From Dr. Eleni Rethimiotakis, MD, North Dartmouth, Mass., April 2017
I have never written an email to an author of a book, but this time I made an exception as I wanted to tell you how much I loved reading your book Poison Ivy.
I am a very busy family practice physician, and your book was the first book that I have read in a very long time that was not about my work. I absolutely loved it and took it with me on my recent vacation, where I delighted myself in every page. My husband then took it to read, and he too was delighted. I just ordered another one of your books. and I can't wait to get it in the mail.
We have owned three different boats over the years, and the most recent purchase, a 42-foot sailboat, has allowed us to spend comfortable days and nights on mooring balls at Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, and Vineyard Haven.
I am sure that I will read all of your books over the summer. I wish you many more years of good health and good writing!
What an honor for me to receive your first email to an author. Thank you so much for writing. Your letter was more than welcome. I’d have responded much sooner, but I’m working on a June 1st deadline (three days from now) for my next book, and I still have a few pages to write and then I’ll need to go over everything to make sure the reader can follow along with my sometimes convoluted text.
I was delighted to know about your 42-foot sailboat. One of my careers was as instructor at the Annapolis Sailing School. I lived on a 40-foot trawler for about 12 years at the Capital Yacht Club in Washington, D.C., and have started a new series set on the D.C. waterfront. The first book is Murder on C-Dock. No politics, just boats, more boats, and the Potomac River.
From Judith Cressy, April 2017
Some time in March, when I was listening to The Moth on NPR, I heard your story and was so moved – because of your and Howard's love story, but also because of your decision to become an author at age 70 or so. I will be 66 tomorrow. I've been an editor for all of my career, but am venturing into children's fiction now – there's an agent reading one of my novels at the moment. I should hear from her within a few weeks and I have my fingers crossed. Your story gave me a good boost of confidence.
I wasn't familiar with your books before the Moth presentation, but I've read five of them now now, and there is another one waiting in my mailbox as I write this. I've had a good time with them. I lived on Cape Cod for 23 years and have spent a good deal of time on the Vineyard so I enjoy visualizing the stories and recognizing sites like the Field Gallery, as I read.
The first time I ordered one of your books, The Cranefly Orchid Murders, I found it on Amazon, listed as "like new condition, signed by the author." As it turned out, it was the copy of the book that you inscribed to Nancy Love, "who made this book (and the one before and the one after) possible." I realize she was your agent and must have meant a great deal to you.
Thank you for so many hours of reading pleasure!
Thank you for your email. My story on The Moth has brought me a wonderful collection of acquaintances, many of whom have become friends.
What a wonderful happenstance that you acquired a book I autographed to my then agent, Nancy Love. She was my first agent and sold my books to St. Martin's Press, right up until the time of her death. She told me, after she agreed to represent me, that she thought Ruth Cavin, the doyen of mystery editors, who was then in her eighties, might be interested in a protagonist who was older than she was. Sure enough, Ruth Cavin was the very first editor Nancy showed my book to, and Ruth bought my books until the time of her death at 92.
Good luck with your children's book, and many years of publishing success.
From Susan Drozdowski, April 2017
I was first introduced to you via your 2012 Moth story, "The Case of the Curious Codes," by a friend who sent me the link to the recording just a few weeks ago.
Since that time, I have ordered all of the Victoria Trumbull series, have already read four of the novels, and am waiting to receive the rest of the series in the mail.
I was hoping to read them in the order that they were published, but if #5, Paperwhite Narcissus, doesn't come soon, I'll crack open Shooting Star. I admit, I am binge-reading this series – I'm hooked!
I also ordered Murder on C Dock and will read about your new mystery-solving sleuth.
I have also written to The Moth to find out whether I can order you and your husband's book that recounts your wonderful love story now or if I'll have to wait until they post up on their website. Thanks again for such a wonderful character! I'm truly enjoying the mysteries.
You really don’t need to read my books in order. I deliberately wrote them as stand-alones, using the same major characters throughout the series. It has always bothered me to read a third or fourth book in a series and find that I really should have started with book 1 in order to get needed background information.
Thank you for writing, and keep reading – and listening to The Moth. The Moth owns all rights to Howard and Cynthia: A Love Story, and I’m sure you can write to them directly to purchase a copy.
From Christina McDonald, Gooseberry Hill, Western Australia, March 26, 2017
I listened to your fascinating and beautiful story on The Moth, on the radio on my drive home from my daughter's this afternoon. I felt compelled to let you know how I loved it.
I have a sort of similar story of how I reconnected with my late husband after meeting him in my youth years before. He always planned to write it, but sadly died at 64 so now I'm writing my life story and will include the events that led up to our marriage in 1992.
I am so sorry to hear of your husband's death, but delighted and grateful that you took the advice of your writers' group, and were able to spend some blissful years together and then share that with the rest of us.
Thank you for writing -- my great-grandmother was from Australia, so I feel a strong connection with Aussies.
I am so sorry to hear about your husband's death. But glad to know you, too, reconnected after long years. I hope your too-short time with him was as wonderful as mine was. They were very best five years of my life. I have to add "so far," because who knows what will happen next?
From Ahouva Steinhaus, March 24, 2017
I wrote a whole email last Friday and then it disappeared, so here is a short version:
First, your story gave me hope, as I just turned 70, that it is possible to find someone even at my age. So glad you had those five years together!
Second, I lost my partner of 23 years 19 months ago and it is so hard (though I know you have lost a daughter, which is unimaginably painful so you have walked this path before). I want to offer support and hope you get the help and love you need in your community.
Third, I am inspired that you have published at 70 and now, 12 books later, have a whole new life. I have also recently retired and have written almost every day of my life – many stacks of journals and stories – so thanks for showing that a new writing life is NOT dependent on age! I have nor read any of your books yet but expect I will enjoy . . .
I am so sorry for the loss of your partner. The fact that it?s happened to me makes me feel closer to you. I know what you are going through.
Here comes the pep talk. If you?ve been writing journals and stories for much of your life, you have a veritable treasure to offer the world. Do try to get some of your work into print. These days self-publishing is a highly respectable way to go, and I have to tell you, looking back at 70, I see you are facing all sorts of opportunities yet to come.
My mother, who died at 99, was interviewed on a CBS special on aging. Amidst all the moaning and groaning over aging, she was a burst of life and fresh air. ?The best thing about aging,? she said, ?is that you can flirt with the men and their wives don?t mind.? To which a married friend of mine said, ?You wanna bet?
From Siamak Masoudi, March 2017
I was riding my motorcycle listening to you on The Moth. I had to pull over, because it is really hard to ride a big bike with tears streaming from your eyes. I loved your voice, I loved your story, I loved your sense of humor. I am envious of Howard. I wish you all the best.
From John Capel, Melbourne, Australia, March 2017
The Moth Radio Hour was played on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s radio station this afternoon, and my wife Lorraine and I enjoyed your wonderful story immensely. So nice to hear a story told so well, and accompanied by such humour. Our very best wishes to yourself and the Ladies’ Wednesday group – they just sound so wonderfully mischievous!
Thank you for writing. My great-grandmother came from Sydney, so I feel close ties with Australia. The Wednesday Writers definitely are a mischievous group. It’s wonderful to think of your being able to hear The Moth on the other side of the world.
Howie’s service was just right. To start with, his son Mark and I forgot to bring his ashes to the cemetery. As Mark said, “Dad would have loved that.”
From Mary Keller, Tasmania, Australia, March 2017
I listened spellbound to you talk on The Moth radio. It was broadcast yesterday in Hobart, Tasmania. It was fascinating. First, you don't sound anywhere near as old as you are. Then, the charming story about Howie. It was just wonderful. I am now going to try an find your books in our local library. I am a fan of Elizabeth George. Anyway, very best wishes from very "down under."
Thank you. What a delight to hear from Tasmania! My great-grandmother came from Australia, so I have roots down under. If you can’t find my books, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.
From Deborah Adamy, Upper Nyack, New York, March 2017
I've thought of you so often since Howie passed. I know, through Jennifer and Mark [Howie's son and daughter-in-law], how open and authentic you continue to be – letting yourself feel deeply and capturing in words, once again, the language of your heart.
Your words continue to be a window into your soul, and quite honestly a reflection of my soul's deepest thoughts and feelings, even though what you write about is so personal to your relationship to Howie, it expresses a universal truth that resonates deeply for me.
I, along with everyone I sent a copy of your love story to, have felt Howie's loss personally, because you both invited us into your hearts. A circle of strangers to you have held you close to their hearts, and send compassion and love as you grieve the loss of your beloved.
You totally understand how my sharing love and grief with the world does make things a bit easier. The world needs an awful lot of love right now.
From Susan T. Case, March 2017
First, please accept my true and sincere condolences upon the death of your beloved husband. I was awfully sorry to hear about that. What a wonderful, inspiring love story you and Mr. Attebery shared.
