Sunday, October 4, 2015

Raspberry Memories

Photo of Bazankov family in Kostroma, March 2007.  Judy came to dinner.  Includes Mikhail, 4th from left on the back, and his wife Katya, 3rd from the right on the front row, and their sons' families.


THE OMENS ARRIVE XV. June 21, 2015

For Mikhail, who turns 78 October 5.

Perhaps these raspberries are my omen.
Every day I pick a handful.  Now the
blueberries join their ranks.  I eat
them in custard, make smoothies
to cool me on these hot afternoons.
When I lived in Kostroma, people
gave me eight jars of raspberry jam.
When I had a cough, Katya made me
dried raspberry tea.  I picked them 
myself in Finland; you picked them
for me in Gorka.  Now I pick from
my own canes with the hens hovering
and nipping at the ones they can’t reach,
yammering at me to drop one.  The fig
trees were half-killed by two severe
winters, and the raspberries took over
all that sunlight and ground rich in
chicken compost.  You come to me
in spite of my doubts as a handful
of raspberries. I may forget for days
at a time, but raspberry flesh is still
on my tongue, raspberry memories
thrive in the deepest part of my mind.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Can Do Everything Needful

Judy holding Credo Climate Hero sign because our coal ash group, Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump, received a $500 grant from Credo, which we will use to involve more people in our community as we put up more signs against coal ash.  The photo is by Robin Beane.  Thanks to Susan Alexander for grant writing.

We also brought the community together on September 18 for an amazing "plate sale" of a fried fish dinner, with so many people bringing food, helping serve, giving donations.  Duke Energy may have power of a certain kind, but we have love for and trust in each other.  It may take awhile, but we will overcome.  

Here's a poem I wrote last summer when I was discouraged.  I had to believe that we would succeed and that the zinnias I was planting would rise and bloom.  They did, my best zinnias ever!


THE OMENS ARRIVE XVI.  June 28, 2015

It comes to me now that I can do
everything needful.  I must not
doubt myself.  My life here has
its purpose.  This coal ash threat
scares me, which means I have to
dig deeper, prepare myself for war.
Such wars are mainly of the spirit
which is my strength.  If anyone
knows how to find her courage, 
I do.  Like Cassandra I read the
omens, but unlike that ancient
one who saw truth ahead of time,
I won’t die.  I’ll live and escape
harm as long as I listen to my
heart.  So few people do, and what
age needs to more than ours?  After
weeks of searing heat which rain
failed to relieve, storms baptized
us with buckets of cooling water.
The created order let go its battle
to breathe.  The outside world was
home again to fruit trees, grapevines,
that optimist the cardinal, my hens
who lived for weeks in shade, to the
lizards skimming over the brick 
walls of my home, to bees now back
to the business of pollinating.  Both
vegetables and weeds drink deeply,
and the new flower seeds will dare
to open root and stem and push
toward the light they never ceased
to believe was there.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Interview with Nova Scheller, Author of Avonelle's Gift

Interview with Nova Scheller, Author of Avonelle’s Gift.

Information about the book:

“I wear a locket filled with my grandmother’s bones.” So begins Avonelle’s Gift.

Can a descendant reach back into her family’s stories and recover relatives who have been lost, forgotten, rejected, or excluded? What can she discover and retrieve as she breaks through
negative judgments about her family’s past? Avonelle’s Gift vividly captures the history of a family over four generations, beginning with the love affair of two teenagers in 1900. A pregnant girl marries to save her family’s name during the years when childbirth and infancy are fraught with danger and mothers and babies could die. This book tells of two motherless children and how each 
affected the other. By blending available facts with both her historical research and her imagination, the author has filled in the
missing pieces of a tale that deserves to be told. As she focuses on bringing out what is emotionally true, she expresses the depth and complexity she finds in her family over several generations.

Avonelle’s Gift tells of early deaths, lost loves, lost families, unbridled ambition, political corruption, social ostracism, and redemption at a time when people could begin anew and rebuild
their lives for the better. Like so many family stories with villains, victims, and heroes, it tells of courage, determination, and the capacity for human hearts to change.

Title information
Title: Avonelle’s Gift
Author: Nova Scheller
Dimensions: 6” x 9”
Page count: 306 pp
Publisher: Amma’s BREATH
ISBN: 978-1-4951-6810-9

Paperback Price: $19.95 Available on; 
E-book on Kindle and other e-book sites. $5.99

1-- When did you begin writing? 

I wrote a lot in my work life and was published scientifically while I researched at UNC-CH. When I moved to working in big Pharma, I taught technical writing to company employees and edited/reorganized other scientists' reports. Finally, before I stopped working, I was writing Validation documents and finally investigation reports. In all these years I never wrote creatively and for popular publication. Writing this book, five years after I left the corporate world, has been a new phase in my life, intellectually and creatively.

2-- When and why did you begin writing this book?

