A Christmas Carol by Any Other Name

by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville

In 2010 I spent the month of December discussing versions of A Christmas Carol every day. (You can see the posts here.) As you know, my book A Christmas Peril is about a theater company deep in the weeds of a production of A Christmas Carol. One of my nieces mentioned looking forward to A Christmas Carol binge watching over Christmas break. She then asked me which version was my favorite.

I couldn’t answer her. But I can, sort of, narrow it down a bit. Here is a list of my “will watch in the next ten days” list of Christmas Carols in no particular order:

scroogeScrooge, 1970
I saw this movie on a field trip (maybe with the Girl Scouts), and the hell scene scared the heck out of me. As an adult, it is easily on my top five. It is a musical, Albert Finney is wonderful, and is fairly true to the story. It isn’t Christmas unless my family breaks into a “Thank You Very Much” chorus.

1984 Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol, 1984
George C. Scott was a sublime Scrooge. The scene where he jumps on the bed makes my heart burst. The story is dark, and sad, in many ways, and this version is that.

MuppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
This is SUCH a great version. Michael Caine is wonderful. Having Dickens tell the story is great. It stays true to the story, and keeps most of the important parts in the movie. Kermit is a perfect Bob Cratchit,  and Fozzie as Fezziwig? Could there be more perfect casting?

scroogedScrooged, 1988
All right, part of the reason I love this version is that it is such a pop culture time capsule. The TV version of A Christmas Carol they are working on is chock full of 80’s stars that have to be explained to kids, but add another layer of humor to the show. It is also very faithful to the theme of the story, though it does take liberties. Also, Bill Murray chews the scenery, and is so much fun to watch.

PS recordingPatrick Stewart’s VersionsPS filmI love Patrick Stewart, and have been fortunate enough to see him do his one man version of A Christmas Carol twice. It is because of that experience that his filmed version falls a little short for me, though it is very good. The CD of him reading the book is much closer to his stage version, and I can’t recommend it enough.

diva ccA Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000
Do you remember the “Behind the Music” shows on VH1? In this Christmas Carol, Vanessa Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, a singer who left her girl group in the dust, and is a nightmare to work for. A ton of fun.

magooMister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
This is not at all accurate (the ghosts are out of order), but it has a lot of charm. The songs are terrific–I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stage version of this using the songs. Or maybe there has been?

simA Christmas Carol, 1951
This Alistair Sim version is a favorite of many, so I include it on the list. I like it, but am also fond of the 1938 Reginald Owen version.

There are dozens of other versions, with Scrooge being played by Cicely Tyson, Henry Winkler, Barbie, Fred Flintsone, Mickey Mouse, and others. I discussed those, and others, on my blog 8 years ago. I’m a little surprised I don’t have a more recent version to critique. The story resonates right now in so many ways.

Friends, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

The Sound of Silence

by Sheila Connolly

Just back from a trip to West Cork in Ireland, where (in case you haven’t heard it seventeen times already) I own a small cottage, on a small plot of land. From anywhere on my quarter-acre property I can see a total of four houses, and one of those is a mile away. The ruined church up the hill where several generations of my ancestors married is almost exactly a mile, and I can see it out the back.

Coming back to “civilization” is hard after spending over two weeks in Ireland. The first thing you notice out in the country in Ireland is the absence of noise. It is quiet in my part of West Cork. By my rough estimate, based on agricultural reports, there are 542,000 people in County Cork, and 1,719,500 cattle. The cows don’t make noise at night. Most people don’t go gadding about at night because they’re exhausted from tending all those cattle.

Traffic past my cottage amounts to one or two vehicles per hour, including deliveries, milk and oil trucks, and school buses, as well as individual cars. There are no planes flying overhead. There are birds, of course, and when they squabble (most often various kinds of crows), their caws echo off the trees.

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The peace is lovely. You can feel your blood pressure dropping day by day.

Then there’s the darkness. Across the road in front of my cottage, at night I can’t see a single light anywhere. Turn off the interior lights during the dark of the moon and you can’t see your hand in front of your face. In contrast, during a full moon it seems almost as bright as day, although the light shifts across the sky faster. In winter you’re lucky to have eight hours of sun, dawn to dusk; in summer it’s more than sixteen hours. Those of us who live in suburban places have forgotten those rhythms.

