Monika Schröder – INTERVIEW

Along with inviting me to read her middle grade book, Be Light Like a Bird, Monika Schröder graciously agreed to answer some questions as an interview for me! Thank you for being willing to do that!

Question #1: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a certain number of words or pages? How does music/other noise affect your concentration?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I set aside about three to four hours a day to spend with my work in my studio. I am not always putting words on paper, but I stay “in the zone.” I need absolute silence.


Question #2: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or are you firmly in control of where the story is going? Similarly, do you outline your books or let the plot take you where it wants to go?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I usually have an idea of the broad plot line and the ending. But after I got stuck with this method, I am now becoming more of a planner.


Question #3: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: The number of revisions varies. I re-wrote my first novel, THE DOG IN THE WOOD, 37 times. Now I don’t need that many revisions any more. But my new book, BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD, also went through several revisions.

Yes, time is the best revision helper. It is always good to set a manuscript aside and then go back to it with fresh eyes. My husband, a former English teacher, is always my first reader. I appreciate his comments and once all his suggestions are incorporated I send my manuscript to my agent, who then gives his input.

Question #4: Your latest book, Be Light Like a Bird, is set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Did you travel to the Upper Peninsula to do research for the book? If not, how did you make sure you got all the details of what life is like there correct?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband is from Michigan and we used to spend part of our summers at his family’s cabin near Sault Ste. Marie. In fact, my husband and I got married up there. We inherited the cabin and still own it. So I was familiar with the setting when I wrote the book.


Question #5: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My first novel was rejected by the first editor I sent it to and I spent several years rewriting it. Yes, it takes tenacity to get published. My second and third book were published by the legendary Frances Foster, an editor with her own imprint at Farrar Straus Giroux. When she passed away it pulled the rug from under me. She was not only my editor but also my mentor and friend. After her death I had to find an agent and BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD was rejected several times. So, even though I already had published three novels, I experiences set-backs. Sometimes it is hard to keep up the hope. Again, my husband is a great help. He coaches me through times of self-doubt and he is a great fan of my work.

(Blogger’s Note: I, for one, am super glad that you kept trying with Be Light Like a Bird because it really is phenomenal.)


Question #6: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I do read my reviews. It is painful to read bad reviews but in most cases I can find a kernel of truth in them. I might not agree with the weight a reviewer gives a certain aspect of the book, but I try to look at the issues raised with a clear eye.

Question #7: What are some great books/authors you’ve read recently?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I am a big fan of Avi’s work and I also loved Louis Bayard’s first book for kids, LUCKY STRIKES.


Question #8: What hobbies do you have/enjoy?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I tend to a big flower garden and I look forward to gardening season starting again soon. I also love to bake and cook.


Question #9: Do you like to travel? If so, what was your favorite location to visit?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband and I worked and lived overseas for 16 years. We have travelled a lot during those years. Now that we live in the US we don’t travel as much any more. But we recently visited Jekyll Island in Georgia and found it very beautiful.


Question #10: What is your favorite part of the writing/editing/publishing process? What is your least favorite?

Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My least favorite part of the process is writing the first draft. It is agonizingly slow and I have to force myself to keep on writing without looking back too much before I have reached the end of one whole draft. And that draft is usually very bad and then I make it better. I love revising, but my favorite part is probably when someone offers me a contract to publish my book.

Once again, I’d like to say a huge “THANK YOU” to Monika Schröder for agreeing to answer my questions. Be sure to check out her newest book, Be Light Like A Bird!

Books that have surprised me

A fellow blogger that I follow (Birdie Bookworm) posts a Top Ten list most Tuesdays. Earlier in the year her topic was “To Love or To Hate”. The premise behind it was to name 5 books that you didn’t believe you were going to like and ending up loving. Then, you turn around and name 5 books you thought you’d love that were complete disappointments to you. I thought it sounded fun, so I thought I’d do something similar.

There aren’t any many books that I’ve read that I thought I would hate before reading it. There are some that I was pretty skeptical about though. Here are a few of those:

Books I was Skeptical About

Hickory, Dickory, Dock by Agatha Christie Book Cover - Background of the book is red with a silhouette of a pendulum and 2 rats sitting on top of the yellow title letters.Hickory, Dickory Dock by Agatha Christie – This was the first Agatha Christie book I had ever read. I’ve never had anyone in my life who really gushed over how much they loved Dame Christie’s books, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I had forgotten my book at home and this book was on one of the shelving carts at my library so I picked it up. I’m really glad I did! I’ve since read about 15 more books by Dame Christie in the Hercule Poirot series, and I’m participating in a challenge to slowly work my way all the way through her books.



