New in April 2016
The Shady Sisters


New in 2014
Acts of Balance


New Historical Novel:
    Queens Never
    Make Bargains


    Questions for
    Midnight Fires


Walking into the Wild
Broken Strings


Nancy's Backstory


Ruth Willmarth


Nancy's Books:
Mad Season
Harvest of Bones
Poison Apples
Stolen Honey
Fire and Ice
Mad Cow     Nightmare
The above 5 novels in print, and now
e-books, Belgrave House.
The Losing


Nancy's Books for Children:
The Pea Soup

Agatha Award 2006
Best Children's/YA Novel
Down the Strings
The Great Circus
    Train Robbery

Agatha Finalist


Make Your Own
Vermonters at
    their Craft


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Another Interview
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Brief Bio For Busy Librarians (and other readers)
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Nancy Means Wright

Poison Apples

Opening excerpt:

Moira Earthrowl was Irish enough to know that a bird that tried to enter your house meant death. And here the cardinal was flinging itself at the livingroom window again, thud, thud, thud at the glass: a stout red bill, a rush of scarlet feathers.

"Get away, you crazy bird!" She waved her arms at the intruder. How could she concentrate on her weaving, with a foolish bird assaulting her window? It was the third day in a row it had come, and she was mystified. More than that, she was downright worried.

Now, she didn't really believe that a bird could bring death, but twice already the superstition had come true. A blackbird had flown into her grandfather's workshop in Ballyvaughan, Ireland, and the next day the old man was dead of a massive heart attack. And at Aunt Bridget's funeral, a sparrow darted through an open window, circled the casket three times, and flew out. Of course Bridget was already dead, so it wasn't quite such a concern. But it proved the superstition; her mother had reminded her of that.

Here it was again: wham! bam! Dashing its crimson side against the glass, then its fiery red beak. She half expected to see a spot of blood on the glass. At the very least the bird must be brainless by now, she thought, all that bashing and smashing!

What she really worried about, though, was her husband Stan. Not that he was superstitious, oh not at all. He was a pragmatic man. But he was so sensitive, so vulnerable these days. Always, it seemed, in a bad patch. There he was out in the orchard now, arguing—or so it seemed—with the orchard manager, Rufus Barrow. Stan was practically a foot taller than short, stocky, soft-spoken Rufus. And yet Rufus seemed the more powerful one, feet planted on the grassy triangle between cider barn and house, arms folded, head tilted slightly back to make eye contact with Stan.

And not stepping back, she saw, when Stan shook his fist. What was the matter now? The cider press not working right? The local pickers dropping too many apples? They were slower than the others: after all, the Jamaicans were professionals. And the locals were young: the Butterfield twins, Rolly and Hally; a tall athletic young woman named Millie from East Branbury, who had an ailing mother and three other parttime jobs; Adam Golding, tall as a Knicks player, his ponytail gleaming in the sun like a mass of spilled coins. Then Emily Willmarth, from the farm on Cow Hill Road. It was Moira who'd argued with Stan to hire the girl, but she might have made a mistake. Just this morning she'd seen Emily and Adam whispering together. Yes, she'd better keep an eye on that one. The boy was in his twenties; the girl, still in high school.

Now Rufus was wheeling about, moving doggedly off. He was upset, it was obvious. He wanted things to go right; there was something almost maniacal the way he ran the orchard: not a minute to be wasted. He knew exactly what he was about, he resented Stan butting in. She watched Stan stride down into the orchard, stop short at the first tree, where Bartholomew, the Jamaican number one man, was standing on the third rung of a ladder, picking; Stan shouted up at him, his cheeks red as the apples.

Now she couldn't have that. She couldn't have Stan taking out his anger on Bartholomew. The cardinal flung himself at the window again and fueled her with purpose. She dropped the loom stick, dashed out of the house to intercede.

"Stan," she cried, "can we talk? We have a problem. I'm going mad with it. Stan?"

© 2000 Nancy Means Wright


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