Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Sands of Gower Coming Out December 1, 2015

Here’s my new publishing project.  I’m going to put all fifteen mysteries I’ve written about postmenopausal poet Penny Weaver and Kenneth Morgan, her Welsh detective lover/husband into print through my own imprint Hoganvillaea Books, using Amazon’s CreateSpace.  A little history.

Back in 1990, I was a poet and non-fiction writer.  I had been to Russia for the first time, which set off love feelings for my host writer there, and I had come afterwards to the Gower Peninsula in Wales for several weeks of poetry writing.  I was struggling with what to do with that love, which was taboo, he being married, and rebelling against it, and I think that rebellion was why I sprained my ankle.  I got an ambulance to the Swansea hospital.  Bed rest was the prescription, no ice available, and so I was housebound for several weeks and couldn’t range the cliffs and valleys of Gower in search of poems.  Instead, I wrote them in my bedroom at Edith Merrett’s bed and breakfast, where I had spent other years relaxing away from my usual responsibilities and writing poems–some of my best.

Edith knew I loved to read mysteries, and one day she said, “Judy, you should write a murder.”  So, having a lot of free time, I began to plot one based on my own experiences there on Gower.  I actually wrote it the next summer, 1991, when my son was home to work for the summer, and my daughter was getting married, and I thought, with less time for concentrated work, I’d try writing my first mystery for fun.  I didn’t know all the categories of crime fiction.  I’d been reading all the Golden Age writers, Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and some of the moderns, Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Amanda Cross, and Martha Grimes.  

Mine came close to the traditional mystery, which I later heard Margaret Maron describe at a workshop: a group of suspects, the challenge being to figure out whodunnit, an amateur detective, little explicit violence or sex.  I later removed the explicit sex, but there’s still plenty of erotic experience in this one.  

I wrote it, typed it, and tried some of the publishers who didn’t yet require agents for mysteries, and Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s read it and sent me a very nice rejection letter. From the late 90s, too, I began entering each mystery I wrote in the annual St. Martin’s Press First Best Traditional Mystery Contest. After I joined Sisters in Crime and their sub-group the Guppies (great unpublished), in 2008, I began querying agents. I had encouragement also in 2008 from one reader/judge for that contest, even suggestions for revision, Ellen Rininger.  She wrote to me: “Judy, you amaze me. You have the positive outlook which will get you far.  And you just keep going!  We know you have a good product, you are getting wonderful critiques from knowledgeable people.  You are making great connections, and we are going to see your name in print on book shelves everywhere.  Just keep up the good work!”  

That was for Formaldehyde, Rooster, the 4th novel written.  Then in 2011 I was a finalist in the contest for Killer Frost, the 6th written.  That judge said her choice out of the 50 mss she read was a “no brainer.”  In the intervening years, with Guppy support, I had queried agents for 3 years, then tried small presses, first for The Sands of Gower, then for Haw (2nd one), then for Nuclear Apples?(3rd), but no luck.  When Killer Frost was a finalist, I queried the most encouraging agents, but no luck, then small presses, which I’d already been trying, and Mainly Murder Press in Connecticut, gave me a contract for 2012.  Then they published #6, Farm Fresh and Fatal, in 2013.  But in 2014, the editor Judi Ivey kicked me loose.  She said I wasn’t making enough money, and neither were they.  So I again, with several suggestions from “knowledgeable” people, tried other small presses.  No luck.

I had noticed that some of my friends, notably Gloria Alden, had gotten five books out between 2012 and 2015, and I had two.  She sold them locally mostly, but they sold well at Malice, too.  She was using Create/Space.  I’m not wild about supporting Amazon, but Gloria found it relatively easy to use their self-publishing tool, and I’m 78, so my time runs short at least for having as much energy as I do now.  I rest more, but I do get a lot done in a day, if not everything I wish to.  I had also met Tonya Kappes, who self-published from the beginning, four books a year, and recently was picked up by Harper and Row.  She’s a fireball, and I thought I couldn’t match her success, but I could find more readers as I got more books out.  So I started Hoganvillaea Books.  Carolyn Mulford urged me to do four a year, but I think I can do three.  