Amulet Graphic Novel Series - Book One: The Stonekeeper Book cover - Background is amber fading to dark green fading to dark blue/black - Door with tentacles sticking out of it on bottom - Pink Bunny, dark haired boy and red-haired girl on top.The Stonekeeper (Amulet Series #1) by Kazu Kibuishi – I’m not generally a graphic novel reader so when I picked this graphic novel up at work one day, I was very skeptical about it. This was another case of forgetting my book at home, but I do work in a library, so that’s not always a bad thing! In this case, it was a good thing indeed. Someone had left this graphic novel in the break room, so I decided to read it instead of playing Mahjongg on my phone. I really enjoyed it. It was the first time I ever felt like I could still imagine parts of the story even though the book was a graphic novel. Usually I get bored with graphic novels because I like using my imagination while reading books and most of the graphic novels just have too much detail in their pictures for me.  I’ve since read several others in the series, but I still like the first one the best.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - A novel - book cover with read background and bright yellow text - small graphic of a key inside the center of the "O"

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – I picked this book up because my library had a “treasure quest” program from Fall 2011 through Spring 2012. It was a way to keep people interested in looking for clues in the catalog in between summer games. It was a lot of fun and at the end of the game, they revealed that the basic tenets of the game were based on this book. I picked it up thinking it would be interesting, but I’m not huge science fiction fan, so I was a bit skeptical.  That skepticism proved to be totally unfounded! I absolutely loved this book and I personally loved the second book by the author, Armada, just as much if not more!  Now, I am a child of the 1980s so all the references to 80s pop culture thrilled me. But I loved the story line as well. I’ve read it several times and love it each time!


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling book cover - Harry is flying on a broom through an arch and pillars trying to catch the golden snitch with Hogwarts and the Forbidden Forest in the background

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – Yes, I was skeptical about the Harry Potter series. I was in my 20s when the books came out and I was skeptical about reading them. It wasn’t until after I watched the first movie with the family I was babysitting for at the time, that I was interested in reading the books. Even then, while I thought I would like it based on the movie, I wasn’t prepared to be as blown away with them as I was! It’s now one of my favorite series to re-read when life is stressful.



Divergent by New York Times Bestselling Author, Veronica Roth book cover. - Dark sky and city skyline background - a fire burning inside a circle in the center

Divergent by Veronica Roth – I was really skeptical when I picked this one up because even though many of my colleagues were recommending it, I had been severely disappointed with The Hunger Games after the same colleagues’ recommendations so I took this one with a grain of salt with it. It turns out I loved it! It was just wonderful! I quickly bought the 2nd and 3rd as well and enjoyed them too.




Books I Thought I’d Love

Eragon by Christopher Paolini book cover - Dark blue background with a dark blue dragon in the center of the cover.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini – I was really excited when Eragon first came out. I love dragons and I thought it was just going to be so great. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it at all. In fact, I never even finished reading it. It wasn’t that the writing was bad really. The author just never made me care about the character. I didn’t care what happened to him. I wasn’t ever compelled to pick the book up and read to find out what happened. I was very disappointed.




HungerGamesThe Hunger Games/Catching Fire/Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – All of my colleagues at the library raved about this trilogy. They seemed to think it was one of the best books ever to be written for young adults/teens. I finally gave in and read the first one. It was definitely well-written and had a good story line, I just did not find it as amazing as my colleagues. I started the second book, but when they were going to send Katniss back to the Hunger Games, I stopped. I just didn’t want to read all that drama again. I know plenty of people who rave about these books, but I just did not like them.


The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser book cover - Scene from the Gardner Museum complete with empty frame from one of the stolen artworks.

The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser – I really wanted to like this book. I thought it was going to be great. I enjoy reading about art/jewelry heists and this is the largest unsolved heist in the world. Unfortunately, this book was just boring and dry. The pace was plodding and slow and it just never held my attention. I’ve tried three different times to read it with the same experience, so I have to conclude that this book is just not for me.



Book Cover: A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery: Pies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams - Inside a pie shop with numerous pies on pedestals and shelves behind a glass partitionPies and Prejudice by Ellery Adams – I was really excited when this book first came out. I had enjoyed other series by the same author, so I was excited about having a new series to read. Unfortunately, this book was extremely disappointing to me. I found the characters to be very one-dimensional and unbelievable. I never even finished the book. About halfway through I realized that I really didn’t care about the main character nor did I care who the killer was. Very disappointing compared to Ms. Adams’s other series.



Book Cover: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Yellow & Purple background with a green alien with no eyes, tongue sticking out, wearing a hat and camera and carrying a suitcase.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Even though, I’m not a huge science fiction fan, I thought I’d try this book anyway. So many of my friends love it and often times we share similar interests in books. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. I was bored very early on and barely made it through the 50-100 pages that I give new books to “hook” me in. I’ve never finished it and really don’t plan to. Part of me feels as though I’m missing out on some portion of “geek culture” but not enough that I’m willing to read a boring book to find out about it!



