Sunday, December 29, 2013

Self-Healing


My hens last winter, but again, they're so white with new feathers.
Photo by John Ewing.

***

A THREAD OF LIGHT II.
August 11, 2013

If you turn from so much beauty,
You turn from the world’s own shout of joy...
But beauty will win
Even over you.–Sun-Blazoned X.5, 1982

A new vision of my life from here on out,
taking into account, yes, that I will die,
but also that I am hale and well, have
sufficient life force in me to take good
care of the being I am, the writer, farmer,
friend, mother and grandmother, teacher,
and, yes, lover.  I’m not doing too badly
overall.  A little more moody, more
reluctant some days to do what needs doing
to keep my health and vigor.  At twenty-one
I promised myself to live my own life
by my lights, no one else’s, and I have,
I do, I will.  I evolved into a unique being,
a valuable person, sometimes even wise.
She deserves my care–her writings, her
lifestyle, her threads of light between
and among so many people.  There is
no room in my life for despair.  In my 
remaining years I have work to do, love 
to give, balance to provide in a world
spinning out of control.  The earth needs
me.  Its peoples need me even more.
I begin here, now.  It’s terribly simple:
be who I am, stay faithful to my own
deepest wisdom, keep my sense of
humor, do my best.  It’s enough.
It’s everything.

***


Figs in August post-hurricane, a couple of years ago.

***
A THREAD OF LIGHT III.

August 18, 2013

Sitting serene in the
center of a complex web of strands that are
her people and her world; sensitive to events
in the lives of others which touch her; sending
her strength down the strands and re-knitting
where strands break.  Her own body’s juices
weaving always anew against the breaking in
of their despair.  Knitting light.  Aligned with
Creation.  Every breaking apart merely heralds
a new chance to spin again.  If this vision be
well-rooted in real earth, if she plant her feet
in her own Globe Theatre, and work to learn
everything; if she let herself be loved and go
out easily to heal what has been torn and is
in need of mending, she will come into her own.

–Susannah, Teach Me to Love/Grace, Sing to Me, 1985, pp. 29-30.

Thirty years ago, alone then, too, I had the vision
of a lifetime: the four parts I would play in this
world.  Sister to Shakespeare and Master in my
writing–bold goals.  Then lover to a man who
balanced me; and healer, knitting light out of
despair in the souls of those who let me near,
and in my own, too.  Self-heal–the herb I love
and cherish.  When I take my daily walk, I
watch for its prune-shaped leaves, purple
blossoms.  It persists, despite difficult roadside
conditions–drought one year, too much rain
the next, being mowed down.  Yet it spreads.
A few more plants take hold each year.
In my garden, it grows huge, brings in bees,
competes with peppermint, lemon balm,
sage, weeds, and thrives.  Out of my own 
self-healing come words that restore the souls 
of other people.  How do I manage to live 
with all these people inside me?  All these 
roles?  Because it comes down to one: 
is not creating knitting light?  Is not healing 
a creative act?  Does not love create the
other by seeing him framed in light? So I, 
after all, am a light-weaver.  I stand on my 
own firm ground, my own farmland, 
taking in the work that lies ahead, picking up 
pears and grapes that fell early, stripping off 
ripe raspberries, gently squeezing the turning 
figs to assess ripeness; being mistaken for a red
flower in my rain hood by a hummingbird; 
observing four hens on a low peach limb
watching me scatter scratch, too serenely
contemplative to move.  I carry inside
food I grew from plants and trees I weeded,
pruned, fertilized, watered.  The ripe fruit
arrives when you least expect it.

Judy Hogan




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Zest During A Hospital Stay


The Christmas Cactus in the Kitchen Window.

***

After celebrating my general health in my holiday letter written at Thanksgiving, and emailed, mailed, and given it to many of my neighbors in December, I was advised on Saturday, December 21, to go to my UNC Hospital’s Emergency Room in case I was having stroke symptoms.  It was hard to believe it could be a stroke or related to one, but when I called the nurse advice line, she said go, so I dragged my good neighbor out of bed, and she took me to the ER.  I was there in the ER from 9 AM to nearly 5 PM.  They had me plugged into all these monitors, heart, oxygen in blood, blood pressure, etc.  Finally we were waiting for a bed in the neurology ward, as I had agreed to stay overnight for tests, in case my arm going numb might lead to a stroke.  

At 5 PM I was taken for my first MRI.  Before that I had to answer a bunch of questions.  Was I pregnant?  No.  Did I have any metal implants?  No.  Only gold in my teeth, which was okay.  The machine apparently is magnetic and pulls the metal toward it.  Was I claustrophobic?  I didn’t think so, but I knew the machine could set it off, so I said Yes.  The nurse said I could have a sedative.  I didn’t want that, so I changed my answer to No.  All my answers were NO.  

The MRI technicians were kind and thoughtful.  My granddaughter, who has been studying Health Science, knew more than I did about TIAs (or mini-strokes).  She suggested while I was in the tube that I count my blessings, and my daughter said she does that, too, when things are hard.  It was definitely noisy in there.  I had a bulb I could squeeze for them to stop, and I only had to squeeze it once, when the IV leaked.  I had earplugs and washcloths over my ears.  

I thought about all the good things in my life, and there are many: my children and grandchildren, my farm, my fifteen chickens, and my dog; my orchard, vegetable garden, and flowers, my friends, my health, which is basically good, my published books, my ability to create.  Then I thought: what am I going do about my next novel, in which some of my characters go back to Wales in 2013 for Christmas.  Two other books, neither yet published, have been set on the Gower Peninsula in Wales.  My Welsh characters have aged–how old are they now?  What happens there at Christmas–I usually have been there in the summer.  Snow?  Boxing Day, A Christmas feast.  Caroling?  I have to do more research.  It helped a lot to pass the time working on that novel during the hour-long MRI.

Then I was taken to my hospital room.  I thought I’d be home by lunchtime the next day, and then I’d post my blog on Sunday, as I usually do.  I didn’t sleep very well or very long.  My bed moved under me–to prevent bed sores?  They wouldn’t turn it off.  I tried pretending I was in a boat, but that didn’t work very well.  Still I did sleep, despite noises in the hall until they came to move the patient in the other bed, bed and all, to the Emergency Room.  She was very sick and wasn’t supposed to get out of bed at all, but she apparently tried to get up and fell (there was a bed alarm, so they ran in, got her back in bed, but they were having trouble keeping up with her).  So when they returned at midnight to move her bed, they had to move mine, too.  

On Sunday they set my bed alarm, too, though the night shift nurses had allowed me to walk three feet to the bathroom, but not the day nurse.  She was afraid I’d fall.  The bed alarm is loud and penetrating, and causes the nurses to come running.  I said I was drinking plenty of fluids, and needed to pee about every hour.  My words fell on deaf ears, though I persuaded some nurses to trust me three feet.  I hated to bother them when there were so many patients sicker than I was.

Everything is slower on Sunday, so after awhile it was clear I wasn’t going home Sunday.  I wrote the poem below; I talked to nurses and nurse assistants whenever possible; I had a few phone calls.  I kept my diary.  I don’t like TV and I’d read my one book, so I wrote and wrote. The wise and funny ER nurse had given me a bunch of paper.  I did have some more left arm episodes Sunday AM, and I was glad I was there.  They finally told me I had “sensory seizures.”  They wanted an EEG (checking the brain waves by putting electrodes on my head).  That technician works at night, which surprised me.  She woke me up at 9:45 PM, explained the test, and got me talking about everything, even killing chickens, while she decorated my hair with electrodes. 

