Tag Archive for: series

Reading the Same Book Twice

Reading the Same Book Twice

by Saralyn Richard



I’m always surprised when a reader tells me he’s read one of my books multiple times. As a voracious lifelong reader, I find myself muttering, “So many books, so little time.” I’m on a personal mission to read as many new books as I can, and I don’t take the time to re-read any of them.

I feel the same way about movies. I’m stunned by the number of times my husband can watch a classic movie favorite. I recently asked him how many times he thought he’d seen “Casablanca,” and he estimated more than 100. “Do you continue to see new things in it each time?” I asked. “Absolutely,” he said, and, as a viewer, he is moved by the story in different ways each time, too.


That thought gave me pause. I wonder if I re-read Gone with the Wind today, would I have a whole different take on it than I did when I read it at the age of sixteen? Or how about Catcher in the Rye, or To Kill a Mockingbird?

One of my loyal readers, a dear friend, makes it a point to read my books three times. I’m honored that she spends so much time with my characters, and I’m intrigued, too. I asked her over lunch if she would elaborate as to why she does this, and what she gets out of it. Her answer was enlightening.

She said, “The first reading is a light, quick skip through the story, mainly following the plot. The second reading is more intense. That’s where I pay close attention to the clues and the path on which they are leading me. The second reading is more process oriented. The third reading is more holistic. By this time, I’m able to enjoy the whole package of the story. I can see how the setting, characters, plot, and theme work together to form a perfect whole.”

“Wow,” I said, flattered that she has taken the time to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate each of my books. Her higher-level thinking makes my heart sing.

And it makes me re-think what it means to be a reader, rather than a consumer of books. For many years I taught a literature course entitled, “Literary Tapas.” The class read short pieces of literature and analyzed them using Socratic questioning. Through the questioning, we were able to get at some incredible insights and meanings, no matter what genre or time period the literature came from. And we always read it twice.

Now that I think about it, I might enjoy reading a few favorite books again, savoring the journey as I go. How about you? Are there any books you’ve read or would like to read twice?


Saralyn Richard writes award-winning humor- and romance-tinged mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. Her works include the Detective Parrott mystery series, two standalone mysteries, a children’s book, and various short stories published in anthologies. She also edited the nonfiction book, Burn Survivors. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature. Her favorite thing about being an author is interacting with readers like you. If you would like to subscribe to Saralyn’s monthly newsletter and receive information, giveaways, opportunities, surveys, freebies, and more, sign up at https://saralynrichard.com.


Parrott and Tonya Sitting in a Tree by Saralyn Richard



Literary detectives rarely work alone. Sherlock had Watson. Nero Wolfe had Archie Goodwin. Poirot had Captain Hastings. Then there are Nick and Nora Charles, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, and Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.

Authors make good use of the sidekicks throughout the series. The sidekick provides a sounding board for the detective, someone to help with collecting evidence and processing clues. Sometimes the sidekick offers an insight that might turn out to be a red herring—or not. The dialogue and interaction between the detective and his sidekick add interest and humanity to the story.

The Detective Parrott mystery series features Detective Oliver Parrott, a young, smart, organized person who’s well-grounded and dedicated to finding the truth. An outsider in the wealthy community he serves, he has a sixth sense about sniffing through subterfuge and barriers, and he’s undaunted by rich and powerful people. He just wants to do the right thing and make way for justice to be served.

That’s a big job for one guy to do, and the work can become frustrating and lonely. That’s why Parrott has a sidekick—his lovely fiancée (and then wife) Tonya.  College sweethearts, Parrott and Tonya have similar backgrounds. Both come from single parent homes in underprivileged neighborhoods. They had scholarships to Syracuse, where Parrott was a football star. Tonya majored in political science, while Parrott majored in criminal justice.

When the series opens in MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, Tonya is on a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Navy. Parrott visits with her on Skype, and, while she can’t tell him much about her work, and he can’t tell her much about his, they both provide significant encouragement and support for each other.

By the time of the second book, A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, the Parrotts are married and living in Parrott’s small house with their pet cockatiel, Horace. They have a loving marriage, but from the start, their lives are complicated by Tonya’s PTSD. Without spoiling the plot of this and subsequent books, I’ll say that Tonya’s story becomes inextricably entwined with Parrott’s investigation, and from then on, the Parrotts’ personal lives and the detective’s professional life cross paths.

