Sunday, May 22, 2016

Impressions from Malice Domestic 28 April 29-May 1, 2016. Bethesda, MD

Hank Philippi Ryan, Toastmaster

This year my friends Sharon and John Ewing dropped me at the Metro, so I didn’t gt lost in Falls Church, but Friday night, when John came to pick me up, I managed to wait on the wrong corner. We eventually figured it out by cell phones.  After the banquet Saturday night I came home from the Metro by taxi, and the driver got lost, but I helped him find my friends’ building.  I must have learned something last year.

I was bringing four mystery novels, two published by Mainly Murder Press in 2012 and 13, and two by my new Hoganvillaea Books in 2015 and 16.  When I go to Malice, I am always hopeful that my books will find new readers, and they often have.  Selling one’s books takes patience and ingenuity, and then out of the blue someone becomes enthusiastic.

The last morning, Sunday, at 11:45, was my panel, but I got confused about the schedule and arrived in the room at 11.  Another woman had, too, and we chatted.  Then when I realized I was too early, she went off to buy my first Penny Weaver novel, The Sands of Gower, and had me sign it.  That was one bookstore sale (Mystery Loves Company).  Still, as our toastmaster this year, Hank Philippi Ryan, said to us during the opening ceremonies, “While you’re here, something wonderful will happen to you.” That was my one thing.  And another fan, sitting next to me at another panel, after I gave her bookmarks, said she was going to buy my two new ones, maybe by e-book, which is still great.

Sarah Caudwell: "Malice Remembers"

There were other highlights for me.  I hadn’t expected to be interested in Sarah Caudwell, but I always go to the “Malice Remembers” session.  Martin Edwards, Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen Press (Poirot Award), Douglass Green (Amelia Award), and Katherine Hall Page, our Lifetime Achievement honoree this year, brought Caudwell alive and made me want to read her books.  She published only four, was a solicitor, and graduated from Oxford.  She was almost never sober, but apparently erudite and very funny, both in her books and in her conversation.  She won an Anthony for her third book, and Peters said the weight of that paralyzed her. The fourth one was published after her death.

I like to hear the Best Contemporary Novel panelists.  Margaret Maron, who has won many Agatha teapots, was up for her last Deborah Knott novel Long Upon the Land.  Hank Philippi Ryan has won some teapots, too, and was up for What You See.  Annette Dashofy’s being on this panel was very interesting to me.  Bridges Burned is her third novel, and only last year she was on the First Best Novel panel for Circle of Influence, which did not win, though her comments on the panel interested me the most, and I thought that first novel was excellent.  Catriona McPherson’s nominee was The Child Garden.  Catriona has published twelve books and been on Agatha panels before.  Louise Penny’s The Nature of the Beast was also nominated but she wasn’t present.  Too bad.  She’s my very favorite contemporary mystery author.

Margaret reiterated a theme I like: she found there was nothing she couldn’t say in a mystery, and Annette said, “How therapeutic it is to kill people.”  I agree, though I find it shocks people outside the mystery community when I say that.

I also enjoyed the Best Historical Novel nominees, and one of my very favorite authors, Laurie King, was on it, and later won the teapot for her Dreaming Spies.  Rhys Bowen’s Malice at the Palace was nominated, as were Susanna Calkins (The Mask for a Murderer), Susanna Elia MacNeal (Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante), and Victoria Thompson’s Murder on Amsterdam Ave.  Victoria was Guest of Honor this year.

Laurie said about her Holmes and Mary Russell series that she wanted two characters with minds like Holmes, hence her young American, Mary Russell, and what interests Laurie are the differences between them, and then, as they work and live together, still more differences are revealed.  Rhys Bowen in her Royals series likes writing about a character poised in the 1930s between two worlds.  Vickie commented that “truth is always stranger than fiction.”

Their moderator Harriette Sackler asked them how they kept a long-running series fresh, and Vickie says she looks forward to being with her characters again.  “If I don’t love doing it, I won’t do it,” she said.  Laurie’s latest, a real series freshener? is The Murder of Mary Russell.  She has us worried now.  As to escapism, which is why some readers gravitate to mysteries, Laurie said, “I’m honored to offer people an escape.”

