Category Archives: Great Read

Why I Write Stories about Big Mysterious Houses

Mansion image“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Joan Fontiane voice-overs that at the beginning of the Hitchcock film Rebecca. The first time we see Manderley we understand why it won’t leave her. Why it won’t even let her sleep without revisiting there.

I come from a place with many big mysterious houses. Manderley wasn’t just a large house. It was an estate. My personal history houses weren’t that grand but they were grand enough. At least the seemed so to me.

My family lived in an ordinary house. A Craftsman style bungalow with a wide porch and a peaked roof and dormers. I loved that house but I was fascinated by the big mysterious ones.

They lined the streets of certain neighborhoods of the town where I grew up in a remote area of New York State we called the North Country. But those weren’t the only big old houses in town. Sizable domestic structures could be found just about anywhere. Though not on our one-block street which had been built on a more human scale.

Maybe that contrast was part of what drew me to these oversized piles. I’d walk slowly past them after school even though they were out of the way from my shortest route home. I’d gaze between the broad trees across their deep lawns. Then upward floor after floor until my neck bent back at a right angle.

Who could possibly need all of that space? What went on inside that required so many rooms to happen? When I was young most of these places were still owned by single families. They hadn’t yet been split up into apartments as many of them someday would be. I imagined them occupied by eccentric elderly ladies. One of the most famous actually was.

This particular mansion was on the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets. My elementary school was walking distance from there. Every spring we would parade to that corner – one classroom’s worth of kids at a time. The teacher was always in the lead. Her most trusted pupil was assigned to travel up and down the rest of the line herding strays and stragglers back on route. I was never assigned that responsibility.

I was more likely to be a stray or straggler along the blocks between Academy Street School and the mansion. But as soon as we arrived a hush would settle over me despite my reputation for never being hushed by anything. The purpose of our expedition was to look at the gardens but I barely noticed the flowers – profuse as I’m sure they must have been.

My entire attention was captured by the house. As if each of its many windows was a magnet pulling me out of myself to be sucked into one opening after another. I longed to be carried inside but I was a little terrified too. Especially the day I saw a white lace curtain move aside for a moment beyond a bed of tall blue delphiniums – as a pale face appeared at a window pane.

Was this the heiress I’d been told lived here? Was it anyone at all or had I conjured her from my hunger for a glimpse inside? If she was an heiress with wealth and a mansion why would she steal a single peek then drop the lace curtain and retreat as if spooked by a gaggle of eight year olds gawking at her nasturtiums?

Meanwhile I was intoxicated myself by the spooky possibilities. I understood that big old houses have secrets. They are built from secrets and each secret is a story. I would probably never know those stories. They belonged to people rich enough to own such places. People powerful enough to hold onto their hidden tales and keep them hidden.

My only recourse was to recreate those stories myself out of the whole cloth of my imagination and populate them with the stuff and characters of dreams and sometimes of nightmares. I’m still doing that. Each of the books of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series so far has a big mysterious house at its center and a murder in the darkness of its heart.

I delight as much in unlocking the rooms as I do in unlocking the mystery. You’re welcome to accompany me – back to my version of Manderley again.

 Alice Orrhttp://www.aliceorrbooks.com http://www.facebook.com/aliceorrwriter http://www.twitter.com/AliceOrrBooks

RR

A Wrong Way Home is a FREE eBook at http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APC22E and most other online book retailers. All of Alice’s books are available at her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/.  A Villain for Vanessacoming soonwill be Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 4.

 

Would You Like Some Bookmarks?

A Vacancy at the Inn - Bookmark FrontA few weeks ago I gushed all over everywhere about my first-ever bookmarks. How could that be? I’ve been publishing books for a long time. Why have I never had a bookmark?

It was way back in a bygone century that I began publishing. No YouTube videos. No Twitter feeds. And definitely no Email blasts. If you wanted to spread the word across the nation or even across the county you did it via the US Post Office. With a stamp and a written-out address and a drop-off at the P.O. In those days I did all of that with postcards of my bookcover.

Then I took a sixteen-year timeout from novel writing to help raise our grandchildren and when I returned the world had changed. Facebook friends and Twitter followers and YouTube viewers had arrived. I waded into all of that and enjoyed it too. But something was missing.

