Today I’m interviewed at DV Berkom’s site. We talk about Serafina’s books and the history of Sicily in the late nineteenth century. Join us.
Today I’m interviewed at DV Berkom’s site. We talk about Serafina’s books and the history of Sicily in the late nineteenth century. Join us.
Mike, thanks for the opportunity to talk with you. I’m thrilled to have you and to learn about you and your involvement in your grandfather’s work, especially Pegasus Falling and It Never Was You, the first two books of the Cypress Branches Trilogy.
It’s a thrill to be here, Susan. Thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog today.
Tell us about THE CYPRESS BRANCHES. What is the time, the place, the story, the overarching theme, the main concern?
If you were to categorize The Cypress Branches, it would have to be as an epic family saga, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It has so many elements to it that make it a wonderfully rich read – there’s history, war, politics, comedy and tragedy all mingling and jostling for space within its pages. But at its heart is a beautiful love story – well, several beautiful love stories, really, that have stayed with me ever since I first read it nearly 20 years ago.
William wrote The Cypress Branches as one epic novel. At over 350,000 words, it was far too large a book to publish in its original form, so I have used its episodic structure to break it down into a series of shorter novels.
Pegasus Falling is the first part of what is now the Cypress Branches trilogy. It follows the story of Sammy – a British paratrooper who, after being captured at the infamous battle of Arnhem in 1944, has a violent coming together with his German captors and is sent to a concentration camp for “disposal”. He survives the atrocities of the camp by clinging to a Jewish German hausfrau, Naomi. The two come to rely on each other for strength, but when the camp is liberated they are separated and Sammy sets off to discover what happened to her – a journey which takes him across Europe and into the political hotbed of Palestine.
In part two of the trilogy, called It Never Was You, the story moves on to a new set of characters. Harry is a middle class merchant seaman from the London suburbs. Mary is a waitress who hails from the docklands area of Liverpool. When the two meet and fall in love, they find the collective weight of post World War II societal values and their own prejudices and peccadilloes threatening their relationship.
In Part Three (which is as yet untitled) the stories from both books are tied together as the action moves into the 1950s and 60s. The characters’ relationships become more and more intertwined and we reach a devastating conclusion. Throughout the books, the characters find their lives influenced by the tumultuous events of the mid-twentieth century. Many readers, myself included, are finding that we’re learning a lot more about an era which is too recent to be considered history but too long ago to be remembered by younger generations. It is a fascinating period, one which was marked by seismic social changes and political upheaval, and it makes for an intriguing backdrop to the storylines.
The work has a theme song, the beautifully lyrical and solemn Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony that many of us remember Bernstein conducting at Robert Kennedy’s funeral. Tell us about this leitmotif and the themes in PEGASUS FALLING.
I had no idea the Adagietto was played at Robert Kennedy’s funeral! (I’m a Brit, so I hope I’m allowed to not know that!). I’m not surprised, though. It is one of the most romantic, beautiful and poignant pieces of music I have ever heard and it never ceases to move me.
By coincidence, it is Bernstein who conducts the orchestra in the scene that features the music in Pegasus Falling. The scene takes place in the Dizengoff Hall in Tel Aviv and I believe William attended concerts there himself when he was a paratrooper stationed in Palestine. He must have seen the young Bernstein conduct and he was obviously impressed by what he heard, because he owned a huge vinyl collection of Bernstein’s recordings.
Mahler’s music is not only important to the book, it is also very important to William. And not just Mahler – he is a huge music fan, particularly of classical and jazz (although he also has a penchant for The Eagles!). He is now severely incapacitated by Alzheimer’s disease, and one of the few ways we are still able to communicate with him is through his music collection.
In Pegasus Falling, the music has a profound effect on Lesley Carrington, and it can have quite an astonishing effect on William too. Often, when one of his favourite pieces is played to him, his eyes will open and he’ll raise his hand as if conducting the orchestra. It is through music that we as a family still feel able to reach him through the fog of Alzheimer’s.
The musical theme continues through the other parts of the trilogy too. The title of book two, It Never Was You, is derived from the famous Kurt Weill song. The main character, Harry, is an accomplished pianist (as was William) and the song features in a key scene, as well as reflecting one of the overarching themes of the trilogy – that of unrequited love.