Second, although being a frequent Vineyard visitor for many years (my husband and I were married there in 1984), I came late to your books. Last December, we spent the Christmas holidays on the Vineyard and I finally bought my first Victoria Trumbull mystery at Bunch of Grapes. I have since enjoyed more of them through Davina Porter’s audio versions. I hope you agree that she does justice to your writing.
Third, and you knew this part was coming, there is one small thing that is bothersome in two of the audio books. The sign on Alley’s porch is Cans of Peas, not Canned Peas. For years, our children have delighted in this sign and its whimsical phrasing. I keep a framed photo of it in our pantry! Did Miss Porter take liberties, make a mistake, or was it a case of “names have been changed to protect the innocent"?
Of course it is, indeed, a small thing, but rather like the pea under the princess's mattress. As I write this, I’m laughing at myself for being such a fussbudget. Please forgive me for that. Thank you again for providing so many hours of enjoyment through your Vineyard mysteries.
You are absolutely right! “Cans of Peas” it will be from now on, as it should be. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I suppose I could claim protection of the innocent, but I don’t think that would wash in the case of cans of peas.
And yes, Davina Porter has exactly the right voice to portray Victoria Trumbull’s adventures.
Thank you for your condolences. Howie and I wrote a book, titled Howard and Cynthia: A Love Story, which we have given to The Moth Radio, lock, stock, and barrel. They re-ran our story on March 14, and mentioned the book, which I hope will raise some funds for the program. The Moth played a major role in our getting together again.
From Matt Fichtenbaum, Chelmsford, Mass., February 2017
I wrote to you a few years ago after having heard your story for The Moth, which led to my finding and reading my first of your Victoria Trumbull books. Since then, with the help of the Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library, that fine resource in that most literary of towns, I've made my way through the further adventures of Ms. Trumbull, enjoying the journey all the way.
On a whim a while ago, I checked the library catalog and learned of Bloodroot. I have just finished reading it. Ms. Riggs, Island people live by rules unknown to us outsiders. Families, seriously dysfunctional, have dark secrets. And odd people with sinister motives turn up to wreak havoc in strange places. So why, as I absorbed your dark tale of humanity at its worst, was I grinning from ear to ear? I can only imagine you had a serious ophthalmic twinkle as you wrote that book. I certainly did as I read it. Thank you sincerely for a fine piece of work.
Believe it or not, many of my characters are based on people here on Martha's Vineyard. I even tone down some of them to make them plausible. Who could fabricate these characters? My mother, Dionis Coffin Riggs, was a poet. One of her poems was about the church sexton who refused to toll the bell for church services during Daylight Savings Time because, he claimed, the government was meddling with God's time. We Islanders love the odd rules we live by. Come visit some time and see for yourself.
From Jamie Johnson, Melrose, Florida, December 2016
I have enjoyed all your Victoria Trumbull books, and also Martha's Vineyard (what beauty!).
I saved this quilt (see photo) with lighthouses and sailboats from a thrift shop here in Florida, mended a few seams, and then found out it is way too hot for our climate. Thinking about your island, it occurred to me that this quilt would be much more at home there!
It would be good for a single or double bed. If I send it to you, would you find a home for it? Or put it in a church sale or thrift shop so someone who would like it would find it?
I discovered that you have a new book out, Bloodroot, so I have just ordered it from Amazon. Looking forward to it for holiday reading – my gift to myself!
When I was little, we always slept under hand-made patchwork quilts and walked on rag rugs my great-aunt Alvida made, and we used and abused them until they plain wore out. Some of the ragged quilts are still in trunks around the place. Some of her rugs we’re still using.
A couple of years ago I went to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, where they had an exhibit of new, very modern quilts that used fabric squares from ancient worn quilts, so I sent a couple of Aunt Alla’s quilts to the museum for their annual fund-raising auction. Some of the ancient quilt fabric squares are now quite valuable.
When my mother and I opened the B&B in 1988 to cover the mortgage she took out to renovate the kitchen/cookroom/woodshed, we decided we would like to acquire hand-made quilts and rag rugs to continue the feeling of Aunt’s quilts and rugs.
So the answer is a resounding YES, I would love to have the nautical patchwork quilt. It looks lovely in the pictures. I would like to pay you for it, or at least pay postage. It will be coming to a home where it will be welcome.
From Deb Adamy, Upper Nyack, New York, September 2016
I'm a friend of Mark and Jennifer Attebery's. My husband, Paul, had a gig at a blues festival in Lugano, Switzerland, and we were delighted to have Mark and Jennifer join us for the festival and, afterward, a few days in Lake Como, Italy. We had such fabulous time traveling together.
Jennifer had your new book, Howard and Cynthia: A Love Story, and I read it from start to finish on our plane ride back to New York. I couldn't put it down, I was so deeply moved and inspired on many levels. I really LOVED it!!!
I had heard of your love story as it was unfolding – Jennifer shared tidbits of information when you and Howard were corresponding by email – then later I read the articles and watched TV interviews about it. Yet, reading your book provided the larger, fuller, richer context from both of your perspectives – what a treasured gift. Thank you! I want to share your book with as many people as I can.
Cynthia and Howard’s reply
Thank you so much for your email. Jennifer did tell us that she had shared the book with you, and I can't begin to tell you how delighted we both are with your reaction.
Both Howie and I are private people, so when we decided to publish our story, it felt like standing naked at the end of a diving board daring to plunge into the pool below. But we felt our story was too wonderful to keep to ourselves. Almost without exception people have told us our story gives them hope, and what better response could we wish for.
Again, thank you for letting us know we did the right thing by tossing our story out to the world.
From Alice Smith, Florida, July 2016
Love your books. Found you after reading a short story in The Moth. I read the first three (I like to read in order) and then read #4, Jack in the Pulpit. This book seems like the first book because it lays out all that happened first. What an interesting way to write the stories.
The reason Jack in the Pulpit seems like the first book is because it was actually the first book I wrote in the series. At the time, I had gone back to school for my MFA—at 68, never dreaming I would become a published writer. During the two-year program at Vermont College I wrote four books, but my advisor said the first two were "unpublishable." So Book No. 3 was the first published, and after I learned a bit more about how to write, I revised Jack in the Pulpit, and it became what the publishing industry calls a "prequel."
From Karen Sebesta, San Antonio, Texas, July 2016
I just read Bloodroot and loved it. But what happened to Dog after his owner went to jail?
Good point! I should have cleared that up. John Tabor, the older lonely neighbor we met when Arthur and Dog were on a walk, took Dog in when Arthur got sent away. Dog and Mr. Tabor had always been good friends, and now Dog has someone to take care of as does Mr. Tabor. Thanks for asking.
From Jo Nell Castellani, Chadwick, Ill., May 2016
I just finished Bloodroot and you did it again! A book that I simply couldn't put down. I especially liked the part where Victoria broke Lockwood's wrist with her lilac stick. I have a black ash stick that I think would do just about the same amount of damage. I'm looking forward to the time when Lockwood comes back and both Casey and Victoria get after him.
Your books are so well written and so engaging that I usually finish them in a day or so. Please keep writing!
What a pleasure to get a fan letter from one of the people I most admire – a librarian. I must say, I enjoy hating Lockwood’s guts. He is likely to return.
From Elaine Jackson, May 2016
I was so happy to receive your latest book, Bloodroot. I was anxious to read it. However, I was dismayed to see you brought back the character of Lockwood. I considered not finishing the book due to this despicable character re-emerging. Please DO NOT bring him back in any future books. Dispose of him off-island. Your books are too good to have someone of this ilk prominent in them.
Other than that, I enjoyed the book. However, Paper White Narcissus is still my favorite. I recently read it for the third time.
Thank you for your email. Just yesterday a fan wrote this: “I'm looking forward to the time when Lockwood comes back and both Casey and Victoria get after him.”
I think I’m on your side. I told my yesterday’s fan that I love to hate Lockwood, but I like your idea of killing him when he’s off-Island. (Actually, Lockwood is patterned after my ex-husband.) I hope you’ll keep reading. He won’t appear for the next two books, at least.
From Kathleen Gierhart, Athens, Ohio, March 2016
Please contact Little Professor Bookstore in Athens, Ohio. The manager told me Cynthia Riggs's daughter (Mary Stoertz) lived in Athens before her death. I have also checked with the Athens Public Library, which carries all of the Riggs books with exception of Murder on C-Dock.
Truly would like to read this book—many pleasurable hours in reading all the other books.
It’s wonderful to hear from a reader of my books who’s gone to so much trouble to find one of them. Little Professor Bookstore carried my books because my late daughter, Mary Wilder Stoertz, was a professor at Ohio U., and the bookstore held the first book signing for me when my first book, Deadly Nightshade, was published. So I have a very special feeling for Little Professor.
Murder on C-Dock is the first book in a new series set on the waterfront in Washington, D.C. The book was published by Cleaveland House Books, essentially self-published, so few bookstores carry it. Thank you so much for wanting to read it. It has a different cast of characters and is darker than the Martha’s Vineyard series.
From Carol Dolson, Athens, Ga., December 2015
Your visit aboard a recent American Cruise Line ship that stopped at Martha's Vineyard was a highlight of the trip. I loved hearing about your books and your life story, was just disappointed that you didn't bring Howard with you.
