Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: Interpretation of Murder by B.K. Stevens

Review: Interpretation of Murder.  B.K. Stevens.  Black Opal Books.  2015.   ISBN:97816269425921.  Paper. 295 pages. $12.99.  E-book, $3.99.

Interpretation of Murder is a good introduction to the world of the deaf. The sleuth is an interpreter who is hired by private detective Walt Sadowski to learn why a rich lawyer’s deaf nineteen-year-old daughter is acting different.  Jane Ciardi meets Rosa in a café when Walt is interviewing her for the job. Jane has doubts about doing this, as interpreters are supposed to treat as confidential what they learn from interpreting for deaf people, yet if Rosa is in trouble, she wants to help.  She agrees to take the job.  

When Jane sees a teenaged boy steal Rosa’s purse, she uses her knowledge of martial arts to trip him and retrieve the purse.  Rosa is delighted to meet an interpreter and urges Jane to take the class she takes with Sam, an instructor in soyu ryu bojujutsu.  Sam is also the boyfriend Rosa’s father is worried might be leading Rosa astray, perhaps into drugs.  Mr. Patterson disapproves of Sam, who wears earrings and is eight years older than his daughter.  He thinks Sam is a “low class” white while Rosa is African American, but Rosa won’t tell her father anything about her present life.  

Jane joins Sam’s class and also the fitness center where Rosa is a member.  Jane has decided to find out about Gary, the last person Walt had hired for this job who had ended up dead.  Then a young white woman who had been with Rosa and Sam in the café ends up dead–drowned near a bar that is less that reputable, where suicides have occurred before.  Was it suicide, or was the young woman murdered?  How are Sam and Rosa mixed up in it?

Jane has had difficulty getting interpreting jobs from her agency because she had challenged another interpreter’s translation in a court case as being unethical, and now her agency sees her as controversial and isn’t giving her jobs.  Temporarily she has several part-time jobs, one of which is with a cleaning company.  

When Hector Connolly, who had interviewed her for membership in the fitness club, asks her out, she asks Rosa for a manicure.  She wants to look nice and her fingernails take a beating at her cleaning job.  Rosa works as a manicurist so as not to be dependent for money on her wealthy father.

At the beauty shop Jane notices that some of Rosa’s friends from the fitness center come regularly for manicures.  They work at fairly low-paying jobs and yet both belong to the pricey fitness center and get manicures regularly, which would seem to be out of their price range. 

Jane also is noticing some odd behavior among the Connolly family members who own and administer the fitness center named for their mother, the famous Olympian gold and silver ice skating winner, Elise Reed.  Jane persists in trying to uncover what has led to the two deaths and also what Rosa and Sam are doing, as they seem to have secrets, too.

The plot line builds slowly but inexorably, and Jane risks being injured or killed as she tries to learn what is going on below the surface and at the fitness center and how or whether Rosa is involved.

This novel also proved to be an introduction to martial arts, some of which I’d never heard of.  I liked the heroine’s concern about morality and ethics, as well as her determination to discover and reveal what is going on among the characters, especially the Connolly family.

I’ve always enjoyed B.K.’s short stories, and I knew she was eager to publish a novel.  Here it is in an interesting niche, but a good eye-opener for those of us relatively ignorant about the lives of deaf people and the various martial arts.

B.K. (BONNIE) STEVENS’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder, is a whodunit that offers insights into deaf culture and sign language interpreting. Her young adult novel, Fighting Chance, is a martial arts mystery and also a coming of age story. In the spring of 2016, Wildside Press will publish Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime, which collects some of the over fifty short stories B.K. has published. Most of these stories originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. B.K. has won a Derringer and has been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. This year, both Fighting Chance and a Hitchcock story, “A Joy Forever,” are finalists for Agatha awards. B.K. and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia and have two grown daughters. 

You can buy Interpretation of Murder at the website of the publisher, where it costs $9.99.:
and on Amazon.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Gene Dillard, Mosaicist

This is the front of Gene's house in Durham on a recent winter night.


