masterful mystery by one of my all-time favorite authors.
The Penningtons Investigate
Poison Ivy, by Cynthia Riggs
Cynthia Riggs’ Martha’s Vineyard mystery Poison Ivy takes place at a small college on the Vineyard, Ivy Green, where nonagenarian crime-solver Victoria Trumbull is an adjunct poetry professor. I loved Mrs. Trumbull as a poetry teacher focused on her students’ expression in various poetic forms; and as advocate for three students whose research is plagiarized by their tenure-seeking sociology professor. An overarching theme is the (often abusive) power struggle that plays out in a dozen deadly ways in the college tenure process.
Mrs. Trumbull finds the first body– a tenured professor dead a few weeks without anyone missing him. Thanks to the caretaker’s dog who has a nose for cadavers, more bodies are exhumed. Soon the campus is pock-marked by graves dug by a perfectly respectable serial killer twisted and scarred from his own tenure ordeal. As the drama unfolded, I cheered for the two women who opted out of tenure madness and admired…
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Most of my LCRW friends know how hard I’ve struggled to become a published author. I made it through all the hoops…went to writer’s conferences, had my work critiqued by professionals in the biz and by my peers, pursued agents and managed to hook one with a strong reputation, grabbed the interest of editors from “big” publishing houses. And then…things went downhill from there and my books never got published.
What went wrong? I ask myself that countless times. Was it bad timing? A difficult marketplace? Editors busy looking for that “best seller” and not seeing that possibility in my work?
In the end, I have no answers. But if there is anything we writers do in this business…it’s persevere. Because the truth is, the first person that needs to believe in me is…well…ME. And I do. I have to admit, every step up the mountain of success has surprised me. I dream big, but wait for that familiar moment of disappointment. That step onto crumbly stone that sends me going backwards instead of forwards. The climb is difficult. Painful. But the view every time I look back? Beautiful.
My next step, which feels like a step back but is really a huge leap forward, is to self-publish my book SEVEN LITTLE SECRETS. It’s a young adult novel about a high school cheerleading squad and the co-captain who takes her own life. I wrote it many years ago, and it had some close calls with publishers, but ended up a no-go. But with 13 REASONS WHY making headlines these days, this is a great time to market it (thanks, Lisa Scott, for pointing that out for me). So I intend to do so. And do it well. Because in the end, I haven’t failed. I’m just doing it different than how I envisioned ten years ago. I’m using different strategies, finding a way around rushing rivers and mudslides. But still moving forward.
That alone, makes me a success.