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Claiming My Place in the World by Jennifer S. Alderson

Claiming My Place in the World by Jennifer S. Alderson

I thought I was so cool, handing over twenty-five Euros to a freshly washed junkie I’d met in a Red Light District coffeeshop, instead of one of the smellier ones lurking on the poorly-lit bridges crisscrossing the canals. As soon as he pocketed the cash, he scurried outside and charged down the street. I hurried after him, half-running to keep up. When he darted into a darkened alleyway, I froze and my guard went up. Was he robbing me, or worse? Before I could run, he’d already returned with a beat-up BMX mountain bike in one hand and a broken bike lock in the other. He passed me the handlebars and disappeared into the night.

Within minutes of my first cycling adventure on that crappy two-wheeler, I got knocked over by two huge Irish guys who’d unwittingly stepped into the bike lane. I’d only been in Amsterdam for a few days and was so fresh to the city I apologized to them.

When I later learned a true Dutchwoman would have responded with a string of expletives, I remember being furious with myself for not reacting ‘properly’.

It was the same when I lived in Darwin, Australia. Within a week, I was taking the piss out of the locals, loudly expressing my love of barbecue for lunch and dinner, and happily referring to the then Prime Minister by his derogatory nickname of ‘Johnny’. Locals often gave me funny looks; fellow expats simply nodded and asked for another charcoal-grilled sausage.

In Nepal, I scoffed at tourists using utensils instead of their right hand to eat, and laughed openly at those freaked out by the rather large insects and rodents scurrying about.

Whenever I move to a new country or city, I experience an almost primal urge to fit in. I can’t help but adopt local customs as my own, usually within days of arrival. I get edgy and irritated when people want to know what it’s like ‘back home’. I always have to bite my tongue, resisting the impulse to ask what they mean, this is home for now.

I’ve traveled through thirty countries and lived in three. For several years, I considered my backpack to be my best friend. I’ve obviously contracted a serious case of wanderlust. So why this desperate desire to assimilate?

If anything, my extensive travels have amplified this deep-seated need to belong, to feel as if I am a part of something – a stained glass class, volunteer organization, kayaking group, Frisbee team, or whatever tickled my fancy at the time. With hindsight I now realize my endeavors were a way of justifying my presence and claiming every new city as my own.

I did eventually buy a Dutch-style ‘grandma bike’ from a proper shop. After many months of searching, I found a decent place to live. I did most of my grocery shopping at the Albert Cuyp Market behind my apartment and spent my afternoons biking along the Amstel River or through the small fishing villages of Marken and Volendam. I did my best to befriend any and every Dutch person I came in regular contact with. And after a long year of intensive Dutch language classes, I was able to speak it fairly fluently. Despite the fierce competition, I was admitted into the (then Dutch language) Master’s degree program in Museum Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I was doing everything I could think of to root myself and set the foundation for my new life.

Yet even after living in Amsterdam for thirteen years – eight as a naturalized Dutch citizen complete with passport – I’m very aware that my Dutch is heavily accented, I don’t really get Amsterdammers’ cynical humor, and I don’t know most of the cultural icons of my husband’s childhood. My son will probably never live in – or really understand – the United States of America, the country I spent my formative years in, the land that shaped me.

Every time I think, now I’m one of them, a shop clerk or waitress will ask, “Where do you come from, South Africa? England? You have such a cute accent.” Or even more painful, “You’re Dutch is pretty good. My brother-in-law / co-worker / bus driver has lived here ten years longer than you and still can’t speak it.” Though it’s meant a compliment, remarks like these always deflate my ego and remind me that, no matter how perfect my accent or choice of words sounds to my ears, I’ll always be that foreigner who speaks Dutch with a funny accent.

The worst question by far, the one that really cuts deep and used to ruin my day, is: “When are you going back?” Back to where, I want to ask, but never do. Realistically, in a city full of expats working temporary contracts at a plethora of international corporations and foreign consulates, it is not a strange question to ask.

Yet when I do go back to the States to visit family, all I do is moan about having to drive everywhere, the fatty, salty foods on offer and the absurd selection of products available at any store you step into. Seriously people, does the world really need ten variations of chocolate chip mint ice cream?

I have to ask for directions wherever I go because my favorite cafes and shops closed or moved years ago, leaving me without any reference points. My open disapproval of typical American behavior and attitudes leaves my husband wondering why I lived in the good ‘ole US of A for so long. At the end of every trip, I leave feeling as if I’m the ultimate stranger in a strange land, yet this was once my home.

For a long time these questions about my accent and plans for returning to the States really bothered me. Then all at once, the aggravation disappeared. Or I should say, one day I finally accepted that this is how it was going to be for the rest of my life. My newfound homeland will never really accept me as a local, even though I see myself as one.

This realization has allowed me to connect with other expats, people I avoided like the plague when I first moved here. I no longer feel the need to ‘prove’ myself by only befriending those born here.

Because I am an outsider, I recognize and appreciate many of the wonderful facets Dutch society has to offer and value them perhaps more than locals do, those who have grown up with socialized health care, short work weeks, dirt-cheap child care, and state-subsidized culture institutions. Those who don’t know what it’s like to live in another society with a different set of values and priorities may never be able to truly appreciate their own.

