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OF CLOTHES AND BOOKS

My favorite women’s clothing store, Coldwater Creek, will be closing all of its brick-and-mortar and online sites in just over a week. I have been buying my clothes from them since they were a catalog only retailer. I estimate that at least 90% of my wardrobe is from them. If I count only those clothes I wear every day, especially before I retired, it’s probably closer to 95%.

I love their clothes. They fit well, they hold up well, they wash well, they are fashionable without being trendy or flashy. And that may be why, despite the fact that “everyone” I know of a certain age shops there, they have gone out of business.

The clothes are durable, so there’s no need to replace them every year or so when they wear out. (The exception are 100% cotton jerseys, which tend to become misshapen after several washings. Or maybe it’s the dryings. Or maybe it’s because I never bother to follow cleaning instructions.) I have one plain black “travel knit” shift that can be dressed up or down depending on what I wear over it. I’m not sure how old it is. It is so versatile that shortly after I bought it I got a second one, worried that I would somehow damage the first and not be able to replace it. The backup dress is still folded in tissue paper on a shelf in my closet.

Plus, because they’re not trendy, the clothes don’t look dated. They stay in my closet (and on my body) for years before I give them to charity, and then usually only because I’ve worn them so often I’ve gotten bored with them. I have a few things that may be 10-15 years old.

The very reasons I like Coldwater Creek – durability and timelessness – are probably why they haven’t shown a profit since 2007. I’ll have a discount coupon begging to be redeemed, will go to the store, and not find anything I want to buy because I already have the same thing at home.

And what does that have to do with writing? (Thought I’d forgotten the topic, didn’t you?) A book series has to stay fresh and innovative to remain popular. I have stopped reading some authors on my “must read” list because they are writing the same book every time, just changing the names and settings. Or there’s no character development: the main characters don’t age, the events of previous books don’t affect their behaviors or attitudes. Why spend money on a book I’ve, in essence, already read? Yes, they may be comfortable, they may still hold interest, but eventually, they become stale. And if they’re classics, I’ll just re-read them, not buy new ones by the same author. Unless it’s something fresh.

THANK YOU AND TWO NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

Thanks to all of you who wished me congratulations on my taking first place for short stories and for flash fiction at the Public Safety Writers Association conference. Much appreciated!
 
Fellow author Amy Bennett invited me to post on her blog, offering a few “words of wisdom” to aspiring authors: http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/meet-otp-author-ilene-schneider.html
 
If you missed reading my award-winning (love saying that!) short story “Miami Snow” in the Fall 2013 issue of mystericale.com, it has just been reprinted in Kings River Life: http://kingsriverlife.com/07/19/miami-snow-mystery-short-story
 
 
 
 

AWARDS!

My short story “Miami Snow” and my flash fiction (200 words) “Perfect” both took 1st place in their categories at the Public Safety Writers Association conference. (This is the group that awarded UNLEAVENED DEAD 1st place for best mystery novel last year.)

PSWA 2014

Heading to Vegas for the Public Safety Writers Association conference, which awarded UNLEAVENED DEAD 1st place last year for best mystery of 2012. On 2 panels: 2:30 Friday on “What are setting and dialogue and how should you use them?” And 10:15 Sunday on “The aspects to be considered when writing a series.”

A NICE COMMENT

I hate to brag (no I don’t), but …. On the DorothyL listserv, there’s been a thread about what people want to know before reading a new author. One participant posted:

“The first thing I look for in a book is a well-told story with believable characters. That said, I discovered Ilene Schneider’s mysteries because they were about a rabbi and I am a clergyperson myself. I started reading Elizabeth Moon’s works because we were in the Marine Corps at approximately the same time/era — in both cases, however, I keep reading because the books are excellent.”

UPCOMING BOOKS (EVENTUALLY)

I may not have a manuscript ready to go, but I do have ideas for the future adventures of Rabbi Aviva Cohen.

