Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Think This World Should End by Prince Ea

Never have I been much of a fan for Hip Hop or Rap music.

And once again I learn I should never say never.


This, I love.

Be sure and watch to the very end, and I hope you love it too.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Day in Meat Camp, NC

Note:  a version of this was posted on 9/6/14 at Jungle Red Writers

Most of you have heard me talk about our home in the small town of Boone, NC, which is in the northwestern part of the state where North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia meet.

Photo by Don Barley

It is a beautiful part of the world.

Photo by Don Barley

But we actually live north of Boone in an area named Meat Camp.

Photo by Kaye Barley

Meat Camp.  What a name, huh?

When we first bought our house I swore I was going to petition to have the name changed (kiddingly).  

But it didn't take me long to learn to be proud as punch to be a part of an area so rich in history and tradition.

Greene Farm in Meat Camp,NC - Uncredited photo found on the web 

Meat Camp is situated along the Old Buffalo Trail and was established before the Revolutionary War.  As the story goes, Meat Camp was the location where hunters stored their dressed animal carcasses in a cabin that served as a primitive packing house. 

In 1851, the Meat Camp Baptist Church was organized and is still active today.

Photo by Kaye Barley

Meat Camp covers 30 square miles and has a rural population of approximately 2,700. 

Elevation is 3,402 feet (and up).

Our little part of Meat Camp is the coolest, most wonderful neighborhood I've ever had the good fortune to live in, with a pretty nice view from our bedroom window.  

This is how we enjoy our coffee in the morning.  

Watching morning arrive over Elk Knob.

Photo by Kaye Barley

When we first bought our house, our road was gravel.  

We have moved up to being a paved road now, but other than that - things haven't changed.

Photo by Kaye Barley

I remember when I was still working at Appalachian State University, before retirement, someone asked where we lived and when I told her, she asked if we were on Rich Mountain (elevation 4,741 ft.).  

I had to think about this - these mountains were a whole new thing for me, and still confusing.  

When I told her our road was at the base of Rich Mountain and explained how it went up (and up and up), she explained how yes, we did live on Rich Mountain, just not on Rich Mountain Road.  


She went on to say there were stories and legends about spiritual energy in this area.  

These ancient mountains work some magic - I do believe that.

What is interesting to me is that our little neighborhood is small, and we're spread out from one another over a few miles from the base to the top of our mountain road.  

We are a wide, wide range of economic and educational diversity.  Blue collar to PhDs and MDs.  

And yet, more closely knit and supportive than any neighborhood I've lived previously.

More interesting to me is the creative vitality within this small group.  We have people who do pottery, who sculpt, paint, do some blacksmithing, stained glass, collage artistry, leather working, jewelry making, photography and writing.  

Our get-togethers are not only fun, but inspirational and motivating. Our most recent get together was at an Open Studio event neighbors Keith Lambert and Willie Baucom hosted last weekend.

A combination of all good things - good food, good music, good friends - and surrounded by the natural beauty of the mountains along with the beauty of Keith and Willie's art. 

 Their first annual Open Studio in Meat Camp.

Life is Meat Camp is very good.

Moving to this part of the world was a major life-style change.

  We came from big city Atlanta to small town Boone - living in the rural Meat Camp.  But, I have to say, I think I've adjusted well. 

Life is good.  Very, very good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Evening with Tom Robbins

Author Tom Robbins was raised in Blowing Rock, NC and left when he was 10.

Many of his memories of those ten short years are included in his new book, "Tibetan Peach Pie:A True Account of an Imaginative Life."  He was exactly the kind of kid you would expect Tom Robbins the author to be.  

An excerpt from Tibetan Peach Pie:  "Allowed to roam freely in both the streets and the woods, I observed and interacted not only with the wonders of nature but with an assortment of squirrel hunters, rabbit trappers, berry pickers, banjo pickers, moonshiners, tramps, real Gypsies, snake handlers, mule-back preachers (like my grandpa), eccentric characters with names such as Pink Baldwin and Junebug Tate, and perhaps most influential, bib-overalled raconteurs, many of whom spun stories as effortlessly and expertly as they spit tobacco juice." 

Blowing Rock declared September 10, 2014 Tom Robbins Day.

On September 11, Mr. Robbins was scheduled to speak at a small venue seating 400 people at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  

When it became clear that wasn't going to be quite large enough, the event was moved to The Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts which seats 1,684 people. It was a sold out affair.

He spoke, he read and he entertained.

He filled the room with the magic he infuses in his writing.  And the audience thanked him with more than one standing ovation.

A perfect evening.

