Tarrying Awhile at Hearthstone Castle

I’m heading back to school this week. So before work gets too hot and heavy, I want to post a blog on one of the wonderful short trips Yang and I took when  we went away for two days.  The first day was a visit to NYC to explore Central Park and have a yummy tea at Alice’s Teacup – another blog on that later!  The second day, as we made our way back from where we’d stayed  in Milford, brought us to Danbury’s Tarrywile Park and the Hearthstone Castle.  If you click here, there’s a wonderful history on this link about the castle.

We walked up a fairly short, but decidedly steep, wooded path to be greeted with this sight.  What a pity that the castle has been defaced and let go into such disrepair.  Still, it was deliciously eerie, with the afternoon sunlight rising in a clearing amidst the trees.  Note the turrets with sharp field stones acting as the crenellation.  There in front was the portico where the wealthy would arrive in their carriages to be dropped off at the door for a summer weekend in the country or a formal dinner or ball.  They must have had a ballroom! And here I am walking quite determinedly up to get a closer view, braving  assault from ticks and poison ivy.

 

 

 

We took some neat shots of the ruins, so you could see the sky pouring blue through a window in the back wall out to you from a smashed window or a broken wall  in front of you.  Unfortunately, the sun was so bright  that it washed the blue right out of most of these shots.   I love the gorgeous turret here and wonder what kind of round rooms were inside on each floor.  The view must have been a delight. A great place to sit with your tea and a good book.  Perhaps a Scarlet Tanager or Rosebreasted Grosbeak might fly by, even perch on the ledge?  Looking through the smashed windows, where the boards had been pried away, you could also see the brick that lined or insulated the interior where the material covering the interior walls had been stripped away.  I couldn’t help recalling the marvelous ruined abbeys I’d seen on my trip to England – sky gleaming blue through soaring arches and graceful architecture.  Of course, this ruin is on a much smaller scale – and more jagged than the medieval constructions.  Still, doesn’t the setting lend itself to a novel?  Hmm, maybe that’s what I’m working out in my mind here.

 

 

 

Here’s a neat farewell shot of the ruin.  I’m not sure if Yang or I took it.  I would love to go back in the fall, when the leaves turn gorgeous!  You should make a visit, too.  And remember that the park has lots of inviting hiking trails.  Yeah, I think this place has to make it into a novel.  It’s just so Thornfield or Manderly!

P.S.  A tip of one of my many hats to Robert Johnson for putting me wise to this site.

 

A Supreme Evening with Old Friends and New!

Last week or so, my good friend Tom Ingrassia (savant of all things Motown) posted on his Facebook feed that Scherrie and Susaye, former ladies of the Supremes (FLOS), who had united with Joyce Vincent, were going to be performing a free concert at the Waltham Summer Concert series.  Being a Supremes devotee, I was primed for that concert!  It was the perfect way for Yang and I to kick off our anniversary celebrations.  Still, the monsoons of rain besetting New England this summer had us on tenterhooks.  Would the outdoor concert be cancelled?  No!  It was moved to the high school field house, a modern and pleasant set up.  We were on for a supreme night of entertainment!

Yang and I were delighted to find our friends Tom and Barbara almost immediately; and, after some fun chatting, we settled down for the opening act of a local band, the Reminisants [sic].  Then, after intermission our favorite ladies appeared looking glorious, glamorous, and elegant to let us in for a full hour and a half of high energy Motown magic.  Scherrie, Susaye, and Joyce performed with vivacity  and delight.  They were having as a good a time as the rest of us in the audience, as we bounced and bopped along with them to Supremes’ hits and new songs.  Their harmonies were impeccable and exhilarating; when each lady took the lead, her powerful voice carried the feeling and life of the song.  It was especially fun that they did some of the hits by Dawn, the group that Joyce helped make famous.  So good to hear her come out of the background.  She has a strong and beautiful voice.  I can’t stress enough how good these ladies sounded.  Interestingly, as Susaye and Joyce were telling me later, when Mary Wilson left the Supremes, the group was supposed to continue with Joyce as a member.  Isn’t it  a pity that Motown hadn’t let us have a great two-for-one-split:  solo Mary Wilson and Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce continuing the Supremes.  At least we have them together now!  They haven’t lost a jot of their talent – or energy!  See: in this picture, Scherrie and Susaye are moving so fast that they are going interdimensional!

