It Rained Books!

Among other great benefits, the organization Sisters in Crime does a lot of things to help libraries. Here is one that I participated in, from the newsletter of Sisters in Crime National:

That’s my book in the stack in the upper left!


“Here’s a photo from the folks at the Durham Library in New Hampshire of the books arriving after they won our It’s Raining Books giveaway at the American Library Association Conference. Thanks to all the members who participated!”

Why Did We Have To?

I spent most of September on a road trip to visit old friends in my home state and came home through a storm of golden light and falling leaves. A glorious melancholy end to a nostalgic trip. So when I saw this week’s photo prompt on Friday Fictioneers, this is the 100 word story I came up with: (interesting timing, no?)

The wind was cold at the top of the bleachers.  She sat hunched, staring down at the empty playing field.  The long-awaited twenty-year reunion game was over, everyone had said their goodbyes bravely and left, hiding relief.  Fieldlights came on, pushing back at the twilight in their dumb robotic way.

She felt the rumble of his climb through the metal bench.  He stopped in front of her, rubbing his artificial hip, breathing heavily.

“Time to go home?”  he murmured.

She looked up at him and then back at the empty field.  “Jimmy, when did we all get so damn old?”

If you’d like to join the fun, just click the Froggie! At the bottom of the page, add the URL to your own story and then be sure to visit and comment on others. The prompt is new every Friday.

Such a beautiful busy summer

Yes, I know this summer’s been far too hot everywhere. In fact, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, June was Earth’s hottest month ever recorded. But I’ve enjoyed this summer anyway. Funny how events just refuse to portion themselves out nice and even.  You get a long period when you think your life is stalled like an old tired car, and then suddenly you need to hit the ground running.  I think I spent today just catching my breath.

The last weekend in July was Bookstock, which is Woodstock VT’s “Festival of Words”.  Like last year, I signed up to help cover the Sisters in Crime table.  In between selling my own books and explaining the Sisters in Crime mission to curious patrons of the Festival, I spent a pleasurable morning talking books and the mysteries of publishing with Ursula Wong, author of gripping novels about a little known corner of World War II.  If you like stories about strong women dealing with brutal times, her “Amber Wolf” series is one you don’t want to pass up.

Ursula had to head back home around noon, so I spent the afternoon sharing the table with Lisa Lieberman, who enthralled me with her wealth of experience in writing and publishing.  Her series of historical mysteries is based on old movies and often feature blacklisted Hollywood people in dangerous places.

Both these writers leave me in awe. I had quite enough trouble researching Washington D.C. in the mid-1960s for “The Last Party in Eden”, and I was there at the time!

Here’s an interview of Lisa and fellow Sisters in Crime author Frances McNamara, by Kathryn Gandek-Tighe.

Cold beer and nachos!

It was definitely a Sisters in Crime week.  A month ago I invited Connie Hambley, the president of our New England chapter, to join me and several other writers and readers at the Harpoon Brewery for an old-fashioned palaver over a cold brew.  Never having done anything so brash before, I was very nervous.  But when Connie showed up yesterday with her handsome husband Scott, the whole group couldn’t have had more fun!  That’s my daughter-in-law Renee to my left, and Connie is sitting on my right (I’m holding my treasured stuffed lobster from last year’s Crimebake). Kudos to Scott for a great picture! Sometimes the best thing about meeting with old friends is being able to introduce them to new ones, and I think everyone was charmed and excited and inspired by the whole afternoon.  The weather couldn’t have been better, though the hot sun did cause us to move from one outdoor table to another, which probably nonplussed our poor servers, but they rallied magnificently.  Good food and brew and sometimes live music makes Harpoon one of the best places to stop in the area – don’t miss it the next time you’re in the Windsor-Hartland area.

To toot my own horn, also this week I was the subject of an interview by David Alan Binder.  When he asked if I preferred an email interview or to talk on the phone, I replied that there is a reason I’m a writer, not a speaker!  I had a very good time with his thought-provoking questions, and I hope you enjoy reading my answers. 

Now to do a little summer relaxing before a planned road trip in September.  More on that later.

It’s a Grand Hopeful Flag

Another “exactly one hundred words”! Thanks to Roschelle Wisoff-Fields for her “Friday Fictioneers” prompt and to PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll for the picture:

It was a humid Fourth of July.  Brogash’s sweaty hand stuck to the useless employment application.  Land of the free, right.  They’ll take one look at my name and that’s it.  He scribbled a signature and took it to the counter.  At least it was cooler inside than out there under that hopeful flag.  He’d hang around a while, maybe buy something cold with his last buck.

The manager read Brogash’s application.

“You Bulgarian?”

“American,”  Brogash snapped.  Then, more politely,  “My grandfather was a Bulgar.”

“Mine, too.  This looks good.  Come back Monday morning at nine.  We’ll start your orientation.”

Cold City Streets

Okay, I’m having fun with another prompt from Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff, and to ©Ted Strutz for the photo. I’ve also uploaded the story to InLinks. If you want to give it a try, write your own 100-word story and click on the frog on Rochelle’s blog!


The city streets were so cold.  She’d walked forever, dodging people with bitter eyes and hunched shoulders.  The fifteenth marquee didn’t even show the name of an upcoming play.  She opened the door anyway and crossed the thin scarlett carpeting to examine the outdated posters.  Faint music floated from somewhere.

