I confess I’d never heard of Stargazey Pie until late one Christmas Eve. I was wrapping after everyone else was asleep and watching PBS. A short film using the illustrations and text from the Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley book, The Mousehole Cat, made me forget what I was doing. I watched in total awe.
I immediately ordered the book to read to my kids. Tom Bawcock’s Eve is celebrated on Dec 23, honoring the fisherman who saved the starving town of Mousehole (pronounced mauzel) in Cornwall, by braving a terrible storm to take his boat into the sea to catch enough to feed his neighbors. In the book his cat, Mawzer, take sa leading role by taming the anger of the Great Storm Cat.
The outcome of this daring and successful feat was stargazey pie, a fish and potato pie,
unusual because the heads (and sometimes the tails) of whole fish stick up from the pastry as if gazing at the sky.
I tucked that word, Stargazey, away just to enjoy in solitude.
I just held onto that word, tucked away, sometimes savored, and sometimes forgotten.
I began writing mysteries, romance and finally women’s fiction. I titled my first womens’ fiction novel, Beach Colors, and a theme was born.
The next novel takes place in a fictional coastal town in South Carolina. Forsaken and forgotten after a series of hurricanes and a changing economy, it is still a magical place. But what to name it? I began the book, nameless.
At one point one of my characters and his young nephew are looking up at the stars and he says, “There are a millions dreams up there, boy, and one of them belongs to you.”
And it came to me. Stargazey. I named my town and my novel Stargazey Point. A prequel novella, Stargazey Nights.
Coming July 9
Coming June 4
For me, they both are perfect titles.
Stargazey Nights is available June 4. And Stargazey Point in on July 9th.
You never know what interesting things you might stumble upon doing research.
In my current work in progress aimed for 2014 and titled so far as Breakwater Bay, one of my characters is a book illustrator. He is doing the illustrations for and yet another children’s version of the Odyssey.
Now I’ve studied Homer, but it was a while ago and I wasn’t sure which characters were in the Iliad and which were in the Odyssey. So I googled.
Holy Moly!!!! I couldn’t believe what I found. I say that all the time, Holy Moly! My characters often are heard saying it. I always just assumed that it was one of those mildly drat kind of expressions like gosh durn and other light weight swear words that won’t get you into trouble with readers or your mother.
Well, guess again. Holy Moly is an herb. A Holy herb. A magical herb that is written about in the Odyssey. Hermes gives this herb to Odysseus to protect him from Circe, so that he can rescue his crew, whom she has turned into swine. Sounding familiar?
Supposedly this magical herb is grown from the blood of a giant killed on the isle of Kirke or Circe.
It has been suggested that this was actually a plant in the species Galanthus or the snowdrop; evidently it substances can counteract the affects of hallucinations. As kids we were always told snow drops were poison. Here’ s a lovely photo of the snow drop taken by Simon Garbutt.
Anybody know how moly or molu grew from an herb in the Odyssey to an expression of surprise?
One of the great side benefits of writing fiction is doing research. You might imagine that there isn’t much need for research since you’re making the story up, but getting details right makes the story more believable . Besides it’s so much fun.
The novel I’m working on now takes place in contemporary Rhode Island around Newport and the less populated area of Little Compton. I usually like to make up the towns I write about. But Newport offers such a wealth of possibilities that I was seduced into using it as a backdrop for this story and gave me a clue as to the profession of my protagonist. An architectural restorer.
Lots of research needed there. And it’s fascinating. My heroine works in Newport, but was born and raised by the sea just across Narragansett Bay.
As I was researching the coastal regions of Rhode Island I discovered an interesting historical character, which led me off on a tangent that interests me. Women who’ve made a difference.
Enter Ida Lewis who tended the Lime Rock lighthouse from 1857 when her father the official keeper suffered from a debilitating stroke. When he died his wife mother was appointed keeper . But it was Ida whose responsibilities it was to keep the oil lamps lit as well as taking care of her siblings and rowing them back and forth from school on the mainland each day.
Needless to say Ida became very strong and was also a very adept swimmer, both unusual activities for women of the times. After her mother was taken ill, she was solely responsible for the running of the lighthouse and was granted the position of keeper in 1879 where she served until her death in 1911.
