Friday, August 31, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Sweet

August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.

How To Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
By Rosemary Biggio

My parents bribe and fib to me. I don’t mind when they do it to strangers, but their own kid? Of course, if you asked them, they’d deny it. I can remember that first time.
Mother always wanted a girly girl. Instead she got me. Someone put the notion in her head, probably Aunt Sally, that a few ballet lessons would make me graceful. Later, I learned my mother saved dollars from the grocery money to squander on dance lessons. Geez, that’s why we ate beans and franks for a month.
One day while I was wolfing down a grilled cheese sandwich, she bribed me. “Rae Lea, I thought you might want to check out that new bakery and visit the ballet school.”
I almost gagged on my lunch. “Heck, why would I want to do that?”
She cozied up to me. “Because if you agree to go, I’ll treat you to any pastry you want.”
It sounded like a good deal, so I agreed to look at that dopey dance school.

Monday after school, we vanished into the subway maze. It was a bit like the fun house in Coney Island, but it smelled like wet dog or worse. We reappeared in front of Schwartzman’s Medical Supply store, crouched beneath the EL where the subway limped around Frankford Avenue. Mounted atop Schwartzman’s was the sign for Madame Nanette’s School of Ballet. The ballerina’s  twirl synchronized with each flash of neon.
After climbing endless stairs, we walked into the dance studio. I plunked down my school bag near my mother who busied herself straightening my uniform. My black oxfords nailed to the hard wood floor. From the doorway, I glimpsed a bevy of pink ballerinas positioned at the barre.
My mother cooed, “Rae Lea, don’t they look so beautiful?”
I nodded.
“That will be you someday, dear.”  My mother hugged me.
I pulled away. Egad! Couldn’t she see the difference? I was built like a fireplug, my body sturdy and immoveable. The dancers swayed like flowers.

Photo by Randy Pertiet

A girl with blonde banana curls glanced over at us. My mother smiled. I stared her down. Beyond her performing years, Madame glided into middle age. The ballerinas continued in formation as Madame Nanette floated toward the potential customers in the doorway. No hair escaped Madame’s tight French twist, and no student escaped her watchful eye.
Madame stood Chaplinesque with the balls of her feet turned completely out. I learned from my mother, the stance was called a plie.
 “Bonjour, Madame et Mademoiselle. Est-ce-que je peux vous aider?” The French charmed my mother, who fumbled with the buttons on her white gloves to extend a handshake.
“I would like to enroll, Rae Lea, my daughter, in your school. As an older student, it’s too late for a prima ballerina. But my husband and I feel it would make her graceful.”

I scowled at my mother. It was a fib. My pop didn’t care a fig about ballet or being graceful and was too smart to be conned by Frenchie. Darn, he didn’t even know about the bribe.
Madame Nanette, peering over glasses, made her evaluation. “It will be a challenge, but I will do my best.” The spell was broken when my mother heard the ka-ching of Madame Nanette’s cash register as it tallied the enrollment fee.

On the way home, we stopped at the Mayfair Bakery.

“I’ll have a Charlotte Russe.” I pointed.

“Last one,” the baker said reaching into the showcase.

 Mother babbled all the way home about ballet.

“Oh, rats,”  I gaped at the yellow cake flopped on the cement.

“You’re so clumsy. Madame Nanette has quite a challenge with this diamond in the rough.”

“Whatever,” I mumbled brushing the crumbs from my uniform.

Pop stood up from table and pushed his dinner plate away. “Wanda, Rae Lea and I made a bargain, no dancing school for a good report card.”

“Alright, Frank, go read your paper.”

He winked at me and left the dining room.

My mother’s eyes sharpened. She aimed the cooking fork with a pierced fried chicken gizzard at me. “You should have told me how you felt about ballet. Why, most girls your age would be thrilled that they had an opportunity like this. I don’t understand you, but I know manipulation when I see it, even if your father doesn’t. You have until the end of the marking period to make good on your bargain.”

I marched into my room. Sweat dripped from my palms. Two weeks until the marking period ended. Sheesh. I flipped through my homework pad and began reading my English assignment, “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”

Rosemary Biggio was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. A retired high school teacher and college instructor, Biggio is now a freelance writer.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Upcoming Events

As August draws to a close, so, too, does the Orangeberry Summer Splash Book Tour. My thanks to Pandora Poikilos for organizing this event.

