Saturday, April 19, 2014

For National Poetry Month -

Memory Has Depth But No Bottom
by Al Maginnex

I am not speaking now of the girls I knew
     who babysat and worked at the theater
or drug store, but who in summer saw
     their local glory eclipsed by the girls
home from college and bored with everything,
     their thick paperbacks more weighty
for sitting unopened while they unfastened
     the tops of their bathing suits, to turn their backs
into planes of unbroken tan, and lit
     cigarettes beneath the disapproving stare
of mothers and friends of mothers. If their talk
     of football games and rum punch made them
the town’s fallen daughters, it was a fall
     with a soft landing. Already I knew
the world was cleaved and cleaved again
     by borders invisible and impossible to cross.
The depth and velocity of the scorn meant
     to drive away anyone not invited
into their coconut-scented kingdom of skin and smoke
     radiated even to the deep end of the pool
where we lined up for the diving board.
     Our game that summer was to toss pennies
into the deep end and dive after them, trying
     to retrieve all we had thrown
until we were tossing more than we could ever bring up.
     I waited in line to dive, learned to stay down
so long water’s silence was a keening, then a roar
     in my ears, until my lungs scorched for want
of air. Some days I would go to the shade and fall
     on the wide shore of a book and read until
my fingers unwrinkled. All summer, the daughters lay
     in the graceful repose of the fallen, motionless
as photographs of stillnesses like the Sphinx

     or the pyramids, but stillnesses of flesh,
and of flesh that would not molder as summer turned
     a corner and the reek of chlorinated water
took our skin. The bath-warm water itself became 
     a sentence, no longer the enticement of early June,
and stuck in mid-corruption the daughters began
     to stretch and long for the airy cool of a classroom,
the damp closeness of a mixer, for movement
     that would divide them from these bodies
trapped in the town where they had been born,
     where their names still cast a shadow. In the stare
of one afternoon’s heat, the daughter of the undertaker,
     a bent man who played the piano for hours when he drank,
rose and took the narrow, quivering stage 
     of the diving board. A short run, and she rose,
arms spread, as close to the shape of a cross
     as humans can come, no longer fallen but soaring
until she turned and entered the water
     straight as a plumb line, barely a splash 
to mark her passage. She swam
     slow as royalty to the ladder, reclaimed
the spot she had left moment before. No pennies had been
     thrown for her to find, but she could have
claimed every one. She returned to college,
     then vanished, as some daughters did, in dark
pools of rumor, living in a teepee somewhere in Arizona 
     or Canada. Ten years ago I heard she was selling
real estate in Atlanta. Whatever else we are,
     we are mostly unremembering water.
And the twenty percent of her that is
     not water does not remember
how she rose and turned, plunging into memory
     she has become, like those pennies,
more precious each time she surfaces.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Miss Susie Gives Whimsey Five Stars ! ! !

This has been a very good week for Whimsey.

The first person who compared my Whimsey to novels written by Sarah Addison Allen was Lesa Holstine.  I cried like a baby over that comparison.  Anyone who knows me, knows Sarah Addison Allen is a literary hero of mine.

Since then, there have been more of those comparisons and each one  gives me a lift and makes my heart sing.

The latest is from Miss Susie.  

Susie writes a wonderful blog called "Miss Susie's Reading and Observations" - please check it out!

And you can read her review of Whimsey right here:


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Earl Staggs Writes . . . Romance?!

Me?  Write Romance?  Maybe.

I write Mystery and Thriller stories, not Romance, but there’s no law saying the kind of stories I write can’t include elements of romance. Would I be capable of blending a love story into a Mystery/Thriller novel?  Well, I was put to the test in my last novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION. 

The novel features Tall Chambers, a man who spent twenty years in Army Special Forces.  After leaving the Army. he is invited by General Cyrus Brock to join a secretive agency which tracks terrorists and puts them out of business before innocent people are killed. During his meeting with the General, Tall sees a photograph of the old man’s daughter, Victoria.  Tall is quite taken by the beautiful young woman in the picture and can’t take his eyes off her.  When he asks his best friend Stephen about her, he is told she is off limits to him.  She is way out of his league.  Even so, he can’t get her out of his mind.

He doesn’t get a chance to see her in person until she is taken hostage by a gang of bad guys and he is called upon to rescue her.  He does, but there’s no opportunity to talk to her.  Once the ordeal is over, they go their separate ways.  Tall resigns himself to the fact that he will  never see her again.

But, as they say, love will find a way.  Here’s what happens next.

* * *
A week later, Tall switched off his TV when his doorbell chimed. When he looked through the peephole, he’d never been so surprised in his life. His hand shook when he opened the door.

Victoria stood there in a yellow dress, looking even more beautiful than he remembered.

With a teasing twinkle in her eyes and a playful grin on her lips, she says. “I came by to thank you for rescuing me.” She brought her hand around from behind her back and extended a bottle toward him. “I thought we might have a glass of wine and then go out to dinner.”

Tall stood in the doorway staring at the woman he fell in love with when he saw her picture on a shelf in her father’s house. He knew he should say something and opened his mouth.

“Uh. . .,” came out.

She grinned and cocked her head to one side. “May I come in?”