The short answer is “as soon as possible”! Pegasus Falling was released in March last year. It took me three years, working in fits and starts between work contracts, to get it ready for publication. I wanted to release part two as quickly as possible, so I took time out of work last year to speed the process up, but it has still taken a surprisingly long time – over a year. I wasn’t prepared to rush it and risk launching a book that wasn’t ready.
But I am happy to report that, as of this week, It Never Was You, part two of the trilogy, is available as an ebook. The paperback will follow very shortly. After a short period of intense marketing, I’ll be knuckling down and trying to complete the third book before the end of this year. I’d love for the trilogy to be completed before the year is out, but again I’m not going to cut any corners to achieve that goal. The most important thing for me is to make sure I do William’s work justice.
All I can say to readers who are waiting patiently for the conclusion is, keep a look out on my blog where I’ll be posting updates on progress. And if readers really can’t wait, drop me an email and I’ll sign you up to the newsletter – that way, you’ll be the first to know when and where the third installment will be available.
You sent me an excerpt and introduced me to Sammy, obviously the main character. Why is he different from other men? What drives him?
When I first read the books, Sammy was the character who stood out from all the others. His story is an incredible one, and to this day, having read the story over and over, I still find it difficult to pin him down.
As a reader you jump from being frightened of him to loving him, and back again – and many of the other characters, Lesley and Naomi included, feel the same way.
Sammy is a Captain in the British Parachute Regiment. He is not your average soldier – he is a research fellow at Cambridge University, leaving his studies into genetics to take up the fight against Fascism. He is a very intelligent and well-read man, and can’t abide the “bullshit” (his word) * that goes with army life. The close camaraderie and unconventional discipline in the parachute regiment suits Sammy – he is not one for standing on parade and barracking the troops. Instead, he treats his fellow soldiers as friends, regardless of rank, and shows a distinct disdain for his superiors who insist he acts otherwise.
In battle, as well as in life, he chooses which rules to follow, depending on whether they fit in with his own world view. If they help to make the world a better and fairer place, they’re worth following. Otherwise, you can forget it. It is this bloody-mindedness which both gets him into trouble with the Germans in the first place, and helps him to survive.
On the surface, Sammy is a brute – he is described as having a pugilist’s nose, and his training and experiences have left him with an intimidating physique and formidable demeanor. There is, however, a softer, more humane side to Sammy. His treatment of Naomi when she comes to him in the camp is heartbreakingly compassionate. He is willing to defend his friends and those he loves by any means, even if he finds himself at odds with their political point of view.
Both women in the book fall in love with this gentler, more sensitive man, and in the end, I think it is this man that the reader comes to recognize as the true Sammy.
How did the war change the main characters?
William’s own experiences in the parachute regiment changed him profoundly, so this was always going to be a major theme throughout the books.
Sammy, a quiet, bookish research fellow from Cambridge, is turned by training and a need to fight for what he believes in, into a brutish thug. When he is liberated from the concentration camp he finds it very difficult to adjust to life. His battle scars run very deep indeed.
And Sammy is not his real name, after all. It’s Stanley Adam Malcolm Parker. His platoon buddies coined his nickname from his initials (S.A.M.), but after the war, Sammy finds it difficult to go back to using his own name. At one point, Sammy explains to a friend he hasn’t seen since before the war, “young Stan Parker is dead. He died in Matthausen. The man who came back was a different person.”
Naomi, the woman who Sammy meets in the camp, is irrevocably changed by her terrible experiences at the hands of the Nazis. Before the war, she was a quiet housewife and mother from Dresden. The war takes away from her, not only her husband and children, but also her home (Dresden was almost entirely obliterated by the RAF in a bombing raid in February 1945, just months before the war ended). She also loses her dignity, forced as she is to act as the camp commandant’s mistress in order to stay out of the showers.
How did you first become involved in promoting your grandfather’s work?
My grandfather wrote The Cypress Branches a little over 20 years ago now. As so many do, he wanted a project to keep himself entertained when he retired. But whereas many sit down to write their memoirs, instead William set about producing an epic work of fiction. It took him two years to complete and became an obsession for him, writing at every given opportunity, stopping only to eat and read what he’d written that day to his wife (my grandmother), Sheila. I remember clearly watching him and hearing him at the typewriter, completely absorbed in his work and his characters, and I was astonished when I first saw the fruits of his labours.
Unfortunately, shortly after finishing his magnum opus, William’s health started to deteriorate, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. His illness meant that he could not pursue his dream of getting his book published, as I and many others who had been lucky enough to read the book had urged him to do.
