Author Webpage

Be sure to stop by my author page from time to time

In the meantime, while you're here, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a cuppa tea, have a piece of pie and always feel free to speak your mind, and your heart, here at Meanderings and Muses.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Aging Dog, Newish Tricks by Brenda Buchanan

Brenda Buchanan is delighted to be writing again.  The journalism bug bit hard at age 16 when she co-wrote an exposé about the enormous disparity in spending on boys and girls sports at her high school.  The powers that be were not amused, which meant it was a great lesson in the power of the press.  While studying journalism at Northeastern University in Boston she took a couple of creative writing courses taught by Robert B. Parker, who was an adjunct professor at NU while making his name.   For six years Brenda was a reporter at the York County Coast Star in Kennebunk, Maine. In 1987, she detoured to law school and for the next two decades pretty much confined herself to legal writing.  A few years ago she began carving out time to write fiction. These days she practices law in Portland by day and sits in front of the keyboard nights and weekends  Her novel-in-progress, tentatively titled The Quick Pivot, is about murder and well-kept secrets in a Maine mill town.

Aging Dog, Newish Tricks
by Brenda Buchanan

I have a habit I can’t break. 
My particular jones is terribly out of fashion.  It’s also growing more expensive all the time.  Despite cheaper alternatives I remain dependent on my traditional fix, even when it leaves my hands so dirty you can tell where I’ve been by the grubby fingerprints. 
            My name is Brenda, and I’m a newspaper addict.
            I know, I know.  In today’s 24/7 media environment the news in my morning rags is out of date by the time I buy them.  If I could discipline myself to walk past the ever-shrinking newspaper rack and read the online editions instead, I’d have more money and cleaner hands.  But I worked in the newspaper biz back when electric typewriters were considered innovative and still crave the sweet smell of printer’s ink and the cool, crisp feel of newsprint. 
My daily reads
Every day I feed my habit with the Boston Globe (the paper I read as a child and worked at as a college student), the Portland Press Herald (my hometown read for the past 30 years) and the New York Times (just because.)    Over the course of seven days I also pick up several local weekly newspapers.  It’s a good thing our blue recycle bin can be wheeled to the curb.
The Underwood my parents bought in the 1950s
A classic Royal
            A related compulsion is my collection of manual typewriters.  When I was a bright-eyed reporter trainee at the Globe in the late 70s some of the old timers still wrote on uprights like the ones pictured here.   They’d roll four-ply paper under the platen, throw the carriage and bang out stories with two fingers, often with a cigarette dangling from their lips. 
Following the lead of the younger staffers, we college interns parked ourselves at the desks with electric typewriters.  We had our sights on the future and it was fast.  When “Video Display Terminals” came to the newsroom we accelerated without a backward glance.
Now the news cycle moves at the speed of light. Reporters file stories from computerized telephones the size of a pack of cards.  Breaking news goes up on the web seconds after editors give the nod. 
Soon newsprint will go the way of the manual typewriter and I’ll be forced to kick the habit. There will be withdrawal. There will be whining. But I’ll bow to inevitability, just as the veteran reporters bid their manual typewriters goodbye years ago. 
            My WIP features a newspaper reporter at a fictional Maine daily.  As in real life, the paper is struggling to survive and stay relevant in the 21st century.  Though the tools of his trade are a laptop and a smart phone, he keeps the basic rules of local journalism in the front of his mind:   
Beware of kiss-ups. 
Don’t sleep with good sources. 
Know where the back door is.
            Should I be fortunate enough to find a publisher I’ll be sure to let you know.
My objet d’art typewriter, transformed by my very talented collage artist friend Nancy Gibson-Nash of Peaks Island, Maine

I’m honored to have been invited to post on M & M.  Many thanks, Kaye, for the opportunity.  So what about you?  Do you still buy newspapers or have you succumbed to the siren song of the online edition?  Do you have typewriter memories to share?


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stamping Out The Saying "I Don't Read Women," One T-Shirt At A Time

Writers Rock.  

The mystery community has a reputation for being a generous, gracious group.  In my experience that reputation has not been exaggerated.