“Uh. . .,” he repeated.

She brushed by him and he saw she was holding back a giggle.

“Where do you keep your glasses?” she asked. If we don’t open this bottle of wine soon, it may spoil.”

He followed her into his dining room area where she stopped, turned back to him, and held out the wine. “Or we could drink it right out of the bottle. I don’t mind if you don’t.”

Tall knew he was blushing a bright red. He lowered his head and chuckled. “I’m sorry. I was. . .uh. . . not expecting company.”

She pursed her lips. “Now don’t tell me this is the first time a crazy woman has shown up at your door carrying a bottle of wine.”

Tall laughed. She was not only the most beautiful human being he’d ever seen in his life, but she had a sense of humor, too. Damn.

He took the bottle from her hand and nodded over her shoulder. “Glasses are in the cabinet behind you, second shelf. I’ll open this.”

He went into his kitchen remembering what Stephen said when he asked about her.

Don’t even think about it. You wouldn’t just be shooting yourself in the foot, you’d be shooting your balls off.

Too late. Shots fired.

After a glass of wine, they went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Over their meal, they discussed books. They both liked John Grisham. When they moved on to movies, they both were big fans of Clint Eastwood. Her favorite of his films was Bridges of Madison County while his was Dirty Harry. By the time they’d finished eating, Tall felt he’d known her all his life.

When they were ready to leave the restaurant, he suggested they take the long way back to his apartment where her car was parked. She said it would be a good idea to walk off some of the huge dinner she’d had. His idea was to keep her with him as long as possible.

It was twenty past nine when they stepped outside the restaurant. A full moon in a clear sky added a silver tint to the street and sidewalks. A gentle breeze had cleared the air of exhaust fumes from the day’s traffic along the busy street. The few cars passing by now seemed to be moving in slow motion so as not to disturb the quiet stillness of the evening. A perfect evening, Tall thought. A perfect evening for a perfect date with a perfect girl. A date! How long had it been since he’d been on an actual date? Years. It saddened him to think it would be over soon. He slowed his pace as if that would stretch it out longer.

When they reached the first corner, he reached down for her hand and guided her across the street. He thought her small delicate hand folded neatly in his. A perfect fit.

Once across the street, they entered a park filled with medium height trees and winding walkways lined with rose and azalea bushes. The path brought them out of the park directly across from Tall’s apartment building. Traffic was light and after they negotiated their way across the street, they sat quietly on the steps for a few minutes.

“So do you like being a lawyer?” Tall asked. During dinner, he’d learned she worked for a large legal firm specializing in international law and finance.

She shrugged. “Mostly, I do research and analysis for the senior partners. It’s not very exciting, but my dad says it’s a good place to begin.”

They were sitting side by side, so close Tall felt her body stiffen the slightest bit.

“Begin what?” he asked.

“There are several opportunities it could lead to.”

Even her voice had changed. She spoke in a clipped monotone, as if repeating something she’d heard. It sounded almost scripted.

“My dad says the experience I get with this firm could lead to something in London, Madrid, maybe even Geneva. Or, he thinks it could lead to a position with an embassy or a political appointment someday.”

He hesitated, then asked, “Is that what you want?”

“What do you mean?” She stared at the park across the street.

“I mean, you told me what your dad said and what he thinks. I was just wondering if politics is something you want for yourself.”

She cleared her throat. “Of course. Who wouldn’t? You have a problem with women in politics, big boy? Don’t you think it’s about time we had a woman in the White House?”

In a serious tone, Tall said, “As I understand it, there were a lot of women in the White House during the Kennedy years. They were slipped in and out through a side door.”

She gave him a poke in the ribs. “That’s not what I meant. Men!”

“Well, when you get elected to the White House, I want a key to that side door.”

She grinned. “We’ll have to see about that.” She stood up and stretched. “I really need to be going, I guess. Long day tomorrow.”

“Me, too,” he lied. He had nothing scheduled for the next day and was sorry she was leaving. He pushed himself to his feet and looked around. “Where’s your car?”

He held her car door open while she settled herself behind the wheel. “I really enjoyed this,” he said. “Maybe we can do it again some time.”

“I’d like that.”

“Good. I’ll call you. Can I get your number?”

She looked up at him with a sly grin. “You already have it.”

“I do? Uh. . .where? How?”

“In your jacket pocket. I slipped my card in there when we were sitting on the steps back there. Goodnight, Tall.”

“Uh. . . .” He fished in his pockets as she drove away, pulled out her card and grinned as he looked at it. Damn. She wouldn’t have given him her card if she weren’t interested in seeing him again. He turned toward his apartment building and thought about what her father would say if he knew they were spending time together. By the time he reached the door, he decided he didn’t care.

He called her two days later. They went to dinner and a movie. Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino.” She cried at the end. He fought not to. The following evening, Wednesday, they went to a play. When he dropped her off at her apartment, she invited him to a home-cooked dinner at her apartment on Friday and suggested he bring a toothbrush. He did, along with a change of clothes, and stayed until Monday morning.

