Inspiration from the waters

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

The view from my author residency at Sunny Point on Keuka Lake in 2013.

Every summer of my life I have visited Keuka Lake, a Y-shaped lake in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. On its vineyard ridged hills, the area’s world-renowned wine industry took root, first being heralded as a center for sparkling wine.

Keuka is a supporting cast member in four of my seven published novels, with four more to be published as part of the Caviston Sisters Mystery Series. Why is it so important to me?

First of all, it’s the crystal lake water. Spring-fed, the lake follows a glacier-carved path through beds of shale. Its waves smooth stones into prized skipping tools. You could watch its surface the entirety of daylight and never be bored by the constantly shifting colors and patterns. Glasslike in the morning, roughed up by breezes and boats during the day, then gently calming as the world slumbers — it’s mesmerizing. Even storms are magnificent on the lake. Curtains of driven rain billow across the lake from the south, churning muddy swells that lash through spaces between rickety wooden boards on the dock. When the wind shifts from the north, the lake turns chilly blue as it froths up whitecaps.

Keuka has always been a place of conversations. In my early childhood, it was a place for listening to my great aunts and uncles recall their childhood stories. It was where my siblings and cousins sat around bonfires on its shore listening to my parents and aunt and uncle sing in harmony. It was a place of happy memories as well as retelling tales of catastrophic floods and tragic drownings.

We’d stay there in August with my aunt. In the mornings, “guns” of hot gases shot off repeatedly throughout the vineyards in an effort to keep birds off the ripening grapes. Most of the day would be spent swimming or wandering up a creek to find salamanders and frogs. It was an ideal location for a child’s imagination to bloom.

As adults, we have enjoyed watching the wine industry grow from major operations to smaller, “indy” wineries. We’ve seen the trends shift from savoring native grapes to trying to earn worldwide respect for wines made with vinifera grapes, and now a shift back to appreciating what grapes always did well here.

final-logo-fulkersoneventOf course I am not alone in being inspired to write by the Finger Lakes. On October 21, I will join four other women writers to celebrate Finger Lakes Litspiration at Fulkerson Winery on Seneca Lake. Kristan Higgins, Laurie Gifford Adams, Roz Murphy, and Katie O’Boyle and I will discuss how these lakes inspire us, we’ll read samples of our work and then meet with readers to sign books and answer question.

For complete information, visit Fulkerson Winery’s Facebook page or its website. The event will benefit the Humane Society of Yates County – Shelter of Hope.

mondaycoffee

The Kindle version of The Curse of the Strawberry Moon is currently on sale for 99 cents.

As part of this Kindle Countdown, the price will gradually rise this week back to the list price of $4.99.

What can you get for less than a buck? According to reviews of this mystery…

thecurseofthestrawberrymoon_cover_150x228“It was truly ‘you cannot put this down until you finish it’ kind of book. I absolutely LOVED it. Cannot wait for the next one.”

“Loved the characters and the setting of the story so much that we took a drive to beautiful Keuka Lake to see it’s beauty for ourselves. Kept me guessing to the very end.”

“This easy-going, well-written novel is a discovery in the way that finding a great local restaurant, seeing a brilliant production by a regional theater company, or hearing an outstanding concert by local musicians are discoveries. I am looking forward to reading the next Caviston sisters mystery.”

Countdown deals, giveaway winners

reviews_tcotsmcoverIt’s almost time to start the Kindle Countdown!

Beginning Saturday, Sept. 17 at 6 a.m. EST, the Kindle version of my new mystery The Curse of the Strawberry Moon will be marked down drastically.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
The Kindle version of the book has a list price of $4.99.
On Sept. 17, the price plummets to 99 cents and then gradually rises back to the list price at the end of the week.

Price increases go from 99 cents to $1.99, to $2.99, to $3.99, and then back to $4.99 on Sept. 24.

How long will it stay at the lowest price? It’s a risk waiting buyers must figure out. Remember, the clock will be ticking. The longer you wait, the less you save.

DID YOU KNOW: With the free downloadable Kindle app, you can read the book not only on Kindle but iPhone, Blackberry, Android as well as Windows and Mac tablets/desktops. The app is available at Amazon.com.