Afterward she told me for my age I had a very good brain, with lots of background activity.  As it turned out the EEG showed nothing to suggest my seizures.  Everything looked normal. The earlier EKG of my heart had also been normal.  Their only scientific evidence that something was wrong was that little blood spot from the MRI. 

They wanted to do a test where they inject dye into the blood vessels of the brain, but I said no, absolutely not.  I also didn’t want to take any anti-seizure medicine.  That sounded worse than the disease.  Some of the side-effects are dizziness and losing your balance, and there are worse ones.  I kept saying, I’ve never had regular prescription drugs.  I think my brain will heal itself.  This did not fly.

My attitude became part scientific curiosity (with a limit–I had no desire to learn, as the doctors did, what exactly caused that spot of blood in the wrong place).  But my people curiosity was going strong about everyone: nurses, doctors, people bringing me food from the “restaurant,” the technicians, etc.  I told the team of doctors (UNC is a teaching hospital–no telling what the learning doctors got out of Judy’s passive resistance.  No, maybe that was active resistance.)  I said they could be my consultants, but I was going to decide what I’d accept of their advice.  I insisted on having the least possible medical intervention.

The last big doctor confab on Monday morning led to a big argument about my taking an anti-seizure medicine.  I argued no, and they argued that the DMV doesn’t allow seizure people to drive.  I had to stop driving in any case until I was free of my little numbness episodes.  The medicine with its terrible side-effects they insisted on, but I compromised on a very low dose, and my immediate doctor, the resident, promised to do everything she could to get me back to normal and she would contact my regular wonderful primary care doctor who has helped me stay healthy and free of prescription drugs for twenty-five years.  I haven’t had any episodes since I got home, 48 hours ago, as I write this on Christmas Day.  My daughter helped me get the drug, some groceries, and came with her kids Christmas Eve to celebrate Christmas. 

One friend said to look for the silver lining.  She works in a cardiac intensive care unit.  She says there’s always a silver lining.  I feel good actually and hopeful that my basically healthy, normal body will get me through this, and people are already offering help in many ways, plus the county has transportation for people like me to get to doctor visits.  I’m taking my time, but I’m getting back up to my normal lifestyle slowly, except for driving.  People will have to visit me.  

I am especially grateful to the nurses and nurse assistants on the neurology ward.  They were beyond wonderful.  I gave out bookmarks and some are even buying my new book, Farm Fresh and Fatal.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate.  Now here's the hospital poem written on Sunday, too.

***
A THREAD OF LIGHT XIV. December 22, 2013

For all the nurses at UNC Hospital’s Neurological Ward

At home the Christmas cactus blooms
in the kitchen window without me there 
to tell it how beautiful it is.  Lately, 
when I’ve stopped to look, I’ve 
reminded myself how much beauty 
there is in the world.  At home Wag 
lives day and night in the backyard,
and Emma feeds her out of pans
she finds in the cupboard, not recognizing
the pan in the bathroom as Wag’s
food dish.  Wag feels deserted,
probably trying not to eat.  She does
that while she waits for me to come
home.  At home no one checks the 
email, no one explains why Judy isn’t
answering her phone, her door, or her
email.  No one picks up her mail.
More Christmas cards?  Maybe one
more package?  The hens go in and
out, eating, laying, squabbling, but
they miss the apple cores and 
chickweed I carry them, the scratch
grains I scatter outside their chicken
door.  Here in the mammoth hospital
on the sixth floor neurological ward,
I wait for the next test, the next doctor
visit, or my need to pee so I have an
excuse to call the nurse to watch
while I walk three feet to the bathroom.
I long to walk, but they say I must 
have someone with me, and the nurses
are so busy they speed-walk from 
one patient to the next.  I took the
aspirin they brought me but refused
the blood thinner prescribed because
I’m in bed so much.  I fussed at the
doctors.  “This is a vicious circle.  
I want to walk, and they won’t let 
me, and then you want to give me
medicine because I’m not walking.”
Then the big-honcho doctors said, 
“We’ll take it off your chart.  
You can walk.”  Here the nurses
make it all work.  Caught between
the patients and the doctors who 
stand at a celestial height and keep
asking me if I fell, if I hurt my head.
I keep saying, no, no, not for over
a year, but they can’t explain a spot
of blood in the brain that is coordinated
with where I’m having numbness,
which they call now sensory seizures.
I make the nurses laugh.  We talk 
about Russia or their young daughters
who love to read and write.  They
bring me paper and hug me.  I give
them bookmarks, which delights
them, though they can already see
I’m a writer because that’s all I do.
I’m writing the story of the hospital’s
neurology ward.  So many nationalities 
of women and men care for me,
from Germany, Armenia, the Middle
East, Japan, Kenya.  I tell them I fell
on the ice several times in Finland
and Russia in ninety-five and ninety-six,
but no, my blood spot isn’t that old.
They’ve taken blood and urine, pictures
of my brain, and studied the MRI images.
They’re measuring blood pressure and
oxygen, and temperature often.  The
last blood pressure reading was one-
twenty-four over sixty-one–the best
I’ve had in years.  “But, no, you can’t
walk three feet alone in case you fall.”
One nurse assistant promises to return after 
ten more blood pressures of other patients, 
walk with me and tell me more about
her daughters who read and make up
stories, as I do--waiting, waiting to
go home to Wag, my hens, and my
beautiful pink Christmas cactus in

the kitchen window.  Judy Hogan

***



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Russia 1992: The Story Behind Beaver Soul

***
All the drawings, including the cover, are by Mikhail Bazankov for the first, Russian edition of Beaver Soul  in 1997.

***

Since I’ve had only one recent comment about Beaver Soul, I thought I’d share some stories from that same summer of 1992, when I wrote most of it.

Thanks, first, to Gary Tyson, who wrote in an email of 11-26-13:

Judy, just had the opportunity to read the poems in Beaver Soul.  The poems reach depths that can only be reached through the eyes of your own soul.  With words as powerful as the Proverbs of King Solomon you truly took the reader to a new place that was a little frightening, but once you got there, you knew you belonged.  Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

***
My first journey to Russia as part of a Sister Cities exchange between Durham and Kostroma was in early August,1990.  I was in Kostroma only six days.  I quickly realized that I needed to learn Russian, and beginning in 1991, I did study Russian with several tutors, primarily for basic conversation, but also so I could write letters to my new friends, who, for the most part, didn’t know English.  Their foreign language in school had been German.  I also learned to read Russian, with a dictionary.  By 1992, Mikhail Bazankov, who was working with me on the writer exchanges, had visited Durham and Saxapahaw, where I lived.  We had interpreters for programs, but often I was his only source of information–in Russian.  He learned to speak child’s Russian to me, and I learned, that if I could start a sentence, even if I couldn’t remember the proper endings for the nouns and verbs, that he often caught my meaning and finished the sentence.



Driving through the Smoky Mountains I took him to visit the mother of a poet I had published, Amon Liner, who had died in 1976, the same day my new press, Carolina Wren, published his book Chrome Grass.  In June 1992 we had lunch with Amon’s mother and sister, and when we left, Mikhail asked me where Amon was.  Apparently our conversation had suggested to him that Amon was still alive.  I didn’t know the word for dead, and I was driving, so I waited until we got to a rest stop and looked it up in my dictionary.  Poets do live a long time, see?