My planned pub dates will be Dec 1, April 1, August 1, each year, starting this December 1.  For me putting Sands up on Create/Space was a sharp learning curve.  I had asked Anne Kachergis to design cover and bookmarks, and when I was having trouble with uploading the PDF file, or one that would be converted correctly to PDF, I asked Anne’s help, and she did it with relative ease.  It cost me more, but now the book is print-ready, and review copies are ordered.

I owe a lot to my two readers: Suzanne Flandreau and Carol Hay, who have read the books in sequence and believe in them, plus caught those little problems and typos, commas, etc., that we all need to fix before we put our books out on the waters of the world.

I’m proceeding as much as possible as a publisher, getting out Advance Review Copies early, and I’m starting pre-sales now.

For $16, including tax, you can order Sands to pick up when Dec. 1 arrives; or you can request it mailed to you for $19, which covers tax and postage.  To PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559-0253. It’s 194 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1515191063.  Dec. 1 there will also be a Kindle available for $2.99 on Amazon.  I'll have them in local bookstores, too.

I already have readings in the works plus a launch at my farm on Dec. 6, Sunday, 4-6 PM.  Potluck.  Then at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, I’ll read Thursday, Dec. 10, 7 PM, and on Jan 9, Saturday, 2016, 11 AM-1 PM I’ll sign books at Paperbacks Plus in Siler City.  Readings at the South Regional Library in Durham, and the Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill are also in the works.  I should finish getting all fifteen into print by 2020, and no doubt I’ll be writing a new one or two, also, especially about the coal ash problem I’m working on now.

I had an enthusiastic response to my first two published novels. Julia Spencer-Fleming, a NY Times best-selling author, called Killer Frost “a stellar debut.”  Carolyn Hart had this to say:  “Farm Fresh and Fatal features an appealing protagonist, an intriguing background, and well-realized characters.  Readers will enjoy these characters and empathize with their successes and failures.  In the tradition of Margaret Maron.” 

Mystery Scene Magazine also praised it:  [Farm Fresh and Fatal] is fascinating for several reasons. One, the personal and political infighting that takes place after a murder are indicative of how society at large functions. Two, although the reader first looks at the community as a whole, individuality quickly emerges. And three—but definitely not last—is the fact that vegetables turn out of be a lot more interesting than we’d ever guessed.–Betty Webb.

The Sands of Gower is set in a Bed and Breakfast on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, Wales.  Penny Weaver, luxuriating in her two-month vacation, is disturbed by the murder of a German guest. Penny’s independent, outspoken American lifestyle contrasts with the more conservative ways of the village’s pensioners.  In the process of solving the crime, Penny and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan are powerfully attracted.  This, plus the British post-World War II continuing distrust of the Germans, complicates their investigation.

Carolyn Mulford, author of Show Me the Ashes, says: “Distinctive characters, lyrical writing, and an appealing Welsh setting distinguish this charming tale of an introspective poet’s unexpected immersion in murder and romance.”

I hope you’ll be eager to read The Sands of Gower.  If you’d like to be on my book list for updates, it’s  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Love and Protest in Our Coal Ash Fight

Protest signs held by members of EnvironmentaLEE and Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump at the DENR Hearing on a Mining Modification Permit.  Chatham County Historic Courthouse in background.  August 12, 2015.  Photo by Martha Girolami


Love and protest: they blend themselves together.
If you don’t love a child, a flower, a bird, a home, 
a community, you don’t try to protect it.  Mindless
corporate power makes war on our village, on
people who often work two jobs, sometimes for
the company which focuses its blind eye on our
gardens, our ponds where we go to fish, woods
where we hunt deer and wild turkey.  That
electric company was told to stop killing people
by poisoning their drinking water, so they chose
to poison more people by moving their toxic
coal ash around.  They lie and cheat, and no one
stops them.  I draw courage from red and yellow
zinnias coming into bloom, from chicks launching
themselves into the wider air of the whole coop.
Now they can fly from snakes.  Despite heat that 
kills plants and keeps off bees, I pick figs and
plum tomatoes, make preserves and spaghetti
sauce.  The sunflowers are seven feet high, out-
stripping even the orange and yellow cosmos.
Change is hard for me, more as I age, but I will
learn how to have the faith of bean seeds 
unfurling leaves; of okra seedlings raising their 
umbrellas a little more each day.  Because I 
love these frightened people, I will tame my fears,
and we will all learn bravery.  We will free 
ourselves from harm.  We will not be killed, 
nor surrender all we cherish.