But with still more to come.

I was a lucky winner of the Take a Trip with Tom Instagram photo contest so was able to meet him.  This in addition to having a front row seat at the event, and being given an autographed copy of Tibetan Peach Pie.

And what's better than being able to come home from an event such as this with a story?!

My friends Jill and Willie went with me and just makes something like this even more fun if you have good friends to share it with.

I'm still on Cloud Nine, and Tom Robbins is every bit as delightful as you would hope if you read his work. 

And here's the story (you knew there would be a story, right?!) If you've read Tibetan Peach Pie, you may have noticed in the last paragraph of the preface, there's an address given where you can write to Tom Robbins and ask for something. 

I did that. Back when I first got the book - the day it was released. 

And I signed my card, "Kaye Barley - See you in Boone!" because I knew he was coming for the events. 

When I was introduced to him last night by Lynn Patterson, one of the people responsible for putting all this together.  (She and everyone else did a bang-up job.  Thank You, Lynn!), she said, "Tom, this is Kaye Barley." 

And he looked at me, his eyes went kinda wide and he grinned really big and said (swear to God), "You wrote to me!" 

He did!  

And did my mouth fall open? 

It did.  

Can you believe it? 

The man is cooler than cool.

So, I bring home a lesson from this.

If you've been following Meanderings and Muses, you would have seen my last post about having the blues.

I guess, like Jon Stewart, I too am an "Angry Optimist."

And the reason I guess I remain an optimist - angry or otherwise - is because of nights like last night and my amazing opportunities that I seem to just fall into.  

Meeting Tom Robbins was not something I ever would have imagined  happening.

Finding him to be every bit as charming and funny and philosophical and delightful and kind were all things I will hold in my heart for a long, long time.

I just wish I could have actually thought of something to say rather than just "How on earth did you remember that?!" when he told me he remembered receiving a card from me.  From that point on, I don't remember saying a word.  I remember him chatting, and telling  someone that he and I were long-time pen pals, and I remember giving him a little kiss on the cheek.

And I remembered that life is, indeed, good.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feeling Blue

Meditation, 1921
John Collier
When I saw this painting this morning at Erica Heller's page on Facebook, it hit me squarely in my heart.

Art is supposed to speak to us.

Some art speaks to some differently than to others.

Some art speaks more loudly, has more impact, for some than for others.

And sometimes it's just the circumstances for one person at one specific moment.

I saw this painting and something inside me moved.

I didn't notice the title, Meditation.

Meditation is not what I got from this.

I saw a woman draped in sadness.

Stopped in motion and unable to stir while her thoughts overtook her.

I rarely admit to having the blues.

I'm one of those people you'll see angry, lashing out at what I find abhorrent, revolting, disgusting, immoral and/or just plain wrong.  When, in fact, it makes me profoundly sad.  But I'd rather allow people see the me that appears strong - ready and able to take on the world.

Don't get me wrong.  I feel ready and able to take on the world in a lot of cases, and if my voice is the only way for me to feel as though I'm contributing something (even if it's only to myself) to change the things that I find wrong, then I will do it as long as I'm able.

Those things - the big things - include problems that I cannot imagine people of morals not wanting to fight.

Corruption in our government.  Destruction of our planet and its inhabitants by poisoning our water and our food - all for profit for a few.  Racism (how can anyone now deny that this is still a problem in this country?).  Hypocrisy in what some people declare as religion.  Homelessness and the brink of homelessness because of pure greed and selfishness in the hands of the smallest percent of our population who handle the wealth and are quite content to see the larger percent struggle.  Struggle to put food on their tables for their families.  Struggle with health care.  Struggle with mortgages, and mounting debt.  Mounting debt not for frivolous things, but for just the daily act of living and getting by. 

Closer to home in my own state I'm angered and saddened by these same problems exacerbated by a governor and cronies who have taken the State of North Carolina and turned it back 50 years in education, conservation, salaries, energy - you name it.

Even closer to home in my own town I'm angered and saddened by these same problems exacerbated by a small group of people who want to own every spare inch of ground so they can flatten another mountain and profit from it.  And by golly, if it means they have to suppress voting rights, then boy howdy - let it begin (actually, it has already begun, and blatantly so).

Reading Facebook last night angered me and made me sad.

What was there?

Lying politicians.  Mud being thrown at people who don't deserve it.  Pictures of people carrying assault rifles into stores and restaurants (why?).  Statistics about proven health issues in areas near fracking sites (which matter not a fig to those who will make big money off this desecration to our land and our environment which we should hold sacred). People shouting about how they believe in pro-life issues but are willing to turn away innocent children at our borders, or allow our own children to live in poverty, missing meals and going to bed hungry.  I call bullshit on all that empty rhetoric.