* * *
            And there you have it.  My attempt to incorporate Romance into a Mystery/Thriller story.   As I said, I don’t write Romance.  There’s no huggy-kissy business, but I hope there was enough interactive attraction between them to make it believable that they will eventually marry.  Which they do.
         What do you think?  Should I give up any thoughts of writing anything involving Romance and stick to pure Mystery and Thriller stories?

Bio:  Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novels MEMORY OF A MURDER and JUSTIFIED ACTION and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and is a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Whimsey Review from "All About Women" Magazine

"Sprinkle a piece of southern women's literature with a dash of pixie dust, and Kaye Wilkinson Barley's debut novel, "Whimsey" is the result.  Equal parts spunk and elegance, cigar smoke and iced coffee, the book delivers on the name.  "Whimsey is just that: whimsical.

Barley attributes her first novel to a quote by Toni Morrison: "If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."  With "Whimsey," that is exactly what she did.  The results of her endeavor have been compared to novels by New York Times bestseller Sarah Addison Allen and deemed "delightful" by North Carolina author Margaret Maron.

The story revolves around the Island of Whimsey, a colony of artists founded by matriarch Elizabeth Calhoun off the coast of Georgia in 1949.  The community is an artist's dream world, complete with small town camaraderie, luscious seascapes, and dark nights that promise a thousand stars.  But, there is more to the island than pretty scenery or even the talents of its residents.  The "certain something else" means that on Whimsey, the mildly supernatural becomes commonplace, and artists are rarely at a loss for inspiration.

After following a doomed marriage to Atlanta, jewelry designer Emmaline Hamilton Foley, grandniece of Elizabeth Calhou, has "lost her magic," so to speak.  It will take a devoted family and a few girlfriends who won't take no for an answer to draw her back to the island home of her youth.  With her Aunt Zoe planning a new upscale gallery to showcase local talent, Emma can only hope to recapture the spark in her own designs, in time for the grand opening.  But first, she must confront old heartbreaks, long-standing rivalries and her own loss of confidence.

"Whimsey" shifts seamlessly between reality and fantasy, enchanged glitter and everyday magic.  The story is perhaps more similar to magical realism than traditional fantasy.  In the insular world of its sprawling cast of characters, no one bats an eye at the occasional watchful ghost or sassy pixie.  And in truth, these nods to fancy are mere seasoning.  The driving force behind "Whimsey" is a more subtle magic: the love and support of family, the shared joy between friends (here, splendidly dubbed the "Wicked Women of Whimsey"), and the infectious drive of a creative community.

One might even speculate that the magical quality of the Island of Whimsey comes to stand in for those indefinable urges that inspire passion of all kinds.  Barley has created a utopia where following the desires of one's heart is both a worthy and profitable pursuit.  On Whimsey, hard work is rewarded, second chances have a chance, and no one is allowed to give up on herself.

Barley's writing is optimistic and upbeat, laced with a cheeky, good-natured humor.  The story has a southern flavor that brings to mind humid summer days on the Georgia coast.  Barley's love of the landscape is clearly evident in her multi-colored descriptions, and readers may find themselves wishing that they could be transported literally as well as figuratively to a southern shoreline at sunrise.  Also apparent is the author's appreciative eye for creative work, whether jewelry, pottery, paintings, or lace-toed stockings.

Barley says that if she could say anything to inspire women, she would tell them that they are never too old to spread their wings, to do the things they always wanted.  Her "Whimsey" presents the fictional story of a series of talented women willing to take that risk, and the book itself is proof of the living truth in her words.  Ultimately, the novel is a celebration of creativity and self-fulfillment.  For anyone who is not too grown-up to believe in the power of chasing after the things they love, or to smile at a pixie in Louboutin heels, "Whimsey" presents a fun, light-hearted read and a reminder never to stop dreaming."

"About the Author:

Kaye Wilkinson Barley, a retiree of Appalachian State University, lives in Watauga County with husband Don and "Wonder Corgi," Harley Doodle Barley.

She serves on the planning committee for the High Country Festival of the Book and is a contributing writer for several blogs, including the Jungle Red Writers and Barley's personal blog, Meanderings and Muses, which spotlights other authors worth watching.  Barley's nonfiction has been included in two Western North Carolina anthologies, "Clothes Lines" and "Women's Spaces Women's Places."

Barley self-published her first novel, "Whimsey," in 2013 and hints that a sequel is in the works.  She will be in Asheville on April 21 for a "Whimsey" reading as part of Malaprop's Bookstore's self-published and small press local authors series.

Keep up with book signings and other events through her website,"

Written by Ariel Parsons.  A graduate of Appalachian State University, a quintessential English major and self-proclaimed word junkie.

Note:  The above mentioned Malaprop's reading is being rescheduled.  Once the new date has been announced, I'll let everyone know.

Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 High Country Festival of the Book

High Country Festival of the Book has a great line-up of authors, entertainers, and exhibitors.

This is just a partial list of what to expect.