Judy's zinnias and cosmos--summer 2014.

Speech by Judy Hogan at the DENR Hearing on August 12, 2015


My name is Judy Hogan.  I live in Moncure on Moncure-Pittsboro Road, five miles by air from both hazardous coal ash landfills, and my road is a main truck route from Corinth/Brickhaven to Pittsboro and points west.  DENR is breaking its own laws set up to protect the environment and the people of North Carolina by issuing the mining permit and its modification.  

We who live near and along train and truck transportation routes are in danger of the coal ash dust coming off the trucks, ruining lawns, gardens, farm animals, household pets, causing children wanting to play outside to be kept indoors; making us sick and killing us slowly. We need air monitors near the site and along the travel routes. 

Whatever the EPA says, coal ash is dangerous and hazardous to our health. People are dying around the coal ash dumps and ponds all over NC.  Duke is shifting its many leaking coal ash dumps onto other counties and towns so those folks will die, too.  Of course Duke/Charah chose two places in Lee and Chatham where many low-income, rural, and African American people live.  Business as usual in our country?  Pick on those you think have no voice?  We object.  You will hear our voices. 

Those plastic liners intended to keep coal ash out of drinking water are a joke. They can tear or be wrinkled in installation; little rocks and hard pieces of coal can penetrate them; the seals can break; 12 kinds of bacteria can eat them. They do not last 400 years.  Such monster coal ash landfills are an experiment and we are the sacrificial animals.  Let’s have some common sense, some integrity, some human compassion.  Let’s remember that our United States is committed to freedom and justice, to human dignity for all citizens.  Thank you.


Photo by Martha Girolami.  March 2015.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Change is Scary

Painting of a Russian peasant farm--"First Snow"--by Nikolai Smirnov, no longer with us.  It hangs in my living room.


Gifts II. April 27, 2014

Works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy.  Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market but where there is no gift there is no art. –Lewis Hyde.

We all fear loss: of people, of things,
of what is familiar.  We fear change, 
which, often enough, is our only 
salvation.  I love this home I’ve made,
this small farm, my healthy hens 
wandering the orchard, my dog who
now digs up the backyard on a long
treasure hunt after voles, children’s art,
paintings by Russian friends, even a 
ragged orange sari from Nabaneeta,
given forty-five years ago and taped
to my desk to be a curtain, this
writing chair I’ve made a new cover
for five times in more than forty years,
and written in it more than eighty
books.  The climate worsens.  Growing
my food is harder each year.  If 
fracking comes, I will leave.  It 
means giving all this loved property
away.  These hundreds of gifts
will make me richer.  I already
see what will happen.  The single
student I had in my winter class, 
whom I scolded more than praised,
now brings me raspberry canes,
tomato, pepper, and okra plants.
I took Robert eggs, and he burned 
off one of my tree stumps in the
meadow.  I am reprimanded.  I
forgot the mystery of the gift, 
which has to move.  The secret
of eternal life then?  

Give it all away.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Review of Lane Stone's Current Affairs

Current Affairs: A Tiara Investigations Mystery.  Lane Stone.  Originally released by Mainly Murder Press in 2011.  Currently available on Amazon. Paper: $13.99.  ISBN-13: 978-1512265385; Ebook: $4.99.  ISBN-10:1512265381. 242 pp.

I read this first mystery in Lane Stone’s Tiara Investigations series in 2012.  Lane and I were both having our first mysteries published by Mainly Murder Press.  Several of us published first by Mainly Murder have gone on to publish elsewhere.  Lane says we’re MMP orphans.  I say we’re graduates.  MMP got us started. Lane’s second novel, Domestic Affairs, came out from Cozy Cat Press. She’s working now on her third one, Foreign Affairs.  