Perhaps it is impossible to assimilate completely, to lose that outsider’s perspective. Frankly, I no longer want to. Being aware of the beauty inherent to the Dutch way of living makes being here that much more special. Why would I want to let that go?

 

About the Author

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There she earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction. Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both books are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment in the series will be released in the fall of 2017.

On May 13, Jennifer will release a travelogue recounting her experiences as a volunteer and solo traveler in Nepal and Thailand, Notes of a Naive Traveler.

 

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.

A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell

Release date: May 13, 2017

Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooksKoboAmazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords.

Twitter for Beginners

Twitter for Beginners

I am often asked by author friends new to Twitter what hashtags are and why they should be using them. Quite simply, when you tweet a message with no hashtags it is invisible to anyone not following you. And when you are just starting out, that won’t be many people.

Twitter users can ‘find’ tweets two ways: searching for a keyword or checking their favorite hashtag streams. Yet the results are surprisingly different. Try it one time. For example, when I search for ‘Amsterdam’ I get another result than when I check the #Amsterdam stream. Tweets on the #Amsterdam stream have many more likes than those I find when searching for the word ‘Amsterdam’. That is because most users will check their favorite hashtag feed and not search for keywords. And you want readers, bloggers and reviewers to find you.

So how do you create messages that reach a wider audience? Add up to three hashtags to your tweet. You can add them into the message or at the end, whatever works best within 140 characters.

That means a message about an award one of my books won would look like this:

The Lover’s Portrait came in at No. 14 in #Mystery category, BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016! #amreading #artmystery http://www.amazon.com/LINK

 

I’ve included one hashtag within the message (#Mystery) and two at the end. That is simply to save space, adding #Mystery at the end of the message would make it too long. I could have also done this:

The Lover’s Portrait #artmystery came in at No. 14 in #Mystery category, BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016! #amreading http://www.amazon.com/LINK

 

Yes, the full title of my book is The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, but I chose not to it this second way because it reads easier when #artmystery is at the end of the message and not within it.

 

140 Characters Isn’t Much

Experiment with your messages to see how you can write a tweet that is easy to understand yet also fits within the 140 characters parameters. When you are typing the tweet in, Twitter shows you how many characters you have left. Spaces and punctuation do count. As does a link. I find it easiest to add the link into the new tweet first, and then write the message because the link does take up 20 to 30 characters.

I recommend using three hashtags in each tweet because any more than three is considered spamming by Twitter.

 

Choosing Keywords and Hashtags

How do you choose the words you want to hashtag? Before setting out to tweet your message, try to think up a list of keywords you would use to describe you book.

For example, I write mysteries and thrillers that are strong in setting and am about to publish a travelogue. So keywords relevant to my books include: travel fiction, Amsterdam, Nepal, Thailand, travel, mysteries, thrillers, art mystery, historical fiction, suspense, travelogue, travel writing, and expat fiction.

It is important to note that you cannot have spaces between words you want to hashtag. So ‘historical fiction’ becomes #historicalFiction . Some keywords are so popular that there is a special Twitter variation, in this case, #historicalFiction is used as much as #HistFic .

Search for the authors writing in similar genres and see what keywords and abbreviations they are hashtagging.

 

General Hashtags For Authors

There are also a plethora of general hashtags used by authors. Here is short list of some of the more popular ones to start you off (all words are preceded by a hashtag!):

#readers, amwriting, amreading, newrelease, 99cents, preorder, writerslife, authors, eBook, Kindle, Amazonbooks, iBooks, KoboBooks, books, paperback, weekendreads, greatreads, mustreads, cozymystery, paranormal, fantasy, romance, 5star, bookreview, mystery, thriller.

 

What Do I Tweet About?

You have 140 characters to play around with. Try using captivating excerpts from reviews or descriptions of your novels to tell potential readers something about your book. Hopefully your tweet will grab their attention enough that they retweet it or even click on the link. Here are two examples, one with a snippet from a review and the other from the description of my second book:

‘Read it. You’re sure to enjoy this fantastic #book ’ #5star review of The Lover’s Portrait by @jvlpoet #histFic http://www.bookblog.com/LINK

 

The Lover’s Portrait: Nazi blackmailers, missing paintings & a pesky #amateursleuth #mystery #suspense Amsterdam http://www.amazon.com/LINK

 

Note: You can ‘tag’ someone by adding their Twitter name into the tweet with the @ symbol in front of it. In this case, I ‘tagged’ reviewer Jo van Leerdam by adding in her Twitter name: @jvlpoet .

 

Creating a Hashtag for Each Book

You should create a hashtag for each book you have written. That is quite simple! All you have to do is #TITLEOFYOURBOOK with no spaces or punctuation between the words. So my debut novel Down and Out in Kathmandu becomes: #DownandOutinKathmandu

And my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait becomes #TheLoversPortrait

 

To ‘create’ the hashtag all you do is tweet it out to the world and – like magic – it appears a few seconds later as a searchable hashtag. Here is an example:

Gangsters, diamonds & a naive volunteer. Pick up #DownandOutinKathmandu & start ur adventure today! #eBook #thriller http://www.amazon.com/LINK

 

Update Your Profile with Hashtags

Consider adding the hashtag titles of your books to your profile description so people can find them even easier. My current profile description is:

Expat author #TheLoversPortrait : An Art Mystery, #DownandOutinKathmandu : adventures in backpacking (travel thriller), #NotesofaNaiveTraveler : Nepal & Thailand

 

Every word in your profile description is a searchable keyword. Try and fill your profile description with keywords relevant to your books.