The summer of 1992, during my visit to the Kostroma Region, during regular programs, there again were interpreters, but when I went with Mikhail into the countryside around Sharya, where he had lived for many years, several hundred miles from Kostroma, we again depended on my Russian in informal gatherings.
  
I learned that summer that the Russians gave great value to “meetings,” both first meetings and any meetings after some time had passed.  I also learned that meetings usually involved a lot of food–many courses–plus a lot of vodka and wine–and many toasts.


Soon after my arrival in Sharya, Mikhail took me, with the Sharya District’s chief administrator, Vera, to meet people in a small village nearby.  We were taken to the home of a priest.  In 1991, many Americans sent clothes, food, medicine to the Russians, as it was a difficult year, and I think our federal government also sent food. The villagers wanted to thank me.  I was their American, and so they prepared a huge feast, and about twenty of us were seated around a large table.  

I was given vodka and was sipping it, when an older woman, who seemed to have the role of a church elder, one of those strong women in any church who make sure everything goes the way it should.  My minister father found them hard, he once admitted. She was emphatic, with gestures, that I wasn’t drinking my vodka correctly.  I was to drink it bottoms up.  She was angry.  Later I learned that not drinking vodka bottoms up was believed to bring bad luck.  I simply couldn’t do it, and she frowned for the rest of the visit.  Nor could I eat adequately of the huge feast.  Dishes kept arriving, and I was supposed to eat some of all of them.  I did my best.

Mikhail’s wife, Katya, had given me a “big breakfast for the road.” This lunch feast began about eleven o’clock and lasted a couple of hours.



Then Vera took us to another village and another dinner.  By now it was around two o’clock.  There were also dancers and music.  I admitted to Vera that I couldn’t possibly eat for awhile, and unlike the fierce village woman, Vera accepted this and said we could take a walk.  On the walk I learned to hug trees.  Vera showed me her special tree.  So I hugged a tree.  It’s a good way to calm down actually.  I still do it sometimes.  Eventually we did eat, and I ate as little as possible, and I was able to take only a tiny amount in my vodka glass, so I could drink it bottoms up.  

Then we went home to Mikhail’s son’s wife’s parents’ place.  They also had prepared a huge feast in my honor.  They were even more understanding, and we again walked around.  I could admire how much food they managed to grow, including fruit trees, on a very small plot of land.  I can’t say I ate much, but I was learning that when you think the dishes have stopped coming, more will come. Those were the appetizers.  Now here comes the main dish.



We then traveled to Katya’s home village, Gorka, and her brother’s home.  I enjoyed being in the village.  They wouldn’t let me do any work, but I ranged nearby and wrote some poems watching the small Mezha River pass by (See Beaver Soul 23).  I talked to an elderly woman in my simple Russian, and she understood me and also spoke simply.  She thought life would be better in America, and I told her no.  She had a good life, with the natural world around her.  The village was surrounded by forest, and the women went into it to pick raspberries (See Beaver Soul 24).  She admitted she loved the preroda–the natural world.  

Why did I tell her she had it better where she was?  Few Americans form the bonds with others that most Russians have with their families and friends.  We focus a lot here on being independent and self-sufficient.  A Russian can get very lonely here.  Some Americans open themselves to other people and to the natural world around them and give wonderful support to each other, but it’s rarer and rarer.


Then Mikhail took me, Katya, and their son Aleksei for a “meeting” with the Mezha District administrators, and they took us deep into the taiga or wild forest, in the area where Mikhail was born, to the place where his rodina (birthplace, very important in Russian culture) had once been.  The village was gone–many such villages were lost because of the loss of men during World War II (25 million) and because of the collectivization of the villages in the 20s and 30s)–but we came to the hills above the Black River.  

They asked me if I was afraid of bears, as the wild forest held many wild animals.  This was a hunting lodge.  I said, “No, you’ll protect me.”  So another feast began, this one lasting from late morning until nearly dark, and many toasts, and many bottles of wine.  I took only a little, and I did my best to make toasts.  These administrators were very flirtatious.  They all wanted to dance with me.  

1992 I was fifty-five, the age when a Russian woman becomes a pensioner.  They also wanted to get me drunk.  I don’t like to get drunk.  I tried it once in my twenties.  So I was trying not to drink, and Mikhail was no help.  His solution was to pour the drink down my sleeve, which didn’t appeal.  So they were pretty pushy, and finally I said that they could probably get Russian women to do what they wanted, but I was an American.  Of course they redoubled their efforts to get me drunk, and they succeeded by the end of the day.



Then we drove back to the main town of the district where they lived, but on the road they all stopped after we crossed a stream, and they said that under this bridge was a beaver, and I had to look and see the beaver.  I knew I could not bend over in my drunken state or I would fall into the river, so I refused. They said they’d hold me, but by this time I didn’t trust any of them, including Mikhail.  They nagged.  Finally I sat down and wouldn’t move.  So finally they gave up, or they realized that enough was enough.  So then we went into a forest clearing, and we stood around a campfire they built, and they finished the bottles left.  They didn’t press me any more after that.  Perhaps they were worried by this time. 

 Somehow the conversation turned to love, and I said, “You don’t have to get drunk to love somebody,” and I assured them that I loved them.  I have no idea what they thought of this Amerikanka who was so difficult both sober and drunk.  It’s a story I love to tell though, whatever that means.




Now, gentle readers, how about some more comments from those of you who have read Beaver Soul?  It does my soul good to hear what readers think.  Please?  Judy Hogan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Update on Fracking Dangers


New Billboard displayed on US Highway #1, heading north just inside Lee County, past the Cameron exit.  This is what fracking looks like.  The green pool is the hazardous waste water.  

MORE INFO ON DANGERS OF FRACKING [Updated Dec 5, 2013]

Hi, all, I attended the Democratic Women’s Meeting March 17, 2013, at the Chatham Library and learned many disturbing facts.

1. I had wondered exactly where the fracking companies would get their water.  They need three to five million gallons of our drinking water for each well they put down.  They can’t get it from our water department, from Jordan Lake or from Lee County (Sanford), where Southeast Chatham still gets ours.  Instead they buy riparian rights from those who live along streams and rivers, and put their pipes in there, so they get our water before we have a chance to.  There are insufficient regulations about people taking water out of streams.  They may not bother to ask.

2.  One of their big problems, and hence ours, is how they handle the waste water poisoned by chemicals which are cancer-causing and birth defect-causing–millions of gallons of that waste water, too, which often brings with it to the surface heavy minerals and radioactive materials.  Sometimes they drill new holes and put it back into the earth.  They apparently can’t do that here in Lee and Chatham, so there is talk in the legislature of hauling it to the coast and doing it there.  Fortunately, this caused a rift in the NC House, where the newest fracking bill was still being debated, as the coastal reps don’t want it there. This issue is still not decided, but the Coast Guard is considering letting fracking fluid be shipped down major rivers and then what?  Dumped in the sea?  And if it spills?  Millions lose their drinking water.

Deep drilling in other states has set off earthquakes, too, if the original drilling does not.  From the Pennsylvania experience (The Marcellus Shale, a very large deposit of methane gas, whereas we have only a small deposit), the companies often simply pour waste water into streams, or bulldoze dirt over the waste pools they’ve created and leave it.  Under the earth it can easily get into our water table.  In fact, right here in our Triassic Basin the gas is not very far below the surface, and only 1000 feet are between the gas and the water table, and in one place, they’re together.  Our gas deposits also go under Jordan Lake.

