Happy Cruel Winter Book Birthday!

Happy Book Birthday to Sheila Connolly. Her fifth County Cork Mystery, Cruel Winter, is cruelwinterout!

Snow is a rarity in Maura Donovan’s small village in County Cork, Ireland, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when a major snowstorm rolled in around Sullivan’s pub. But now she’s stranded in a bar full of patrons–and a suspected killer in a long-ago murder. Over the next few hours, the informal court in Sullivan’s reviews the facts and theories about the case–and comes to some surprising conclusions. But is it enough to convince the police to take a new look at an old case?

To celebrate, I (Edith) decided to make one of Sheila’s many Irish recipes from her other group blog, Mystery Lover’s Kitchen. She’s over there most Fridays sharing dishes, both savory and sweet, that she has concocted. I’ve adapted the following recipe slightly, but what follows isn’t too far from her Feb 7 post of three years ago. As you can see, I didn’t have Irish whiskey, but figured I couldn’t go too far wrong with using bourbon, instead.

Irish Chicken and Cabbage

Ingredients

1/2 cup flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bone-in chicken breast halves, with skin on
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
2 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1 T dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
2 cups shredded cabbage
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade/canned/from a bouillon cube)
Sheila’s twist—a tablespoon or two of Irish whiskey (Edith’s substitution—an equal amount of bourbon)

irishchickingred

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Mix the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl or pie pan and dredge the chicken pieces in it, shaking off the excess.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Tuck the garlic cloves, carrots, onions and rosemary around and between the chicken pieces. Lay the cabbage in an even layer on top and season with salt and pepper.

Mix the whiskey into the broth and pour the liquid over the chicken and vegetables. Cover the contents of the Dutch oven with its oven-proof lid, or with foil (press it against the contents to make a fairly close seal), then place the pot in the oven and cook for 75 (remember, the heat is low). Peek once or twice and baste the top with the pan juices.

irishchickTo serve, place a piece of chicken on the plate and spoon the vegetables and sauce over it. I urge you to check Sheila’s original recipe for pix of the entire process and for the few ingredients I left out (because, oops, I didn’t have them in the house).

I wanted to serve the dish with new potatoes steamed and then lightly sauteed in olive oil and herbs – except somebody in my house used the last potato and didn’t put them them on the shopping list. So instead I made quick whole-wheat soda biscuits. Which went almost better with the dish than the potatoes would have.

Readers: Who has read the County Cork series up to now and can’t wait to get your hands on this one?  [Me! Me!] Anybody been to Ireland and, if so, what was your favorite meal? Your favorite Irish pub near where you live?

Boxing Day Book Pairings

book-birthday-hoorayThis week the Wickeds have a double celebration–Barbara Ross’s Iced Under and Liz Mugavero’s Custom Baked Murder are both being released on December 27. A pair of celebrations made me think about book pairings. Wickeds, what would you suggest folks eat or drink while reading your books?


Sherry:
I’m so excited to read the final versions of both of these books! If you are reading any of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale books I’d recommend Italian food (maybe pizza) and a glass of Chianti. Sarah loves to eat at DiNapoli’s Roast Beef and Pizza. The food feeds her tummy and the DiNapoli’s feed her soul.pizza

Edith: That depends on the series, of course. If you’re having brunch at Robbie Jordan’s country store restaurant, you could have a Bloody Mary or a mimosa with your baked French toast or your western omelet. Cam Flaherty in the Local Foods mysteries would recommend a good local IPA with your Irish beef stew. Meanwhile, back in 1888, Quaker midwife Rose Carroll of course goes strictly non-alcoholic, so pour yourself a cup of hot tea and munch on a gingersnap while you read!

Barb: I hope everyone has a chance to put their feet up and relax today. On Boxing Day the servants relaxed, but since so many of us are our own servants…As for pairings, with Eggnog Murder–why, eggnog, of course. No need to fear (he, he, he). With the Maine Clambake Mysteries, I usually recommend a local beer, for example from the Sea Dog or Shipyard brewing companies. But Iced Under takes place  in the dead of winter, so maybe readers won’t feel like something frosty. Go with a hot chocolate or a nice cuppa tea. Sounds lovely. I think I’ll go do so myself.