Some interesting ideas came up on the Outsiders panel.  Of the five, Shelley Costa (Practical Sins for Cold Climates), Jill Amadio (Digging Up the Dead), Elizabeth Duncan (Murder On the Hour), Nancy Martin (Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything), and K.M. Rockwood (Abductions and Lies), three are writing out of a different national culture experience, Shelley (Italy), Jill (Cornwall), and Elizabeth (Canada/Wales).  Nancy said being in Texas was like being in another country for her, and K.M. (Kathleen) noted that her character Jesse is an outsider in an American city because of having spent twenty years in prison.  

Shelley said, “All detectives are outsiders.”  Nancy said, “Outsiders don’t have expectations.”  Jill said, “They get away with more.”  Kathleen said, “Once out of prison, being an outsider is very freeing.”  Nancy said, “Outsiders can function under the radar.” Afterwards, I thought, writers are all outsiders, too, in that they pull back from participating and observe and later use those observations in their writing.

Barbara Peters
Robert Rosenwald

I also thoroughly enjoyed Laurie King’s interview of the Poisoned Pen Press and Bookstore duo, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald.  They’ve built an international community around their non-profit press and store.  70% of their customers live outside of Scottsdale.  They see book events there as theater.

Barbara’s attitude toward trying new things, e.g., when they decided to start the press after the bookstore, “How hard can it be?” They have no credit issues now, which means that they can reliably ship large orders of books for an event.  They want to publish intelligent, well-written books, and do forty a year, plus about fifteen in the project of bringing back British authors that have gone out of print.

Robert answered Laurie’s question about whether it’s better for the author: being published by a small press or self-publishing.  He listed thee things: what an editor does for a book.  Barbara, for instance, will tell an author to leave out the first third.  Some hired editors won’t tell their clients the truth, she said.  A small press bets its money on a book, decides how much they can afford to lose, and if they’re well-known like PPP is, their marketing can make a difference.  A known press behind the author can also help in getting reviews.

They are also now publishing books from other countries, but they have to be in English.  They continue to look for good books, and their only “trend” is to publish books “we love that are well-written.”

Katherine Hall Page

Katherine Hall Page was interviewed by Daniel Stashower. Katherine can’t remember when she wasn’t reading.  She wrote her first novel in France when she and her family lived there for a year, and she was freer of child care.  She joked that her children took naps until they were sixteen.  She came first to the third Malice, where she met Carolyn Hart.  She writes the kind of book she wants to read, and likes best the traditional mystery.

I went to the YA panel on Saturday with Kathleen Ernest (Death on the Prairie), Sara Masters Buckey (moderator), Shelly Dickson Carr (Ripped: A Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller).  Nina Mansfield (Swimming Alone), and Carolyn Mulford (Thunder Beneath My Feet).  In their young years, Carolyn said she read Mark Twain.  Kathleen said she “disappeared” into books, and Nina loved Rebecca.  Kathleen’s young sleuth was strong yet vulnerable. Nina said hers “speaks truth to power.”  Carolyn’s keeps going and under control even in difficult circumstances (a catastrophic earthquake in Missouri in the late 1800s).  She has courage but is shy and holds back.  Nina’s fifteen-year-old is herself at that age and a risk-taker.  

Nina has the violence off stage.  Carolyn said the violence is exposed and the death reported.  Kathleen said the difficult things were off-stage.  As to sex and romance, Nina’s heroine has a crush but it’s not a big focus.  Kathleen said sex is off-stage.  Carolyn’s has light romance.  To survive, her boy and girl sleuths have to work together, but she thinks sexual tension is needed.