 

Thanks to Eric Iverson and a suggestion from my friend Tom, Yang and I were also able to stay and meet all three ladies afterwards, along with other fans.  What a treat!  These women are so down to earth, gracious, and good-hearted!  They appreciate their fans’ appreciation and were interested in us as people.  When it came up that I write mysteries, Susaye and Joyce immediately wanted to find out how to get Bait and Switch.  When Scherrie later found out, she wanted the same information.  They took interest in another woman’s writing, as well.  I was excited to hear more about their plans, including an upcoming concert tour in England and a possible album.  Scherrie also shared about her play in production in L.A. (A Lady in Waiting) and the screenplays that she has written and is working on getting optioned. (Check out her interview on Tom Ingrassia’s radio show.)   Maybe Sisters in Crime might be a good group to network those screenplays!  I wish I could remember what I said to make her crack up here!

I’m also happy to say that I made some wonderful new friends amongst the other fans, discovering I had unexpected connections with the other folks who’d come back to “meet the Supremes.”  Everyone there, audience members, Supremes, members of the Supremes organization, just had a warm, fun time.  Yang and I appreciated that Scherrie was talking with him about speaking Chinese.  By the way, she said, “I love you” in Chinese very well.  I had quite a long chat, as well, with Joyce and Susaye about the group and writing. I was so touched later when Susaye Greene spontaneously gave me a big hug.  I think we bonded over our creative tendencies, love of music, my incorporating Supremes music into teaching composition, and our enjoying the humor of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I know I’m gushing, but it was just such a great experience.  It’s something we have to appreciate in these times when so many people think it’s acceptable to be cruel. 

If you get a chance to see Susaye, Scherrie, and Joyce perform, do it!  They have energy and wonderful voices!  Here’s a link to their web site so that you can keep up on what they are up to.  Treat yourself!  And thank you Joyce, Susaye, and Scherrie for sharing your talent and being good kids (as my Mom would say)!  And special thanks to Eric Iverson for bringing these wodnerful ladies East and to my friend Tom Ingrassia for putting me wise to this whole experience.  Listen to Tom’s radio program!

A Visit to the Connecticut Shore

In the midst of all that God-awful rain last week, we had a day full of sun and warmth on Tuesday.  So we hopped in our car and headed for the Connecticut shoreline and some of our old haunts!  First, we stopped at Bill’s seafood for our annual (and more often if we can!) fix of lobster rolls!  Mmm, Bill’s has the best, with a handy helping of crisp and hearty french fries and cole slaw with a nice tang. You can see Yang enjoys his repast!

As usual, we sat on the deck, which is next to a river and salt marsh flowing to the sea.  We especially love to do that because you always see loads of seabirds there.  This time, we could espy teenage ospreys in their platform next out in the marsh, while wild cries overhead alerted us to their hunting parents flying overhead.  We couldn’t take pictures because the platform was too far out, but we’d remembered to bring binoculars.  so, we got a good look at the young osprey.

We also had the pleasure of seeing some less fierce feathered critters.  We got a few pictures of some American Black Ducks, as you can see here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a mamma Mallard with her three babies scooting around.  It was cute to watch her leisurely paddling while her kiddos worked those webbed feet furiously to keep up!  Someone commented that this must be her second clutch, since they were so little so late in the season.

