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The Ghost of New Year’s Eve Past

If there’s a Ghost of Christmas Past, there should be one for New Year’s Eve Past. In fact, there is such a ghost. I know because I had a visit from her recently.

She arrived in the dwindling light of New Year’s Eve Day. At first, I didn’t realize she was a ghost. For all I knew the shadowy figure holding a clip board who rang the door at my house was someone who wanted me to sign a petition or make a donation. Even when she identified herself as the Ghost of New Year’s Eve Past, I was skeptical. I mean, what could this mere kid possibly know about the past?

“But you’re too young to—” I began.

“Yes, I’m a Millennial, and a very “now” type of person. But I thought it would be fun to take a little dip into the past with this ghost gig. May I come in?”

Despite my misgivings, I ushered her into my home and we settled on the living room couch. “I’ve brought DVDs of some of your past New Year’s Eves, so let’s watch a few,” she said.

“Well, all right,” I said, though I wasn’t sure how much fun this would be. She slipped a DVD into the slot and the big flat screen of my TV displayed a scene in the kitchen of my childhood home. My older sister and I, and a bunch of other girls are tugging energetically on a thick, white, sticky substance, stretching it longer and longer.

“What that?” the ghost asked, frowning.

“Taffy. It’s candy and we’re pulling it to get the right consistency.”

Her frown deepened. “On New Year’s Eve?”

“We always did that on New Year’s Eve when we didn’t have dates.”

“Weird,” she muttered. “Let’s try another DVD.” The scene shifted to the kitchen of my current house. I’m standing by the stove ladling cooked blueberries and their liquid into Ball jars, and burning my hands in the process.

“I get it that you didn’t have a date for this New Year’s Eve either,” the ghost said, “but why the switch from taffy to jam?”

“Simple. I had a bumper crop of blueberries that year, and to pull taffy you need a crowd.”

She shook her head in disbelief, and I could tell she thought I was crazy. “Moving on,” she said, “here’s a New Year’s Eve, where you’re actually with a guy.” I’m in the car with my boyfriend speeding to the Cape in the midst of a blizzard, in the hopes of catching the last ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. I look terrified while he looks grimly determined.
“Bet you wished you were back at home pulling taffy or whatever,” the ghost said. “Such risky behavior isn’t like you. I saw in your file that you vowed never to be in the road on New Year’s Eve.”

“True, but with that man . . . well, I decided I could afford to break a few rules.”

She nodded approvingly. “He is kind of cute. But looks like it didn’t last. Here you are a couple of years later home alone on New Year’s Eve.” The screen shows me sitting on the couch, watching TV by myself.

“It’s true I spent that night alone. I had a cold and didn’t want to give it to anyone. But it wasn’t New Year’s Eve.”

“Huh? The DVD is labeled December 31.”

“That year I decided that New Year’s Eve had actually happened a couple of nights earlier.”

“How come?”

“Because I had such a good time on the earlier night. My boyfriend, whom I’m still with, by the way, and I went to see a beautiful display of holiday lights on the grounds of a historic home. Then we had dinner at a cozy little restaurant where the food was delicious and the company so convivial that we felt like we’d known them all our lives.”

“That does sound like fun,” the ghost said with a certain wistfulness. “I know it’s not part of my territory, but what have you got planned for tonight?”

“Stick around and you’ll see. And if the evening doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re free to find another night that does.”

Bright Spots Amid The Blur of 2021

Parts of 2021, the second year of the pandemic, remain a blur in my mind, but the year, nevertheless, had its bright spots. In January, I and two other mystery author colleagues, Susan Oleksiw and Ang Pompano, launched a new small press, Crime Spell Books, to continue publishing the Best New England Crime Stories anthologies after the previous publisher decided to focus solely on novels. Although I’d done this before with a different team of co-publishers/editors, it was still daunting to start from scratch with a new team. Yet, as things began to come together at an early Zoom meeting, my worries gave way to excitement. Susan gave us the name Crime Spell Books, Ang created our website before our eyes, I suggested the name, Bloodroot, for our first anthology, and an image of the plant with it delicate white flower and poisonous bright orange root appeared on the screen. Reading and selecting the stories was exciting also, and we were all pleased with the final result. Best New England Crime Stories: Bloodroot debuted at the New England Crime Bake Conference in November, which was held in-person instead of virtually as in 2020. For more information about Crime Spell Books and our next anthology, visit

As for my own writing, I consider myself fortunate that, unlike some writers I know, my muse didn’t desert me during the pandemic. I continued to work on Wolf Bog, the third book in my Berkshire Hilltown Mystery series, turned in the final manuscript to my publisher, Encircle, in October, and the book is scheduled for release in July of 2022. Now, I’m working on the fourth book, tentatively titled Wildcat Academy. I might not have gotten this far without the support of my writer’s critique group, and also Encircle, whose Thursday evening Happy Hours on Zoom have become a highlight of my week.

Writing has kept me going through difficult times, but so has walking. My days often began with a call from my partner: “Ready to hit the bricks?” And hit them we did in all kinds of weather and on terrain ranging from paved paths around a large park in my Cambridge neighborhood to trails through the woods in the Berkshires. I also had one glorious day of cross-country skiing in the Berkshires before the snow turned to ice and the going became treacherous.

Visits with friends and family members have sustained me, too, especially after many of us got vaccinated and then boosted, and could spend more time together safely indoors as well as out. Looking ahead to 2022, I know there will be challenges, but hope I’ll be able to meet them through writing, walking, and more than a little help from family and friends.