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Silence and darkness seem to go together, It begins to make sense, why Simon and Garfunkel began their song, The Sound of Silence, with “hello darkness, my old friend.” Maybe they were depressed young men when they sang that, but that’s not true in Ireland. People have long memories, often stretching back generations. At the same time there’s a real curiosity about newcomers. Who are you? Where do you come from? And often, do you have people here? Their memory for recent events proves it: people I might have met once, a year or more earlier, remember my name and where I’m staying in Ireland. In some ways that’s unsettling, because it’s hard to be anonymous.

I’m not going to argue whether the silence of the countryside or the noise of civilization is better. I enjoy the energy of cities, at least in small doses. I’d seize the opportunity to visit a city I’ve never seen (especially if there’s a group of writers there!). But sometimes I need quiet, and a slower pace, as do most of us, I’m guessing. Would I go stir-crazy if I stayed in Ireland for good? I really can’t say, but it bears thinking about.

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There’s another quotation that keeps running through my head, and it fits too: “The World Is Too Much with Us,” a sonnet by William Wordsworth written in 1802. In it Wordsworth criticizes the world of the First Industrial Revolution for being absorbed in materialism and distancing itself from nature. It’s all the more true these days, and living pretty close to nature for the past couple of weeks has been eye-opening for me.

How about you? Does fresh air, sunlight and quiet drive you crazy? Or do you crave a dose of tranquility?

BTW, the sixth book of the County Cork Series, Many a Twist, will be released in January 2018, but things are not exactly quiet in the book. Plus the paperback edition of Cruel Winter will be out in a week, if you’re thinking of a nice holiday gift . . .

 

Friendly Advice

By Liz, finding it hard to believe it’s the holiday season already…

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: I’m giving away a copy of either Purring Around the Christmas Tree (the sixth Pawsitively Organic Mystery) or Cat About Town (the first Cate Conte Cat Cafe Mystery) – winner’s choice! Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

At this year’s New England Crime Bake, I had the privilege of meeting a number of new and aspiring authors. Really talented people who were there to network, meet agents and editors, pitch their work, and hopefully move to the next step in their publishing careers.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I remember when I first started going to Crime Bake. I was so eager, and I soaked up everything. Every word, every piece of advice, every opinion, thinking that any of it – all of it – would be the key to my success. And the less that I knew, the more I believed that I needed to listen and take everything all the experts said as gospel.

I thought of that a few weeks ago at Crime Bake as I sat at one of the first page critique sessions, listening to aspiring authors reading their pieces and hoping for positive feedback. They wanted to learn, and they definitely wanted the secrets to publishing success revealed.

They were hanging on every word, just like I used to.

I realized what a privilege it was to sit in that seat – the seat of a published author. I also realized that it’s so important to think about the advice you’re giving out, if you’re asked to do so and so inclined to respond.

With seven published books and a few more in the pipeline, I know a little bit more than I did ten years ago – but not much. I know the experiences I’ve had, and what’s worked or not worked for me. I don’t know what the next seven-figure best seller will be (believe me, if I did I’d write it), nor do I know for sure that a book featuring a protagonist of [insert age here] will sell better than a book featuring a protagonist of a completely different age.

No one in that room knew that without a doubt. Not even the people we all think hold the keys to the kingdom. Sure, the people who work on the business side of publishing have a lot of insights, a lot of contacts and a lot of intel. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean they have a error-free crystal ball with all the answers.

I really believe that writers and artists do best when they follow their gut instincts. It could mean choosing to write your novel as a YA told from a teen’s POV or as a suspense novel told from a detective’s POV.

So here are a few simple pieces of advice for the aspiring authors who have a passion project, or a book of the heart they’re working on.