In approximately two weeks, I will be taking my second novel, Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two), on the road for its WOW! Women in Writing blog tour, which will run September 17 through October 17. There will be giveaways, interesting topics, and maybe even some breaking news along the way. I'll keep you posted.

The last summer Flash Fiction Fridays will run this week with a sweet piece by Rosemary Biggio. I hope you will join us. Also, please remember that submissions are open for October's Fright Fest 2012. Send your pieces of spine-tingling horror to me at, and please put Flash Fiction Fridays in the subject line. The deadline is September 21.

Next week, my oldest starts his freshman year in college. I will be amid all the chaos that is moving-in day, so I will be taking a short blog break and return on Friday, September 7, with another wonderful piece of flash fiction for your enjoyment.

Wish me luck,

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Definitely Monday

The day began with me farting around with various Blogger templates. It seemed innocent enough. "Wonder what Bibliophilic Blather would look like with this one?" I thought.

I should have known better. You see, I have a history of pushing the wrong buttons.

I am not technologically adept and consequently seem to click on the incorrect tab on a regular basis, usually resulting in screens popping up I have never seen before, followed by several "Oh, shit!" exclamations and a few other choice words.

Today was no different.

I clicked on something, god knows what, and it was gone! I could not get back to the old design, no matter how many times I clicked, cursed or visited Blogger Help.

Maybe the blog gods decided this was the day to change things up a bit?

Anyway, I guess it was time for the new and improved Bibliophilic Blather.

At least until I click on something else tomorrow.

How is your day going so far?


I wrote a guest post on Gimme the Scoop Reviews last week. Click here if you would like to read it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Revelations

August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.

Apocalypse Tao 
By Eileen Granfors

All the days of days ripple behind us with eternity’s oceanic tides pulling us ahead. We dance in the street making a joyful noise unto the gods, enter our house.

Our congregation of blessed elders is ready, our white gowns flaring in the spring twilight like calla lilies in bloom. Two hours remain until we ascend. Without our pets, the house is too quiet. We miss their percussion to our songs and conversations, our prayers to our gods.

After arguments and threatened mutinies, Avenna formed a plan among the unsaved to care for our animals. The kindest of the unsaved are many in our suburban neighborhood north of Sebastopol, California, but the goodbyes tested our faith.

Square-jawed and austere, Avenna stands, raising her long arms, the white drapery of her robe flowing like wings. “We have done all that has been asked of us and more.”

“Taking the animals to the best of the unsaved, truly this was a message that flew from The Mother’s tongue to your ears,” Coeur answers. She cups her double chins as she leans her elbows on the table, her chair pushed back to accommodate her girth.

“Orintho and Lupine, the patrons of the animals, spoke to me. We would not wrong our furred or feathered beloveds by leaving them with no one to tend their needs.” Avenna smiles a pious smile.

“How I wish animals had souls, for the Leaving should take all of the innocent.”

“Coere, blasphemy! The plan is perfect. You sully your soul with selfish desires,” says Avenna.

Only the horse challenged the relocation, refusing to board his trailer, shuffling back, neighing, bucking. His resistance threatened to unsettle all, and a cacophony of protest broke out. Avenna spoke into her gray stallion’s ear, running her fingers through his silver mane.

“Shadow, you are loved. Go now.”

Shadow nickered and tossed his head, nuzzling Avenna’s lifted hands.

Soothed, Shadow boarded the trailer. A stern man in a blue puffy coat drove Shadow and the trailer away. Congregants waved and wept as they rounded the corner.

Now, sleep calls to them. Avenna and Coeur urge the parishioners to join hands in a circle of faces alight with hope. They say their favorite prayer, “We are the sacred hearts, we are the believers, take us to your home, Great One.” The service ends.

Each swallows a thimbleful of the sacred opiate for sound sleep. They open the drapes and the skylights to experience the orange aura of the Leaving. Farewells ring out as they settle.

“Good night.”

“Sleep well.”

“I will welcome you in the next life.”

“Our gods’ love for believers is eternal.”

“Farewell, my brothers and sisters.”

Soon earthly time will disappear as will their souls, leaving on their pallets in the White Room only their mortal raiments. Ocean fog has moved in, blurring the cooling night. The room quiets with the regular breathing of deep, drugged sleep.

In the morning, a burst of sudden sunlight scorches their eyelids. They tremble in joy until they awake fully. Realization bludgeons their beliefs.