Let's see, what else was at Facebook?  Oh yeah.  Video of a very big, very strong man punching a woman in the face and knocking her out.  Out cold.  Then dragging her limp body out of an elevator.  Then reading that the NFL was appalled at this.  Uh huh.  What I believe is that they were appalled only after social media got a hold of it and it was seen by millions of outraged people.  Any idea how many pro sports players who have also abused women are still playing the game without losing their "job?"  No, I don't know either, but I'm betting Ray Rice wasn't a one-time thing.

Even more disturbing and disgusting was reading comments written by people who were defending Ray Rice.  "She hit him first."  "It was her fault."  That sort of garbage.  That's not even worthy of conversation.  And for those who wonder why his then fiance, now wife, hasn't left him, let me just say there are deeper issues than most of us who have not lived with domestic abuse know and fully understand.  There is a long process involved in the stealing of someone's dignity and self-confidence before that first punch is thrown.

And I'm sad about things even closer to home.  Right here in my home.

I know I'm not alone when I say I'd rather be sick or hurt myself than see my loved ones sick or hurt.

It's been a tough time for my Donald lately.  He's been suffering from back pain following a fall and undergoing treatment for that.  Then up pops a toothache.  Naturally, on a Friday when our dentist's office is closed (a new dentist - our tried and true dentist, who also happens to be a neighbor and good friend up and retired.  Can you imagine?!  The nerve!).  But, former dentist was kind enough to phone in prescriptions to help Donald make it through the weekend.  But wait - we're far from the end of this tale!

Saturday evening we spent several hours at the Watauga Medical Center Emergency Room for a kidney stone attack Don was suffering through.

Sunday he spent the day either in pain from his tooth, or his kidney or his back.  Or asleep from pain meds.

Monday he called his dentist to get an appointment to see about his tooth only to be told they could see him in three weeks.  I'm not going to go into all this here, 'cause I ranted about it enough at Facebook to exhaust myself and everyone else.  Suffice to say, Mr. Dentist and I had words and we'll be moving to a different dentist.

Former, now retired, dentist got Donald an appointment with an endodontist who squeezed Donald in amongst her other appointments and did enough to help ease the pain with a partial root canal which he'll have completed on Monday.

None of these things Don is experiencing can be helped and when he hurts, I hurt.  And - I would be lying by omission if I didn't say we're also feeling the pinch money wise as well.

So yes, today I am sad.  I admit it.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Reed Farrel Coleman On Being 1/3 of Robert B. Parker

On Being 1/3 of Robert B. Parker
It was early May 2013 and the day before I was to leave for St. Louis to do my annual Suspense Night gig at the St. Louis County Library. It was about 3:00 in the afternoon and I was relaxing after having packed for my trip. My agent’s phone number flashed across my TV screen. The conversation that followed went something like this:

        “Hey, David (David Hale Smith of Inkwell Management), what’s up? Something wrong?”

        “Reed, I think you need to sit down.”

        “As a matter of fact, I’m laying down, watching TV.”


        “Why, David, what’s wrong?”

        “Are you sure you’re not standing?”

        “David, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m gonna shoot you.”

        “How would you like to be Robert B. Parker?”

        The rest, as they say, is history. Or it soon will be. On September 9th, two days from now, Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, a Jesse Stone novel by Reed Farrel Coleman will be on book shelves and available through your favorite e-tailer. These last sixteen months have been quite an interesting journey. Most of it has been wonderful, but many aspects of it have been frustrating as well. That’s pretty much how everything in life goes, right? There always seems to be this odd balance in life and this experience has sure borne that out.

        First, I got the call from my agent about a week after I finished The Hollow Girl, the final novel in my Moe Prager Mystery series. What, I sometimes wonder, would have happened had they offered me this gig before I had completed the Moe series? When I asked my new editor at Putnam if she was aware that I was wrapping up the Moe series, she said she had no clue. I figured that I got the gig not only based upon my writing ability, but also on the essay I wrote for the book In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero, edited by Otto Penzler. My essay? “Go East Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser.” Yet again, I was wrong. My editor only read the essay after I was hired.