  1. Be open to all the advice you receive. This is a wonderful, generous community and people are eager to help. You’ll get a lot of advice. Don’t be afraid of it. Say thank you, and be grateful people want to help. Everyone believes what they’re saying is the right thing.
  2. Take only what feels right to you. This might not be any of it, and that’s okay.
  3. Write the book you want to write. You’re an artist. Your gut is telling you what the big idea is that’s right for you. That doesn’t mean ignoring good writing practices, or learning about your craft every day. It just means following your heart. That’s the only way you’ll achieve real success.
  4. Believe in yourself. Enough said.

I know that I’ve been very lucky in my writing career. A lot of people have helped me along the way, by sharing insights and offering advice. I also know that ultimately, I have to write what’s meaningful to me. Yes, I can always make my work better. Yes, I can find different ways to market, or try a new point of view in my story.

But if the story isn’t one that excites me, it’s not going to excite the publisher, even if it’s exactly what they wanted. It probably won’t excite the readers, either.

Your gut doesn’t lie. It’s the only place you’ll find the stories you’re meant to tell.

Readers, what’s the best (or worst) piece of advice you’ve gotten, about writing or otherwise? 

The Detective’s Daughter – There’s No Place Like Home

Kim in Baltimore with a beautiful print by artist Joanna Barnum for our Thankful for our Readers giveaway. Leave a comment for a chance to win.

Hat

On a cold, snowy January evening nearly fifteen years ago my dad’s house blew up. You read that correctly. A small fire believed to have started in the living room traveled quickly igniting boxes of ammunition Dad had stored in a bedroom. By the time I arrived on the scene the firefighters had been evacuated and a news helicopter hovered overhead.

The brick walls still stood, stained with soot and glazed in ice, but intact. The rest of the house, the floors, ceiling, stairway, were turned to ash.

Our house had been built in 1860. The Nortons, my grandmother’s family, had moved in

Kim 1

Assorted Norton children

not long after the construction was complete and had been the only family to live there for roughly one hundred and forty years. My grandmother and all of her siblings were born in that house as well as my father and some of his cousins.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and unidentified man.

After the fire Dad moved in with me and the house was sold and remodeled. It nearly broke my heart and I was glad my grandmother had not lived to see this happen.

I have lived in my own house now for twenty-five years, seven years longer than I lived in my childhood house, yet it is still that large brick row house of my youth that I call home. I am always yearning to return.

It’s funny how, as a teenager, I was quite eager to escape and be on my own. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own place. Now all I can think of is how nice it would be to go home and sit across the table from Nana and enjoy a cup of tea.

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My great-grandmother, Annie Graham Norton and her oldest granddaughter, Madeleine Buckey.

I find, though, each month I am able to go home again when I share my stories with all of you. For that I am thankful.

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My grandmother, Florence Norton Kurth Beckhardt, my mother, Frances Smith Kurth, and me.

Readers, share with us about your family home in the comments below. 

Guest: Cheryl Hollon

Liz here, and I’m so happy to welcome back our friend Cheryl Hollon, who’s releasing her next book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series. Take it away, Cheryl!

By Cheryl Hollon

Delighted to be here again for another new release! Thank you, Liz, for letting me brag about my newest release. All the Wicked Cozy Authors have been such a great support to me – you are truly awesome.

Another new release. Did you notice how casually that rolled off the tongue – er, screen? Yep, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series will release on November 28, 2017. This is an important book for a select group of cozy mystery readers. Why? Because this cadre of readers will pick up a new author only if there are at least four books already published. Why? Most new cozy mystery contracts are for a 3-book deal. For various reasons, some don’t get extended beyond that third book. I am now a new member in the Four Books Published Club with two more in the works. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Etched in Tears_MM.indd

Another new release. That phrase has made me realize that I am now officially a professional author. I have a series of books that I love sitting on shelves in bookstores. The last two years have been full of rewards, surprises, and challenges. The biggest reward has been meeting readers who enjoy their visit with Savannah, Edward, Amanda, Jacob, Suzy, Rooney, and Snowy. The surprise has been how much I love to write. I didn’t expect the splendid sense of wellbeing that it provides. The challenges are centered around keeping on top of looming deadlines as well as the administrative side of running a small business as a sole proprietor.