“Lookin’ for somebody?”

She jumped.  “Oh!  No.  Not really.”

The woman looked at her muddy shoes and pinched cold face.  “You an actor?”

“Couple seasons.  Back home.”

“That’s more’n some of us.  C’mon, kid.  You can watch us rehearse.  We got coffee.”

Maybe the city wasn’t so cold after all.

A warm old kettle

Here’s another 100-word story from a picture prompt:

“Where’s the Nescafe, Pop?”

“Cabinet over the stove.  Told her it would dry out up there, but she never listened.”

“Well, it’s dried coffee anyway—”

“It changed the taste!”

I spooned Nescafe and poured hot water from the kettle.  “Where’d you get these mugs, Pop?  She never told me.”

“Never asked, did ya?  Some tourist shop after the wedding.  Stupid idea.  I had to get to work, didn’t I?  I swore I’d take her on a real honeymoon someday.  I swore it to her.”

Tears fell from his old eyes as his hands crushed a flower from the funeral.

So I’m a Peeping Tom

I’ve always loved being a peeping tom, and it’s even better in a small town.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not some kind of sleaze.  I just mean, if I’m not the one doing the driving on the way home, I will gaze out at the night-lit windows as we pass and make note of what I can see inside.

It’s amazing how often I don’t see people in the lit rooms.  Where do they go?  Back to the kitchen?  To bed and left the living room light on?  Are they settling down after a long day or getting dressed to go out and release some tension?

That’s one thing about New England – there are still plenty of houses that sit barely back from the road — those roads that used to be quiet lanes that rarely saw a vehicle during the day, never mind at night.  Now ‘traffic’ (hardly worthy of the word) goes on all the time, even late into the night.  Yet often they leave their draperies open to the street view.  And I appreciate it.

I study the different tastes in wall covering, furnishings, lighting fixtures.  I try to guess how many people live there.  And I wonder why they are still up so late, or alternatively have already gone up to bed when the sun’s barely behind the hills.  I read books that still mention the blue-tinted light of TVs, but that hardly applies now that black-and-white is retro.  With more and more realistic color, it’s the movement, the flicker that I see now.  And it gets easier to see what they’re watching with the great screens that are hung up on a wall because they’d be too cumbersome as a piece of furniture. It’s wall art, ever changing and intriguing.

Sometimes I see heads above the backs of sofas and easy chairs. I wonder what they’re talking about, or what they would talk about without TV.  That’s not a criticism, there was radio before that.  The Lone Ranger.  Dragnet.  The Boston Pops.  So to sit quietly and just listen isn’t really new.

There are anomalies that fascinate me, that stay with me.  The other day I took a walk along a different small-town street, looking in the cafe windows.  At least, I think it was a cafe, although I could find no sign hanging out.  It may have been someone’s home made over from a long-ago cottage industry.  It was a gloomy brick building with no draperies, very little furniture and nothing to be seen on the far wall to break up the pale expanse.  In one window a woman sat angled so that she seemed engrossed in something to her right along the intervening section of wall.  As I walked on past the next window, I saw that another woman sat in the left corner, looking back in the direction of the first woman.  It certainly looked like they could be having a conversation, but the separation of the two windows had to be ten feet.  Why sit so far apart?  Was there a table between them pressed against the inside of the wall?  It had to be a long table.  Or was it two separate tiny tables, with each woman’s companion crammed in between them?  I hovered, waiting to see if anyone joined them or if a waiter came up, but eventually I felt I’d better move on before I got arrested for standing there staring at them.

I suppose my favorite peeping is when we coast along our own main street, pretty much the only street of what you might call ‘town’. It runs about half a mile west before it rolls on out past the volunteer fire department and then the farmlands. The ‘business district’ consists of a tiny post office, cafe, and a small grocery which all share the same long building.  The library’s around the corner, a little bank branch is right on the corner, and “Mike’s”, a four-pump gas station with portable potties outside and a deli and wine selection indoors, is a very popular stop for skiers and folks hauling boats and campers out to the lakes.  The hair salon and barber shop are tucked in between old and stubborn clapboard homes, and it’s all overlooked by two historic mansions up on the hills – for sale, at very modern prices. There are no traffic lights, just three or four stop signs in unexpected spots that generate a lot of consternation in people if it’s their first time through.

We skirt the hundred-year-old imposing brick town hall and roll on past the three-room cottage labeled “Historical Society – call for appointment” (if you look close, they are open Mondays at certain hours which aren’t exactly peak tourist times).  The recreation center is on the other side of the street, with a park, playground and ball field stretching behind it all the way back to the library.  Not much for peeping there. 

After that comes the pretty homes in wide lots with their porches full of rockers and potted plants.  The garages are always unattached and out back, with some of them sitting right up close to the ‘crick’ that runs through the trees. A few houses might be a hundred years old, others maybe just fifty or so.  But they all have the tall, wide front windows of a friendlier, less fearful time, and I can glance in as we cruise by.  Living there, you could wave from your living room window to people across the street, or stroll out to have your coffee on the porch and speak with passersby. 

At night the lit-up homes always look as open, warm and inviting as I remember my grandmother’s house.  So I happily peep and try to imagine the stories going on behind the windows.