On Sunday morning we had a Sherlock Holmes panel: Laurie King, with three other Holmes authors.  Lois Gresh said she has fleshed out Watson and deepened the relationship with Holmes.  She also brought out the artistic temperament she sees in Holmes.  Laurie said it took her six books to develop her Holmes character and her study of her two sleuths, Holmes and Mary Russell.  Michael Robertson emphasized Holmes’s singularity of purpose and gave him a relationship with a bright woman.  The moderator, John Betancourt (editor of Wildside Press, who publishes a Holmes journal) asked why Holmes keeps coming back.  Lois said, “He’s irresistible–a fruit you cannot have.”  Laurie said, “He’s a super hero we could be if we worked hard.  He has a passion for setting things right.”

I was on the last panel Sunday morning: “Murder in Wartime: World War II.” Kim Gray was our moderator, and she gave us some easy surprise questions at the beginning.  Which author would we choose if we could co-write with another one.  I said, “Louise Penny.”  Sarah Shaber said, “Charles Todd.”  I forget Stephen Kelly’s.  When she asked what sleuth we’d choose of the famous ones out there, to help our sleuth, both Stephen and I said, “Sherlock Holmes.”  But that was right after the Holmes panel.  I couldn’t think of a single sleuth until Holmes jumped into my mind.  As I remember Sarah chose Josephine Tey’s sleuth, Alan Grant.  I love Tey, too.
Sarah and Stephen’s books (both really good) were Louise’s Chance, and The Language of the Dead, respectively.  Stephen’s is set in England early in the war; Louise’s in Washington, DC mid-war.  Mine takes place (The Sands of Gower) in 1991, with the British still angry at the Germans after 46 years.  Both Sarah and Stephen had done a huge amount of research.  My main research was having lived in a B&B like my fictional one on the Gower Peninsula.  I did actually consult a Swansea policeman, whose territory included the Gower peninsula, but I forgot about that on the panel.  Sarah even haunts Craig’s List for old hotel menus and maps from World War II.  Stephen had never even been to the southeast part of England that he was writing about, but by internet he’d caught it so well that I thought he was a Brit.  We had a good, interested audience for that panel.

I’ve given you impressions, things that struck me especially and that I enjoyed.  When Malice is first over, I try to evaluate my feelings and can’t very well.  Malice stirs up wishfulness, to have more readers, be more famous, win an Agatha, but I know it’s better to keep one’s expectations low and remember what you did enjoy.

B.K. Stevens

One big disappointment was that B.K. Stevens, who had had three books out since the last Malice:  a new collection of short stories (she has published about fifty) from Wildside Press (Her Infinite Variety); her first novel (Interpretation of Murder), and a YA novel called Fighting Chance, was unable to come because she fell and broke her arm the Wednesday before.  I had chosen to sit at her table for the banquet and wondered how that would be handled. 

Bonnie’s daughter Rachel came, and the Wildside Press couple, John Betancourt and Carla, helped host, too.  My friend Gloria Alden and I had both chosen to sit there.  B.K. was also up for two Agathas, for the YA and a short story called, “A Joy Forever.”  I enjoy B.K.’s stories, her novel, and I’m planning a review May 29, of Fighting Chance.  I reviewed Interpretation of Murder on this blog on Feb. 25 this year.

Malice is known as the friendliest crime writers convention, and I find that true.  My friend Sharon went with me Sunday, and shared some panels and the Agatha tea.  This year they actually served the tea first before the coffee.  I do like Malice best of the conventions I’ve been to. After writing this, I feel glad I went.  As to greater success in the mystery world, I’ll keep publishing and finding new readers, and try not to expect too much.  Someone there said that what can you expect when you bring all these introverts together and tell them to communicate?  Still, we did. 

Judy Hogan

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Reader Comments on Penny Weaver Novels So Far

The Sands of Gower appeared December 1, 2015, the first in my Penny Weaver series.


I have just finished reading Sands. It is a sweet love story, as well as a masterful mystery. Knowing Penny before Kenneth gives depth to her character and prepares your readers for some of the conflicts she experiences in the later books. Having experienced something similar myself, it was very interesting to me to read a book where two grown people meet and fall in love and plan to balance their separate lives. I think the experience described in Sands is more common today than it has been, at least among the people I know well. 

The description of the scenery was beautiful--so vivid I could walk it in my mind. I feel like I've been to Gower. 

