Proverbs 12:10: ‘A righteous man knows the soul of his animal.’ Barb, you knew Scout’s soul. He completed you, and you completed him.”

   Corresponding with my friend reminded me of something strange that happened many years ago. Just before he turned 4 (or maybe 5) my younger son, then diagnosed as being on the Spectrum, started to cry for no reason. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “I want our cat to come back.” Our cat had died exactly a year earlier – not figuratively but on the exact day. My son had not reacted at all at that time. But he did know and did mourn – he just didn’t have the words to express his feelings. Yet he instinctively remembered the date.

   I told my friend to let her son know that it is fine to cry. I was about 50 when our cat died, and fell apart in the vet’s office when I brought our cat’s body (wrapped in a large towel) there.

   I had been planning to take our cat in to be “put to sleep” that day. I didn’t do it sooner because my older son and my husband had gone away for a few days, and I didn’t want my son to come home and find out our cat had died. They came home the night before, and my son went to the vet with me. He said, “He waited for me to come home to say goodbye.” The night before, I had carried our cat into the powder room where his litter box, food, and water were. In the morning, I got up at 6AM, having a premonition and wanting to check on our cat before the boys got up. Our cat had managed to drag himself up 2 steps – his back legs had collapsed the night before - and across a 14′-wide family room to lie down in front of his favorite spot in front of the sliding glass door, where he died. I’m getting teary-eyed now remembering it.

   So, my friends, if a beloved pet dies, don’t let people try to comfort you by saying, “It was only a pet.” They mean well, but you know there’s no such thing as “just a pet.”

ANOTHER MENTION OF MY BOOKS

Every now and then (more then than now), I run a Google search on myself. Sometimes, I’ll even find a mention I hadn’t seen before. Today, I discovered a nice mention of CHANUKAH GUILT (with a side mention of UNLEAVENED DEAD) in an article about recommended Chanukah books in the November 2013 edition of The NEW HAMPSHIRE JEWISH REPORTER
(www.jewishnh.org/reporter/2013/Nov-2013.pdf‎, p. 10). My thanks to reviewer Merle Carrus. She wrote in part:

Chanukah is the jumping off point for Chanukah Guilt … [The author's], mysteries are similar to the popular Rabbi Small series by Harry Kemelman, “The Day the Rabbi….”

These light, entertaining mysteries are solved by a local small town rabbi, while also introducing the members of the rabbi’s congregation and teaching a little bit about a Jewish holiday …. If you enjoy this book, look for another by Rabbi Schneider: Unleavened Dead, a Passover-based mystery.

 

 

 

 

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