3.  Yes, fracking near Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant is dangerous.  The plant was built on the assumption that the rock under it would not be moved or disturbed.  The area where they want to drill is right on the earthquake fault, and about five miles from Shearon Harris.  I know from past work for safer nuclear storage, that the biggest danger at Shearon Harris is loss of water to cool both reactor and storage pools, causing a nuclear waste storage pool fire, which could ruin all of central NC and affect two million people.  Imagine the nightmare of trying to evacuate all those people and their cars from the Triangle area.

4.  The fracking companies don’t use Eminent Domain to go under or over people’s property who haven’t signed away mineral rights.  They use state police.  They call it Compulsory Pooling.  If they have 90% of the leases they need in an area, per the rules they’ve developed so far, they can force the other landowners to sell them mineral rights.  

The best option, should it come to fracking becoming legal in the NC Legislature, i.e. the present moratorium lifted in 2015, is for towns, counties, and municipalities to outlaw it or do their own moratorium.  The companies can bypass this, but they will have to sue the towns, etc., and that will get it into court, the only way apparently to get it into court, and that works.  Here’s a link to a NY town that is fighting fracking.  One suing company turned it over to another company, which then went bankrupt.  We can hope.  Meantime, we need to gather citizen support against any fracking in N.C.
http://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/the-story-of-dryden-the-town-that-fought-fracking-and-is-winning?utm_source=Convio

Also The Board of Commissioners in Anson County, south of Chatham, Lee, and Moore, since I first wrote this last spring, unanimously voted a moratorium on fracking for five years, and legal experts believe it can be defended well in court.

5.  We learned in the N&O that the gas pipeline which goes through NC from Mexico to New England, is going to be reversed in direction in 2015, the time when the drilling here could start.  Then the Marcellus natural gas will come south.  Some may see this as a solution.  Unfortunately, the NC Legislature, told about this some weeks ago by Senator Ellie Kinnaird during the Senate debate, ignored it.  The N&O had an article about it, saying “NC would be awash in gas.”  I learned more from John Wagner, who works with a Chatham study group on this fracking issue and its science.  Here’s what John said:  

"You are right, it doesn't sound good. We don't want to provide a market for Marcellus-fracked gas, and get hooked into all the natural gas infrastructure for natural gas power plants, buses, and cars. It seems like a cheap energy source now, but it is guaranteed to go up in price and then the state would be tied for decades to a very bad greenhouse gas producing fossil fuel based energy instead of renewable energy.

“Another immediate problem with getting Marcellus methane is that it is very high in radon. Especially for indoor flames-such as cooking stoves-this pumps radon directly into your kitchen and home. This is a real issue, and although the science is there to document the presence of the radon, and the statistics have been produced to show the increase in cancer rates expected from the radon, it is almost totally ignored in the media. The radon is less of an issue with some of the other fracked natural gas sources, but due to the geology of the Marcellus, it is a very serious issue there.”

6.  I learned from another organization that potentially NC has enough wind power to provide energy for all the Atlantic Coast states, a sustainable source, doesn’t hurt us or our farms or our water.  It would employ people in larger numbers.  The fracking proponents say they will bring jobs–but the best estimate is less than 300, probably not the high-paying ones, and many would come already employed from elsewhere.  Also NC ranks fourth in solar energy.  Senator Kinnaird points out that China has solar panels on millions of roofs.  Getting our energy from panels on roofs would also employ plenty of people locally, and we’ve made a good start with solar here in NC.

7.  Right now (early Dec 2013) the Mining and Energy Commission is still debating about whether to release information about the chemicals in the fracking fluid.  Some want to; some say it should all remain a trade secret.  If people get sick from air, water, or earth pollution, doctors need to know what chemicals they've been exposed to.  The drilling companies have been reluctant to release this information before people get sick and even after they do.  They also have paid people in Pennsylvania not to talk about their health problems.  See Gasland II for examples of this!

Contact Elaine Chiosso of Haw River Assembly for more info on everything here:  info@hawriver.org  She presented many of these facts, along with a film made by Chatham folks in Pennsylvania. The facts are scary, but Elaine is firm that we can do this, keep the fracking companies out of NC. 

8.  Between March and December, I also learned of many accidents with drilling sites, transportation.  One fire from a broken pipeline for liquid gas (LNG) has been burning in Alabama for weeks.  Regular frack updates are available from FrackFreeNC.org, and the billboard at the top of the blog was put up not long ago on Highway #1, just inside Lee County after the Cameron exit.  Many people and organizations are working to keep it out of our state.

In Pennsylvania, where so much fracking occurred, and many people lost their water, their farming income, saw their children and livestock getting sick, they used to have high income from tourism, dairy products, and many other related things, $392 billion; fracking income has been $22 billion, but tourism, dairy, and many other things were ruined in the process. 

Fracking is protected from EPA Clean water and clean air standards, and both water and air are being polluted by fracking. The Texas company that was going to send thumper trucks to do seismic testing in Lee, Chatham, and Moore, has delayed that, and they’re studying our geology, which is terrible for fracking between the earthquake Jonesboro fault, and the many underground fissures left by coal-mining.  So far only Lee County has mineral rights leases, but they have many in Lee, and Lee is a small county.  

10.  Personally, this hits home for me.  If fracking comes to my neighbor Lee, I’ll have to leave my little farm, which is half a mile from Lee County and the Deep River between us.  I wanted to live here the rest of my life, but I won’t stay to be made sick and/or die because the air, water, and land are polluted.  I’ll fight as long as possible first.  Sadly, I’m not the only one whose life will be ruined.

Our water is at risk for all of us, and our agriculture, our tourism which brings people to NC for its beauty, its mountains, Piedmont, beaches.  

Do we really want to invite in an industrial landscape, with constant traffic of heavy equipment, trucks bearing chemicals and gas, fires where they burn off gas, methane leaks, gas into the ground water, chemical spills?  And it adds to greenhouse gases.  It speeds up climate change.  Methane is worse than carbon dioxide for that.  As one of the Pennsylvania dairy farmers said at the frack free forum in June, “Think of your treasures.”  For me it’s my friends, family, neighbors, this little community of Moncure where I feel at home, and my garden, orchard, chickens, my quiet healthy life farming and writing.  So I fight!  If you haven’t seen Gasland II, by Josh Fox, do.  The newest twist is that Homeland Security is being involved by the fracking industry to spy on fracktivists like me, activists who are fighting fracking.  Is this the life we want in our country in the 21st century?

Judy Hogan

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Interview: Jill Amadio, author of mystery Digging Too Deep



Interview with debut mystery author Jill Amadio.  Digging Too Deep comes out today!

Paperback $15.95, ISBN: 978-0-9887816-9-6
E-book, $2.99, ISBN: 978-0-9895804-2-7

Available at www.mainlymurderpress.com at discount;
at Amazon, at discount.  Also  at MysteryInk bookstore.