These are the books that have surprised me one way or another. Do you have a book that really surprised you one way or the other that you’d like to share? Comment below!



End of February Update

Alright, after being sick for a few days, I’m back at it around here. Here’s an update of what I read/reviewed during the month of February.

During the month of February, I read 16 books, wrote 11 reviews (with a 12th in the writing stage), wrote up 1 author interview, had 1 general book/holiday post and participated in 1 blog tour. Of the books I read, 7 were cozy mysteries, 6 were romance books, 2 were non-cozy mysteries, and there was 1 children’s book. The only books I read that I did not review were one book by Agatha Christie, one book I re-read by J.D. Robb (though I’m still thinking about writing a review for that one), and two books I re-read by Nora Roberts. The rest of the books I wrote up reviews for.

I made progress on a few of my reading challenges.

  • Goodreads Challenge 2017 – I’m up to 35 books read out of 175 for my goal.
  • Pages Read Challenge 2017 – I’m up to 10,156 pages so far in 2017. My goal is between 48,001 and 60,000 pages.
  • Ebook Challenge 2017 – I’ve read 16 out of my goal of 50 ebooks for 2017.
  • Craving for Cozies 2017 – I’ve read 22 out of my goal of 80 cozy mysteries for 2017.
  • Read it Again, Sam 2017 – I’ve read 6 out of my goal of 16+ re-reads for 2017.
  • Blogger Shame 2017 – I’ve read 2 out of my goal of 12 books that I’m behind in reviewing. That’s a good start!
  • Library Love 2017 – I’ve read so many library books already this year that I upped my challenge level from level 2 – just 24 books to level 4 – 50+ books. I’ve already read 17 from the library this year!


Since I’ve been sick, I’ve been doing a little re-reading and not reading anything new, but now that I’m feeling better, I’m hoping to get back to reading new things. I have a children’s book that the author asked me to read/review that I want to get done in the next few days as well as others (including an upcoming .

Coming up in March, I’m a part of 5 blog tours, so that will keep me somewhat busy. In between those, I hope to get at least one more book done for my Blogger Shame challenge so I can continue getting caught up on those.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Small heart with teddy bear face and paws peeking over top Happy Valentine’s Day! Small heart with teddy bear face and paws peeking over top

I’ve never been a huge Valentine’s Day fan. None of my family is really. We all maintain that we tell each other and show each other how much we love each other enough throughout the year that we don’t really need a commercialized holiday to prove it. And yes, I am single, but that’s mostly by choice. I like being single. I like not having the complications a relationship brings, so that doesn’t really have any bearing on whether or not I like Valentine’s Day.

However, I spotted a few other blogs doing things like Favorite book couples and Favorite book boyfriends/girlfriends, so I thought I’d do the same to help celebrate this day of love!

Red line with heart towards the left end (about an inch from the end)

Favorite Book Couples

These are not in any specific order, just the order in which they popped into my head!

Brooklyn & Derek – Kate Carlisle’s Bibliophile Series – Derek & Brooklyn ROCK! I have loved them from the very first moment. They compliment each other well. Derek helps keep Brooklyn from being too impulsive and she helps provided laughter and joy in his life, which when you’re the owner of a private security firm, it’s hard to find those moments. Plus, Derek is obviously completely besotted with Brooklyn, so that makes it even more fun to read!

Alexander & Clara – Geneva Lee’s Royals Saga – Alexander and Clara are such a wonderful couple. What starts out as just pure lustful attraction turns into a love for a lifetime. Alexander has always kept women at a distance, not allowing them to see/feel his scars. Clara’s the first woman to get through those barriers. They work so hard to overcome the obstacles in their path and they seem so realistic. So relatable. Those are just a few of the many reasons why I love them.

Morgan & Miach – Lynn Kurland’s Nine Kingdom Series – If I had to pick just one couple, Morgan & Miach would be it. I absolutely love them. Morgan is headstrong, oblivious to her past at first, and a great swords-woman. Miach, though he is the archmage of the realm and one of the most powerful men in all of Neroche, is humble, unassuming, and completely besotted with Morgan. I love them both and have read their story at least a half a dozen times since the first book came out in 2006.

Ashton & Lila – Nora Roberts, The Collector – Something about this book and this couple just has gotten under my skin and into my heart. I’ve read their story many, many times and the book was just published in 2014. I love the story line in general, but Ash & Lila’s relationship is a big part of that story line. Lila never thought she’d needed anyone in her life romantically, but Ashton completely takes her by storm and sweeps her off her feet, though she doesn’t recognize it at first.