 

After Bill’s, it was off to Old Lyme to visit Joan Bennett at the Pleasant View Cemetery.  there used to be a riding academy and horse-boarding farm across the street, so I used to think that Joan, who was a rider, would have found that view pleasant, indeed.  Today, the grass wasn’t too bad in the cemetery, and it was filled with butterflies.  I saw a Monarch, the Black Swallow Tail in this picture (thanks to Charmaine Kinton for the i.d.) and a beautiful bright yellow butterfly (no, not a Tiger Swallow Tail).  I know Joan loved yellow and butterflies are symbols of the soul.  Do you think she was  saying “hi” to me?  I also noticed that there was a sign for a house for sale on the street.  should we all chip and buy it so that we visit our friend more easily – and keep the grass trimmed?  I also noticed that Joan had a cousin, Patricia Morrison (not the actress), who died very young.  Does anyone know the story there?

Anyway, we checked ourselves for ticks before we got in the car – we were in Lyme- then went off to Rocky Neck State Park.  This park is a wonderful place to hit the beach or take hikes along trails.  Once more, we saw several nesting platforms for ospreys with young ospreys in them.   There was one that had a nest not as thick as the others, so we thought it was unfinished or abandoned.  We found out later we were wrong. Once again, thank God for binoculars!  We also saw many Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets, as well as a Kildeer!  Yang even managed to get this shot of a Green Heron!  So, in case you’re still wondering, what was the deal with the underdeveloped platform nest?  Well, we were checking it out with the binoculars when a red-tailed hawk came sailing in.  The hawk kept looking at something in the nest that we couldn’t see, but we suspect it was his/her family.  Thanks to the binoculars, we got a great closeup of the bird’s enormous eyes, powerful hooked beak, and beautiful feather patterns.  A formidable creature, indeed!

Finally, we moved on to the beach and then up to the huge, field stone pavilion that had been built in the 1930s as a WPA project.  The building was one of the reasons Yang had wanted to come here.  He’d been reading the draft of my third novel, Always Play the Dark Horse, and its description of the setting whetted his appetite to return to one of our favorite places to go walking.  The pavilion is a long building with beautiful hard wood floors inside.  Couldn’t you just picture a big band playing there, and people dancing on a summer’s eve with a tangy salt breeze cooling off all those hot cats and kittens?  It turns out you can rent it for $3,750 for a gathering of  under 200 people.  A larger number is less expensive.  Any one want to GoFund a swing night there – and I mean swing dancing!

There are also some beautiful views of the ocean from the pavilion.

 

 

 

 

Then we closed out the day with dinner at The Main Street Grille in Niantic – well, not exactly.  We also went for a 30 minute walk on the boardwalk in town as well.  No wonder I was limping on Wednesday and Thursday.  Nevertheless,  I was recovered enough to jitterbug, cha-cha, rhumba, and fox trot to Dan Gabel and the Abletones at Mosely on the Charles on Friday.  Good bless heating pads and Advil!

 

 

A New England Mini-Vacation: Bookstock and the Bridge of Flowers

Last weekend, we had a mini-vacation in Vermont, connected to my day at Bookstock.  What a great time!  We’re so fortunate to be living in New England.  Friday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive up to Brattleboro to have an early supper at our favorite bakery on Main Street.  In a space overlooking the river and mountain, we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we enjoyed a scrumptious olive tapenade/goat cheese/walnut salad and a cappuccino.  The storm passed; we rolled out for Springfield, Vermont and the Toonerville Rail Trail.  It’s not a long trail, only seven miles round trip, but it runs along the Black River and through some gorgeous Vermont mountain and woodsy scenery.  I even managed to spot some Phoebes and Thrushes!  The river ran fast and muddy.  I’m not sure if that was just from the recent rainfall.  Whatever the case, there were some notable rapids.  This should be a nice ride in the colorful New England fall.

The next day was my stint at the Sisters In Crime-New England Table on Woodstock Green at Bookstock.  I had a wonderful time with two of my favorite writers, and pals, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Johnson Hambley.  Leslie has a new book out in Rattlesnake Hill and Connie has completed her Jessica trilogy.  If you’re looking for some exciting and enjoyable summer reading, these are great choices – as are Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch!  We have the best conversations on writing, the great stuff to do in New England, our families, etc.  We also had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know readers and writers visiting our table.  I can’t say enough about the great opportunities Sisters in Crime offers both readers and writers (published or not).  And one of the best benefits is meeting the other members of the group.  I’ve made some swell (as Anne Sheridan would have put it in a movie) friends here.  At our booth, the three of us couldn’t help telling interested readers how enjoyable we found each other’s writing!

