Things You Didn’t Know About Martha’s Vineyard

Books that the Storytellers write are set in the fictional world of Blythe Cove Manor on Martha’s Vineyard.  During this past summer, I visited the island and while there, I noticed things that were new to me, unexpected, and interesting.

22 Points about Marth’s Vineyard

  1. The Island is made up of six cities (Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Chilmark, Tisbury, Vineyard Haven, Aquinnah). Each has its own mayor, fire department, police, etc. and its own character.
  2. The island is referred to as either up island or down island.
  3. The city buses are white – #13 runs through Oak Bluffs.
  4. The decorative houses on oak Bluffs are called Painted Ladies.
  5. Annually in August, there is a Grand Illumination celebration. All the lights in the historic Oak Bluffs area are turned off and only Japanese Lanterns light the area.
  6. The Inkwell on maps is known as Ocean Beach.
  7. Edgartown is where all the action is. Day life and night life.
  8. There are wild grapes growing on much of the land, but the land is too expensive for vineyards.
  9. As to whom the island is named after, there are still two versions. Either the captain who discovered (Bartholomew Gosnold) the island’s infant daughter or his mother in law. Both were named Martha.  At the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, there was a card stating it was name for his mother in law, yet the guide who told us the island’s history, said it was the infant daughter.
  10. Edgartown is name for a Captain named Mayhew who wanted to be Mayor for life of part of Martha’s Vineyard. He thought the king (of England) wouldn’t allow it, so he offered to name the area after the king’s nephew and future heir to the throne, Edgar, who was a 4-year old child at the time. The king allowed it and Mayhew proclaimed himself Mayor for life. Edgar died shortly after this and was never king.
  11. The houses are practically all done in cedar shakes. The size of the shakes vary from 6 to 12 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches tall.
  12. There are some very large and expensive homes on the island, but you can’t see them. They are behind large amounts of foliage, fences and have dirt driveways. We asked about rainfall and were told it rained a normal amount. In fact, it rained while we were there, but during the night. I think the driveways are to deter people.
  13. There are no paparazzi on the island.
  14. There are no chain stores or fast food places on the island (no McDonalds, Starbucks, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, etc.). We did see a sign for a Clarion Hotel, but never saw the building. They have three Stop & Shop Grocery stores on the island. They are very small inside.  Food in the grocery stores was not that much more expensive than in NJ — maybe a dollar or so more than usual.
  15. Everyone was so friendly. There was no blowing of car horns, or anger at people who aren’t paying attention. There are also NO TRAFFIC LIGHTS. There are lots of four-way stop signs (and they need them for traffic control).
  16. The streets are very narrow, so you have to turn slowly, even for a right turn.
  17. A lot of the homes have fences around them, some are short picket fences, others are tall wooden fences or tall hedges. The Painted Ladies are rarely fenced. There are some houses you can see with beautiful landscaping.
  18. The soil is very sandy.
  19. The vegetation looks like most trees I see in my area, except for the wild grapes growing up island.
  20. If you’re going to the island and taking a car, make a reservation in January or earlier. The ferry fills up fast.
  21. One area of the island (up island) was concerned about all the rich people coming in and building huge homes. The city of Chilmark enacted a law that homes could be 3,500 square feet or less. The other areas of Martha’s Vineyard don’t have that rule, so you can build 18,000 square feet homes if you want.
  22. In 1694, Jonathan Lambert came to the island as a deaf man. Through years of intermarriages, 25% of the population was born deaf (most lived in Chilmark). The American Sign Language was begun on Martha’s Vineyard.

If you get the opportunity, visit this wonderful place, but you have to plan it if you want to take a car. The island is not HUGE, but you can’t walk it. Bicycles are prevalent, but if you’re not experienced cyclist, you’re limited to buses.

I loved being there, and would love to have a house on the island. Just as soon as I win the lottery jackpot, it’ll be high on my list.

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Comfort Reads

I write contemporary novels, but back in the day, I was and am still a history buff. I could answer the entire column of history questions on the old Jeopardy program.

I’m also good with numbers and dates, (math minor in college). This came in handy with the timeline question on exams. I even remember the date of the Friendship 7. (That was spaceship that took John Glenn up in 1962.)