The pattern continues in CRYSTAL BLUE MURDER and MURDER OUTSIDE THE BOX. At times the elements of humor and romance tip the plots into scenes unusual for a police procedural. Readers and reviewers apparently enjoy the dynamics between the two characters, and I’ve been present at many book clubs where people remark about it. One reader stopped me at the theater to plead with me never to let Parrott and Tonya divorce.

I doubt that will ever happen, although the Parrotts have to go through rough times, just like the rest of us. Right now, Parrott and his lovely wife are getting ready for the holiday celebration in their home, and they’ve asked me to wish each and every one of you the best of the season, and a happy new year. Let me echo those chirpy good wishes. May you have good health, friendship, love, peace, and happy reading!


MURDER OUTSIDE THE BOX will be available January 5. For other books, check out Saralyn Richard’s website here or Amazon page here.

Are You a Readaholic?

Are You a Readaholic?

by Saralyn Richard


I’m a readaholic, and my addiction began when I was two years old! My mother realized that I was reading, and she encouraged me by taking me to the children’s section of the library and loading me up with all the books allowed for checkout at one time. By the time I started kindergarten, I had read all the books in the classroom multiple times.


My parents bought the Childcraft books, a subsidiary of World Book Encyclopedia, and I read all the stories and poems and articles in those. I read series, like The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, The Hardy Boys. I read the series of biographies of famous people published by Grosset & Dunlap. I read all the Newbery and Caldecott award-winners. I read over a hundred books for the Girl Scout reading badge, most of them prescribed titles.


I enjoyed all the classics that were assigned in school, and in my spare time, I read whatever interested me. In college I majored in English, and the curriculum required that I take literature classes from all the various time periods in history, so I received a well-rounded education. I taught English in high school for a number of years, and I enjoyed spreading my love of reading to generations of young people.


I was (and am) never without a book to read. I like reading books by favorite authors, but I also like finding new authors whose works resonate with me. Some of my favorites are Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mysteries, and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mysteries. John Irving’s books amaze me with their intricate plots, quirky characters, and imaginative worlds. I adored what Barbara Kingsolver did with point of view in The Poisonwood Bible.


I’m somewhat obsessed by J.K. Rowling’s success with the Harry Potter series. It fascinates me that people all over the world know and love the places and characters that have sprung from a single person’s imagination.


Now that I’m writing books, myself, I have less time to read, but reading remains my guilty pleasure, and I have the biggest TBR pile of anyone I know.


How about you? What has your reading journey been? What are your favorite reads, and what do you look for in books that you want to read?


Award-winning author and educator, Saralyn Richard writes about people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. She loves beaches, reading, sheepdogs, the arts, libraries, parties, nature, cooking, and connecting with readers.

Visit Saralyn at http://saralynrichard.com.


A Little Red

 by Bethany Maines

Tomorrow is release day for A Little Red, book 1 of my newest series – The 3 Colors Trilogy.  I’m trying several new things with this series. While I’ve written fantasy before, I’ve never tried my hand at paranormal romance.  I’m also using a quick release strategy and putting out the entire trilogy within 3 months so that everyone can binge on the completed series like Netflix.  And I’m using a low release week price (¢.99!!). With the new genre and the non-traditional sales strategies I have to admit that I’m nervous for tomorrow.

Those nerves have been a bit mitigated by the early reviews.  Whether or not the series is a sales success remains to be seen, but at least the Advance Readers are thoroughly enjoying the story. 

“This fantastic page-turner is a paranormal romance that sizzled, and it excited and riveted me. The beautiful plot, unique storyline, stylish writing, and careful development of the story and characters locked me in for the entire ride.”
– Readers’ Favorite 

The series is a fun, angsty romance trilogy with a trio of siblings as they meet and fall in love with shifter wolves. There are bad guy warlocks, good girl witches, and a few more magical beings roaming around because if I’m going paranormal I’m not stopping with wolves. The fun part about writing this series was trying to establish how each creature and species would interact with our modern world. Of course it also meant debating the proper system of capitalization of supernatural creatures and whether or not wolves liked blueberries.  Although, on the blueberries, I’m completely backed up by science – they do. A Little Red is, of course,  inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and even includes a grandma (don’t worry, she lives).  Bringing Little Red and her wolf together was enormously fun, and I’m happy to report that this fairy tale comes complete with a Happily Ever After.  I really enjoyed writing these tales of love, magic, and good vs. evil and I hope readers will enjoy taking the journey with me.  Here’s a quick little blurb, to find out more, try the links below.