BUY YOUR COUNTDOWN COPY HERE.

Congrats to the GIVEAWAY WINNERS

Three people are the lucky winners of digital and paperback copies of The Curse of the Strawberry Moon. Congrats to Debra K. who won a Kindle copy through my Amazon giveaway, and Arlene D. and Angel L. who won signed paperbacks through the Goodreads giveaway. Stay tuned for more prizes!

Win a copy of my new mystery

There are two concurrent giveaways of The Curse of the Strawberry Moon.

GOODREADS: Enter HERE for a chance to win one of two signed, first-edition copies of the paperback. Deadline: Sept. 14, 2016.

AMAZON: Enter HERE for a chance to win one of three digital copies (for Kindle & iPad/iPhone etc.). Deadline: Sept. 9, 2016.

These contests are open to U.S. readers.

Five star first response

It’s funny being a writer. You work for months, sometimes years on a manuscript, and then within a few days, the first readers will read your novel and have an opinion.thecurseofthestrawberrymoon_cover_150x228

How wonderful a moment it is when a reader expresses that opinion so soon after you published your book.
Within a handful of days of publishing the paperback version of The House With the Wraparound Porch, I got a review.

5.0 out of 5 stars I absolutely LOVED it. Cannot wait for the next By Kathleen Creary on August 10, 2016

Just spent the past 2 days doing nothing but reading MaryPat’s new novel. It was truly “you cannot put this down until you finish it” kind of book. I absolutely LOVED it. Cannot wait for the next one.Similarly, Just a few days after the Kindle version came out, this review was posted:

 

5.0 out of 5 starsA happy discovery By Lindsay Edmunds on August 22, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition

Curse of the Strawberry Moon is above all a LOCAL book, written by an author who knows the finger lakes region of New York inside out. Mary Pat Hyland knows plenty about the complexity of small town living and the way that lives and events intertwine. The book feels real in all its details: wine-making, book selling, massage therapy, clubbing, drug trafficking, police procedure, the lifestyle of aging rock stars, the hardscrabble edges where people move from job to job, the natural beauty of the lake country. The Caviston sisters seem like real sisters. It is a full portrait of a place and the people who live there. The incredibly complicated events that led to the murder are consistent with the complexity of life in this place, but solving the murder was the least important part of the book for me.The pleasures of the table are also featured. The precise, sophisticated descriptions of good wine and good meals are by themselves almost worth the purchase price.This easy-going, well-written novel is a discovery in the way that finding a great local restaurant, seeing a brilliant production by a regional theater company, or hearing an outstanding concert by local musicians are discoveries. I am looking forward to reading the next Caviston sisters mystery.

So glad to read these reviews and know that the novel is capturing their imagination.

 

PUBLISHED: A rock ‘n’ roll mystery

The Curse of the Strawberry Moon is now available at Amazon and CreateSpace.

Here’s a description of the novel, the first in the Caviston Sisters Mystery series:

thecurseofthestrawberrymoon_cover_150x228A full red moon rises over a wedding at a Finger Lakes winery as fireworks explode unexpectedly above the celebration. Was it a timing accident, or were they set off early on purpose to cover up the murder of ’80s rock star Jeremiah Redfern nearby?

Across Keuka Lake, the Caviston sisters watch the show from their deck on a warm June evening, unaware of how their lives will soon become entwined in the unfolding mystery. Curiosity about a Seneca Indian curse draws them deep into the investigation before they realize their own lives may be endangered as they help Detective Tyrone Kane decipher motives tangled tighter than a grapevine.

The Curse of the Strawberry Moon‘s riveting plot delves intimately into the Finger Lakes wine industry with a touch of rock-and-roll attitude.

Here are some details about the paperback version:

ISBN/EAN13: 1530532639 / 9781530532636

Page Count: 396

Size: 6″ x 9″

Language: English

Genre: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Cozy

List price: $19.99

Book Reveal!

thecurseofthestrawberrymoon_cover_450x684Here it is—the title and cover of my new rock ‘n’ roll mystery. This is book one of the five-part Caviston Sisters Mystery series. Each one takes place in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, specifically Keuka Lake.