Ebook from amazon, barnes&noble; untreed reads, apple i-books; approved for libraries worldwide.
***

1. When did you begin writing?  Why?

I began writing at age 6, won all the English prizes at school, studied English literature and art history in college, never graduated because I found a job on a newspaper and jumped ship from the University of Portsmouth, UK. The job was not exactly my dream as a reporter but I was thrilled at 19 to be the general dogsbody in the press room. I was delegated Assistant to the Show Business columnist who took me to many of his interviews with movie stars, i.e. Martin & Lewis, Audrey Hepburn, Tarzan – forget which one. I also opened all the letters for the Agony Columnist (Ann Landers in Brit language), and sent them on to her. I made phone calls to the reporters’ wives to tell them their husbands were working late. I once forgot till midnight, and innocently called. Oh well. Why do I write? Only thing I knew how to do as a child, I had no other skills and devoured all the Agatha Christies. Mysteries became my favorite reading.


2.  When and why did you begin writing mysteries? 

I began writing my first mystery six years ago while handling a fulltime job as a magazine columnist. Prior to that I had been hired to ghostwrite a true crime book, and the following year, a crime novel for a wealthy lady who’d always wanted her name on a book for her coffee table. Those two books were good training when it came to writing my own mystery. I was living on a small island in Newport Beach, CA, no serious crime ever touched it, and I decided it needed a juicy murder or two. The setting turned out to be perfect.

3.  Are you writing a series or a stand-alone?  Explain your basic idea for your series. 

Am writing a series because my series character, a transplanted Cornish woman named Tosca Trevant, drives the plot and, insatiably curious, she manages to find dead bodies strewn everywhere so she just has to keep going through her books. She writes a gossip column called “Tiara Tittle-Tattle,” about the royals. After discovering a scandal at Buckingham Palace she is rather rudely hustled out of the UK. Appalled at a neighbor’s unkempt garden she digs up more than she bargained for: skeletal remains. It gives her the idea to be promoted to a crime reporter, thus earning her way back home.

4.  Tell us about your journey to publication with this book. 

I tried to find an agent for DIGGING TOO DEEP and had a few in-person interviews at writers conferences but nothing jelled. They mostly said there were too many mysteries out there, the market was saturated, and that there were too many eBooks. I found a small press, Mainly Murder Press, and fell in love with the name. Figured I’d give it one last shot before going the self-pub route. Their website when I checked it in January said no submissions until late spring. I queried anyway, saying that here in California it is already late spring. MMP responded quickly and asked for the full MS. A week later we signed a contract. 

5.  Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose? 

I chose to write about Orange County, Southern California because after moving West from the East Coast I found it a bit of a culture shock and so does my amateur sleuth, a transplanted Brit.  She waits anxiously but in vain each day for rain, her brolly and wellies at the ready. My theme is a personal one, that of an immigrant – I am from the UK – trying to make sense of America, trying to fit in, and figuring out the American psyche. I have given Tosca my own passion for this country – after she settles down – and she becomes one of its fiercest advocates. Among her future battles will be scolding disgruntled Brits in the U.S.

6.  How have you found it to be published?  Share that experience. 

Signing a contract with a ‘real’ publisher was exhilarating mostly because the publisher, Judith Ivie, and her editors ‘got’ Tosca. They understand her witty remarks, her curiosity, and her desperation to find a way to be reinstated back home. After the excitement of signing the contract there comes panic at the amount of promotion that needs to be done. With the advent of social media and the Internet, blogging, appearances, presentations, and other ways to create buzz it is so time-consuming to have to handle it all, to say nothing of the occasional freak-out when you mix up emails. Then there is a budget to be found for promotional items like large posters to be printed, an easel to buy, and bookmarks. But then you take a loving look at the book in your hands and realize, it finally came to fruition.

7.  Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share? 

Obviously, the 72 agents I queried didn’t want it, some with comments, others not, nor the other 5 small presses. All my mystery author friends and colleagues enjoyed it, and being a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America provides a deep well of those willing to offer a blurb or comment.  Dennis Palumbo wrote:  “… a sly, witty cozy with a delightful heroine. The perfect beach read no matter the weather.”  Marcia Talley wrote: “…Tosca Trevant is a smart-mouthed Miss Marple in a leather mini-skirt. All signs point to success in her new career.” Sheila Lowe wrote, “A fun, frothy read with an unlikely heroine and the bonus of learning a bit of Cornish, too!” Aileen Baron wrote: “Meet Tosca Trevant, the irrepressible Cornish erstwhile gossip columnist of the royals and an aspiring crime reporter three steps ahead of the police... Let’s hope we hear more…”   I am very grateful to all.
Others offered blurbs but we ran out of time. Publication followed very quickly after final proofing.  I am sending out review copies over the next couple of months. Most reviewers did not take digital ARCs.

8.  What other books have you published and where, when? 

I co-authored a biography of Rudy Vallee with his wife, published in 1996, MY VAGABOND LOVER, out of print; a biography of a WWII fighter ace, GUNTHER RALL: LUFTWAFFE ACE AND NATO GENERAL, published in 2002 and now a successful eBook on amazon; I ghostwrote several biographies, a true crime, business books, and a crime novel, mostly published under clients’ names.

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

Tosca Trevant is now well entrenched in her new American home although still somewhat puzzled at some American habits. Her next adventure involves the reburial of the ashes of Raymond Chandler’s wife, Cissy, that were added to his grave. I have written about one-quarter of the book so far, title is DIGGING UP SHAMUS. 

10.  If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful?  How?

Unbelievably helpful and supportive. The generous sharing of writers’ tips, tears, and joys is amazing and endless. SinC is great for personal networking at the meetings as well as at their other events. I have been a panelist and reader at the meetings.

11.  What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic? 

I’ve only attended Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and California Crime Writers Conference. I’ve been a panelist a few times talking about ghosting and writing your first mystery. I am attending LCC, Bouchercon, and Tucson Festival of Books in 2014, and hope to attend Malice in 2014 if the budget allows.

12.  What else would like to say about your books, the next one in your series? 

I am probably more passionate about Tosca than she is herself. I do a ton of research – DIGGING TOO DEEP has classical music clues, opera, geology, Cornish cusswords, mead, and fun details about the royals, the UK, and other tidbits for Tosca’s “Tiara Tittle-Tattle” column.   Who knows -- perhaps she’ll find a Russian prince incognito in California.

***



Jill Amadio was a reporter in England, Spain, and Thailand and a crime reporter in the U.S.  Originally from St. Ives, Cornwall, the land of mead and piskies, she has lived on both the East and West Coasts of the United States. She is the author and co-author of several biographies, and a ghostwriter of nonfiction and true crime. Her best-selling biography, Gunther Rall: Luftwaffe Ace and NATO General, is now on kindle and Nook. Jill presently lives in Dana Point, California.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review and Interview: Gloria Alden's Daylilies for Emily's Garden


Review: Daylilies for Emily’s Garden: A Catherine Jewell Mystery.  Gloria Alden.  Paper, $14.95.  ISBN: 968-1484805701.  Also available as e-book from Amazon for $3.99.  302 pp. Willow Knoll Press.  Note: search under “Alden, Gloria.”

In Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, Gloria Alden’s second novel in her traditional mystery series, Catherine Jewell wins a new job renovating the elaborate gardens at the home of romance author and Emily Dickinson scholar Emily Llewellyn.  Catherine is thrilled to have this job and fits it into her daily schedule.  She also works part time at the local show place Elmwood Gardens and has her own garden business, Roses in Thyme.  Because Ms. Llewellyn is a recluse, Catherine rarely sees her, but her long-time secretary, Charles McKee, handles everything.  Catherine hires Mary Derryberry to help in her shop while she’s working on the Llewellyn place.  The Derryberries stand to lose their farm both because they owe money on it and also because a new section of a bypass is to come through it, where there is a valuable wetlands.