 

Good Luck!

That’s it! These tips are only meant to get you started. Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are plenty of blog posts out there which discuss advanced Twitter techniques and strategies.

I wish you much success on your Twitter adventure. I would love to know if applying these techniques helps you gain more followers. You can catch up with me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JSAauthor.

Either way, good luck! Jennifer

 

Fiction and Memoirs by Expats and Travelers Month Wraps Up

Fiction and Memoirs by Expats and Travelers Month Wraps Up

April is upon us which means ‘Fiction and Memoirs by Expats and Travelers month’ is now officially over. Many thanks to everyone who stopped by my blog in March to read the seven wonderful articles and interviews by Melissa Burovac, Jill Dobbe, Anne Hamilton, myself (Jennifer S. Alderson), Beth Green, Pamela Allegretto and Annika Milisic-Stanley.

It was an honor for me to feature their posts and I enjoyed learning more about all of their stories!

If you missed any of the articles, here is a quick linked list:

Introduction to Fiction and Memoirs by Expats and Travelers Month

How Traveling Abroad Turned Me Into A Writer By Melissa Burovac

Write What You Know By Jill Dobbe

A Blonde Bengali Wife And Me By Anne Hamilton

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure In Travel Writing By Jennifer S. Alderson

Stories Everywhere By Beth Green

The Birth of a Novel by Pamela Allegretto

Interview with Expat Fiction Author Annika Milisic-Stanley

Until next time, happy travels! Jennifer

 

 

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing by Jennifer S. Alderson

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing by Jennifer S. Alderson

So far this month we have been introduced to three travel memoir authors – Melissa Burovac, Jill Dobbe and Anne Hamilton – and their unique stories. It has been a pleasure reading about their journeys and how their travels influenced their writing.

The rest of the month I will feature articles by former and current expats and authors Beth Green, Annika Milisc-Stanley and Pamela Allegretto here on my blog.

Today I want to share my own story about how I came to write a travelogue. I hope you enjoy learning more about why I decided to take a break from fiction and publish excerpts from the travel journals I kept while traveling through Nepal and Thailand.

 

Staying ‘In The Moment’: One Author’s Adventure in Travel Writing

By Jennifer S. Alderson

My travels around this crazy planet have directly inspired the settings, plot twists and several of the characters in my Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. While writing these novels, my journals, emails to friends, and postcards sent home served as memory aids when describing the landscape and people I’d met on the road.

Enjoying a boat ride around Ao Thalin, Krabi Provence, Thailand.

Before making the plunge into fiction, I did try to use these same journals and emails as the basis for a full-blow travel memoir, yet failed miserably. My attempts to write about the events I had experienced after the fact in non-fiction story form, lost all of their spontaneity and (in my mind) their appeal. So I concentrated on writing fiction and regulated my travel journals to sources of background information about the settings of my travel thrillers and mysteries.

My soon-to-be-released travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand, only exists because I recycle. After cleaning out an overflowing closet, I stumbled upon a box full of old printouts, copies of the emails I’d sent to friends and family while in Nepal and Thailand. Most of the pages were crisscrossed with circles and notes I’d made while writing the first draft of Down and Out in Kathmandu.

On every corner and dusty square in the Thamel district of Kathmandu, Nepal you will find snake charmers.

These printouts were reference material I no longer needed. Because they’d only been printed on one side, I threw the lot onto our family ‘scrap paper pile’ which we use to make grocery shopping lists, or draw and paint on. While folding paper airplanes with my five-year-old son, my husband began reading the back sides of the pages, my old emails. When I got home that night, he asked why I had never published them. Just as many friends and family members have asked me over the years.

After much waffling, I re-read all of the emails and realized I could publish most them; only a few paragraphs were too personal. But the emails alone were about ten pages long; not much of a book!

Trekking with my volunteer group in Tharatum, Nepal.

So I went back through my journals and realized there was a lot of material I hadn’t used in Down and Out in Kathmandu that could be interesting to others who wanted to travel to Nepal and Thailand or volunteer abroad.  I threw together the first ten pages and sent it off to trusted beta readers. To my surprise, they were all quite positive and strongly recommended I finish it.

So I spent most of last winter piecing together excerpts from my journal and emails, then editing the mishmash of styles into one cohesive manuscript. By using direct, unaltered excerpts, I finally managed to keep the text ‘in the moment’, something I was unable to achieve the first-time around.

Tiger Caves Monastery, Krabi Provence, Thailand.

Honestly, I am incredibly nervous about having these excerpts from my personal journal out there. I admire travel writers who are able to unabashedly describe their stupid decisions, strange actions, and sometimes horrid behavior that the stress of long-term travel can bring out in a rational person.

Yet, I am also heartened by early readers’ (and even reviewer’s) positive remarks and interest in my journey. I hope those who read it are able to put themselves in my former self’s shoes and enjoy their time as a volunteer, as well as their trip around Nepal and Thailand.

May it inspire you to buy a backpack and see more of the world!

