Friends with Books: Leigh Thelmadatter of Creative Hands of Mexico

As a mystery author of books set in Mexico, I have been lucky enough to build a great network of friends with books. Mystery readers love following along with the Detective Emilia Cruz series and the steamy relationship between Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz and hotel manager Kurt Rucker.

Other readers are drawn by Mexico’s mystique.  I’m in good company when it comes to writing about Mexico. We hang out at the Mexico Writers Facebook group which includes novelists, non-fiction writers, and bloggers.

Friends With Books is a series of conversations with members of the Mexico Writers group. Each conversation has a few surprises about Mexican #culture and #protips about the writing process. Enjoy!

Today’s conversation is with Leigh Thelmadatter, non-fiction writer and blogger at Creative Hands of Mexico. Her blog specializes in long-form posts about amazing artisans across central Mexico.

On Writing

Why do you write?  I want to document ideas, people, etc. which do not get the attention they should.

Is there any book you really don’t enjoy?  I’m not the biggest fan of fiction, which I know is a very strange thing to write. I prefer to stick to the real world … facts, figures …

Tell us about your new book? What’s it about and why did you write it?  Its my first book and it will be on Mexican cartonería… which is not your 2nd grade arts and crafts paper maché. It is used to make a number of items, traditionally in relation to various Mexican celebrations. The best known of these is the piñata. It interests me because it has been undergoing a major change since the mid 20th century, incorporating a lot of modern influences, which attracts young artists and artisans. There is a pretty good selection of books on Mexican handcrafts in general, but relatively few that go into more regional/local traditions in any depth.

Thelmadatter_toroloco_maclovio_3020504665What’s your next project?  After the cartonería book, I want to do one on the La Catrina phenomenon in Mexico.

How did you develop your writing?  Believe it or not, Wikipedia. It began as a hobby, writing articles about what I see in Mexico, in part to force me to read more Spanish but mostly to see beyond the superficial.  Otherwise all the towns look the same… church, main place and municipal hall…

Where do you get your inspiration?  Mexican culture. Before I arrived, all I knew was the Arizona-Sonora border area and images from the beaches. Central Mexico, which is the cultural and economic powerhouse of the country, is vastly different.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?  As far as Wikipedia and my blog, Creative Hands of Mexico, I don’t have to sell my work. I’m working on my first book on Mexican cartonería (a hard paper maché). The idea of convincing someone to publish it scares me. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

What else do you do to make money, other than write?  It is rare today for writers to be full time. I am a professor. My writing, including Wikipedia work with students, complements what I do in the classroom.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?  Lap top at home desk or at work.

Life beyond writing

What other jobs have you had in your life?  Too many. Soldier, hotel receptionist, burger flipper, stay-at-home mom.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?  I would stay in Mexico. I hope to live on or near the beach someday.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support? My husband, Alejandro Linares Garcia … his support has been unwavering and unconditional.

Tell us a bit about your family.   I was born in New York City but grew up in suburban New Jersey. My mother was a single mom in the 1970s, which was extremely hard for her, not only because of social stigma but familial issues. She died in 1983 at age 44. I changed my last name in 2001 to Thelmadatter (daughter of Thelma in Norwegian) in her honor.

If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask? My mother.

How do you feel about self-publishing?  Personally, if it gets people reading my work, I’m all for it. In the digital age, especially in the next 10 years or so, the divide between self published and traditional publishing will blur, at the very least. Right now, as a professor, I still kind of need that publisher stamp of approval.

Last book you purchased?  A small, locally published book in Spanish on cartoneria.  There were bits and pieces of good information and research leads, but too short and too vague to be of help in really showing the craft’s cultural value.

Thelmadatter_Kennedy_CookbookWho do you admire?  Anthropologist and handcrafts researcher Marta Turok. I did her Wikipedia article. Second is food researcher Diana Kennedy.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?  Dedication

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?  That it took me 45 years to get dedicated to something. But I’ve always been a late bloomer.

Thank you, Leigh, for chatting and sharing the “toroloco” picture from Creative Hands of Mexico.