I’ve known Gene Dillard since 1991, when he joined a class I was teaching at the Durham County Library.  He was writing poetry then, took several more classes with me and became quite a good poet.  Here’s an example:

                        CEIBA TREES

In the silence of Copan Ruins
the wind blows
through the Ceiba trees,
a symbol for the Mayans
of the ever present
spiritual world.
I am reminded
by the moaning wind,
as I view the deserted temples
that I am alone.
My loneliness forms itself into
dew droplets on the Ceiba leaves,
drips on to the stone reliefs
that make up this city.


These days Gene works in walls, making them beautiful.  His mosaics on a wall, of his garage or his house, often take him a year. He cuts up tiny pieces, including mirrors, and then places them on walls and other places, too, to make a new beauty.  Here is his recent mural from the other side of the front of his home in Durham.


And here is the chimney.

He says this is his neighborhood watch sign.  Gene is waving.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Devushka in Far Off Kostoma, Russia

This week I received the winning entry of a contest held in the Gymnasium (secondary school) No. 28 in Kostroma, Russia.

Her name is Lavrova Varvara, and she is in class 9A.  The contest was arranged by Tatiana Podvetelnikova, a librarian in the Kostroma Regional Library in Kostroma.  The winning lines I will give below in bold.  I tried to copy the Russian but it wouldn't copy.  Here's today's poem.  Lavrova got into it.  Judy


Can Flowers Change Your Life? IX.  February 14, 2016

For Tatiana Podvetelnikova and Lavrova Varvara

The ground is hard like iron with cold.
I squeeze sideways into the coop
to bring warm water.  The hens
flutter around me and then drink.
We have sun, but no wind, sleet, 
or rain until tomorrow.  The cold
has its own power.  I sleep under six
layers, wear seven, drink hot lemon
tea, search my mind for that new 
revelation of my lifetime work and
purpose.  I do it every day but don’t
reflect much until I take the time to
do that and only that.  Revelations
mean work, comforting the fearful,
reassuring myself and others;
accepting gifts and giving away
my food and thought, hope and love.
For that there is always enough time.
A young Russian girl, a devushka
in far off Kostroma, translates lines
from my poem This River and wins
a prize: my congratulations.  More
than twenty-five years ago I sat
with you in the set for the filming
of The Snow Maiden.  It was August
and we were warm.  Our conversation
warmed us even more.  Now you are
gone, and this memory is mine alone.
No.  There’s the young woman in
Kostroma who found the words in
Russian to save a little of it.  We never
know when our words will travel
through time and last even two
generations, much less, three.
The snow maiden melted after she
fell in love, but my words became
winged and stirred hearts beyond
mine and yours.


From This River: An Epic Love Poem, published in 2014 by Wild Embers Press.  $14, $17 with postage and tax. to PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559