 

Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand

“The ride back to Kathmandu was comfortable and relaxing. There were more overturned trucks (the gas-powered ones seem to tip the most, I’m surprised there weren’t more explosions), goats being herded across the highway by ancient women, children playing games in traffic, private cars and buses alike pulling over in the most inconvenient places for a picnic or public bath, and best of all the suicidal overtaking maneuvers (or what we would call ‘passing’) by our bus and others while going downhill at incredible speeds or around hairpin turns uphill with absolutely no power left to actually get around the other vehicle.”

Trek with me through the bamboo forests and terraced mountaintops of Eastern Nepal, take a wild river rafting ride in class IV waters, go on an elephant ride and encounter charging rhinoceros on jungle walks in Chitwan National Park, sea kayak the surreal waters of Krabi and snorkel in the Gulf of Thailand. Join me on some of the scariest bus rides you could imagine, explore beautiful and intriguing temples, experience religious rituals unknown to most Westerners, and visit mind-blowing places not mentioned in your typical travel guides.

This travelogue also provides insight into the experience of volunteering at a Nepali school and living with a traditional family during a long-term homestay, where religion and ritual still rule daily life.

A touch of self-discovery is inherent to this kind of journey, one spurred on by a young woman’s attempt to figure out what she wants to do with her life.

Notes of a Naive Traveler is a must-read for those interested in learning more about – or wishing to travel to – Nepal and Thailand. I hope it inspires you to see these amazing countries for yourself.

Front cover artwork: ‘Folly in Divinity’, acrylic on canvas by Don Farrell

Release date: May 13, 2017

Pre-order Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand now on iBooksKoboAmazon, Barnes & Noble NOOK and Smashwords.

 

About the Author

Author photo by Fototeam.nl

Jennifer S. Alderson (1972) worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer’s travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction.

Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand.

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful ‘whodunit?’ which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam.

Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson. The third installment, another art-related travel thriller (working title: The Anthropologist) will be released in the Fall of 2017.

To read more interviews and feature articles, please click here.

 

Enjoy reading this post? Check back here Friday to read expat and TCK (Third Culture Kid) Beth Green’s contribution to my month long celebration of Fiction and Memoirs written by Expats and Travelers.

While you are here, check out Melissa BurovacJille Dobbe and Anne Hamilton’s fascinating contributions as well.

The Displaced Nation’s Top 36 Fiction Picks: books for, by and about expats and other global creatives in 2016

The Displaced Nation’s Top 36 Fiction Picks: books for, by and about expats and other global creatives in 2016

I’m honored beyond belief to see my second novel, The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery, included in The Displaced Nation’s yearly roundup of recommended books for, by, and about expats and other global creatives!

Read their list of 36 top fiction picks for 2016 and find a new title or two to read:

Top 60 books for, by & about expats and other global creatives in 2016 (1/2)

Posted by on February 25, 2017

“Are bookworms like earth worms: do they come to the surface during the spring rains? In which case, the Displaced Nation’s timing—we publish our yearly roundup of recommended books for, by, and about expats and other global creatives in late February and early March—may not be as eccentric as all that. And at least we’re not competing with lots of other “best of 2016” lists that came out in December!

Without further ado, we’re calling on all of you displaced bookworms to come out and start feasting! This year there are 60 books on our list, a first. Hopefully it means you’ll find a title or two that you missed. Or perhaps you’ll see books whose titles sound familiar—especially if you subscribe to our Displaced Dispatch—but of which you forgot to make a note.

Part One, published today, presents 36 works of fiction, both novels and story collections, indie as well as traditionally published works. Part Two will add 24 works of nonfiction, bringing the total to 60. As in years past, the books appear in reverse chronological order.”

Top 60 books for, by & about expats and other global creatives in 2016 (1/2)

Mystery Thriller Week update

Mystery Thriller Week update

Mystery Thriller Week has turned out to be the most productive, collaborative event I’ve ever participated in! Many thanks to Vicki Goodwin, Benjamin Thomas and Sherrie Marshall Spitz for organizing such an amazing event!

I’m so glad you invited me to participate this year and can’t wait for 2018. If you are an author or blogger who is interested in participating next year, you can sign up on their website now.

 

Reviews of The Lover’s Portrait and Down and Out in Kathmandu

Many thanks to Joanne Van Leerdam for posting this incredible 5 star review of The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery on her blog The Book Squirrel. I am honored, delighted and a bit teary-eyed.
“It may sound contrived or mundane to say that a book is a “page-turner” and that one “couldn’t put it down”, but it really is true of ‘The Lover’s Portrait’. Set in Amsterdam, it’s a well-designed, fabulous historical puzzle, solved decades later by someone who has no intention of becoming a detective; rather, it is through her dogged commitment to the truth that she uncovers the answers. The author has woven together a number of compelling plot lines to construct her own work of art.”

Read the full review here.

Jennifer S Alderson blog

Many thanks to Robyn of The Blithering Bibliomaniacs for reviewing both of my novels: The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery and Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking!

The Lover’s Portrait – 4 stars
I love the detail of her review and in particular the ending: “the actual story is just fantastic. It’s beautiful, and sad, and maddening and just… everything.”

Read the full review here.

Down and Out in Kathmandu – 3 stars
Robyn’s the first reviewer to remark on the (intended) humor in the story!
“While it could have been a little quicker in pace, I really enjoyed it. It shows just how easily one can succumb to temptation, and also that every dog does indeed get his day. Adventure, diamonds, travel and culture abound and while I may not have seen eye to eye with her, I look forward to meeting Zelda again on her next adventure.”

