September 25, 2016

A Little Bit About Southern Rhode Island with Claremary Sweeney Who Actually Knows!

Rhode Island is a parochial little state because, in many ways it is its own parish. I grew up in Pawtucket, one of the larger cities which abuts Providence, the state capital.  When we were young and would meet someone new, one of the first questions we’d ask was, “What parish are you from?” You see,  each neighborhood, each village, each town in our small state has its own flavor. Every one of the five counties with its 31 townships, has a unique personality and is, in a sense, its own little parish.

More often than not, our conversations have a way of turning to the people and places we all have in common and it would seem we are interconnected not just by 6 degrees of separation, but usually by only 1 or 2 degrees. We all know somebody who knows somebody who’s related to somebody who knows somebody we know. That’s just the way it is in Rhode Island.

In 2015, I published my first book, A Berkshire Tale.  I’d set the ten stories about a little kitten named ZuZu in the picturesque Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. My husband and I visit there often and we’ve learned to love the area.

ZuZu’s adventures take her to Tanglewood to hear Mozart played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She learns about the history of the Hancock Shaker Village and the many innovative ideas the Shaker Sect infused into the American Society. At the Red Lion Inn, she meets a black and white tuxedo cat named Simon, the Lobby Ambassador. He introduces her to Santa so she can make a very special Christmas Wish during the Annual Norman Rockwell Weekend held on Main Street in Stockbridge. And at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, ZuZu and her friend Nick discover they can help to save Monarch Butterflies by planting a milkweed garden of their own.

I cherish those stories and enjoy book signings both in the Berkshires and in Rhode Island. But around here, the question invariably is posed, “Well, you wrote a book about the Berkshires, do you have any books about Rhode Island?” 

I soon realized I had to do something to remedy the fact I had authored no books about our own beloved state.

And so, I created a little book in verse about a carnivorous plant at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Gardens.  Adonis, the baby pitcher plant, aweakens one morning and at the coaxing of a fly, which has fallen into his digestive juices, the little plant decides he wants to be a vegetarian – much to his mother’s distress.

I entitled it  Carnivore Conundrum.

  After that, I decided to get serious and write an adult murder mystery in my own neighborhood of South Kingstown.

 I’d attended the University of Rhode Island back in the late 60’s and came to truly appreciate the allure of the southermost part of our state. I eventually bought a home here and settled in. The brick walks lining the Village of Kingston lead into the URI campus. Kingston was once called Little Rest. General George Washington stopped here on his way to Newport in 1781 to rest for the night in the home of Elisha Reynolds in what is now the Tavern Hall Club which is just across the street from Upper College Road.

My mystery, Last Train to Kingston, revolves around the murder of a woman, Dorathea Lorimar. On a dark November night, under a black sky filled with meteor showers, she arrives at Kingston Station and is soon making her last wish on one of those falling stars. Who is she? What brought her to South County on that fateful night? And of course, who had reason to kill her? All questions needing answers that Detective Kara Langley of the South Kingstown Police must search out.
In addition to Thea’s story, there are many familiar settings and landmarks people will recognize if they’ve spent any time in Southern Rhode Island. I’ve sprinkled photos of them throughout the book, because we all know even grown-ups love picture books.

The old Washington County Court House, now the Courthouse Center for the Arts, where concerts, plays, and events are scheduled throughout the year.

The Kingston Free Library which served as the first County Courthouse from 1776-1891 and where the General Assembly met from 1776-1791.

In 1820, Fayerweather House was the home of the village blacksmith, George Fayerweather, descendent of a freed slave. It has been restored and is now a center where local crafters give workshops and sell their arts and crafts.

The Kingston Congregational Church was built in 1820 but dates back to the 1600’s when missionaries began to preach at Tower Hill.

And, of course, The Kingstown Railroad Station, constructed in 1875 by the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad. Scene of the crime!

There’s so much history in this part of the state. I was recently at the South County Museum in Narragansett. It was founded in 1933 and in 1984, it was moved to the beautiful Canonchet Farm property in Narragansett. This living history museum contains artifacts dating from the 17th Century to modern times. Docents are on site to help guide visitors throught the many interesting stories surrounding our past here in the Ocean State. And just a short distance down the road is the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Beach where you can sit on the sea wall and watch the waves roll in.

Stop by when you’re in the area and if I’m there, we can chat. I’ll bet I know somebody who knows somebody you know. I’m a Rhode Islander born and bred!

Claremary Sweeney is an author living in South Kingstown with her husband Charley and their two cats, Roxie and ZuZu. She’s published two childrens’s books,  A Berkshire Tale and The Pacas Are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias. She optimistically expects A Carnivore Conundrum and Last Train to Kingston to be published in the very near future. You can find her on her blog Around ZuZu’s Barn, Conversations With Kindred Spirits   or email her at  to purchase signed copies of her books

As Thanks for Stopping Over, Claremary Sweeney offers a prize of cards of scenes of Rhode Island included in this post. Comment here for your chance to win.  Leave your contact info and thanks for enjoying the sights of Rhode Island.