        One of my great frustrations was that I wasn’t permitted to make this deal public for eleven months. Yes, I could tell my family, but for the most part I operated under the threat of losing the deal if it became public knowledge. Only I needed to be able to tell some colleagues in order to seek their advice and to access their expertise on Jesse Stone and Mr. Parker. At points during the writing of Blind Spot, I felt more like an undercover operative than an author. It really came to a head at Bouchercon Albany when I was sitting in on a panel about the future of PI fiction and the moderator, Ali Karim, asked me my opinion on the phenomenon of writers taking over series made famous by now deceased authors. You can imagine that I was biting the insides of my cheeks pretty hard when I said, “I guess it depends on the writers involved and the series.”

        For the most part, though, it’s been great and all the little frustrations worth it. It is a total honor to have been chosen to follow in Robert B. Parker’s footsteps and to continue one of the great series in crime fiction history. Jesse Stone is that rarest of commodities: a perfectly flawed protagonist. There are many flawed protagonists. There are some perfect protagonists. But very few are perfectly flawed. What do I mean? If you know the series, you know what I mean. If Blind Spot is your first Jesse Stone novel, you’ll get it right away. If you have read any of my own work, you know I have a real weak spot for strong, yet vulnerable protagonists. But Jesse and Moe are very different creatures. Moe wore his heart on his sleeve. The only thing Jesse wears on his sleeve is his Paradise Police Department patch. While I haven’t tried to do a direct imitation of Mr. Parker’s style, I have tried to be true to his characters. I think of it this way: I use the same camera as Mr. Parker did, but I've changed lenses.

        I do wonder how the book will be received by critics and longtime fans of the series. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Louise Penny

I have just heard some wonderful news!

I'm a person who loves hearing wonderful news.

Especially when it concerns someone I know.

Especially when it concerns someone who deserves every accolade, every award, every single nice thing said about her and her work.

Louise Penny's  THE LONG WAY HOME will debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list the week of Sept 14th.  (you can  read my review here -

She has just ended her tour with an event in Vancouver with over 700 people in attendance.




How amazing is that?!

I have followed Louise's work and i have followed her star right to the top.  I have cheered her every step of the way and I'm as proud as if I were the woman's mother, for Lord's sake!

I met Louise in Baltimore.  It was the first Bouchercon I attended.  I could not wait to tell her how much I loved her books.

She was beautiful, sweet, kind, funny, gracious and so approachable.

I next saw her in Indianapolis.  Bouchercon, again.

Still beautiful, sweet, kind, funny, gracious and so approachable.

Then I got to see her again at Malice a couple years ago.  I love this picture.  Oh, how I love both these women.

Louise Penny, me, Hank Phillippi Ryan

Still beautiful, sweet, kind, funny, gracious and so approachable.  

Now, Louise Penny is celebrating her second novel in a row hitting the New York Times Bestseller List at Number One.

And the whole point of my post, in addition to sending out a huge virtual congratulatory hug to Louise Penny, is to post pictures of me with her  (the heck with dropping names, I'd rather post pics!)

I can't help it.   

I love my life.  

I have had opportunities to meet and get to know some of the most amazing people.  

I am grateful, and humbled, and proud as punch.

If you're one of the few people left on God's green earth who has not read Louise Penny's Three Pines novels - now is the time.  


But - start with #1, okay??  You'll thank me for this.

Here they are in order:

Still Life

A Fatal Grace (also published as Dead Cold in the UK)

The Cruelest Month

A Rule Against Murder (also published at The Murder Stone in the UK)

The Brutal Telling

Bury Your Dead

A Trick of the Light

The Beautiful Mystery

How the Light Gets In

The Long Way Home

Louise - If you're reading         -       
YAY, YOU!!!!!!!!         

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TRUTH BE TOLD by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Know what I love?

I love that I know smart people who write terrific books.

Especially when it's a book that I can squeal about, not because a friend happened to write it, but because it's so damned good.

I've been a fan of Hank's since her first Charlotte novel (which I'm still hoping to see more of).

Her newer series, the Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan series showcases Hank's talents in her writing world and in her world of Emmy winning investigative reporting.

TRUTH BE TOLD is my favorite in the series, so far.

It starts with a middle-class family evicted from their suburban home.  Jane discovers more than she bargained for while digging into this.  

Ms. Ryan has a particula writing style that keeps me on the edge of my seat and turning pages late into the night.

The relationship between Jane and Jake is never easy, and is fraught with frustration.  They're both so likable, we keep pulling for them both.

And along the way we meet some interesting characters - one in particular I hope pops in again (and maybe again) as the series continues.

Another well plotted, twisty, full of surprises novel from Hank Phillippi Ryan.  The woman is amazing.