Eve & Roarke – J.D. Robb’s In Death series – Seriously, how can you not like Eve & Roarke? They’ve both made themselves into their own person after growing up in abusive families. Eve’s a cop and Roarke’s a reformed criminal (his words). She’s used to having nothing and he’s used to having everything. Sometimes that comes between them, but they always figure out a way to work it out. (Though as a side note, I love them as a couple, but Roarke’s not really my type so not really my idea of a good fictional boyfriend.)

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Author Interview – Morgan Talbot

Welcome! Today I’m featuring an interview with Morgan Talbot, author of Smugglers and Scones. I’m very grateful that she was willing to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I have!

Morgan Talbot, author - White woman in her 30s or 40s, dark brown hair, wearing sunglasses halfway down her nose, a grey overshirt and a purple blouse

1) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

I used to write every day like a mad thing, but I think I’m done with that phase of my writerly evolution. Nowadays, I still have a schedule, but it’s slower. Schedules are important for me, or I’ll just wander off and get interested in something else. I usually aim for a chapter per writing session, because that fits with my writing speed, chapter length, and pain tolerance—too long at any one manual task and I’m all achy for the rest of the day. Background noise is pretty useful for me—if I’m not in a coffee shop with the babble of voices, I’ll put on my headphones and listen to some Doctor Who soundtracks. Or whatever I’m into at the moment—right now, it’s the music from Doctor Who Series 6: Madman in a Box.

2) With this book, you not only create the storyline, but the whole backstory of the house and the author that lived there. How easy/difficult was that for you to do?

It took some time, but that kind of backstory/research is right up my alley, so I enjoyed every second of it. I also write epic fantasy under another pen name, so I’ve created entire worlds from scratch. Focusing more tightly on a single house and its famous occupant has been so much fun. I’ve spun all kinds of plots and events from Moorehaven’s past that’ll come out in future books. A building that old must have plenty of thrilling secrets, and I love discovering what they are just as much as everyone else.

3) How did you break into the publishing world?

About eight years ago, I first got published a startup small press I’d heard of through a friend on a writing site, but I soon found myself back out on the street due to creative differences. It felt more like I’d ricocheted off the wall of the publishing industry—confusing and disheartening. But I found a job reviewing indie books, and eventually the owner shifted to publishing instead. I had just written my first mystery novel, First to Find, and I submitted it with bated breath. To my delight, my book passed acquisitions and was accepted for publication. I’ve been very happy at Red Adept Publishing ever since.

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End of January Update

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Obviously, I’m a few days behind on getting this up, but here’s a look at what’s been happening throughout the month of January here at Valerie’s Musings!

I read a total of 19 books in January. 15 cozy mysteries, 1 romance/women’s fiction, and 3 children’s books. Of the 19 books I read, I posted 7 reviews (an 8th was posted the first few days of February). I read several Agatha Christie books that I did not write reviews for, but most of the other books I read, I wrote reviews.

I’ve made some progress on my Reading Challenges as well. Since the majority of the books I read were cozy mysteries, I made the most progress on the Craving For Cozies and Cruisin’ Thru Cozies challenges. I’ve made headway on my Agatha Christie Reading ChallengeRead it Again Sam Challenge, the Library Love Challenge, and the Pages Read Challenge.

I was also a part of 4 blog tours during January – 2 spotlight posts and 2 review posts.

One housekeeping move that just happened in the last day or so is that I have given the author, Geneva Lee, her own page under the Steamy Romance page. I read more of her steamy romances than pretty much any other author, so I figured she deserves her own page.

Another housekeeping thing is that I updated the About Me page. I’ve separated it into three sections, About Me, About My Blog, Review Criteria/Guidelines. That way it’s easier for people to find the information that they’re looking for, whether it’s about me, my blog, or what I review.

Upcoming this month is one blog tour, one specific review for a review crew I’m part of, and hopefully some reviews on things from my back list of titles!


Spotlight – Masked To Death

Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours Presents Masked to Death by Christina Freeburn; January 27-February 7,2017 Banner

Today, I’m spotlighting Masked to Death by Christina Freeburn as part of Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours!  Masked to Death is the 5th book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery series. Enjoy!

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A Caribbean cruise is the perfect setting for a Roget wedding, and Faith meeting Ted’s family. She also hopes the vacation gets their stalled romance moving, but it doesn’t take long for that dream to capsize. Ted’s daughter hates her. The ex-wife is adored. Odessa Roget is surly. And the banned father of a groom, John Roget, requests Faith’s assistance in bringing down a jewel theft ring masterminded by his ex-wife.

Having had a man she loved accuse her of a crime, Faith won’t let Odessa travel down the same path and agrees to help. Faith sets her course on uncovering the true criminals—which might be a groom’s best friend. The romantic week turns disastrous as a wedding is interrupted, suspicious deaths point to murders, and Ted’s daughter schemes to reunite her parents. Instead of diamonds being a girl’s best friend, Faith finds they’re cruising toward Davy Jones’ Locker.

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