Sorry for the delay in posting. I was a bit distracted yesterday by my favorite band Chicago’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Woohoo! (Appropriate, don’t you think?)

On this snowy morning in upstate New York, there is much more work to do on the novel now that I’ve heard back from my editors. Stay tuned for updates on the actual publication date. Can’t wait until my readers return with me to beautiful Keuka where I’ll introduce you to the Caviston sisters and a few other nefarious sorts!

 

Coming soon…

bullyhillviewI’m about to lead my readers down a new path. Coming soon—my first mystery novel. This book will introduce readers to the Caviston sisters who live on Keuka Lake in the heart of New York’s Finger Lakes. Over the course of five mystery novels, they will encounter some fascinating characters, engaging them in all sorts of complicated situations. Through luck and intuition, they will help Detective Tyrone Kane solve them all.

BOOK REVEAL: FRIDAY, APRIL 8.

2016 Read an Ebook Week @Smashwords

readebooklogo_2016Every March, Smashwords participates in Read an Ebook Week. The event allows readers worldwide to connect with new, indie writers in every genre available.

Once again I will be participating. Smashwords sells all six of my novels plus my short story collection in digital formats that work with Kindle, Nook, Kobo and formats for other devices, from phones to tablets.

The event runs from 12:00 a.m. March 6 to 11:59 p.m. March 12, 2016.

This year you will be able to download any of my books—including my top bestseller, The House With the Wraparound Porch—at 50% OFF the cover price. Use the promotion code on the book’s page (RAE50) when you go to checkout.

All of my books are available on my Smashwords Author page.

eddiestackMy favorite modern Irish writer, Eddie Stack, has published a new, bestselling book about the cradle of storytelling, dance and fine music in the west of County Clare, Ireland. I asked if he had time for a Q&A for the blog and am delighted to present our interview to you today.

1) Tell us about your new book.

It’s called Doolin: people, place and culture. Doolin is a small remote area of county Clare in the west of Ireland that is renowned for its music, songs, dance and storytelling traditions. The book is a collection of essays and conversations featuring local tradition-bearers. It has chapters on the music of the Russell Brothers and the Killougherys; reminiscences of the last Doolin native Irish speaker, Paddy Pharaic Mhichil Shannon; the gentle art of storytelling with Stiofáin Uí Ealaoire, Seán Ó’Carún and others. Also featured are Botious MacClancy and Francis MacNamara, local gentry who made Doolin famous in the 16th century and the 20th century. Folk art and traditions run through the book and it’s illustrated with photographs, music, songs, maps and journal excerpts.

doolin cover2) Why did you decide to write this book?

I grew up in this part of West Clare just when the vernacular language had changed from Irish to English. The old people like my grandparents were native Irish speakers, English was their second language. My parents were bilingual but English was their first language.

As fate would have it, I was my parent’s first born and when my mother gave birth to twins, I was ‘farmed out’ to my grandparents. I was about three years old and this suited me fine, my grandparents were both musicians and lived beside the sea. By the time I began school, I spoke fluent Irish and bad English.

My grandparents played music every night, both were fiddlers and grandma also played the concertina. On Sunday night other musicians gathered in the house for a session and listeners and dancers came as well. My granduncle Patcheen Flanagan was always present and at the end of the night he told a story or sang a song in Irish. So I grew up in a world of music, dance and storytelling and the Irish language.

After my grandparents and Patcheen passed away, I knew fewer people who spoke Irish and it struck me that I was watching a culture die. So I began to talk to the remaining local Irish speakers and storytellers, musicians and singers. I jotted down notes and initially I suppose I was trying to make sence of what I experienced in my own life. It was the end of the Celtic Twilight and it happened suddenly. Eventually I tried to distill what I knew and what I learned into this book—Doolin: people, place and culture

3) What do you think distinguishes the Clare sound from Sligo’s or Donegal’s?