September 18, 2016

Author, Neil Plakcy Brings the Love of Bucks County, PA

From the time I was a kid, I knew that Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up, was a special place when it came to literature. Literary lights Pearl S. Buck and James Michener lived near Doylestown, the county seat. Barley Sheaf Farm, aka Cherchez la Farme, was the home of Mr. and Mrs. George S. Kaufman, and Moss Hart and his wife Kitty Carlisle (of What’s My Line) also lived in New Hope, where my parents and I went to the flea market on weekends and to browse through antique shops.

It was a great place to grow up. I could ride my bike a few blocks from our suburban home to find deep woods and fallow fields. The late bus I took home after school wound its way along country roads lined with farms. And yet we were only forty-five minutes from Philadelphia, reachable by the Reading Railroad, which had a station within walking distance of our house.

When I began writing the golden retriever mysteries, I wanted to capture that small-town sense, even though the area around Yardley, my home town, has changed. Office parks and housing developments have replaced many of the farms, and on a recent trip home I couldn’t even recognize some of those old roads.

It’s a double-edged sword for my human hero, Steve Levitan, who grew up in the town of Stewart’s Crossing (based on Yardley) and has now returned. Much of the area is familiar, but sometimes that familiarity only serves to remind him of what he’s lost along the way.

One thing he has gained, however, is his crime-sniffing golden retriever Rochester. He and Steve have gone nose to ground in seven mysteries so far, sniffing out clues and digging up evidence to bring dastardly perpetrators to heel.

I’ve been able to take advantage of a number of local landmarks, like the Delaware Canal, which runs through town. Steve and Rochester go walking there, and in the spring the canal banks are bright with daisies, black-eyed-Susans and the tiny wild pansies we call Johnny-jump-ups. The county’s Quaker heritage shows up—there’s a meeting house in town like the one in Yardley where I used to go for harvest festivals, where many of my teachers worshipped. Like Yardley, Main Street in Stewart’s Crossing has just one traffic light, and the Colonial Tavern, at the corner of Main and Afton, has been reconfigured a bit as The Drunken Hessian, where Steve hangs out with his best friend, police detective Rick Stemper.
If you are in Philadelphia for any reason, a trip up through Bucks County is lovely any time of year. And if you can’t get there in person, I hope you’ll check out the landscape in my golden retriever mysteries.

I love dogs -- and dog mysteries. So it seemed natural to me to write a dog mystery myself, which is how I first began writing about Rochester and Steve. 
I'm offering two lucky winners each a copy of In Dog We Trust.  Comment here and leave your contact information to win.  If you've already started this series, I'll offer a later novel in the set! 

Character-driven mystery, romance and mainstream novels
(Info provided by Author)

September 11, 2016

Oregon Art Scene: T.L. Cooper


Oregon is well known for its outdoor life. Last year I focused on some of Oregon’s hiking trails, so this year I decided to turn my attention to a few of artistic offerings of Oregon. Oregon is filled with people who love art in its myriad forms whether they are participating in its production or enjoying someone else’s endeavors or both, like me.

The Oregon theatre community chooses plays and musicals that span a wide variety of topics, points of view, and genres. From professional theatres like Portland Center Stage in Portland and Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland to smaller theatres like Brushcreek Playhouse in Silverton, Albany Civic Theatre in Albany, and Majestic Theatre in Corvallis, there are opportunities for both professional and amateur actors and actresses in Oregon. In just the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of attending Sex with Strangers, Ain’t Misbehavin’, A Streetcar Named Desire, Dog Sees God, Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, and Les Miserables among others.

Several ballet companies, like the Eugene Ballet, offer interesting and sometimes surprising shows like a ballet based on The Great Gatsby or one based on Dark Side of the Moon album by Pink Floyd. Both were breathtaking performances.
The Portland Art Museum is a wonderful place to fuel one’s inspiration. They often offer special collections in addition to their collection. Every visit I’ve made to the Portland Art Museum has sparked my creativity.

The Oregon coast offers several glass blowing shops where one can buy beautiful pieces by the glass blowers as well as watch pieces being made. Some, like Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio, offer a glass blowing experience/class where one, along with the assistance of a professional, makes their very own piece of blown glass. I’ve participated in this even twice, making a paperweight in 2009 and a bowl in 2014. I cherish my pieces and highly recommend trying this experience!

There are several festivals throughout the state highlighting the beauty, diversity, and vast array of talent to be found in Oregon’s diverse landscape. I’ve sold books at the Wilsonville Festival of the Arts in Wilsonville, a family friendly event where the main attraction is work by local artists as well as The Florence Festival of Books in Florence. I loved watching the kites take flight at the Summer Kite Festival in Lincoln City a few years ago. The array of tulips with Mt. Hood in the background at Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn is
spectacular and, to my mind, a work of art. 

Whether one wishes to hike a mountain, enjoy other people’s artistic endeavors, or try one’s hand at artistic expression, or all three, even in the same day, Oregon welcomes one and all.

Leave a comment to be randomly selected to receive a signed copy of my book of poetry, Vulnerability in Silhouette: Poems.

T. L. Cooper is an author and poet whose work aims to empower and inspire through an exploration of the human condition. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared online, in books, and in magazines. Her published books include a collection of short stories, Soaring Betrayal, her Silhouette Poetry Series, and a no vel, All She Ever Wanted. She grew up on a farm in Tollesboro, Kentucky. When not writing, she enjoys yoga, golf, hiking, and traveling. She currently lives in Albany, Oregon with her husband and three cats.

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