I read Poison Ivy immediately after arriving home and enjoyed it immensely — I couldn't read fast enough at the end. While you were aboard the ship, I wanted to talk to you about my children's books, but you kept us all so spellbound with your stories, and the time of your departure came to soon. Maybe another time.
From Susan Harris, St. Joseph, Mo., November 2015
I am rereading Death and Honesty because I miss Victoria.
I also wanted to buy your new book about D.C. and thought I had ordered it from you many months ago, but I guess I didn't. I would still like to buy it. My uncle died unexpectedly this summer. He had lived in D.C. for most of his adult life, so I am especially interested since it will remind me of him.
From Joey Cross, May 2015
At age 85+ I am writing my first fan letter! Truly, so I can no longer put off telling you how much your mysteries speak to me.
I have never been to Martha's Vineyard, but feel as if I know it intimately through your books. I just finished Poison Ivy. I've just put in a request to my library to purchase Murder on C-Dock, and if that doesn't happen expeditiously, I will purchase it.
Also, I enjoy each of your books a second time as they become available as audio books which can be downloaded into my MP3 player.
At any rate, thank you so much for many hours of the pleasure of the company of Mrs. T.
From Gerry Aldrich, May 2015
I recently purchased a previously owned copy of The Bee Balm Murders that was signed by you. There is also another signature that looks like Ken Jandry. Could you please tell me who this mysterious signer is?
P.S. Loved the book!
From Howard North, April 2015
Finally found time to read Poison Ivy after you had sent two books to me.
I believe that the ending to Ivy was the best of all the fiction books you've written and I've read them all. I never did figure out the bad guy! It was very enjoyable and as usual interesting throughout.
Congrats, and as always when you write and release a new one I'll buy a copy.
From Susan Harris, St. Joseph, Mo., April 2015
I was just caught up with your blog and have been wondering if and when you were coming out with a new book. I am looking forward to reading whatever you write, but if you never get another book published that's okay, too. I don't think I could ever even write one if my life depended on it. I found out about you on The Moth and read all your Victoria books in short order, loved them, and sent you fan mail. Then you surprised me by emailing me back. In my book, that's plenty to expect of any author.
It is the funniest thing how just reading makes you familiar with a whole other world, and the shortest note can make a personal connection to that place. I understand why many of your fans visit your home. Heck, I understand why readers visit authors' homes, period. When I heard and saw on TV about the big ice and snowstorm this winter, I thought of you and Howie just as if I knew you. I'm glad to know you both made it through a wild winter (knew you would). Luckily you had each other for company. Actually, I can imagine it, since I read your blog. Hope spring is sprung there and you are luxuriating in the sun outside everyday.
From Susan Harris, St. Joseph, Mo., April 2015
I'm cheap and I read so much that I wouldn't know where to store all the books I read, even if I weren't cheap. I've gotten all your books from the library. I will request that they buy Poison Ivy, and they'll do it. They have all the others. Then I'll be the first to read it.
However, I would love to buy an autographed copy of Murder on C-Dock and I will gladly pay you for it, and pass it around to my sisters after I've read it. You are quite the trusting soul, sending out books first, but hey, apparently that has worked out really well for your so far. I do think you should figure out how to bottle your energy and motivation, as they say, and try to sell that . . . You are amazing!
Also, the comment you made in one of your books about Victoria still having great legs; that was about your legs, wasn't it? I saw a picture of you with those long, slim legs of yours and I think you must be proud of them.
Poison Ivy now has been published in hardcover by St. Martin’s, but I think you have read that already in the paperback. Bloodroot is in the works, scheduled for publication by St. Martin’s in spring 2016, and I’m procrastinating. I shouldn’t be writing to you now, I should be writing 12,185 more words to complete the manuscript by May 1.
I have copies of Murder on C-Dock, my latest book in a new series, for sale, and if you’d like one let me know your mailing address. C-Dock is the start of a new series set on the Washington, D.C., waterfront. It’s darker than the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery Series and has a young protagonist who lives aboard a houseboat.
Thanks for writing. You see? Authors do write back to their fans. We love our readers.
From Ginny Austin, March 2015
Thank you so very much for your books!
Hope to visit Martha's Vineyard someday. Till then you put me right next to Victoria and her adventures!!
P.S. I will try the cranberry juice and rum!!
From Cheryl Blanchette, March 2015
Congrats on your latest child, Poison Ivy!! I am eager to read it. May I purchase it from you with an inscription?
And I am eagerly awaiting the book you and your husband are co-writing.
How are you these days? I think often of you and your French students
and your husband's interest in Greek mythology -- I hope I've had that right.
Do check my blog, Martha's Vineyard Mysteries, to see what I'm up to in my new life as bride. Never thought that would happen.
From Cheryl Blanchette, March 2015
I would have responded earlier but I spent some wonderful hours reading your entire blog. Mon Dieu, formidable! Your life was already the stuff of a great novel and film and your new life as bride lives up to that and continues your romantic journey! I have signed up for your blog (the first I ever read) and look forward to more. Many more.
Please keep writing for you are my inspiration as I write my mystery. And may you and Howie always fête life with all exuberance you gift us via your blog. I am also fortunate to do the same with my husband, Ralph. He is finishing his novel of the life of Aristotle and is in bliss!
From Kerrilyn Garma, March 2015
I have read all of your books and just saw on your website that you have published Murder on C-Dock. I can't seem to find a way to purchase it on the internet. I would appreciate it if you could please let me know where I can buy it.
Thank you for all of the enjoyment I've had reading your books!
From Jan Ferguson, February 2015
Enjoyed all your photos on that blog -- those pretty chickens (feathered kids?) and neighbors and helpers, bright green indoor garden, views of the porch with its baskets, bird food, and firewood, and brick floors, the car (snow lump) and especially the icy path to the bird feeders. Be careful out there!
Thanks so much for sharing; what a busy place your home turns out to be! Looking forward to playing catch-up on your previous blog posts, and bringing home my first Martha's Vineyard mystery!
Here's a winter photo from last winter, and that's my helper, Markie.
Another gorgeous photo. Surely that’s not now? Hard to believe it’s spring anywhere. Here's what it looks like from my study window.
From Jan Ferguson, February 2015
Thank you for your prompt note and very helpful list. They are much appreciated.
Perhaps I shall fancy myself anchored on the coastal waters, anticipating a visit from Cynthia Riggs, as I watch the gulls dip and feel the salty wind gusts.
Actually, I am sitting in a very lumpy dining room chair, hearing the roar of the dishwasher, and feeling the static-charged warm air blowing across my keyboard.
My next visit to my county library will, however, bring the world of Martha's Vineyard close!
From Jan Ferguson, February 2015
Hi, just have been visiting your web page and blog and have discovered most all of your books are at my local library, and would like to know which books, in your opinion, I should read first. Should I start with the oldest publishing date available in the library?
Loved your blog post on beech trees.
Time to fix dinner. Thank you in advance for your response. Best wishes during this snowy winter.
P.S. Sending you a photo of an oak and some sassafras in my back yard.
What a gorgeous photo of the oak tree. Hard to believe it was ever that warm.
Each of my books is written as a stand-alone. I don’t like to start a series in the middle and find I should have started from the beginning. You can read them in any order you like, and I don’t think you will feel you’ve missed background information from an earlier book. Attached is a list of the books with a brief description so you can pick whatever appeals to you. I give a talk on a cruise ship that visits the Island weekly during the summer, and that’s what the list is from.
We are snowbound, quite literally, this week. The snowdrifts around the house are four- to five-feet deep. A good time to catch up on our reading, since we can’t do much else.
Thank you for writing. I’m glad you like the blog.
From Tony Thompson, January 2015
I just finished reading Bee Balm Murders, which my wife gave me for Christmas. I loved it! We spend about three weeks each year on the Vineyard, in Oak Bluffs at my wife's best friend's home. She recently lost her husband so I spend my time fishing and helping with the upkeep of her home.
This was my first book of yours that I have read. I enjoyed how you used Island locations and "thinking" to draw the reader in. I know you probably receive many ideas from your readers so I will be no different: Ever thought of writing a book that occurs only during the Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby? The influx of 3,000 fishermen could make for a much more complicated storyline, along with fishermen who are tight-lipped about their fishing spots, rules and catches. Just a thought.
Have a great winter and I look forward to another one of your books in the near future.
Good idea. One of the members of our Wednesday Writers Group is known as “The No. 1 Fisherman on Martha’s Vineyard.” Her name is Janet Messineo. She’s won the Derby in the past, and is a taxidermist when she’s not fishing from 3 am to 12 midnight. When she’s not fishing or mounting fish specimens, she’s working on a book about the Derby and her life. She’s a published writer with numerous articles in fishing magazines. I can use her for my consultant.
Thanks for the email. Be sure to let me know next time you’re on Island. I love meeting someone who’s read my books.