It was by chance one day that I spotted an advert for a print-on-demand publishing service on the London Underground which got me thinking – perhaps there was something I could do to help. In order for William to see his book in print (and for it to still mean something to a man who’s short-term memory was fading fast), I chose to publish a hardback version of the entire work myself. At this point it was very much a family project, but I knew that the book could have a much wider appeal, so when the hardback was finished, I set about turning the huge novel into a series of smaller paperbacks.
So, William’s obsession became mine and the rest, as they say, is history.
William Edward Thomas was born in West London in 1925.
He left The Brompton Oratory School when he was 14 and started work as a messenger at the BBC. When war broke out, he went to work with his father at a factory in Harrow. While still a teenager, William joined the army and was soon recruited in to the Parachute Regiment. By May 1945, he had been “dropped” in to a number of key battles and become a much decorated soldier. He was still only 19 years old. Following the war, William served in Palestine until 1948.
William has six children. As they were growing up, he was working and studying in shifts as a merchant seaman and an engineer. In his mid fifties, he decided to work full time as a lab technician at his Alma Mater, The Open University and remained there until his retirement. It was during his retirement that he decided to set himself the challenge of writing a novel. The Cypress Branches is the result.
William was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2006. His health has since deteriorated to the point where he can no longer live at home and he is now in full-time care in the town UK of Milton Keynes, where he had lived for 25 years. He is visited by friends and family daily.
Note: This interview is part of the IT NEVER WAS YOU Blog Tour at http://acuteanglebooks.blogspot.com/2013/04/inwy-tour.html As part of the tour, Mike Harris is using Rafflecopter to give away a $50 Amazon gift certificate, 3 paperbacks and 10 ebooks. You can enter here: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Listen to the theme song of the trilogy, the beautiful Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony:
Hi, Jen, I’m just thrilled to talk about your totally lovable character Erin Solomon and her mystery series. I devoured the first three books in Erin’s series, couldn’t put it down. First things first: please give us a quick synopsis of the series.
The series features investigative reporter Erin Solomon, who is trying to solve a mystery that has haunted her since childhood: the alleged cult suicide of the Payson Church of Tomorrow, a fundamentalist church where Erin’s father raised her for the first ten years of her life. Each novel contains a standalone mystery, a healthy dose of romance between Erin and two suitors—Diggs, her long-time best friend (and frequently more), and Jack Juarez, a mysterious FBI agent with his own haunted past—as well as the continuing thread of the Payson Church and Erin’s father’s role in that tragedy.
The setting of ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS is magnificent, and the sense of place in both SINS OF THE FATHER and SOUTHERN CROSS, haunting. While all three books feature Erin’s quest, two of the books concern—at least in part—fundamentalist communities. Can you speak to that fascination?
Thank you! When I was growing up, my mom spent a few years going to a Pentecostal church – the kind with healings, revivals, folks speaking in tongues, writhing on the floor… the works. It was the same church she’d been raised in, and my grandparents were very devout. Some of the experiences I write about are ones I’ve actually witnessed firsthand, while others come from my mom’s stories of her childhood—which are fascinating. Her uncle was a fundamentalist preacher who used to hold services in the local firehouse back in the ‘50s and ‘60s. As a kid, I remember being so fascinated (and occasionally terrified) by the fervor and the drama, these huge outpourings of emotion supposedly inspired by this invisible deity walking among us. Clearly, that fascination hasn’t waned.
Tell us about how the Erin’s story grew in you. OR, Tell us about the character, Erin Solomon and how her story grew in you.
The story did actually originate with the character, beginning with a short story I wrote one day in grad school, called “Anna’s Hair.” (Erin was Anna Solomon until I realized there was a relatively popular literary fiction novelist named Anna Solomon, and I didn’t want to share billing with her). So… the story was about a recently-divorced woman who returns to her Maine hometown. I’m not even sure where the story is, now; there wasn’t much to it. But for some reason I couldn’t let the character go, so I started looking around for a larger story worthy of the tough-and-tender protagonist I was envisioning. At the same time, I’d just read Laurie King’s A Darker Place, about a crime-solving theologian who lost her husband and child in a cult suicide. I loved that book, and started doing a great deal of research into cults and cult suicide… Eventually, out of all that mess, All the Blue-eyed Angels was born.
I think Erin is still figuring out her essential truth, really. She has plenty of ponderable truths: We are here to lead a purpose-based life; a disturbing truth is more valuable than a comforting lie; the bond of friendship is for life, and well worth dying for; humor is integral to survival; it’s more important to be honest than lovable; the company of a dog is preferable to 95% of the human race.