The Mayor of Portage Falls decides the proposed bypass would be destructive of the little town’s well-being and calls a meeting of townspeople to gain public support against it.  An environmental activist, Bruce Two-Hill, joins in this effort to protect the wetlands and certain rare and protected species that thrive there.

Meantime another stranger who’d been snooping around town ends up dead in a shed on the Derryberry property.  The police chief, John MacDougal, has no suspect for this murder and then a second one, when a woman construction boss is killed, except for a young man named Eric Hostetler, who has Down’s Syndrome and likes to wander around the farms and homes.  

Eric’s mother is a professional musician and avid gardener, who loves to try unusual flowers and plants and grows them in every conceivable container: coffee cans, plastic milk jugs, an old teakettle, and even an old porcelain bed pan.  Betsy Hostetler dearly loves her son but isn’t able to keep him from wandering, and since he loves construction equipment, he finds those big machines used for making the bypass and climbs onto them, pretending to drive them.

In Alden’s novels I especially love her characters and the flower and garden descriptions.  John MacDougal is a kind policeman.  His mother, with her B&B and small used bookshop, is so welcoming to strangers that John worries she’ll be taken advantage of.  She is drawn to Bruce Twohill and his stories of hiking and backpacking in wilderness areas.

Both Eric and Betsy are lovable characters.  Betsy is one of those rare individuals who is completely herself, attuned to her music, her mentally challenged son, and open to new people.
Alden’s books, besides a twisty puzzler of a plot, have that deeply satisfying human tone in which most of the characters have those human traits we all instinctively respect: compassion, honesty, a willingness to suspend judgement, and humility in the best sense of the word–knowing one’s true worth but with no need to brag and able to appreciate fine qualities in others.  I’m reminded of what Louise Penny said she wanted people to take away from her novels: the belief that “goodness exists.”  

In Alden’s novels, there are crimes, criminals, and evil people, but here, too, in Portage Falls, goodness exists and triumphs.

***


Gloria and her collie, Maggie, in Gloria's library.

***
Interview with Gloria Alden: 

When did you begin writing? Why?

As a teenager I kept a journal in a three-ring binder that became incredibly thick. I also occasionally wrote poetry and one short story.  The journal writing stopped until 1990, but I still wrote a few poems and lots and lots of letters to family.

When and why did you begin writing mysteries?

I’ve always loved mysteries and thought of writing one someday, but teaching full time didn’t give me a lot of extra time. Then in the late 1990s one of my sisters thought we should write a mystery together and publish enough books for the three of us to be able to retire on. Naive, weren’t we? So we got together with another sister and brainstormed plot and characters. I started writing it and passed it on to my sister, and so it went back and forth for a short while, but we didn’t live close and our voices were so different that I thought it jarring. I changed the protagonist to an older woman than my sister wanted and took off on my own. There’s only a few bits of description that she wrote that remain in The Blue Rose. Most of the characters are my invention, too. 

Are you writing a series or a stand-alone? Explain your basic idea for your series.

It’s definitely a series although I try to make each book one that a new reader can still enjoy. The theme is gardening, but mostly it’s about small town life with interesting and sometimes funny characters. I like to write a series because I like many of my characters and want to bring them back – at least the ones who weren’t a victim or murderer. I also like creating a town where a reader can feel at home with familiar characters they may recognize in people they know, or if they’ve read my other books can welcome back a familiar character they were introduced in a previous book. Because I include other themes, too, I don’t think one has to be a gardener to still enjoy my series.

Tell us about your publication with this book.

I went the route with queries to agents and publishers once I had it finished. I also went to conferences and writing retreats and edited the book a gazillion times. But I wasn’t willing to make the changes some thought I should make, and I didn’t want to cut it so much that it would fit some of the word limits of small publishers so after learning a lot more about the self-publishing route through blogs and those who had taken that route, I published it on both Smashwords and CreateSpace. I know that limits me in some ways, but I’m still very happy with my choice. 

Why did you choose to write about the topic, community and issues you choose?

That’s easy. I followed the old bromide ‘Write what you know.’ I love gardening and come from a family of gardeners. My books take place in NE Ohio where I’ve lived all my life. In my second book, Daylilies for Emily’s Garden I chose an environmental theme because that is something I feel strongly about. In The Blue Rose, the first book, it’s about how important it is to some people to maintain their fa├žade they have created for themselves. The third book soon to be out Ladies of the Garden Club probably deals with love and how it can be misguided. Actually, I think it’s more a whodunit than anything else. 

How have you found it to be published? Share that experience.

It’s been a wonderful experience. It not only validates the years I’ve spent writing, but is such a good experience to get positive feedback from those who have read my books. With each and every one it’s like “Oh, wow! Really you like it? How nice.” I also like the fact that I can write what I want to write and not worry about selling X amount of books or having  to worry about a  publisher canceling more books because I didn’t sell enough.

Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?

One of my favorite out of many was the one you wrote, Judy.  “A compassionate sleuth named Catherine Jewell, a small town police chief who isn’t used to murder on his patch, a cast of lovably eccentric characters, a rich man no one likes and someone murders give Alden’s The Blue Rose a feeling reminiscent of Golden Age cozies. Garden lovers especially will enjoy the details of the plants, flowers and the garden design at the elegant Elmwood Gardens. As readers, we are drawn gently into solving the puzzle until we meet face to face the unforgettable darkness of one human mind obsessed with revenge.”

For Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, K. Williams writes “This second in the Catherine Jewell mystery series is equally as good as the first. The characters seemed so real to me, they could be my neighbors. Plus, the twists and turns kept me guessing “whodunit” until the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful descriptions of plants and flowers and was inspired to grab a trowel and work in my own garden!” 

What other books have you published and where and when?

I self-published a middle-grade book, The Sherlock Holmes Detective Club, last spring. It is based on a writing activity I used for my class for almost a whole year in which my students followed the adventures of an elderly woman – Alice Van Brocken – as she pursues two jewel thieves around the country getting into numerous dangerous situations. She receives letters from them in all the places like Boston, NYC, and so on until she’s able to bring the thieves to justice in Seattle. The letters my students wrote to her are delightful.



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

Ladies of the Garden Club, the third in my Catherine Jewell Mystery series, is done and I’m only waiting for the cover to be finished. Then I’ll be starting on the 4th, which is plotted in my mind and has been for some time. I still need to write bios for new characters and come up with a good title. And, as always, I’ll be working on short stories along the way. I have five short stories published traditionally, and someday I may put them all in a self-published anthology.

If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful? How?

I belong to both, and they have been immensely helpful on my journey. I have learned so much that was important that I had no clue on before I joined them in 2007. I’ve taken classes through them, my great critique partners came through them, and I’ve made numerous friends through them that are so supportive. Only writers truly understand other writers.

What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?

The benefits are too many to list. I’ve learned so much at these conferences including how to poison someone through Luci Zahray, The Poison Lady. I’ve met awesome mystery writers who’ve inspired me and some who have even become friends. I’ve learned that there are no more supportive writers out there than mystery writers.  At least that’s my opinion.

What else would you like to say about the next book in your series?

