Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Archive for February, 2014


I really did plan to cut back on the number of conferences I would go to this year. And I did. I’m currently (note the qualifier) registered for only five. Last year, I went to six.

There are many reasons to attend writers’ conferences. Selling books isn’t necessarily one of them. There is nothing more depressing (okay, I’m exaggerating; but it is discouraging) to sit at a signing table after a panel and see a long line of fans waiting to have their books autographed – by the author sitting next to me. In the meantime, I’m trying to look perky, approachable, and friendly.

But it’s not about selling books. It’s about networking, with other writers who will help promote your books on their blogs and other postings, and with fans, who will keep you motivated by asking when the next book will be released. (My stock answer: “I’d love to know, too. I guess it will have to wait until I finish writing it.”) And it’s about name recognition. As Jon Gibbs, author of the YA novel Fur-Face and founder of the NJ Authors Network (, advises I’m paraphrasing, “What is important is going from ‘I’ve never heard of that person,’ to ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard that author’s name,’ to ‘I saw that author speak on a panel; I think I’ll buy the book.”‘ I remind myself of his words whenever I’m sitting alone waiting for someone to ask me to sign a book. (I’m thinking of signing them “J. K. Rawling.”)

It’s also about learning. No matter how many conferences I attend, I always discover something new about the craft of writing and all it entails. (Including, the best way to kill someone and hide the body.)

Most importantly, it’s about meeting in person authors I admire and finding out they are approachable and friendly (although not necessarily perky, after being bombarded by questions from all the other lesser-known authors in attendance). And it’s about meeting in person virtual friends: other writers (and some fans) with whom I trade Facebook cute kitten pictures, guest blogs, emails, movie recommendations, tips on promotion and time management and sources of inspiration. There’s nothing like meeting “strangers” and already knowing all about their lives and works. Instant camaraderie. Just add a conference.

If you see me at any of the following conferences, be sure to come over and introduce yourself. I promise to be perky, approachable, and friendly.

LEFT COAST CRIME, Monterey, CA, March 20-23

MALICE DOMESTIC, Bethesda, MD, May 2-4


DEADLY INK, New Brunswick, NJ, Aug. 1-3

BOUCHERCON, Long Beach, CA, Nov. 12-16 



Want to know why there are still typos and continuity errors in my books even after multiple edits? Read about “Why I Can’t Edit Myself” on Marilyn Meredith’s
blog site:


I just received an email today with this great review of UNLEAVENED DEAD in “Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal,” Spring 2013, Volume 10 Number 2. Snippet: “This is a fast-paced, witty, and intriguing read.” Thank you, David J. Zucker.


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.”


   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.”


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
(‎, 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.