They are still in the White Room. They wait. The sun dips behind a cloud, and the room grows dark. Hope blinks back into their hearts.

The world outside murmurs with the noise of hundreds of human voices.

Avenna and Coeur creep to the window, followed by the others. They peek out, afraid that they have been judged unworthy. Is the date been wrong once again? Will life go on as before?

Not so. The kindest of the unsaved, those who took in their animals, form a procession in the street.  The dour man, wearing his blue puffy coat, approaches the house. He holds across his arms a gray rug with shaggy silver trim, horseshoes glinting in the reappearing sunshine.

Avenna cries out, “Shadow?”

One by one, the unsaved present to us the neatly folded pelts or skins. As foretold, the purest hearts have ascended.

Eileen Granfors lives in Santa Clarita, California. A former army brat who was born in New Orleans and lived in Germany, she and her family settled in Imperial Beach, California, where her mother’s love of body surfing turned her into an avid surfer girl. Eileen is a proud UCLA alumna. She has written three novels and several anthologies. Her latest, Sydney’s Story, is a prequel to A Tale of Two Cities. For more information about Eileen, visit her blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Can Go Home Again

A few months ago, I attended my 25-year college reunion. The weekend began with my son dropping me off in front of my dorm with my suitcase, all too aware that this scene would be replicated, only reversed, three months from now, this time with many more boxes and ending up with me being reduced to a gelatinous mound of tears as I watch my first-born embark on his great adventure.

He gave me a hug and whispered a very apropos "Welcome Home" in my ear. I turned to face the ivy-covered, gothic buildings filled with so many memories.

On this very campus, writing officially became my life. I had always written, of course, even was the editor of my high school newspaper, but walking into class on my first day in 1983, I made the commitment that no matter how difficult, unrealistic, and impractical everyone told me it was, I was going to be a writer.

Meandering through the old hallways, it struck me. I wrote my first real lines of dialogue here. My first short story good enough for publication. My one-act play. I heard my professors' voices echoing around me, the chairperson of the writing department reminding us so often that "I am not grading your work merely as student writers, but rather against all of the great writers who have come before you."

Talk about setting the bar high.

It was not enough to pass one's coursework and fulfill the necessary credit hours to receive a bachelor of arts in English. Oh, no. We also were required to compile writing portfolios and pass our comprehensive examination. If we failed, all of our work for the past four years would have been tossed out the window, and we would not have been allowed to graduate with an English major, regardless of our grade point average or credit hours. Studying for comps tested not only our knowledge, but our fortitude as well. To this day, the sight of a blue book makes my stomach do somersaults.

Several friends and I stayed in the same dorm wing, just like when we first met all those years ago, only this time in a newer building with air conditioning, a rare commodity on older college campuses. We shared hugs and conversation, falling easily back into our old patterns of picking each other up for meals or dropping by each other's rooms to hang out.

The Class of 1962 was also there celebrating their 50th reunion, as well as various other smatterings of alumnae/i commemorating incremental numbers. Although we ranged in ages, the stories remained the same. Sprinting across the Cloister Walk, late for early-morning classes. Feeling the hair on your nape stand at attention while walking  on the third floor of Power Hall, probably from one of the legendary Rosary ghosts floating by. Sneaking party supplies up the back stairways.

College life is romanticized in so many movies, novels, and television shows, most of the time fostering stereotypes that strike fear in the hearts of parents. And, certainly, experiences differ from institution to institution, from location to location.

But these years are really so much more.

Freed from their places of birth, unbound from their parent's choices, these new adults receive the greatest of gifts — time. Time to study, discover, and create the people whom they will become.

I am so excited for my son as he, along with all of the other members of the future Class of 2016 across the country, prepares for Moving-In Day.

Now it is their turn.


Monday, August 20, 2012

A Literary Appetizer

First lines. They draw you in. Entice you. Tease you into wanting more.

Great harbingers, these words are. Think of some of the most famous from the masters.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, 
must be in want of a wife."
— Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, 
it was the winter of despair. "
— Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

"Mother died today." 
— Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942; trans. Stuart Gilbert)

Or these more recent openers from contemporary writing titans.