From Susan Harris, December 26, 2014
Quick question: Do you personally answer all your own email, or do you hire someone to answer it in your name? I just found out that someone I know has the job of answering the email for some authors and celebrities, and actually signs those individuals’ names. I find that very dishonest and disappointing. It would be far better to simply not receive an answer than to be deceived. Thanks for an honest answer.
I love hearing from people who’ve read my books and take the time to write to me. I wouldn’t dream of having someone else answer them for me. I learn a lot about what’s working and what isn’t, and I’ve made good friends through emails, and have signed up a bunch of B&B guests.
I suppose if I were getting more than a half-dozen a week, say on the order of hundreds a week, I might feel differently about answering every one individually. Not likely to happen soon.
Writing is a lonely occupation, and it’s warming to know that someone is actually picking up one of my books and honestly and truly reading it. And writing to me! Yay!
You, too. This is not a form letter.
Dear the real Cynthia Riggs:
I was delighted to hear that you answered your own emails. I would not fault anyone for not answering fan mail, but it does seem dishonest to have someone else answer for you, not very Victoria Trumbull–like at all. Better to have a disclaimer that not all the emails will be answered.
I have checked out your blog before; I will again. I was hoping to see a picture of your mother, who I imagine is your inspiration for Victoria, though I know that she is probably a lot like you too, since we are all stuck with our own perspective no matter what we do.
I have read all your books in order, I just finished Death and Honesty and just started Touch-Me-Not. I am interested to meet one of Victoria's daughters; she just referred to them in the last book. The books themselves have dealt with some of my early questions, such as how normal people pay the real estate taxes (which I gather is that they don't own beach-front property, and not much acreage). I still like the one with the environmental warrior and the hoarder the best, but I have enjoyed them all. The Paperwhite Narcissus was reminiscent of an Agatha Christie mystery, in that it could have taken place anywhere and was very elaborate in the plot and in the dropped clues. I wonder if you deliberately decide to write in slightly different styles each time just for a change of pace.
Anyway, thanks again for all your effort. Victoria has helped me to embrace the challenges and rewards of getting older and also of owning a big, old, and old-fashioned house and never having quite as much money as you think you need. You really are a good writer. Your regular characters ring true to me, and I have referred you to other women who like this particular type of escapism and encouragement. Happy New Year to you and yours.
From Tanya Woynarowsky, December 2014
I hope that you had a nice Thanksgiving. Thank you for returning my call last week. It was so nice speaking to you. As I mentioned, I heard your story on The Moth Radio Hour on NPR. You and Howie have an amazing love story!
I am working on a book of personal love stories that I've compiled from people who have shared their stores with me. I remember when I first heard your story on NPR. I was in the middle of something and stopped what I was doing so that I wouldn't miss hearing it. Needless to say, your story grabbled my attention and I knew that I had to get in touch with you.
Your story is not only beautiful and rare, but it is very inspiring and gives hope to so many single people who are in search of real love. I would relish the opportunity to interview you and Howie via Skype. It would be wonderful to hear the story from each of your sides.
We were delighted to know you heard our story on The Moth. It truly is a great story.
We’ve had so many offers of media interviews, we’ve had to turn most of them down. Unfortunately, we’ll have to say no to your kind offer.
Best of luck with your book.
From Susan Harris, December 5, 2014
I have now finished four of your books. I liked them all and have started The Paper White Narcissus. I read The Cranefly Orchid last and it has been my favorite. It right away addressed my question of how anyone but the super-rich can afford to pay what must be extremely high real estate taxes, because the land is worth so much.
It reminded me a lot of a Carl Hiassen novel, without as much goriness and grittiness. But it still had flawed, but ultimately good characters, unconventional all, the environmental warrior theme; and underground man reminded me of what's his name in Hiassen's books (the former governor living in the wilderness). Victoria and the little boy helping each other was nice, and you kept it all real with Victoria's testiness and physical limitations.
I started reading your novels for pleasant escapism to a place I will probably never go, but have seen many pictures of, and have somewhat idealized. Now, I think that it would be hard to live there and maybe not even a great place to visit, with the constant pressure to develop and bring in more money and people. It's always the tragedy of the commons. Better probably, to visit less popular places. Also, the presence of so many rich people would certainly make the whole island feel like it was divided between the haves and the service industry workers. All the better setting for your stories, though.
I will read all your books because you are such a good writer. You must have written some all of your life and certainly read a lot, too.
From Dan Simmons, Jericho, Vt., November 2014
I’ve been listening to The Moth Radio Hour on public radio for the past year, and I was fortunate to catch your story this week. It certainly rates as one of my favorites. I have never visited Martha’s Vineyard (only Nantucket), but I hope you are enjoying life on the Vineyard.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, and good luck with your writing. I hope to read one of your published stories soon. My best to you and your husband.
From Susan Harris, November 26, 2014
I heard your story on The Moth Radio Hour, and was impressed by you, so I have started reading your books. So far, so good. I am reading book #2 and will finish it in a couple of days. Victoria really is believable, because she has the minimal ailments any amazing 92-year-old would have including the common problem of the toe and the common solution of cutting a hole in her shoe. I love history, but have never been to New England, let alone the very famous Martha's Vineyard, but your books are a great and free way to take a fabulous vacation.
I was very close to my grandmother, who was born in 1903 and lived to be nearly 101. Your mother must have been born around that same time. I especially like it when Victoria contrasts the present with the recent past, when she was a little girl. I remember her story of the boys falling asleep behind their horses in the middle of the road, and my own grandmother's stories of ice skating parties on the river. You were so close to your mother, surely you know a great deal about the way the island was then. Our changing lifestyles and norms must have amazed her, and, I imagine, sometimes disheartened her. The natural world and and manmade environment have changed so much in my own lifetime; I can only imagine what it was like for her generation.
Consider writing your own memoir or that of your family or of your mother. I hope that you include some of your mother's poetry in your mysteries and many of her reminiscences. If that does not appeal, perhaps there will be a mystery set partly in the 19-teens or -twenties, when she was young. Maybe you have already done this. I will find out. Thanks for the books.
Cynthia’s reply, November 26
Thanks for your email. The Moth radio program is amazing the way it connects people. I’m delighted that you’ve begun to read the Victoria Trumbull books. I’ve started a blog recently that you might like at www.marthasvineyardmystery.com. I have a short essay about her on my blog. She was hoping to live in three centuries, from 1898, when she was born, through the 1900s and into the new millennium. She almost made it, but died in 1997, three years short of her aim.
Susan’s reply, November 28
Well, I am amazed that you answered my fan mail. I want you to know that this never happened when I wrote David Cassidy (when I was 10). I read that C. S. Lewis answered all of his fan mail on scraps of paper and it was the bane of his existence, but he chalked it up to Christian service. I hope you do not feel obligated to return your fans’ enthusiasm, but just do as you please.
I will definitely check out your blog. I am almost done with The Cemetery Yew, and it is as easy reading as the first one was. I am already feeling like I know Victoria, the town, and the house you live in. Also, I cheated and saw some photos on your website. I appreciated the reference to the old house's upkeep, when Casey said she was glad she didn't have to do it. I have a big old house from approximately the 1860s to 1870. I can only imagine with the age(s) of your home . . . but you are the right kind of person to own it.
Thanks again for answering and I am looking forward to getting to know your mother a little better through reading. I am sure that I am so intrigued, because she reminds me of my grandmother. She was raised by her father's brother's family in a small town in Missouri. She was determined to one day have her own big family that would not be torn apart. She moved to St. Joe to go to nursing school, became and was a nurse in the 1920s, then got married and had eight kids. She returned to nursing after her husband died at age 58. She lied about her age to get back into the profession, worked until she was 70, and then remarried her friend of 60 years at age 79.
She lived in the same house for about 60 years and was one of the most satisfied and grateful people I have ever met, and always thrilled to make new friends, preferably to feed your or at least give you a cup of coffee or a drink in her kitchen. I have the feeling that she and Victoria would have gotten along just fine.
From Katherine Von Rodeck, Toms River, N.J., September 2014
I just finished Jack in the Pulpit, and am a bit confused. I read The Bee Balm Murders first, as it was reviewed in our local paper. I really enjoyed it, and being a bit anal, decided to read the previous books in order of publication. This is where my confusion starts. In the Jack in the Pulpit, Victoria received her baseball hat. But in the previous books, she already had it. Can you help me with this? Thanks so much.
P.S. I pass these along to my mom, who also enjoys the books.
From Carola Bundy, September 2014
You so kindly sent your wonderful Victoria Trumbull’s Martha’s Vineyard guidebook to my Aunt Judy a while back. Thank you for that.
I wonder if you've heard of the Featherstone Ukulele Jam group? They meet on Wednesday evenings at the Featherstone Center for the Arts. I've played with them twice, so far, and they're a fun and lively group. I thought you might keep them in mind when looking for ideas for your books.
Your books were a great comfort last year as I recovered from back injury. And, the joy is, I was so drugged-up at the time, I can read them all again very soon. :-)
From Julie Dowdle, Guelph, Ontario, September 2014
Thank you so much for writing back to me — I really appreciate it. In fact, I will go further and say that you "made my day"!!!