Need a little more Mexico? Get the first Detective Emilia Cruz mystery  CLIFF DIVER for just $0.99 for Kindle. Emilia is the first and only female police detective in Acapulco. She can make it in a man’s world. Unless one of them kills her first.

See what happens in CLIFF DIVER when Emilia is put in charge of the investigation into a dirty cop’s murder. When she dives in, will she hit the rocks? Or the water?

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Leighton Gage’s Legacy

Leighton Gage’s Legacy

On Wednesday, 13 May, Facebook reminded me that it was Leighton Gage’s birthday. I found the reminder somewhat disturbing.

Salute to a Pioneer

Disturbing, because fellow mystery author Leighton Gage passed away some time ago. I never met him, but respect him tremendously as a pioneer. His was the first commercially successful mystery series I encountered with a Latino central character.

Chief Inspector Mario Silva is Brazilian.

Not American. Not British.

book coverrelated post: Book Review: Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage

At the point I read an article about the series, and rushed out to get the first Chief Inspector Silva book, I was still smarting over advice received from an Important Author who assured me that a book in which all the characters were Mexican would never sell.

Huh.

related post: Why Write a Book About Mexico

RIP, Social Media

Facebook wants me to celebrate Leighton Gage’s birthday. Goodreads wants me to suggest books to him.

The social media machinery doesn’t know when we have passed away. On one hand, this reassures me that we are not yet robots; embedded into social media so much that it knows our every move, every thought, every hope and dream.

But on the other, it is as if our lives never stop. Without being able to log in one last time and cancel an account, our personas last forever inside The Great Web.

Memory trumps machinery

So much for Great Thoughts on life and social media. I choose to regard Facebook’s prompt as a gentle reminder of a great mystery author, who if he got the same advice I did, chose to ignore it.

We never met, but his choice unlocked a door and made all the difference to me.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Lighting the Path

Lighting the Path

“Surround yourself with those who light the way.”

It was just another pithy Pinterest graphic; worth a nod and a smile. Forgotten in the wake of a great chicken recipe or a cat playing the piano.

But I recently had occasion to reflect on the wisdom of “lighting the path” when a friend and I had a long conversation about career decisions. She’s got two opportunities to choose from, both with pros and cons to them. Meanwhile, I was wondering if my writing career can expand into a website devoted to time management and productivity for fellow writers, and if the Emilia Cruz series will ever get off the midlist.

Tipping points

As we talked, my friend–a social scientist–unwittingly defined for me what “lighting the path” means when faced with a decision:

1.How many people will it help? Do we want a life that is self-contained and narrowly focused? Or a life that impacts others for the better?

Will the next decison create well-being or lead to better health? Solve problems for others?

2. Just because an opportunity is available doesn’t mean it is the right one. Will a short-term gain wipe out the chance to fulfill a long-term dream?

Yes, this is why Penny quit waitressing at the Cheesecake Factory.

3. It is worth spending time defining and owning your long-term goal. My friend and I discussed our career goals. Where would each like to be 5 years from now.  Once we did that we could apply one of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly successful people: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Ongoing process

We didn’t bring peace to the Middle East but the conversation clarified things for both of us. We can both see a better–albeit highly ambitious–path.

Now the question is one of courage.

I hope you have a chance now and then to have such conversations with friends who help light your path.

No flashlight? Dead battery? Strike a match and keep going. Brainstorm, weigh options, find your heart’s desire, own a long-term goal. Don’t aim at nothing.

10 Lessons from Killer Nashville

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Heading to Killer Nashville

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Department Q and The Keeper of Lost Causes

THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES, the first Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, has toppled Jo Nesbo from the top of my Nordic Noir favorites list. And I didn’t even know I wanted to go to Denmark. Some series take a few books before all the pieces are...

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Get your #FREE Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

The first female police detective in Acapulco can take the heat.

Can you?

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Best of the Book Savor Series: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

 

The Book Savor series grew out of my passion for good friends, great books and interesting conversations about what we are reading. And what better way to wind it up than with a “best of” the who-is-coming-to-dinner question.