As I reread Current Affairs, I caught more of the humor and was also struck by how she plays with the Southern lady syndrome. Three former beauty queens, living in Georgia--Leigh Reed, Tara Brown, and Victoria Blair--form a detective agency which specializes in finding out what wandering husbands are up to. Their conversation and actions spoof the stereotype of the Southern lady’s proper behavior.  For instance, they discuss their sex lives.  All three are smart and have special skills which come in handy.  Victoria left the corporate world where she learned to be a whiz at computer technology.  Tara is a lawyer, and Leigh worked for the Park Service and is married to an army general.  She knows the military speak for weapons technology.  Yet they are, in scene after scene, whimsical and creatively mischievous.  They are laid back and yet right on the money.  Their side kicks are their three Standard Snauzers.  Leigh’s is Abby, Tara’s is Stephie, and Victoria’s is Mr. Benz.  Sometimes the dogs go out on cases with them–for defense.  They don’t carry guns.

The novel begins with their research into the amatory activities of local policeman Jerome Kent.  When they give their photos of Kent and a very young blonde to his wife, Kent threatens to close down their private eye business, but all their paperwork is in order.

David Taylor, their next client’s husband, is an engineer for a weapon the military is using.  His wife Kelly says he’s out a lot at night and takes private phone calls.  The Tiara three go in pursuit when he leaves his house after a phone call, but someone shoots him before they can discover who he planned to meet.  The dogs chase the shooter, and Kent shows up, not thrilled to have the women involved.  Naturally they turn up more information than he does, though to do so they get into ridiculous predicaments from which their imagination, skill, and whimsy extricate them.

Current Affairs is loaded with humor that works.  Humor writing isn’t easy to pull off.  I also like the human tone, the real love Leigh has for her general husband and he for her, though she is a peace activist. Genuine affection among the three friends binds them together as much as their interest in helping women catch their errant husbands.  In short, they’re outrageous, and their unlikely methods solve crimes.

Once you’ve enjoyed Current Affairs, you’ll want to read Domestic Affairs.  I look forward to the release of Foreign Affairs.


Lane Stone is a native Atlantan and graduate of Georgia State University.  She, her husband Larry Korb, and the real Abby divide their time between Sugar Hill, Georgia, and Alexandria, Virginia.  She’s a member of both the Chessie (Chesapeake) Chapter and the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime.  She also published with Jacqueline Corcoran Maltipoos are Murder, which is the first in their Doggie Day Spa Romance Mystery Series set in Middleburg, Va, “the nation’s horse and hunt capital.”

Lane’s website:

Buy link:

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Let Us All Emulate Water

Photo taken by Lee Sauer at Malice Domestic Convention 2015.
Thank you, Lee, and Rita Owen, for sending me this photo.


GIFTS XXV. January 18, 2015

I see how I am living in
the right place, giving like water
gives, seeking truth, serving
others well, timing my acts to go
through defenses, and when people
fight with me, go around, let it go.
It takes two to fight.  I will not reject
those who reject me.  Bertha used
to tell her sons, “You’ll need me
before I’ll need you.”  They all
came to her funeral.  Let us all emulate 
water.  I know that I know how.  –Gifts XXIV.

I’m still walking my leyline path
without a cane.  Three doctors wanted
me to use a cane.  “I can’t farm with
a cane,” I said.  True, once I fell
against one of my raised beds, but
it cushioned me as if the earth were 
my mother’s breast.  I do remember
my mother’s breast.  It had a certain
smell when she held me close and
rocked me.  She aged well, lived
to be ninety-four and hiked the
Smokies to eighty-six.  Aging
does test us: how to stay healthy
and independent?  I still work a 
sixteen-hour day but rest more
often.  My creative mind works
more effectively and easily than
it ever has.  I learn new things
more slowly; need more aids to
memory, where riches are stored 
and names are elusive.  People
surprise me by saying, “You’re
the lady who walks your dog
on the dam road.”  “Yes.”
I cut firewood until the saw burned
out.  I see the daffodils penetrating
their leaf cover.  I must remove
the dead cosmos and zinnia 
stalks and fertilize the gardens
where crocus and more daffodils
are being stirred awake by winter
rain.  The hens begin laying four
or five eggs instead of only one.
Slowly I’ll learn what I need
to know, cut wood again, receive
and plant new seeds. Order baby
chicks. If I want to flourish many
more years, I must keep doing
what I love when it’s harder.
How do I quiet the worry of
friends and doctors?  I’ll say,
“If I have a crutch, I’ll become
dependent on it, and then I won’t
flourish as I do now.  Let me
demonstrate my independence
and courage, grow my food, saw
my wood, raise chickens, write
my books.  You see this is my
path.  Statistics don’t help me
for I am unique in my being, my
lifestyle, and in the way I walk while
I flourish.  If I defy gravity, so be it.