I'm still sorting myself out since my husband's passing, and one of the best things I've done so far is to join the book club at our local seniors centre. As I'm on this new journey in my life, I know I have to find a new "purpose," so I'm treading slowly but surely into the next stage.
I discovered your books (along with Philip Craig's) at about the same time a few years ago. I was so sad to hear of his passing. You're to be envied because how perfect a setting is the Martha's Vineyard locale!
I would definitely love to have a copy of Poison Ivy in trade paperback, and since we're anticipating another very long and brutal winter, I plan on stockpiling a few good reads for those snowy, blowy, "can't go outside" days.
Thank you for your email. I was sorry to hear about your husband passing away. I know it must be a difficult loss for you to bear. To me, 68 seems very young. The year I was 68, my mother died. She and I were very close, and her death, even at 99, left a big gap in my life. A friend suggested that I go back to school. She knew I liked books and liked to write. After she sent me application forms to go to Vermont College, I gave in. It was a low-residency, two-year program, where I went to college for two-week residencies twice a year for two years, in order to get an MFA in creative writing. Another friend had suggested I write mysteries after I told him I had no idea what I would write. So that’s how I ended up writing the Martha’s Vineyard mysteries.
Victoria Trumbull is based on my mother, and my writing about her is a way to pay tribute to her and was the best possible way to heal. I had no money, so I maxed out my credit cards, didn’t pay my bills, ruined my credit rating, the school let me pay in installments, and somehow I managed. During the two- year program I wrote four books, and after I sold two of them, I was able to pay off my college expenses.
I don’t know if this helps you, but I can assure you, life after 68 can be the most interesting, important, and exciting time of your life.
From Theodore Moore, Ann Arbor, Mich., August 2014
I became acquainted with your life and your writing through that wonderful spot you did on The Moth Radio Hour. I do hope that by now your life as a newly married woman has settled into relaxed happiness. Your story also prompted me to search out your books, and I must say I have enjoyed reading them. I have always liked good mysteries, but unfortunately good mystery writers cannot write as fast as I can read, so I have had to develop a “stable” of such writers. Welcome to the club!
Once I read more of your history, it surprised me that I have a few common points with your life’s meanderings. I too got my degree in geology (University of North Carolina) and after a stint in the Navy, I went to grad school at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where you first met your new husband. Do you remember for whom you were picking plankton? You are obviously a much better sailor than me, but it must say something about my love of the ocean that I am willing to put up with a few days of sea sickness if I can just sail for a few weeks on those magically rolling waves. My career as a marine geologist has taken to many seas and many ports and largely satisfied that itchy foot feeling.
Then there is my first contact with the Vineyard, which I have since viewed as a safe haven. It came in the winter of 1961 or 1962. I was a young naval officer on board a destroyer. We were conducting some sort of exercise with a fleet of destroyers, submarines, and a carrier in the far North Atlantic when one of those ferocious Atlantic storms developed. We were told to abandon the exercise and seek a safe port. We headed southwest in a following sea. I remember standing watch at night as we approached the Grand Banks from the north. On the radar there were hundreds of bright dots, which I took to be “clutter” from the rough seas. Some of it may have been that, but when we got closer to the Banks the horizon lit up with the running lights of dozens of fishing boats.
I felt rather taken aback by all these brave (foolhardy?) fishermen in ships much smaller than ours. They seemed to be riding out a storm that we were running from. As a qualified Master yourself, I am sure you appreciate the danger of a really fierce North Atlantic storm. We felt very lucky to make it to the lee side of Martha’s Vineyard and anchor there that night.
The next morning we arose to find that all our topside was coated in more than an inch of ice — a pretty dangerous condition for a small ship. As we chipped and hosed away our ice cover, I wondered and worried about all those fishing boats that may have remained at sea. Were you living on Martha’s Vineyard that winter? And do you recall such a storm? I suppose a resident of the Vineyard is likely to have weathered many such blows. I have often visited WHOI, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, but never really set foot on the Island. It sounds delightful.
From Alan Osowski, Orange City, Fla., August 2014
It was a pleasure listening to you and meeting you on the American Star. I spoke to you about obtaining an autographed copy of Shooting Star as you did not have any available on board that day. My son is very active in community theater and has performed in over 50 stage productions throughout central Florida.
If you are able to find an extra copy, I would greatly appreciate it if you could autograph it and possibly add an inspirational comment. Talent begets talent, and I am sure he would treasure any words of wisdom you might impart.
Thanks for the email. I had misplaced the note I made of your address and was kicking myself for being so careless.
I have only two copies of Shooting Star, and am pleased to send one of those to you for Michael. I’ll try to get it in the mail on Monday. I hope you’ll have a chance to read it first.
From Joyce Dresser, Martha's Vineyard, August 2014
I have this habit of accumulating books, putting them down, reading something else, and finally going back to what we had bought. Recently I noticed Indian Pipes in our bookcase and opened it. It was marvelous! I so enjoyed it. Your characters have distinct personalities, the tempo was good, the suspense riveting, and the denouement a complete surprise! I would find myself doing a chore thinking about the characters and wondering what they were doing. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed it. I look forward to reading another of your mysteries. Well done!
Thank you — especially nice coming from a teacher.
From Nancy Byrne, July 2014
Our family is from New York, and we have been summering on Martha's Vineyard for 42 years. We rent the same home in Oak Bluffs, and our daughters literally grew up there and still return each summer. One has bought a condo, and our youngest got married at the Sailing Camp two years ago. Our third moved to Australia but comes as often as she can.
We love and have read all of your books. We have the collection, minus one that is currently out of print.
We are so excited to hear about your marriage to Howard, which is a new chapter in your life. Congratulations. We read the cute article about your "traveling chicken" in the Vineyard Gazette and loved it.
From Barbara Wilson, July 2014
The last week in May my husband and I cruised the islands off Providence, and you appeared to tell us stories! Loved it!
While you were signing my book, Double Murder on Martha’s Vineyard, I asked if any of Victoria's friends ever called her Tori. I mentioned Tommy Lee Jones having a daughter named Victoria, but she goes by Tory.
I'm thinking an old flame of Victoria’s, a good-looking 92-year-old ex-classmate on Martha's Vineyard, returns and he, of course, still calls her Tori (or Tory). Any chance?
So far I have read eight more of your books and have four more ordered.
Getting close to 92 myself, I relate a bit!
From James Pletcher, Uniontown, Pa., June 2014
Just finished your book Poison Ivy. What a great read. Wow. You were stacking the bodies up like cordwood. I always enjoy Victoria's demeanor, calm in the face of so much death. You do a wonderful job of telling the story and giving my mind's eye something visual about the setting. When is your next book coming out? Can't wait to read it.
Thank you — it’s always a pleasure to hear from someone who’s read about Victoria Trumbull. Two books are finished and in the works, but will probably not be on the shelf until next spring. Bloodroot, which deals with murder in a dental clinic, is next in line.
From Pat Wood, June 2014
Your books have been recommended to me by some of the people on an Amazon forum, which I read every day. I went on Amazon to buy some and found that most have not been Kindleized so there were only 4 that I could afford.
One of my questions is this: "Why such high prices on the hardback books?" And should they be read in order?
At the top of my "bucket list" is to visit the Maine coast, and Martha's Vineyard is #2. I am 81 years old and have lived a great life so far. I think your life sounds great and I hope your books will all be Kindleized one day.
I think the reason for the high prices on hardback books has to do with the costs involved in producing and distributing them. Paper is very expensive, and the publishers, distributors, and booksellers have staff salaries and high rents to pay. Much as I love hardcover books, ebooks make a lot of sense environmentally and economically.
My books do not need to be read in order. I deliberately wrote them as stand-alones because I don’t like to start a series in the middle and realize I’ve missed background information given in the first few books.
When you decide to visit Martha’s Vineyard, be sure to let me know. I run a B&B in my old family homestead catering to poets, writers, and creative people who like to read.
From Doug Hearle, June 2014
I asked you to take a look at my novel which will be published in the fall and you said you would. I'm ba-aa-aa-ck!
It would be great if you felt it was “not bad.” To have someone of your stature say anything positive in a blurb for the cover would be great.
The book is called Outsource and it is set in the 1980s, dealing with a New York businessman who is recruited by the CIA because of his consultancy role with the government of Indonesia. He gets caught up in a murder-for-hire plot on the international level involving heads of state.
In advance, please accept my most sincere gratitude. After all, you have no reason to show such a kindness to a first-timer. I will not forget it.
I read Outsource from beginning to end, intending originally to simply skim through, but finding myself caught up in the intrigues. Fascinating.
My only thought, as one who dislikes prologues, is that you really don’t need yours. However, even if you keep the prologue, the book is well done, and the ms. is beautifully clean. Thank you for trusting me with Outsource. A good title.
You’ll be invited to blurb books, yourself, one of these days. It’s an honor to be asked to do so.
You have been generous beyond my wildest hopes. I am so happy that you think well of my effort. I've been stitching it together for half a decade. To have Cynthia Riggs say what you have said just energizes me to a level I cannot describe.