Read the full review here.

 

Fellow Mystery Thriller Week author Ritter Ames also reviewed The Lover’s Portrait! She gave it 5 stars, writing: ‘Such a treat to get immersed into not only a terrific art-themed mystery, but to be able to virtually look over the shoulders of characters charged with the responsibility of returning art to families who lost masterpieces in WWII. Great detail and engaging characters. Will be reading more by this author.”

Read the full review here.

 

Events

I’ve participated in two live Facebook events for Mystery Thriller Week so far.

The first was a fun and rather silly evening involving lots of travel stories. You can check the transcript here.

The second was an insightful and interesting Q&A on the wonderful Facebook group Books and Everything. It was a pleasure to answer all of these in-depth questions by interested readers. Read the full transcript here.

On the last day of MTW, February 22 from 3-4 p.m. EST I’ll be hosting a third live event! During this one I’ll be releasing a free ARC version of my new travelogue, Notes of a Naive Traveler, based on my real experiences in Nepal and Thailand, the same trip that served as the basis for Down and Out in Kathmandu.

I’ll also be revealing the winner of the Name a Character Mega Giveaway! I’ve gotten 29 wonderful entries so far and am going to have one heck of time choosing!

Bookmark the event link now so you don’t miss the fun!

 

Featured Articles and Interviews

I’m so pleased to see my article about the Restitution of Artwork Stolen by the Nazis on Mystery Thriller Week‘s website!

The restitution of looted artwork is an extraordinarily complex process, even when the rightful owner has the proper paperwork. This article is based on research I conducted when writing The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery.

Read the article here.

 

 

Suzanne Adair also shared my article about archival research I’d conducted while writing The Lover’s Portrait, as part of her Relevant History feature on her blog.
“Why shouldn’t authors of historicals settle for that first, superficial information they find during research? My blog guest this week, historical fiction author Jennifer S. Alderson, relates how digging deeper in her research about Nazi art theft revealed a unique plot gem for her novel.”

Read the article here.

As Suzanne explains, ‘Relevant History: For many, high school history was boring and extraneous. In this feature on my blog, guests show just how non-boring, non-extraneous history is to people in the 21st century.’

 

I’m also honored to see The Lover’s Portrait featured on D.E. Haggerty‘s Spotlight on her wonderful blog! Read the post here.

 

I’m so grateful to Darcia Helle for interviewed me for her feature The Writing Life on her blog Quiet Fury Books. It turned out to be a fun and interesting interview! Read it here.

 

 

Catherine Dilts also invited me to participate in her Mystery Thriller Week feature ‘The Mysteries of Indy Publishing’. I’m thrilled with how it turned out; thank you, Catherine! Read it here.

 

Jackie Boyster of fallinlovewiththesoundofwords blog also invited me to participate in an author interview. It ended up being a fun, travel-related session, thanks Jackie! Read it here.

I also see she’s 40% through The Lover’s Portrait. I can’t wait to read her review!

 

Name a Character Mega Contest

And last but not least, my Name a Character Mega Contest ends February 21!
Don’t miss your chance to win this great prize package or 1 of 20 eBooks!

Enter now via my blog, Facebook, or Goodreads!

[Tip: you can also enter the eBook competition by commenting with the name of a country you’d like to visit.]

Jennifer S. Alderson blog mega giveaway

 

Super Sale!

For the first time ever, Books 1 and 2 of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series are on sale for 99 cents!

Don’t miss your chance to pick up The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery​ and Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking​ now for a ridiculously low price!

If you love art, history and mysteries, The Lover’s Portrait is right up your alley:

American art history student Zelda Richardson discovers clues to the whereabouts of a cache of missing masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, hidden away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboiBooksBarnes & NobleSmashwords and other fine retailers.

 

If you love travel fiction, thrillers and a bit of mystery, you won’t want to miss Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking!

An idealistic backpacker volunteering as an English teacher in Nepal finds herself entangled with an international gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes she’s stolen their diamonds.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboBarnes and NobleiBooksSmashwords and other fine retailers.

Sale ends March 1! 

 

Happy Reading (and Writing) everyone!

The Lover’s Portrait and Down and Out in Kathmandu are 99 cents until March 1

The Lover’s Portrait and Down and Out in Kathmandu are 99 cents until March 1

Super Sale! For the first time ever, Books 1 and 2 of the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series are on sale for 99 cents!

Don’t miss your chance to pick up The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery​ and Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking​ now for a ridiculously low price!

If you love art, history and mysteries, The Lover’s Portrait is right up your alley:

American art history student Zelda Richardson discovers clues to the whereabouts of a cache of missing masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, hidden away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboiBooksBarnes & NobleSmashwords and other fine retailers.

 

If you love travel fiction, thrillers and a bit of mystery, you won’t want to miss Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking!

An idealistic backpacker volunteering as an English teacher in Nepal finds herself entangled with an international gang of smugglers whose Thai leader believes she’s stolen their diamonds.

Pick up your copy today on AmazonKoboBarnes and NobleiBooksSmashwords and other fine retailers.

 

Sale ends March 1! Don’t miss your chance to get two great novels for less than the price of one latte!

Welcome to Mystery Thriller Week!

Welcome to Mystery Thriller Week!