As for her arc, we’re definitely still working our way through that. Erin has evolved tremendously from All the Blue-Eyed Angels, but her journey is far from over. There are still some tough things coming up, and it will be interesting to see how she deals with adversity now versus her absolute, steel-fisted refusal to yield (or listen to reason) in the first two novels.
The idea of a puppet master fascinates me, especially as it relates to culpability and the inability to uncover the truth of the past. Would you talk a little bit about it?
In this universe I’ve created, there is definitely someone out there pulling the strings and holding tight to the secrets of the past. I can’t really address the question specifically because it will give too much away, but, more generally, I will say that for someone like Erin, who places such emphasis on the truth and who’s clearly such a control freak, the simple idea of not knowing is a maddening thing. Combine that with the fact that there is this mysterious entity out there somewhere who knows the whole story—who in essence knows her origin story better than Erin herself does—and I think it makes for a very interesting dynamic to push the mystery (and Erin’s quest) forward.
A phenomenal narrative voice, Erin tells her story in the present tense. Did you experiment with POV?
I did a lot of experimentation, definitely. The first several drafts of the novel were written in third person, but I wasn’t able to convey adequately just what a strong voice Erin has by doing things that way. Andyou may have noticed that there are some tense shifts (the prologue in All the Blue-Eyed Angels, for example, as well as the alternating chapters flashing back to 1990 with Rebecca Ashmont, are written in present tense) while the bulk of the story is told in past tense… Psych studies have shown that PTSD sufferers typically relate traumatic events in the present tense, because in many ways the mind is still living in that moment. To Erin—particularly in Angels—her actual present isn’t nearly as real or as important to her as those events in the summer of 1990. Consequently, present is in past tense, while the past is in present tense. If that makes any sense at all.
You have a lot of threads going all through the novel; did you use any kind of outline to keep things straight? I guess I’m asking, do you do a lot of plotting before you write your novels?
With these novels, it’s imperative to do a lot of plotting, because there are threads that run from the first to the fifth novel, and I need to keep track of… well, everything. I’ve just started using the writing program Scrivener, which I adore. I also use index cards, collages, and I’m a lunatic about outlines. I love the things. The outlines evolve a great deal from the time I start a book to the time I finish it, but there are pieces that of necessity must remain fixed since they were first established in Angels.
How long did it take you to write ALL THE BLUE-EYED ANGELS?
I actually started writing Angels as an undergrad studying Creative Writing at Goddard College. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on pacing in popular fiction, and finished the first draft of the novel at that point (back in 2003). Then I wrote another draft in grad school… I put the manuscript away after I graduated, and didn’t take it out again until 2009 or so, when I started really thinking about what wasn’t working in the book, how to fix that, and what I wanted to achieve with the series.
When I was a kid, my dad used to have me tell him bedtime stories instead of reading to me, and my mom was forever making up characters and fun stories that I would add to. Storytelling was just a natural part of childhood in my house. I was a voracious reader from the start, and had a distant cousin who wrote children’s mysteries based here in Maine. We began corresponding, and she came into my class in third grade to talk to the kids. I was hooked. I started writing stories when I was around eight or nine, and was actively working on full novels by the time I was in junior high. I had some wonderful teachers who were always very encouraging, as were my parents. So… I don’t know that I ever really realized I had a gift per se, but I knew it was a passion and I would do everything I could to learn the craft.
Who are your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
I love a good mystery series, and will usually burn through from the first book on if I have the chance. Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie/Gennaro series is one of the things that inspired me to make the leap from literary to pop fiction (I studied literary fiction until my final year as an undergraduate). I love John Sandford, Nevada Barr, Janet Evanovich, Patricia Cornwell, Jeffrey Deaver, Michael Connelly… I get so invested in a character that I’ll follow them anywhere. Outside mainstream, plot-driven fiction, I love Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, Nick Hornby, Toni Morrison… Authors in that class do such breathtaking things with words that I’m typically tempted to just hang up the whole thing and do something else entirely, but I’ve learned a great deal by studying their work.