With the descriptions of these various couples and their relationships (with the exception of Evelyn and Harold), one can hope for better things for the "new" couple in the novel--Penny and Kenneth. 

Love your book, 
--Mary Susan Heath, writer in Goldsboro, NC


Haw: The Second Penny Weaver Mystery.  
Released May 1, 2016 

Haw is a testimony to how jealousy and anger can propel an average person to murder.

Penny often wonders what kind of mother could have raised such immature, impulsive, careless young men as both Curt and his twin brother Sy. Through her conversation with Kenneth, there is interesting social commentary on modern child rearing. Chrissy's behavior provides point and counterpoint to Penny's speculations. 
There are other pairs in the book as well and more social commentary. Penny and Kenneth's romance is "old love." Their relationship is a foil for that of Penny's daughter Sarah and her husband Ed. Theirs is new, young love. Penny's ability to hold her own in the relationship is contrasted with Sarah's clingy dependence on her husband. 

Ms. Hogan seems to be saying through her characters that a good marriage is indeed possible, but that it must be based on respect, as well as a mutual desire to allow the other person to be the best that he or she can be. Haw is a wonderful old school Who Done it, and a masterful social commentary on marriage and children. 
I loved it!!! 
–Mary Susan Heath, writer in Goldsboro


Nuclear Apples?  Coming September 1, 2016.

An early comment from NC WARN Director Jim Warren:

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Judy Hogan was involved in a real-life citizen movement to keep high-level radioactive waste from being shipped from around the Carolinas and stored at a nuclear plant near her home. She has turned that successful struggle into a thrilling whodunit. This book captures the feeling of community and empowerment that came from neighbors banding together for the common good, and it reminds us that the same courage and solidarity are still needed today to guide the conscience of corporations, governments and the media.

To order or pre-order a signed copy, send $19 (covers tax and postage) to Judy Hogan, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Everything Takes More Courage

One of my White Rock hens.  Photo by John Ewing

Can Flowers Change Your Life? VI. January 24, 2016

Then ice came. The first day I put down
wood ashes and then crunched my way
through it to feed the hens.  I saved wood
and used the heat pump.  The electricity
did not go out Friday or Saturday,
though I had prepared.  All around me
ice had brought down power lines.
We were told not to travel.  I didn’t
even go out the front door.  I asked
Shawn to help me clear the ice off
the back steps, and when he walked
along the icy path to the coop, I 
followed with feed.  The hens had
already laid three eggs in the dark.
Everything takes more courage, but I 
do keep summoning it.  Today sun,
and no more ice showers.  I left the
small flaps open for the hens for light
because the cold coop doesn’t deter
them.  I ate warm muffins for breakfast
and meditated on the rest of my life.
Things settle into a routine again,
but there are frequent interruptions.
I’ve committed to stop the coal ash
if it’s humanly possible, to finish and
publish my Russian story.  I teach and
edit to pay the bills.  My physical strength
holds as long as I use it.  My balance
is better.  The sun is melting the ice.
The hens will reach the orchard.  I’ve
ordered seeds and will buy more bird
food.  People keep writing: Are you
warm?  Yes, warm, sane, determined to
live a good life, to age well, to be as
ingenious as ever, and as ready to love
those who reach out to me
as well as I can.


Judy selling books in Goldsboro's Wayne County Library, spring, 2015. Photo by Mary Susan Heath.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Living in the Present

This photo is of Mikhail's family gathered when I visited in 2007


In the summer of 1990 I made my first trip to Kostroma, Russia, as the first exchange visit with the Writers’ Organization there, and my Carolina Wren Press here in North Carolina.  This was part of a Sisters Cities exchange Mikhail Bazankov and I did 1990-2007.

After that first six-day visit in August, I went to friends in Devon and spent three weeks writing my reflections on what that visit had meant to me, and I called that writing: Change of Life.  I was fifty-three.  I’m in the process of preparing my Russian writings for publication, and this will be in the first book, Baba Summer: Book One. I was also in the process of giving Carolina Wren Press over to other people.

