In October, Sarah Mallery was here to talk about her book Unexpected Gifts, and she gave us a hint at her then soon-to-be-published book, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, published December 16 by Mockingbird Lane Press. Now that it's out, Sarah is back with an excerpt from the book, and she also braved my Dirty Dozen, earning the coveted Daredevil Award.
About the book:The eleven long short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirt Factory fire; from a 1980's Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial 'star' and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.
Reviewers are saying:"Moving, engaging and powerful - the core of this collection is superb and so is its prose. These stories are sure to stay with you long after you finished them. This is great historical story telling." --Christoph Fischer Luck of the Weissensteiners, The Black Eagle Inn, and Sebastian.
“S. R. Mallery’s Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads is a box of bon-bons, every story an eye-opening surprise. Eat one and you’ll want to devour the whole box. A sparkling, irresistibly readable follow-up to her accomplished debut novel, Unexpected Gift." --Grady Miller, Lighten Up, A Very Grady Christmas
Excerpt from Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads
A Drunkard’s Path
...“It started so long ago. I don’t even know how it all came about, but—there’s—there’s been a curse placed on you and David—that quilt that I was so excited about—Martha Stinson in my quilt group kept silent until after I had given it to you, and—and I didn’t want to say anything in case it wasn’t true...”
“Are you kidding me?” Deborah exploded. “My life is falling apart! C’mon, curses don’t really happen, do they? I mean, what can I do? You tell me now!” She segued into a screech.
“Come over to my place tomorrow and I’ll try to relate it all to you, I promise...”
...“Do you know anything about the Salem Witchcraft trials?” The older woman leaned in toward her niece, as if casting a spell herself.
“No, not much, why?”
“You remember Martha Stinson from my quilt group? Well after the wedding, she showed me a journal written by a relative of hers and frankly, I am very concerned about you. It seems one of the accused witches from the original Salem trials might have actually had a connection with a real witch, an ancestor of Martha’s...”
* * * *
Inside the packed meetinghouse, dust particles from mud-caked boots floated throughout the air, rendering it dense, murky. That year, April had been an unkind month to Salem Village. Rain-drenched meadows produced a sludge that clung to the edges of women’s dresses, creating odors so foul that in such tight quarters, it became difficult to breathe. But people weren’t concerned with such matters on this day. They had gathered for a higher purpose: the Devil was in Salem, and they wished him thwarted at all costs. Even the constant threat of Indian attacks and surviving harsh winters paled in comparison to what was happening now, in that room, swelling with apprehension.
Crammed into high-walled pews, dark wooden benches, or simply shoved up against walls, spectators filled every conceivable space in the meetinghouse. Donning black hats, cloaks, and breeches, the men angled forward, their eyes boring holes into the five men sitting up front, yet it was the women who carried the greatest burden that day; their hooded coats and muffs covering their recently unkempt hair and unwashed fingernails, couldn’t disguise the uncertainty they felt about their community’s loyalty to them and how it would all end.
Sitting at the head of the counsel table, amongst other magistrates in the newly appointed Court of Oyer and Terminer, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin quietly conferred with each other before beginning their first round of questioning. Arrogant, self-important, the black-robed magistrates assumed their positions on the political totem pole, and having been brought to Salem for such a specific purpose, they dared not disappoint. They were on a mission to deliver souls. Hathorne, displaying the greatest exhibition of self-aggrandizement, seemed the most severe. With no real legal experience, and having only glanced at Sir Mathew Hale’s Trial of Witches, and Joseph Granvill’s Collection of Sundry Trials in England, Ireland the week before, he nonetheless believed he was more than competent to interrogate the accused.
At the front of the room facing the magistrates, sat all the accusers, the “afflicted” girls: Abigail Williams, her cousin Betty Parris, Ann Putnam, Sarah Bibber, Sarah Churchill, Elizabeth Booth, Mercy Lewis, Susanna Sheldon, Jemima Rea, Mary Warren, Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard. With downcast eyes and folded hands, they appeared demure; inwardly they were experiencing emotions quite different from anything they had ever known. Childhoods stocked with adult repression and fear now served as a springboard to the frenzy of accusations they had created, because on this day, along with their catharsis and even exhilaration, came the most important emotion of all: a sense of empowerment. At last, they were getting adults to listen to them, and it was intoxicating.
John Hathorne commenced with the proceedings. “Bring in the accused, Bridget Bishop...”