 

Read on to see what interesting people are serving for dinner and to whom.

Q: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

Novelist Anne R. Allen: Dorothy Parker, and the conversation could be about anything she wanted: I’d just sit back and take notes. For the best stories, I’d probably better serve martinis.

Social Media Marketing Expert Frances Caballo: I’m serving paella, Manchego cheese with quince, salad and flan for dessert. I would invite Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time, and ask her about how she conducts the extensive researched needed for her books.

Canadian Author Sandra Nikolai: I’d invite forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, bestselling author of the Dr. Temperance Brennan series on which the program Bones is based. I’d serve lasagna with a tossed green salad and a bottle of Chianti. Nothing with bones! We’d chat about her books and Montreal—a city we both know well. I’d wait until we’d had coffee and tiramisu before asking her about the grisly details of her work in the lab.

Comic Artist TJ Robinson: Hemingway, and we will be serving whiskey and peanuts.  The subject will be about anything besides writing.

Fabretto CFO Monica Drazba: Well, aside from Carmen Amato and a variety of Mexican dishes, it would probably be David McCullough or maybe Robert Caro. I’d serve up something simple (grilled tenderloin, roasted vegetables, pilaf), so I could spend my time outside of the kitchen listening to their anecdotes and insights on modern history.

MommyMaestra.com Founder Monica Olivera: Rudolfo Anaya, I think. I would serve warm pork tamales (if I knew how to make them), fresh limonada, and maybe flan for dessert. Or tres leches. We would talk about the desperate need for our children to hear and read these stories that reflect our childhood experiences and how by writing we in some way immortalize said childhood and the loved ones who may have since passed on.

Mystery Author Jerold Last: I think it would be Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series.  We’ll serve braised pheasant, shot by me, and found, pointed, and retrieved by Jolie, one of our dogs, from the freezer.  Side dishes include mashed potatoes with garlic, since there’s a lot of gravy, and salad (it’s California so there’s always fresh veggies).  Conversation would be about mystery writing, and whether Spenser’s and Susan’s German Shorthaired Pointer, Pearl The Wonder Dog, would have fit into our pack of three GSPs.  Jolie, the model for Juliet in “The Deadly Dog Show”, seems to have a similar temperament to Pearl’s, but is much better trained. Finally, I’d like his opinion of whether Roger makes a good, albeit much more educated, Spenser-type hero, and what he thinks of Bruce as an assistant hero in the mold of Hawk.

Marketing Expert Bobby McDaniel: Douglas Adams. I’m a geek and I love to laugh, so I imagine hanging out with Douglas Adams would be an amazing experience. I would serve Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, Gin & Tonics, and steak . . . preferably from a talking cow, but I guess any cow would do.

Mamiverse.com Editor Lorraine C. Ladish: Stephen King, because he says it like it is. We´d have Spanish tapas and beer or wine. I´d ad lib. I´d love to hear how he cranks out the word.

Writer Elizabeth A. Martina: I adore the couple writing team, Bodie and Brock Thoene. I would serve them barbequed spare ribs, mustard potato salad and moscal wine. Ribs, because they are country folk and would probably enjoy that. The wine, because it is sweet and my favorite. Conversation would inevitably turn to history of the 20th century, which is predominantly their book themes, and to Christianity which is always their secondary theme.

Crime Fiction Author Jason Beech: Charles Dickens. I’d serve him my mother’s Sunday dinner of roast lamb, new potatoes, green beans, stuffing, spring (I think) cabbage, Yorkshire puddings, and mint sauce, smothered in gravy (onion). Then I’d ask him if he could have cut a few hundred pages from most of his novels, and ask if Britain has moved on much from Victorian times in social terms.

Thriller Author Khaled Talib: Mary Shelley. I’ll be serving saffron-based beryani rice with mango chutney, salad, stuffed chicken and various accompaniments. This would be followed by custard cake for dessert with chocolate sauce and Turkish coffee. I’d like to probe her mind about the soul of man, and on the light side, we’ll talk about her travels and adventure. The conversation will be electrifying!

