Saturday, December 14, 2013

"A Magpie’s Treasures": Guest Blog by Hilary Davidson and Book Giveaway!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I'm delighted to introduce you one of my favorite novelists, Hilary Davidson.  

Hilary won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best First Novel and a Crimespree Award for THE DAMAGE DONE. That book launched the Lily Moore series that continues with THE NEXT ONE TO FALL—set in Peru—and EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES, about a missing journalist in Acapulco. 

Hilary’s first standalone novel, BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, will be published by Forge in April 2014. She’s also the author of a short story collection, THE BLACK WIDOW CLUB. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen, Thuglit, Needle, and Beat to a Pulp, earning her a Spinetingler Award, a Derringer nomination, and two StorySouth special mentions. 

Hilary's one of my favorite novelists for many reasons (strong female protagonist, exotic settings, unexpected plot twists), but one thing I really love about her books is that in THE DAMAGE DONE, is that she chose Caron's 1919 perfume, Tabac Blond, for character Lily Moore. The absolutely perfect detail. From that moment I knew I could read and enjoy, knowing I was in hands of a gifted writer. And I loved reading this essay, about Lily's silver bracelet.

HILARY DAVIDSON: I like to say that the main character in my series, Lily Moore, and I have a lot in common professionally — careers as travel writers — but very little in common personally. After all, Lily’s got a painful family background and a penchant for untrustworthy men, neither of which I can claim for my own. But the truth is that there are some personal traits we have in common, and one of those is a superstitious attachment to certain treasured items.

Lily has a silver bracelet that was the last Christmas gift her father gave her before he passed away. It has an engraved inscription, and just touching the Irish scrollwork on it is comforting to her. It’s Lily’s most treasured possession, and it’s something you’ll find on her wrist almost all the time. (It went missing for a while after her sister sold it for drug money, but that’s another story.) I have a couple of treasured objects that I’m positive bring me good fortune. They’re not quite like Lily’s bracelet, but they’re important in their own way.

The first one is a silver ring I stole from my mother. I know, I’m a terrible person. If I were a bird, I’d
be a magpie (they’ve been known to fly off with shiny objects). My mother made the mistake of letting me borrow the ring when I was nineteen and traveling to France on my own. Its design is simple — two intertwined bands of silver — and it fit on my ring finger, so I thought it would do a fine job doubling as a fake wedding band. (You know that common bit of advice given to women traveling solo about wearing a wedding band to avoid harassment, right?)

In any case, I wore the ring day and night while I was away, and by the time I came home, I’d pretty much decided it was mine. I gave it back to my mother, but quickly borrowed it again and again. Any time I took a trip, even a weekend away, I wore the ring. When I moved into my own apartment, it hitched a ride with me. Even after I got married and had a real wedding band, I transferred it to my right hand. I bought my mother a more expensive ring as a replacement — a silver cocktail ring with rose-quartz insets — but I still feel guilty. That doesn’t keep me from wearing the ring when I travel, of course.

I have a second talisman that I acquired more honestly. It’s a British half-crown coin from 1950 that my
great-uncle Jim gave me. Jim was my grandfather’s youngest brother, and I didn’t meet him for the first time until September of 1999. Both of my grandparents had passed away earlier that year, and I missed them terribly. I convinced my mother that we should visit Northern Ireland, where my grandparents were born, and meet our relatives there. The highlight of that trip was meeting my great-uncle Jim and his wife, Molly. We connected so quickly and easily that it felt as if I’d known them all my life.

After I returned home, Jim and I kept in touch, writing letters to each other and occasionally talking on the phone. After I got married, I took my husband over to meet the family as well. Not long before Jim passed away, he sent me an envelope
with an old coin in it. He explained that he’d set it aside when the half-crowns were taken out of circulation, and that it had become something he carried when he felt he needed luck. He added that he couldn’t think who else to give it to but his best friend. That made me tear up then, and it still does now. As you can imagine, that coin is close by whenever I need a guardian angel in my corner.

Do you have a lucky object that you bring with you when you travel, or carry with you when you need a special kind of help? 

Let me know in the comments. 

I’ll be drawing a name from the comments to win a copy of my latest Lily Moore novel, Evil in All Its Disguises. 

My thanks to Susan Elia MacNeal and all of the Jungle Reds for having me visit!

Visit Hilary online at
Follow her on Twitter here.
Friend her on Facebook here.


Joan Emerson said...

I have a ring that belonged to my mom that I wear all the time, but I think it’s more of a reminder of her than a “lucky object.” I chuckled over the “stolen” ring story, though I’m sure your mom never felt as if you’d stolen it. Moms are like that . . . .

Kaye Barley said...

Hilary, Good Morning! What fun to find you here this morning. I have your EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES on my iPad, but have not read it yet, but you know I always love reading about your Lily and look forward to your stand-alone.