Here’s the blurb for the back cover of Ladies of the Garden Club. Small town Portage Falls is the idyllic place for an event on the Town Green, but when an elderly member of the garden club shows up dead in Catherine Jewell’s greenhouse, she falls under suspicion since she’s an authority on poisonous plants. This suspicion spreads when another garden club member is poisoned. Sheriff John MacDougal’s deputy, Joe Salcone, thinks she could be the poisoner, and some in the town agree with him. Meanwhile, Catherine goes over the list of those who attended her poison plant seminar to find a possible murderer, but thinks everyone is too nice to be one.

When another member of the garden club turns up missing, Catherine and others think someone has it in for the garden club. Familiar characters return from The Blue Rose and Daylilies for Emily’s Garden as well as new and interesting characters.

***


Gloria's first mystery novel (2012)

***

Bio:

Gloria Alden taught third grade for twenty years.  She loved teaching, but wanted to have more time for writing, and much of her retirement years has been spent that way. Her published short stories include “Cheating on Your Wife Can Get You Killed,” winner of the 2011 Love is Murder contest and published in Crimespree Magazine; “Mincemeat is for Murder” appearing in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable,  “The Professor’s Books” in the FISH TALES Anthology; and “The Lure of the Rainbow”  in FISH NETS, the newest Guppy Anthology. 

“Once Upon a Gnome”appears in STRANGELY FUNNY and “Norman’s Skeleton’s” in ALL HALLOWS EVIL. Her Catherine Jewell mystery novels are The Blue Rose, Daylilies for Emily’s Garden, and Ladies of the Garden Club, which will be out soon. She also has a middle-grade book, THE SHERLOCK HOLMES DETECTIVE CLUB, based on a writing activity her students did at Hiram Elementary School. In addition to writing, she’s passionate about books, and they are rapidly taking over her home. She lives on a small farm in Southington, Ohio, with two ponies, some cats, seven hens, and her collie, Maggie. She blogs on Thursdays with Writers Who Kill. 

Website: www.gloriaalden.com  
 http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com  



Sunday, November 17, 2013

Goldsboro Reading and Reader Comments


Judy and Katherine after Goldsboro reading Nov. 12, 2013

What a lovely time I had in Goldsboro last Tuesday, November 12.

Katherine Wolfe, who was my student in the late nineties, driving up from Goldsboro for our weekly sessions, is such a great host. She had rounded up my best audience so far, about fourteen folks, and they even applauded after the first and last Beaver Soul poems.

They bought books, too.  Katherine had prepared elegant refreshments, lots of fruits and vegetables, plus pumpkin muffins and apple cakes and apple juice.  Mary Susan Heath took the blog photos today of that occasion.  I met new writers and fans I met last year, some of whom bought Beaver Soul during the pre-sale period, when I was trying to get at least 55.  I made it!  Thanks to all the good Goldsboro folks, and especially Katherine.

***



Judy signing books for Marian and Liz at Goldsboro Reading

I’ve had now eight events to promote Farm Fresh and Fatal and Beaver Soul, and three remain: I’ll be Tuesday, November 19, 7 PM at Regulator Bookshop at 720 W. Ninth St, Durham (919-386-2700).  December 3, Tues, 7 PM I’ll be at South Regional Library, 4505 S. Alston Ave, Durham (919-560-7409), and December 8, Sunday, at 2 PM, I’ll be at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village, off 15-501, between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro (919-542-3030).  

BEAVER SOUL AND FARM FRESH AND FATAL
READER COMMENTS–FALL 2013

From Katherine Wolfe, Goldsboro writer (email Oct 28): 
I did finish reading Farm Fresh and Fatal. Wow! Your characters will stay with me forever. I have read so much about "character development" and the importance of "fully developed characters." Your book will be a model for me in how to accomplish this. I really felt I knew your characters, and I cared about them. I felt very emotional at the end--a surprise ending. 
I look forward to the next novel. You are a master at blending character, plot, and all the ingredients of a good mystery.

***

From Marie Hammond, Durham writer and author of the forthcoming The Rabbi of Worms (letters of Nov 2 and 13): 

I’m enjoying [Farm Fresh and Fatal], especially the good, practical advice about how to deal with your adult children.  Their problems are not ours to solve, no matter how hard it is for us to stand on the sidelines and watch.

The plot is nicely framed and interesting.  The characters are well-developed, with sufficient flaws that we might suspect any of them of the crime, except a few obvious “good guys.”  In fact, the ending surprised me–I had thought all along that ______ was the culprit... What I liked most about the ending was that Penny was wrong, even though she thinks her intuition is infallible.  I would have liked Penny to admit this to Kenneth, but maybe you will include such a scene in a future book.  Their relationship was left a little unclear at the end, and I’d like to read more about it.  But all in all, the ending was satisfying.... Good job!

KILLER FROST (2012)

–New comment from Jill Amadio, another Mainly Murder Press author, of Digging Too Deep.  She posted this on Amazon recently.

Judy Hogan's depth of compassion and understanding of her theme is incredibly enriching to the reader. Following her character, Penny Weaver, through her trials and travails, as well as her successes, is a wonderful journey, as is Penny's dilemma about love. As a foreigner, I learned a lot about academia in the South, relationships between the ethnic peoples and their philosophies. Hogan's admirable heroine is aptly named - she does indeed weave her detecting skills around characters and crimes.

***
I’d love to post more reader comments.  Send yours!  Judy Hogan

***



Judy with Emily, Rosalyn, and Billye at the Goldsboro Reading



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chasing Fleet-Footed Time


Sharon and John Ewing's backyard--
Northern Virginia fall 2013

***

Chasing Fleet-Footed Time

Many people are afraid of time, i.e., when something happens that frees an hour or even a whole day, they don’t know what to do with themselves.  It can give me pause.  Then I usually ask myself: What do I want to do?  I give myself permission to choose anything, and I almost always choose to write in my diary, so I do.  You’d think I’d run out of things to write about, but I never do.  It’s, for me, those sudden extra hours, not the time to do the chores that have been waiting awhile.  It’s a gift, so I enjoy it.  Extra time, when it comes unexpectedly, is mine to revel in.

The chores that have waited this long can wait another day.  When I can, I set aside a month or two to write a new novel, as I’m doing right now.  This is the thirteenth Penny Weaver novel and takes up the new terrible voter ID bill that we have now in North Carolina. 

Then I do as little as possible extra, avoid interruptions to my afternoon and evening writing times.  If I do have to go out, I try to write at least an hour or two on my current novel before or after I go.  That way I stay as much as possible every day in the novel’s world and fit the other parts of my life into the spaces.  

The mind learns to be in that place where words flow if you take care to provide the time the mind needs, and if you persist–be there–and do your best until the words begin to meld themselves together and move along at a sprightly pace so that you have to write fast to keep up.  It works for me.  Don’t let time defeat you. Use it, enjoy it.  It will, all to soon, be gone.