September 6, 1990

The present is perhaps the greatest mystery of all, and if I’ve learned anything at all it is how to live in the present.

There was a time when I tried to wrest meaning out of the present.  I wanted to understand why I was suffering so much, or why I was in love.  I wanted the present to enlighten me about itself, but I desired this in vain.  It wasn’t possible.  I found an idea that helped me in an astrological book by Dane Rudhyar.  He said that often we must wait for some time to pass in order to understand what is happening to us in the present.  I also found an image  in The Way of All Women by Ether Harding that helped even more.  She said that in situations full of conflict, one could only work one’s way forward like a plant finds its way through a wall toward the light on the other side.  Trust one’s intuition each day.  Do one’s best with each stage forward, and one would look back and marvel at one’s cleverness.

This works.  I’ve now been in countless difficult,”impossible” situations, and unable to see my way forward, nor to understand what was happening, what it meant.  Yet I’ve trusted to the deepest impulses of my heart and kept moving.

This got me here.  I have lengthened the time I give to my writing and to my time off from my regular work.  I need sometimes a way to get completely out of one kind of life with all its activities and schemes and worries, and into another.

When I left North Carolina mid-July, I still had a list of the bills we (Carolina Wren and I) needed to pay, and the various moneys we could expect to receive in my head.  I was waking up early worrying about money.  This was intensified when I discovered that I had made a mistake in arithmetic in my checking account, and instead of having $1000 in it, I had $0.  I had just bought $1500 in travelers checks and thought I might have to trade some of them back in.  By working on the bank book carefully, and planning smaller amounts on some of the monthly bills, and asking Carolina Wren (I had been editor/publisher since 1976 and was now giving it away to others) to pay back some of my loan earlier, and also receiving over $300 Saturday night before we left from the group of people I was leaving behind in charge of Carolina Wren, I was able to work through that crisis, which had given me a leaden feeling in my stomach.  

Then there was my friend E., to whom Carolina Wren owed money, and we were late paying her, and I had to call her and say it might be still later, and she was not patient.  She was angry.

Then my youngest child decided to break up with her boyfriend the day before we left and wanted to come home.  Before I could leave to go get her, she had called back to say they had made up.  Perhaps she needed to know she could stay in my house and use my car in my absence.  In any case, I told her she could, if they did, in fact, break up.

Many of these things would have kept someone else from going. They might have kept me from going, if I hadn’t been following an inner directive.  It is easier though for me now to see in my own mind the legitimacy of taking time off than it was ten years ago.  I had even borrowed money from my mother again.  I didn’t like to ask, but I had this urgent something inside me saying to go, both because of Mikhail, my new Russian friend, whom I felt I must meet (He had done his part and sent the official invitation–I must now get there.) and because I was at a crossroads with my writing. I must put my full weight on it for awhile, even if, when I got back, the various money problems again descended on me.  They will. Other people are working on it in my absence, but even if Carolina Wren is doing okay, I have the rent to pay when I get back.  Some work is lined up, but I’ll have to find more.  Most people wouldn’t do that either: leave, not knowing how they’ll get the money together when they get back.  I’ve gotten good at calculating risks in the past nineteen years.  I can get some kind of a job if worse comes to worst.  I have friends and a friendly landlord; I won’t starve.  I’ll pay the rent.  I have a class lined up to teach, so I’ll have those fees.  And Carolina Wren still owes me $500.

The thing I do that’s unusual is to work from what I feel I must do–hold onto that–and then use my ingenuity to solve the problems related to persisting toward my goal.  Things don’t always fall neatly into place. Arranging my trip to Russia turned out to have many snags.  Communication was so difficult, and then the local Sister Cities group that was my link for information on how to do this was preoccupied with their own first ten-member delegation to Kostroma.  Perhaps their leadership even resented my having popped up with an official invitation in the middle of their plans. They helped me, but half-heartedly and distractedly.  I remember my rage at the person I needed most to help me.  It took him forever to get through on the phone to Kostroma, but then he forgot to ask my urgent question.  My rage did no good.  I needed patience.  