For more, please visit the official webpage -



Patti Callahan Henry is the New York Times Bestselling author of nine novels--Losing the MoonWhere the River RunsWhen Light Breaks,Between the TidesThe Art of Keeping Secrets,Driftwood Summer, Coming up for Air, And Then I Found You andThe Perfect Love Song: A Holiday Story.  Her newest book, The Stories we Tell, will be out just in time for HCFB!   She has hailed as a fresh new voice in southern fiction, and has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and nominated four different times for the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Novel of the Year. Her work is published in five languages and in audiobook by Brilliance Audio. A full time writer, wife, and mother of three—Henry lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

Lynn Cullen's newest novel, Mrs. Poe examines the fall of Edgar Allen Poe through the eyes of poet Francis Osgood.  Lynn Cullen is the author of The Creation of Eve andReign of Madness, which was a 2012 Townsend Prize finalist, as well as several award-winning young adult novels including I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter
 A traveler and historian, she lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Amy Greene's debut novel, Bloodroot was a national bestseller. 
Her second novel, Long Man, will be published by Alfred A. Knopf in February.  Amy was born and still lives in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains where her books take place.  Jill McCorkle says of her newest book, "Exquisite . . . Greene’s prose is as mesmerizing as the story she weaves.

MUSICAL ARTISTS:  Dashboard Hula Boys
North Carolina based acoustic trio, are Ed Midgett (guitar), Bob White (bass), and Tom Whyte (harmonica, uke, tenor banjo). They play favorites from old-time blues to classic rock along with a few originals.
J. Michael Orenduff may be the award-winning author of the "Pot Thief" murder mysteries but he started out in education as a college professor, an academic dean, an academic vice-president, a university president, and a statewide chancellor..  After an early retirement, he published his first book in the six book series, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, to be be followed by The Pot Thief Who Studied PtolemyThe Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, The Pot Thief Who Studied EscoffierThe Pot Thief Who Studied D. H. Lawrence and The Pot Thief Who Studied Billy the Kid

Licensed pilot Millie West, is also an accomplished artist and art collector.Millie's books, The Cast Netand Catherine's Cross
reflect her interest in art and in the cultural heritage of South Carolina.  Millie resides with her family near Columbia, SC, and is an active participant in her local writer’s group, the Chapin Chapter of the South Carolina Writers Workshop  .

Novelist, screenwriter & play writer Robert Inman
Robert Inman’s new novel, The Governor’s Lady, is the story of Cooper Lanier, a determined woman fighting to establish her independence in the tumultuous world of male-dominated politics.
The Governor’s Lady is Inman’s fifth novel, followingHome Fires Burning (1987), Old Dogs and Children(1991), Dairy Queen Days (1997), and Captain Saturday (2002). He is also the author of a collection of non-fiction work, Coming Home: LifeLove and All Things Southern, and an illustrated family holiday book,The Christmas Bus 

Charlie Lovett is a writer, teacher, and playwright whose plays for children.  He is a Lewis Carroll scholar, having written five books about the author.  He collects antiquarian books as does his main character in his novel, The Bookman's Tale He served for more than a decade as Writer-in-Residence at Summit School in Winston-Salem, NC.  Lovett splits his time between North Carolina and Oxfordshire England.

Michael Knight is the Robert Penn Warren Prize for Excellence in Fiction, 2013 and that is just the beginning of a long list of awards and accolades including Oprah Winfrey’s summer reading list and Huffington Post’s Best Book of the Year.  He is the author of two novelsDivining Rod and The Typist, two collections of short stories and a collection of Novellas.  His short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals.  He teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee

Jim Minick is the author ofThe Blueberry Yearsa memoir that won the Best Nonfiction Book of the Year from Southern Independent Booksellers Association. Minick is also the author of two books of poetry, Her Secret Song andBurning Heaven, a collection of essays, Finding a Clear Path, and editor of All There Is to Keep by Rita Riddle. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in many publications including Oxford American, Shenandoah, Orion, San Francisco Chronicle, Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Conversations with Wendell Berry, The Sun, and Wind. He teaches at Converse College and is the Fred Chappell Fellow at University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he’s pursuing an MFA.

USA TODAY Best Selling Author Pamela Schoenewaldt lived for ten years in a small town outside Naples, Italy. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines in England, France, Italy and the United States. Her play, “Espresso con mia madre” (Espresso with my mother) was performed at Teatro Cilea in Naples. She taught writing for the University of Maryland, European Division and the University of Tennessee and now lives in Knoxville. She is the author of two historical novels, Swimming in the Moon, which has just been shortlisted for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction and When We Were Strangers.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Hometown Review of WHIMSEY: A NOVEL


There's a lovely review of my WHIMSEY: A NOVEL in the April edition of All About Women Magazine written by Ariel Parsons. I am a very happy girl.  I'm not sure if the latest edition is available on-line yet or not (my Adobe Flash and Google Chrome seem to hate one another), but if not, it should be fairly soon - -

It's always a feel good thing to read a nice review.  Always.  And to read one in your hometown magazine?  wow.  That is such a rush.

And then to top it off, to read one which has been so well thought out is something to truly, truly treasure.  Ariel Parsons liked my Whimsey.  That feels great.  But - more importantly, she "got" it.

She got what was in my heart and what I so hoped to share.  There are no words to say exactly what that means, or how it feels, to a writer.