These days, I read a lot of indie authors because I write book reviews for Awesome Indies, and I’ve discovered some wonderful writers that way: Joanne Sydney Lessner, DV Berkom, Darcy Scott, Tahlia Newland, Susan Russo Anderson (perhaps you’ve heard of her? )… Right now, I’m reading Joanne Sydney Lessner’s soon-to-be-released BAD PUBLICITY, the second novel featuring out-of-work actress Isobel Spice. It’s wonderful fun—one of those light reads you just don’t want to put down.
You have an M.A. in Popular Literature. As a writer, what did this advanced degree give you or your work? Would you recommend the process?
I decided my final year as an undergrad that I wanted to continue on and get my MFA in writing, student loans be damned. I was looking at several different programs, but then found out that Dennis Lehane was instructing at a brand new low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine. That pretty much made the decision for me. I don’t know that I would recommend it for everyone, but for two years it was such an amazing experience to be immersed in every aspect of being a writer: I was arts editor at the college newspaper, worked freelance as a writer and editor, went to readings, belonged to a writing group, dated writers, hung out with writers, and one way or another every conversation invariably came back around to the power of words. I worked with phenomenal instructors who were passionate about the craft and so generous with their time and expertise. It gave me confidence and contacts, and taught me discipline and focus. I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity to participate in that program.
How do you think being a journalist has influenced your style?
Being a journalist demystifies the whole writing-on-a-schedule process, and pretty much shoots the silly notion of only writing when you’re inspired right out of the water. It taught me quick-and-dirty research techniques, and how to do an effective interview. It taught me how to write something and then let it go, rather than agonizing about it and letting it gather dust for months and months. It’s also a great way to learn how to refine your words and cut all the extraneous details out of your work. I personally think anyone who fancies themselves a writer should be forced to spend at least a few months working as a journalist, even if it’s just at your local newspaper. It’s educational on so many levels.
I’m interested in how or why you chose to be an independently published author instead of going the more traditional route?
I knew that the story I was telling in All the Blue-Eyed Angels was bigger than a single novel—which is a risky proposition most traditional publishers aren’t willing to take a chance on, particularly for a first-time novelist. While Angels has closure to some extent, there’s definitely forward motion and something of a cliffhanger ending. The first five novels in the series make up a pentalogy, and the mystery first brought to light in Angels will ultimately be wrapped up with that fifth novel, The Book of J. I knew there was no way in hell a traditional publisher would let me tell the story that way.
I’d been following the indie publishing movement for awhile, already had a good online following from other writing I’d done, and had at least the beginnings of a platform through the blogging I’d been doing. So, I decided to give it a shot. In all honesty, I didn’t think All the Blue-Eyed Angels would do much; I figured I might be able to make some semblance of a living by the time I got to the fourth book, but I assumed I’d continue to cobble together a half-assed living working six freelance jobs and writing in the middle of the night for at least another couple of years.
Instead, the novel caught fire after my first free promotion in June of 2012, and by the time the second novel was released in July, I was starting to suspect I might be able to move that timeline up. Since October, 2012, I’ve been supporting myself almost exclusively through fiction sales (along with the occasional consulting work or seminar), and I’m hopeful that things will only get better going forward. I have nothing against traditional publishing, but after a lot of careful thought about the direction I wanted to go, I knew indie was the smartest move for me starting out. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t go with a traditional publisher at some point, by any means, but whatever they were offering would have to make sense for the long-term and would definitely have to be on my terms.
Do you have any current or upcoming promotions, appearances, or releases you’d like readers to know about?
I just released the third novel in the Erin Solomon series, SOUTHERN CROSS, and I’m thrilled with the reviews I’ve gotten thus far. And I have appearances around Maine for the month of April, which you can find at my website (http://jenblood.net/upcoming-events/).
Where can readers buy your books?
All the Blue-Eyed Angels*
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-the-blue-eyed-angels-book-1-of-the-erin-solomon-mysteries-jen-blood/1114843198?ean=2940033076666
Signed, print copies w/ free shipping within the U.S.: http://erinsolomon.com/store
*Right now, All the Blue-Eyed Angels is free on Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.
Sins of the Father
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sins-of-the-father-book-2-of-the-erin-solomon-mysteries-jen-blood/1114843230?ean=2940044741287
Signed, print copies w/ free shipping within the U.S.: http://erinsolomon.com/store
Smashwords (available only until April 6): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294975
Signed, print copies w/ free shipping within the U.S.: http://erinsolomon.com/store
Run, baby girl! Mama screams from her grave. Run!