But even more fascinating is the number of lives she saved during her career. She made her first rescue at the age of 16, when four young men took out sailboat which they managed to capsize. While the men attempted to stay afloat, Ida cast off the rowboat and hurried to save them. She managed to haul all four into the boat and row them back to the lighthouse. That was the first of many rescues this intrepid woman conducted and she is credited with saving somewhere between 18 and 36 lives.
She became the most famous lighthouse keeper of the period.
Thirteen years after her death the Lime Rock Lighthouse officially became the Ida Lewis Lighthouse.
Many articles were written about her in the leading magazines and newspapers of the day. To read more about Ida and other female lighthouse keepers:
Valentine’s Day is over, New Year’s is only a memory, so I decided to take a backward look at Christmas and my favorite thing to do during that season. A trip to the Botanical Gardens’ Holiday Train Show, a miniature wonderland of New York City that encompasses 6,000 square feet in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, mounted first in1992, by Paul Busse and a team of botanical artists.
Oh yeah. There are trains, too. But for me it’s the depiction of the city that keeps me coming back each year. Here are some of my favorites.
Statue of Liberty
Like immigrants of old, you’re greeted by the Statue of Liberty and from there are swept into a bustling city, not of steel and glass and exhaust fumes, but dried flower pods, seed, twigs and pure imagination.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, better know as The Met, unless you’re talking about the Metropolitan Opera, also know as the Met.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Though in reality the museum’s façade is made of stone, this version is made from Zinnia petals, grass fibers, arborvitae cones, Walnut shells, cinnamon sticks and many other natural pieces.
Rockefeller Center, the building in the center. Lined with buildings, the angels blow a
fanfare as you walk down the court way to the skating rink and tree. To the left the New York Stock Exchange. To its right is Radio City Music Hall. Don’t use this as a guide around Manhattan. The Stock Exchange is actually downtown on Wall St. and Radio City is behind the Center on the Avenue of the Americas.
Folies Bergere Theatre
The lost Folies Bergere Theater, built in 1911, renamed the Helen Hayes in 1955, and torn down in 1982. Remembered here in magnolia and poplar leaves, bamboo, wisteria pods, cattails, beechnuts and many more found bits of nature.
The Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, his only New York City Building. The art is viewed from a sloping spiral walkway. My choice is to start at the top and proceed to the bottom. This miniature representation is made of black locust shelf fungi.
Bet you can guess what this is
Need a clue?
Another great landmark that no longer looks the way it once did, Pennsylvania Station ws a grand old building.
Since 1919 Belvedere Castle, in Central Park has been the location of the National Weather Service.
And last but not least, Tammany Hall one of my favorites, when the theatre district centered around Union Square before it moved up town to Broadway. The Era of Boss Tweed, Roosevelt, Jenny Lind, and PT Barnum.
There are so many more, the bridges, and museums, and brownstones and statues. And if you can’t make the show, theres ‘a lovely accompanying book to the exhibit.
I was driving home the other day, looking at all the houses lit and decorated and listening to Christmas music on the radio. One of my favorite carols came on, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I started to sing along, thoroughly enjoying myself, feeling a little nostalgic, a little whimsical as I drove, because it reminded me of my friends Lindy and Bill, really great people, and I wondered what had happened to them since I saw them last.
Then my reality-based self took over. Nothing happened to them. They got dropped after book five, dummy. They’re not real, they were characters in a book.
My first mystery series. Lindy was (is) a rehearsal director for a Manhattan-based dance company. Bill was (is) an ex NYPD detective turned criminology professor.
I had forgotten in that moment of reverie that they were figments of my imagination. For five, maybe six years, I lived with them, knew their favorite foods, their innermost thoughts, sent them on adventures, dropped bodies at their feet, put them through an emotional journey as they became close and closer but off limits to each other.
I had great plans for those two, but I left them dancing into an elevator to the strains of, guess what, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Here’s a taste of that final scene. Lindy’s dance company had just performed at an Atlantic City ballroom dance competition, yes, just like Dancing with the Stars, before it became wildly popular. The killer has been caught and everyone is going their separate ways for the holidays.
