Sunday, July 23, 2017

An Island of Sanity and Love



My figs back in August 1911. Not quite so plentiful now, but they're coming along after hard freeze set-backs a few years ago.

Those Eternally Linked Lives 21 July 23, 2017

I want to root myself here, create an island of sanity and love around me, draw my children, grandchildren, and friends here to see me, and contribute as I can to my community. 
From my goals stated in 1996-2012

It will be nineteen years in December
that I have lived in this small house in
Moncure, with a garden, an orchard, and
a small flock of hens. I’d already then 
been given many gifts: by a banker, who 
outwitted the mortgage rules; by friends
who helped paint and weed-eat and
move a big pile of bricks, which became
my flower garden. Even before I moved
in, I joined the fight to stop a low-level
nuclear dump. We did stop it. Then we
stopped three attempts to site a landfill
and ended ten years of bad air pollution.
I worked to elect more careful county
commissioners, then to keep out fracking,
and since 2014, coal ash. This time
they pushed in before we could stop
them. It took a judge to halt that, but
they’re holding off our justice again. 
I hold steady, but more problems have
surfaced: my water heater quit; my 
heart began racing; now it’s high
heat warnings keeping me inside
while the weeds flourish. Yet people
turn up to help me: Mike, to challenge
the water heater’s diagnosis; Harold
to mow; Merle, bringing tomatoes
when my bushes stopped producing
shortly after they began. Then two
men from my electric coop, got
the water heater back on track. Many
helpers when I needed them. Everyone
has annoying problems, but I’m older;
so is my water heater and my farm.
Despite unruly weeds and heat, 
the figs, grapes, and apples are plentiful. 
Some rain would help, and cooler weather.
All this help puzzles me, though I’m very
grateful. Then it hits me. I wanted to
create an island of sanity and love. Looks
like I did, despite the weeds, my aging
body and what belongs to me. The big
world does grow more difficult, but in my 
world there definitely is sanity and love.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

You can't have enough courage


Full summer, flowers and brownies, 2010.

Those Eternally Linked Lives 20  July 16, 2017

Even if the brakes are being put on
slowly, we know the end of our lives
will come. We can’t be blithe as
once; yet we can live as normally
and joyfully as possible. The doctors
are not worried. Their tests reassure
them that my heart jumping around 
and out of its steady rhythm for an 
hour can be lived with. For me it is
an unmistakable sign to pay attention:
walk, yes; work, write, dig. See to 
the hens, mow and weed-eat; lead
my village in the fight to stop a 
coal ash dump, but rest and eat
well, stay alert, respect the signs
as you accumulate years. You 
can’t have enough courage or of
the vision that shows you your way, 
a step at a time. You’re still here,
aren’t you? Still thriving, loving
those who let you, filling each
day with work completed? Your
conscience is clear; you see all
too well into the hearts of others

whether they imagine yours or not.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

If Need Be, You Win Again and Again


Zinnias on my kitchen table in August 2011, after Hurricane Irene.

Those Eternally Linked Lives 19  July 9, 2017

Evil men are doing harm,
but we will stop them, one at a time.
When you have justice on your side,
sooner or later you win, and if need
be, you win again and again. 
–Those Eternally Linked Lives 11

I knew, when I wished to live
a long time, that, as I approached
a hundred years, living would
become more difficult. Even as
my body ages well, it is more
vulnerable, needs more care,
its regular exercise, healthy diet,
and for its sleep budget to be
balanced. I have my commitments
I can’t say no to, for myself and
my writings, for my children and
friends, and for my community
here in Moncure. It has always
been a balancing act–never moreso
than now. I hold my own, but it
takes more ingenuity to outwit 
my gradual aging and the deadly
poisons let loose in our twenty-first
century world, out to kill us and
destroy our hope. The answer is 
simple and obvious: in our deep
souls we know we can’t be seriously
harmed if we refuse despair. Insights
will arrive. Courage will appear
against the odds. The grain of the
universe doesn’t go away. Furthermore
other people gather around us, one 
at a time. If we ask, we receive, and
not infrequently, we receive the help
we need before we ask.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hope Over Fear