I raise my hand as another magpie. Sparkly things are my downfall, especially jewelry. And no sequin on sale is safe from me.

I love your story about your coin, and made me tear up too.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

I agree with Joan — moms are like that….

Kaye, glad to meet a fellow magpie!

Anonymous said...

I find myself drawn to sparkly things. Little white lights, glitter, sequined fruit, and diamonds! All very very comforting. Look forward to reading your books.

Grace Koshida said...

A brass 5 Japanese yen coin in my wallet for good luck.

Karen in Ohio said...

What a charming story about your great-uncle, Hilary. I love that he left the coin to his "best friend".

Not so much with the sparkly for me, but I've rescued family treasures from my mother, who is not at all sentimental: an ebony mask from Africa that one of my aunts sent home when her husband was a CIA station chief; a silver bracelet from Argentina, when another aunt lived in that country; my dad's eyeglasses from the 50's (he died in 1969); and two pair of salt shakers from my lovely maternal grandmother's enormous collection.

Naturally, I don't wear these, but I do wear the wedding ring my mother had when she married my dad in 1949, and I've been wearing it since Steve and I got married in 1982, alongside my thinner band that we bought together. For luck? Maybe that's why we've stayed together all these years!

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Oh Karen, I wear an extra ring too. It was my stepmother's wedding band--luckily for me, I had the smallest fingers in the family and thus was able to claim it after she died. The inscription inside reads: CRI (my dad) loves MJG (my stepmother.) She and her family lived next door to us when I was growing up and she was my mother's best friend. so that ring feels very special.

thanks for visiting today Hilary, and sharing your lovely essay!

Kim said...

Hi Hilary!

I love your stories about your most precious possessions. This was definitely something that stood out for me in the Lily Moore series - I own all 3 so no need to put me in the running for the giveaway :) Lily took such comfort in her bracelet, and it was something, though small, that made her very human.

One such possession for me can no longer travel with me ... the pen knife my grandpa gave me when I was a little girl - probably too little to be given a pen knife, but that was the great thing about my grandpa. He thought I should learn how to whittle, so he gave me a beautiful mother-of-pearl pen knife scarcely two inches long. It traveled with me constantly (peeling fruit, unjamming suitcase clasps, etc.) until 9/11. Now it sits safely at home on my desk, waiting for the day when it can roam the world again.

Congratulations on the upcoming Blood Always Tells. I will be reading it the day it comes out!

Much love,

Rhys said...

I have a St Christopher medal in my purse that my daughter gave me. I carry a photo of my parents in my wallet and look at it with a smile from time to time.

I used to have a tiny house with tiny rubber animals in it that I took with me on trips. I'm not sure how that started but it was comforting to play with the animals in a far off hotel room. (yes, I know, I'm weird).
Somehow it got lost and now I play games on my iPhone instead.

Karen in Ohio said...

Oh, Kim, you reminded me of my own tiny, mother-of-pearl penknife, which I also used to take with me everywhere. A long-ago boyfriend's dad gave it to me, and I cherish it. I just loved his parents, and they were one of the biggest reasons I mourned our breakup.

Roberta, my hands are also the smallest in our family. My girls are all going to have to have my rings resized if they want to wear them after I'm gone.

Marsha Bachmeier said...

I do not have any 'lucky charms' that I keep handy, but I very rarely ever leave without my camera! ;-)

Pat D said...

It's not really a lucky charm but I frequently wear my Irish cross when traveling. I bought it in Dublin years ago. I'm always the navigator on trips so I'll invoke the name of St Brendan when my husband doesn't instantly obey my directions. So, why does he ask for directions and then question the accuracy of them when he doesn't have a clue?

Kaye Barley said...

Lucy/Roberta, what a sweet, lovely story!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Hilary!! *jumping up and down and waving madly* So lovely to see you here at Jungle Reds.

I love your story about your special belongings. I'm a magpie, but not for the sparklies. (I told Ben he lucked out when he married me--I don't like furs or diamonds.) It's crystals and semiprecious stones I go for--amber, turquoise, lapis lazuli, amethyst, opal and topaz (birth stones), etc. Most of them given to me by Ben and my youngest son, therefore extra-special.

Leave me out of the drawing since I have all your books. And love them, of course!

Josh Atkins said...

I still have a door key from my childhood home on my keyring. My family hasn't lived there for nearly 20 years.

Hilary Davidson said...

Thanks so much to everyone for your lovely comments — and especially to Susan Elia MacNeal for her beautiful intro!

I love hearing stories about "special" objects and the meaning we attach to them. Even the most everyday item — like the house key Josh mentions — can take on such significance.

BTW, Joan Emerson, you are totally right about my mom! She doesn't think I stole the ring. In her mind, she gave it to me somewhere along the way. Yes, she is a total sweetheart!

Anonymous said...

My engagement ring. Still married to the same fine fellow after 41+ years, it's certainly good luck!