Two New Books: One “Old” and One Brand New

I’m excited to announce that I have two new books coming out this year. One is actually a new edition of my 2001 mystery novel, Murder at Plimoth Plantation, which released for the first time in trade paperback on February 28, 2020 in time for the Plymouth 400 Celebration, which has been postponed until a later date due to the pandemic. I enjoyed revisiting my very first mystery, and becoming reacquainted with my heroine, Miranda Lewis, whom I found to be just as fun and feisty as before.

The other book, which is brand new, is Shuntoll Road, the sequel to Rattlesnake Hill and the second book in my Berkshire Hilltown Mystery Series, which releases on August 7, 2020. I was happy to continue Kathryn Stinson’s story. It includes her efforts to rebuild her romance with Earl Barker, while battling a New York real estate developer who wants to turn the property she’s been renting and that she’s gown to love into an upscale development. At the same time, she also manages to uncover a secret that has haunted new friend and local, Gwen Waite, for twenty years. All this action takes place against the backdrop of June in the Berkshires, which happens to be one of my favorite months in the area, and I like to think this love comes through in the vivid descriptions.

Because of the pandemic, the live events I had planned have all been cancelled, except for one at the Pembroke (MA) Public Library, which has been converted to a virtual event. I have also done several virtual readings from the book: at Teatime, hosted by mystery author, Sarah Smith, at an Author Showcase Readings, hosted by my publisher, Encircle, at Noir at the Bar, New England, hosted by Edwin Hill and Daniel Ford, and will be doing podcasts on A Writer’s Bone, hosted by Daniel Ford and The Writer’s Voice, hosted by Linda McHenry. I will post links to the various readings as I get them.

Also due to the pandemic, I’ve had to cancel a planned trip to Nova Scotia, but I have been able to make weekend visits to the Berkshires, which is the inspiration for my Berkshire Hilltown series. I am thrilled to be working on the third book in the series, Wolf Bog.

Stay safe and well, friends and readers!

2018 in Review

As this year draws to a close and we prepare to ring in the New Year, it seems fitting to recall some of my professional highlights of 2018. A big one was the February release of Rattlesnake Hill, the first book in my new series of Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries, which garnered a starred review in Library Journal. I celebrated with a well-attended launch party at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, and did a lot of guest blogging. Blog topics included: timber rattlesnakes in New England (yes, they’re here, though not in the numbers they once were); the white stag (a legendary creature that plays an important role in the book, and actually does exist in nature); and the time the main character from my Living History Mystery series put her foot down and refused to do what I wanted her to, which made me realize she didn’t belong in Rattlesnake Hill, and led to the creation of an entirely new character as the heroine.

The spring brought the publication of the Malice Domestic 13 anthology, Mystery Most Geographical with my story, “Death in a Strange and Beautiful Place,” in which grief and the need to see where her husband died bring a widow to Iceland, where she makes a heart-stopping discovery. The publication led me to attend Malice Domestic for the first time in a number of years. I took part in a mammoth book signing for the anthology, and also served on a panel.

The summer found me giving talks at various bookstores and libraries in the Berkshires, These included: The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, where I spoke before a Standing Room Only crowd. (Owner Matt Tannenbaum has a loyal and well-deserved following!), and the New Marlborough Public Library, which is the library for the town where I have a house. The latter was especially fun, as it involved both a talk at the library and a hike to the ruins of the Carroll Mill in Mill River, which is the setting for two important scenes in the novel, including the climax.

After a fascinating four-weeks of travel in Scandinavia from mid-August to mid-September, I returned to do more book events, but also to hunker down and work on the sequel to Rattlesnake Hill, titled Shuntoll Road. I’m happy to say that I finished the first draft on Saturday, December 15 at 2 PM. While I still have a lot of revising ahead of me, I hope to have the final draft completed in the 2019, so stay tuned!

2017 Update

2017 got off to a good start for me. In January, I responded to a call for short stories for an anthology celebrating the total solar eclipse that would take place across the continental United States on August 21. How could I resist when the eclipse coincided with my birthday? I confess that until then I knew nothing about it, but fortunately I found a lot of good information online. At first, I thought I would focus on just one character’s story, but then, in a departure for me, I decided to follow the lives of four characters living in different places on the so-called “path of totality”: a single mom who, together with her mom, runs an Airbnb in Madras, Oregon; a middle-aged man taking part in the town’s annual Little Green Men Festival, commemorating the alleged arrival of extraterrestrials in Hopkinsville, Kentucky; a down-in-his-luck musician in Nashville, Kentucky; and a fiercely independent, elderly African American woman in Columbia, South Carolina. The story visits these characters the day before the eclipse when they’re each confronted with a problem, then again on the day of the eclipse when the problem is resolved. “Chasing the Moon” was published in Day of the Dark, Stories of Eclipse, edited by Kaye George, and released on July 21, 2017, a month before the eclipse.

In August, another story of mine appeared in print with the release of Noir at the Salad Bar, Culinary Tales with a Bite. The idea for this story, which is called “My Life in Killer Recipes,” came to me after I realized that over the years I’ve used different cookbooks and cooked in different styles, according to the culinary fad of the moment. As a child, I cut my culinary chops on Betty Crocker’s Junior Cook Book, graduated to Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and so on. The only difference between me and the character in the story, is that she adds lethal ingredients to her dishes, making them literally “killer” recipes.

Most exciting of all, I received word this summer that a new small press, Encircle Publishing, wanted to publish Rattlesnake Hill, a novel that’s very close to my heart, and that I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. Having been highly recommended for publication by an editor at Five Star, the publisher of two of my previous novels, the book was awaiting a contract when Five Star ended its mystery line. I’m delighted that my orphaned novel has finally found a home, and am looking forward to its release in February, 2018.