DifferentOutcomes.net’s Jason Sullivan: Without a doubt, my choice would be Edgar Allan Poe. For dinner, we would have the Mid-Atlantic specialties of Silver Queen corn and extra-large Chesapeake Bay crab cakes. We would discuss Virginia and Maryland, an area we both know well. I would have secured a bottle of the finest cognac for after dinner. Once the first glasses of cognac were finished, we would sit by a roaring fire and begin to talk about everything imaginable. We would discuss Romanticism and poetry, delve into his seminal influence in Science Fiction and Mystery, and as the shadows begin to make ghastly figures upon the wall, he might share a word or two about the genre for which he is most famous – Horror. I would also want to hear his views on some of the major events that occurred after his death, such as the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the two world wars, technology and globalism. I would bring up a few things of particular interest to me. For instance, what are his views on the nature of time and affection, and what were the circumstances surrounding the writing of “A Dream Within A Dream”? He might mention what transpired during those last few days in Baltimore, but I would not ask about this. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, as the fire drew down, we would dare to speak of the eternal secrets … before falling asleep in our chairs to the glow of the last few dying embers.

Who’s coming to dinner at your house? Are we invited?

Subscribe to my monthly Mystery Ahead update and get your Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library today!

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Novelist Anne R. Allen

The Book Savor series grew out of my passion for good friends, great books, and interesting conversations about what we are reading.

This week’s guest, novelist Anne R. Allen, talks about the books she savors.

1. Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Anne R. Allen: I remember when I was in fifth grade I picked up a new book my dad left on the coffee table. (He was a professor of Classics at Yale.)

It was a thin volume and had pictures and lots of white space, so it looked like books I was used to. I sat down and read it cover to cover. One of the most exciting stories I’d ever read. When my dad saw I’d read it, he freaked. “That’s not for children!” he said. “Did it upset you?” I said it didn’t but I thought the hero was pretty much of a creep.

The book was a new translation of Euripides’ Medea. Kids aren’t as shocked by bad behavior in adults as we think they will be.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

ARA: That’s hard. All I can say is I hope they’re really fat ones. Maybe some of those long, tough ones I’ve never had time to read, like Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. 

cat_cartoons3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why? 

ARA: Maybe the New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons. The best kind of book to keep on the coffee table to keep guests occupied while you’re hostessing. And cats are funny. I’m not sure why.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

ARA: Dorothy Parker, and the conversation could be about anything she wanted: I’d just sit back and take notes. For the best stories, I’d probably better serve martinis.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

ARA: Probably one of the most inspiring books, quotes &  concepts ever is Pay it Forward. The book is so much more inspiring than the movie and I am blessed to call the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, a close friend.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

ARA: I’m a novelist, blogger and actress who believes that laughter is the best medicine. The biggest compliment I ever got was from an old Borscht Belt comic who came backstage after seeing me in Auntie Mame and said, “I didn’t see you act funny once in that whole performance” (pause) “you don’t act funny—you THINK funny—the secret to great comedy.” I feel so blessed to be able to write funny books and have people buy them!

ARA roseMore about this week’s guest: Anne is the author of six romantic-comedy/mysteries: THE GATSBY GAME, FOOD OF LOVE and the Camilla Randall mysteries: THE BEST REVENGE, GHOSTWRITERS IN THE SKY, SHERWOOD, LTD., and NO PLACE LIKE HOME (the latter 3 just came out as a new collection.) She’s poured all her energies from her previous career as artistic director of the Patio Playhouse in Escondido, CA, into her books and a blog about the writing life at http://annerallen.blogspot.com/

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with CARTEL RISING Author Guillermo Paxton

The Book Savor series grew out of my love for good books, great friends, and interesting conversations about books.

This week the author of THE PLAZA and CARTEL RISING, Guillermo Paxton, talks about the books he savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

wickedGuillermo Paxton: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. Had nightmares for a week.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

GP: The Bible. Infinite Jest. Ga-Jin.