My thanks, Ariel.  And my gratitude.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Reed Farrel Coleman

From Publishers Weekly:

"Coleman to Handle Jesse Stone for Putnam
Christine Pepe signed a North American rights deal with Reed Farrel Coleman to write four new novels in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series. (Parker died in 2010.) Coleman, an Edgar nominee, was represented by David Hale Smith at Inkwell Management, while Helen Brann, who has an eponymous shingle, represented the Parker estate. The first book in the deal, Blind Spot, is set for September 2014. Pepe also signed Coleman to a two-book, world rights deal that will launch a new series featuring a cop in Suffolk County, N.Y., named Gus Murphy; the first Gus Murphy book, Where It Hurts, is set for 2015."

Oh, how I loved reading this!

If you're a regular reader here at Meanderings and Muses, you know how very much I admire Reed Farrel Coleman's work.  

And here's just a sample of why:

Audie Award – best original work

Nominated for Barry Award – best novel

Winner of Macavity – best novel
Nominated for Anthony – best original paperback
Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel – Legends
Book of the Year – Foreward Reviews
Crimespree Magazine – Best Novel of 2009

Winner of Shamus – best hardcover

Winner of Shamus – best hardcover
Nominated for Edgar – best novel
Nominated for Barry – best novel
Nominated for Macavity – best novel

Winner of Shamus – best paperback original
Winner of Barry – best paperback
Winner of Anthony – best paperback original
Nominated for Edgar – best paperback original
Nominated for Gumshoe – best mystery
Nominated for Macavity – best novel

I met Reed at Bouchercon Baltimore in 2008, and blogged about it here: 

When this picture was taken (by Lee Child, no less), I didn't know anything about Reed Farrel Coleman or his work.

It was because of this meeting that I started reading Reed's work.  It was because of Reed's graciousness that I started reading his work.  It was due to his talent that I continued.  

And I developed one of the biggest fangirl crushes imaginable - and not just for Reed.  For his Moe Prager also.  The crush on Reed moved on to something I treasure - a friendship with one of the nicest, most talented people I've encountered.  A devoted family man, a loyal friend and one who has a very loyal following of friends and fans.  He was one of the first people to reach out when Donald had a heart attack, and still continues to ask about him whenever we talk or communicate by email. There's no way to measure how much that means to me.

I next saw Reed at Bouchercon Indianapolis 2009, and blogged about it here: 

This photo was taken at the Private Eye Writers of America Banquet during B'con 09, shortly before Reed was awarded the Shamus for The Best P.I. Novel of the Year - SOUL PATCH.

I was sitting at Reed's table along with Judy Bobalik (who acted as my Fairy Godmother that entire weekend), Jason Pinter, S.J. Rozan, and Michael Wiley.  wow.  I was star struck the entire evening.

And they made sure I met every other writer in that room who I may not have met previously.  Let me tell you, meeting Sara Peretsky and Sue Grafton was not a small  thing for me.  

But, that's just one more side of Reed Farrel Coleman.  He was a big winner that evening, but not too busy to make sure he made me feel welcome and included.

Moe Prager makes his final appearance in THE HOLLOW GIRL, which comes out in May.  I was lucky enough to read an advance copy and cried like a baby 'cause I knew I was saying good-bye to Moe.  But, being the professional Reed is, I have to say, it was, in my opinion, the best of the series.  I got over being mad at Reed for taking away one of my literary crushes because he did it with complete style and class and in keeping with Moe's life throughout the entire series.  It was a real and truthful and perfect ending.  One I could not have imagined before reading it, but thinking, "well, of course . . . " after reading it.

And now, wow.
He's going to be "1/3 of Robert B. Parker."  You can read what he has to say about it here:

And, he'll be launching a new series featuring a cop in Suffolk County, NY, named Gus Murphy.  The first in the series, WHERE IT HURTS, is set for 2015.

I am a happy girl.

OH, and one more thing . . . 

Reed's been called a hard-boiled poet by NPR's Maureen Corrigan and the 'noir poet laureate' in the Huffington Post.  Here's a sample of his poetry he allowed me to post here a couple years ago in honor of April being National Poetry Month.  And well, here it is April once again.

Sonnet of a City Once Known
by Reed Farrel Coleman

Have you not seen the city I once knew
buried beneath years of silent defect,
impatient rust and angry shades of blue?
History’s hidden beneath its neglect.

The endless sewer to sewer stickball games,
crumbling cement, steps worn smooth as slate,
summer Tuesdays, boardwalk firework flames,
my father coming home (always too late).

Soft blacktop leaps to meet a kid’s sneaker
rounding first, but dreaming of home at last.
Old tar just hardens, the streets grow bleaker
and bright futures are leveled by the past.