Liz: Stan spends a lot of time at Izzy’s coffee and gourmet chocolate shop, either eating or drooling over the pastries while sipping a fancy flavored latte. So I would highly suggest getting out of the house with Custom Baked Murder, heading to your favorite coffee shop and sitting in a comfy chair with your favorite drink and a decadent chocolate-something muffin. Or maybe a cheese Danish. Or a steaming hot cinnamon bun. Sheesh, I’m getting hungry….

Jessie: Maine in 1898 was a dry state. In Whispers Beyond the Veil, protagonist, Ruby Proulx lives at her aunt’s hotel for Spiritualists in Old Orchard where the spirits available are the disembodied, rather than alcoholic, sort. A tall, cold glass of lemonade would be a great beverage to enjoy while reading this book. Considering its coastal setting, you can’t go wrong with a lobster roll. Or Pier Fries!

Julie: The Sleeping Latte has great coffee drinks, and Nancy Reed specials. This time of year, I’d suggest an eggnog latte and a molasses cookies. You know the kind of cookies that bend when you pick them up, and are wicked chewy? Yes, those!

Friends, any book and food pairings you’d like to share?Save

Wicked Wednesday — Our Favorite Greek Movies

A Killer Kebab CoverThankful for Our Readers Giveaway –  Edith: I get to give away a book today – one copy of a signed hardcover Murder Most Fowl, my latest mystery, to one commenter! Winners will be announced on Sunday!

We are continuing to celebrate the release of Killer Kebab (A Greek To Me Mystery) by Susannah Hardy. Here’s a little bit about the third book in the series: The Bonaparte House is closed for the season, and Georgie Nikolopatos looks forward to fixing up the Greek restaurant and historic landmark—until her renovation plans hit a fatal snag.

With her divorce underway, her mother-in-law returning to Greece, and the tourists gone, Georgie finally has life under control—and the Bonaparte House to herself. She quickly hires a contractor for some much-needed renovations to reopen in time for a special Greek-style Thanksgiving meal. Georgie is suspicious though when former dishwasher Russ Riley arrives with the construction crew. He still has an axe to grind with the Nikolopatos family—but is it sharp enough to kill? When Georgie finds the body of her divorce lawyer amid the construction debris and Russ is quickly arrested for murder, something about the case doesn’t add up. While Georgie is no fan of Russ, even a bad egg deserves a crack at justice. Includes delicious Greek recipes!

Some of us have been to Greece and some only through movies. We all loved Mamma Mia but do you have another favorite movie set in Greece? What did you love about it? Have you been there?220px-mindingstore

Edith: I was in Thessaloniki in the summer of 1980 for an idyllic week of relaxed eating, lots of drinking, and talking politics with one of my best friends – who happens to be from there. While we were walking through the city one night, we happened across an open-air movie theater, and they were showing “Who’s Minding the Store?,” the Jerry Lewis film where he mimes typing on a typewriter. The Greeks LOVE Lewis, and while the movie isn’t set in Greece, I saw it there!

Liz: So I’ve never been to Greece, and I know this movie is technically not set in Greece, either, but figured it would count – My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I know, I know, but it was hilarious, wasn’t it?

Sherry: I took my daughter to the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants when she was in eighth grade. Part of the movie was filmed in Santorini, Greece according to IMDb. It was stunningly beautiful just like one would expect. I’ve never been to Greece but hope to go someday!

Barb: I was last in Greece in 1976–Athens, Crete, Santorini and Knaxos. I’ve wanted to return ever since and for awhile was saving all those expensive sailing cruise brochures that used to come to the house. I hope to still make it back someday. For Greek movies, I’ll go with the classic Never On Sunday, and its Academy Award-winning song, although I went to see the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with my niece, and I loved it.

Susannah/Sadie/Jane: I spent a couple of months in Greece after college, traveling around with a girlfriend, and I can honestly say Greece is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen! I’ve not been back, but it’s on my bucket list to return. I was on a very tight postcollege budget the first go round–next time, I hope to have some money to spend, LOL!  As for movies set in Greece, well, I’m a big fan of Mamma Mia and of course the classic, Zorba the Greek. 