 3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

GP:  I’d want to give them one of mine since I always have a stockpile of them at the house and I’d only have to buy a bow.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

GP: Cormac McCarthy, because I’m so damned impressed with his writing. My wife cooks the best Mexican food, so if it was winter I’d serve posole and if it was summer I’d grill flank steak (arrachera) and baked potatoes.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

GP: Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion. Jack Kerouac

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

When I was seven, my father warned me not to go to the abandoned house on our street. That same day, I went to the abandoned house on the street and explored it inside and out. I’m still that same kid.

book cover cartel risingMore about this week’s guest: Guillermo’s books are tough novels of suspense that go inside Mexico’s drug war with a style I dubbed “narco noir” in this review of his latest, CARTEL RISING, which I devoured in about 2 days.

Twitter- @GuillermoPaxton

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/GuillermoPaxtonAuthor

 

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Social Media Marketing Expert Frances Caballo

 The Book Savor Series grew out of my passion for great books, great friends and interesting conversations about what we are reading.

This week’s guest, social media marketing expert Frances Caballo shares the books she savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Frances Caballo:  I think it was The Scarlett Letter. I was in high school and we had to read the book and provide a report that discussed the symbolism in the book and other issues. I had a huge moment of inspiration and saw very clearly what the author was trying to communicate. What happened next was horribly embarrassing, which is why I remember this transition so clearly. The teacher asked a boy in the class to read my report without revealing the source. As he read, the entire class erupted into laughter. I was mortified but when I received my report back from my teacher, I saw that I was the only student to receive an A+ on the assignment.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

FC:  Just 3 books? For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Don Quijote (it’s spelled that way in Spain) de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Paella book cover3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

FC:  Great question! Paella by Penelope Casas.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

FC:  I’m serving paella, Manchego cheese with quince, salad and flan for dessert. I would invite Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of No Ordinary Time, and ask her about how she conducts the extensive researched needed for her books.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

FC:  I love this quote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

We all need to take up our calling, whatever it might be. And if we follow the call, our souls will be fulfilled.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

I value integrity above all else. I love writing, books, writers, Labrador Retrievers and my husband-to-be, but not necessarily in that order. I can’t imagine living far from the coast; I would shrivel.

More about this week’s guest: I’d just published my first book when Frances interviewed me for her blog about social media marketing for authors. I’d found alot of tips in her articles and was thrilled that she thought I was headed in the right direction.  Recently she sent me some great tips for using Pinterest that you can get as a free download on her website, http://socialmediajustforwriters.com/.

Frances Caballo 250 by 250Frances  is a social media strategist, trainer, and author of Social Media Just for Writers: The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books and Blogging Just for Writers. Presently, she is the Social Media Manager for the Women’s National Book Association-SF Chapter, the San Francisco Writers Conference, and the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. You can find her on FacebookTwitterLinkedInPinterest, and Google+.

What I learned from the Internet this week: Did you know that world-wide, more people have a mobile phone than there are people with access to a flush toilet? Check out water.org for more key water facts.

 

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Canadian Author Sandra Nikolai

The Book Savor series grew out of my love for good friends, good books, and great conversations about what we are reading.

This week’s guest, Canadian mystery author Sandra Nikolai, shares the books she savors.

Anne frank cover1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Sandra Nikolai: When I was a young teen, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. The story touched me deeply because I imagined myself in her situation during the Nazi occupation. It brought home the realization that not every young person has a carefree youth and that some pretty bad things can happen in this world.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

SN: I’d hope to find a book on survival skills because I’m a city girl, and I’d need all the help I could get. If an escape plan didn’t work out, I’d dig out Somewhere Over the Rainbow to bolster my hopes of being rescued and returning home. I’d also hope for a huge joke book, because if I were going to die, I’d want to die laughing.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

SN: A coffee table book with lots of photos and illustrations on a topic that ranged from art to cooking to travel, depending on the guest’s interests. Coffee table books attract attention and encourage conversation in a wide variety of topics.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

SN: I’d invite forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs, bestselling author of the Dr. Temperance Brennan series on which the program Bones is based. I’d serve lasagna with a tossed green salad and a bottle of Chianti. Nothing with bones! We’d chat about her books and Montreal—a city we both know well. I’d wait until we’d had coffee and tiramisu before asking her about the grisly details of her work in the lab.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

SN: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

SN: My parents encouraged my love of reading and I’ll be forever grateful to them. I couldn’t imagine my life without books. Even more so without writing.