 

Last day of our vacation, Yang and I went to Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers.  If you’ve never been there, this is an old foot bridge that has been planted on either side of a central path with all kinds of different, beautiful flowers and shrubs.

There are zinnias, roses, red hot poker, delphinium with bachelor buttons, Rose of Sharon, bee balm – you name it. Here are some lovely lilies.

 

 

 

Isn’t this rose a treat?

These dahlias and the sunflower are all set for the Fall !

 

 

Here I am, delighted to be with a shrub with which I share a name!

 

 

 

 

 

God knows what the heck this thing is!  I hope aliens didn’t leave it!

 

 

You can see from the pictures how gorgeous the flowers are.  Several years back, a terrible flood wiped out the bridge garden; but, as you can see, it has been restored with resounding success.  Some of the flowers will last several seasons of the year, while some are more seasonal and will be replaced with flowers and plants appropriate to the autumn, later.

So many people enjoy the garden!  However, as I will show you, humans aren’t the only ones who delight in the Bridge of Flowers.  Yang got several wonderful pictures of one of the many Tiger Swallowtails taking a sunny Sunday brunch on the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a  Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which people frequently mistake for a Hummingbird.  Gorgeous and otherworldly, isn’t it?

Then, we got some shots of the real deal:  this female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  She adored the Bee Balm and the Red Hot Poker!  She was also fairly undaunted by most of the humans at her restaurant.  Yang got some superb shots, didn’t he?    I’m happy to say that we also saw another such bird on our stroll through town and that the hummingbird who usually visits us each year at home has made several appearances already!  All in all, a delightful weekend!

 

Wood Thrush Image:  https://www.freeclipartnow.com/animals/birds/Wood-Thrush.jpg.html
All other images, author’s collection

 

Spring Birds Are Back!

I’ve had the pleasure of many wonderful bird sightings since spring began.  Some are old friends, and at least one is a new addition.  Because I don’t have a fancy camera and the birds are too shy to let me get close enough or they don’t stay still long enough for me to get a good shot, some of these pictures aren’t the best and some I had to find online – but I hope you enjoy hearing about what I’ve been seeing lately.

 

One of the first signs of spring was the return of my friends, the Red-winged Blackbirds.  They’re usually the first to arrive, so I’ve been seeing them  March 6th.  They even stuck it out through our April torture by snow.  I’ve seen several males and also several females.  I guess these folks must find my feeders quite the congenial place.

 

In April, I was further delighted by the return of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  Interestingly enough, my first sighting this year was almost exactly the same date as my sighting last year.  This year, we have at least one male and one female – it’s hard to tell if I’m seeing the same or different ones every time.  Happily, even as we move through June, I still see these beauties every day.  Please forgive the fuzziness in some of the pictures.  It’s rather hard to compensate for the pattern-effect of my window screens.

 

 

 

 

 

Also back once more is our buddy from last year, turkey Raymond Burrd – though I have since figured out that “he” is a “she.”  Still, if there can be gals called Micheal, Jamie, and Ashley, having one named Raymond shouldn’t be any problem.  It’s the twenty-first century, folks.  Get over it!  She has shown up every day, sometimes more than once a day for over a week now – starting 6/4.  She’s pretty friendly – not that she’s asking me to tea or anything, but she doesn’t startle and run away or threaten me when I have to walk past her for one reason or another.  If I’m enraptured in reading, she’ll wander by quite close without turning a feather.  My neighbor said he thought she was going to hop into my lap the other day!  Although Natasha was howling out the window at Raymond in the beginning, she and Rosalind have settled down to a minor glance in the turkey’s direction while looking daggers and claws at chipmunks and morning doves.

