Well, Thanksgiving sped by. I moved to the shore of New Jersey one week and went back to Bergen county to celebrate thanksgiving with friends. We do it every year, I guess you wold say, they’re our family, me and the two kid (now adults). Then back to the beach to revisions , copy edits and the boardwalk. Ah. I”m really looking forward to the holidays at the shore. The decorations are going up around me. I’m working but that’s okay. Getting a tree tomorrow. Yep. A real one. Always get a real one, they make s all sneeze and our eyes water but we love the smell, the look the whole nine yards.
Here’s a little excerpt from last year’s Christmas novella about Bri from Beach Colors and her new family, two girls , Mimi and Lily, she adopted from China. It’s on sale at your favorite real and virtual book stores. Enjoy and Happy Holidays.
A CRESCENT COVE CHRISTMAS
It was snowing hard. Brianna Boyce hunched over the steering wheel and squinted through the windshield, trying to keep the car on the road. A road that was quickly disappearing beneath drifts of white. They shouldn’t have stayed at the mall so long. It was only a little after five but already it was pitch black except for the blinding curtain of white.
She glanced at the back seat where her two newly adopted daughters were asleep in their car seats. Ming Li and Li Fan, Mimi and Lily. They’d fallen asleep before Bri had negotiated her new secondhand SUV out of the parking lot.
Bri knew how to shop, but she normally avoided the mall. But today with the weather being so fickle, she’d decided to give the girls a treat. And the trip had never given her so much pleasure. They’d taken in everything, stopped at every window to gaze at the clothes, the appliances, the bath products. At the toy store, they stared open mouthed at a pink plastic fairy castle and Bri decided to go back and buy it for their Christmas.
They didn’t ask for a thing as Bri pointed out things in her pigeon Chinese. They had no toys like this in the orphanage where they’d spent their young lives until a few weeks ago. They had never heard of Disney. Didn’t understand that these things could be bought and taken home. Could be theirs for their very own, not just some fairy tale land to be visited with their new mother.
They were afraid to sit on Santa’s lap, which was a bit of a disappointment. She’d had fantasies of sending out Christmas cards with them smiling, each on one knee. Bri tried to see the mall Santa through their eyes. He was pretty good, a huge man, well padded in his red suit, a white curly beard and a Santa hat with big white pompom that hung over his forehead.
They’d taken one look and cowered against her. His “ho ho ho” scared them. Bri smiled, bittersweet. Maybe next year when they were more accustomed to living here.
When Bri had started adoption proceedings, they’d been three and two. Now Mimi was five and Lily, almost four. It seemed like eons before she was finally allowed to bring them home at the beginning of November. And Bri was thankful. She had a lot to be thankful about.
She looked back at the road, slowed as she came to the curve a quarter mile from their home, an old horse farm she’d bought when she returned to Crescent Cove eight years before.
The SUV took the turn easily. She would never drive too fast again. She’d learned that lesson many years before.
Read more of A Crescent Cove Christmas at a store or app near you
For those of you who follow my blog, or who have read my latest novel, STARGAZEY POINT, you know I love carousels. Carousels of all kinds from the endangered historic antiques to the put in a quarter ones at the mall.
A few weeks ago we lost a favorite. It wasn’t the oldest, or the most famous, it’s known best as the menagerie that replaced the animals that were auctioned off back in the nineties.
But when the music churned up and the the platform jerked to life, you couldn’t help but feel a little thrill.
Today over at my Shelley Freydont Blog I’ve posted some photos I took a few weeks before the fire that destroyed the Seaside Park Boardwalk. Many are of the Funtown Pier carousel, that though newer than the hundred year old Dentze;/Looff carousel a few blocks north (That did survive the fire) still has brought enjoyment to many and will be sorely missed.
We Jerseyans love our shore. We go down the shore for vacations, for holidays, for relaxing, for inspiration, just for the heck of it. Memories are made there. Lives are changed there. And many good times have been had there.
Hurricane Sandy did a lot of damage. It hurt individuals, families, friends, neighbors. But in new Jersey’s indomitable spirit, everybody came out to lend a hand, donated goods, time and financial support, trying to make life a little more comfortable for those who lost their home, business or a loved one.
BUT WE’RE BACK!!!
Seaside Heights back and building
I’ve been busy with a bunch of deadlines and hours of writing, but I took a day off to drive over to Seaside Heights to see how things were going.
And they were going. It was a Tuesday and though the boardwalk wasn’t thronged, it is the very beginning of the season, it was there and looking good. Arcades were open, games and food lined way. Both carousels were up and running.
I’m a big carousel lover. I’m exultant that I finally got to put a carousel in my upcoming book Stargazey Point. The book takes place in a fictional town on the South Carolina shore, and strangely enough , though written well before Sandy, it’s about a town devastated by decades of hurricanes that looks toward its old carousel to lead it back into prosperity.
Yike’s, kind of scary. Little did I know then that I would be getting first hand experience of how my characters were affected and how their lives were changed, and most importantly of all, how they made a comeback, stronger than ever.
Carousels are more than just a ride, a fun few minutes, to me at least. They are symbols of childhood innocence, of hope, of dreams. A lot to ask of a ride that goes around in a circle with none of the high tech thrills and chills of being suspended in air, dropped through space, scared out of your wits. Up and down and round and round, sort of like life, and if you’re lucky there’s a brass ring to take home.
Here’s an excerpt from STARGAZEY POINT
Even when the carousel music slowly wobbled to silence, Cab could still hear it playing inside his head. Sometimes he heard it in his dreams and he and Midnight Lady would gallop over the sand, wild like the wind, his Uncle Ned had read that from a book once, wild like the wind.
His uncle locked up the carousel, stuck the cash box under his arm, and came to stand beside him. “Tired, son?”
“No sir,” Cab said, stifling a yawn.
“It’s a mighty fine night, ain’t it?”
Cab nodded. Stargazey Point was just about the best place in the world. Like living in a carnival.
Uncle Ned said goodnight to the women closing up the community store. They were going home for the night, but out on the pier people played the arcades and ate cotton candy and drank lemonade. If he listened real hard, Cab could hear music coming from the pavilion out at the end, where the grownups would be dancing to a real live band.
Ned put his arm around Cab’s shoulders. “Time we were getting home. Have us some left over barbeque and get to bed.”
They walked away from the beach, the lights, the sounds and into the night. They were half way home when Uncle Ned stopped in the middle of the dark street. “Look up at the sky, Cab.”
Cab did. The sky was black and there more stars than you could ever count. He sighed. School would be starting soon and he’d have to leave his uncle for another year. He didn’t want to go, he didn’t like boarding school, everyone here was nice.
“I wish I could stay in Stargazey Point forever.”
“Maybe you will one day. It’s a magical place, sure enough. It can mend your heart, make you strong, and show you the way to follow your dream. You remember that, Cab. There’s not a better place in the whole world than right here at the Point.”
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.