This photo of my figs from August 2011, after Hurricane Irene

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 18 July 2, 2017

"Every single day, we need to choose hope over fear, and diversity over division.
Fear has never fed a family nor created a single job.
And those who exploit it will never solve the problems that have created such anxiety."
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
in address to UN --From Louise Penny’s July 1, 2017 NL

From childhood you were sheltered
and nourished by a grace mysterious
and never named, but it opened 
doors most people never see or 
if they do, fear to open. –Those Eternally Linked Lives 6

In all this growth of green–vines, grasses,
fig leaves and tiny figs, the tall swaying
tulip tree, the grass I need to cut, the iris
and daylilies holding their own against
bamboo grass–where is the grace that will
hold me steady on my own course, the one
I chose, not going against the universe’s
grain, but having to tolerate fear in others
for me and hatred when I succeed; even awe
when I defy the doctors’ wisdom. How 
can I be still young, my flesh still firm; my 
heart holding its own. Banishing fear has 
become a habit. Every time I outwit other
people’s worries, I stand taller in my own
view. All it takes is courage, helping those
who let me, and taking in gratefully those
loving hands that give me a reason 
to stay alive.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hang On For A Rough Ride


Those Eternally Linked Lives 17 June 25, 2017

The tallest tree–the tulip–shimmers in
a world of green. Vines climb the fences.
My flower garden weeds are three feet
high, the annuals higher. Daylilies had
to fight off bamboo grass. The figs have
so many leaves I can’t see the dead 
branches, and I know those infant knobs
are swelling. A day finally dawned without
rain. Soon I can mow, and tackle the
high weeds. The hens took it all in stride.
Muddy, bedraggled feathers were clean
and white again when the new day arrived.
Even in human beings life renews itself.
Sleep heals; dreams restore our cells and 
our souls. We are new again every day.
One look out the window, and we know
what we have to do. This life is not for
the faint of heart. We let go only what
we must; hang on for a rough ride, remount
our courage and listen to our hearts. It’s 
the only way to stay whole and keep our 
true Selves in tact until we die and see 
that Death is still some distance off.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Light Always Finds Me Sooner or Later

Early spring, 2011, thyme in bloom, and oregano behind it.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 16  June 18, 2017

It rains, and green surges. Again I can’t
keep up. I engage with deeply rooted
weeds and mud. The work I need to do
is everywhere visible. The orchid is casting
its blooms. Ten months until they come
again. Human effort feels so small against
that tide of growth. Simple sun and rain
send green hurtling forward. Sweetgum
stars obscure my view out the window.
Yet the self-heal blooms; the daylilies
make each day new. Later too much heat
will slow things down. Wet soil helps
me yank out the worst weeds. The hens
are happy, making their straw into new
nests, the wet earth sending more bugs
to the surface. Sometimes it’s hard
when so much is up to me. Yet I flourish,
walk, eat, and sleep well; thread my way
through difficulties; ask help; do my
part as the days allow. When I can’t
see very far ahead, I hold on. I’ve
been in so many dark places before.
Light always finds me sooner or later
if I keep myself from despair.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Such Intangible Communion


At Judy's book party, but notice the Finnish hand-crafted bird.

****
Those Eternally Linked Lives 15  June 11, 2017

We each had a hand-crafted Finnish bird–
mid-flight. Snow goose or swan? You bought
two. One for me in my village; one for your
apartment in town, which I saw when we 
drove home from your village. You had been
cruel and angry, only a little less as we
traveled. That day the bird told me everything
I needed to know. It still does now that I
live in another house, another village. Sometimes
what’s tangible reinforces what we can’t
touch or know with absolute uncertainty.
Belief is all we have and then that knowledge
that makes proof irrelevant–some direct
seeing that passes all the roadblocks and
doubts. Of course there are skeptics and
sometimes we’re assailed by doubts, too.
But the bird persists. One look reminds
us. You’re not there in your town or village 
any more, but this bird here has its 
continuing message as it moves in the
fan’s wind: “I’m still here. I’m inside you.
Heart to heart is what matters.” For us
that part was easy. The hard part was
opening such a truth to other people
when they can’t imagine 
such intangible communion.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doing What I Need to Do