Sandra NikolaiMore about this week’s guest: Sandra is the author of a mystery series featuring a ghost writer and a crime reporter; a real departure from the standard police or private detective cast of characters. Her first book, False Impressions, had a character so duplicitous I was glad he was the victim! Her second book, Fatal Whispers, has just been released and delivers more of the psychological twists that readers enjoyed in the first. The title is a fabulous twist on on the murder weapon, which you’ll never guess. Her links:

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Fabretto CFO Monica Drazba

The Book Savor series grew out of my love for good books, great friends, and interesting conversations about books.

This week Fabretto Foundation CFO Monica Drazba talks about the books she savors.

Shirley Jackson book cover1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Monica Drazba: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson.  I read this disturbing book when I was in sixth grade or so.  I spent hours trying to figure out what it all meant.  It still scares me to this day.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

 MD:

  • Modern Times, by Paul Johnson
  • The Rise of the West, by William H. McNeill
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

(I’ve been meaning to re-read the first two, and the last is my favorite novel –one that I re-read every couple of years.)

(plus I hope there are lots of good murder mysteries, more histories, and of course, nerdy sci-fi and fantasy books!)

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

MD:  The Egg and I by Betty McDonald: her story of setting up a household in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest is fun and witty and makes everyone feel better about their own new household travails.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

 MD: Well, aside from Carmen Amato and a variety of Mexican dishes, it would probably be David McCullough or maybe Robert Caro. I’d serve up something simple (grilled tenderloin, roasted vegetables, pilaf), so I could spend my time outside of the kitchen listening to their anecdotes and insights on modern history.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

MD: “…., and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.” — the last line from To Kill a Mockingbird.  My mother died when I was very young, and we were raised by my dad— a troop of tomboys (all sisters until my father remarried and my half-brother came along).  The ending always resonated with me and still does — parenting, love, and being there for your children.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

Monica

MD:  I moved to Latin America from my home state of California in 1980 with my husband and 9 month old daughter.  After 33 years, four countries, and three more children born and raised between Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Ecuador, books have been my most enduring friends.  I love entertaining my breathing friends in our home in Nicaragua, where we have lived for the last seventeen years and where I work for a non-profit promoting education and literacy among the rural poor.

More about this week’s guest: Monica is a force multiplier when it comes to her work with Fabretto, a foundation with a  mission “to empower underserved children and their families in Nicaragua to reach their full potential, improve their livelihoods, and take advantage of economic opportunity through education and nutrition.” Fabretto runs schools, vocational programs, craft cooperatives, and much more; all to raise living standards and give children a better future. You can read more about Fabretto at http://www.fabretto.org.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

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A Book Savor Chat with MommyMaestra.com Founder Monica Olivera

The Book Savor series grew out of my love for good book, great friends and interesting conversations about what we are reading.

This week’s guest, Monica Olivera, the founder of MommyMaestra.com and Latinas4LatinoLit.org, talks about the books she savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

The Thin Man novelMonica Olivera: Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Actually, My grandfather, who was always reading, had a collection of Hammett’s books that included the Thin Man series, The Maltese Falcon, The Dain Curse, and a few others. And I’m sure that was when my love affair with mysteries began. Soon after these books, I was gobbling down Agatha Christie and others. Our local library was a home away from home, as was a nearby second-hand bookstore.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

MO: Anything by Elizabeth Peters, Garrison Keillor, or Isabel Allende. I can’t really narrow it down to three books since there are so many that I love and enjoy. My bookshelves groan under the weight of my “favorite” reads from which I simply cannot part. And I have eclectic tastes because I enjoy a good mystery just as much as I do a good comedy or drama. I cannot resist a well-told story.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

MO: Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 by Garrison Keillor. Because every home deserves laughter.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

MO: Rudolfo Anaya, I think. I would serve warm pork tamales (if I knew how to make them), fresh limonada, and maybe flan for dessert. Or tres leches. We would talk about the desperate need for our children to hear and read these stories that reflect our childhood experiences and how by writing we in some way immortalize said childhood and the loved ones who may have since passed on.