A recent effort in this spirit of generosity is Karin Slaughter's on-going SAVE THE LIBRARIES project.  The first library campaign event was Atlanta, and was a huge success.  There are more to come.  The next event for be held in June in Boston.

Alafair Burke was one of the many supporters of that event, and now Karin Slaughter is on-board in an event that Alafair is spearheading - along with bestselling authors Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, and Lisa Unger.

With Alafair's permission, I'm sharing a note she posted at the DorothyL mystery discussion group recently telling us about  her latest project.

“Real Men Read Women” promoting youth literacy.  

The website for buying items to raise money is here:

All profits from sale of these items will go to youth literacy.

It's a wonderful project with one very cool graphic -

Here's what Alafair had to say:

"I frequently get emails from male readers who say, “I don’t like women authors, but I do like you.”  Appreciative yet perplexed, I started asking readers why they thought they didn’t like women authors.  I know there have been related conversations here on the list,but usually I'd hear that women weren't hard-boiled enough, or that there was too much romance and not enough action.  Or they simply believed that women writers were writing for women and not men.
I'd like to stamp out the saying "I don't read women," one t-shirt at a time.  I also want to promote youth literacy.  Like chocolate and peanutbutter, the two ideas have come together beautifully with "Real Men Read Women" gear.  I’ve enlisted just a handful of some of my favorite female writers in this fund-raising effort to support youth literacy.

Thanks to bestselling (and super cool) authors Lisa Gardner, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Unger, “Real Men Read Women” t-shirts and other gear are available online at  There's also a shirt that says "I like boys who read books by girls."

If this is a hit, I'd love to enlist other writers to lend their names to the effort down the road.  I hope you all don't mind my posting a plug for the gear here.  All profits go to youth literacy."

Alafair Burke
author of Long Gone and official t-shirt peddler

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's in a Name? by Deborah Crombie

New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie is a native Texan who writes crime novels set in the United Kingdom. Her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series has received numerous awards, including Edgar, Macavity, and Agatha nominations, and is published in more than a dozen countries to international acclaim.

Crombie lives in North Texas with her husband, German shepherds, and cats, and divides her time between Texas and Great Britain. Her latest novel, No Mark Upon Her, will be published by William Morrow in 2012.  She is currently working on her fifteenth Kincaid/James novel.

She's also a regular blogging member of Jungle Red, a salon of eight terrific mystery writing women, found here:

UK Cover

What’s in a Name?
by Deborah Crombie

“… That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
It may be contrary of me, but I think I have to disagree with our William on this one.

Wading my way into a new book, still naming characters as I go, I’m amazed, as I always am, at the difficulty of it.  First, there’s the matter of repetition.  Since this is my fifteenth book, this is becoming a real ISSUE.  While in real life we may have an abundance of friends and family with the same name (How many Johns, Davids, Kate/Katie/Katharine/Catherines, Lindsey/Lindsays, Steves, Ann/Anne/Annies, etc., in your daily circle?) and while in life we usually manage to keep them straight, this isn’t acceptable in series novels.  Very confusing for the writer as well as the reader.

So: my general rule is that I can re-use a name for a minor character, but not for a major player (although variants may be acceptable.  A previous book had an Andrew as a main character; the book-in-progress has an Andy.)  But after fifteen books, I find I have trouble keeping the teeming population straight.

Too late, I discovered that I should have done what organized writers do:  I should have kept what’s called a “bible” for every book.  These bibles would have listed not only the names of all the major and minor and series characters, but also their physical descriptions, their relationships, their back stories.  And then I’d just have to flip back through each particular bible to find that, oh, yeah, there was an Alex in Book #7, a Lydia in Book #5 …
But, alas, I didn’t make bibles, which now leaves me at the beginning of every new book, flipping frantically through previous volumes, scribbling lists of characters.  And I still miss things:  I’ve given completely unrelated characters the same last name two fairly recent books; Duncan’s sister’s name changed somewhere early on in the series with no explanation (maybe the first version was her middle name?  A childhood nickname?); and I can’t for the life of me remember if I’ve ever given Gemma’s sister Cyn and her odious husband a last name . . .
I did recently make a list in my novel journal of all the names of the continuing characters in the series, along with their families, friends, and connections.  It made a very pretty chart but I was a little horrified to total over a hundred people!  And that’s just the continuing cast, mind you, not the characters that only appear in a specific novel.