Lisa Alber said...

Hi Hilary! Your story about the stolen ring reminded me of a silk scarf that I pilfered from my mom. I just burrowed into my dresser. I still have it! It has this gorgeous watery design in blues and greens. I also just found a pair of mod-1960s black and white enameled dangly earrings too.

I just realized that I have bits and pieces squirreled away everywhere. Like the menus from my dad's restaurant and homemade Christmas ornaments and my Mom's rosary that she bought in Spain.

None of it's worth anything -- except to me.

Hope to meet you someday at a conference (LCC?). Can't wait to read EVIL IN ALL ITS GUISES!Cheers, Lisa

Deb said...

Josh, I love that you have your old house key! I adored the house where I grew up--wish I'd thought to keep such a memento...

Hilary, I wore my mother's wedding band after we had to have it cut from her finger, but my daughter asked to have it for her wedding band so it's now her treasure.

But when my mom passed away in August, I found the strangest thing in her jewelry box--a silver-colored metal oval, about two inches long, with a tiny hole in the top for a chain. It looks hand-beaten, and on one side on the bottom are scratched the tiny initials "KC." Those are my daughter's initials, but she says she's never seen the pendant before. I had a jump ring and a silver bead put on it, and now wear it all the time on a sterling chain. It's my "mystery memento" from my mom.

Lisa Alber said...

I love that story, Deb!

Jack Getze said...

I've been a fan of Hilary's since she sent me a short story at Spinetingler called CHEAP BASTARD four years ago. Like so many others, I love her strong characters.

Kay N said...

A Susan B Anthony gold dollar given to me by my late mother in law who told me to always keep it with be and I would never be without money

Sheila York said...

It's not romantic; it's not a pilfered treasure. But when I need help to get back to writing, I grab my gun -- okay, it's an orange water pistol. But it has a (very) curious effect on me, and puts me right back into the 1940s. No idea why. Best not to ask questions of a talisman.

Reine said...

Great story about the coin, Hilary! I have a lucky coin too. One of the many times I left home for good, I had an extra subway token leftover when I got to Logan airport. At first I was upset—teen with no money—but decided maybe I needed it as a good luck charm traveling around. I figured the worst that could happen would be I'd come home to Boston and I'd have a subway token in my bag. I still had it when I returned to Boston for more school, but I didn't use it—could not of course.

Again I inquired a new good luck charm in Boston when I forgot to study for midterm exams. All I had to wear was my geeky old Newman School polo shirt with the school crest and motto "Cor ad cor loquitur"—"Speak heart to heart." For some reason that made me feel good. I sat my first exam and got an A. From that time on I was very comfortable in not studying as long as I wore my Newman polo shirt while sitting exams. I did my work for my courses but never again pulled an all nighter studying notes. It lasted long enough to get me through 12 years of grad school—probably a good thing or I might still be there.

Reine said...

Damn autowrite on speech-to-text! I guess you can figure out what I meant to say.

Lucy, I love your ring story. That is a really, really good story.

Debs, I have a tiny silver medal with little dents that make it look hand beaten. My mother said it was from my teething on it. It was—still is—attached to my baby bracelet from Salem Hospital in Massachusetts. Back then they were made with pink and white or blue and white beads. The white ones were stamped with the letters of your surname. Here is the mystery. My beads are blue and white instead of pink and white. When I asked my parents why, they said the hospital ran out of pink. When I asked Auntie-Mom she said, "How about an ice cream cone?" HANK!!!

Last night I was going through my father's papers and found a little Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer pin that I had given him when he went back to sea. He had taken the pin off the back of Rudolph and carried it with him in his wallet the whole time he was alive. It is the only thing I have that testifies to his love for me.

Now I realize I forgot all the good stuff in my first comment.

Hilary Davidson said...

I am loving all of the stories of people's quirky, amazing treasures. The only constant seems to be that they're always accompanied by a memory of at least one person who's close to your heart!

Thanks to everyone who's shared a story. Please keep them coming!

Jena said...

What a great story -- and congratulations on Blood Always Tells!

I'm a huge believer in objects of power (usually objects of great emotional significance as well). The one I always have near is my dad's wedding ring, worn on my right hand. In my writing office, I have all kinds of special things - a tiny enamelled box my grandparents brought me from a trip back to their village in the Ukraine, a "devil's claw" seed pod from a trip to Arizona, an antique ginger jar containing a few of my mother-in-law's ashes. In our yard we have a fishpond filled with rocks and geodes and fossilized bones and petrified wood my dad collected over the years.

Hilary Davidson said...

Oh! I realized belatedly that I'm supposed to draw a name from a hat to win that copy of EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES. Congrats to Sheila York, who won the book. Sheila, whenever you have a moment, please email your address to me at And, once again, big thank yous and hugs to everyone who shared a story of a treasured memento with me!