Book #3,Yom Killer: Aviva’s mother falls forward, hits her forehead on edge of toilet. It’s suspected she had a stroke. But then, why does she have a wound in the shape and size of the proverbial blunt instrument on the back of her head?

Book #4, High Holy Daze: No, not about medicinal (or other) marijuana. Aviva is looking through a trunk full of old books in the attic of a synagogue building that’s about to be razed. On the bottom are human bones.

Book #5, unnamed: An assistant rabbi’s contract isn’t renewed. His supporters are angry and plan to leave and form a new synagogue with him as their rabbinic leader. But then he is found murdered.

#6-?, unnamed: Aviva retires, becomes the rabbi of a cruise line; she becomes the pelagic version of Jessica Fletcher, with bodies showing up wherever she is. I am going to greatly enjoy doing the research for these books.

 

“DANGERS” OF RE-READING OLD FAVORITES

            Several years ago, when my oldest son, now 26, was a toddler, I read to him nightly. Usually, the books were my old favorites, books like Ferdinand the Bull or Doctor Doolittle or Winnie the Pooh. One day, I took out my childhood copy, unearthed from my parents’ basement when they moved from the Boston area to South Florida, of one of the Bobbsey Twin books. I adored the Bobbsey Twins as a child and read them all. Bert and Nan and Freddie and Flossie were my friends. I opened the book with great anticipation of sharing it with my son, so imagine my dismay when I couldn’t get beyond the first half page. The family’s maid was written as a stereotypical Stephen Fetchet character, complete with misspelled words to represent her mangling of the English language. It doesn’t bother me when I read the dialect in a classic like Huckleberry Finn, maybe because I don’t read it aloud, but I could not continue with the Bobbsey Twins.

            More recently, I was on a panel at a local library, and we were asked to share our favorite or most influential book. I had no problem choosing one: Eloise was the book that introduced me to the wonders of libraries. I went to the local Barnes and Noble, took the book from the shelf, got an overly-caloric drink, and sat down to read it. I fully expected to purchase the book so I could savor the antics of the high-spirited, independent, mischievous Eloise whenever I wanted. The book is still on the store’s shelf, not mine.

            I was appalled by the book. Eloise is not high-spirited, independent, or mischievous, at least not in a positive way. She is spoiled, disrespectful, disruptive, nasty, and a vandal. Her mother is almost completely absent. All we know is she travels and has credit cards. Eloise always keeps a bag packed in case her mother calls at the last minute for her to join her in an exotic locale with a warm climate, but the impression I got is that her mother has yet to do so. The father is never mentioned. The only men, besides the hotel employees, are her mother’s lawyer and a tutor, hired because no school would accept Eloise. A nanny is supposedly in charge of Eloise’s care, but does not seem to give any supervision at all. Basically, the nanny sleeps late, smokes, drinks, and watches boxing on TV.

             The main feelings I had after re-reading this book as an adult were sadness, pity, and anger at the neglect of this young, intelligent child. During the many years that had lapsed between readings, I had learned that the author, Kay Thompson, who lived at the Plaza, most likely based Eloise on her goddaughter Liza Minnelli. What a lonely child Eloise must have been.

             I am a bit worried now about revisiting some other old favorites, many of which are in public domain and free on Kindle. I’ve downloaded quite a few, and so far have not been at all disappointed by Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Jane Eyre. Of course, those are not children’s books, although I read them originally a long time ago. Next up on my classics-to-be-reread is Little Women. I read it obsessively and frequently as a young teen. I really, really hope it’s as good as I remember.

 

           

NJAS AT MAPLE SHADE (NJ) LIBRARY

At the Maple Shade Library, 200 Stiles Avenue, on Thursday, April 24, 6-7:30 PM, join New Jersey Authors Network members Kristin Battestella, Jordanna East, Tina Gabrielle, Jon Gibbs, Brian Patrick McKinley, and Ilene Schneider for a lively evening of fun, as the authors talk about their books. Copies of each author’s books will be available. This is a family event, so bring your kids, and get ready for an entertaining evening!

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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