 

We were not able to use the front porch for a while because the Robins would shout up a storm at us – they had built a nest in a rhododendron surprisingly close to one of the porch columns.  It was so surprisingly close that I happened to glance down and was shocked to see two young, speckled robins checking me out from a nest.  Needless to say, the flowers on the front steps went thirsty for awhile.  After some time, no Robins could be heard squawking in the rhododendron, so I checked and noted there were no kids in the nest or parents around.  Fledging must have occurred, and the parents probably figure they’d move to a neighborhood with less traffic for their next clutch.  That’s why I was able to take these pictures.

 

We also had a Baltimore Oriole visiting our yard.  I had heard him for some time, then found him sitting in the juniper bush outside my bedroom window.  I ran to get my camera, but he’d taken off when I got back.  I have seen him in the high trees in my backyard and hear him as well.  In fact, I’ve had lots of Oriole and Yellow Warbler sightings.  We saw both types of birds at the Blackstone River Trail and I later had about six sightings of as many as two Orioles at a time by the Quinnebaug River in Putman, Ct.  There were also plenty of Yellow Warblers, too.  I wonder if the plentitude  of Orioles has anything to do with the large number of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars invading New England now.  I could hear the caterpillars in the trees by the Q. River – I’m too delicate to tell you what I’ve been informed that I was hearing the caterpillars doing.  Let’s just say I was glad I had a hat on!

 

On a trip to the rail trail that runs from Falmouth to Woods Hole, my husband and I were lucky to see Ospreys hunting and feeding their kids. Here’s an older picture from the same area.  We also saw out first Blue-grey Gnatcatcher.  It’s quite the lively bird, and you can’t miss the white vertical bars on the sides of its tail. This link  shows the little guy in action and captures his blue-gray colors.

 

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen as many goldfinches, chickadees, Titmice, and nuthatches of late – though I have seen s few.  I know they sometimes disappear around this time to brood their young, then return with the kids, when they can fly, for family smorgasbord.  I hope they haven’t been driven out by the greedy Grackles, Mourning Doves, and Sparrows.  Though Sparrows can be pesky, I have to admit these guys are cute.

 

At least I saw the Catbird again yesterday while I was reading!  This picture is from last year.

Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers have come by, as well as a Flicker. Here are two neat, albeit window-screen-fuzzed, photos of a Hairy Woodpecker. Like most Woodpeckers, this guy just loves that suet!

 

Oriole image from Pexels.
Yellow Warbler image from:  Pixnio.

 

Carven not Craven Images: Providence

The same day that we visited Battleship Cove, we also gave ourselves a walking tour of the older architecture in the downtown section of Providence.  Yang and I had come here for a walk once before in the winter and marveled at the beautiful buildings with their ornate decorations.  We’ll start with the Shepherd Department Store Building.

 

 

 

The Shepherd Department store was once the largest department store in the country, covering an entire block and consuming three buildings.  First built in 1880, the store continued to grow and became a mainstay for about 100 years.  Unfortunately, like many of the other big department stores (Bon Marche, Filenes, G. Fox) it was undone by the viral spread of malls.  Check out the interesting background info on this store and on it and  similar ones.  Fortunately, Shepherd’s facade has been preserved, with a major portion of the building serving as  campuses for URI and CCRI, as well as offices for the RI Department of Education, making the relief of the owl pictured above both prescient and appropriate!

 

 

The archways on each of these street-corner main entrances are extraordinary to to view.

And of course, you can’t help but admire this fierce lion head  decorating the building.

 

 

He isn’t the only lion.  This building, now a dance club, is  protected by a line of threatening Panthera Leo – so you’d darn well better heed the sign warning that the rest rooms are only for patrons!

 

 

There are also far less threatening carvings or reliefs.  With this building that was once a nineteenth-century performance center, we have musical instruments:  mandolin and horn on one side and lyre on the other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another building, I found these reliefs:  a pilgrim-looking guy and the female head from the old dimes.  How wise to pick a relief that has rays coming from her head that can also double as pigeon repellers. Note that anchor relief just around the corner.

 

Between them was a medallion with this cherub.