What aspect of reading or writing a series surprised you? Tell us below and be entered for a chance to win a signed ARC of Etched in Tears!

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Each book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series highlights a particular skill within the broad category of glass art. Savannah Webb will teach and participate in each skill area exploring and expanding her knowledge of the craft, along with her assistant, Amanda Blake. As a subject matter expert consulting with the St. Petersburg Police Department, her close associations within the art community and the unusually keen observation skills of her apprentice, Jacob Underwood, combine to solve crimes. Edward Morris, boyfriend and the British owner of the pub next door, fills out the investigation posse with more than moral support accompanied by coffee and scones. The craft topics for the third book in the series are etching glass and slumping glass to make dishware.

The cover art for Etched in Tears (Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery #4) is an image of my favorite museum with the magnificent droopy bench in front. That’s where the body is discovered, so as research, I had to slump myself over the bench to see if it was feasible. I considered it a triumph to get strange looks at an art museum that specializes in surrealism.

 

You can read more about Savannah in Etched in Tears, the fourth book in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries, published by Kensington Books. Available for pre-order at your favorite book vendor. It releases on November 28, 2017.

About Etched in Tears:

When a famous glass artist is murdered at his own exhibit, deadly secrets are put on display, and it’s up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb to see through a killer’s cover.

 Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images into his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.

Meet the author:

Author Hollon PhotoCheryl Hollon writes full time after she left an engineering career designing and building military flight simulators in amazing countries such as England, Wales, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan and India. Fulfilling the dream of a lifetime, she combines her love of writing with a passion for creating glass art.

You can visit Cheryl and her books at:

Newsletter signup at:  http://www.cherylhollon.com

Like her:  https://www.facebook.com/cherylhollonwriterFollow her:  http://www.twitter.com/cherylhollon

 

Writing Solo? By Daryl Wood Gerber

Hi all! Liz here, excited to welcome back our good friend Daryl Wood Gerber, who has some fun giveaways today! Take it away, Daryl!

By Daryl Wood Gerber

Writing can be a very lonely venture. You have no one to talk to except yourself  (which some consider a little bit crazy)

Or your characters (which a vast majority considers bordering on nuts)  

Sparky1Or you might have a faithful companion. I have Sparky. He is the joy of my life. He loves coming into my office and simply “being there” to support me. He sits calmly on his pillow and rouses occasionally for a pet. He gazes at me soulfully whenever I introduce him on a live chat on Facebook. He stares at me scornfully if I ask to take yet another picture to post on Facebook.  LOL

If I need to lie on the floor to gather my thoughts (I think well with my eyes closed – it is not a nap!), Sparky “allows” me to pet him. That stroking motion really helps clear my head. Sparky3

If I need to pace the floor to come up with an idea, he follows me. Oy! I have to be extremely careful not to make a sudden turn. He’s so quiet, he could be my shadow. I have tripped at least a dozen times because of him. I’m really glad I never hit my head on a counter top. (Ooh, idea for a murder method.)

But I digress…

If I need to take a long walk to think, Sparky is always up for it. “Snap on that leash, Mom. Let’s go!” He doesn’t even mind if I bring along my cell phone and tape conversations that I want to insert in the book. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m talking to him. Isn’t life all about him?

S2If I need to take a break and read someone else’s book, this is possibly his happiest moment of the day. We settle on the patio and he gets a treat and we listen to the sounds of nature, while I drink in the talent of another author.

Writing solo? Nope. Not I. I’ve got a writing partner. And the best thing is he thinks all my ideas are great.  (Hmm, must reconsider this last point.  It’s not good to have someone who thinks “all” your ideas are great. An author needs a constructive critic.)

Note to self: Get Sparky reading lessons and teach him to speak his mind.

Do you have a two- or four-footed pet that fills your days with love?

Daryl is offering a choice of any one of her books to one commenter.  Winner announced Friday! 

Daryl’s latest book, A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the first in the French Bistro Mysteries, debuts November 7.