Jessie: My favorite is Shirley Valentine. Not only was the heroine a joy to watch but the scenery was delightful too.

Julie: I’m with Jessie, love Shirley Valentine. I’m a huge Tom Conti fan, which always helps. (Did you know that film is based on a one woman play?) Also, Guns of Navarone. What a wonderful movie that was–saw it as a kid and loved it. Saw it as an adult, loved it AND understood it.

Readers: Do you have a favorite movie set in Greece? Or a fun experience with the culture?Save

Happy Book Birthday, Susannah Hardy!

A Killer Kebab CoverThankful for Our Readers Giveaway:  For a chance to win A Killer Kebab leave a comment below wishing Susannah a happy book birthday or letting her know what you love about this series!

We are so excited to celebrate the book birthday of A Killer Kebab the third in the Greek to Me Mystery series by Susannah Hardy! Here’s a little about the book: The Bonaparte House is closed for the season, and Georgie Nikolopatos looks forward to fixing up the Greek restaurant and historic landmark—until her renovation plans hit a fatal snag.

With her divorce underway, her mother-in-law returning to Greece, and the tourists gone, Georgie finally has life under control—and the Bonaparte House to herself. She quickly hires a contractor for some much-needed renovations to reopen in time for a special Greek-style Thanksgiving meal. Georgie is suspicious though when former dishwasher Russ Riley arrives with the construction crew. He still has an axe to grind with the Nikolopatos family—but is it sharp enough to kill?

When Georgie finds the body of her divorce lawyer amid the construction debris and Russ is quickly arrested for murder, something about the case doesn’t add up. While Georgie is no fan of Russ, even a bad egg deserves a crack at justice.Includes delicious Greek recipes!

A Killer Kebab is the third in the series which includes Feta Attraction and Olive and Let Die. We can’t wait to see what Georgie is up to now!

Susannah_Hardy_Author_PhotoSusannah Hardy is the author of the Greek to Me Mysteries, published by Berkley Prime Crime. If you like your mysteries cozy, culinary, and a little bit crazy, you’re going to love Georgie and the gang at Bonaparte Bay.

As Sadie Hartwell, Susannah also writes the Tangled Web Mysteries from Kensington.

Suze is a member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Romance Writers of America and the Connecticut Chapter of RWA.  Susannah is originally from Northern New York State (Way north!  Only a few miles from the Canadian border), graduated from St. Lawrence University, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenage son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.

 

Wicked Wednesday — Holiday Disasters

Eggnog Murder CompWe are celebrating the release of Eggnog Murder and are so happy for Barb who has a novella in this book. Hers is titled Nogged Off, and it appears with novellas by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. Here’s the blurb for the collection: With the fireplace crackling, the tree twinkling, and the carols humming, few things in life are as picture perfect as Christmas in Maine—until murder dampens the holiday spirit. It must be something in the eggnog . . .

EGGNOG MURDER by LESLIE MEIER
When a gift-wrapped bottle of eggnog—allegedly from the Real Beard Santa Club—proves to be a killer concoction for a Tinker’s Cove local, all Lucy Stone wants for Christmas is to find the murdering mixologist who’s stirring up trouble.

DEATH BY EGGNOG by LEE HOLLIS
Food and cocktails columnist Hayley Powell has never cared much for Bar Harbor’s grouchy town librarian, Agatha Farnsworth. But after the Scroogy senior has a fatal—and suspicious—allergic reaction to supposedly non-dairy eggnog, it’s up to Hayley to ladle out some justice.

NOGGED OFF by BARBARA ROSS
Julia Snowden’s tenant Imogen Geinkes seems to be jinxed. First, her poorly named “Killer Eggnog” gives all her co-workers food poisoning at the holiday party, then her boyfriend’s body shows up in Julia’s moving truck as she’s headed back to Busman’s Harbor. Now Julia has to get moving to catch the cold-hearted culprit.Cozy up with a glass of eggnog and enjoy the spirit of murder and mystery in a Yuletide treat perfect for those winter holidays . . .