Looking back I see that I did the main and necessary things, and so did Mikhail on his end.  We worked–both of us–from this faith in the other.  With so little knowledge!  He and I both did what we needed to–a remarkable combination of faith and ingenuity on both sides.

I got the cable from him a few days before I left and figured out all the Russian words but one with my Russian-English dictionary.  I had already written to him the number of the train car for my arrival in Moscow.  It turned out, that that was the missing word, the wagon or train car.  He wanted to know the number.  I had answered his question before I got it, but that letter hadn’t arrived for him even when I left Russia.

I had learned it was very difficult for the Russians to telephone outside of Russia, but he called me in Finland.  My Finnish friend answered the phone and said someone was speaking a language she couldn’t understand.  She hung up.  

I said, “Maybe it’s Russian.  Next time speak English.”  She did, and sure enough I was being called. I talked to the woman I would later know as Natasha, and she asked me the train car number, and I ran to get my ticket.  So all worked out.  They found my son and me in car number nine.

At so many points I could have given up, admitted defeat.  So, I’m sure, could he have.  One of the funniest of my obstacles occurred on the very last day.  I had had to take a car radio Tim had borrowed back to his friend.  The friend had proved himself untrustworthy for Tim, as far as I was concerned, over and over. Tim got angry at him but persisted in the friendship.

The friend, B, was trying to manipulate Tim into coming to town on the pretext of the radio, and I put my foot down.  I would take the radio when I went to town in the morning to do other errands.  I got excited.  I yelled.  Notwithstanding his knowledge that I was upset, B called back, disguised his voice, and asked to speak to Tim.  Then he asked Tim if he could come get his radio.  I again said no.  Tim got very unhappy over this fight between his friend and his mother, and said, “Here, you talk to him.”

So I said, “B, I’ll bring your radio at eight in the morning.  You be there to get it,” and I hung up.  B called back again to say their Doberman pincer would be loose in the morning.

I left for town that last morning in North Carolina, wondering if after everything else I’d been through, a Doberman pincer would eat me up and stop me from going.  I put the radio and speakers in a box and approached the house cautiously.  No dog.  I opened the car door and pushed the box out.  Then B appeared.  I pointed toward the box and drove away.

So the Doberman pincer, the fiercest dog in the U.S., by reputation, didn’t keep me at home, didn’t prevent my getting to this window in this room where I am happy to sit and look and think and write all day long.

Being here though, doing what I’d planned to do here–is a tougher challenge than the effort to leave so that I would have this time to write.  Jacques Maritain, whose book Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry I’m reading refers to the “self-abnegation and the ordeals imposed by poetic creativity.” (161). “The road of creative intuition, however, is exacting and solitary, it is a road to the unknown, it passes through the suffering of the spirit.”

It is so much easier to plan to write than to write; to plan and arrange time, not-withstanding impatient friends, bank book errors, and Doberman pincers, than it is to do the inward searching and groping that writing means, for me anyway.  Some days it comes to me relatively easily and quickly what I will say, and then my mind signals that’s all for awhile, so I go and do other things: read, write letters, walk down the lane.  I make apple crisp. I enjoy chatting with my hosts.  I catch up on letters I would put off at home.  I do mending or washing.  Little chores are a welcome relief from the slow turning of my mind as it wrestles with feelings and meaning. I can’t say I know where this book is going any more than I know how this new love I feel will work out.

Two mysteries I’m living with and laboring with in the present. Both, I guess, are in a kind of birth process.  Yesterday I labored, and slowly but surely words came to me.  Today I labor and the words seem so elusive, or perhaps it’s the dance of meaning under the words.  I guess my being here is not unlike my being in Russia because of a bond I felt with another soul.  I’m here because of a promise to my own soul.