 

I was  struck by the Providence Performing Arts Center.  This gorgeously ornate building covers an enormous amount of territory.  It seems like an entire block.  The front is impressive, predominating the view at this end of Weybosset Street.  The sides are no less impressive. Originally built as Loewe’s Movie Palace  in 1928, the theatre opened to an audience of 14,000. Loewe’s went through some tough times in the latter half of the twentieth century before its redesign as a  successful  multipurpose performance venue.  Click here for  background on this magnificent building.

 

Here, Yang caught me giving the side view of the theatre a once over. Yes, I do have a hat! There are plenty more shots that we took that day – the photographic not the liquid kind.  However, I don’t want to make this post too long.  Looks as if I’ll have to do a Providence,  part II!

Battleship Cove – Connecting to Dad

Last week, Yang and I finally got the opportunity to do something we’ve been promising ourselves for years:  visit Battleship Cove.  As someone who is fascinated by the WWII years and who had a father who served in the Navy, this was a special treat for me.  I’ve long heard of my Dad’s various adventures, both in the Armed Guard doing convoy duty in the North and South Atlantic and on the U.S.S, Hudson in the Pacific Theatre. Here’s a picture of the Hudson (DD475) from the USS Hudson Homepage.

We first checked out a landing vehicle, then moved on to two different PT Boats.  These guys were supposed to be small, but the one we photographed looks awfully intimidating.  Maybe its the big shark’s maw painted on it?  Small, though they may have been considered, they were pretty darned effective with their wooden construction giving them speed and agility and their firepower allowing them to take some nasty bites out of  the enemy tonnage.

 

I was especially interested in USS Jospeh P. Kennedy,  because, as it was a destroyer built during WWII, I thought it might give me a good idea of the type of vessel on which my Dad served.  The Kennedy wouldn’t be an exact match, as a Gearing-class destroyer, where the Hudson was a Fletcher-class.  The Gearing class is somewhat bigger, and this ship was in its 1970s update state; however, I thought I might still get something of an idea.  I can’t get over how you can pack so many people in this space, though it is a big ship.  When I was in the rooms where the men slept, I pitied the 60 or so guys my Dad must have tortured with his snoring.  They must have thought they were under attack!  I was also struck with how athletic you have to be to get around and stay on your feet with the steep climbs and the narrow corridors – and I didn’t have to contend with roaring seas or battle conditions!  I was stiff for days afterwards!  Still, the space was luxurious compared to what we saw on the submarine Lionfish – more about that later.

My Dad was a gunner on the Hudson, Sfc, but I don’t think he said he was on one of these monsters.  If you look at the second picture, you see the red circle warning you to stay outside the guns’ turn radius.  You wouldn’t want to get hit by this monster – unless you’d always had a hankering to turn into a pancake.  You’ll notice that I was going down the stairs here.  Too steep to descend facing down!  I think guys used to almost slide down with both hands on the rails.  But I could be wrong.

 

 

I found this picture online of the Hudson’s crew in 1945, and I think I can pick out my Dad.  He’s the one with the beard and the cocky expression on the right, in the second row, behind the last seated guy on the right with his cap on. I know that expression well! You better click on the picture and enlarge!  My Dad had a wonderful album from his Navy days, but either my brother or one of my nephews has it now.  I really want to get my hands on it so that I can scan the pictures!  If you click here, you can see the crew list with my Dad’s name!  This is also from the Hudson Homepage.  For more history of the Hudson, you can also click here.

Finally, we went on the WWII sub, the Lionfish.  this was my second visit to a WWII-era sub, as Yang and I had also scrambled through the Tigershark in Baltimore Harbor many years back.  All I can say is, tall or wide people don’t bother!  It’s amazing how much equipment and machinery you can cram into such a narrow passage.  What killed me was moving from compartment to compartment, because the hatches require you to step up and pull your legs up and along to get through.  Now you know why you see guys grab the hatchways on either side and swing their legs straight through.  It’s only for the young!  I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy bunking over a torpedo, either.  Maybe that’s just me!