Clare music is played a bit slower and the tunes are different. Around Doolin tunes were played with very few ‘grace notes’ and little ornamentation, compared to Sligo and Donegal music. Donegal especially has a Scottish influence and tunes tend to be played faster.

Clare music has no evidence of outside influence and music is played at a pace to suit dancers. House dances survived in Clare until the late 1960’s—though they were illegal since 1937. I think the Clare sound still has the influence of the dancers, both in the type of tunes and the lift and pace.

3) Did you uncover any surprises while researching the book?

Several! At the beginning of the 20th centuries, Doolin had more Irish language storytellers than musicians. That was a surprise and shows what a rich storytelling tradition was there. Our area didn’t appear on the radar of the Celtic Twilight people—Yeats, Lady Gregory et al and it was 1928 before the Folklore Commission visited Doolin.

Another surprise was evidence that music had been played in around Doolin at least since the 8th century—the date of a bronze harp peg found in 1937 near an old Brehon Law School.

Often when I was visiting tradition bearers, our conversation could go off on tangents that nearly always uncovered some gem of folklore, a long forgotten tune or a story, or maybe an old photograph. The collecting process or research was a surprise in itself.

4) What were the biggest cultural changes that happened in Doolin in your lifetime?

There were two and they happened in sequence and were not directly related. First was the death of the Irish language, as adolescents only six or seven of us were fluent speakers and we were all boys! At that stage in the mid-60s, what remained of the old speakers didn’t make up an active community; they were dotted here and there but too far apart to visit each other. If we still had a community of active speakers in the 1960s, I think the West Clare Gaeltacht would be alive and vibrant today. The language would have been kept afloat by the music.

The rise of Doolin as a mecca for people interested in Irish traditional music is the other big cultural change I experienced. Music provided the main social and cultural flux when the language died and the stories were no longer told. Jigs and reels had no language frontier to cross and now the music channelled the old lore and knowledge and sacred cultural connections. It was special and I understood that even as a child. Back then the music was played just for the community, just ourselves. We seldom saw tourists or strangers, apart from people who had strayed off the beaten path. With the rise of radio Doolin music got heard all over Ireland. People began coming there for weekends in the 1960s. That time two or three musicians played at night in O’Connor’s bar and the visitors understood that this was real traditional music in a hospitable place. By word of mouth, more came and then the folk music revivalists discovered it. In a few years Doolin became an essential stop on the counter-culture trail and thousands arrived there annually to experience authentic Irish culture, music, fun. I think that Doolin unwittingly invented cultural tourism in Ireland. It’s a mind-boggling change, and one started by a handful of musicians playing in a quiet pub.

5) Is there one tune, one artist who defines the Clare musical tradition.

Many of my friends are Clare musicians so I’ll just pick a tune! I think ‘The Concertina Reel’ is a definitive Clare tune. The concertina is a popular instrument there, and one favoured by women. I heard my grandmother playing this tune when I was very little and it was unknown outside our area until the 1970s. It’s a popular reel for dancers and is played worldwide today.

6) How do you feel the music of Clare has affected your fiction writing?

It is a very big influence. Musical instruments are my first memory and I learned to play Irish music when I was 8 or 9. It was such an important part of the life I grew up in, that I think it seeps into stories that I write. There’s a story in my first book, The West, called ‘Bláth na Spéire’ and Irish music runs through it. ‘When Angels go Home for Christmas’ is set around a batch of musicians out as Mummers on St. Stephen’s Day. It hangs on music.

My characters are sometimes musicians, traditional or contemporary. ‘Angie,’ a story from ‘Out of the Blue’ is built around music that bridges Ireland and San Francisco. ‘Journeymen’ is another music story in Out of the Blue. Recently I noticed there is a bit of singing in my stories. It’s a Clare trait—’you can’t go wrong with a song!’

A few times, the feeling I got from a tune triggered a story. Music evokes memories, and that can provide a setting for a story. My grandmother played a tune called ‘My Love is in America’, a lonesome reel and I always felt there was a story behind her version of it. It’s one I’m going to write someday.

Doolin: people, place & culture is available from www.amazon.com/author/eddiestack