We would talk about how critical it is for our children to hear and read our stories so that they can grow up with confidence, knowing that their history matters and that they have the ability to make a difference.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

MO: “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” ~Maya Angelou

I agree and think we should nurture a child’s love of reading with books about subjects that he or she is passionate about. Living books make learning a joy.

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

I am a homeschooling Latina mami of two who is passionate about reading and education. My most vivid childhood memories are of spending time in libraries and second-hand bookshops. I cannot enter a bookstore without making a purchase because I can’t resist the possibility of a well-written story.

More about this week’s guest: Monica is the founder of MommyMaestra.com, a home schooling resource for Latino families, and is speaking this week at the LATISM13 conference in New York City. I met Monica through the Latino literacy website Latinas4LatinoLit.org, of which she is also a founder. As many readers know, I wrote book discovery posts for the L4LL website this past summer. Working with Monica has been a joy due to her professionalism and clear communications.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Mystery Author Jerold Last

The Book Savor series grew out of my passion for great books, great friends, and conversations about books we love. Join in!

This week mystery author Jerold Last talks about the books he savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare?

Sherlock Holmes novelJerold Last:  I don’t remember which of two it was, either Sherlock Holmes and “The Hound of the Baskervilles” or “The Guns of Shiloh” by Joseph A. Altsheler.  We were learning about the Civil War in 5th or 6th grade, which brought me to the Public Library and Altsheler’s highly readable series of young adult novels about the War Between the States.  One of my uncles gave me a copy of Doyle’s classic for a birthday gift at about the same time.  Of course I’d read all of the Nancy Drew novels and Hardy Boys books before this.  Given my lifelong love of mysteries, I’d like to believe my first adult novel was Sherlock Holmes.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it?

JL:  That’s a tough choice to make.  Maybe a waterproof iPad and a WiFi connection is an allowable selection?  If I have to choose, then:  1. “The Novels of Dashiell Hammett”; 2. “Raymond Chandler’s Stories and Early Novels”; 3.  Ross MacDonald’s “Archer at Large”.  That’s several weeks worth of reading for me.  Hopefully, rescue is possible about then.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why?

 JL:  That would depend on whose house was being warmed.  If it were a mystery fan, I’d be inclined to give them copies of all seven of my published books (less than $14 at Amazon’s current retail prices).  If they preferred non-fiction, I’d probably select an interesting ethnic cookbook.  We have one on Mexican regional cooking that we’ve enjoyed for many years.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

 JL:  I think it would be Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series.  We’ll serve braised pheasant, shot by me, and found, pointed, and retrieved by Jolie, one of our dogs, from the freezer.  Side dishes include mashed potatoes with garlic, since there’s a lot of gravy, and salad (it’s California so there’s always fresh veggies).  Conversation would be about mystery writing, and whether Spenser’s and Susan’s German Shorthaired Pointer, Pearl The Wonder Dog, would have fit into our pack of three GSPs.  Jolie, the model for Juliet in “The Deadly Dog Show”, seems to have a similar temperament to Pearl’s, but is much better trained. Finally, I’d like his opinion of whether Roger makes a good, albeit much more educated, Spenser-type hero, and what he thinks of Bruce as an assistant hero in the mold of Hawk.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

JL:  From Raymond Chandler’s essay “The Simple Art of Murder”, he describes the character of the private detective as follows:  “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.  The detective in this kind of story must be such a man.  He is the hero; he is everything.  He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.  He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor . . .  He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world . . . If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

Tell us about yourself in 3 sentences or less.