"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had 
turned into the wrong person."
— Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when
 I was murdered on December 6, 1973."
— Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones (2002)

"We were the Mulvaneys, remember us?"
— Joyce Carol Oates, We Were the Mulvaneys (1996)

As you might recall, Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two) is a part of the Orangeberry Summer Splash Book Tour, which includes a site featuring the first lines from many of the participating novels. If you are interested, click here

Who knows? You just might find the entrance way to another great journey…

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Fugetaboutit

August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.

Family First
By Michael Robb Mathias

"Whatta ya mean she's gonna testify Vinny? She tells the council that I was selling Gamma Grain, I'm gonna do a whole lot of moon mining!"

"She's my wife, Zing." Vinny shrugged. "She's family. Wadda ya want me to do?"

"I'm your brother!" Zingo shot back. "I was family first!"

"That's what Ma said, but man I got kids to think about." Vinny shrugged again, "Whadda ya want me to do?"

"Funcklzin Bzishnit Vin! I want you to keep your wife from testifying to the council is what I want."

"They'd just chip her. Pick it all up from the sensory wave regenerations. They'd dream it out of her sub man."

Zingo glared daggers into his brother's eyes. Vinny met the intense gaze for a long moment, but finally looked away.

"She's my wife," Vinny said weakly, but Zingo could tell that his brother understood now.

"Full Bzishnit, Zingo," Vinny cursed, as he pulled out his volter. He leaned over the plastex seat of the tube runner and looked at his struggling wife in the backseat. Zingo had rolled her up in celluloform so tightly that her face looked like it was going to explode. "Sorry," he apologized before he jacked her heart with a pulse blast of undetermined wattage.

He switched the impact glazing off and ejected her into space as if she were nothing more than a refuse capsule. "Are you happy now?" He asked his brother with a growl.

"Pap always said family first, Vin." Zingo gave his brother a loving pat on the shoulder.

"Family first," Vinny agreed. "It's not like I can't just buy another wife from chatteltech."

Copyright © 2011 by Michael Robb Mathias Jr.

M.R. Mathias is the author of the best-selling Wardstone Trilogy and the Dragoneer Saga. His most recent, The Wizard and the Warlord: The Wardstone Trilogy Book III, was released in July. To learn more about Michael, please visit his website.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Editing for Grammarphobes: New Words

It's official, ladies and gentlemen. E-readers are here to stay. Well, at least according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which recently added the word to its 2012 edition.

"E-reader" made the list, along with "bucket list," "game changer," "earworm," "man cave," the unfortunate "sexting," "mash-up," "gastropub," which I had to look up because apparently I am not cool enough to know what that is, and "f-bomb," something I am not averse to dropping every now and again.

Rounding out this logophiles' dream is "aha moment," made popular by the all-powerful Oprah Winfrey.

How many of you have spent time reading the dictionary? Me, too. I also love Merriam-Webster Online. As a matter of fact, I might run over there right now and take one of their vocabulary tests.

Have a delightsome day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Q & A

Last week, I made an appearance on Bunny's Review blog as part of the Orangeberry Summer Splash. To read the interview, click here.

There were some fun questions, such as if you had a time machine, would you travel back in history or forward to the future?

My favorite one was about my dream dinner party. Anyone surprise you on my list?

How about you?

If you could invite any five people over for dinner, whom would you choose?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Show Some Love

August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.

A Love Letter
By Leanne Dyck

We have always had a special relationship. When we meet, you wooed me with your clever tricks. You were never the same way twice. Sometimes your “b” looked like a “d”. Sometimes your “p” looked like a “q”. I was surprised to hear that you didn’t entertain everyone in this manner.

Later our relationship grew, and I learned that you could be collected into a group. I was informed that this group was read as a word.

Ah, how your words danced before my eyes. Sometimes “w-a-s” danced. How it waltzed! How it jigged! How it jived! Watch it now as it twists into “s-a-w”. Amazing! Thrilling!

Yet, you only danced for me.

Your behavior does make our relationship challenging.

Words dance before my eyes…unclaimed. Sometimes I am forced to guess at your intent. You are always a puzzle, a surprise. You intrigue me. You entertain me. You embarrass me.

Do you remember the time I was reading you to a group of children? I thought we were having a merry old time until one of the children stopped me. It seems you had fooled me yet again, but you hadn’t fooled the child.

Perhaps it was my fault. So what if your relationship with others is easier and more harmonious?

Whatever the case, it was long ago, and I have forgiven you.

My passion for you grows stronger every day.