A Little Red: Scarlet Lucas went out on Halloween dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, but she never expected her boss, the mysterious and ferociously attractive Liam Grayson to turn out to be the Wolf. But when Liam is the victim of a vicious attack that leaves him trapped in wolf form, Scarlet must face down not only warlocks, but Liam’s own pack in order to save him.


BUY A LITTLE RED:  https://amzn.to/3BFrh0t

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER: https://bethanymaines.com/supernaturals-chapter-1/


Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her
daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel. You can also catch up with her on Twitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Mysteries in a Series – In Order or No?

by Mary Lee Ashford aka 1/2 of Sparkle Abbey

Do you like to read books that are part of a series? And, if you enjoy reading series fiction, do you always read them sequentially? 

When asked most authors will say that each book stands alone and that they don’t neccessarly need to be read in order. And, of course, that’s the goal, right?

Whether it’s the tenth book in the series or the first, the goal of the writer is always to create a story that can stand on it’s own. A self-contained adventure that doesn’t rely on the reader knowing something that’s not on the page in the installment they’re reading.

Many well-known authors with long-running series, such as the late Sue Grafton with twenty-five books from “A is for Alibi” to “Y is for Yesterday” or Janet Evanovich, who is headed for her twenty-sixth Stepanie Plum novel, have purposely created story arcs (and character arcs) of limited changes.

Others such as G.A. McKevett aka Sonja Massie, author of over seventy books, defty uses life changes and character growth to add richness to her plots. Her latest “And the Killer Is…” is on my bedside table right now.

And then there’s yet another approach. The inimitable Laura Levine, simply tells you, the reader, in an aside what you need to know. “You’ll have to read about when that happened in…” And though I was always taught that author intrusion is something to be avoided at all costs. I’ll be darned if it doesn’t work just fine when she does it.

You know, I have to say that I enjoy each of these different approaches to storytelling.

But I also have to admit that my preference is always to read a series in order. I like getting to know the people and the places as the series unfolds. Occasionally, I have started with a book that was in the middle of a series. Usually because a friend has shared it or it was part of a conference giveaway. But if I really enjoyed the story, I’m going to track down book one and start at the beginning. Otherwise, to me anyway, it would seem like starting with season three of Downton Abbey or any other great continuing television series. I want to be a part of the story from the beginning.

Is it just me?

How about you? Are you a reader that always wants to read a series in order or do you not care about reading the books strictly in order?

Mary Lee Ashford writes the Sugar & Spice mystery series for Kensington Books and also writes as half of the writing team of Sparkle Abbey, authors of the Pampered Pets series from Bell Bridge Books. 

GAME OF SCONES is the first book in the Sugar & Spice series.

DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS is the first book in the Pampered Pets series.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for both of these “first in the series” titles. Or if you already have them both, any book you’re missing in either series!

Special Snowflakes

Before I was published, back when a pair of rose-colored
glasses were fused to my nose, I was sure my first book was a special snowflake.
Everyone would fall in love with it.
Maybe not everyone. Maybe not men (the first book I
wrote was a romance). Maybe not women who read contemporary romance (the first book
I wrote was a historical romance). Maybe not women who read Regency
romance (the first book I wrote was set in New Orleans in 1902). Those maybes
left me with a small (tiny) slice of potential readers but everyone in that
slice would love it.
I’d written a niche book and the niche was small.
Not surprisingly (in retrospect) it took forever and a day
for that book to sell to a publisher.
While I waited, I wrote a second book. A mystery. Had I
taken off the rose-colored glasses, I’d have written a book about a woman who moves
to small town, runs a dress shop, cooks amazing muffins, keeps a strangely
intelligent cat, and talks to dead people. Instead I wrote about Ellison Russell,
a woman who lives in the city of her birth, paints, can’t cook, keeps a dog,
and finds dead people. Oh, and I set the story in the 1974.
The mystery sold. Quickly. Go figure.
Next week, the ninth book in the Country Club Murders
releases. Ellison still paints, she definitely can’t cook, her dog has yet to
solve a crime, and the rate at which she finds bodies would depopulate a small
Thank heavens for rose-colored glasses.

If you’ve not yet made Ellison’s acquaintance, the first book in the series is
free (this week only, so grab it now)!

Julie Mulhern is the USA Today bestselling author of The Country Club Murders and the Poppy Fields Adventures. 