Thank you, my friend. I look forward to finding a way to sit and talk with you sometime in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, please know that I am in your debt and — more importantly — I know I am in your debt and I'm delighted to be there.
From Pat McCarl, June 2014
I had thought about emailing you recently but I have not. I just finished reading The Bee Balm Murders and it held my interest from page 1. I am Pat McCarl, not Pat Wood. I wanted to let you know about this email so you could send your response on to Pat Wood.
I just bought two of your books for a friend to take on a trip (she is 82). I am sure when she gets back she will let me know she enjoyed them and start reading them more often.
I have not been to Martha's Vineyard lately. I may try for next year. It was great hearing from you even though it was a mistake.
How very funny! Your address is very like Pat Wood’s. I can see why I sent my response to the wrong Pat. Thanks for the clarification. I’ll repost my e-mail to the correct Pat.
From Heidi Havens, May 2014
I am currently reading all of your books again. I was spending a lot of time in hospitals over the past few years for my mother. I donated all of your books to them. I was missing my grandmother and now my mother, and your books make me feel a little closer to them. They are so lovely that I have bought them twice!
You really have meant so much to me. I have loved your books, but you are also an inspiration.
Thank you so much for your kind words. I based Victoria on my mother, my attempt to honor her and keep her memory alive. I’m glad she means a lot to you, too, and keeps your grandmother’s and mother’s memories alive.
From Susan Feller, May 2014
I've just finished my fifth Cynthia Riggs mystery and cannot tell you how enjoyable I find them. I love going online to your website and seeing the house and the cookroom/mudroom. I will be reading the rest of them this summer, before my annual visit to the Vineyard. What fun!
I live in Virginia and usually come to the Island in September after the crowds. I went to the Sailing Camp for four years, and last summer I had a group of friends and we did a house in Oak Bluffs, did the water aerobics at the Inkwell — Victoria would have loved that. After reading your books I cut a hole in my shoe and oh what a relief. Now I'm back to the library to finish the rest of your books. So enjoyable.
Thanks so much for your e-mail. You might be interested in the guidebook three of us put together called Victoria Trumbull’s Martha’s Vineyard. Attached is information about the book and a picture of the cover. The photo shows Victoria’s blue coat and fuzzy tan hat in the entry to my (her) house.
When do you visit the Vineyard? Stop by and see the setting for the books.
From Rilla Pezzopane, April 2014
Hello! I’d like to say I just discovered your books and have read four. I’m starting on the fifth. I love Victoria!! I don't, however, enjoy the language used by the police. I realize this is “true to life” and the way many people express themselves these days, but does it have to be?
Thanks for listening.
From Mrs. Pam Pardue, Myrtle Beach, S.C., April 2014
I must express my extreme gratitude and thanks for your generous gift of your latest book, Poison Ivy. I am an avid fan of Victoria Trumbull and her adventures in West Tisbury. With each book, I find I get to know and appreciate her investigative skills more. I enjoy the interplay and historical background that Victoria has with the other inhabitants of West Tisbury. Who would have imagined that Victoria would be a college instructor and solve a murder at the same time?
I cannot thank you enough for the generous gifts to both me and my library, Carolina Forest Branch of Horry County Library in Myrtle Beach. Both the head librarian and I were astounded by your graciousness and kindness in sending us autographed copies of Poison Ivy.
From Louis Schmuck, Hubbard, Ohio, March 2014
Thank you very much for everything you have done already. My wife is so over the moon that she was able to speak with you. I know she will treasure her signed copy of Poison Ivy. Thank you again. You are a lovely lady and it was my pleasure speaking with you today.
From Marianne Gould, Albany, N.Y., March 2014
I discovered you fairly late in my life (I am in my 77th year), but reading your books has certainly enhanced my "golden " years! In addition to enjoying stories about the ocean community of Martha’s Vineyard, and the family connections of Victoria, I have had many fun hours trying to write the poetry forms that Victoria scribbles on various pieces of paper! I've had more luck with the sestina than with the villanelle, but I thank you also for (inadvertently) introducing me to Sylvia Plath's “Mad Girl's Love Song.” I look forward to your new books.
From Roslyn M., Vancouver, B.C., March 2014
I have read with great relish all of the Martha's Vineyard novels and am therefore incredibly disappointed to be unable to find your ebook Poison Ivy anywhere. Any ideas?
It seems I can never get enough of reading books about Martha's Vineyard, a place I've never been.
From Sheila Gustafson, Plymouth, Mass., February 2014
Just finished reading Touch-Me-Not and I have to say I had no idea who the killer was until the end. Good job in keeping a mystery.
I have just about all your books and I want to say “Thank you” for adding to my mystery entertainment. Now if a movie was ever made of one of the books or a combination of a few of them, it would be the crowning glory. I am a huge fan of Murder, She Wrote, and your Victoria Trumbull is right up there with Jessica Fletcher.
P.S. Have to make a trip to the Black Dog for a lobster roll!
From Bruce Steinbicker, Asheville, N.C., January 2014
Even in this age of instant communication good news sometimes travels slow! I just stumbled across the good news of your marriage. My belated congratulations and best wishes to you and Howard. Although you had no contact for so many years, was he by chance the inspiration for the name of Victoria's dear friend Howland Atherton?
I found your good news looking for the answer to a question I will ask you to quickly answer and save me some time. In which book does Elizabeth's ex stalk her and flee the island when Junior Norton gets creative?
It’s an amazing story, this romance of ours. I swore that I’d never, never, never get married again. I’d tried it once, stuck it out for 25 years, and was entirely content with my solitary life. CBS News got hold of the story and covered our wedding. I was well into the next book, Bloodroot, which deals with murder in a dental office, when Howard reappeared in my life. Strangely, one of his many careers was in dentistry and dental research.
You can always email me instead of surfing the web looking for Victoria Trumbull answers, but I’m delighted that you came up with our good news by doing so. I retell the story, countless times, of how in answer to Bruce Steinbicker’s finding a typo and suggesting that the Alley’s Store Greek chorus be reinstated in the next book, an intended cameo appearance morphed into a major, naughty-character role.
Jack in the Pulpit is the book with the mushroom quiches and Elizabeth’s stalking ex. By the way, Lockwood is based on my own ex, true in every detail, which is why I swore off marriage.
From Bruce Steinbicker, Asheville, N.C., January 2014
Has anyone, in the decade since Jack in the Pulpit was published, mentioned to you that church sexton Hal Greene died twice? Several days ago I asked you what book Lockwood appears in and have just started to read it again. I have read Jack in the Pulpit at least three times and missed that until now.
On page 10 of the paperback edition Hal dies in the ambulance en route to the hospital. On page 18 the last sentence says he died a week later.
Having been in the newspaper business back in another lifetime I do know how it feels to have a major error jump out and hit you as the paper rolls off the press so this is not pointed out to you in a gloating or negative way.
You mentioned Lockwood is based on your ex. I am not sure whether you deserve a medal for tolerating him for 25 years or if you should be reprimanded instead. I have no tolerance whatsoever for men who abuse women.
You’re entitled to gloat. Good catch. You’re the first to pick up Hal Green’s double death.
The Lockwood prototype was a fascinating man, brilliant, funny, interesting, captivating. I deserve both a medal and a reprimand. The abuse snuck up on me. Mental illness snuck up on him. You’ve probably read both The Mosquito Coast and The Poisonwood Bible. That gives you some idea of what he was like.
I swore I’d never marry again, yet here I am, married. And living a magical life I never thought possible. My agent said we had to write a book. We said, No way. She said, if we don’t write it, someone else will, and we won’t like it. The first step, she told us, is writing a proposal, so we did. We’ve shared it only with my two writers’ groups. But since you seem to have become an important fictional character in my writing and speaking life, might you be interested in looking it over? It’s still a draft, open to comments, suggestions, double-death and typo catches, and the rest. I can e-mail it to you.
From Kim Cantley, Librarian, Myrtle Beach, S.C., December 2013
I have a patron, Ms. Pardue, that is a huge fan of yours and has delighted in reading your Martha's Vineyard mystery series. I compose this email as Ms. Pardue stands in front of my counter and I have to admit that she has finally stumped me. I need your assistance in helping me to solve the case of the missing book. Ms. Pardue is inquiring as to whether or not I can obtain a copy of your newest book, Poison Ivy. My staff and I have diligently searched through several websites without success. We are hoping to be able to order a copy of this book for our patron and to ultimately add it to our collections.
If you can assist us in trying to locate a copy of this book, it would be greatly appreciated.
Cynthia’s reply, March 2014
Only three-and-a-half months late in my response to your email of last December. With abject apologies, I am sending you two copies of Poison Ivy, one for the Carolina Forest Library and one for Ms. Pardue. The book will be published in hardcover this spring by St. Martin’s Press. I left the publisher briefly and self-published the book as a trade paperback. After hearing from the outraged millions of fans of Victoria Trumbull who are up in arms because they can’t locate the book, I realized that I am no good at promoting and marketing, hence I’ve returned to St. Martin’s, hat in hand.