So you would think that all this looking backwards would endear me to comfort reads– going back and revisiting ole haunts, plots, characters and stories.
Nope, not me.

Comfort Reads is a concept I don’t subscribe to. There are so many books and so little time as the saying goes. 


I’d rather read a new book than re-read a past one. This doesn’t mean I don’t understand the need for familiarity, for knowing what the outcome will be in a novel. I read romances and I expect a happily-ever-after. So I know the hero and heroine will overcome all obstacles in their way and find love.

This also doesn’t mean I have a TBR (to be read) pile and no keeper shelf. Like all readers, I have both. And both could fill their own room.

The keeper shelf gives me comfort without re-reading. As I look over the titles and remember the characters I befriended and who allowed me to share their world and their adventures, I feel the same warmth as my friends who pull down a story to re-read. I can participate in discussions on the Bridgertons, the Madaris’s, the billionaires and their babies.

My TBR pile hides gems that I only need to open a cover to find. 

I suppose the point of all this is we love to read and books hold wonders for us from visiting other worlds to finding a kindred spirit. And on that note, on my keeper shelf is Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer. I love this book so much I won’t read the last page, because I never want this story to end.

What’s on your keeper shelf? What special book do you re-read year in and year out?

As always, keep reading…

Shirley Hailstock
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Coming to Paperback: TITLE WAVE

Counting the days until TITLE WAVE, by Lorna Barrett (aka Lorraine Bartlett) comes out in paperback on June 6th. Have you ordered your copy of #11 in the Booktown Mystery series?

Tricia and Angelica leave Booktown behind for some much needed R&R. Naturally they choose a Mystery Lovers cruise, where they can ponder whodunnit in deck chairs while sipping colorful drinks and soaking up some rays. But the fun is cut short when a fellow passenger is murdered for real. Is the killer a famous mystery author, one of her fans, or a member of the ship’s crew? As Tricia tries to find the killer before they reach port, she may be cruising for a bruising…

Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Book Depository
Chapters Indigo

Check the website for more information

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Magic is the Key to Blythe Cove Manor

Blythe Cove has a new addition!

When Lorraine Bartlett, Shirley Hailstock, and I formed Storytellers Unlimited, we wanted a place where we could hang out with our readers and have a little fun.
Not that writing novels isn’t fun — it can be. But novels are long, and readers need to be patient. Patience is hard.

We created our website, started our email list, did the social media thing, and then thought — what can we do to entertain our readers in between our novel releases?

Since we all love everything summer and beach, we naturally thought of a B&B on Martha’s Vineyard. Blythe Cove Manor was born, with our first anthology, Summer Magic. Weekend Magic followed. And now — ta da — Blythe Cove Magic is available.

Our email readers will be familiar with two of the stories in the third anthology — “The Obsidian Cat” and “Ten Little Librarians” were both serialized in the Storytellers Unlimited newsletter. These serials have been edited and polished and a new story from Lorraine has been added to create our third anthology.

Can I tell you that these stories have become a little addictive to the three of us? They have. We have to squeeze them in among the other books we are writing, but we do because Blythe Cove Manor is a great place to hang out. It has a little mystery, a little romance, and — best of all — a little magic.

Do you see the objects on our covers? Each of those objects has just a little bit of magic to them. The kind of magic that can bring people together, heal heartache, or even show someone her new home is only a few steps away.

The other thing our covers always feature is Martha. Martha is the Blythe Cove Manor cat. Rumor has it she may have a bit of magic in her, as well.

If you love mystery with a touch of romance, we invite you to give Blythe Cove Magic a try: Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo.

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Unknown Author

By Shirley Hailstock

I want to be an unknown author.  I went to Barnes and Noble last night, admittedly to buy a new book by one of my favorite authors.  And of course, I came home with more than the one book.  As any reader knows, books are like potato chips – you can’t buy just one. So I was walking around the superstore, scoping out the books and looking at the guys to see who was just there to hang out.