On fall days as shedding trees turn to stone,
my shadows visit this city once known.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"Oh, Kaye!" Day at Jungle Red

First Sunday of the month - Yay! My day to play as "Oh, Kaye!" at Jungle Red. Today I'm talking about what we see in our own backyards - and perhaps overlook. So stop by and take a tour of one of the favorite things in my backyard. The Moses Cone Mansion on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway -

Friday, April 4, 2014

In Honor of National Poetry Month - Kate Daniels

Photo by William Christenberry
by Kate Daniels
Akron, Alabama, circa 1960

This is what it was like to grow up
down there, then. A pretty place
but desolate. The signs that are supposed
to tell you what to do, or be, or buy
are faded to the point of inarticulation.
You surmise people used to talk
about everything you need to know
but have grown silent for some reason.
A black man sat down in a soda shop
to eat a bite, and terrified, it seemed, the patrons.
I was there in that tense silence,
licking my strawberry cone, and it was
just like this picture of kudzu in winter,
the prettiness all covered over
with something growing too fast,
enshrouding the landscape with a sinewy
fabric that lives off the lives of others.
Or this next one of the house and car
in Akron, Alabama. The house is beat-up
and rusty, but habitable. You could live there
fine until something happens – a cross
flaming on the uncut lawn, or your housegirl’s husband
with his foot shot off. That blue car’s 
been in the yard forever just waiting
for you to need it, and now you do.
So you head out, past the washer on the porch
and down the walk. You get in and realize
you’re not going anywhere: it’s up on blocks,
overrun by families of mice and birds. Why 
did you never notice that before? How stuck here
you are with the blank sky and the fallen fences, the awful
unexplained silences of the South.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In Honor of National Poetry Month - L. B. Thompson

One of my favorite poems - - -

Variation on a Theme by King David

Praise to you!
Praise to you my snappy love!

Praise you in clean socks on a Queens-bound
train; praise you
for your famous avocado
sandwiches; Praise you from Brooklyn to blasphemy!

I've called the mayor to praise you; & a third-
base coach; even
that no-neck accountant
who doesn't have the decency to nod hello
has agreed to praise you!

Praise you with bongos and fine fancy
tea; praise you
with rhumba, tango & marmelade; praise
you with your knickers at your knees!

I praise you on Flag Day, & on whichever equinox
allows for the balancing of eggs;
I praise you with eggs!
Brown ones & jumbo & Faberge Tiffany blue!

On the white of your wrist I praise you;
on the vaccuumed throw rug; I praise you full-
page on Sunday! With faxes
& foxgloves & brushed cotton sheets;
with sky-write & timbrel &

wink! Let every soul
in the Battery Tunnel honk
her horn to praise you! Praise you
with ripe limes & wrestling mats;
praise you tax-free with agates and tin foil
& all sparkly things!

Praise you with foggy spectacles and Wisconsin green cheese!
Praise you to the afternoon of orthopedic sneakers;
praise you from poinsettia to piccolo!
Praise you & praise you & praise you!

My love,
from Brooklyn to blasphemy I praise you!

--L. B. Thompson

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Day Pass – Left Coast Crime

Saturday morning was spent on a road trip from the Central Valley so my Day Pass was half-shot before I even checked in at Left Coast Crime. I made it to the Portola’s DeAnza Room No. 2 just as the Thriller panel ended, and snapped my first photo of the afternoon—an achy-breaky snapshot that would scare small children on Halloween.

What’s my excuse? Would you believe an earthquake rumbled through as I snapped the shutter? No? Give me a minute. I’ll think of something. I have permission from Timothy Hallinan and Keith Raffel to post this photo. Great writers and good sports, those two.

Keith Raffel has served as counsel to the Senate Intelligence

Committee, founded an internet software company and taught writing at Harvard. Two of his thrillers made my all-time favorites list.

In A FINE AND DANGEROUS SEASON, set during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy President Kennedy calls on a college friend to work behind the scenes, giving the Russians enough wiggle room to avoid war. In DOT DEAD, a Silicon Valley executive goes home at noon to change his mismatched socks and finds his housekeeper dead in his bed, making him the obvious suspect.

Keith brought me up to date on his thriller-in-progress. TEMPLE MOUNT moves from the wealthy enclave of Woodside, California to Jerusalem. Logline: A Silicon Valley entrepreneur finds himself heir to the secret of the lost Ark of the Covenant. You can read the first four chapters on Keith’s blog at Be sure to follow the Kickstarter link to read how he fully funded the book in 30 days and how he uses “crowd editing.”

Timothy Hallinan lives half the year in Southeast Asia and half the year in Southern California. He has a life many writers might envy but he doesn't take it for granted or rest on his laurels. He’s juggling three series, with all titles available to his devoted readers. He doesn’t waste time. He wrote CRASHED, the first Junior Bender book, in six weeks.

Junior Bender is the crook's crook, for hire to L.A.’s underworld elite. THE FAME THIEF was a nominee for the Lefty Award at LCC. Lionsgate bought film/TV rights to the series.

HERBIE’S GAME is coming from Soho Press in July. It’s funny, reflective and beautifully written, with a darker edge than earlier books in the series. Junior suffers a great loss and tries to put his life into some kind of meaningful perspective while struggling with the idea that “if you can’t get closure, get even.” It’s a big book at more than 100,000 words, but the short chapters are laid out so skillfully that the story is easy to follow.

Also bought for film is THE FEAR ARTIST, a Poke Rafferty book. Set in Bangkok during the worst monsoon season in 60 years. Poke Rafferty gets caught in an assassination scenario against a backdrop of Washington D.C.'s fear that the Muslim uprising in Thailand could open a new Islamic terror front. A knockout book and one of my all-time favorites.