Leanne Dyck is a women's fiction author. Her stories are about strong women and the challenges they face. Leanne's writing has been published in several periodicals, including Island Writer literary journal. Her most recent book, The Sweater Curse, is a knitting-themed thriller. To learn more about Leanne, visit her website.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Submissions Wanted for Fright Fest 2012

I know it is only the beginning of August, but come this time of year, my thoughts naturally progress to autumn. You see, I am not a summer person. I know, what kind of lunatic am I? Can't help it. I yearn for cooler temperatures, colorful leaves…and NIGHTMARES.

Scary stories of monsters, old houses, ghostly encounters, or whatever makes the hair on your nape stand on end.

Get ready for FRIGHT FEST 2012 on Flash Fiction Fridays.

Photo: The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli, photo by Thomas Roche on Flickr

I am looking for flash fiction of 1,000 words or less for the month of October, spine-tingling horror during the month of All Hallow's Eve.

Deadline: September 30, 2012.

Send your submissions to Put "Flash Fiction Fridays" in the subject line and include a short bio and links (bookseller, blog, website, etc.) with your story.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Orangeberry Summer Splash

Looking for something new to read as summer winds down? The Orangeberry Summer Splash book tour might be just the answer.

100 authors. 106 different novels. All genres.

Running through the entire month of August, the Orangeberry Summer Splash features five pages of novels, including Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two), plus the chance to win free books and a Kindle Fire.

Check out the Orangeberry Summer Splash site here.

I'm on deck for a Twitterview today, starting around noon, @KarenBerner, if you are interested in stopping by.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Flash Fiction Fridays: Yikes

August. Time to sit back, drink some lemonade, and enjoy the dog days of summer. This month, we have an assortment of subjects and styles, a great mix of flash fiction certain to entertain. Enjoy.

I Saw a Bear Today
By Sean Sweeney

I had never seen a bear in all the long years I had lived in this sleepy British Columbian town. It had turned into something of a running joke. Wherever I went, whether it be the supermarket or even to Town Hall, people snickered behind my back.

"There she goes," they would all say, "the only person here who has never seen a bear. God pity her."

It's true. It's all true. I usually bristle whenever the hands cover the mouths and the voices carry a lot further than they should, but after about thirty years, I started to let it roll off my back.

That is, until my five-year-old started in on it.

"Mama, you haven't seen a bear? You're kidding me!" he would say at the dinner table. When your five-year-old starts ribbing you about this, you know it's a problem, one that needs to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.

Before I continue any further, let me explain certain criteria as to what "seeing" a bear entails. It has to be in the wild. Going to the zoo and taking a peep at a bear doesn't count with these people. Even though they are about the same consistency, frost heaves are a yes, damp cement a no. I had to see the bear in person, and because of my status as the only resident not to see a bear — my five-year-old saw a baby bear near his preschool, so we let it slide — I needed photographic evidence to confirm my sighting. Simply couldn't say, "I've seen a bear!" because these people would see through the bullshit right away. They're sly fuckers like that, don't you know.

I decided that tonight would be the end of my bear-less days. After the five-year-old was tucked into bed and a story told to him — he's been keen on Imogen Rose's Portal Chronicles lately — I steeled my nerve when Pau, my white Bichon Frise, readied himself for his nightly walk. I bundled up, leashed Pau, then headed out with a camera around my neck.

I have nicknamed Pau the Great Grizzly Hunter. I don't know why, but the name just sticks. Maybe it's because he pulls me along as if he's caught the scent of a bear, and he wants his mama to see it so the derision will stop. He's such a good boy, even though he's a fraidy cat sometimes.

We walked on.

I could see my breath unfurling from my mouth, a curtain of gray rising upward to the sky. Pau's head was low to the ground, and his tail wagged away. I could hear the telltale signs of sniffing. Late at night in this town, in the dead of winter, one could hear the snow tinkling off the ground. The air smelled pure, untouched by pollution from below the international border. I shivered. This heavy coat wasn't doing its job. Pau freaked. He started barking his little bark, then began pulling me further and further away from my house. The sounds of my booted feet crunching snow came rapidly.

"Pau, hold on, boy!" I said. The force he used to pull me along had the collar straining around his throat, and his breath came in labored gasps. "Heel, Pau. Heel!"

He paid me no heed. He continued. I was running by this point. I knew that when I got home, I'd be a shivering, sweaty mess, while Pau would curl up in his doggy bed in front of the TV.