Judy at her May 21 book party holding two new books, Political Peaches and Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16. 
Photo by Johnsie Tipton.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 14 May 28, 2017

The peas are nearly finished. I pick
beet leaves, half-grown lettuce,
two firm bright green peppers, fronds
of lemon balm and peppermint for
tea. The hens gave me seven eggs. 
Sun again after so much rain brings
out tiny bumps that will be figs by
August. I hack at poison ivy, pull
handfuls of bamboo grass, mow
the backyard where Wag’s vole
holes outdo the grass. Dale comes
to change my flat tire, puts on
the spare. I drive thirty miles for
the flat to be repaired. Harold mows
more of my yard than I had managed
and leaves before I can thank him. 
Birthday wishes come by mail,
e-mail, and phone. The waves I
make in the wider world are scarcely
noticed, but I fall asleep reassured
that I’m doing what I need to do.
My less reliable memory is good
enough. Everything I do counts
in the long tabulation of the 
centuries. “Be of good cheer,”

sounds in my ears. Sun reigns.

***
More book party photos by Johnsie Tipton on May 21.

***

Judy having signed a copy of Grace for Dean Tipton.

***

Behind the book cases, left to right: Dean Tipton, Carol Hay, Judy, and Linda King. On the couch: Skip Baker. Drawings by grandchildren some years ago. The bird flying, a gift from my Russian friend Mikhail in 1992.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sometimes the Gods Offer A Miracle


Those Eternally Linked Lives 13  May 21, 2017

My phalaenopsis orchid has twenty blooms,
each a revelation. All the green-white
lanterns have become exuberant faces,
winged like butterflies. Outside the window
green sweetgum stars flutter, then dance
when the wind picks up. Sometimes the
gods offer a miracle so easy to turn down.
It could never work. It isn’t enough. We
did wish for more, yet to connect as we 
did kept us safe and happy. If sometimes
sad, yet out of despair. We were too busy
flinging ourselves those impossible 
distances to grieve at what wasn’t possible,
given who we were and what we valued:
truth and faithfulness, joy in helping others
see what we saw. Since you died, there
are new shadows. A great darkness hovers:
cruel, making hatred seem normal, claiming
evil is good and good is evil. The human
spirit has been here before. We know how
to die if we have to. Meantime we keep
singing our hymn to liberty, justice, and
mutual love.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Such Perfect Love


First Snow by Nikolai Smirnov. Village Farm in Russian provinces

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 12  May 14, 2017

How could I forget those days we spent
in my village when you came for two
weeks to North Carolina? We didn’t
sleep together yet our spirits fused.
Your warm hands caressed my neck
when I was driving. You’d take me 
to a large oak, take off your shoe, and
put your foot over mine while we prayed
to the spirit in the tree and over all.
Sometimes you were angry, or I was, 
but you’d say we had to talk, and we
would. Such perfect love left us raw
when anger flared. We’d lose Paradise
and then re-find it. We tried to part,
but couldn’t do it. So we carried each
other’s souls the rest of our lives. 
Your wife and son ministered to your 
failing human body. You wrote one
letter after I sent you my love poem
This River. You were glad our story
was being told. Your wife forgives me.
So do her sons. Somehow I added
richness to your life as you added grace 
to mine. The mystery of such love is
never fully understood, but it stays.
I will never forget those hours and
days when our souls were simply one.

They still are.



Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spring Resurges


Spring garden a few years ago. Beets and onions.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 11 May 7, 2017

Slapped down by a Cold Front, Spring
resurges; yellow green of new leaves; 
purple-veined beet greens, lettuce leaves
crowded close. I pick my salad. The figs 
undeterred. A few dead branches from
recent years’ hard freezes don’t discourage
them. Forsythia is resurrected; the
hydrangea’s third crop of leaves is
still alive. I’ve made room for the
new iris bulbs. Bird song is early
because they’re nesting, feeding young.
No time for love tunes. A freshening
wind as the sun pulls the earth back 
to warmer soil, more blooms, and
swelling pea ponds. All is steady,
safe, worries laid to rest. The dog
and I slept well. The sleep budget is
balanced. Evil men are doing harm,
but we will stop them, one at a time.
When you have justice on your side,
sooner or later you win, and if need

be, you win again and again.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

