May Book News

 

Cookie CrumblesLESLIE BUDEWITZ: I’m just back from Malice Domestic, the convention celebrating the traditional mystery, held every year just outside Washington, D.C. It’s a long weekend of fun, friends, and books — the Guest of Honor was Louise Penny, the great Canadian writer, and Nancy Pickard, the first elected president of Sisters in Crime, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Any fans of Vera — the books by Ann Cleeves or the BBC series? Actress Brenda Blethyn, who plays the smart, crusty homicide detective, was also a special guest.

And it was a thrill to see my June release, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, in readers’ hands, thanks to my publisher, Midnight Ink, who made early copies available in the dealers’ room. Conference goers also received complimentary copies of the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, which includes my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, set in Montana Territory in 1885 and featuring one of Montana’s most fascinating historical figures. Early response to both book and story was terrific.

And now, I’m getting ready for my upcoming book launch. Join me Saturday, June 9, from 4-6, for a book launch party at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center, in the village. The staff are calling it “Christmas in June,” and there will be cookies!

Happy reading!

Natural Observers: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Mary Hunter Austin, and Nan Shepherd

By Karen Wills

Nature writing reaches my heart. It does that through poetic, detailed description of an outdoor setting. In the last months I’ve read three wonderful books by women nature writers. Let’s consider them from earliest to most recent.

Susan Fenimore Cooper, James Fenimore Cooper’s daughter, founded an orphanage in Cooperstown, New York, a town established by her grandfather. She made a success of the enterprise in every way. In 1887 she also wrote Rural Hours, nature writing that covered a year in Cooperstown season by season. Much of it appeared as journal entries recorded after walks that ranged over the countryside. Both writer and artist, she also made watercolors of birds, flowers, animals, and the lake near the town that drew her to its shores over and over. Her writing was accurate and poetic.  “Spring has a delicate pencil; no single tree, shrub, plant, or weed, is left untouched by her, but Autumn delights rather in the breadth and grandeur of her labors, she is careless of details. Spring works lovingly-Autumn, proudly, magnificently.”

Already sorry for the damage caused by the post Civil War increase in America’s population, she also conveyed a warning familiar to modern conservationists. “The rapid consumption of the large pine timber among us should be enough to teach a lesson of prudence and economy on the subject.”

Mary Hunter Austin wrote a collection of nature essays, The Land of Little Rain, in 1903. mary austinShe focused on the Mojave Desert including Death Valley. She considered Nature as an entity with a beneficial connection to Native peoples and recent arrivals alike. She mixed small matters of opinion in with the big themes.  “This is the gilia the children call ‘evening snow’ and it is no use trying to improve on children’s names for wildflowers.” She is poetic. “The origin of mountain streams is like the origin of tears, patent to the understanding but mysterious to the sense.”

Finally, there’s Nan Shepherd who wrote her best-known work, The Living Mountain, with a mountaineer’s authenticity. Her setting is the Cairngorm Mountains of Northern Scotland. Writing in 1944, she shared her belief in nature’s grand unity. “The disintegrating rock, the nurturing rain, the quickening sun, the seed, the root, the bird—all are one.”

Each of these writers had a poetic respect and thorough knowledge of her most favored area of the natural world. We are the richer that each shared her love of nature with us.

https://karenwills.com

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April Book News

 

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Oh, April! Such a tease of a month in Northwest Montana. Days can be wintry or warm, snowy or sunny, often all within a few minutes!

April is also home to National Library Week, April 8-15. The Montana Library Association is hosting its annual meeting in Bozeman, April 11-14, and I’m delighted to be the Author Brunch Speaker on Saturday, April 14. I’ll be talking about the cozy mystery — the light-hearted side of the genre — what it is, a few trends, and some author recommendations.

IMary Fields‘m also pleased to say that my historical short story, All God’s Sparrows, will appear in the May-June issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, available mid April, by subscription and in bookstores and newstands. Set in 1885 in Montana Territory, the story features Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, who was born in slavery in Tennessee in 1832 and later worked for the Ursuline Sisters at St. Peter’s Mission near Cascade. On a trip to the mill to pick up lumber for the girls’ school, Mary encounters a young family in trouble, and uses all her wits—as well as the skills of young Sister Louisine—to save a child and mete out justice, or as much justice as can be had in this fallible world. Look for another Mary Fields short mystery next year.

Happy reading!

March Book News

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Cookie CrumblesWhat a winter! Cold and snowy, calm and lovely. We are all delighted to see the days grow longer and the light stronger. And I’m thrilled to share some Very Big News! My Seattle Spice Shop series will return in early 2019 with CHAI ANOTHER DAY, from the wonderfully excellent Seventh Street Books , named for the street Edgar Poe lived on. Meanwhile, the fifth Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, will be out in June, in paperback, e-book, and audio.

My first mystery publication ever was a short story, and I’ve been rediscovering my love for the short form recently. “With My Eyes” appeared in the February issue of Suspense Magazine, one of the premier short story publications. Subscription only, but it’s such a great magazine that I’m sure you’ll love it. My story is set in Seattle and Athens, and was inspired ages ago by our honeymoon trip to Greece. The Greek gods and goddesses were often tricksters, and if one still roamed the earth, she might be called Melina…

Stay warm, and curl up with a good book!

Last Lines that Linger

By Karen Wills

 

This morning I read another list of memorable opening lines in literature. For one example, Melville’s first words in Moby Dick made the list with the famous, “Call me Ishmael.”

But shouldn’t there also be a list of novelists’ great last sentences? And if such a list could be compiled, what would make the lines memorable? I immediately think of Norman MacLean’s brief conclusion in A River Runs through It, “I am haunted by waters.”  The words are simple, elegant, and strongly connotative. They resonate as good poetry does, and they suit and conclude the story of a brother lost.

Another fine last sentence ends March by Geraldine Brooks. Brooks won a Pulitzer for her story of what happens to the father of Little Women’s Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, and the husband of their mother, Marmee, when he volunteers to serve as a Union Army chaplain in the Civil War. By the novel’s end, he’s been seared, scarred, and sickened by the carnage of war and the loss of loved ones. On his first night home, grief for those he’s lost, mostly freed blacks, nearly overwhelms him. But at twilight his wife enters the room where he sits reunited with his daughters. Marmee does the peaceful domestic act of lighting a lamp. Brooks ends her novel with the words, “For an instant, everything was bathed in radiance.” Whatever the future may hold, with this elemental imagery there is the arrival of healing and redemption. And there is the strongly connotative “radiance.”

Finally, let’s look at the late Susan Vreeland’s, The Forest Lover. It’s a novel based on the life of the artist, Emily Carr, an intensely creative painter who dared to venture into the turn of the century Canadian wilderness to find her subjects. She showed absolute courage in her life and originality in her stunning art. The last line reads, “She would drink the forest liquids and drench herself in possibility.” Don’t Vreeland’s words epitomize a brave woman in love with creativity? The image has mystery. The word “drench” suggests energy or passion. The sentence holds such promise. 

These are my favorite lingering lines. What are yours?