She is a Kansas City native who grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie. She spends her spare time whipping up gourmet meals for her family, working out at the gym and finding new ways to keep her house spotlessly clean–and she’s got an active imagination. Truth is–she’s an expert at calling for take-out, she grumbles about walking the dog and the dust bunnies under the bed have grown into dust lions.

San Juan Mystery Series

by Bethany Maines
I am currently working on book three
of the San Juan Island Murder Mystery series – An Unfamiliar Sea.  In the
San Juan series, Seattle native, Tish Yearly found herself fired from her day
job and evicted from her apartment all in one day. Desperate, the 26-year-old
ex-actress, heads for the one place she knows she’ll be welcome – the house of
her cantankerous, ex-CIA agent, grandfather, Tobias Yearly, in the San Juan
Islands of Washington state.  And of
course, upon her arrival on Orcas Island in An
Unseen Current
, Tish is thrown head-long into a mystery that pits her
against handsome but straight-laced Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Nash, a group of
eccentric and clannish local residents, and a killer who knows the island far
better than she does.  Tish and Tobias
band together to solve the mystery and Tish settles into what she thinks is a
temporary stay on Orcas.  But in Against the Undertow, Tish is
considering making her stay permanent, while she and Tobias are facing down Nash’s
angry ex-wife, his psychotic ex-girlfriend and a strangely venomous group of
hippies as they try to solve the mystery of who killed Nash’s ex-wife’s
boyfriend.  And finally, I’ve arrived at An Unfamiliar Sea and Tish is trying to
build a business, a relationship and solve the mystery of who killed a local
Writing a series is fun,
but there is a lot of organization that has to be done to make sure that storylines
and characters stay consistent across the series. I use a spreadsheet that
tracks not just character names, but ages, descriptions, and affiliations, as
well as what book they were mentioned in. While this tool is invaluable, I have
found multiple instances where I did NOT make notes on a character and then
have to go back and look them up! If I could go back and kick my past self in
the shin, I would! Past Self is very spotty about note taking and could really
use a little more diligence.  Fortunately,
I have been graced with a Beta Reader who has read the entire series and will
hopefully pick up a little of Past Self’s slack. Please send thoughts and
prayers to my saintly Beta Reader as she cracks open An Unfamiliar Sea.
An Unseen Current – .99 cents
Amazon Barnes & Noble Kobo iTunes

the Undertow – $3.99 – Amazon • Kindle Unlimited

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery Series, San Juan Islands Mysteries, Shark Santoyo Crime Series, and numerous
short stories. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some
serious butt with her fifth degree black belt in karate, she can be found
chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.
You can also catch up with her on YouTubeTwitter, FacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

Shark’s Hunt

by Bethany Maines

Yesterday was the release day for the third novel in my
Shark Santoyo Series – Shark’s Hunt.  The
series is a cross between Veronica Mars and Goodfellas. It’s got violence (but no gore, I don’t do
gore), humor, mystery and a hero and heroine who might be smarter than everyone
else, but still might not be smart enough to get themselves out of
trouble.  While each book follows a new
adventure there is an overarching plot through the series that has been tricky
to plot and fulfill in each new book. 
The document that tracks my timeline is now multiple pages and the
spreadsheet of characters is extensive as I have to track who lives and dies
(and when) as well as their various affiliations. Writing this series has been an adventure and I hope
that the readers enjoy it with me.

SHARK’s INSTINCT (#1) – $1.99: https://amzn.to/2W7Wx48
SHARK’S BITE (#2) – $2.99: https://amzn.to/2KUEmOt
SHARK’S HUNT (#3) – $2.99: https://amzn.to/2W4Hf0m

Also available to be read on Kindle Unlimited.

Living Under An Assumed Name

Guest Post by Mary Lee Ashford

Huge thanks to Linda Rodriguez who very kindly offered me her spot this month to talk about my new identity and my new series. Thanks, Linda!

You know, I’ve always thought it would be fun to have a secret identity. An assumed name. Perhaps a name that’s mysterious and dangerous sounding. And now I have one, an assumed name that is. Only it’s not very dangerous sounding and it’s definitely not something I want to keep secret.

We’re all familiar with pseudonyms or the fancier term, nom de plumes. However, I never imagined when I started writing that I’d have more than one pen name. Initially I assumed I’d write under my own name. Instead I have two pen names: Sparkle Abbey, where I’m half of a writing team, and now also, Mary Lee Ashford, where I’m writing a new cozy mystery series for Kensington Books/Lyrical Press.