My mother's stories about her Medling family framed so much of who I felt I was as a child. I always felt I was more of a Medling than a Scheller, my father's family. Part of that might have been because my mother was the one who told me about my father's family. My mother's intensity and our complicated mother-daughter relationship was also a factor. Before she died, she requested her ashes be mingled with my grandmother's and scattered. Once in possession of Ethel's ashes, I began a multi-year journey that connected the three of us.

One day while having lunch with a friend in 2010, after Mom's death, I was telling her about my mother's stories about her parents and her childhood. She stopped me and said, "You have to write a book about all this.  It deserves to be told." She said this with such certainty, I felt she was right.

During 2011, I made three trips to Missouri, researching the Bootheel area, where so much of the story took place. Each trip revealed more information.  The last one revealed the most as I journeyed from St. Louis to Jefferson City to Lake of the Ozarks where I went to the Osage River and released the remaining ashes of my grandmother.

3-- Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.

Writing and completing the book has been a multifaceted process. 2011, the first year after my mother's death, felt like an unfolding path as I "received" impression after impression of what I needed to do for her and my grandmother. I was very much aware that we had issues that flowed from one generation to the next. Several months after she died, I contacted her half-brother, Scott, to let him know she had passed. Months later he sent me their email correspondence from ten years earlier. It was their ongoing conversation for those three months that helped me see the man my grandfather Medling later became.

That same year, I began studying both shamanism and Family Constellations. Both of these healing modalities come from ancient traditions that all of our ancestors in the distant past would have accessed. The shaman receives information directly through spirit guides, while in a trance state. In Family Constellations, the group present creates an energy state that helps reveal answers sought by an individual in the group, and is called the Knowing Field. Both systems work with ancestral/generational issues or inheritances. 
Before that, two years before my mother died, I began studying Hinduism and the various incarnations of the Divine Mother, or Divine Feminine. Among the indigenous, ancient Vedic traditions, I learned of Pitru Paksha, the annual Honoring of the Ancestors. (This year it will begin on September 27, the Full Moon and go for two weeks, until the New Moon, October 12.). This was when I read Maya Tiwari's observation about standing on our ancestors' shoulders rather than carrying them on our backs. My new awareness, which began in 2007, deepened considerably while studying shamanism and Family Constellations. 

After two years of working with shamanism and Constellations, I got clear guidance that I was to begin writing the book in September 2013. Those earlier years helped me develop a more intuitive and receptive capacity. 

So, in September of 2013 and the winter of 2014, I took your writing class and began writing the first part of the book. You helped me understand how to set a scene and get out of the way of the story. I worked on the book for another year, through the spring of 2015.

4-- Talk about your writing process.

I had a basic diagram of what had happened with my grandparents but very little to go on for my great grandparents. I learned my great grandmother's name when I got my grandmother's death certificate. My mother told me what she knew about Avonelle, that he was her grandfather, whose name she was given. But she never knew where he came from, what happened to him after he saw his daughter that once, or how old her mother was when he found her. 

When going through her papers after she died, I found that information in a letter I had sent her 25 years earlier. She never answered but wrote the answers in red pencil. Then I strung together the few clues I had and pondered what made sense, was possible, and asked those long dead relatives what they wanted me to say. My writing would give them the voice that neither my grandmother, mother or I had ever heard. Since I never had children, I felt that speaking for these ancestors was a responsibility that had been left to me. Instead of my life focus moving out into the future, I sensed my charge was to look backward and help bring balance into my Family Soul. Doing so allowed these ancestors to be seen, felt, acknowledged and honored for living their lives the best they knew how.

Apart from the direct family information, I researched the genealogy I could find in and read extensively about the Bootheel region during the period of its reclamation. I researched some Civil War information for the documented and imagined parents and grandparents of the Dunns, Bakers and Medlings, for historical accuracy. As the story moved forward, I needed to understand what factory work in St. Louis was like in World War I, the effect of the Depression and how the country was changing during World War II. The story ends in San Diego, my childhood home, when I was 13.

5. How did you find the self-publishing process?

Because this was my first book, I used companies and approaches a friend used. It was expensive, but I knew when I was finished that not only was the book well-edited but the layout, proof-reading and book cover were top notch. I believe I can produce my next book less expensively but keep the same quality and polished appearance.

6. Do you have a work in progress now? Is it part of a series?

I know the family stories are not complete. With the book ending at my grandfather's death, I feel there will be another volume that addresses the family’s impact upon my mother's life and mine. Not all mothers and daughters have difficult relationships, but many do, especially women who choose the helping, healing, nurturing professions. Sharing what has worked for me feels like a valuable contribution to the collective. The decision not to have children allows me to also direct my energy towards both the past and future generations. The rootlessness of this increasingly technological age, the lack of village or communal life, is drawing many of us to think about simpler ways of being and living. We are in a period of realizing that what has been seen as old and irrelevant now seems new, fresh and sane.

I have not started writing yet. I some other ideas, too. Right now I am learning how to market this book.