Here’s a sneak peek: 

Mimi Rousseau is throwing the bistro’s first wedding—the nuptials of a famous talk show host. She is sure things will go awry when the bride’s father shows up drunk to the out-of-towners’ dinner. By the end of the evening, things look sweet again…until the next morning, when her benefactor is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. All fingers point at Mimi, whose loan is forgiven if he dies. It’s up to her to éclair—er, clear—her name before the killer turns up the heat.

DeadlyEclair


BIO:
Agatha Award-winning Daryl Wood Gerber writes the brand new French Bistro Mysteries as well as the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries.  As Avery Aames, she pens the popular Cheese Shop Mysteries. A DEADLY ÊCLAIR, the first French Bistro Mystery, comes out November 2017. Daryl also writes stand-alone suspense: DAY OF SECRETS and GIRL ON THE RUN. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to cook, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

http://www.darylwoodgerber.com
http://youtube.com/woodgerb1
http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com
http://facebook.com/darylwoodgerber
http://twitter.com/darylwoodgerber
http://instagram.com/darylwoodgerber
http://pinterest.com/darylwoodgerber
NEWSLETTER: http://darylwoodgerber.com/contact.php#mailing-list

 

Guest Victoria Thompson and Giveaway!

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the leaves have mostly rattled off the trees and the winter birds have returned to the feeders.

Today it is my  very great pleasure to welcome Victoria Thompson to the blog! I met Victoria several years ago at Malice Domestic. She is as charming and personable in life as she is in her writing.

 Victoria Thompson is the author of the bestselling Gaslight Mystery Series. Her new book, City of Lies, is the first in her new Counterfeit Lady Series, which releases on November 7. To celebrate, she’ll give away a signed hardcover copy to one commenter here today (US entries only).

ThompsonVictoria-CityofliesLooking for Inspiration…

I’m very excited that City of Lies will finally be released into the wild! I’d been wanting to write a second historical mystery series for a long time, and I’d been doing a lot of research on the early twentieth century, hoping for inspiration. During that process, I learned a lot about the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and I realized that when my own mother was born, women didn’t have the right to vote in America! It was that recent! I also learned that many women endured beatings and imprisonment to earn females the right to vote. I’d never heard about this in history class, and no other women I spoke with had either. I wanted to tell this story, but how could I make it more interesting than a dry history lesson? That’s when I decided to add a less than honest heroine, a dashing hero, and a dastardly villain.

Every woman wears a mask…

Every woman has, at one time or another, hidden who she really is in order to get along or get ahead. Elizabeth Miles has made a career of it, however. As a con artist, her job is cheating rich and greedy men, but when she cheats the wrong man, she ends up running for her life.

Elizabeth finds temporary safety by getting herself arrested with the Suffragists who have been demonstrating outside the White House for months. This gets her away from Thornton for the moment, but she and the other women are sentenced to three months of hard labor at a workhouse were they are starved and abused. Much to her own surprise, Elizabeth bonds with these women and learns to respect them while they are imprisoned, and she emerges a new person.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire…

Elizabeth may feel like a new person, but Oscar Thornton still wants to kill her. How can she escape him and still keep her secrets? Because her new friends would lose all respect for her if they knew who she really was, and the man she has come to love can’t even bring himself to tell a lie. How can she trick them into helping her pull off a con that will save her life without losing everything she has learned to value?

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Elizabeth’s experiences in City of Lies are based on real historical events that happened in November of 1917, exactly 100 years to the month when the book is being published! In 1917, society was changing, and women were fighting to be taken seriously, to be valued, and to have a seat at the table. A hundred years later, women are still fighting for the very same things. Elizabeth lived in exciting times and so do we. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures, which are not so very different from our own.

 

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Edgar® and Agatha Nominated author Victoria Thompson writes the Gaslight Mystery Victoria Thompson photoSeries, set in turn-of-the-century New York City and featuring midwife Sarah Brandt. Her latest, Murder in the Bowery, was a May 2017 release. City of Lies is the first book in her new Counterfeit Lady series, a November 2017 release from Berkley. She also contributed to the award winning writing textbook Many Genres/One Craft. Victoria teaches in the Seton Hill University master’s program in writing popular fiction. She lives in Illinois with her husband and a very spoiled little dog.