After blogging about it for weeks, the event to end all events (at least for Mystery and Thriller lovers) has finally begun!

‘Name the Character’ Mega Giveaway

To celebrate Mystery Thriller Week, I’ve set up a ‘Name the Character’ Mega Giveaway, giving fans a chance to name a character in my upcoming art mystery thriller The Anthropologist and win this fabulous prize package.

Jennifer S. Alderson blog mega giveaway

Enter now via my blog, Facebook, or Goodreads!

Twenty other lucky entrants will win one of my eBooks.

[Tip: you can also enter the eBook competition by commenting with the name of a country you’d like to visit.]

 

Special One Time Only Sale

To celebrate Mystery Thriller Week, I’ve set up a special, once a year sale you won’t want to miss!

Pop by my first ever LIVE Facebook event this Sunday, February 12 from 2 – 3 p.m. EST to find out how much you can save and for how long!

Or check my Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads accounts to get all the details after February 14. My books have never been, and will probably never be again, so cheap!!!

 

Featured Articles

Two articles I’ve written for fellow Mystery Thriller Week authors are now live!

Here’s a short excerpt of my post, ‘Before They Were Authors’ on Judy Penz Sheluk’s book blog.

“I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and I love learning new things. As a result, my career path has taken many twists and turns along the way. Before my novels were published, I worked as a journalist and editor for regional newspapers, then as a multimedia developer for large corporations, before finally transitioning into my latest role as collection researcher and project assistant for museums. All of the jobs and experiences I’ve had have influenced my writing by inspiring and informing storylines, plot twists, and characters…”

Read the rest here.

 

Homomonument in Amsterdam, the world’s first monument erected to honor homosexual victims of the Nazi Regime.

Author and artist Rosa Fedele featured my article, ‘Why Amsterdam is the Perfect Setting for an Art Mystery’ on her fabulous blog, newsletter and portfolio website!

“Amsterdam is the perfect setting for an art-related mystery, especially one in which the looting of artwork by the Nazis during World War Two plays a central role. My second novel, The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery is about an American art history student who finds clues to the whereabouts of a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer.

I can safely say if I hadn’t moved to Amsterdam to study art history twelve years ago, I never would have written this novel. My life here as an expat and art history student, as well as the turbulent history of this amazing city and its many museums, directly inspired the storyline and several of the characters.”

Read the rest of my Guest Blog Post on Rosa Fedele’s blog here.

 

Early Reviews

I’m thrilled to see four reviews of my novels already placed by Mystery Thriller Week reviewers!

Check out this fabulous 5 star review of Down and Out in Kathmandu by author and reviewer JB Richards on her blog now.

 

I’m pleased to see author and reviewer Colin Garrow enjoyed The Lover’s Portrait and gave it four stars! Check out his review on his blog now.

 

Author and blogger Roxana Nastase also choose Down and Out in Kathmandu and I’m happy to see she gave it four stars, writing “the characters are well-developed and believable” and “The twists in the plot are good enough to keep the reader’s interest.” Read her full review and an interview with myself and my lead character Zelda Richardson on her blog now.

 

Book reviewer and blogger, Jackie of the “fallinlovewiththesoundofwords” book blog, wrote a detailed 3 star review of Down and Out in Kathmandu that is currently on Goodreads. I appreciate knowing what did and didn’t work for her. Most of all I’m pleased to see her review finish with: “However, the ending was amazing. It was fast paced and I had no idea which direction it would go. I am very happy with the outcome, and I can’t wait to read more of Zelda Richardson’s travels!”

 

I wish you all much reading pleasure during Mystery Thriller Week!

MTW: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme

MTW: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme

Welcome to the fourth themed post about Mystery Thriller Week, an annual event celebrating the Mystery and Thriller genres!

Over two-hundred authors are participating in this global event. To help readers and authors better connect, a variety of themed lists – sub-categories of both genres – have been created.

Today I’m thrilled to share with you eight books from the Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme. Authors Ritter Ames, Mary Angela, Colin Garrow, Kaye George, Tomasz Chrusciel, Joynell Schultz, Judy Penz Sheluk, and Catherine Dilts have kindly provided a description of their amateur sleuth and novel. I’ve also included information about my own amateur sleuth mystery. Click on the book cover to link to Amazon where you can read an excerpt and learn more about the author.

According to Goodreads, “an amateur sleuth mystery features a protagonist who, having no direct ties to the police or other investigative agency, stumbles upon and sets out to solve or help solve various crimes, most notably murder. They do not receive monetary compensation for their investigation.”

This description perfectly sums up the novels listed in Mystery Thriller Week’s Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers Theme. Fancy yourself an armchair sleuth? Then cozy up with one of these great titles and get cracking!

These are but a few of the 40+ books currently listed in the Amateur Sleuth Mysteries and Thrillers category. You can see the complete list here.

Be sure to sign up as a reviewer or Super Fan on the MysteryThrillerWeek website to be kept up-to-date of all the fun games, prizes and giveaways taking place during the event, February 12 – 22, 2017.

I look forward to seeing you there!

