Wicked Wednesday – Short Stories

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re going to make a lot of our writer friends happy and talk short stories (and it’s ok if they’re mysterious!). Wickeds, name your favorite!

Jessie: I loved Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and all of the short stories by Agatha Christie.

MysteryMostHistoricalEdith: I started with Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as a child. In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to have one or two stories a year published in anthologies (and even nominated for Agatha Awards!), and I love perusing those collections. This year’s Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical includes a whole slew of fabulous stories, including ones by friends of the Wickeds Liz Milliron, KB Inglee, Catriona McPherson, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Victoria Thompson, and Nancy Herriman, (and yours truly) among others.

Barb: I love short stories. I chased down as many of Ruth Rendell’s short stories as I could find looking for something that happened to the characters “in between” two books in the Wexford series. And, after I abandoned literary fiction in the 1980s, it was Alice Munro’s short stories that brought me back. But my favorite mystery short story is “The Woman in the Wardrobe,” by Robert Barnard from Death of a Salesperson and Other Untimely Events. My favorite literary short story is “The Horseman,” by Richard Russo, because it is perfect. It’s recently been re-released in Trajectory, a collection of four of Russo’s long shorts.

Liz: I love Roald Dahl too – I remember reading The Way Up to Heaven in college and it’s remained one of my favorites.

Sherry: When I was in elementary school I read a book of short stories called Night in Funland and Other Stories. In the title story a kid gets on a Ferris Wheel as the dad waits below. When the ride ends the kid is missing. It was such a creepy story and I’ve never forgotten it. As an adult I hadn’t read a lot of short stories until the last few years when so many of my writing friends have great stories in anthologies like those put out by the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and by Level Best Books.

Julie: Liz, you are testing us this month with the Wicked Wednesdays! Like Jessie, I like Agatha Christie’s short stories. I am also a Flannery O’Connor fan. The Lottery still gives me nightmares, so I suppose I should add Shirley Jackson to the list.

Edith: My son introduced me to “The Lottery.” Gah…

Readers, weigh in with your favorites!

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Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Children’s Book

Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re talking children’s books – maybe we don’t read them all the time, but we all must have a couple that stand out that we’d gift to the young people in our lives. So Wickeds, which book would you pick?

Liz: I’ve gotta go back to Dr. Seuss for this one – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It’s so simple but inspirational and you can go back at any age for a pep talk! My favorite quote: “You have brains in your head you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Jessie: I love books by Roald Dahl. The Twits is one that I love, as is Esio Trot.  I also adore books by Lloyd Alexander. His Prydain Chronicles books  are amongst my favorites. I also adored his West Mark trilogy. For budding mystery lovers of the right age, it’s hard to beat The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.

Edith: I am going to chime in with a couple of middle-grade books by Elizabeth Atkinson.Island-high-res She had a tough time as a tween, and writes books to help other kids in that situation get through a difficult age. I, Emma Freake is a wonderful, engaging story about a girl who feels like a misfit – until she goes alone to meet her father’s quirky family for the first time, and they’re all tall redheads like her. Atkinson’s latest, The Island of Beyond, is her first story featuring a boy. I highly recommend all Elizabeth’s books – and she lives down the road from Stephen King in Maine (he jogs by her house in the mornings), so you know she’s absorbing super-creative energies in addition to her own.

Sherry: I’ve probably said this a million times here, but I love the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. They are based on Maud’s life growing up in Mankato, Minnesota. They start when Betsy is five and first meets Tacy who moves in across the street. They continue through the last book Betsy’s Wedding. As Betsy grows up the reading level increases. They are wonderful, warm books. I still read them.

smile for auntieBarb: One of the wonderful things about being a grandparent is that you get to revisit your children’s favorite books, and sometimes even your own favorite books from childhood. Some of those are classics like The Cat in the Hat, and some are eccentric books that just tickled your family for whatever reason. One of my kids’ favorites, and now Viola’s, was Smile for Auntie, in which a babushka-wearing aunt tortures a baby with tickles and silly faces, trying to get him to smile, and he does–the moment she goes away. (This book was given to my son Robert when he was an infant, by his aunt, who thought it was hilarious.)

Julie: Too many to name! I love Robert McCloskey books–Make Way For Duckings was a favorite. I also loved Harriet the Spy, and (natch) Nancy Drew.