And there’s more to the naming game than avoiding repetition.  Names have to be age appropriate.  I have an old copy of the Guinness Book of Names, which gives the most popular girls and boys names in the US and the UK from the 1850s to the 1980s (although I now have characters who were born later than the mid-eighties so I use the Internet to check the more recent favorites.)  Names are always cyclical, but while some old-fashioned names are popular again—Oliver, Mary, Jacob, Isabella, for instance—readers might find it hard to buy a young girl called Mildred or a teenaged boy named Ebeneezer.  Conversely, you’re not likely to have a Jayden or Tashika who are over twenty-five.

(“Deborah” peaked around 1955 in both the US and UK top five, by the way, and hasn’t made it back into the top ranks since.  My mom always swore she picked it because it was a biblical name, as was my brother’s, Stephen, and that she didn’t name me after Debbie Reynolds.  But as she wasn’t a churchgoer…hmm.)
Then there’s the celebrity factor.  “Brad” and “Pitt” are both fairly common names, but you can’t put them together.  I made a mistake in the latest book, NO MARK UPON HER, when I gave a character the same name as a quite well known British actor and comedian.  Um, he just didn’t happen to be well known to me.

When my English friends read the manuscript, they said, “Oh, no, you can’t call him THAT!”  Fortunately, it only took a one letter replacement, and it didn’t change the way I saw the character.  (And no, I’m not admitting who it was!)
Nor am I comfortable using names from my immediately family, or close friends, at least for major characters, so that rules out quite a few. (Although in many of the books I’ve given a minor character my husband’s last name, and there are a few other little personal jokes lurking in the pages.)
So if we avoid repetition, and familiarity, pick something age-appropriate, then add in ethnicity and geography, it seems as if it would be easy enough to come up with pretty good lists of first and last names for your characters.  But—
Here’s where we get back to my disagreement with old Bill.  A name should just be a name, right?  Except it’s not.
We all have ingrained personal perceptions—and prejudices--about names.  We like “Jennifer” because that was our best friend’s name in primary school.  We can’t stand “Josh” because of an old boyfriend who did us wrong . . .
But for writers, at least in my experience, it’s more complicated than that.  Sometimes characters name themselves instantly.  They pop into your head fully formed—bang!—and there they stay.  If you absolutely have to make a change for one of the above-named reasons, they will fight you over it, and you have to come to a compromise.
And then sometimes, sometimes, they are inexplicably slippery and difficult.  You try every formula and you just can’t get a name to stick.  There are characters in my books I’ve renamed a dozen times and was still never really happy with the final choice. 
What’s a writer to do?
You keep trying.  You look for names everywhere. 
Books, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes… I watch the credits on movies and TV shows, especially British ones.  I make lists and juggle different combinations of first and last.  I use the name in a scene, in dialogue.  I read it aloud (hopefully where no one can hear me.) In the winter, when I work in my cozy upstairs office, I have lots of books to inspire me.  

In the spring and summer, when I move downstairs into my sun porch, or sit out on my deck to work, I mostly stare into the garden.  (There have been a number of flower names, come to think of it…)

Eventually, if I’m lucky, magic happens.  The name and the character gel, and suddenly I know that person absolutely couldn’t be called anything else.  Imagine—it’s like naming your child, only I get to do it dozens of times in every book.  Daunting, maybe, but fun.
And wouldn’t you like to ask Shakespeare where he came up with a few of his?
Maybe I should consider Cymbeline for this woman who’s been giving me trouble…

Monday, April 25, 2011

For the Sake of Sentimentality

You know how some days are good days, and some days just suck?

Well - today was a really good day.  I spent the day with my mom and we shopped and chatted and laughed and just enjoyed being able to spend some time together.  Shopping for us is a very loose term.  Today's shopping included her buying a birthday card for a friend and me buying a pair of $8.00 cotton jammie bottoms.  Jammie bottoms and t-shirts are kinda what I live in these days as a lady of a certain age (y'all, I was born to be retired, I swear).

anyhoooo - a good day that kinda went downhill.