The elevator came. Bill ignored it. Lindy waited.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come to Connecticut?”
“I can’t. I explained why.”
“I know. I’m just afraid you won’t be there when I come back.”
She touched his arm. “I won’t be. We’ll be on tour. Remember?”
Bill rubbed his forehead. Viennese waltz music blared into the hall and died away.
“But we have a few more days that we can spend together,” said Lindy. “Right?”
From the Pagoda bar, the cabaret singer broke into “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
“Right,” said Bill. “What do you want to do?”
Lindy looked up at him and frowned. “Do you know how to dance?”
“What? No. Well, I can sway back and forth to the music.”
“Sure,” she said. “Everybody is in the ballroom or the bar. We’re all alone and I love this song.” She held up her hands.
Bill narrowed his eyes, but finally stepped forward and took her hand in his. His other hand went to her waist. Then he pulled her close.
He was right. He could sway to the music. And he could stay on time, too. It was a good sign, she thought. They were comfortable together. Another elevator came and went. The singer sang only for them. “So have yourself . . .”
“Merry Christmas, Bill.”
This time when the elevator came, they danced inside, and the doors closed behind them.
The name of the book? A Merry Little Murder.
Little did I know at the time, that the doors had really shut behind them. But I have rights back to four of those mysteries and I hope some day, I’ll have the time to find out what really did happened to them. I don’t doubt that they will solve a few more murders and live happily ever after.
And I began to think of all the characters that still live in my head and heart. Some were easy to let go of, like people you knew at one job and gradually faded when you moved to a different job. Some stuck with me through thick and thin. And yes, I do know the difference between my living, breathing, stand next to me and hand me a martini friends, my hand you a hankie friends, rush you to the hospital friends. And my fictional friends, who even though they’ve never actually left the page became a big part of my life.
I’m glad I have both and hope I continue to make new friends, both real and fictional. And I hope my characters become real people and maybe friends to my readers.
So as we come to the end of one year and the beginning of the next, I’d like to wish everyone, both real and fictional, a merry little Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or whichever holiday you celebrate and all the best in the year to come.
Thanksgiving is over except maybe for that last piece of pumpkin pie.
But I’m still looking forward to my Thanksgiving e-novella to become available Dec 11. It’s part of a two novella e-book about the characters from Beach Colors. One takes place at Thanksgiving and the other during the Christmas holidays. That suits me just fine. I love holidays. I’ll celebrate just about any holiday as long as it is a happy one.
So today for the ongoing holiday season I’m offering a sneak peak of Thanksgiving at Crescent Cove.
Grace Holcombe has just won a law case to grant permanent historic designation to Crescent Cove’s boardwalk, plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with her friends until the father she hasn’t spoken to since she walked away from his law practice, shows up unannounced, asking for help and forgiveness. But his rejection of Grace several years before has left a deep pain. Is this time for giving thanks enough to give Grace the heart to forgive or will it take a little help from her friends and the warm and welcoming town of Crescent Cove.
Thanksgiving at Crescent Cove
Dottie’s Diner was filling up fast but a waitress led them to a booth along the front window. Someone had left a folded newspaper on the table and as Grace slid into the booth, a headline caught her eye.
She froze half way in. Stared at the headline. The diner went out of focus. The noise buzzed to nothing. It couldn’t be. It. Could. Not. Be. She touched the paper with one finger, inched it around so she could see it better.
“Excuse, me,” she managed. She slid out of the seat right into Jake. There was a momentary scuffle as she tried to get away.
“Sorry. I just remembered. I have to go.”
Jake stepped back to let her pass. She stumbled toward the door.
Margaux ran after her and stopped her at the door. “Grace. What is it? Are you okay? Are you sick? Can I do anything?”
“I’m fine, I just have to—I’ll talk to you later.” Blindly, Grace pushed through the glass doors to the sidewalk.
Nearly a week has gone by since we stocked up on water and nonperishable foods, candles and batteries. Some of us were evacuated and went to stay with friends or at shelters. To wait, to listen to the radio or watch television if we had power. I’ve spent a week with a friend twenty minutes up the road who has had power for the duration. We’ve been warm and entertained and could find out what was happening around us with a press of a remote control.