Another thing that helps me not waste or lose time is a daily schedule.  Pat Dawson of Paperbacks Plus and I were emailing about our lists and schedule a few weeks ago.  I did the following Saturday schedule for Pat.  Enjoy!  Laugh at me if you want to. Judy

One Saturday–Sept 28, 2013 For Pat

6:40 AM Woke, saw daylight barely through curtains, got up
Fed hens, dark in henhouse, but several jumped down to eat.
7-8:50 AM Diary and breakfast (toast, lemon-peppermint tea, milk, figs)
8:50.  Checked email, dressed, got 2 each of Farm Fresh and Beaver Soul ready to mail Pat Dawson, at Paperbacks Plus, exchanged several funny emails with Pat, re our “jet-setting, following lists and schedules
9:20.  Fed hens a little scratch and fresh water in orchard; they came running when they saw me, squealing.  Picked figs, some for me, some for Chatham Marketplace; not many; cardinals have been at them as they ripen.
9:45 left with Wag (dog) for PO; chatted briefly with Susan, our postmaster, mailed Pat’s books
10 AM Bought milk at Mini Mart, 2 gals.  A man with bad teeth, driving a beat up pickup truck with a differently colored door, said hello, and as I was putting first gallon in car, handed me the other one where I’d put it on the hood, startling both Wag and me.
10:10.  Walked at a good clip; mile and a half in 30 min, Wag in backyard.
10:50.  Email and this list–a normal Sat, but details.
11-11:35.  Cut dead wood off raspberry canes, which are putting out new leaves; picked okra, one pepper, and 3 zinnias for me. Fed/checked hens (veg scraps and scratch)
11:35-45.  More email–the DSL quit earlier.
11:45-1:10 PM, made lunch (grilled cheese sandwich, salad, milk, lemon tea), ate and read E. George book, Playing for the Ashes.
1:10-2:50 PM.  Carried compost from coop floor to spread on raspberry canes, to encourage new leaves and a few berries; chickens helped spread it.
2:50 PM Worked on revising/shortening Political Peaches, fifth Penny Weaver novel. 82,669–81,633 aim: 70,000 words
(When I got sleepy around 2:30, I got up, folded yesterday’s clean laundry–it helps to move around when I get sleepy mid-afternoon, as I often do)
3:30 PM break for yoghurt-fruit drink and reading novel.
4 PM.  Got weed-eater and cord outside (fortunately didn’t have to re-string it), weed-ate as needed in backyard and vegetable garden where no plants now, only weeds.  Checked for eggs.  One hen still sitting.  Scolded Wag, who’d been digging vole holes again, and gave her none of her usual treats.  She looked crest-fallen.
5:10 PM took care of old emails.
5:20 PM read until time to fix supper and wash dishes
5:40–wash dishes, prepare supper (beef and rice from trade with Angelina, steamed okra dipped in butter; toast and jam, lemon tea).
6:10–eat and read; then read
6:50–check email (none)
6:55. Started yoghurt, shut up hens, and then: Wrote in my diary–turned off ringer, my night off.  
9 PM, checked email, wrote to Gloria, who is almost a daily correspondent–another mystery writer, poet, and farmer, my age.
9:25 PM Put away eggs in refrigerator, heated tea, read until 10 PM, put yoghurt to bed
10:10 PM then bath, exercises, more reading.
11:15PM Lights out, bed. (Slept until 6:30 next morning)

Note: Weekdays, instead of turning to my diary Saturday night, I do two more hours of work (teaching/editing or writing new novel). But quit at 9 PM.  The rest is the same.  Sunday AM I write in my diary, then a poem or a little novel-writing; then about 11 AM do my blog and check email.  Then back to the afternoon schedule.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review of Carolyn Hart's Death by Surprise


Review of Death by Surprise.  Carolyn Hart.  Seventh Street Books, Amherst, NY.  November 5, 2013.  200 pages.  Paperback ISBN: 978-1-61614-869-0, $13.95; e-book ISBN: 978-1-61614-1-870-6, $9.99.

When Death by Surprise was first published in 1983, women private investigator novels were a rare breed.  Sue Grafton published her first Kinsey Milhone novel in 1982, and Sara Paretsky began her V.I. Warshawski series also in 1982.  In her introduction to this re-issue Hart says “Death by Surprise is as near that private eye genre as I have ever come.  K.C. Carlisle, the protagonist, is a young woman lawyer who has good reason never to quite trust anyone.”  At the same time young women were becoming lawyers to reckon with.

Death by Surprise moves fast, like the private eye books Carolyn read as a teenager: Erle Stanley Gardner, John Creasey, Donald Hamilton, and Jack Iams.

K.C. comes from a wealthy family.  The only one of the Carlisle clan she’s close to is her mother’s long-time servant, Amanda. Francine Boutelle comes to town and begins hunting scandal among members of K.C.’s family.  She has her claws into K.C. as well. 
They all have something to hide, but Boutelle will publish the dirt she has dug up unless each member brings her $50,000.  

On the evening they are showing up by appointment at Boutelle’s apartment with the money, their blackmailer is strangled with a scarf belonging to Kenneth Carlisle, K.C.’s lawyer cousin and candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.  K.C. is dating his opponent, Greg Garrison.

K.C. arrives herself at Boutelle’s apartment to find her dead body. She had planted a small recorder in the room, hoping to catch Boutelle in the process of blackmailing her.  As K.C. is retrieving the recorder, the local newspaper’s editor, Harry Nichols, turns up, too, also by appointment.  Harry and his whole family have hated the Carlisles for several generations.  He calls the police, Harry and K.C. are interviewed, and the police find the recorder.  Cousin Kenneth is arrested.  K.C. doesn’t like Kenneth much or agree with his politics, but she doesn’t think he’s the killer, so she sets out to find out who that is.

I congratulate Seventh Street for bringing out these early Carolyn Hart books.  At the Malice Domestic Convention 25 (May 2013), in her interview related to winning the Amelia Award, Hart said her early books seemed to disappear into a black hole until, at an early Malice, in 1988, she won a best novel Agatha award for her second Death on Demand novel, Design for Murder.

If you’ve never read these early books, you’re in for a treat.  Check out my blog reviews on Escape from Paris, originally published in 1982 [pmz blog June 8, 2013]; Skulduggery, originally published in 1984 [pmz blog July 28, 2013]; Brave Hearts, 1987 [pmz blog Aug. 11, 2013].  I also reviewed her 2003 novel Letter from Home [pmz blog May 25, 2013].

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Carolyn Hart–bio from website.

Carolyn Hart is the author of 50 novels. Her 50th new novel - DEAD, WHITE AND BLUE, 23rd in the Death on Demand series – was published in May 2013. 

Recent titles include DEATH COMES SILENTLY, 22nd in the Death on Demand series. In October 2013 she published GHOST GONE WILD, 4th in a series featuring the late Bailey Ruth Raeburn, an impetuous red-headed ghost who returns to earth to help someone in trouble. 

LETTER FROM HOME, a stand alone novel set in Oklahoma, was published by Berkley in 2003. Gretchen Gilman is 13 in the summer of 1944 and working on the small town newspaper. Murder occurs on the street where she lives, changing her life forever. LETTER FROM HOME was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers at Oklahoma State University Tulsa. Letter from Home won the Agatha for Best Mystery Novel of 2003 and was a New York Times notable book. 

Hart was one of ten mystery authors featured at the National Book Festival on the Mall in Washington D.C. in 2003 and again in 2007. In March 2004 she received the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. She has twice won the annual Oklahoma Book Award for best novel. In April 2004 she spoke at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on mysteries in American culture. She received the Ridley Pearson Award at Murder in Grove, Boise, Idaho, in 2005 for significant contributions to the mystery field. She has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Malice Domestic and the Amelia Award in May 2013. 

Hart is a native of Oklahoma City, a Phi Beta Kappa journalism graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and a former president of Sisters in Crime. She is also a member of Authors Guild, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Crime Writers Association, the International Thrillers Association, and the American Crime Writers League. She taught professional writing in the University of Oklahoma School of Journalism 1982-85. She is the  winner of three Agatha Awards for Best Novel, two Anthonys and two Macavitys.