 

By the time we finished the destroyer and the sub, we didn’t have it in us to explore the battleship, the biggest of the lot!  So, another day, another visit!  This display of ships was a cool experience.  Oh, and we did see that the sailors weren’t the only ones in dress whites that day.

 

On the Road Again – In a Noir Frame of Mind

 

 

In between the raging blizzards of this spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to join some wonderful fellow mystery writers to promote our books and make connections with readers and neophyte writers.  The first such adventure took Yang and I to the far north (of New York, anyway) to Ithaca and Buffalo Street Books.  Here, my friend Lisa Lieberman and I presented “An Evening of Noir,” where we not only talked about our books but about the noir films that inspired us!  Lisa’s husband Tim created this gorgeous poster for our adventure.  Note that it features my favorite femme fatale and/or smart-talking gal, Joan Bennett!  Didn’t he do a superb job?!

 

 

Lisa and I had a fun program.  I had prepared a cd of background music to help create the mood of dark, mean streets; tough detectives; mysterious dames; and haunted pasts.  Our playlist contained  multiple versions of “Laura,” “Harlem Nocturne,” “Penny Blues,” “Drink Dirty Water,” “Peter Gunn,” and even Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” to name a few.  And, of course, we dressed the parts, with Lisa’s swanky mink stole and slinky mystery-lady dress and my Claire Trevor femme fatale black suit with  swag, complimented by  red velvet and black feathered cap.  Watch out Phil Marlow and Sam Spade!

 

We had loads of fun talking with our audience about the trademarks of film noir  and how they influenced our novels, especially in terms of specific films.  Lisa detailed how  her experiences in Hungary and the film The Third Man  inspired the tense and dark atmosphere and tight plot twists of her  Burning Cold.  I shared how the wit, surprising reversals, and slippery characters in films like The Scar; Murder, My Sweet; and Double Indemnity shaped the latest adventures of Jessica Minton in Letter from a Dead Man.  And both us ladies of noir had a great time sharing trivia and background about the filmmakers and writers of our favorite noir films with our audience.  We had such a wonderful time, we’re thinking of adding film clips and “taking  our act on the road”!

 

My other recent appearance was on a delightful panel, with an equally delightful name:  “Stealing from the Dead.”  This Sisters-in-Crime Panel took place at Atria Bay in Barrington, RI.  I was pleased to join Frances MCNamara and Steve Liskow for a fun presentation at the community.  Both writers have fascinating books, with Frances’s latest series set in early 20th century Chicago and Steve’s in Connecticut and New York concerning the brutal reality of human trafficking.  Do click on each of their names to check out their work in greater detail.  You won’t be sorry! You can see from the picture on the left that I had a wonderful time.  If you ever want to book a Sisters-In-Crime panel for your library, school, or other such group, you can contact Leslie Wheeler at the Speakers Bureau.

I also want to extend my thanks to Margaret Shand of Atria Bay for setting up the panel.  the audience had intriguing questions and great comments for us.  My thanks to Margaret for the photo at the top of the paragraph.

 

Yang took what is probably the best shot of me, below.

Tea and Mystery at Mrs. Bridge’s Pantry

Monday, March 26th, I had the delightful pleasure of being the guest of honor at the Tea and Book Club held every last Monday (fall through spring) at Mrs. Bridges Pantry in Woodstock, Ct.  It’s an exciting experience, where I join the book club for an evening of tasty comestibles and tea, then get to talk to them and answer questions about my writing – as well as sell some books! For good luck, I wore a beautiful navy and grey two-tone suit that Yang made for me, based on a pattern he created from a vintage outfit.  Of course, I couldn’t talk about my smart-talking gal, Jessica Minton, without wearing a pin that had once belonged to one of the original smart-talking gals, Joan Bennett!

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Bridges is set in beautiful rural Connecticut, just over the border from Massachusetts.  The tea room is in a rustic wooden building.  Every day of the week but Tuesday, you can journey there for lunch, dessert, and/or afternoon tea.  They have a wide selection of black, green, red, and herbal teas.  In fact, they are a major supplier for me!  I highly recommend you visit, as I and my husband or I and my girlfriends frequently do.  The people there are so friendly and fun, you’ll feel as if you are back with chums in no time.  As you can see in the layout for the evening’s tea, there is a homey, lovely dining room.  Further, you can find on the other side of the building all kinds of teas, china, and tea-related items for sale – including Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man, the perfect accompaniment to a nice cuppa!

