Friday, July 18, 2014

Meet OTP Author Ilene Schneider!

Today, I'm tickled to be hosting Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Oak Tree Press author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mystery series. If you like your mysteries with a healthy dose of humor, you'll love this series!

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D., one of the first six women rabbis ordained in the U.S., has finally decided what she wants to be when she grows up. She has recently retired from her day job to devote full time to writing. She is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries: Chanukah Guilt, which was a finalist for the Deadly Ink David Award for Best Mystery of 2007, was one of My Shelf’s 2007 Top Ten Reads, and was a Midwest Book Review Reviewers Choice Book; and Unleavened Dead, which won First Place from the Public Safety Writers Association, and was a finalist for the Deadly Ink David Award for Best Mystery of 2012. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine called Unleavened Dead “… a solid, funny mystery that provides an insider’s look at Jewish life.” A resident of Marlton, NJ, near Philadelphia, she is working on the third book in the series, Yom Killer, and is also the author of Talk Dirty Yiddish.
Please visit her website/blog: or email her at


Rabbi Aviva Cohen is a 50-something, twice-divorced rabbi who has been living a fairly uneventful life in South Jersey. True, she has a family that is rather unconventional. And her first ex-husband has moved to her town. But her life took a truly interesting – and sinister – turn when she became an unwitting, but not all that unwilling, amateur sleuth.

In the first Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mystery, Chanukah Guilt, when Aviva agreed to officiate at the funeral of an unpopular land developer, she didn’t expect to be told by two different people that he had been murdered. Nor did she expect that the first funeral would result in a suicide. Her search for the story behind the suicide (or was it murder?) lead her to discover the truism “appearances can be deceiving” is accurate, while putting her life in jeopardy.

In the second book in the series, Unleavened Dead, two members of Rabbi Aviva Cohen’s congregation are found dead, victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. But Aviva has info that leads her to doubt it was an accident. Then, police suspect Aviva’s niece’s partner in a hit-and-run death. Aviva is sure the woman is innocent, even though her SUV has a body-sized dent on the hood. As she looks into the two disparate cases, Aviva discovers they may be connected, and her amateur sleuthing takes a sinister turn that involves sexual abuse of teenage girls, money laundering, stolen identities, and an FBI investigation.


I have four bits of advice for aspiring writers. They’re not original with me, but have stood me in good stead.
  1. Don’t give up. If you can’t find an agent (and remember, it takes only one who believes in you and your book) or if the agent can’t find a publisher, try querying small and midsized publishers that do not require agent submissions and are willing to take a chance on an unknown. (That is the path I followed.) And if you still are not successful and are sure your book is publishing-worthy (and has been ruthlessly edited, preferably by strangers, and formatted by a professional, and read by people who recognize and appreciate good writing) then self-publish.
  2. Grow a thick skin; but don’t get overly confident. There will be critics who will hate your book for the same reasons others love it. Take all of it – the good and the bad – with equanimity.
  3. Don’t expect to get rich. The reason there are news articles about writers whose blogs are optioned for Hollywood or writers who sign seven-figure multi-book contracts is because those occurrences are so rare.
  4. Get out there and push yourself. The days of the reclusive writer slaving away in an attic garret (or, more likely these days, parents’ basement) are over. As are the days of publisher-financed book tours and advertising blitzes, unless you’re a bestselling author who doesn’t need the extra hype. If you don’t have an internet presence, if you don’t spend part of your writing time on social media, if you don’t participate in Listservs, if you don’t attend writer and fan conferences at which you participate on panels, your book, no matter how good, will remain unknown and unread.
    Now get out there and write!  
Thanks for sharing your story, your books, and your advice with us, Ilene (especially tip #4 for me!)


  1. Getting to know Aviva and her hilarious wit right now :) And committing #'s 2 & 4 to memory!

  2. Great tips for new writers. I will always remember all four. Thanks so much for sharing.