Observe me, and learn.”


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Saving Our Community Means Work, Work

Judy with new no coal ash sign in downtown Moncure on July 16.



It’s all work, work.  The curse of Adam.  But if he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get anything, even love.  He just tumbles about in hell and bashes himself and burns himself and stabs himself.  The fallen man–nobody’s going to look after him.  The poor bastard is free–a free and responsible citizen...”  Gulley Jimson in The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary

When the soil is rich and friable, 
seeds thrive, but so do weeds.
Crawling down the carrot row
between hardy grass stalks, looking 
for those lacy fronds, I dig around 
their orange tops, pull loose fat 
carrots.  My best carrot crop ever
if I can find it.  Everywhere this 
hot whimsical summer the weeds
have flourished. I work daily to save
the food I need for winter.  There
were raspberries.  There will be figs.
I dig out rampant grass and weed
tangles to make space for okra and
bean seeds.  First heat and drought,
then too much rain.  There will be
tomatoes, though they fell over
in their wire cages.  The coal ash
war goes on.  Farmers fight wars,
too, to keep their plants alive, outwit 
voles and beetles, provide water,
protect ripening fruit.  In the beginning
I never expected everything I planted
to bear fruit or come into flower.
At least in a garden you know what to
do even if you can’t do it fast enough.
Aging slows me, makes me reluctant
to encounter too hot sun.  True, I can’t 
do as much as I did sixteen years ago,
but with work, thought, and care I
can help my vegetables, fruits, and 
flowers come into their own.  Fighting
corporate power and arrogance is 
subtler work, takes ingenuity, humility, 
and confidence in our human power 
to defend and protect what we
cherish, who we are, our lives and
homes, farms, and children.
I must keep my vision clear,

do what my heart says do.


These trees were killed almost entirely during our last two severe winters.  This is how they looked in August, 2011.  Other figs, though, are producing this year.  What a gift is a fig.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Coal Ash Wars and Corporate Snakes

Photo by Martha Girolami


Some omens wake us up.  Still
half-asleep, I enter the coop to feed
the hens and discover a huge black
snake coiled inches from the chicks
under their heat lamp.  I take a rake
and urge the big hens outside, lock 
the chicken door, raise the door to 
the room where the chicks cower 
in the corner and the snake takes 
its ease.  I rake it out and shut that 
door, then open the people door to 
force it outside.  It disappears into
the straw, and I assume it left the way 
it entered. Then i sprinkle lime around
outside of the coop.  It ate two chicks.
I feed and water the fourteen left, and
gradually they resume their normal
cheeping mode.  That night, closing
them up, again under their heat lamp,
I find the snake cozily coiled in a 
nesting box.  I rake it out and it again
slips in with the babies.  Angry now,
I rake it out.  One chick runs out,
and I slip her in my raincoat pocket.
The snake begins climbing, tries all
its tricks, but, frantic now, adrenalin
pumping, heart pounding, I hit the
snake, finally lifting it out of the coop.
Where it lies in the dirt, I stab it again
and again with the rake’s tines.  Finally
it flows into the bamboo grass where
once grew parsley.  I replace the chick
and refresh their water and feed.  The
big hens had fled to the top of the
chick room and watched me fight
their deadly enemy.  The babe lies
still.  Did I smother her? Exhausted,
I return to the house, calm myself.  I’ve
done all I can.  Did I save all fourteen
chicks?  Did the snake die or only get
indigestion?  The coal ash mover
and shaker Charah had rented the
empty building in our village.  How
like the snake coiled among the chicks.
Will I need my rake again for this
corporate snake?  I’ll need my words,
my ingenuity, and my courage.  A 
different war but the goal is the same:
save what is precious and threatened:
our community. Fight. Hope.  
Love each other.