1. Name one thing you couldn’t live without.
Sarah answers the Dirty Dozen
Well, besides my family, of course, I would have to say––and believe me there are several in this category––my thesaurus, either on my computer, or the old, tattered paperback one, whose cover is half-eaten by a rambunctious cat; the one that I seem to cling to, despite disparaging remarks about its condition from my students and husband.
2. If you could only keep one book, what would it be?
Probably my large, one-volume encyclopedia, published by Random House. At least that way, I could still learn new things...
3. Your last meal would be...
Okay, I know this is politically incorrect, but it would be a beautiful steak –– marinated and grilled to perfection, and a luscious, vegetable-filled salad. For dessert, some kind of Breyer’s ice cream. I like them all, but am particularly partial to English Toffee Crunch...or the caramel crunch, or...Oh, I’ll take any one of them!! Hey, if it's your last meal, I think you should have them all!
4. Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?
Looking at this question, my first reaction was bookstore. All those brand new books spread out so enticingly, so artistically. But then I thought about it further. If I worked in a library, I would not only have access to new books and classics, I’d be able to browse the old magazine stacks and peruse the one-of-a-kind books, those gems, that to the bright shiny world of marketing are long-forgotten. So library, it is!
5. You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?
Although I love my house, I would probably buy a house in an area with a lot more greenery around it than where my current house is. I’m an east coast kind of gal, who spent summers in rural Connecticut.
6. Would you rather be stranded on a deserted island or the North Pole?
Geesh! What a question! On the one hand, I like the cold, polar bear cubs, and penguins. On the other hand, I think the deserted island would offer me more food opportunities. But then again, unless there is an idyllic waterfall somewhere on the island, like what you see in movies, where would I get fresh-desalinated water? Besides, I could always chow down on whale blubber at the North Pole with an ample supply of melted iceberg water. The North Pole, I guess...
7. You’re given the day off, and you can do anything but write. What would you do?
First off, comes the early a.m. feeding of our hunger-howling, leg-rubbing, insistent cats. I’ve learned the hard way that their needs come before mine. Next, is a cup-a-java and some breakfast, nestled on the couch, watching something on the TV: the news, old movies, new movies, whatever tickles my fancy. Next would be a little clean up and stationary bicycling and treadmilling to a Netflix DVD, then a shower. Since I can’t write, I would most probably be doing social media stuff on the computer and reading, either research for my current projects as well as simply reading another author’s work. Later might be some gardening, some errands if they’re absolutely necessary, the more exercise if I’m so inclined, some food prep later in the day, time with my husband and daughter, then maybe more emailing, social media stuff, and bed with my Kindle.
8. You’re driven to a private plane and told it will take you anywhere you want to go. Where would it be?
I’d love to go to Ireland –– both the cities and the lovely countryside. I’ve never been there, but I do love their rhythmic singsong accent, their music, their dancing, their proverb-filled history.
9. You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
When I was a teenager, I DEVOURED the book, I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. Written in the first person narrative, it was a coming of age story, told from the point of view of Cassandra Mortmain, a highly literate teenager. Her observations included her sister, her eccentric writer-blocked father, his young second wife, and their two neighbors, both of whom were eligible bachelors. I loved her sensibilities, the castle she lived in with all the little hidden turrets, her moat, her walks in the English countryside, even her angst of misguided love. I wouldn’t mind being her for a day...
10. Where would your dream office be?
It would be a cozy, book-filled, quilts-on-the-wall, wood-floored kind of room, overlooking a lush, verdant scene, or perhaps a Northern California Carmel type of coast. My two cats would be there, one of them on the table next to my computer, purring loudly and batting at my pencil, the other at my feet nestled against my shoes (or in summer, bare feet). I would be able to go out my door and be surrounded by my loved ones...
11. If you could do only one, would you rather read or write?
Wow! This is by far the hardest, cruelest question of all! I love reading; it sustains me. But if I couldn’t write at all? That would eventually eat at my soul, so...I suppose the writing is the thing with me.
12. One of the main characters has to die. Which one would you kill off?
If I were working on a murder mystery, it would probably be the bad guy; too depressing otherwise! If it were a drama, it would be someone important, someone sympatico, but still...In my book, Unexpected Gifts, someone pretty important dies (no spoilers here, though!). Can’t say any more about it.
Can I get my Dirty Dozen Daredevil award now?
About the author:
She has had eleven short fiction pieces published in "descant 2008," "Snowy Egret," "Transcendent Visions," "The Storyteller," and "Down In The Dirt." Several of her stories have appeared in different anthologies through Scars Publications. Before that, she had articles published in "Traditional Quiltworks" by Chitra Publications, and "Quilt World" by House of White Birches when she was a professional quilt artist/quilt teacher.
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