It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Claremary Sweeney

I just looked over my post from 2016 for Martha’s blog where I featured my first book, A Berkshire Tale – ten stories about ZuZu, a kitten born in a barn at Tanglewood.  I’d always intended to blissfully continue writing the ZuZu Series until people began to ask, “You’re a Rhode Islander? Why don’t you write stories set in RI?” (We are a parochial bunch here in the Ocean State.) Since I take my readers very seriously, I immediately tucked away all future Berkshire adventures swirling around in my mind and sat down to write a mystery set right here in South County.


Last Train to Kingston was launched this summer. It revolves around the murder of Thea Lorimar one chill, November night. In this first of a series set in South Kingstown, I introduce Detective Lieutenant Kara Langley, who investigates what brought Thea to Kingston and discovers the reasons behind the murder of this gentle recluse. The pages are filled with local references and places and I include photos of the historic settings within the chapters of the book.

I’m in the process of writing the second in this series, Last Rose on the Vine. It’s set at the University of Rhode Island and concerns  the untimely death of a professor who appears to be steeped in alleged misuse of college funds. Embezzlement is always a good motive for murder and not that far-fetched an idea, from my experience. And, I used to be a master gardener at the campus rose garden where the body is discovered – a very thorny place! Last Rose on the Vine should be out in the spring of 2018.

Murder does have a special attraction for me. My husband Charley is relieved that  I have a safe outlet for my overactive little grey cells. But my true love is writing children’s books. After doing a reading at a local school, a little boy jumped up and asked, “Have you ever written a book about bugs, and plants that eat bugs?!” It caused my imagination to go into overdrive, resulting in a verse book about Adonis, a baby pitcher plant living in the Roger Williams Botanical Gardens. He awakes one morning to find a fly in his digestive juices. The insect pleads, “Oh, please spare my life! I’m needed at home by my larvae and wife.” Adonis spits out the fly and declares he will no longer eat meat, causing much angst among the plants and creatures in the garden. “Not eating meat? That’s simply insane! You’ll starve,” said his mother, “you’ll wither and wane!” Everyone helps her try to find a solution to save her baby.

Although I usually use my own photographs in my work, I agreed to mentor an art student from URI, Zachary Perry.  It took us an entire year of working diligently together on the concept and translating it into the final illustrations. We both think our collaborative creation is the bee’s knees!  Carnivore Conundrum will be unleashed on the public this December.

If you’re interested in finding out more about my books, follow me at my blog. You can also friend me on Facebook.

Claremary author phoyo

Claremary Sweeney was an English teacher and high school administrator in Rhode Island for over 30 years. Retirement began another segment of her life. She married, pursued interests in photography, gardening, music, travel and writing.

Claremary book cover

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering a copy of The Pacas are Coming! ZuZu and the Crias to one lucky winner. All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Winner will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo


Oh! The Places I’ve Been – “U” is for USQUEPAUGH

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

I love johnnycakes (or Johnny cakes). If you’re not from around here, you won’t know what I mean. Right?

Well, along the Usquepaugh River lies Kenyon’s Grist Mill, where the original granite millstones quarried from Westerly, RI, are used to grind whole wheat or corn into flour or cornmeal. According to Kenyon’s, “Single pass stone grinding also preserves the vital, natural nutrition of the grains.”  Kenyon’s has been grinding continuously on-site since 1696. 

So, back to johnnycakes. This traditional Rhode Island food dates back to the colonial time when Native American Indians introduced corn to the settlers.  At first, they were known as “Journey Cakes.”  Settlers often took them along on their journeys.  The “r” eventually got dropped (we Rhode Islanders love to drop the “r”) and “Journey Cakes” became, “Johnny Cakes.”

Here’s the traditional recipe for making johnnycakes. In my house, we never add maple syrup! My mom would make them to serve along with leftover lamb. So good. I like them for breakfast, with two eggs over easy, please.

If you’re around these parts in October, come to the Johnnycake Festival!

photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds
photo by M. Reynolds

Into the Woods to Grandparents’ House

Today I took a shortcut to get to the post office in East Greenwich (eBay shipments – are you following my other blog, ‘From Splurge to Purge’ ?). From Division Street, I turned right onto Howland Road and took it to the end, where Howland meets Middle Road. As I was stopped, I was looking at one of the houses my grandparents lived in. Yes, one of – from the time I was a child, there were, oh, at least four. Five? All in and around East Greenwich, Cowesett, Coventry, all after the magical house on Hemlock Hill. It’s pictured here, as a copy of a painting that was made.

Most of us have fond memories of our grandparents, if we were lucky enough to have them. I had only my mother’s parents (my dad’s mother died when he was 18, his father died before my first birthday), but they were superlative grandparents. We would drive to visit them, either from our house in Connecticut or, after 1963, our house in Johnston. The drive to Hemlock Hill in Perryville was via Route 1A, the old Post Road that runs along the southern coast of Rhode Island, where beaches have names like Matunuck, Weekapaug, and Quonochontaug. Perryville, named after Cmdr. Oliver Hazard Perry, is really a village within the town of South Kingstown.

My younger sister was too small to remember, but Ann and I, sitting in the back seat, would strain to see the familiar landmarks as we approached. Invariably, Ann would call out, “I see the white church!” and “I see the red house!” before I did, as she was not saddled with vision problems until she hit her 40s.  The red house (pictured at left) marked the entrance to, well, to Red House Road, a dirt road with no lights and plenty of animals in the woods. A quarter-mile drive or so, past Dr. Gee’s little yellow cottage on the right, nestled behind trees and tall shrubs, brought us to Hemlock Hill. A two-car garage sat at the bottom of what to me seemed like an insurmountable driveway up to the house. Most times, my grandparents parked the car in the garage and walked, with bags of food or other necessities, up the hill to the house.

And the house! With wooden Adirondack chairs on the wide front porch and the smells of molasses cookies or beef stew filling the cabin (because it was built as a cabin, and had bedrooms and a bathroom added later), it was a comforting place full of love. My cousin Cindy remembers sleeping over when it was just the cabin, with an outhouse down in back and a chamber-pot for use during the night. A tick-tocking clock on the rough-hewn mantle marked each quarter-hour with soft Westminster chimes; a bird that had flown into the picture window was preserved and mounted on a branch (fascinating to us kids, and my first and only up-close experience with taxidermy), and the big heavy oak rocking chair waited to be occupied, by grandfather and grandchild. On a very clear day, you could see the ocean from that high vantage point. My grandfather built a fish pond in the front, and farther down the grass, a stone fireplace for cooking outdoors in warmer weather. He blazed a trail through the acres of woods behind the house, and each of us begged to be taken for a walk along the “bunny trail.”

My grandparents sold the house in the 70’s, and although my grandfather was still hiking, it was better for them to be closer to their children and grandchildren. My mother always said she didn’t know how her mother could live in such isolation. Around ten years ago, my sister noticed the house was for sale, but the picture accompanying the real estate notice showed a different house, now two levels. Everything changes – that’s why memory is so cherished.