There were a lot of tables and free standing book carousels and I found myself looking at the titles and authors.  I’m a sucker for a good title, so I look at those first.  These are the tables that publishers pay money to have the titled featured.
I consider myself fairly well read and well informed about books – all books not just romance or women’s fiction.  But what I noticed on these tables were books by people unknown to me.  Of course, I can’t know everyone, no matter now hard I try, yet on many of those tables, I didn’t recognize a single name.
I did recognize the publishers.  And I decided that is who I want to be.  I want to be one of those names that people come in the store find.  My book and my name prominently displayed.  I want to be the books they go home with, spend the night in bed with, and read from Page One to The End.
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An Unexpected Visitor – New Blythe Cove Manor Release

Just in time for the holidays, I’ve written a new Blythe Cove manor story you may want to read.

An-unexpected-visitor-medAN UNEXPECTED VISITOR

All is quiet at Blythe Cove Manor as its proprietress, Blythe Calvert, anticipates a peaceful holiday along with her cat, Martha. But then a taxi pulls up and drops off a troubled, runaway teen looking for a safe haven. Can the magic of Blythe Cove Manor heal this young girl’s aching heart?

Kindle US

Kindle Worldwide






Happy Holidays!

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100 Books to Read Before You Die – The Official List

by Shirley Hailstock

It started with a movie, The Equalizer. I like action movies and I like Denzel Washington. In this movie, his wife has died and she was a lover of books. She was reading the top 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before You Die.  He truly loved her and as homage, he’s reading the top 100 books.  He’s currently on number 91.
I looked for the list since I wanted to know how many of them I had read.  What I discovered is there are countless lists of top 100 books by different groups, organizations or individuals.  I had to choose one, so when I found a list that said it was The Official List, I went with that one.  Click this link (The Official List) if you want to see all 100 titles. I am glad to say that the majority of the books appear on many of the lists. You’d expect to see The Great Gatsby and Pride and Prejudice on any reading list that claims to be the Top 100.
When I counted the titles I’d read, my number was 37. There were some collections like the Harry Potter series and the complete works of Shakespeare.  While I’ve read all the Harry Potter books, I only get to add one to my total. I didn’t count Shakespeare at all since I’ve only read a few of his books/plays.  I’ve seen more of his works produced as a play or movie than actually reading the text. However, Hamlet was listed singularly and I included that one. In high school, I had to memorize parts of that play.
Some titles I tried to read and couldn’t. The Hobbit is one of them. Even after The Lord of the Rings walked away with multiple Academy Awards, I tried to read The Hobbit and couldn’t. Then I got it on CD and tried to listen to it.  Still I couldn’t get into it.  There are some books, we’re just not ready to spend the time trying to read.
There were also titles on the list I couldn’t remember if I’d read the book or only seen a movie of the story. Little Women, Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, and Anna Karenina have been movies, all with several remakes to their credit, and I can’t remember if I ever read the book.
Of course, every list is going to come with surprises.  This one had a few books that I wouldn’t choose for people to read before dying. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams are two.  This is my opinion. There are probably thousands of people who will disagree with me, but they will have their own list that differs from mine.
Another surprise came when I saw titles and didn’t know a book existed. I thought these stories were made into movies from original screenplays. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy,  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane are a few.
The list was limited to 100 titles, so it stands to reason that some expected titles will be missing.  For example, Middlemarch by George Eliot is listed, but Silas Marner is not.  Neither The Scarlet Letter nor any other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne are included in the list. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is present, but not Lord Jim.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel and The Invisible Man by National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison, and Native Son by Richard Wright were not listed. There were no books by James Baldwin, Toni Morrison or Ernest Hemingway.


So, of the books on this list that I’ve read, what is my favorite – The Great Gatsby.  A few years ago I read this book for the first time. I wanted to see if it stood the test of time. Would the book be just as interesting and relevant today as it was when it was written? My answer is yes. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I’d seen Robert Redford and Mia Farrow play Gatsby and Daisy countless times. And I even visited the house in Newport, Rhode Island where they filmed the movie, I was still in the can’t put-it-down-mode.
Reading 37 titles is good, but not great. It’s only a little over a third of the 100.  Just in case you want to know the 37 titles I have read, they’re listed below.
So, like Ricky would say to Lucy, I got some readin’ to do.
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