Do you sometimes feel like that skinny guy on the beach who used to get sand kicked in his face?  Remember him?

That's sorta how I was feeling.

But while I was talking to Donald about it, I noticed a goofy little something that made me smile.  Made me completely forget about the unimportant poop that had me a little down for a little while.  It also made me go look up an older post I did here.  I re-worked it a little, but some of you may remember it.

We've been talking about collecting and collections here a lately.

Those of us who have this "collecting gene" also keep things purely for their sentimental value.

There are things sitting around in this house that would never be here (please believe me) if it weren't for the sentiment that comes with it - which makes it so infinitly valuable, that it become quite virtually - priceless.

Here's my prime example - - -

When I was growing up my parents loved to take family car trips. Did y'all do that? And while the drives seemed forever, they were well thought out with things to keep everyone entertained, and they were fun. 

Games included seeing how many different states were represented by the license plates of other cars on the highway. Back then highways weren't the wild and crazy and scary super expressways we have now with people flying by at a beezillion miles an hour intent on reaching the end of the journey, with the journey itself not being a part of the fun.

We sang. 

I was not a child who sang well, just as I'm not an adult who sings well. But - oh well, it's still fun. One of the songs my mother and I sang was "Playmate, Come Out and Play With Me." Remember it? I loved that song! Still do.

(Words and music by Saxie Dowell)
Copyright 1940 by Santly-Joy-Select Inc.

There's a catchy little tune a floatin' through the air,
You hear it here and there,
They sing it ev'ry where
How it started, where it started
seems nobody knows.
But what's the diff'rence where it came from,
here's the way it goes

Oh PLAYMATE, come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three.
Climb up my apple tree,
Look down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we'll be jolly friends forever more.

It was a rainy day, She couldn't come out to play,
With tearful eyes and tender sighs
I could hear her say:

I'm sorry Playmate, I cannot play with you
My dollies have the flu,
Boo-hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo.
Ain't got no rain barrel,
Ain't got no cellar door
But we'll be jolly friends forever more.

Then I grew up and moved away from home and the family car trips were a thing of the past.  (Donald and I take car trips, but he won't sing "The Playmate Song" with me.  Actually, he'd rather I not sing.  And sometimes when I do, he hangs his head out the window. And howls).

anyhoooo - I meander . . . 

I grew up and moved away from home . . .

Mother and Dad were taking vacations without me. But, memories are amazing things, and the memory of us singing "The Playmate Song" had stayed with us all.

On one of their trips my dad came across a music box. Not just any ol' music box. This one played "The Playmate Song." When he showed it to my mother, they both just hooted and laughed because it was without a doubt the most singularly ridiculous looking music box in the history of music boxes. And it made no sense at all. Why THIS particular music box played "The Playmate Song" made not a whit of sense. But. There it was. It brought back fun memories, and it made my mom and dad laugh. So they bought it for me.

I don't remember the occasion on which it was given - either a birthday, or Christmas. But I do remember opening the package and looking at this thing and thinking "whaaaaaat . . . " Then my dad said, "turn it on." Turn it on? Whaaaaat . . . .? Took me a minute to figure out what he meant, but I did and when I turned the little thingie and heard that song I was filled with emotion. And cried. Of course. I am a tad sentimental and shed tears easily.

That was probably 35 years ago.

I still have this funny little music box, and it still works, and it still makes me smile. It's not going anywhere.

How 'bout you guys - do you have some things sitting around your homes that are there simply because of the memories attached to them?  Memories that make them much too valuable to ever part with them?  And that can make you smile after you feel like somebody kicked sand in your face?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ah, sweet mysteries of life . . . by Carola Dunn

Carola Dunn is the author of 19 Daisy Dalrymple mysteries, set in England in the 1920s, published by St Martin's Minotaur, as well as two Cornish mysteries and over 30 Regencies.  She was born and grew up in England, but has lived in the US for many years, presently in Oregon. Her blog/website is She and Daisy are both on Facebook.

Ah, sweet mysteries of life...
by Carola Dunn

Two reviews of my latest Daisy Dalrymple mystery, ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH, pose a mystery in themselves. "Amusing and sprightly," says Kirkus, while according to Mysterious Women it's "Gripping and fascinating." Can they be referring to the same book?