In a bottle I found washed in by the river
I have put four yellow narcissus.  They are
my sun today on a winter afternoon.  Below
this vase on the window ledge are the birch
shoes you gave me.  Beside them is the 
open book with its blank pages, which
Victor gave me.  Its stone is from Siberia.
On the other side of the shoes is a small
gift from Galina, a painting of Berendevka,
the film set for “The Snow Maiden,”
which you took us to visit.  There was no
snow then.  We sat in the shelter of a
house that had no inside.  We made
the inside live with our conversation. 
You and my son talked about fathers
and sons, while I listened and Natasha
translated.  I learned that day how you
have mastered self-restraint when
people infuriate you.  My son talked freely; 
how he wanted to punch the man who 
had been rude to your son the night
before.  You admitted he had made you
angry, too, but you remembered he was
an old man.  I knew then that you had 
often had to master your passions, also 
that you had never killed them off.  You 
knew how he felt.  Whatever winter
there is there, bleak, with grey skies,
bitter cold, ice, the land held white
in its iron grip, I know there is also
a room in your life where you keep
yellow narcissus, their trumpets as
lasting as white Siberian stone.  
Ice stiffens them sometimes, and
they fall.  If it snows, you must bring
them indoors.  But year after year
they thrust their way through the grass
at the foot of the hill, large clumps
of them.  As early as January, they
announce the return of the spring.
I think of Achilles, wandering in
the meadow where the good dead wait.
Achilles among the daffodils, wishing
he were a servant in his father’s house.
He didn’t want to lord it over all the
dead.  Daffodils are my lifeline.  They
endure the sleet and ice, the death we
all must give.
At the bottom of the hill 
there was a house once.  Buttercups
brightened its yard.  Now they brighten
my winter walks down the hill to the
river.  My heart is suddenly light.
The sun lies scattered like leaves dazzling
a surface the wind rakes, then turns
to gold, while the pure blue of the sky
holds its exuberance in check.  Where
has that leaden sky gone, all those
days of impenetrable muddy water?  Why
now is there as much blue rising out of
the river’s depth as I could ask for, 
as much gold conversion singing the song
the daffodils sing, only louder, as if fluid
gold swept sparkling toward me were
the last piece of evidence I needed to 
know that you love me, and not fleetingly,
which would be understandable, given
our circumstances?  No, it’s as though
there were yellow narcissus blooming
right out of the pages of your letters.
I could put them beside the little shoes
of birch.  They would be happy there
with the polished Siberian stone and 
the old bottle I put flowers in. You 
have found a way to pass right through 
the language barrier, with my translator 
being no wiser, and get me your 
messages, like yellow narcissus
first poking up their green thumbs
through dead leaves and matted grass
roots.  Then a bud forms at the stalk’s
end.  As it lengthens, the yellow
trumpet opens: “Here I am again, a sun 
you didn’t expect to find that has 
waited underground for these six months.
And now I must declare my love.”
This must be why, at odd moments,
a sudden happiness lifts itself up in my
soul like the daffodils lift their bonnets
from the plainest possible soil.  I don’t
understand where it comes from.  I’ve
never had underground vibrancy before.
Once I would have shouted it to anyone 
who would listen and then captured its 
rhythm in a poem.  In the end I’d be
left with nothing but poems.  This time
the river sends me a different message.
Winter skies do not deter this blooming,
nor does the river hesitate to startle me
with gold, reminding me that my heart
harbors daffodils now, and the river
radiance is like a song which repeats
itself, without my starting to sing, 

over and over, without sound.

You may be able to learn more about this contest on Facebook.  Here's  a link Tatiana sent me when they were voting there on which was the best translation.  Judy Hogan

the piece of your poem is translated by students of Kostroma Gymnasium #28. Now there is a vote on Facebook, then we’ll choose the best translations and the students get your congratulations with the signature.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Good Reads Give-Away Feb. 8-Mar. 6

Beginning tonight at midnight (February 7) I'm offering five free copies of my first written, third published novel, The Sands of Gower.  You go to and you may have to search for me and the book:  you can enter me the author, Judy Hogan, the name of the book and/or the ISBN-13:978-1515191063.

I'm new at this, so I hope you can figure it out.  About March 6 or 7 they will have a drawing and choose five folks to whom I will then send a signed copy of The Sands of Gower. This in the U.S. only. This is a new adventure for me.  Because they're an Amazon company, they've picked up others of my books, too.  They are also streaming my blogs.  And I can answer your questions there, with short answers.  I'm only allowed 200 characters for each answer.

April 1, I'll run another give-away contest with the second Penny Weaver mystery:  Haw.  Here's what it looks like, and it's not due out until May 1, when I'm at the Malice convention in Bethesda:

I hope some of you will try this and tell me how it works on your end.  I'm a real newbie here.  My plan is to publish one of these mysteries in the Penny Weaver series every four months or so.  It will take me five years.  I believe you'll enjoy them, and if you do, I hope you'll tell me.  They'll cost $15 for paper and $2.99 for ebook.

I got a new comment on Sands this week from Donna Crowe in Goldsboro:

"I thoroughly enjoyed your book--the descriptions of the scenery, the characters, and best of all, my surprise at the murderer's identity.  I look forward to Penny's next adventure."

I also rated some of my favorite books on the Good Reads website. 

Photo taken at Malice in 2015 by Lee Sauer.