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

Archive for April, 2014

MORE EXCUSES: LIFE AND COOKBOOKS

As loyal followers of this very sporadic blog may have noticed, I am very good at coming up with excuses for not producing a new book in the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries series annually. Or biannually. Or triennially. Life, day job, promo for the previous books, blog postings (here and on others’ sites), conferences, travel (for promo, conferences, fun, and all three), life; they all interfere.

I lost one excuse – day job – after I retired as of December 31, 2013. Since then, I’ve doubled the number of pages in my third mystery, YOM KILLER. I’ve gone from three pages to six. And I’m still not crazy about any of them.

Here are my excuses for not getting more done in the year from the publication of the second book in the series, the award-winning (I love writing that phrase) UNLEAVENED DEAD, at the end of November, 2012, until the end of 2013: life, day job, promo for the previous books, blog postings (here and on others’ sites), conferences, travel (for promo, conferences, fun, and all three), life.

But there’s an additional reason: during that year, I rewrote sections of my first mystery, CHANUKAH GUILT, so I could add a bonus section with an alternate solution to the second edition. And I exchanged lots of emails with Billie Johnson, publisher of OTP, to redesign the cover so it looked like the original, but was slightly different. I lost at least a day of writing trying to come up with something I liked. (Not sure what happened to the other 364.)

The second edition of CHANUKAH GUILT came out in January of this year. So, more promo, plus trying to get Amazon to list it properly, followed. (See earlier blog posting; the Amazon listing is better, but still not accurate.)

And my excuses for why I have written only three new pages (plus rewritten another three pages, none of which are quite right yet) of YOM KILLER are the same as above. But with another one added: I’m working on a cookbook. No, not my recipes. Nor is the idea unique. (There’s no copyright on ideas, fortunately.)

The cookbook, with the working title of RECIPES BY THE BOOK, came about when I noticed a number of Oak Tree Press books (including my own) contained or referred to recipes. I was obviously channeling Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland when I exclaimed (well, emailed my fellow OTP authors), “Let’s put on a show!” Or, in this case, “Let’s put together a cookbook!” As I am wont to do, I then pushed “send” before thinking: “I’ll even collect the data and edit it.” How long could it take? A couple of weeks? Maybe a month?

I sent out that first email on January 20. I double-checked the year. It was indeed January 20, 2014. That’s only three months ago. It seems like three years. I’m still collecting recipes. I had no idea how tedious – I mean, rewarding – it can be to cut-and-paste recipes, book descriptions, head shots (author promo pictures, not forensic photos), book cover photos, contact information, etc. from emails to Word files.

The project keeps growing. Originally, the book was to contain only recipes mentioned in books published by Oak Tree. Then we decided to add in recipes mentioned in any books written by OTP authors, regardless of publisher. Then it developed further to encompass favorite recipes, whether or not in books by OTP authors. I think we’ve hit the limit of our expansionistic goals, especially as the book may now be at a length longer than a pamphlet. But I won’t know until I actually put all the various pieces together, format them, make sure each chapter is consistent with the others, embed the photos. And, I guess, submit my own data.

So, fans of Rabbi Aviva Cohen, please be patient. I promise I will get back to those six pages soon. Or as soon as I finish the cookbook. And figure out how to deal efficiently with life, promo for the previous books, blog postings (here and on others’ sites), conferences, travel (for promo, conferences, fun, and all three). Oh, and did I mention life?

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MUCH APPRECIATED!

Amazon still may not be listing the 2nd edition of the trade paperback of CHANUKAH GUILT properly (although the Kindle page link does), but look what’s happened to the Kindle ranking:

#30 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Jewish
#47 in Books > Literature & Fiction > United States > Jewish American

Thanks to all of you who tried to help me out!

BIG FAVOR

As some of you may be aware (I’ve complained about it enough), my publisher is having problems getting Amazon to list the 2nd edition of Chanukah Guilt correctly. If you search on my name or on the title, you will be linked to the correct page for Kindle and for the large print versions, but the only page for the trade paperback is the original, which is out of print but being sold (possible illegally) as used by Walker Books, Australia. The only way to link to the correct trade paperback is to search specifically for CHANUKAH GUILT SECOND EDITION.

Amazon sent an email with a convoluted explanation of why the 2nd version doesn’t show up, having to do (I think – I have a doctorate and had trouble understanding the reasoning) with sales and rank. Of course, there are no sales or rank, because people can’t find the book.

If, however, enough people look for the 2nd edition, it might possibly move into the proper spot in the Amazon search engine.

Here’s my favor. Please go to the page for the second edition (http://tinyurl.com/lsltbge). You don’t need to purchase the book (although it would be nice) or leave a review (although it would be nice). Just stay on the page for a few minutes.

It might not work, but it can’t hurt. Of course, with Amazon, who knows?

Thank you.

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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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.