The two differing aspects are reflected in the covers of the US and UK editions.

The artwork for the US edition reflects Daisy's side of the story. In another review, Publishers Weekly describes her: "The aristocratic but very modern Daisy makes a formidable amateur sleuth." Daisy brings a light-hearted tone to her investigations, no matter how grim a subject murder must always be. In Anthem for Doomed Youth, she and her Indian friend Sakari baffle and bamboozle an incompetent and obnoxious detective.

The UK cover shows a darker aspect of the book, concerned with the lingering effects of the First World War. Daisy's husband, Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, is investigating a triple murder. To prevent further deaths, he has to discover what connects the three victims--and the connection seems to be their Army service during the war.

To compound the mystery, Daisy's investigation seems to be converging with Alec's... Or is it?

Anthem for Doomed Youth came out at the beginning of April. My dog, Trillian, and I have just returned from a signing trip, stopping at mystery bookstores all the way down the length of California (and we'll be heading north next):

Happily, my grandchildren live near San Diego, so I was able to combine business with pleasure. And that led to another mystery of sorts: What is Garden Art? Here's picture of Trillian investigating my son's "garden art." 

And here's a picture that appears to be a form of garden art.

But it's actually a real plant with real flowers, growing at the San Diego Botanic Gardens.
In the same gardens is a delightful piece of genuine, unmysterious garden art, a lady holding a teapot and cup, embraced by my grandkids.

And if you'll excuse me, that reminds me—it's about time for a cup of tea...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Age Spots and Other Badges of Life and Experience by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.  She teaches novel-writing in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers' Mixers. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.


Age Spots and Other Badges of Life and Experience
by Carolyn J. Rose

“Out, damned spot!”
Lady Macbeth

The age spots on my hands are multiplying, spreading into as-yet-undeveloped territory on my arms. Most are just freckle-sized, but some are larger blotches.  There’s one in the shape of Illinois and one that resembles Iowa. As my skin gets thinner, more transparent, papery, and less plumped up with youth, small veins become visible. Like highways, they connect Illinois and Iowa.

(An aside here—I’ve done a little research and learned these are actually spots caused by exposure to the sun. But, as I age, they’ve increased in number and size. So, for the purposes of this blog/rant, I’m sticking with “age spots.”)
I won’t mention my exact age—no point in scaring the youngsters—but if you listen to Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty” and do the math, you’ll be able to figure it out. As time goes by, I expect more “states” will appear on my skin. I can already see a string of blotches resembling the Hawaiian Islands curving out from between two knuckles. And there are many tiny spots that could be Delaware or Connecticut.
At the age of four, I spotted the first blotch—a miniscule brown mark on my palm in the pad of flesh at the base of my left index finger. I felt this mark made me somehow more unique, more recognizable. I remember telling my mother that, even if there were a dozen girls who looked just like me, she would always know by that mark.
My mother seemed less than excited by my pronouncement and hardly glanced at the mark. For years, I considered and reconsidered her response in the light of other incidents and interactions. As children do, I asked myself a hundred questions. Was she absolutely certain she would always recognize me? Did she not want to think about the many events or people that could separate mother and child and prompt a frantic search? Was she not worried about losing me? Or would she care little if that happened? Would she simply replace me with another child?
I doubt I ever asked her those questions.  I suspect I was afraid that my deepest fears about myself and my position in the family (a collection of anxieties including: I’m adopted, I’ll be given up for adoption, no one really loves me, no one cares about me/listens to me, etc.) would be confirmed. And now it’s well beyond “too late.” My mother has been gone for 17 years. I know from her diaries that she loved me and even admired me. So I tell myself that she worried about losing me, but believed she would always know me, could find me even in a crowd of a million children without resorting to peering at palms to spot a speck of brown.

Over the years, I acquired a host of other marks—scars, wrinkles, bumps, dents, calcium deposits, and skin tags. As for that tiny mark, it faded away many years ago. But long before it disappeared, I recognized that it was only a tiny part of what makes me unique—experiences, people met and connected with, friendships sustained, books written.