 

 

I had a wonderful time talking to the regulars in the club about my love of mysteries from the golden age, both on the page and on the screen, and the cinematic inspirations for many of the characters in my novels.  It was also fun to talk about how evocative settings don’t just inspire a writer; they can drive you to use that place creatively.  The folks had stimulating questions about how I found time to work, did I write by the seat-of-my-pants or did I have a fully formed plot at the start,  how long it took me to complete work on a novel, or how I researched locations and events. In answer to that last point, I had fun telling them about going to New York City to test out one of Jessica’s hair-raising escapes, myself.   You’ll have to read Letter from a Dead Man to find out how it works out. Here’s a hint – it involves the lions in front of the New York Public Library.  And speaking of Patience and Fortitude (the lions’ names), it turns out that a brother and sister there that night were descended from the man who ran the business charged with moving them to the library.  Small and intriguing world, isn’t it?
It was fun to renew old acquaintances and make new friends amongst the book club folks that evening.  It was also lovely to work with Hope, who runs the Tea/Book Club, and Amber, who was our waitperson for the evening – constantly and patiently supplying me with Irish Breakfast tea!  I have a picture here of Hope and I together, but I forgot to get one of Amber.  Shame on me!  If you live in the area, check out the Tea/Book Club.  For $15.00 you have a  delicious evening  (homemade soup, tea sandwiches, dessert with homemade jam, and unlimited tea), as well as the chance to meet and talk with interesting authors (like me!).  Or just stop by Mrs. Bridges for lunch or an afternoon snack – and pick up a copy of Bait and Switch or Letter from a Dead Man while you’re there!  Dusty would approve!

 

Cape Cod: Winter Vacation Haven for Ducks!

Saturday gave us a brief break in the frigid January temperatures, so we made haste to the Cape for some bird watching along one of the shore rail trails.  We’d come here about the same time last year, give a take a couple of weeks, and made some splendid sightings, thanks to  the migration habits of ducks. Coming earlier this year proved smart, for we saw even more of some of the beautiful winter vacationing ducks we’d seen last year.

Of course the traditional mallards were there.  Here is a lovely couple we saw serenely paddling about a marsh pond.  We also sighted some more exotic types:  Buffleheads, Common Mergansers, Redbreasted Mergansers, American Black Ducks (and the Mottled subspecies), Wood Ducks, and Swans.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t get close enough for pictures of those unique sorts.  Still, this close up of the male mallard that Yang took captures his (the duck’s) brilliant emerald head feathers.

 

 

 

 

We also got some wonderful pictures of  of the rather unique vacationers.  There were loads of Eider Ducks. Last year we only got  pictures of a pair of Eiders, but this time Yang got several great shots.  First, we saw a few males floating near the shore.  The contrast of their white and black feathers is gorgeous.  Could they be art deco ducks? They certainly didn’t seem terribly camera shy when Yang snapped their pictures.

 

Later, we saw the eiders in a flock of males and females in the water.  The females are dark brown with a beautiful white band just above their beaks.  It looks like the shadow roll that race horses wear.  We had quite a number to see.  We also saw large groups of Common Golden Eyes and Great Scaups.   What I found especially interesting is that the flocks of two or three different ducks would all be grouped together, floating nonchalantly along, no one fighting for food or ascendancy.  I wish people could get along so well.  But who knows what the ducks got up to once my back was turned.   I especially like this picture of the male Eider and the male Common Golden Eye just chillin’ together.

After almost two hours of enjoying the fresh sea air and checking out the ducks, we found that the temperature was dropping.  So, we hopped in the car and proceeded to the Dunbar Tea Room for lunch – and some great tea!  People may love the Cape in the summer, but in the off-season, it can be a bird watcher’s delight!