JL:  I’m a scientist, a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at The University of California Medical School in Davis.  There are times I feel schizophrenic as I try to juggle my life as a scientist with my life as a mystery writer, like this morning’s interview with a local TV news reporter sharing my allegedly expert opinion of the health effects of inhaling the particles produced by the major wildfires currently burning here in California and throughout the western states.  I live with my wife of almost 40 years, Elaine, three generations of German Shorthaired Pointers, and currently the fourth generation of this canine family represented by eight grand-puppies born to Schone two nights ago.

More about this week’s guest: Jerold is the author of the Roger and Suzanne mysteries which I first discovered because several are set in Montevideo, Uruguay. The latest is The Deadly Dog Show (find it on amazon here), the fifth novel in a series, which also includes two shorter novellas, and the second series entry (after The Body in the Parking Structure) to take place in California rather than South America.  The settings and locales for the preceding South American mystery novels, The Empanada Affair, The Ambivalent Corpse, The Surreal Killer, and The Matador Murders are authentic; Jerry and Elaine lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each, and selected the most interesting locations for Roger and Suzanne mystery settings.  Jerry’s blog describing the background and birth of Jerry’s books; Jerry, Elaine, and the dogs’ lives; and all things mysterious can be found at http://rogerandsuzannemysteries.blogspot.com.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

A Book Savor Chat with Writer Elizabeth A. Martina

 The Book Savor series is new to this blog and grew out of my passion for good books,  good friends, and great discussions about what we are reading.

This week writer Elizabeth A. Martina shares the books she savors.

1.Carmen Amato: What was the first book you read that marked the transition from reading kids’ books to grown-up fare? 

EAM: The first book was one from the assigned reading list required to enter 9th grade. It was “The Axe” by Sigrid Undset, the Nobel Prize winning author. Adult themes and religious themes together for the first time. I was shocked at the complexity but bought the rest of the series. It was so intimidating that I never read the other three books.

2. CA: You are shipwrecked with a crate labeled “Books.” What 3 books do you hope are in it? 

Lives of the Saints book coverEAM: First and foremost, the Bible. You can read that over and over and still find more you didn’t notice before. Then, I would like to find Butler’s Lives of the Saints, preferably the four volume edition. Third choice would be “To Kill A Mockingbird”. I figure if I am shipwrecked it might take a while to find me. I get bored quickly if I don’t have literature to make me think.

3. CA: What book would you give as a housewarming gift and why? 

EAM: I tend to like to give books that will be read again and again. Books that direct your thinking. I often will consider a coffee table book featuring a subject that I know the person would value. For example, a religious book for a religious-minded person or a book on cats for someone who is really into cats. I once gave the book “A Catholic Mother Speaks to Her Children” by Marie Catherine-Sophie de Flavigny to a mother of six.

4. CA: You can invite any author, living or dead, to dinner at your home. What are you serving and what will the conversation be about?

EAM: I adore the couple writing team, Bodie and Brock Thoene. I would serve them barbequed spare ribs, mustard potato salad and moscal wine. Ribs, because they are country folk and would probably enjoy that. The wine, because it is sweet and my favorite. Conversation would inevitably turn to history of the 20th century, which is predominantly their book themes, and to Christianity which is always their secondary theme.

5. CA: Can you leave us with a quote, a place, or a concept from a book that inspired you?

EAM: This is from one of Glenn Beck’s books: “Good decent people are around. Good decent people can succeed.” I like this quote because so often, in today’s society, many people think there is no decency or value system anymore. Reminding people of the fact that values still exist will go a long way towards helping this world.

More about this week’s guest: Elizabeth A. Martina grew up in central New York and went to school in both New York and Massachusetts. She has a son and several foster children.  Most of her storytelling ability comes from her grandmother, who told her tales of growing up in the 1910s and 20s. Her current project is a true crime story of passion and organized crime uncovered via historical archives in Italy, the US, and Canada.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

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