Still, when those brown blotches started spreading, they got my attention.  During my yearly physical, I asked my doctor—a courtly and charming man—if they were a sign of something serious or just age spots.

“Nothing serious.” He smiled. “But calling them age spots sounds so harsh.”
“Well, they’re hardly youth spots,” I retorted. “Should I bleach them? Use some special cream?”
“Not at all” He bent and placed a kiss on my knuckles. “A woman such as yourself should leave them just as they are. Wear them proudly as badges of your life and experiences.”

Yeah. What he said!

Call them mementos. Souvenirs. Even spots.

Just leave off that part about age.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Second Career . . . as a chef by Avery Aames

Avery Aames is the author of A Cheese Shop Mystery series.  The first, The Long Quiche Goodbye, is a national bestseller. Avery is an Agatha Award nominee for “Best First Novel.” Avery blogs at Mystery Lovers Kitchen, http://www.mysteryloverskitchen - a blog for foodies who love mysteries. And some of her characters show up at Killer Characters,  Visit Avery at her website: to read a sneak preview, see her book trailer, find recipes, and more.


My second career…as a chef 
by Avery Aames 

No one ever told me when I became a writer that in addition to spending time in my writing office, I’d also be spending a lot of time in a different office…the kitchen.  I spent years writing novels in my office, in the library, in coffee shops, but I never had an inkling that much of my time as a writer would wind up in the kitchen.  I cooked as a girl. A lot. I catered at one point in my life and I waitressed in restaurants and worked in restaurant and camp kitchens. But not once did I consider becoming a professional cook and devising recipes every week. That wasn’t in my purview.


And yet here I am. I write A Cheese Shop Mystery series, so cooking is part of my research.  Oooh, do I love research. I’ve visited cheese shops in numerous states. I’ve tasted over a hundred different cheeses in the past year and a half (since I started writing the series)--cheeses like Tuscan Tartufo, Brebis d’Argental, Abbaye de Belloc, and more. And I’m adding cheese to tons of recipes.

Why? Because my protagonist Charlotte Bessette offers different samplings of food at Fromagerie Bessette in addition to her gourmet cheeses, so I try to emulate her.  I’ve created a Ham and Pineapple Quiche  as well as an Asparagus quiche that (my husband and a few fans have told me) are to die for.

In addition, to promote my novels and reach a different fan base, I blog with a bunch of authors every week on Mystery Lovers Kitchen, a blog for writers who love to cook up crime. For my weekly post, I devise a new recipe. Some are
complex and some are as simple as a delicious cheese and chocolate pairing platter.  I’ve reposted many of the recipes on my website including: Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese crust; Five-cheese MacaroniStilton and Mascarpone Torte; and Champagne Fondue.

Actually, I’ve been making lots of fondue of late, since the book coming out May 3rd is titled LOST AND  FONDUE.

Of course, taste testing everything I make means that I have to exercise more because I’m eating more.  It’s like a vicious circle or a rat caught in a maze, which probably goes along with the cheese theme, right?

Now, some might ask, with all the cooking, when do I have time to write? I make time. I can’t not write.  I love to write. I love creating new characters, new  plots.  I just turned in book 3 in the series, and I’m working on book 4 as well as writing short stories while coming up with other new ideas for series. 
Titles, you ask? CLOBBERED BY CAMEMBERT and TO BRIE OR NOT TO BRIE.  Cheese-y, I know.

Question of the day:  If you’re a writer, what’s your snack of choice while writing? If you’re a reader, what’s your snack of choice while reading? And do books about food make you hungry?

Three commenters today will win an autographed copy of THE LONG QUICHE GOODBYE.   So make sure we have your email.  Good luck.  And don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog tour, which is entered on the event calendar on my website.

Say cheese!



A Member of our Community is in Need of Help

Kevin Tipple and his family need our help.

I do not know Kevin other than through DorothyL.  He's a member of the mystery community - a community I care about, and he's reaching out to us for help.

You can read his story at his blog -

There's also secure connection to chip in to his rent fund.  If you're unable to give financial help, perhaps you can help pass his story along.

Many Thanks!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Collecting Words

I love Meanderings and Muses.