And I be fast, too—lickety-split like she always say—rocks and shells cuttin’ at my feet as I claw my way up the hill. My breath all hitched and raggedy when I make the rise and creep under them trees that’s always so sweet and piney smellin’. My thinkin’ trees, Daddy calls ’em.
Through the branches I can see him and Willie bein’ marched down to the cove with the others—Willie spittin’ and fightin’ good as any man though he ain’t but six, Daddy gone all quiet as he peeks back to where I’m hid, his eyes catchin’ mine like they do, tellin’ me to stay put, stay quiet. That he’d be back for me.
Ain’t but a half hour since they come poundin’ at the door—the one Mama always said ain’t nothin’ ever come through but bad news—Daddy awake first, slippin’ that old suspender over his shoulder as he picked his way past us in the dark. Willie still hard asleep on the cot, but me, I saw Daddy’s back go stiff, his eyes turn hard when he opened up—the faces of them mainland men all twisted and ugly with meanness, lookin’ me over like they ate somethin’ bad. It was then Mama told me to git.
There’s more of ’em movin’ up the hill with their torches now, puttin’ fire to houses I been in and out of my whole life, laughin’ as they step ’round Sally’s baby plopped down in the dirt, flappin’ her hands and cryin’, all big-eyed scared.
I look to the graveyard where our people is buried—a hundred years’ worth maybe. Mama laid out just last winter, not a week after bakin’ me my nine-years cake. Places in there I know to hide, places I can stay ’til Daddy and them come back, feedin’ myself on fish and berries, lyin’ in the sun.
Hide! Mama beggin’ me now, but my feet don’t listen, my eyes still caught on Daddy and Willie and the man pushin’ ’em hard toward the boats—Willie cryin’, which he don’t hardly do no more, even when the cat up and killed her kittens for no reason other than they’s gettin’ on her nerves.
I’m turnin’ to make for the graveyard like she say when I’m took up sudden from behind, a big man-hand slappin’ hard over my mouth, hot words whisperin’ in my ear. I kick the air, claw to get free—Mama’s voice fadin’ into Willie’s cryin’ and the hoarse shouts of ugly men, my heart like to burst ’til the darkness take me down.
Subject: Island Women Week
To: Nora2736@yahoo.com, email@example.com, Lily@kilabukdesign.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Okay, this is my final email before I see you all on Saturday—promise. And Shelley, what’s this shit I hear about you bailing on us to “work on the relationship”? Damn, girl, how can this new man, whom none of us have even met, be worth giving up an entire week on the island? Seriously, put the boy-toy on hold and get packing. Remember our deal? Everyone comes back. Once an Island Woman, always an Island Woman.
Just got off the phone with Margot about the cell service, and yes, it still sucks. And since there’s no electricity for charging out here anyway, what do you say we leave the damn things home this time? Lily’s idea, actually, and I think it’s great. Just putting it out there…
On the plus side, brother Drew has had the propane tanks filled; the gas lights that were on the fritz last year have been replaced; and while the broiler on the stove still goes out any old time it wants, Frosty Frieda and that temperamental pilot light of hers are finally gone, replaced by a brand-new gas fridge. We’ve got a couple new carts for lugging stuff this year, too—the larger ones that can carry two of the water jugs at once, which means fewer trips from the well up to the Birches. I can hear you all groaning now; just think of it as your aerobic exercise for the week (except for Margot, who will probably hike ten miles and kayak around the island twice each morning before the rest of us are even up).
More good news! As of this week, there are new futons in two of the bedrooms and a new sleeping hammock on the south-facing porch. And we finally tossed the moldy-smelling mattress that was in the Twig and brought in two singles. Still a squirrel problem down there (who wouldn’t want to make their nest in that sweet little cottage, right?), so I’m thinking Brit and Lily should take that since Lily’s bringing Gus again. The scent of a dog always keeps them away.
Reminders: It can go from hot to chilly and damp in a matter of minutes out here. Remember last year? So think layers. A bathing suit, if you absolutely must. We’ll be totally alone and I, for one, plan to give these lobstermen an eyeful!
As far as dinners go, Saturday night I’m making that Thai Chicken Salad you all liked so much. Margot’s taking Sunday, which leaves the rest of you to work out your place in the rotation. Remember you’re responsible not only for the meal, but the wine and munchies for cocktail hour (see my last email). There’s that supermarket just off the highway and the little gourmet place for provisioning, or you can wait and make a trip later on in the week. As always, bring your own stuff for breakfasts and lunches, etc.