In the 1990s Tim wrote six novels featuring a Los Angeles private eye named Simeon Grist. All six have found new life as e-books, available for Kindle. In Tim’s words: “I’m up to my mustache in books.” In the works are a new Poke Rafferty book and a new Junior Bender.

Tim gave me another tsk-tsk nudge about finishing my second book, which has been stuck on Chapter 16 almost forever. Tim’s advice: “Just write the rest, put it away for two weeks, then go back and edit it.” Worth a shot. If I ever finish this recap I’ll try it.

Tim estimates that 98 per cent of all novels that people begin are never finished. He posted an excellent segment call “Finish Your Novel” on his blog. Check it out at

I was early for the Amateur Sleuth panel in DeAnza Room No. 2 so I had time for a photo and quick chat with Naomi Hirahara and Diane Vallere.

One of my favorite characters of the past few years is Mas Arai, an amiable, aging gardener introduced by Naomi in THE SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI. Naomi has said that Mas Arai is modeled after her father Isamu, also known as “Sam.” Both the fictional character and the real man were in Hiroshima when the atom bomb was dropped 69 years ago—August 6, 1945.

Isamu was born in the U.S. but taken to Japan as a small child. In a 2011 interview on National Public Radio (NPR) Naomi says both of her parents were in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Her mother, Mayumi, lived in the countryside, but her father was only a few miles from ground zero. She believes his after-school job at the Hiroshima train station saved Isamu Hirahara's life.

 Eventually, Isamu returned to the U.S. (and) settled in the hills above Pasadena … The hostility toward Japanese — including Japanese-Americans — made it hard for many to find jobs, regardless of their education or background. Hirahara wanted to reflect that struggle in her books.

Naomi’s latest adventure is a new series starring Officer Ellie Rush, a rookie LAPD bike cop who dreams of becoming a homicide detective. Berkley will release MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE on April 1.

Diane Vallere is a new author to me and I love the introduction—PILLOW STALK.

Madison Night owns Mad For Mod, an interior decorating business in a small Texas town near Dallas, about as far as she could get from Pennsylvania. She's running from a broken heart and she's stuck in the 1950s. She wants to be Doris Day.

Pushing 50, Madison could have stepped out of a Doris Day movie—blonde hair, blue eyes, cute vintage clothes. Her only competitor, Pamela, is also into '50s-style decorating. Unfortunately for both decorators, Pamela ends up dead, with her feet sticking out from underneath Madison's car. Somebody out there is not a fan of Doris Day lookalikes.

Diane also writes the Style & Error Mystery series (currently optioned for TV), and has a new series coming from Berkley Prime Crime in November. The Material Witness Mystery Series features Polyester Monroe who inherits a fabric store from her great uncle.

Diane spent 20 years in the fashion business and is currently President of the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Lord luv a duck. These people make me feel like such slug.

Naomi moderated the Amateur Sleuth panel, which included Christine Goff, Helen Smith and Rochelle Staab.

Christine Goff writes the Birdwatcher’s Mystery series with a focus on environmental themes. DEATH SHOOTS A BIRDIE (2007) was last in the series, currently out of print.

Currently with her agent is a thriller set in Israel.

Helen Smith lives in London, as in England. Her new comic mystery series features amateur sleuth Emily Castles. In INVITATION TO DIE, Emily is hired to help at an international conference of romance writers. She works with the guest speaker to solve the murder of an American blogger. No, that’s not a spoiler. Smith tells us in the first sentence that the blogger's invitation to the conference is an invitation to die. This is a book I have to read.

Rochelle Staab is a former radio programmer and music industry executive. Her BRUJA BROUHAHA won the 2013 Watson Award for Best Sidekick at last year’s Left Coast Crime. The series sleuths are psychologist Liz Cooper and occult expert Nick Garfield.

In the award-winning book Liz and Nick attend a 60th anniversary celebration for a pair of Santeria practitioners. Liz tries her hand at a divination ritual using four chunks of unshelled coconut. She asks a question and tosses the coconut chunks like dice. All four chunks fall skin up, signifying death. Everyone pretends not to believe the warning, but death breaks up the party brutally and unexpectedly.

This was a lively panel. Moderator Naomi Hirahara got the audience laughing by saying, “Welcome to ASS—A-S-S—Amateur Sleuth Saturday.” She kept things moving by asking questions for panelists to answer without notes. For example, she quoted Stephen King who said that people like to peek into the jobs of other people. Panelists responded by talking about the jobs held by their characters: bird watching, psychology, alternate religions, gardening.

Naomi pulled the audience in by asking them to laugh loud and hysterically, and you never heard such a racket. An hour with ASS was an hour of fun.

And then it was time for a coffee break. My one regret was that I had to skip the hospitality room. It was located down a flight of steps with no ramp and I was trundling along with a walker. I trundled out of the lobby and across the way to the coffee shop. It was a great place, with wall-to-wall windows for watching the passing parade. Then it was back to the lobby to park myself in an alcove and catch 40 winks before meeting the Oak Tree Press group in Jack’s Bar.