I love our guest bloggers and I love our commenters, and I  love you guys who come visit and never say a word -

And I love that each and every post gives me something - a little gift of something - be it a bit of new knowledge, a story that makes me laugh, or one that makes me cry.  Or one that causes me to think.  And I hope it does a little of that for many of you as well.

The last post was from Hank Phillippi Ryan about Paul Simon and it has resonated with many of us.  She said, "“Hello, darkness, my old friend?” Yikes.  Paul Simon got me. And didn’t let go.  And the idea of lyrics as literature, lyrics as poetry, lyrics as just as gorgeous and complicated and compelling as any good novel—began to evolve in my head."  (does this give us a hint as to why Hank is an Agatha, Anthony AND Macavity winner?).

Her piece collected lots of comments and it touched those of us who are lovers of words - which would be most of us who hang out here. 

And, as coincidences tend to happen, it came on the heels of something Janet Rudolph mentioned in a comment  a couple weeks ago.  I wrote a piece here about Collecting Books . . .  and other stuff.  I included some pictures of some of my books.  Janet, being a collector, noticed not necessarily the books, but the mottoware on the shelves along with the books.  Seems she has several boxes of it herself.  In her garage (I could cry.  Suffice to say, I covet those 20 boxes, sight unseen).  Janet collects " . . . embroideries, americana, and signs - anything you can read."


"anything you can read."

Is THAT what draws me to the mottoware?!  WHY wasn't I able to figure that out on my own?!  Thank you, Janet, for helping this feeble minded one figure out that one of the things she collects is "words."

If we love beautifully written song lyrics and amass large collections of CDs, we're collecting words.

If we're collectors of books, we're collecting words.

How many times have we heard ourselves say "I love words."  Or, "I love that word."   Often, I'm betting.  And while we're reading, how many of us will smile and sigh at the manner in which a particular phrase has been written.  It might set our emotions rolling towards fear or anger or it might tinkle gentle bells of happiness in our hearts.


Here's to 'em.

Now whenever I catch a glimpse of my mottoware, they'll have a whole new depth of meaning to me, thanks to the wiseness of our Janet.  I, of course, read the phrases on each one as I buy or receive it as a gift.  But then - I'm afraid, I guess I tend to take them for granted.  So after Janet's comment I spent a little time picking up individual pieces and paying more attention to what they're saying to me.  Here's one of my favorites - 

Believe it or not, reading this little dish is what forced me to quit talking about joining an exercise class and actually getting off my lazy bum and doing it.  

Sometimes the words will remind you that it's the deeds that really might be important.  Words weren't helping me lose any weight - that's for sure.

And, like this piece tells me - "Lost Time is Never Found."  So get on with it, already!


They're pretty amazing.

I love words that say exactly what they are - know what I mean?

Like "shimmer."

You read or say the word shimmer and you just see and feel and know what it is.  

So, how 'bout you, wordsmiths, tell us some words you love - or hate. 

Sparkle.  I like sparkle.

dazzle, quirky, saffron . . . 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SIMON SAYS by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a radio reporter, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson.

Her first mystery, the best-selling PRIME TIME, won the Agatha for Best First Novel. It was also was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner. FACE TIME and AIR TIME are IMBA bestsellers, and AIR TIME was nominated for the AGATHA and ANTHONY Award. (Of AIR TIME, Sue Grafton says: "This is first-class entertainment.")

Her newest, DRIVE TIME, earned a starred review from Library Journal saying it “puts Ryan in a league with Lisa Scottoline.” And Breaking News! DRIVE TIME was just nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Mystery of 2010.

Hank's short story won the AGATHA, ANTHONY and MACAVITY for Best Short Story of 2009.

Hank is on the board of New England Sisters in Crime and the national board of Mystery Writers of America.  Her website is

By Hank Phillippi Ryan

I’m a little starstruck.

Back in the um, sixties, when I was just learning about the world and about writing and about how we’re all connected, I of course fell in love. With Paul Simon. 

I don’t remember the first “record” (remember records?) I ever bought—it might have been Lets Twist Again.  (Which I should have realized was a precursor to being a mystery author—“the twist” being such a critical part of any such novel.  But I, as usual, digress. ).  And of course I remember the Beatles—those of us from a certain era can certainly bring back the memory of that first earful of the Beatles.