I wanted a real-word object I could carry in my hand and give to my non-Facebook friends and maybe even stuff into a stamped envelope once in a while. I resisted that growing urge through two novels. But my Christmas book did me in.

The cover was perfect. Red background with feathery white snowflakes and frost blossoms. Even pine trees in the background. I was overwhelmed by the impulse to spread that image everywhere. Postcards felt passe so I settled on bookmarks.

I turned to The Killion Group Inc. as always and Kim herself adapted the cover image to a bookmark that catapulted me directly into rapture. I had no choice but to put my money where my enthusiasm was and make an order. Five hundred or a thousand were the same price so I said “Let’s go with the thousand of course.”

Then the delivery arrived. At first I thought the two stacks in the center of the box were it but I was mistaken. There were two more equally tall-tall stacks on either side. Have you ever seen a thousand bookmarks? The only appropriate response was “EEK!!!”

I wouldn’t say I panicked but I came close. What was I going to do with this gi-normous quantity of bookmarks? Beautiful bookmarks for sure. I’m puffed-up proud of them. But a gi-normous quantity all the same.

My author friends have encouraged me to be bold on behalf of my bookmarks. So I’ve been doing that. At a perfectly nice lunch I shoved a packet of you-know-what between my companion and her appetizer.

My husband Jonathan is carries mounds of bookmarks to work with him. I’ve plastered my dentist’s office with them. And libraries and bookstores and laundromats. Still a gi-normous quantity remains.

So if you like bookmarks – email me your ground mail address at aliceorrbooks@gmail.com and say “I’ll take some of those bookmarks Alice.” I’ll send them out to you with Joy and Love from Alice.

Alice Orr – http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

RR

 A Vacancy at the Inn is the first Christmas Novella of Alice Orr’s Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series. A holiday bargain for just 99 cents at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017RZFGWC.

A Taste of the Holidays

Alice's Broken Corn Bread

At the holiday season I love to fill the house with the aroma of good cooking – especially the sweet spice kind. But I must confess I don’t like to work too hard at it.

The result is Alice’s Sweet Spice Corn Bread. This is an easy recipe. An almost but not quite ready-made recipe that begins with a box and ends with a fragrant kitchen and a non-yeast bread that partners very well with other holiday flavors.

Start with two eggs and a third-cup of milk. Beat them together in a small bowl and set aside. To a separate larger bowl add an 8.5-ounce box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. Maybe there are other brands that will work but inexpensive Jiffy is what I’ve always used.

Now for my added personal touch. Into the corn muffin/bread mix – whisk two tablespoons of brown sugar – light or dark as you prefer. Add one teaspoon of cinnamon and a half-teaspoon of nutmeg plus a quarter-teaspoon of allspice. That’s the sweet spice part.

Add the egg-and-milk mix to the corn bread-spices mix. Whisk some more but not too much – only until everything is moistened. Otherwise the bread will turn out tough and we don’t want tough bread. We just want to be tough cookies. Please forgive the lame kitchen humor.

You’re not quite done yet. Fold in a handful or two of raisins or dried cranberries. I prefer dried cranberries. Chopped dates or dried blueberries are other possibilities. For Christmas I add candied fruit – the kind my mother used in her actually delicious fruitcake. But not too much candied fruit. It’s heavy and can keep the bread from rising.

Let the batter sit for four minutes or so. Meanwhile coat a 3.5 by 7.5 inch loaf pan well with nonstick spray. Add the batter. I like to sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. Colored sugars are another festive holiday choice. Don’t use too much or it. Just a sprinkling.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Try not to over-bake it.

Now for my Special Serving Suggestion. To make your bread look just like mine in the photo. Drop it on the floor. Make sure nobody’s watching. Pick it up quickly. Dust it off. Place it on a pretty holiday plate. Serve with a smile.

This recipe first appeared in my newsletter – Orr What? News – which features free books and other giveaways too. If you’d like to receive future issues free by eMail – go to my website and sign up. Click here to do that http://www.aliceorrbooks.com.

Alice Orr

RR

A Vacancy at the Inn is the first Christmas Novella of my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense SeriesA holiday bargain for just 99 cents at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B017RZFGWC. Enjoy!