I live a bit inland and escaped the worst of wind and flooding, not everyone was so lucky. Some lost family members and friends, their homes, their cars, their family memories.
The Atantic City Boardwalk was destroyed but Lucy the Elephant weathered another storm. With Power gone, a woman ran amok in the only open Dunkin Donuts becasue she got the wrong sandwich, others who had electricity ran extension cords outside so people could charge their phones and ipads. While two people argued over the gas line, others passed out coffee to people who had been waiting three hours for a gas delivery that might not come.
taken by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force/New Jersey National Guard
KIndness and anger, frustration and optimism, despair and a promise. Starting over, raising from the wasteland. And when the rest of the world has moved on to another news interest, the rebuilding will begin, and continue and continue until it’s done.
It’s a page turner, a quick read, I couldn’t put it down until the end. authors loved to get reviews like this, but since I’m feeling like the Monday Morning Curmudgeon, I’d just like to ask . . .
What happened to getting lost in a book? When you lose a sense of time, where you can put it down and come back to it with the pleasure of seeing an old friend. Or where time stops altogether, where successful, meaningful, poignant writing isn’t dependent on a race to the finish.
Why can’t we wander down the by ways? Linger with the characters? Revel in the richness of the story?
photo by Kirsti Nebeisiek
Everything is fast in life, drive through banking, twenty minute oil change, automatic delivery to your e reader, the only thing it seems we’re willing to wait for is a dinner reservation.
And at work, you have to deliver. . . .yesterday, always have a new idea, and a plan for implementing it.
We surf the net, television channels, dvr so we don’t have to wait through the commercials (Okay I’ll give us that one, who wants to listen to the hard sell while trying to keep focused on the plotline of what you’re watching.) But even without the commercials, we must we see what else is on? Too restless to watch one thing.
There’s microwave, instagram, freeway, the mall.
And when you finally get to the end of your day, you sit in your favorite chair and race through a book.
Whew. I’m tired just thinking about it.
I think I’ll go read a non-page turning, overwritten story that meanders though a time other than my own. Say Oliver Twist.
I may even turn off my e reader, neglecting my free download of Dickens’s novel, and pick up that old paperback off my shelf. I know it must be there . . . somewhere.
I’ll turn on my reading lamp, put my feet up, and maybe even turn a page or two.
Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack mystery series sent me these questions to answer about My Next Big Thing, which is of course my next novel.
My Next Little Thing, A Holiday two novella bundle.
But before I answer them, I want to mention my next little thing, Holidays at Crescent Cove, a two novella bundle featuring the characters from Beach Colors will be available On December 11. Now on to the Next BIG thing.
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
1.What is your working title of your book?
2.Where did the idea come from for the book?
It sort of sprang from somewhere I didn’t expect. The idea of a town fighting for its life and at the mercy of nature and developers and how one person can turn the tide of the future.
3.What genre does your book fall under?
4.Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Carey Mulligan as Abbie
Terrence Stamp as Beau
Orlando Bloom as Cabot
5.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A traumatized documentarist flees to a small South Carolina beach town where she hopes to find sanctuary, but is changed forever by three septagenarian siblings, an old Gullah wisewoman and a man and his vintage carousel.
6.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Agency, published by William Morrow
7.How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Three Months of long hours
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Beach Colors. I think stores will appeal to the readers of Luanne Rice and Kate White.
9.Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was in England a couple of years ago and visited Mousehole, a Cornwall town which is the setting of a favorite children’s book, The Mousehole Cat. It’s about how one small insignificant person, (cat) or act can change the life of an entire town. Later , I wanted to write about someone who comes to a place for a safe haven and becomes the igniting force behind a town’s recovery. And though my story takes place on the shores of South Carolina, I though the same loyalty and determination would be right at home there.
10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love vintage carousels; many have been dismantled and sold off piecemeal to collectors. A few have been saved by passionate carousel lovers. One of the characters in my book gives up a lucrative career to restore a carousel from his childhood.
Check out these authors to find out about their Next Big Thing
Message for the tagged authors and interested others:
Rules of the Next Big Thing
***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (work in progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.
Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
What is your working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.Be sure to line up your five people in advance.