What else? Books, of course. Wine, wine, and more wine. Is there ever enough? And we can always use more candles and lamp oil.
High tide on Saturday is just before two, which is when I’ll be at the boat ramp. Please be on time. Seriously. Maneuvering a boat full of people and gear to the island is a lot easier if you don’t have to pick your way through rocky ledges in an ebb tide, especially if the fog starts rolling in.
I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’ve forgotten anything. Remember, this week is yours to do whatever, without the distraction of men and other assorted children—hah! Oh, and a caveat to that long list of things I just suggested you bring? Remember it’s a good half-mile slog from dock to house, and the only person schlepping your stuff will be you. Guaranteed.
Have to run; got a new author coming in for a reading.
Island Women rule!
The Reese’s Leap Book Launch was held Thursday night at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, NH and was a real blast! Here’s the line-up through the next few weeks: tonight, April 6, I’ll be reading and signing books alongside fellow novelist Jen Blood as part of the monthly “Lit: Readings and Libations” program at the Slainte Wine Bar & Lounge in Portland ME (http://www.slaintewinebar.com/). On Monday evening, April 8, I’ll be on the Literary New England Radio Show on Blog Talk radio (http://www.litnewengland.com/).
Where can we find you online?
My website, www.DarcyScott.net, contains all kinds of information, including audiofile excerpts and a link where readers can order personalized books. My FB address is www.Facebook.com/Author.Darcy.Scott, and I tweet @Darcy_Scott.
And where can readers buy your books?
At select independent bookstores in Maine and New Hampshire, and online at Amazon in both softcover and Kindle. It’s also available in Nook, and all the other e-formats.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DARCY SCOTT is a live-aboard sailor and experienced ocean cruiser who’s sailed to Grenada and back on a whim, island-hopped through the Caribbean, and been struck by lightning in the middle of the Gulf Stream. Her favorite cruising ground remains the coast of Maine, however, and her appreciation of the history and rugged beauty of its sparsely populated out-islands serves as inspiration for her Maine Island Mystery Series, which includes 2012’s award-winning Matinicus and the newly released Reese’s Leap. Book three, Ragged Island, is currently in the works. Her debut novel, Hunter Huntress, was published in June, 2010 by Snowbooks, Ltd., UK.
Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold. It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”
Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas. Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins with a fraud investigation sounded like fun and would get her an exclusive story.
But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.
When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing, he cancels holiday leaves, mobilizes the personnel at Prospect PD, and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.
During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.
After a lucky break and a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produce an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend. But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.
Read an Excerpt
The sixty-degree temperatures of several days earlier had cooled slightly. The cloudless Wedgwood blue skies we‘d been enjoying had turned to a muddy, hazy gray hanging over Prospect. The pollution of Knoxville and Oak Ridge had been blown southeast by the prevailing winter winds.
When we pulled up at the repair shop, it took me less than a minute to spot Elrod sitting in his office reading a magazine. Another young man worked on a pick-up truck in the garage bay and two others sat on folding chairs nearby, drinking soda from cans, talking with him. We sat twenty yards from the open garage door and heard a radio playing. Someone lamented the loss of his girlfriend and contemplated his exodus to San Antone. The song didn‘t sound like one of the icons of country and western to me.
Len Alcock, Bobby John Crockett, and Stan Rose pulled their marked police cars curbside, blocking the driveways after Junior and I drove up to the office door. The two soda drinkers were about to run when Alcock and Crockett put the arm on them. Stanley rousted the mechanic, a guy who looked like he ate pit bulls for breakfast, before he could hide in the supply room off the work area.
Junior followed me into the office. I walked up to a scarred and dented gray metal desk. An open bag of pork rinds lay on top, next to a two-liter bottle of Mello Yello. A half-eaten corn dog hid in a wrinkled wrapper.
“Hi there,” I said. “I‘ll bet you‘re Elrod Swaggerty.”
He was a thin, shady-looking character with short hair and side-burns ending below his earlobes. His dark blue mechanic‘s outfit hadn‘t seen soap in a long time.
Elrod eyed me for a few seconds and then shifted his look to Junior and back again to me. If he didn‘t assume I was a cop, he was more mentally bereft than I anticipated.
“That‘s me.” His voice cracked a little as he tried a nervous smile.
“The Elrod Swaggerty?” I started to enjoy myself.
“Uh-huh, whot‘s up?”
