Tag Archive for: Quick Study

Lacking the Decorating Sense

This past Saturday night, my good friends (and former Stiletto Gang guest posters) Tina Jordan and Ted Hindenlang hosted the most fabulous book signing party for me at their home in our little Village. It was a fabulous night. Tina and Ted live in one of our Village gems—a 1918 Colonial that Tina has lovingly decorated with thrift store finds, tag sale treasures, some new stuff, and other things that came with the house, including a gorgeous baby grand piano that she has tried in vain to sell on Craigslist. One problem? Well, apparently nobody wants it . (Or maybe they don’t want to move it.) Other problem? Oldest daughter, M., has suddenly found a love for it and playing it. Tina got a mini-recital Saturday night prior to our arrival. But I have to describe to you this lovely home and all of the treasures inside. Because Tina’s got that decorating style that I just can’t pull off and everyone who came in marveled at. There was tremendous oohing and aahing over the finds that she has picked up over the years, knowing exactly where each and everyone was going to go in the house and what purpose it would serve.

Tina’s got the “eye”, as I call it. I don’t have it. And few do, I’ve decided.

My good friend and Village librarian, Mary, remarked that she picked up a antique milk crate at a tag sale. She loved it. Brought it home. And then wondered, “What in Sam Hill am I going to do with this?” But fortunately for Mary, like me, she watches a lot of the Food Network. She watched as Tyler Florence (one of our favorite chefs—maybe because he makes so much meat with such loving care?) took his old, antique milk crate, wadded up his dish towels and stashed them in the crate on his counter, never having to search through the elusive junk drawer for a towel to sop up whatever mess he had made while lovingly making that beef tenderloin. Mary was inspired. Her milk crate now sits on her counter, stuffed with a mélange of brightly-colored towels, always at her disposal.

I love the idea of tag sales and thrift stores and going up and down the streets of Cold Spring, a little Village a bit to the north of here with store after store of treasures and antiques. But I see things and I don’t know what to do with them. A beautiful gilt mirror with just a tiny crack in the corner? I would love it. Somewhere. Anywhere. But I know I’ll get it home, hang it somewhere and look at it and think, “why did I buy that? It’s a cracked mirror.” Then I’ll see something like it in someone else’s home where it will look like it was made exactly for the wall where it has been hung. I won’t notice the crack, but I will notice the beautiful gilt and how it fits the wall perfectly.

My mother and father recently gave us one of what is apparently part of a famous series of “toilet paper oil paintings.” Hey—the guy was on Oprah. He’s famous. Ours is a predominantly blue winter scene that was painted in five minutes in a Catskill lodge in the 1970’s by a man who has made a fortune from these paintings. I tried hanging it in our dining room, where we had a big expanse of wall that needed a big piece of art. Unfortunately, Jim and I lack the appropriate “kitsch” gene to pull off the hanging of this art and it is now hanging in my attic office, seen only by me and appreciated only by me. This was part of the 70’s décor of my youth and fit in perfectly with everything else—shag carpeting, plastic slipcovering, and the like. But today, I can’t pull it off. Mom has made me promise that before the toilet paper oil painting goes the way of many other things in my home (the Goodwill store), I’ll give her one last crack at finding a home for it. Good luck, Mom. And good luck to toilet paper oil painting. I can’t say I’ll miss you. The only person I know who could make the painting work is Tina. I may have her do an intervention before the painting goes back to Mom. Maybe it just needs a new frame?

And another thing about Tina and the book signing party: she works full time, has two children, two dogs, and a very busy life. And her tree was up, decorated, with other holiday decorations scattered throughout her house so that the whole effect was like being in a holiday wonderland, populated by many of my dear friends, all clutching copies of “Quick Study,” waiting to have them signed.

Who’s luckier than I am? You don’t have to answer that. I don’t know a luckier person alive right now.

But here’s my question and I welcome my Stiletto gals’ input on this (because I know they have some), what is it about some people that they see treasure when the rest of us just see junk? And do you have the gene to pull this off, or are you like me, queen of the “matchy-matchy”?

Maggie Barbieri

A Little Snippet from “Quick Study”

Dear Stiletto Gang readers: I hope you don’t mind…I’m going to give you a little snippet from “Quick Study” the third installment in the Alison Bergeron/Murder 101 series that will be published on December 9. Alison’s journey begins at Madison Square Garden where she is celebrating her birthday with her best friend, Max.

If you want to read more of “Quick Study”, www.read-it-first.com will be posting excerpts all next week in anticipation of its release. Their copy, unlike this one, will be fully copyedited and proofread. 🙂

Enjoy! Maggie


“I don’t know who you are, but I love you!”

The voice was deep, rough, and heavily inflected with the accent of one of the outer boroughs, and it belonged to the guy sitting in back of me at Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Rangers, my favorite professional hockey team. And the comment, which was directed at me, was made even more interesting by the fact that I was sitting beside my best friend, Max, who had packed her one-hundred-pound frame into a size two slinky black cocktail dress, her cleavage prominently and proudly displayed for all to see. She’s tiny but she’s got a great rack. It’s a veritable “rack of ages.” Nobody, and I mean nobody, had ever noticed me when Max was around. And we had twenty years of friendship on which to draw on, proving this point. I was not in a cocktail dress, having opted instead to wear my new Mark Messier jersey (he was number eleven and the sole reason for the Rangers’ Stanley Cup win in 1994, thank you very much), a pair of jeans that I had purchased in the last millennium, and sneakers that had seen their fair share of painting projects. My hair was pulled back into a ponytail, I had a smear of ketchup on my cheek and now, after jumping up to take umbrage at a call, a glass of beer soaking my chest. I don’t even like beer, but when in Rome…you know the rest. But apparently, when I yelled, “Shit, ref, you’re killing us! That’s a bullshit call!” after a bogus hooking penalty, I had forever pledged my troth to Bruno Spaghetti, as Max had dubbed him when we arrived, seat 4, row D, section 402.