Readers: What are your favorite children’s books (and remember, twelve-year-olds are still children)?

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Wicked Wednesday – Favorite Poets

Happy Wednesday! Continuing the theme of “what are we reading that isn’t mystery fiction,” let’s talk poetry today, Wickeds. Who’s your favorite poet, or what’s your favorite poem and why?

Liz: I’ve been super into Mary Oliver lately. I discovered her years ago with her famous poem The Journey and lately I’ve been devouring her work. Wild Geese keeps coming up lately – one of her standards, but seems so relevant for me right now. I think she’s such a master at weaving life and nature into one concept. (As you can see, I like to mark my favorites!)

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Edith: Mary Oliver is one of my favorites, too. “The Summer Day,” with it’s stunning, clarion-call last line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I also love many of Billy Collin’s poems, particularly when I can hear him read them himself in his regular, almost deadpan voice. “Purity” is a wonderful poem for authors, about his favorite time to write, and how he goes about it. Here’s the first part:

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I got about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

Sherry: I confess I don’t read a lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it usually isn’t on my radar unless someone posts a poem. I tend to like New England poets like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Here is my favorite poem of hers. I had it posted on my bulletin board for years starting in high school:

Not In Vain

by Emily Dickinson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Jessie: When I was a small child I received a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein which I loved for its silliness and its wisdom. I love it still. Here’s one of my favorites:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,

Listen to the DON’TS

Listen to the SHOULDN’TS

The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS

Listen to the NEVER HAVES

Then listen close to me-

Anything can happen, child,

ANYTHING can be.

Barb: In honor of Key West, I’m including poet Elizabeth Bishop. (Though I would note that three other poets mentioned in this post have connections there. Robert Frost spent part of eighteen winters, Shel Silverstein lived there, and Billy Collins lives there now.)

One Art

by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Julie: Like Sherry, I am not a huge poetry reader. But my friend Ruth Polleys makes me reconsider it. She has an MFA in poetry, and wrote a remarkable blog called “All That Can Happen in 1000 Days”. (A line from Our Town.) Part memoir of an extraordinary time in her life, part poetry journal. Very raw.  I’ve been trying to talk her into doing something with it for a couple of years. Her passion for poetry is contagious, and her talent is real. I’m going to say that Ruth is my favorite poet. (PS, if you are going to read the blog, start from day one. It is a journey.)

Edith: These are all so wonderful. I must include one more, which I had on my wall for many years, by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Readers: Share your favorite poet or poem!

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Wicked Wednesday – Unforgettable Nonfiction

Hey everyone. Liz here with a new batch of Wicked Wednesdays.

Last year, I participated in a program at work where I had to do something “brave.” Brave for corporate America, at least. I’ll spare you the details, but I did it and I got a prize – a copy of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Well, I finally got around to reading it and I have to say, wow. What an inspiring book, right? I’d heard Cheryl’s Ted Talk and really enjoyed it, but reading the book was a totally different experience. I don’t think I could last a day out on that trail – what would I do without my coffee? – but reading about her journey and how she brought herself back from the edge will stay with me for a long time.

It got me thinking. We talk a lot about nonfiction books here but they’re usually writing related. So Wickeds, what’s your favorite, or most inspiring, nonfiction book that’s got nothing to do with our usual subject matter?

Sherry: I don’t read a lot of nonfiction that isn’t writing related. But years ago I read Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. It’s about a journey on the back roads of America and to small towns. The book and his stories have always stuck with me.

Julie: Right now I am rereading The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. His work always resonates with me, as does Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love. Barb told me about a James Gleick’s Time Travel, and I’m loving it so far.

Barb: Julie, so glad you’re enjoying Time Travel. In discussions about the election, and the current partisan divide, I am always recommending American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. Very interesting and intuitively true.

Jessie: I really enjoyed The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown. As a writer so much of my life revolves around text. Using images to communicate coaxes another part of my brain out to play and I have delighted in the experience!

 

 

 

 

Readers, leave yours in the comments!

Wicked Wednesday- Heros

Jessie-In NH awash in anticpation of Malice Domestic!