Soon, we entered a long grove of pine trees. While I tripped and fell flat on my face, Pau skidded to a halt, one that kicked up snow and sent it flying toward two large tree trunks.

Only they weren't tree trunks.

I looked up, snow falling from my face in huge clumps. Looking down at me, I could see from my worm's eye view, was the largest bear that I've ever seen.

Well, you get the idea.

My breath, along with my voice, were lodged in my throat, even though my mouth was open. I tried to form words. The bear, too, tried to form words in its bear language. It think Pau and I startled it.

I tried to get up so that I could get a picture of this behemoth, but my body couldn't move. I was as close to petrified as one can get.

Then Pau started barking. He's a pain in the ass, but he's mine. At this point, I didn't want anything to do with him.

That set the bear off. A deep roar came out its gut. I felt the breeze ripple my hair.

I found my body could move now. I got up as fast as I could, and with a quick tug of the leash, Pau ran ahead of me.

I didn't look back. I didn't want to know if there were several hundred pounds of scary bear flesh coming after me. I ran as if my life were about to end, and I was pretty sure that it would had the bear taken up the pursuit.

But it didn't. Thankfully, it didn't. I don't know why-after all, here I was, a free meal for him or her and the cubs, but I didn't ask questions. I just did what any normal person would do in my situation. I quickly high-tailed it out of there, kicking up snow as I tried to save my skin.

I hoped I hadn't peed my pants.

By the time I got home, my heart rate had skyrocketed. I could feel the sweat sliding down my back.  My clothes were sodden. And I was shaking. Let's not forget that part. Shaking was a part of this.

Yet I had seen my bear. After so many years of not seeing a bear, I happened to come across the biggest bastard in British Columbia.

I couldn't help but grin.

Wait until the gals at the poker emporium hear about this, I thought.

Sean Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels, including his latest, Cold Altar. Born and raised in North Central Massachusetts, Sweeney has written for several newspapers and radio stations. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing golf, reading, watching movies, enjoying the Boston Red Sox, the New England Revolution, Arsenal F.C., Gold Coast F.C., and playing with Caramel the Wonder Cat. For more information about Sean, visit his website.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mourning Maeve

One of my favorite writers died earlier this week. Maeve Binchy, 72, sold more than 40 million copies of her novels and short stories, including her most famous, Circle of Friends and Tara Road.

I first discovered her work while rummaging around a Barnes and Noble store almost twenty-three years ago. I had a feeling I’d enjoy Circle of Friends after checking out the back cover copy. Immediately hooked, I went on a Maeve Binchy binge, eagerly gobbling up all of her previous novels.

Over the years, I took her with me on the train to and from work every day, on business trips, even to my mother’s house, so she, too, could enjoy the stories. I have every book available in the United States, plus a few of her short story collections.

Reading a Maeve Binchy novel is like a literary hug — warm and enveloping — but not sappy. Her tales of Ireland speak of everyday life, whether it was going off to college, swapping houses on a whim, or starting a restaurant.

Hers was a gentle writing style, but, please do not confuse this with weak. By no means was her work so light you could not find a universal truth in it anywhere or so tepid there was no feeling.

No, Maeve Binchy wrote about loss, love, infidelity, relationships, occupations, and expectations. She wrote what she knew, and it was wonderful.

Maeve Binchy, 1940-2012

I had the good fortune to meet her once, during an appearance at the bookstore down the street from my house, where she signed my copy of Evening Class. I didn’t want to gush all over her, so I wrote a letter saying how much I loved her work. A few months later, she wrote me back thanking me for my kind words. She used to write everyone back, not her assistant, mind you, but actually her.

Maeve Binchy was gracious and captivating. As soon as she spoke that day, everyone in the room was drawn into her stories.

Just like her books.

I have three present-day authors who greatly influence and inspire me, my literary trinity, if you will. Anne Tyler is my guide for realistic fiction. Joyce Carol Oates is the writing beast, a fierce and prolific force, unafraid of any subject. And Maeve Binchy is the heart.

Yesterday, I paid tribute to her the only way I knew how, by revisiting her novels, thumbing through many, fondly remembering the characters. The books are all on my mantel with a few flowers, our correspondence, and a candle.

Rest in peace, dear author, for your novels and stories live on.


For a great bio in her own words, click on the link below.

Photo of Maeve Binchy by Liam White, courtesy of USA Today,