He ran his hands through his spiky black hair and grabbed me in an embrace, his silver hoop earring brushing my cheek. Max, who had been standing for the better part of the last period and who thus had incurred the wrath of everyone behind her—many of whom had missed said bogus penalty because their only view was the back of her well-coiffed head—fell back into her seat, her cocktail dress riding up on her yoga-toned thighs. But Bruno didn’t notice; he only had eyes for me. See, we were sitting way up high in Rangerland, a place that used to be called “the blue seats,” and in which only the hardest core hockey fans sat. Now they’re teal, which doesn’t lend them the same menacing air. A gorgeous woman in a slinky black dress with spectacular boobs had nothing on a five foot ten college professor with a pot belly and beer breath who loved hockey and who could curse with the best of them.

It was my birthday and my boyfriend had given me the jersey and the tickets. Crawford—Bobby to the rest of the world—was a detective in the New York City Police Department and working overtime that night, hence my birthday date being Max. He had stopped by school on his lunch break to wish me a happy birthday, appearing in my office doorway at around one; I was preparing for my next class, a two o’clock literature seminar, and was delighted to be distracted from the critical essay on Finnegan’s Wake that was putting me to sleep. I’m a Joyce scholar but even I recognize that obscure is not the same thing as exciting and that makes my relationship with the subject of my doctoral dissertation tenuous at best. I love a challenge, though, and had spent the better part of my academic career trying to figure out if Joyce was laughing with us or at us. I was slowly coming to the conclusion that it was the latter.

I could tell that Crawford was excited by the items in the gift bag he was holding behind his back. He leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek; although he is a seasoned detective and an all-around good guy, he gets really nervous around the nuns I work with at St. Thomas University, my employer. Whenever he visits me at school, he looks like he’s on his way to detention, even though I’m sure he’s never done anything more scandalous than passing a note in class. He took the bag from behind his back and set it on my desk, settling himself into one of the chairs across from me, a self-satisfied smile on his handsome, Irish face.

I love the guy but there’s one thing that bugs me: every time he gives me an item of clothing, it’s always extra-large. I’m extra tall but not extra fat, so this concerns me. Is this how he sees me? Or does he think women should wear tent-like clothing? I still hadn’t figured it out. I held his gift aloft and spread my arms wide to examine it, full width: a Messier jersey. Despite the size, I couldn’t have asked for a better present. “Crawford! I love it!” I said and came from around the desk. I kicked my office door closed so I could give him a proper thank you, sitting on his lap and putting my arms around my neck. “Now the best present you could give me would be your undivided attention tonight,” I said, hopefully, although I guessed this wouldn’t be the case.He shook his head sadly. “I can’t. I pulled an extra shift so I could go to Meaghan’s basketball playoff Monday night.” Meaghan is one of his twin daughters; she was banking on a basketball scholarship to get her through college. I had come to realize that basketball was like a religion in that family; what teenage girl would count former New York Knick Bill Bradley among her crushes if it wasn’t?

Maggie Barbieri

Quick Study is available now for pre-order at Amazon.com

Editor, My Editor!

In my other life, I am an editor. Nothing so glamorous as mystery novels, I assure you—I’m a college textbook editor. I help authors craft the “story” of their book—or what will be the overall sales handle—help them lay out the organization, direct them toward what features to include and how to handle them, and give them gentle nudges towards completion of the manuscript along the way. I’m a cheerleader with a laptop and a knowledge of what sells in a particular market, say, like the book I’m working on now, the Introduction to Dinosaurs course. Not so different from what my editor does, with a difference: none of the authors with whom I work whine as much as I do.

On that we can rely, as the song goes.

My third novel, now called “Quick Study,” as opposed to “Book 3,” as it was known for most of last year, was due to my editor on December 31, 2007. As that date approached and I got wrapped up—literally—in the holiday hubbub, the ending of the novel got further and further away from my grasp. I have never missed a deadline. Never. So, I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote when the ham was in the oven on Christmas Eve, mere minutes before my loud, Irish, family descended on us. I wrote after a serious bout of the stomach flu the day after Christmas. (I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t pretty. And the kids get really, really terrified when Mommy makes scary noises.) I wrote while my kids played with their new Wii, and my husband—on holiday break from teaching—lounged downstairs, the most well-deserved session of lounging that you could imagine. (More in a future blog on why I will never be a teacher.) I wrote while the dog stared at me for hours on end as if to say, “Aren’t you done with the dang thing yet?”

It was painful.

At this point, I think it’s relevant to say that I used to be disparaging towards parents who treated pink eye like the bubonic plague. Until I got pink eye and awoke one morning only to find that I couldn’t open my eyes. And I used to scoff at writers who pronounced our profession “hard.” Until I became a writer who had deadlines. And now I have had my comeuppance.

You know what? Writing is hard. But I finished and I hit “send” on New Year’s Eve. Because I MAKE MY DEADLINES, DARN IT!

You’d think I’d be relieved. Yet, with each passing day, dread gnaws at my insides. Because, in my haste to end the novel, the best I could come with was: “And then they all died. THE END.”

That’s not really the end, but it’s pretty darn close.

So, I await my editor’s wise words, her gentle coaching, her therapeutic massaging of what I think are maybe the best 300,000 words of the lot, and not so great 102, 943 words in a four-hundred page manuscript.

And more than once while I wait, I’ll think, “they’re really not paying her enough” something I hope some of my authors say about me as I plow through pages and pages of dissertation on anything from reading skills to paleobiology.

It’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Maggie Barbieri