I held up a copy of the arrest warrant for him to see. “I know you were hoping Officer Huskey and I came from Publisher‘s Clearing House and we were about to give you a check for a million bucks, but I‘m sorry to disappoint you.”
Junior tried to stifle a laugh, which came out like a combination snicker and snort from a clogged sinus passage. I should have remembered to smack him when we finished, but didn‘t.
Someone in the garage turned off the radio, stopping the Nashville sound.
“Elrod, my friend, you‘re under arrest,” I said.
“Whot fer? I didn‘t do nuthin‘.”
“You just committed a double negative in public. If you didn‘t do nothing, you must have done something. May I take that as an admission of guilt?”
“Do whot?” He was almost gasping.
“Elrod, son, you have the right to remain silent. I suggest you avail yourself of that right before I feel compelled to flatten your head with a brick.”
“Hey now, don‘t go gettin‘ mean an‘ hateful on me, I really didn‘t do nothin’.”
“Pal, you haven‘t seen hateful yet,” I said. “We‘re only having a spirited conversation here. If you see me call in a helicopter or break out a field phone with little alligator clips attached to wires, you may infer I‘m going to get nasty.”
I heard Junior giggling behind me. I should tranquilize him the next time we go on an arrest.
“Let‘s go, guy, on your feet. Time to put the cuffs on,” I said.
“Cuffs? Are you crazy? I said, I ain‘t done nothin‘.”
When he stood, I gave him a push and moved him up against the wall behind his desk. Just to the left, hung a two-foot-tall calendar showing a girl in a bikini, holding a gallon can of anti-freeze, standing next to a shiny black Mustang with the hood raised.
“Assume position one, Elrod. Hands on the wall and walk your feet back some.”
Elrod seemed familiar with the steps to that dance. I took hold of his belt and backed him up even more, and then I used my right foot to spread his legs wider.
“I‘m going to search you now,” I said. “Is there anything in your pockets or on your person that is a weapon or might cut me, stick me, or in any other way piss me off?”
“Do whot?” he croaked again.
“Now listen carefully, Mr. Swaggerty, these are not multiple choice questions, just a simple true or false. Do you have a weapon or something sharp on your body?”
“I got me a folder on my belt—that‘s it, it ain‘t concealed.”
I removed a cheap knock-off of a Buck lock-back knife from a beaten-up leather pouch on his belt and handed it to Junior. I finished patting him down, put cuffs on him, double locked them, and brought him back to the position of attention.
“Whot am I charged with? I got a right ta know!” he crooned.
“Larceny by inveiglement—four times and scheme to defraud.”
Obviously, vocabulary hadn‘t been one of Elrod‘s favorite subjects.
When Junior and I walked our prisoner out to the car, I saw John Leckmanski filming the festivities from a discrete distance, far off Elrod‘s property.
I looked toward the garage area and thought Stan and the boys also hit the jackpot. Elrod‘s three minions were in cuffs, too. Stan found the mechanic with a shirt pocket filled by a baggie brimming over with the evil weed. The guy drinking Dr. Pepper was wanted on a Blount County Traffic warrant for failure to pay fines, and the lad with the Mountain Dew was named on a bench warrant from the Rockford Justice Court for failure to appear. The two cops would transport the prisoners. Stan Rose would stay to secure the scene and inventory any cash found in the office.
The time involved in messing with Elrod‘s mind and processing his arrest would take us well beyond the 3:30 deadline for arraign-ments. Swaggerty would spend the night as a guest of Prospect PD and be transported to the county justice center in the morning. I timed the arrest that way for two reasons. I thought of Elrod as a first-class scumbag who needed to remember you don‘t screw around in Prospect. And second: I wanted to give my favorite TV newsgirl time to catch him tomorrow after he made bail and see if she could get an interview during the morning light.
When Rachel and I spoke, I suggested she attend the arraignment. She and John could watch the judge set bail, but because the county deputies and court officers may be less enamored with good-looking female reporters than I am, they wouldn‘t let her get close to the defendant. I thought they should wait in the Justice Center parking lot until Elrod‘s release and follow him back to Prospect, when he‘d undoubtedly go to his shop and check on the status of the working capital he left behind. There he‘d find a copy of the search warrant with an inventory of the confiscated or secured property.
I‘ve lived to regret that suggestion ever since.
HEROES & LOVERS is available in trade paperback and eBook
Barnes & Noble: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Susan Russo Anderson is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime, a graduate of Marquette University. She has taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she’s seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she writes. [Read More …]
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