Wickeds, have you ever had a holiday disaster, or do you know of one that happened to a friend?

Edith: Nothing as disastrous as those eggnog mishaps, but once we didn’t give the turkey enough time to defrost. It took forever to roast, so long that we went ahead and ate all the side dishes and were too full for the  meat when it was done! At least nobody died from eating it, though…

Sherry: That’s funny Edith! We have Christmas Eve traditions that we usually follow, early church service, pizza for dinner, followed by going out for a drive to look at Christmas tree lights. One year when we were living in Florida, we’d just returned from our Christmas drive, and Bob built a fire. I was watching the flames and noticed them reflecting in the door. Then I realized it wasn’t a reflection but actual flames outside. Before we left on the drive Bob had put ashes in a paper bag and set them outside by a bush. You can figure it out the ashes were still hot (no he was never a Boy Scout) and set the bag on fire which set a bush on fire. We quickly put it out and fortunately nothing worse than a scorched bush and a bruised ego (Bob’s).

Liz: I’ve always been a klutz. It’s been a ongoing joke in my family forever. Once when I was about 10 or so my mother gave me the very important task of giving me the honors of carrying the dessert down the stairs to where we were having one of our bigger celebrations. Of course I tripped, and a ginormous bowl of strawberries went flying down the stairs, leaving red smears on the walls and ceilings. Of course, I fell too, but the major concern was for the strawberries.

castlegrayskullBarb: When my son was three and my daughter six months, we were traveling out the Mass Pike toward my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. Between all the baby equipment and the Christmas presents we had a soft vinyl carrier on the car’s roof. Around Auburn, MA, I said to Bill, “What is that strap flapping next to your window?” He pulled over, and I will never forget the look on his face when he inspected the roof, looked back at me, and said, “It’s gone!” It was the era of He-Man and all my son wanted for Christmas was Castle Grayskull. He had a new baby sister who he’d been excellent about and we really wanted to grant his one fervent wish. Castle Grayskull was in that roof carrier and I knew there wouldn’t be another to be found before Christmas for love or money.

At the direction of a kindly state police trooper we went to the highway maintenance building, where the four of us huddled like the most pathetic little family ever. The guys heard our sad story and went out to look, and lo and behold, word came back, they had found it by the side of the highway! They soon brought it back to us. Castle Grayskull was wrapped in clothes and unharmed. We were so relieved we hadn’t caused an accident. I remember it as one of our best Christmases ever. Castle Grayskull is still in my basement, along with all the He-men, waiting for my granddaughter.

Julie: Who can top the Castle Grayskull story? After my grandfather died, Thanksgiving became my holiday with my grandmother. We went to Maryland the first year, but the traffic was hideous, so we started the tradition of celebrating together. The first year I tried to cook dinner for her the turkey wasn’t completely defrosted. Grandma was due at 2. My roommate panicky called her mother, who talked us through getting the bird defrosted. Dinner was served by 4. My uncle had sent along a bottle of wine, and Grandma was thrilled to not have to cook, so all was good.

Jessie: Once when one of my sisters was first married she invited my husband and me to dinner at her new apartment during the holiday season. She had gone to a great deal of trouble and even went so far as to make eggnog from scratch. She knew how much I loved it and she poured me a large serving in a tall, clear glass. The taste of it was delicious but my attention kept being drawn to the strange way the contents seemed to be being squeegeed down the inside of the glass. It was not something I had ever noticed in a glass of eggnog before and when I reached the last swallow the reason became clear. The recipe had called for the egg yolks to be separated from the whites and while she had thoroughly blended the yolks into the cream, the entire quantity of whites had manged to remain a seaprate and distinct mass; first acting as an invisible, floating glob in my glass and then, most unfortunately, in my mouth. To this day, I never pour a glass of eggnog without a shudder of suspicion.

Readers: Have you ever had a holiday disaster?

Writing Novellas–Introducing Eggnog Murder

by Barb, slipping into a holiday mood early this year

Eggnog Murder CompToday is release day for Eggnog Murder in hardcover, ebook and audiobook. The large print edition is coming in early December. Eggnog Murder is getting some great reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly!