Nova Scheller was born and raised on the west coast, in Oregon and Southern California respectively. She has lived in central North Carolina since 1980. She received her BS in Biochemistry from NC State and her Masters in Environmental Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her professional years were spent as a environmental chemistry researcher at UNC and as a corporate adult trainer in the pharmaceutical industry. She was downsized as her employer prepared for a corporate buyout and has been exploring her real life for the last eight years. Avonelle's Gift is her first book.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How Like A Plant I Am

Morning glories twining their way onto my back porch.


I admit: I’m like an invasive vine.  Say,
honeysuckle.  It winds its way up chainlink
fences, around tree trunks and limbs,
dead or alive.  I’ve always loved its scent
on a June night, envied the bees their
taste of that honey.  I’ve fought with it,
but it never gives up, always resurges.
With other people I guard my boundaries,
but I turn around and find openings 
in theirs to let me in so I can love them,
heal them.  Looking back, I see how 
like a plant I am.  I never give up.  
Cut me back, and I fling out runners 
and attach myself again when you 
least expect it, when you aren’t
paying attention.  I scarcely know
myself what I’m doing.  Most people
stop at those dividing lines that keep us
separate, in little groups.  I see the lines
but ignore them.  Before I could read 
and write, I was loving people I wasn’t 
supposed to love.  That boy from the 
other side of the tracks brought his 
three-week-old baby sister to show
me.  I ran to tell Mother, and she cut
the baby’s fingernails and let the boy
know–how?–not to come back.  I never
saw him again.  In seventh grade I
loved Wesley, who brought me a fresh
gardenia every day.  If you touched
the petals, they turned brown.  We held
hands and I reveled in his singing voice–
a boy soprano.  He asked me to a dance,
and Mother said no, he was too short.  
She didn’t understand the love I felt
because she’d never trusted herself
that much.  She’d surely have frowned 
on my Russian beloved, but I didn’t tell
her when I borrowed money to go see him.
Now it’s clear how vital I am in my aging,
never giving up, still fighting, still
working, my energy still there to be
tapped and used, still seeing the lovable
in all these people who gather to fight 
against turning our community into a
coal ash dump. The powers that be may
trim me back, but I have roots in my
deepest being that they don’t imagine.  
My vine is persistent, undeterred, and
even partakes of eternal life.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Omens That Comfort Me

Night-blooming cereus against the back wall of my home.



What are my omens this week?  What
signs have I been given to comfort me?
The weeded beets and carrots grow rapidly.
The tomato vines rise, dark green, and begin
their blossoming.  The new orchid opens
its last bud.  Thirteen hens give me
twelve eggs in one day.  When they see
me in the garden or orchard, they
rush to be near me.  Weary and aching
I crawl into bed after vigorous shoveling
and raking of chicken compost, sleep
hard and long, and rise like new.  My
cells still renew themselves while I
sleep so fast and so deeply I don’t
know I’ve gone to sleep until my mind
climbs ashore again.  My aging dog 
and I walk steadily everyday.  My 
ancient truck still runs well.  Friends
write and celebrate my successes.  My
fellow warriors in the coal ash fight
trust me.  I feel weighed down by work,
but I see where I’ve changed the picture,
made space between the rows.  Yes,
more work to do–always!–but I’m able
to do it.  I can’t outwit the natural world
but I can work with Her, grow food
and flowers.  The Muscadine vines 
have infant grape clusters.  Blueberries
and raspberries ripen.  Some fig limbs
are dead, but many more have put forth
leaves.  Other people want me to stay
lively and flourishing.  I will.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Work With the Risen Green

Pea Vines in early spring at Hoganvillaea Farm.

THE OMENS ARRIVE IX. April 26, 2015

Work with the risen green.  It’s the only way
to sustain hope.  You, my friend, are quiet,
yet not far away.  The new moon’s sliver holds
you close, a bright planet in the spring sky.  I
know you want me to fight against this harm 
our huge electric company proposes.  To learn
of this Machiavellian plot to destroy whole
communities is to say nay.  No coal ash in
our water, air, poisoning our lives, our animals,
our gardens and farms.  How do we keep our
hope healthy and green?  Consider the pea vines,
their tentacles waving, reaching, “looking”
for any string or stem they can cling to, climb.
Consider the infant carrots.  Their first two
tiny blades have given way to feathery leaves–
nearly invisible.  They will be big, fat, and strong
in no time.  The onions and leeks that looked
half dead when they arrived in the mail, are
rising green and hardy.  The thyme and oregano
beds, once weeded, fling themselves over
new territory.  The fig leaves pop out of limbs
that looked so dead.  And I?  These people
who have gathered around trust me.  If I
tell them to work and hope, they will.  They do.
My own hope springs from a mysterious
source, deeper even than my Muse, from
that core the dragon once guarded, that inner
circling sun I released for service years
ago.  I know how to risk all.  I’ve 
penetrated fear and dread, kept despair away
for years. Why?  Because it’s how I’m
made and why I’m loved.


Hands Across Our Land.  Protest Against Fracking, Gas Pipe Lines, and Coal Ash Dumping, Moncure, NC. August 18, 2015.

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