But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the wonderful books in this category…

 

Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames

Laurel Beacham was raised understanding that art must be available to everyone, and she’s more than resourceful when rescuing masterpieces. When the need arises, she can operate like a savvy hostage negotiator, a brilliant museum curator or even a canny cat burglar, all to regain brilliant works that would otherwise disappear from the public realm. She was born to a life a privilege, until her father squandered the family fortune, and she still trades on the family name when opportunities allow—but has no qualms about utilizing the resources built from an association of snitches, thieves or grifters when needs require unconventional means. Saving art is always her objective.

Counterfeit Conspiracies opens with Laurel re-appropriating a work of art with an unconventional method, then moves on to what should have been a simple pickup during a fundraising event which doesn’t come off as planned. Things go from bad to critical when in London she discovers she’s picked up a shadow who may be more dangerous than she first believes. From Italy to England to France, she must use every trick in her Prada bag to keep herself out of trouble and move closer to the historic art objective she’s been commissioned to retrieve. All while realizing this item could be the beginning of a dangerous art heist payday for a criminal organization.

 

 An Act of Murder by Mary Angela

Ask any devoted mystery reader about a favorite series, and he or she will tell you: amateur sleuths are addictive. But why? Is it their fearlessness, their recklessness, their super-sleuthing strength? Or none of those. Maybe it’s their plain old ordinariness that makes them so compelling.

I don’t read a lot of mysteries with protagonists who work for the FBI, CIA, or insert-another-acronym because let’s face it: they’re supposed to find the bad guys. It’s their job. They’ve been trained and paid to catch criminals. But what about that local storeowner with the knitting shop who finds a body dumped on her doorstep? What skills could she possibly have to solve a murder? It turns out, a lot more than we realize.

Here enters the amateur sleuth, and she looks a lot like us. She uses the knowledge she acquires from everyday life to solve a mystery. To me, that’s what makes her so interesting. I know I will never be in Special Ops., but a bookstore owner? Maybe. It puts me in the center of the action.

My protagonist, Emmeline Prather, is an English professor whose special skills include reading and research. Since grad school, her mentors have encouraged her to delve deeper, so when one of her students dies on campus, she uses her investigative skills for a new purpose: to uncover the truth about his death.  Possibilities abound. Actors, fraternity brothers, and even faculty members will come under Em’s scrutiny while she canvases the campus. And while her actions won’t endure her to college administrators, they certainly will to her fellow professor and cohort, Lenny Jenkins, who finds himself charmed by her sense of poetic justice. Will their relationship become more than collegial? Readers will have to wait to find out.

Whatever happens, though, my amateur sleuth will be ready. She will struggle to balance family, friends, and the ever-looming prospect of tenure. No doubt she will make mistakes in life and love. But I think readers will forgive her because she, like all of us, is only human. And that’s what we love about amateur sleuths.

 

Death on a Dirty Afternoon by Colin Garrow

Death on a Dirty Afternoon is set in a mostly-fictitious version of a northeast seaside town in England, where I lived for a while after finishing university. The story was inspired by my own experiences as a taxi-driver in the early Nineties (in a different seaside town), though the novel is set in the present. Creating my protagonist, I never liked the idea of trying to represent police officers in a realistic way, so I made my hero an ordinary guy with ordinary problems and tried to think how ‘normal’ people might deal with discovering a dead body in their house:

When he learns of the death of taxi-driver pal Frank, ex-cabbie Terry Bell assumes it’s natural causes, but when he finds a note pinned to his front door and a corpse on the living room floor, things start to look suspicious – and not just because the murder weapon has Terry’s prints all over it. As if that wasn’t enough, old school friend Charis is in charge of the police investigation, and her elfin-like smile may not be enough to keep Terry off the list of suspects.

Launching his own investigation, the canny cabbie sets out to retrace Frank’s movements, tracking down anyone who might be able to shed light on the driver’s final hours. A taxi job leads to Swedish building contractor Elise Andersson, who could well be involved, but the tight-lipped lady poses more questions than answers.

Teaming up with Carol from the taxi firm, Terry meets a bald-headed man who knows a little too much about Terry’s recent activities. Then, finding himself unwittingly recruited into what could well be a Geordie crime family, it looks like the part-time sleuth is caught between one bunch of villains and another. In any case, when a third body turns up, Terry and Carol realise they need to stay out of sight. Only trouble is, their choice of hideout is a little too susceptible to arson…

Don’t forget to check back here on February 1st to read about Colin’s Literary Heroes and Amateur Sleuths.

 

Eine Kleine Murder by Kaye George

Cressa Carraway is on her way to being a professional classical musician. She’s the musician I imagine to myself that I might have been, had I gone into it professionally. She plays keyboard and I play violin, but we both like to compose and conduct. The difference is, Cressa actually GETS to conduct eventually.

As the story opens, Cressa has gotten into a bad situation with a professor at De Paul in Chicago, where she’s studying. To escape his obsessive attentions, she decides to visit her Gram at the rural Illinois lake resort Gram has moved to. Is Len following her as she drives through the endless flat cornfields? How could he? He doesn’t know where she is…does he? It’s getting dark and she can’t tell if that car behind her is his. What makes her even more nervous is that her Gram is not there when she arrives at her cabin. A neighbor suggests she probably went for a late night swim, which is her habit. Cressa suits up and heads to the small sand beach. No, she’s not there. However, when Cressa swims across the lake and lowers her legs to touch bottom before swimming back, she makes an awful discovery.

This is the first Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery. The second, Requiem in Red, came out in February of 2016.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 14th to read my review of Kaye George’s novel Choke.