Breaking news! Here are the winners of the books from yesterday’s drawing. It was such a great response that I drew a third winner! Keep an eye out for future giveaways! The winners are: Jill @Bonnjill, Sharon Forrest, and Stephanie Clark! Thanks to all of you who entered!

We continue to celebrate the release of Sherry’s latest book, A Good Day to Buy. 

As Sherry mentioned yesterday one of the themes of the book is heroes. In your opinion, what defines a hero and who are some of yours?

Edith: That’s a thought-provoking question. For me heroes are the quiet people working selflessly to help others. A woman in my town has been tireless in her efforts to run a food pantry and soup kitchen, which, sadly, more and more people need to use. Our local women’s crisis center has quietly helped many women extract themselves from abusive situations and find a better life for them and their children.  My late friend Richard was responsible for planting a thousand trees locally over a ten-year period, to both beautify and clean the air. Those are my heroes.

Barb: On the day of the Boston Marathon bombing, if you were a victim, and you survived the blast, you lived. This to me is the most extraordinary thing. I don’t mean to minimize in any way the challenges faced by the survivors, but the amazing work of the first responders on the the scene, the volunteers in the medical tents, the medical and non-medical personnel at the eight Boston hospitals where victims were taken, and the ordinary people on the street who ran toward the carnage instead of fleeing, still takes my breath away and makes me a weepy. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” The helpers are my heroes.

Sherry: Wow, Barb! That is so beautifully said I think it’s a drop the mic moment! In A Good Day To Buy Sarah is called a hero and she doesn’t like it because she doesn’t feel like she is one. And maybe that is the strongest indication that you are a hero. Many of the people Barb mentioned would say they were just doing their job or that they were just doing what anyone would have. I think all of us have a bit of hero in us. It might not be something huge like saving someone’s life. Sometimes small things like listening to a friend or helping a neighbor are heroic.

Jessie: One of the things I believe defines a hero is a willingness to take on risk. For that reason immigrants are amongst my heroes. I am in awe of those who leave familiar lives, languages, customs and families to start lives in far away lands. No matter what motivates them to strike out I admire their grit and determination and am so grateful for the richness they add to all our lives.

Julie: I am having such challenges with this question! To me, heroes are folks who do something brave, not because they aren’t afraid, but despite the fact that they are afraid. Heroes aren’t athletes, or titans of Wall Street. Heroes are the folks Barb mentioned. Heroes are the folks our society holds in disdain who still leave the house every day, and try to live with dignity. Heroes are the folks who do what they can do to create the change they want to see in the world.

Liz: Wow, you guys have all said this so well. For the past seven years I’ve worked with Safe Futures, an organization that is working to end domestic violence, and every single one of the people involved there is a hero. They work tirelessly, they work endlessly and they put the survivors and those in need of help first, no matter what it takes. Someone who is that committed to a cause for good is truly a hero.

Readers: Who are your heroes?

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Wicked Wednesday- Author Events

Jessie- In NH where the crocuses are blooming and the robins are frolicking with abandon!

In a rare turn of events all the Wickeds are together today for two author events. We will be in Nashua, NH for both, first at Rivier College for a R.I.S. E. presentation at midday and then at the Barnes and Noble in the evening. We are ridiculously excited about gathering together for these two occasions and would love to have you all join us. It promises to be memorable. Which got me to wondering about memorable events the other Wickeds have held. So, any favorite memories you’d love to share?

maxwellEdith: Other than my double launch party a couple of weeks ago, I’d have to say my first launch party was an unforgettable evening, for all the right reasons. Speaking of Murder had just released in September 2012 (written as Tace Baker), and I’d invited everyone I knew. The young man managing the Newburyport bookstore had set out ten chairs. I said, “Um, I think you’re going to need more chairs.” I was right. 55 people were there from all different areas of my life: church, work, town, family, and Sisters in Crime, including several Wickeds. The bookstore sold out but I had a box of books in the car to supplement their order. The whole night was touching, exhilarating, just perfect.

Liz: I have to say my first launch party, for Kneading to Die, was also my most memorable. Full of family, friends and dogs, it was held at The Big Biscuit in Franklin, Mass. Shaggy even got her own doggie cake for the occasion!