The book is a collection of three holiday novellas set in Maine. The other stories are by well-known cozy authors Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis. So, while yes, my story is about Julia Snowden, and it does take place chronologically between Fogged Inn and Iced Under; it’s a novella, not a novel.

What is a novella? Kensington defines them as between 25,000 and 35,000 words, or one third to half the length of a typical cozy. I thought it might be fun today to ask the authors what writing a novella was like and how they approached the task.

leslie-meierLeslie Meier is the New York Times bestselling author of over twenty Lucy Stone mysteries and has also written for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She is currently at work on the next Lucy Stone mystery. Readers can visit her website at www.LeslieMeier.com. Leslie’s novella is titled “Eggnog Murder.”

Leslie: Because I tend to write short, I enjoy writing novellas. They’re more satisfying than a short story, because you can do more with character development and plot, and because they’re shorter than novels, you can move things along at a brisk pace. You can pack a lot into a novella, and you don’t have to muck about with all those descriptions of people and settings. In fact, it’s almost as if you can leave out the stuff that most readers just skip anyway!

I don’t really have any advice for writing a novella, but I can tell you what I do. I always outline my books, and for a novel I build my outline with 20 chapters. For a novella, the outline is for 10 chapters. That said, I can’t say that they actually take much less time to write, because the shorter work needs to be tighter and often needs some heavy revision. So if I have any advice, it’s to take time to revise and polish up that novella and make every word work.

The Copp AuthorsLee Hollis is the pen name for a brother and sister writing team. Rick Copp is a veteran film and television writer/producer and also the author of two other mystery novel series. He lives in Palm Springs, California. Holly Simason is an award-winning food and cocktails columnist living in North Carolina. You may visit their website at www.LeeHollisMysteries.com. Lee’s story is titled, “Death by Eggnog.”

Holly (one half of the team behind author Lee Hollis): Writing a novella for Eggnog Murder was great fun in my opinion. First of all we were so excited to be asked to contribute a story to Eggnog Murder with Leslie Meier and Barbara Ross that I’m not even sure that I knew what we were writing for a couple of days!

We love using the holidays in our books so this was already a great beginning for us. We basically used the same process writing the novella as we do writing our Hayley Powell Food and Cocktail Mystery series except this time we were given the murder weapon “eggnog” so we checked that off our list.

Rick is always thinking ahead and when he knows what the title will be he already has an idea forming in his head about how the story will go. Then my favorite part is when we decide who will be murdered and who the murderer will be. Rick has the best imagination and comes up with great murder plots. I, on the other hand, am so food and cocktail obsessed that as soon as we have our plot I start scouring my recipes because we like the recipes to go along with our storyline or the season that it is set in.

I found that writing a novella was a bit easier than writing novel length because it was just a shorter version of the stories we all ready write. I have a tendency to go on and on when I write so writing a novella helped me choose my words more carefully and try to come to the point a bit quicker then usual.

This was a wonderful opportunity for us and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that we can do another holiday novella with these two authors again very soon. Hey, Easter is right around the corner and I love chocolate and have some wonderful chocolate recipes.

barbhead4Barbara Ross: My story is titled, “Nogged Off.” I was excited about writing a novella because my novels are always too short and my short stories are always too long. I realized right away that I needed to think about structure. Was I going with a traditional mystery novel structure, with a victim, a pool of suspects and an investigation, or was I going more with a short story structure–a setup and a twist? I decided on short story structure because I thought it would be more fun.

Because it was the holidays, I wanted to tale to be a little lighter and wackier than my Clambake mysteries tend to be, but nonetheless to include a murder and its consequences. I don’t outline, but I had a great starting point, a fabulous eggnog story someone had told me years ago. (More on this in a future blog post.) I started writing and hoped the length would be right. In the end it was and I really loved writing a novella.

Readers: How about you? Do you like novellas and the prospect of sampling multiple authors in one collection, or do you prefer to stick to novels?