 

Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel

Nina Monte has worked hard to achieve her dreams. At thirty-six she’s one of Italy’s youngest professors, and renowned for her knowledge of the ancient world. Old religious texts might make for lonely companions at night, but that’s nothing a bottle of fine wine can’t fix.

When a mysterious summons presents a career-making opportunity, Nina can’t resist. A relic has been found in a 15th Century galley and it’s the kind of discovery encountered once in a lifetime. But floating atop the depths of Lake Garda at the recovery site, Nina senses something is amiss. With local hotelier, Alessandro Pini at her side, she begins to unravel the truth surrounding the relic. She soon realizes that questions of the past pale in comparison to the dangers looming in the present.

The mystical object in Nina’s hands is no trinket; it has the power to change humanity’s perception of existence. And many believe a gift like that is worthy dying—or killing—for.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 21st to read my review of Fast Track to Glory.

 

The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery by Jennifer S. Alderson

Zelda Richardson, an American art history student at the University of Amsterdam, is the Amateur Sleuth in The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery. During an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, Zelda works on an exhibition of artwork, paintings and sculptures once stolen by Nazis, still unclaimed by their rightful owners seventy years later.

When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one it is and why, Zelda learns about a collection of masterpieces hidden somewhere in Amsterdam, secreted away in 1942 by a homosexual art dealer who’d rather die than turn his collection over to his Nazi blackmailer. And that Irises is the key to finding it all.

Zelda finds herself thrown into the role of amateur sleuth when the woman she believes to be a liar, convinces the museum her paperwork is authentic. Her investigation into past and present events attracts the attention of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the lost paintings and reclaim what they see as their own. When her apartment is ransacked and her life threatened, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.

 

Love, Lies & Clones by Joynell Schultz

In “Love, Lies & Clones,” the protagonist, June, is a clone of her mother. She’s just a “regular person” with a ton of flaws that gets sucked into trying to find her father. She struggles with an ethical dilemma of keeping her father’s secret or going to the police with it for help. Because of having to keep the secret of being a clone her whole life, she has trouble trusting people.

June never asked to be cloned from her mother’s DNA. She also didn’t ask for her faulty heart or the necessity of keeping her origins a secret. Now, her father’s missing and her only help may be an AWOL military man who won’t leave her alone. He keeps insisting June’s father and his missing brother are connected. Can June trust someone with her secret… and her heart?

 

Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk

Skeletons in the Attic is set in the fictional town of Marketville, which is located about an hour north of Toronto, Canada. My protagonist, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, a single city girl forced to move to Marketville, describes it as a commuter town where folks with two kids, a cat, and a collie moved to looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields. It is loosely based (and very much fictionalized) version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, where I lived for several years.

Callie Barnstable inherits a house in Marketville – a house she knew nothing about — from her father, who died in an “unfortunate” occupational accident. The catch: she must move into the house and find out who murdered her mother thirty years before. A mother Callie believed had left “for the milkman or some other male equivalent” when she was just six-years-old.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 20th to review my review of Skeletons in the Attic and an interview with Judy Sheluk.

 

Stone Cold Blooded by Catherine Dilts

Life hasn’t gone the way Morgan Iverson expected. A widow too young, her children have flown the nest, leaving her feeling irrelevant and alone. When her brother asks her to manage the family rock shop for two weeks, she believes the temporary change of scene will do her good.

On day one, she learns her brother is not returning. On day two, while chasing the shop’s escape-artist donkeys, she finds a body on a trail. The killer thinks she witnessed the murder. If Morgan doesn’t solve the crime, she’ll become as extinct as the fossils lining the rock shop’s dusty shelves.

Distracted by life or death adventure in the Colorado mountains, Morgan makes new friends and begins healing. She starts walking charity 5Ks, is adopted by the local church ladies, and takes a chance on middle-aged romance.

Solving a murder, mostly by accident, gives Morgan a reputation. In book two, she is recruited to solve a fifteen-year-old cold case for a recovering alcoholic who needs closure in her daughter’s disappearance. While investigating, Morgan discovers a rare gemstone that sparks a dangerous treasure hunt.

In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, Morgan’s reclusive neighbor is blown to bits. The police believe he stumbled into his own trap, but his granddaughter claims he was murdered. She asks Morgan and newspaperman Kurt Willard to find his killer.

Morgan’s budding romance with Kurt is threatened by the unexpected appearance of his Hollywood ex-wife. She worries that pregnant donkey Adelaide will never drop her foal. When alien hunters invade the rock shop, Morgan is happy to escape to a mineral and fossil show in Denver. Until her hopes for success there turn to disaster.

A feud between Morgan’s uncle and her dead neighbor could provide clues to his demise, but memories of the events decades ago don’t add up. In book three of the Rock Shop Mystery series, a Triceratops brow horn may hold the key to solving a prospector’s Stone Cold Blooded death.

Don’t forget to check back here on February 6th to read Catherine’s fascinating article entitled ‘The Tale of the Dinosaur Tail’.

 

If you enjoyed this post, consider signing up to receive the latest posts from my blog by entering your email address into the form on the right-hand sidebar. Until February 22, this site will be inundated with Mystery Thriller Week guest posts, articles, features, interviews, giveaways and much more. I look forward to seeing you there!