I’m so excited about this series and it has been such a joy to write on so many different levels. First off, I’ve read culinary mysteries for years and jumped at the chance to try my hand at one. Also, this series is set in a fictional small town in the midwest and it’s been fun to be able to put into the books all the things I love about small towns.

Additionally, for me, it’s always about the characters. That’s where it all starts. So I’ve loved the opportunity to develop Sugar Calloway and Dixie Spicer, the not-to-be-stopped ladies who drive the story. Sugar and Dixie have each had some things in their lives that didn’t turn out exactly as planned. (Haven’t we all?) They are both ready to start a new chapter and are well on their way but then…life throws another curve ball and suddenly they’re in the midst of a murder investigation. (By the way, if you’re reading this and you’re a writer, Linda Rodriguez has a fabulous book on characters: Plotting the Character Driven Novel.)

Here’s a little bit more about the first book, GAME OF SCONES,  which just came out this week:

After losing her job as food editor at a glossy magazine, Rosetta Sugarbaker Calloway—aka “Sugar” to friends—isn’t sweet on accepting defeat and crawling back to her gossipy southern hometown. So when she has an opportunity to launch a community cookbook business with blue-ribbon baker Dixie Spicer in peaceful St. Ignatius, Iowa, she jumps at the chance to start over from scratch.

But as Sugar assembles recipes for the local centennial celebration, it’s not long before she’s up to her oven mitts in explosive threats, too-hot-to-handle scandals, and a dead body belonging to the moody matriarch of the town’s first family. With suspicions running wild, Sugar and Spice must solve the murder before someone innocent takes the heat—and the real culprit gathers enough ingredients to strike again . . .

The second book in the series, RISKY BISCUITS, will be out in July of 2019. And I’m working on book three right now so stay tuned for more news on that!
GAME OF SCONES is available at all your favorite places to buy books: 
If you’d like to stay in touch with the new me (and I hope you do) please visit my website MaryLeeAshford.com and sign up for my newsletter. 
You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and I have tons of tasty recipes on Pinterest. #GameOfScones #RecipesToDieFor #SugarAndSpiceMystery
Again, thank-you Linda for inviting me to step in on your day to introduce my new series…and my new identity. 

Series Stories: Why We Love Them

by Sparkle Abbey

The days are short and the nights are long and in many parts of the country it’s really cold outside. The perfect time to immerse yourself in a new book. Or maybe in a new series.

We confess we’ve often found ourselves hooked on a great series, whether a mystery, a YA, a science fiction story, a fantasy novel, or a family saga. It seems we’re not the only ones, readers (and for that matter television viewers) seem to love a series.

What is it we love about them?

Characters – When we’ve connected with the people in a story, we want to know more. They become friends that we want to hang out with again and again. Peope we care about. Often attachment to the characters in a series is what makes readers pick up that next book.

Setting – The setting of a story can be an element that draws us back. Maybe it’s a fictional place that feels very real to us and one we want to continue visiting. Or perhaps it’s a real place that’s described so well that we feel like we’ve been off on a trip to a favorite spot.

Unresolved Issues – Frequently with popular series stories, in addition to things that are resolved within the confines of that one book, there are other questions that remain unanswered. Those questions may arc over the course of the series and while the protagonist may make progress in each book, there’s still more work to be done.

We read a Forbes article that included some numbers on how many episodes it takes before television viewers are “hooked” on a series. According to Netflix data, three is the median number of episodes neccessary to hook viewers. Although there are a few examples where people were engaged sooner. With books, at least for us, often the first in the series decides whether we’ll go on to the next or not.

What do you think? Do you have some favorite series? Book Depository offers this list of what they consider the 20 Best Book Series Ever.  Any of your favorites listed there? What is it that brings you back to a series? We’d love to hear your thoughts on why series stories are so popular.

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They’ve chosen to use Sparkle Abbey as their pen name on this series because they liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

The authors co-write the best-selling Pampered Pets Mystery Series which focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Caro Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work together if they were speaking, but they’re not.  Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!”

Desperate Housedogs, the first book in Sparkle Abbey‘s mystery series is currently on sale for only 99 cents in all ebook formats for a limited time. If you love pets and love light-hearted mysteries, this might be a great time to try out this fun series!