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BIRTHING THAT SECOND BABY WHILE LIFE CONTINUES TO HAPPEN – Guest C. Michele Dorsey

Sherry, here. We are so happy to have Michele Dorsey visit us on her book birthday! If you haven’t read No Virgin Island add it to your TBR pile immediately! And then grab a copy of her second book Permanent Sunset. Michele is giving away a copy of Permanent Sunset to someone who leaves a comment by midnight tonight!

permanentsunsetfinal1Michele: About a year ago, I blogged about “birthing a book” (http://cmicheledorsey.com/blog/131727) and predicted that No Virgin Island, my first mystery, would have siblings. Today, Permanent Sunset joins the Sabrina Salter family. I had no idea how difficult writing that second book would be, although there were many colleagues who tried to warn me. But I wouldn’t listen. For those of you who have gone through the adventures of pregnancy, followed by the agony of labor and delivery, you may recall that once you see that beautiful little creature you’ve birthed, all memories of the pain you suffered bringing it into the world are instantly erased. So it is with birthing a book, it seems.

Books are never written in vacuums. Permanent Sunset was created, written, edited, and re-edited while my husband and I excavated layers of debris from the 33 years we had lived in our home, which we were now selling in an effort to downsize our lives and our possessions. Anyone who has gone through this exercise can tell you that it is not as simple as sorting into three piles:  sell, throw, or keep. There are emotions attached to so many items. What was I supposed to do with my mother’s wedding gown? The rock painted green by my son who insisted in nursery school that his mother was going to have a real sham-ROCK for St. Patrick’s Day? My father’s formal Navy cap and epaulets?

michelehouseI became a little unhinged with the rush of emotions flowing on my daily trips to donate stuff at Savers. What I hadn’t expected was that there would be a collision with the feelings I was experiencing while simultaneously writing my second book.

Who was Sabrina Salter? She certainly wasn’t satisfied to be merely the person through whom the story was told about a lavish island villa and the family that is nearly destroyed because of it. Sure, she had a life and had experiences in No Virgin Island that defined her at the time, but she now faced new circumstances, which were revealing an emerging Sabrina. Sabrina refused to be stagnant. The woman was becoming a handful for me.

When Sabrina resisted pressure from her business partner, Henry, to add an opulent villa to their management company, I found myself cheering for her. When she caved, I was disappointed and ready to scold her. I endured her smug satisfaction when it turned out she was right and Henry had been deadly wrong, but was a little disappointed in her.

Sabrina’s tragic motherless childhood had her questioning everything she did, for without role models or a library full of self-help manuals, she was ill equipped to handle the challenges that a powerful and wealthy family present when one of their own has been murdered. She agonized over every decision, doubting herself while trying to muster the courage to figure out what is “normal.” I was having enough trouble trying to make decisions in my own life and now Sabrina was asking me to make hers.

I hadn’t planned on my second baby being so difficult. I thought I knew Sabrina and Henry, and even Neil Perry, her sort-of boyfriend, pretty well. When even Neil began to surprise me with his secrets, I knew this second baby would be no more predictable that the first.

Once we’d nearly emptied our house and had a signed purchase and sales agreement, my husband faced a serious health challenge. Again, ripples of fear and doubt raced through me, while I continued to resist being drawn in by the perils of my second baby. I had enough on my plate.

But it turns out, that’s not how writing goes. Until I learned to stop fighting my characters efforts to draw me in because I was trying to deal with what was going on in my own real world, I would never be able to tell their story. I began to tell my husband I was “going on in” when I set off to write.  What I meant was that I was surrendering to Sabrina, Henry, and Neil and shutting out the rest of the world. They could give me what they had. I would feel their pain, joy, confusion, and anything else they would give me. I was ready to accept them all as gifts and birth this second baby.

Once I yielded, the story flowed. The house sold. The husband was okay.

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Steven Pressfield

micheleC. “Michele” Dorsey is the author of No Virgin Island, a Sabrina Salter mystery published in 2015 by Crooked Lane Books set on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. She is also a lawyer, mediator and adjunct professor of law. Michele finds inspiration and serenity on St. John and on Cape Cod. Permanent Sunset, the second in the series, will be published in October,  2016.

Readers: How do you feel when you are ready to read a second in a series book? Writers: Did you feel the way Michele did about your second book?