The paperbacks are going in the mail Monday morning, compliments of the author, me. They’re likely to become collectors’ items.
Kim’s reply, April 2014
Thank you so much for your kind email and your generous gift of two books. Mrs. Pardue and I were very excited to receive your package. I have sent our branch copy to be processed by our catalogers and Mrs. Pardue was going to cuddle up with her book over the past weekend!
We are both overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity and our library patrons will be excited to learn about Victoria Trumball's latest adventures. Thank you so very much. I am happy to learn about your recent nuptials — congratulations! What a heartwarming story and perhaps a great one to set to pen and paper.
From Kathryn Shaw, September 2011
I just finished Paperwhite Narcissus and I want to tell you just how much I enjoyed your references to Phil Craig and J.W. [the sleuth in Craig’s mystery series], down to the Sam Adams beer and the plovers.
I found J.W. at the library about two-thirds of the way through the series and then picked the books off the shelf as they became available. I got to Vineyard Chill and got a horrible shock when I found out that Phil had passed away. I just assumed that when I got caught up with the series, I'd get to live with J.W., Zee, and the kids as new installments were annually released.
Now I’m reading your books in order. I really like to read mysteries that have a strong sense of place.My only question is how does time stand still for Victoria? Seasons come and go and bodies pile up like cordwood and Victoria is still 92. I just turned 70 and the days are streaking by faster than ever.
Besides the good writing, interesting characters, and strong sense of place, this series had given me a chance to distract myself from the endless Florida summer heat and humidity. I like to think what it might be like to wear a sweater at night in June in West Tisbury. In Sarasota it's 82 degrees at midnight in June. Yikes.
Thanks for writing. Phil Craig was a good friend, and just as you imagine him. A true gentleman, although he'd roar with laughter at the thought of being called "gentleman.” Shirley, Phil's wife, is a good friend and is much like Zee. She and Phil collaborated on a wonderful cookbook called (of course) Delish! The cookbook has all the recipes you need in a single cookbook, and as Phil said, "No recipe should be longer than four inches."
I'm delighted that you've discovered the Victoria Trumbull books. When my very first book was published, Phil and I were at a book signing together. He had stacks of his 13 or so books all around him and a lineup of people waiting for his autograph. I'd spread my one book out on the table so it looked like more than one. Fans would approach Phil: "Oh, Mr. Craig! I just Love your books!" and he'd say, "If you like my books, you'll have to try Cynthia's." I resolved at that time to do the same for any new writer I could promote. I miss him a lot.
You asked about time standing still for Victoria. I realized when I established her as a 92-year-old protagonist that if I planned to write 20 books, I'd be in trouble if I allowed her to age. So time in the background will always be the present, and Victoria will remain 92 throughout. For a reader, this is called "a willing suspension of disbelief."
From Martha Fisher Staples, August 2011
I wanted to tell you about when I met your mother for the first time, since you describe her so well in your books.
In the early 1960s I was Mary in the Christmas play at the church. For a few years, Lambert's Cove Methodist did the play with West Tisbury Congregational. Your mother would pick us up in her light blue VW, and I got to ride up front, since I would be good. (Alma Benson told me that!)
Anyway, my oldest brother was singing the part of the third wise man, and he sounded so wonderful, I got teary-eyed, and your mom said I was a very good Mary, and the tears made me look the part. She was a gem, and I am glad I got to meet her! I have read most of the Victoria Trumbull series. Just need to read two I missed. Keep them coming!
Thanks so much for the delightful view of my mother. I love hearing about her from someone who was touched by her. I remember that VW, and of course you would get to ride up front since she knew you would behave. I'm glad you like the Victoria Trumbull books.
From Bernadette Bristow, Auckland, New Zealand, July 2011
I have been able to escape to a world far away from New Zealand. Learning to quietly watch and listen with Victoria as she walks around her island home. I love Victoria's gumption, her ability to keep on when the body wants to let her down and the joy she finds in the people, creatures, and plants around her. Such a inspiration.
I didn't realize Victoria Trumbull had traveled to New Zealand. I visited your beautiful, interesting, and varied islands a number of years ago on my way to and from Antarctica, and remember Wellington, Christchurch, and the glacial streams of South Island fondly. Thank you for writing from so far away.
From Karen Noble, July 2011
I'd like to thank you for your gracious hostessing of our impromptu visit this afternoon. As an avid reader and having thoroughly enjoyed your books, it was such a thrill to change my “mental imaging” of Victoria's life, and making it a reality. My sisters keep saying I was like a “kid in a candy shop” meeting you. I look so forward to meeting you again at the book signing in Edgartown. Again, many thanks for your graciousness.
IN THE PHOTO: From left, Cynthia, Karen Noble and twin sister Sharen Clugston, and Rosalie Tyrrell.
From June Rickard, July 2011
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your mysteries, in particular the venue. I had never been to Martha’s Vineyard until my son moved there about seven years ago. Now with three grandchildren growing up there, we have gotten to know it well. I love when I know the place or spot to which you refer. For instance, I have picked up both my grandsons from Featherstone art classes. I felt the same way when I read Philip Craig’s novels.
Thanks for your e-mail. I'm honored to be compared with Phil Craig, a wonderful man and a good friend. His J. W. Jackson stops in at my Victoria Trumbull's house to get some information in one of his books. What fun that was to suddenly come across.
From Chris Dreyer, Chilmark, Mass., June 2011
I don't know if you got the idea about knitting a "reef quilt" from the international project that is going on now. It is called the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. People all over the world are forming groups and crocheting coral reefs. They are quite amazing and you can see one of them on the Smithsonian website.
That was pure coincidence! I got the idea of mathematical knitting from a friend who was knitting Mobius strip headbands, and in looking up "mathematical knitting" on the Internet found all sorts of wonderful shapes. I knew about the AIDS quilt, and I'm concerned about coral reefs, so I thought a coral reef quilt might be different. After Touch-Me-Not was published, someone sent me a copy of Smithsonian Magazine with the article on the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.
I also heard from a knitter who scolded me for knitting (rather than crocheting) a coral reef quilt.
From Tami Caporaso, Waterbury, Conn., June 2011
I attended your book signing Friday night in Vineyard Haven, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to not only your excerpts, but the tale of your journey as an author. I found the idea of the low-residency master's program in writing that you spoke of intriguing. I never really knew that they existed, and as a mother of five children ages 15–22, that format is probably the only one that will be workable for me. I've been chipping away at community college classes in writing for starters, but I know I need more.
I've since sent for information on the program you spoke of at Vermont College, and just wanted to thank you for the boost in a new direction.
From Dorothy Malkin, Vancouver, B.C., June 2011
I am writing from Vancouver, British Columbia. (where unfortunately our Vancouver hockey team just lost to the Boston team and a large handful of miscreants embarrassed the rest of us).
I am truly loving your series and am going back to ensure I haven't missed one along the way. I often travel over to Victoria (on Vancouver Island) by ferry to visit my-94 year-old mother and get caught up in the picturesque views of the small islands on the way over. Your books remind me of those islands.
I just wanted to say thank you for the books – and your main character, who is a real "treasure."
This morning I said goodbye to my hockey player grandson (Ohio University) after a week-long visit. Wonderful to have someone around who can open jars with a simple twist of the wrist and reach things on high shelves.
Thanks for writing. I think islands have a special magic of their own, whether they're on the west or east coast. Please say hello to your mother for me.
From Cynthia Riggs to Bruce Steinbicker, June 2011
In the Martha's Vineyard Mystery Series book I'm writing now, Poison Ivy, I intended the character named after you, the TV star Bruce Steinbicker, to make a simple cameo appearance on the porch of Alley's Store. However, the character insisted that he play a larger role . This is a problem writers often face. A character takes over and there's not much we can do about it. But since our character, Bruce Steinbicker, decides to have a dalliance with a woman other than his wife, I thought I should let you know in case this might cause problems for you in your personal life. If so, I can give our Bruce S. character an alias.
Please let me know whether or not you're comfortable with being loosely identified with our naughty Bruce Steinbicker, as I'm in the home stretch.
Bruce Steinbicker’s reply
I'm fine with this and when I showed your message to my wife of 49 years, she just laughed. Glad to know you are in the home stretch with Poison Ivy.
From Ella Surrette, Hendersonville, N.C., June 2011
I have just discovered your Martha’s Vineyard mystery series. I started with Bee Balm Murders and then read Touch-Me-Not – I love them. Victoria Trumbull reminds me so much of my late grandmother – so spunky and interested in everything – and there is, of course, her gardening. Thank you so much for writing this series.
I live in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and we have a favorite author here, Ann B. Ross, who has written a series about “Miss Julia.” We who live here know that it is written loosely about our town and our characters! We also had another author nearby, Lillian Jackson Braun, whom we saw quite frequently when a new Cat Who . . . book came out – she lived in Tryon, which is about 15 miles away. She, sadly, passed away last week at the age of 97.