Sherry: I’ve had so much fun going to author events that it is so hard to pick one. The first time I was on a panel as an author was at Left Coast Crime in Monterey, California in 2014. The women on the panel with me have become friends — Lori Rader-Day (doing a post here on Friday), Carlene O’Neil, Martha Cooley, and Holly West. I was so nervous I don’t think I said much. Afterwards we had a signing time and this was the order of the table Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Jan Burke, then me. I didn’t even have a book out yet, but a couple of people had me sign their programs. It’s an experience I’ll never forget and Jan Burke was very gracious the one second she didn’t have someone in front of her.

Barb: I enjoy author events, too. Most memorable was the launch of my first book, The Death of an Ambitious Woman. It seemed like everyone I’d ever mentioned I was writing a book to came. Porter Square ran out of books. I did a little talk and a reading and thanked my friends and family. My sister-in-law pointed at me and said to my daughter, “This is what it looks like when your dreams come true,” which is such a lovely, heartfelt sentiment.

CAKE KILLERJulie: My launch party for Just Killing Time was a blast. Friends and family packed the New England Mobile Book Fair. Three of my mentors–Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, and Hallie Ephron–sat right up front, and cheered me on. My friend Courtney made me a cookie cake decorated to look like a clock. It was just lovely. This year Liz and I both have August and September books–2 women, 4 names, 4 books, 2 new series being launched. We are going to do something to celebrate, so stay tuned.

Readers: Do you like to attend author events? What’s your most memorable one?

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Wicked Wednesday-4th of July Memories

NEWS: Mary Lou H is the winner of Mulch Ado About Murder! Check your Inbox or Spam folder, Mary Lou. And congratulations!

called-to-justiceJessie, In NH, dreaming of warmer weather!

Edith’s latest release, Called to Justice, opens on Independence Day. Which got me thinking fondly of the 4th of July which happens to be one of my favorite holidays. So, Wickeds, do you have any special memories of our nation’s birthday?

Barb: I, too, love 4th of July. I love barbecues with friends and family, parades, and fireworks. I have many happy memories of 4th of Julys past, from childhood to last year. Our front porch in Boothbay Harbor offers a fantastic view of the town fireworks, which are set off over the water. For the last several years, both my kids, their spouses, and my granddaughter have been with us, which makes it extra special. I especially love that my granddaughter shares my love of fireworks.

Edith: When my sons were growing up we had a one-acre back yard. On the 4th of July we’d invite everyone we knew and fill up the place, sometimes with more than a hundred friends. Kids jumped on the trampoline or splashed in the kiddie pool. Adults played horseshoes and volleyball. We set African rugs around on the grass for lounging. People brought sides or desserts, we grilled meats, and a keg of beer flowed under the big shade tree. It was a splendid way to gather community for a relaxing celebration, although I don’t miss the work it took to pull it off!

Liz: When I was a kid, we used to have family cookouts for the 4th. It was a big deal to have lobsters. My grandfather loved them and he would devour every piece that he could, right down to the icky green stuff. It wasn’t my thing, but I’ll always remember how happy he was sitting at the picnic table eating his lobsters and watching us play on the swing set.

Jessie: There is a Fourth of July parade that goes right past my house every year. There are antique cars, kids on bikes decorated bikes and the town fire and rescue vehicles. It is organized by volunteers and has a very small-town, nostalgic feel to it. The parade route is so short that they often go around twice. Ahh, village life!

Sherry: One of my most interesting Fourth of July experiences is when we were flying from Miami to Boston on a flight that left at 8:00 pm and landed around 10:00. For almost the entire flight we could see fireworks displays from above. It was so beautiful and we even saw part of the Boston celebration.

Barb: Sherry–I had a similar experience one year on the ferry from Provincetown to Boston. It was wonderful!

Julie: I adore the 4th of July. I have a ton of fond memories, including one year at Old Orchard Beach.  But my favorite thing to do is to watch the Boston fireworks, whether from my house (I can see them through my living room windows) or down on the Esplanade, which is very crowded but stunning. My favorite time was when my friend Mary was in town on the tour of Mama Mia (she played Rosie), and they were going to sing at the Pops concert. Knowing how much I love the holiday, she invited me to be one of her special guests! It was beyond thrilling, and a memory I will treasure forever!

Readers: Do you have a favorite Fourth of July memory?

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