*** On July 6, 2015 our local environmental groups, Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump, EnvironmentaLEE, and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League began our legal challenge of two permits issued by our N.C. Dept of Environment and Natural resources (DENR).  We go to law to defend ourselves from harm from 12 million tons of coal ash being shipped into our two communities in Brickhaven (southeast Chatham) and Colon Road (northern Lee County).
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League         4617 Pearl Rd Raleigh NC 27610             (919) 345-3673                                              

July 6, 2015

Groups File Legal Challenge to Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Dumping Plans
Raleigh- Charging that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) acted arbitrarily and capriciously by issuing permits for two proposed coal ash dumps in Lee and Chatham Counties, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump (CCACAD), and EnvironmentaLEE (ELEE) filed a petition for a contested case hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) today.
BREDL community organizer Therese Vick stated “Communities targeted for coal ash disposal deserve a regulatory agency that has their best interests at heart, not what is in the best interest of Duke Energy. DENR had sufficient reason to deny the permits, and they did not.” CCACAD president Judy Hogan commented on the challenge filed today saying, “We are very happy to have filed this appeal to challenge the mining and solid waste permits which DENR released without paying attention to its own rules to protect us.” Debbie Hall, vice-president of ELEE explained why they felt this step was necessary, We chose to join in the complaint because we believe that any citizen who feels an action will significantly impact their lives in a negative way has the right to oppose that action.  We still believe in grassroots efforts, and that those efforts can make a difference in the outcome.                                                                    
Issues raised in the petition include:
·         The actions allowed by the permits would have a significant and adverse impact on the health and well-being of the members of the petitioners, and  on their families, the use and enjoyment of their property, the value of their property and other economic interests. 
·         DENR’s issuance of the Permit has substantially prejudiced the rights of the Petitioners and their members. By issuing the permits, the state agencies exceeded their authority or jurisdiction; acted erroneously; failed to use proper procedure; acted arbitrarily or capriciously; and failed to act as required by law or rule. 
·         The proposed sites are solid waste landfills, rather than mine reclamation projects, and should be regulated as such.
·         The requirements for compliance with other laws for the protection of the environment should be examined for all of corporate partners of Green Meadow, LLC.
·         Environmental Justice: DENR did not investigate, or require the applicants to investigate, the cumulative impacts on the communities.

            According to John Runkle, attorney for the plaintiffs, the petition was filed to “ensure that all regulations are complied with." Filing a petition for a contested case through the Office of Administrative Hearings is the first step in challenging an agency decision.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was founded in 1984. The organization has a thirty-year track record of victories over polluting facilities.
Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump was founded in December 2014 in opposition to Duke Energy’s plan to dump coal ash in the county.
EnvironmentaLEE was founded in 2011.  ELEE works to protect the environment of Lee County.



Our NC state government allowed Duke Energy, our only electricity generating power company, to ignore local governments. Ours in Chatham, unfortunately, felt powerless and signed an agreement with Duke, which gives them some leverage after it’s here.  We find that unacceptable and are glad Diana Hales and Karen Howard voted against it. We intend to stop it by all available means, including civil disobedience if need be. We are raising money to pay our wonderful lawyer.  We need help wherever you live, if you imagine our plight here and want to help.  This is genocide, and we won’t stand it.  Stand with us and contribute whatever you can.  No amount is too small.  There’s a web way to give: . On this one you can be a anonymous.   These gifts are tax-deductible as we are a chapter of BREDL and tax-exempt 501-C-3. We’d be very grateful for your help.  We are not a rich community here in Moncure. Thanks, Judy Hogan


Another photo by Martha Girolami, who also made the sign.