Since you are a poet, you may have heard of a friend who grew up with me here in Hendersonville – Robert Morgan. We played together as children and are still in frequent contact. He has been a professor at Cornell for about 30 years, I believe.
Bottom line – love your books because they tell of your town and your people. I visited Martha’s Vineyard once while on a trip to Cape Cod – it is just wonderful and I still have my Black Dog mug and cookbook.
Please come to the mountains of North Carolina sometime and enjoy our culture and our beautiful scenery.
Thanks so much for your e-mail. I'm delighted to know that you read not only The Bee Balm Murders, but Touch-Me-Not. Victoria, as you may have guessed, is based on my mother (she was the poet, I'm not), who died when she was almost 99. A grand lady, and I think she would have been pleased to see herself as a young 92-year-old sleuth.
Thank you, too, for your invitation to the mountains of North Carolina. They must be lovely right now with rhododendrons in bloom? Or has the season passed? I was sorry to learn of the passing of Lilian Jackson Braun. I love her Cat Who . . . books. But 97 is a good long productive life, and I guess we mourn for ourselves and the books of hers we won't get to read.
From Richard Williams, June 2011
I was the fortunate winning bidder on the gift you kindly provided for the recent auction to support Windemere's Recreation Department. I was pleased to be able to support the Windemere program, especially since my mother-in-law is a resident there. And I would be proud to be included--in any fashion--in one of your future mysteries. This is especially fun for me because your publisher,Thomas Dunne, is a friend of mine. I look forward to hearing from you at the appropriate time.
Congratulations on winning your name in one of my forthcoming books. And thank you so much for contributing to the Windemere auction. It's a pleasure for me to be able to help in my way. Windemere is a great asset to the Island and is such a welcoming place. When she was well up into her nineties, my mother, on whom my protagonist Victoria Trumbull is based, used to "read to the elderly" (her words – most of whom were considerably younger) every week at Windemere.
I was delighted to learn that Thomas Dunne is a friend of yours. His imprint, Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press, has been my publisher since my first book was published in 2001.
The book I'm working on now, number 11, is called Poison Ivy. It deals with academic politics. After talking to enough academicians about their problems, I decided the book needed a serial killer. It looks as though Richard C. Williams may end up being the Vineyard Haven harbormaster.
From Jim Pletcher, May 2011
Your last book kept me glued to it for two days. Love your writing and Victoria and her friends. However, I was a little disappointed in the ending. I think it would have concluded more dramatically if you had stuck with Victoria's goal of outing the killer at the book signing. That might be an old-hat way of doing it (like Poirot or Marple) but I thought the end became anticlimactic the way it was written. Just offering my own opinion. I am not a novelist; just a faithful reader. Keep the books coming, please.
Thanks for your comments – it's always helpful to get feedback from a reader who understands how to make a book better. I wouldn't mind having Victoria's exploits compared with those of Poirot and Miss Marple.
From Martha Waldemar, March 2011
I have really enjoyed reading your books and love the details on the plant life. However, Victoria needs to age – or stop solving most of her problems in the fall season. There aren't enough days to solve all her mysteries during that time period.
The first book I read was Indian Pipes and I really like it best of those I have read. I grew up in the Columbia Gorge in Oregon (and was very happy to see that Victoria got a shooting star plant from Oregon), and looked forward to my July birthday picnic and trail hike at a National Forest park in the Gorge. Occasionally, I would find some Indian pipes and the first time I picked one to take home. I quickly found out that they did turn black with an inky mess – even if they had been put into water.
A year ago we spent a week on Cape Cod and did a very short day trip to Martha's Vineyard. We did bus hopping to tour the main part of the island, and I refer to the bus map to get a feel for where everything is happening.
When I decided to pattern Victoria after my mother, who died when she was almost 99, I knew I might have problems with age if I wrote a series. At the time, I had gone back to school for my MFA in creative writing, and decided to research how various authors handled the passage of time in their series. I found that authors did everything from keeping their characters the same age and their setting the same period throughout the series (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes), to having each new book in the series three months later than the previous one (Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone) to having the characters stay the same age and let time pass in the background (Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe).
I figured that if Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe's sidekick, can be dating the same woman throughout the series while time ranges from the Roosevelt era to Nixon, I was in good company if I did the same with Victoria Trumbull.
I hope my readers are willing to suspend their disbelief at a 92-year-old protagonist (I had to make her much younger than my mother) who never ages, while technology is whooshing by in the background. Since I started the series, only ten years ago, DNA analysis has become much more sophisticated, we can no longer find pay phones or telephone booths, and weapons like tasers are common.
Please keep reading my books – I'm delighted to hear from you. I'll try to set more of the stories in spring and summer.
From Pat McCarl, March 2011
I just wanted to let you know I have just discovered your books and I am really enjoying them very much. They are fun to read and I can read them alone in the house without being terrified. I also love the fact that they take part on Cape Cod with that wonderful sleuth Victoria. I just hope I can be as spry and bright at 93 as she is, and I do not have far to go since I am already 75 (I do not know how I got so old). I have family that comes from the Cape (Nickersons) so we have been up to the family togethering. Hopefully next time we are up there you will be speaking somwhere so that I can meet you. Please keep writing since they are great.
I love Philip Craig’s books also and I think you could tell from his books he must be a wonderful gentleman. I have also read the ones he wrote with W. Tappley. All great. I felt like I had lost a friend when he passed away.
Thanks for writing – I'm delighted that you like Victoria Trumbull and her adventures. I spoke last week at the Snow Library in Orleans on the eastern Upper Cape, so I do get off Island occasionally. Nickerson is a great Cape and Islands family name. We are probably related in some way.
You don't really need to read the books in order. I wrote them as stand-alones, and actually Jack in the Pulpit was the first one I wrote, but the fourth one published!
From Virginia, March 2011
I am enjoying your Martha's Vineyard mysteries and wondered if you could tell me who created the cover art. They are all beautiful!
Thank you for your e-mail. The artist who created all ten of the covers is Ken Joudrey, who lives in California. I'm very fortunate to have him as the cover artist – many authors don't like their cover art. So far, I've acquired all of the original paintings for my covers and have hung them where everyone can see them.
From Nancy Weaver, West Tisbury, Mass., January 2011
I loved reading Touch-Me-Not. Thank you for including the arboretum – and for accurately depicting a very welcoming visitors center staffed by a friendly volunteer!!!
I came away smiling.
Note: Nancy was previously the Visitors Center manager and volunteer coordinator at the Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury, where some of Touch-Me-Not takes place.
From Mary Jeannette, January 2011
A dear friend of mine, Mrs. Fran Gingher, visited the Vineyard and stayed at your inn a couple months ago. She and her lady friend Pete Quail had a most delightful time. She had been reading your books for years, and often spoke of you and your writing. It was such a joy for her to be able to travel to the Vineyard, where my husband and I have been vacationing for nearly 20 years. For my birthday in October, she brought me back a copy of the September-October 2010 Martha's Vineyard Magazine, which contained the article "The Niantic," which was such a joy to read! And it, too, was signed by you, which just makes it a treasure.
Fran's birthday is coming up on April 2. I would like to give her something really special. I checked your website recently, and found that your latest book, The Bee Balm Murders, is coming out in April. I wonder if I can conspire with you to give my friend Fran a once-in-a-lifetime gift! I'd love to get an autographed copy of your book to give to her.
If this is something you are willing to do, I would, of course, gladly reimburse you for the cost of sending a copy of the book to me, as well as the book itself.
Thank you for your e-mail. I had such a delightful visit from Fran and Pete, and look forward to another visit sometime in the near future. The two were great fun to have around.
What a lovely idea to give her an autographed copy of The Bee Balm Murders. The best way to do this is for you to order the book from the Bunch of Grapes bookstore. When you place the order, ask that they contact me to come to the store and sign the book to Fran. Let them know if you have any special message you'd like me to include. I'll be happy to go to the bookstore to sign the book for her. How thoughtful of you to think of this.
Beth Belgard-Crader, Richmond, Va., January 2011
I recently was introduced to your work by someone and
have found your books delightful. For many years I lived
on Cape Cod (Hyannis and Barnstable) and made many trips
to the Vineyard. All your descriptions of the people
and places bring my memories right back up. Today I
finished reading The Cemetery Yew and it was
great. It went a bit faster than I thought it would
but every scene was perfect. Thanks so much for your
writings and I wish you many more years of doing so.
I do have one question A real U.S. Coast Guard
Masters License for 100 tons?? Isn't that a bit unusual??
Happy New Year to you and I wish only the best for you
in the new year.
Thanks so much for your e-mail. Richmond is far from
Cape Cod. Do you get back occasionally? My book number
9, Touch-Me-Not, was published this past August,
and number 10, The Bee Balm Murders, is scheduled
for publication this April. After number 20, I plan
to retire to yet another career.
There are quite a few female boat captains around now,
still not as many as there should be. A noteworthy one
is Capt. Linda Greenlaw, a swordfishing captain who's
written at least four books, a couple of them best sellers.
I hope you keep reading my books, and thanks again.