Judy Hogan, April 24, 2016

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Life Goals

Judy with No Coal Ash Sign in Moncure, N.C. Summer 2015 
photo by Keely Wood

Can Flowers Change Your Life? VII. January 31, 2016

An early life goal, at thirty-three:
show love.  Another goal I didn’t choose.
It chose me: write.  Later I chose:
write out my mind.  Now I answer a call.
I say, “I couldn’t say no.”  Others would
call it God’s call.  There are moments
in a life when you do not have a choice.
I cared for Amy’s twins.  I let a Russian
man stir my love.  When my chosen
community was threatened by the dumping
of twelve million tons of coal ash,
I knew I had to fight.  I didn’t want to be
the leader, but no one else offered, so I
took that call, too.  My life is all calls
now. I want to live well, healthily and
independently.  I want to speak my
mind as well as tell my truth in writing.
I do.  Perhaps that is the kind of life
all the religions of the world intend us
to live.  Begin at the beginning.  Care
for ourselves and others.  Listen to
the voice within.  The more we listen,
the more we hear.  The work grows
harder, but the rewards come faster.
Other people’s love and nurturing
now sustain me.  Everything I’m doing
helps the good in that ongoing earthly
war between the good and the evil.
Let me be thankful and acquiesce.


Mailing party with members of Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump and EnvironmentaLEE.  Photo by Terica Luxton. 

We mailed 4200 flyers about our work to stop the coal ash dumping in the Brickhaven and Colon Roads areas.  We have wonderful workshops coming up with these amazing scientists and grassroots leaders:


Attend a workshop* on Coal Ash Dangers and Grassroots Strategies led by experts you can trust:

- May 7, Saturday, 1-3 PM: Cumnock Baptist Church, 477 Cumnock Rd., Sanford. Louis Zeller, Director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League will share tips on leadership and strategy.

3:30-4:30 PM: Rebecca C. Fry, PhD, UNC-CH: “Heavy Metals in Coal Ash: What are the Health Risks?”

- May 14, Saturday, 1-3 PM: Liberty Chapel Church Samuels Annex, 1855 Old U.S. 1, Moncure. Avner Vengosh, PhD, Duke University: “Risks of Coal Ash to the Environment and Human Health.”

3:30-4:30 PM: George Lucier, PhD, Former Assoc. Director National Toxicology Program: “Health Risks From Coal Ash Constituents.”

- May 21, Saturday, 1-3 PM: Liberty Chapel Church Samuels Annex, 1855 Old U.S. 1, Moncure. Therese Vick, N.C. Healthy Sustainable Communities Campaign Coordinator, BREDL. “Using N.C. Public Records Law.”

3:30-4:30 PM: Jane Gallagher, PHD, MPH, US EPA (retired)
“Monitoring Coal Ash Drinking Water Contaminates.”


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Haw: The Second Penny Weaver Mystery comes out May 1

Haw: The Second Penny Weaver Mystery comes out May 1.  I’ll be at the Malice Domestic Convention for the traditional mystery in Bethesda, MD.  I’ll be on a panel called “Murder in War: World War II,” on Sunday, May 1, at 11:45 AM, signing books immediately afterwards. 

Right now and through April I’m offering both The Sands of Gower: The First Penny Weaver Mystery and Haw for $25, including shipping, if you buy both.  Orders to Judy Hogan, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559.

Here’s a back cover blurb to whet your appetite:

An icy Christmas night; a crowded boarding house; a murdered landlord; warm fires; the smells of baked bread and roast turkey; thirteen suspects (including wife, ex, and the dog); and details fed like kindling to a smouldering fire, make Judy Hogan’s latest Penny Weaver mystery a mesmerizing and deeply satisfying read. Her masterful plot unfolds with perfect timing as her spirited heroine leads us through the murky light of the human heart to an ending that warms our own. Once you get started, you won’t put it down. –Walter Bennett, author of Leaving Tuscaloosa

Normal pricing for Haw is $15.  With tax, $16.  With postage, $19. Same with The Sands of Gower purchased separately.  Both are also available on and in local bookstores as of early May: The Joyful Jewel, Circle City Books, in Pittsboro; Paperbacks Plus in Siler City; Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, and the Regulator in Durham.