Amazing, what you can pack into an afternoon. I met some favorite authors. I hoisted a glass and chowed down in Jack’s Bar with a lively group of Oak Tree authors. Hmmmm, well, I ordered a Diet Coke and a club sandwich, but the company was as bubbly as a glass of champagne. Billie Johnson, Publisher of Oak Tree Oak Tree Press, hosted the informal gathering.

From Cora Ramos’s web site: "My first novel, DANCE THE DREAM AWAKE, emerged from a personal experience that occurred to me while in Mexico in 1987 during the Harmonic Convergence." Set in the Yucatan, it is billed as a paranormal romantic suspense. Cora explores the past lives of her two main characters in her work-in-progress, a "sizzling romance set in Heian Japan, 980 AD.” Cora’s panel was Turning Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.

Denise Weeks (aka Shalanna Collins) brought her family to Monterey for a full-fledged vacation. Left Coast Crime was the launch venue of her Bliss Sisters Magical Adventure Series with APRIL, MAYBE JUNE. Her panel was Turning Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.

My favorite of Denise’s books will always be MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS. Marfa is a quirky little town in West Texas where unexplained ghost lights have tantalized locals and tourists since Civil War Days. Dallas resident Ari gets a phone call saying her runaway lover, Aaron, has died in Marfa and left her his substantial estate. Before she discovers what he was really up to, she meets a snake handler, a character who collects poisonous spiders, an Apache lawyer who listens to Navajo prayers on his car radio, and a musician who keeps a pet wolf and smuggles illegal aliens. She also survives the evil intentions of a murderer who wants Aaron’s money-making scheme for himself. A great read!

Marta Chausee’s debut novel, MURDER'S LAST RESORT, won the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest. The novel features Maya French, whose husband owns a luxury hotel in Orlando, Florida. The hotel hosts a conference of upper management but when bodies start piling up, Maya decides to ignore the local cops and do her own nosing around to unmask a killer.

You’d never guess to look at her but last year was the year from hell for Marta. She tells all in Lelia Taylor’s Buried Under Books blog and ends with this:
(Quote) My life is a mess. I’m depleted. Moody and living in boxes in my new place–darling but tiny. I hate my life and what is happening to it. I see my Clydesdale future before me–poor, fat, old, and involuntarily celibate. They shoot horses, don’t they? (End Quote)

Ouch! Maybe a rush of readers to buy her book will help. Meantime, she joined Cora and Denise on the panel Turning Up The Heat On The Amateur Sleuth.

Rabbi Ilene Schneider has a gold-plated bio. Let’s just say she is a retired hospice chaplain and author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries – CHANUKAH GUILT and UNLEAVENED DEAD. First published by Swimming Kangaroo in paperback in 2007, the e-book edition of CHANUKAH GUILT was published by Oak Tree in January 2014.  In this series debut Rabbi  Aviva Cohen's life takes a sinister turn when she officiates at an unpopular land developer's funeral and the funeral results in suicide -- or murder.

Ilene’s work–in-progress, YOM KILLER, is about suspicious deaths in a senior citizens facility. Her panel was Unusual Sleuths:Your Day Job Is What?

Sharon A. Moore lives in the desert Southwest and writes full-time after retiring from 39 years as an educator. MISSION IMPASTABLE introduced her "Dinner is Served" culinary mystery series. The protagonists are Alli and her long-time friend Gina who form a personal chef business. Things go well until their first customer ends up dead—from food poisoning. There’s an interesting book trailer on You Tube at  Sharon also writes sizzling romances under the pen name Angelica French.

Lorna Collins and Larry Collins have been married 47 years. Among other projects during a busy life, they helped build a Universal Studios theme park in Osaka, Japan. A writing team, their newest book is an historical novel, THE MEMORY KEEPER, set in San Juan Capistrano. The story is told by a Juaneno Indian who has lived under three flags—Spain, Mexico and the United States. Lorna was on the Small Press v. Independent Panel. Larry was a panelist for Day On The Beach: Murder At The Seashore

D.R.(Diane) Ransdell is a writer, a writing teacher, a traveler and a musician. Wait, there’s more. She moonlights as a mariachi player. She moderated The Character-Driven Mystery

Oak Tree published D.R.’s first mystery, MARIACHI MURDER, in2013. A dangerous woman, a guilty conscience and a mariachi band in jeopardy bedevil Andy Veracruz, all in the midst of a Southern California heat wave. Just wrapping up is ISLAND CASUALTY which takes Andy to Greece. He plans to spend his days swimming and his nights making love. Dream on, Andy.

Writers who stopped in included (not pictured) Marilyn Meredith and M.M. Gornell.

Marilyn Meredith lives near Central California’s Tule River Reservation, which she calls Bear Creek Reservation in her popular, long-running Tempe Crabtree series. Marilyn is like the Energizer Bunny who just keeps going, and going, and going. Marilyn was a panelist for Writing The Native American Protagonist.

M.M. (Madeline) Gornell lives in California’s high desert and writes the Route 66 Mysteries. Her books consistently win awards. Among them is a standalone with a catchy title: DEATH OF A PERFECT MAN. She expects to release RHODES this year. Madeline was on the panel discussion of Small Press Versus Independent.

And so Left Coast Crime goes into the archives. A tip of the hat to the conference organizers and volunteers, and to the hotel staff. They worked miracles.