Disclaimer:  an arc of The Long Way Home was provided by the author.  No review was promised and the above is my unbiased opinion.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Cambridge, MD - My Hometown

Update - Patrick McLaw speaks out -
Today's Update from The Baltimore Sun - 9/3/2014


Today's Update from The Star Democrat:


UPDATE:  The Baltimore Sun reports today that mental health issues, not books, led to teacher's suspension

read the article here:,0,1577239.story

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Cambridge, Maryland

My hometown.

If you've followed Meanderings and Muses at all, you've read about Cambridge, Maryland, and the deep love I have for it.

I've written about it and referred to it as "The Home of My Heart,"  

I've written about being "A Small Town Girl,"

I've written about "My Bridge."

I've written about one of Cambridge's famous sons, author John Barth.

I've written about Christmas in Cambridge when I was a kid. 

I've written about my dad in Cambridge, and growing up in The Arcade Apartments.

I've written about our class reunions.  We're a tight-knit class, and we have a reunion every 5 years.  Donald and I have made then all except one.  Sometimes we throw a party just 'cause  -  like "The Class of '66 Turns 60!"  

The most recent reunion was our 45th, when Donald and I also celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  It was my dream vacation.  My idea of heaven.  AND, the topping on this grand dessert of a trip, was a family get-together with The Wilkinson clan.  Cousins I had not seen in more years than should have been allowed.

I've written about how conversations with best friends pick up as though we just chatted the day before.

What I haven't written about is how my heart was broken by this town during the '60s.

Cambridge was one of the first places the Freedom Riders visited.

Here's what I remember.

My dad and I stood at the beautiful big bay windows in our apartment in the Arcade.  We watched young, well dressed blacks get off a bus and attempt to walk into the drugstore in our apartment lobby.  I remember asking my dad what was going on, and he explained a little by saying the people we were watching get off the bus wanted things to change.  And that people were scared of change.  And that it would get ugly.

That is the only memory I have of that day, but I knew something was wrong.  I was 14 years old.

The memories following this day are a jumble, but they're vivid.

For the next few years all I remember clearly is that we seemed to  fluctuate between things being normal and things being violent.

I don't have a clear time-line of it all in my mind.

I remember National Guardsmen lining our downtown streets.  They were armed with rifles and bayonets.  They slept in tents in our school yards.

Then they were gone.

Then they were back.

The drugstore in the lobby of our apartment building closed down.  This rather than serve blacks.

The public swimming pool closed down.  The chief of police said he would rather pour dirt into the pool and plant flowers than allow blacks to swim in it.

We were on TV.  People all over the country watched a white man who owned a local restaurant smash a raw egg over the head of a young black man who was part of a sit-in in front of the restaurant.

We were written up in Life Magazine.

Robert Kennedy came to town.

H. Rap Brown came to town.  

Ironically, another memory is of my dad and I standing together at the window again.  But this time it was a window in our house on Bucktown Road, outside of town.  We had, sadly, moved away from the Arcade Apartments by now.  We saw flames in the distance and my dad said, "Oh, my God, they're burning down the town."  And as dumb as it might have been, because by this time the violence had gotten really bad, mother and dad and I got in the car and drove into town to see if it was, in fact, burning down. 

What was burning was the black section of town.  This act has since been attributed to words spoken by Mr. Brown while standing atop a car shouting "If this town don't come around, this town should be burned down."

I didn't write about these things, but Peter B. Levy did, in a book named CIVIL WAR ON RACE STREET.  (ISBN 0813026385).

No, I have never been so naive as to think or remember Cambridge as Utopian.

No, sadly, I know better.

I remember.

And if I ever come close to forgetting, I remember a more recent incident.

We were at a class reunion.  Donald and I walked down to the water.  A classmate, someone I considered a close friend, walked down to join us and we chatted about how much we loved Cambridge.  And how much we loved the Class of '66.  He looked at me and smiled and said, "Know what I love best about it?"  What, I asked.  "That we were the last class to graduate without any niggers."

Something inside me shattered.

And, I will never, never forget the smile on his face.

But, still - my love for Cambridge rests in my heart.

Then today, I see this.

Patrick McLaw

and I read this:

Language arts teacher banned from school for writing fictional books

and this:

In Maryland, a Soviet-Style Punishment for a Novelist

and this:

Did This Teacher's Novel Cause Craziest Police Overreaction Ever?

All these years, it seems the home of my heart hasn't changed a bit.  Back in the news for the worst possible reasons.

At least, that's how it seems today.

I've been cautioned to wait until we learn the rest of the story.  I will certainly be following it - with a heavy heart.

Thomas Wolfe said "You can't go home again."

I think you can.  

A bigger question is, for me - do you want to?  Do I want to?