Right now and until April 26, I’m doing a give-away of five Haws on


If you haven’t read The Sands of Gower yet, here is a comment to make you want to read it!

I have just finished reading Sands. It is a sweet love story, as well as a masterful mystery. Knowing Penny before Kenneth gives depth to her character and prepares your readers for some of the conflicts she experiences in the later books. Having experienced something similar myself, it was very interesting to me to read a book where two grown people meet and fall in love and plan to balance their separate lives. I think the experience described in Sands is more common today than it has been, at least among the people I know well. 

The description of the scenery was beautiful--so vivid I could walk it in my mind. I feel like I've been to Gower. 

With the descriptions of these various couples and their relationships (with the exception of Evelyn and Harold), one can hope for better things for the "new" couple in the novel--Penny and Kenneth. 

Love your book, 

Mary Susan Heath, a Goldsboro writer.

I will be reading from Haw and offering a workshop on writing and publishing mysteries in Goldsboro May 23, Monday.  More info as it’s available.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review: Show Me the Ashes by Carolyn Mulford

Review: Show Me the Ashes.  Carolyn Mulford.  Five Star, A Part of Gale, Cengage Learning, New York, NY.  March 2016.  ISBN 13: 9781432831356. Hardback, $25.95. 319 pp.

In Show Me the Ashes, Mulford’s fourth novel in her “Show Me” series, P.I. Phoenix Smith quickly becomes involved with two investigations.  She hears the desperate tale of Beatrix Hew, a grandmother whose daughter Jolene confessed to killing Edwin Wiler in the Bushwhacker Den bar where she worked, and then setting fire to the building.

The case had been closed by Boom Keyser, her best friend Annalynn Keyser’s former husband, who took the confession. Phoenix knows that Annalynn, now acting sheriff, doesn’t want to hear that her dead husband made a bad mistake, so she begins a secret investigation, feeling compassion for the ailing grandmother and her grandchild Hermione.  The third member of this trio of old friends, Connie Diamante, insists on helping Phoenix.

Then Annalynn asks Phoenix to help her investigate some local robberies, and to keep Connie out of it.  Keeping all these secrets, plus her CIA background from the general public, proves quite a balancing act for Phoenix.

Phoenix’s dog Achilles plays a star role in the whole series, and with each book, he steals more of the show.  Phoenix’s former CIA experience helps her unravel a very complex plot, as well as her knowledge of small town Missouri people.  She must interview all those involved in the year-old murder and arson case: the Bushwhacker’s Den owner, the dead man’s lover, the fireman who found arson, and others.

The transformation that goes on in Phoenix’s attitude from feeling that there’s no way she can help Beatrix to taking more and more risks to do just that, hinges on how Phoenix allows her compassion for the child Hermione to keep her motivated when it proves nearly impossible to prove a different set of circumstances and events that led up to the death and the fire than the seemingly obvious conclusion Boom had reached when the case began.  The child and her love of Achilles becomes the pivot that makes it possible for Phoenix to loosen her perspective in both investigations and discover the truth.

What I love best about this series is the opening up of the characters living in a small Missouri town.  The plots are always complex and hard for the reader to unravel, but the characters stay with me.  One fiction teacher I had years ago said that the sign of a good book was its memorability.  Did it stick in your mind?  Carolyn Mulford’s characters stick in my mind.



Carolyn Mulford writes the award-winning Show Me mystery series. She set out to be a writer shortly after becoming a reader in a one-room school near Kirksville, Missouri but delayed her writing career to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. That experience fostered a fascination with other cultures that led her to work as a nonfiction writer and editor on five continents. She moved from nonfiction to fiction and from the Washington, D.C., area to Columbia, Missouri, in 2007. Her first published novel, The Feedsack Dress, became the state’s Great Read at the 2009 National Book Festival. Next came Show Me the Murder, Show Me the Deadly Deer, Show Me the Gold, and now Show Me the Ashes. To read the first chapter of these books and of the upcoming MG/YA Thunder Beneath My Feet, go to Harlequin Worldwide Mystery published a paperback edition of Show Me the Murder in June 2015.