But I do remember the first song lyrics that really bowled me over. It was Sounds of Silence. I was a bookish kid, always reading and hyper-thoughtful and all that. And Sounds of Silence—wow.  “Hello, darkness, my old friend?” Yikes.  Paul Simon got me. And didn’t let go.  And the idea of lyrics as literature, lyrics as poetry, lyrics as just as gorgeous and complicated and compelling as any good novel—began to evolve in my head.

Remember Paul Simon’s American Tune?

 Many’s the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
But I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And “America”?

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together

(I promise this has a point.)

Even though my career took a different path, I always wanted to be a mystery author. And when you think about it –being an investigative journalist—as I’ve been for the past thirty-plus years and being a mystery author are actually similar.

Because they’re all about tell the story. Right? With compelling characters, and important conflicts, and in the end, there’s change and if you’re lucky, justice. Whether its fact, or fiction, we try to tell the story. In the most efficient, most succinct way. In the sparest possible way. The most power in the fewest words.

And Paul Simon’s lyrics, always seemed to do that.

In The Obvious Child, on a man’s life journey:

Sonny sits by his window and thinks to himself
How it's strange that some rooms are like cages

Boy in the Bubble-where the universe and our place in it are put into perspective

The way we look to a distant constellation
That's dying in a corner of the sky

So you can imagine my delight, as a fan of Paul Simon’s for so many years, to be invited to a very exclusive discussion-seminar he was giving in Lyrics as Literature.

The other panelist—the Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon.  

About two hundred people, at the most, were individually escorted into a smallish room at the JFK Library, and I must say, I was nervous.  Would I be able to ask him a question? What would I ask? Maybe about--The Boxer? Where does a story-song like that come from, and how is it crafted?

I am just a poor boy.
Though my story's seldom told,
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles,
Such are promises

But most important, what could I learn about lyrics as literature? I knew, I just knew, that Paul Simon would have something I could take away and use. (I know, it would be ironic here if it turned out that didn’t happen, and he was boring and pompous and selfish. But for once, irony does not win. He was brilliant and thoughtful and astonishing.)  Remember Kathy’s Song?

And as a song I was writing is left undone
I don't know why I spend my time
Writing songs I can't believe
With words that tear and strain to rhyme.

So out he comes, all kind of shabby-in-a-cute-way looking, and smiling, and with a fleece and a battered old hat, and I’m fumbling in my purse for my camera thinking—I’m going to do it, I don’t care I’m going to get a photo! And my husband is poking me with an elbow—shush, don’t take a picture.  So I held off, (briefly) and took notes instead.

Paul Simon first quoted Coleridge—that writing is “trying to put the best words in the best order.”

He talked about being in the zone—“As a writer, I’ve experienced that a few times. And that’s the beauty, isn’t it? When you’re starting from scratch, that’s the start of something interesting. If I knew what I was doing, what’s the point?”

How do you know if a song will be good? “You can’t know. It’s a mystery. That’s what’s so great about it. But you can access bliss. If you’re lucky, you can find it. That’s WHY you do it. Just to catch a glimpse of it.”

He was asked—is there anything you wish you could take back?  He thought about it, smiled, then said, “I’d prefer not to tell you. Anyone can be bad. So why should I be ashamed?”

Do you know when you’re good? He smiled, and admitted—“You start to recognize it.” He said when he wrote in Graceland  ‘And I see losing love Is like a window in your heart’:  “I had to sit down.”

And when he wrote ‘Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down,’  he said to himself, “Well,  that’s better than you usually do.”

I didn’t get to ask a question, but I didn’t care. He said he “…wasn’t sure he believed in the muse, but what the heck. Can’t hurt.”

And here’s the point of the whole thing:

 “If you believe in the Muse,” Paul Simon said, “the Muse may believe in you.”

And let me just say—I left the room, clutching my camera. Thinking about my new book. Believing. And humming:

Still crazy
Still crazy
Still crazy after all these years…

 So--what's your favorite Paul Simon song?    Do you think of lyrics as literature?