That Precipice of Ecstatic Joy

Drawing of crane on roof by Mikhail Bazankov for Beaver Soul.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 10 April 30, 2017

Once you were alive and acting silly. 
2001 when this photo was made
in the garden of Sveta’s father who
was dressed as a scarecrow. Marja-Sisko,
dear Finnish friend, on the other side of
our host, smiling. Behind us a lively
garden, some rows under row cover.
I was happy and stood close to you.
Sixteen years ago. We’d loved each
other eleven years, and sometimes
tried not to. It never worked. We each
played our parts. We had produced
our Earth and Soul anthology of North
Carolina poetry in English and Russian.
Copies went all over the Kostroma
Region to schools and libraries. Our
love was like that: almost all for
other people. For us a few moments 
here and there of standing on that
precipice of ecstatic joy, clothed 
in a single communion, words being
unnecessary. It began when we had
no words, two writers with no shared
speech. I learned Russian. Yet you 
told me your love so many other
ways: gestures, laughter, funny faces,
silly songs, anger, drawings in that
very book we engineered together.
A man and woman stand before a 
mountain they wish to climb and
leave their world behind, eat greens
and berries. It didn’t matter. Arm in
arm, free. The walk we never took

but never forgot we wanted to.

***
Geese flying by Mikhail Bazankov for Beaver Soul

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Grace and Gracie


Grace Roys with one-year old Gracie, 1916. Nanking, China

Those Eternally Linked Lives 9 April 23, 2017

Could Grace be eternally linked, too?
I think so. Not on purpose. I didn’t know
her when I was six and she was fifty-five. 
She was home, not hospitalized then, 
but whimsical and hard for Mother, 
who was probably hard for her, and I
must have reminded her of her lost
child, Gracie, who died when she was
eight. There are the loves given to us
all unknowing, not planned, but something
deeper and kinder is at work, though
at age six it didn’t feel kind. It felt scary.
Grace defied Mother and took Margie
and me to get our hair cut and permed.
Later she brought bunnies for Easter.
They lived outside and regularly
escaped into the local Victory gardens.
Mother had to chase them and bring
them back. For some reason I can’t 
fathom, my deep mind took in the two
Graces--maybe because they were models
that fitted--even though one was crazy
and the other one, dead. I had that same
sensitivity that makes an artist, which
Proust called les grands nerveux, or
neurotic. Too finely tuned not to care,
not to speak. I was sick but didn’t die.
I was impulsive and bold, but didn’t 
go crazy, and only mildly neurotic.
Now I know why I must keep Grace
in my life. She was the artist who failed,
who had too much guilt and fear to fight
the rigidities in the world around her.
But I can lay my fears to rest. I’ve been
bold and openly loved whom I loved,
and now am speaking every truth I
see, and I know I’m sane. Furthermore
people listen. The orchid in my window
gives me a new bloom every day, and

my mind’s depths offer revelations.

***

Christmas 1944, Left to right: Mother (Margaret), Grace, Mrs. Mary Shannon, Judy (age 6), Esther Beth Shannon Rogers, Margaret Elaine (Margie), on side porch of my Roys grandparents' home in Norman, Oklahoma.

See blog for April 16 (above) to order Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16.
Update on sales info. It's available now both in paperback ($26) and in e-book (Kindle for $9.99) on Amazon. Also on Amazon UK, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, India, Japan, Italy and Mexico. You can buy at www.wipfandstock.com, too
For a signed copy from Judy Hogan, send $30 to Hogan, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559-0253. judyhogan@mindspring.com for more info.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Grace: A China Diary, 1910-16 is published


Those Eternally Linked Lives 8 April 16, 2017

On the occasion of the publishing of Grace: A China Diary, 
1910-16 on April 12, 2017

Last night the first orchid bloomed, and
outside green was winning again: trees, 
grass, fruit trees, seedlings, and healthy 
weeds. Everything reborn, and I rise from
dreams that took me somewhere else until
I forgot this world, today, and how Easter
brings blooms. I have a good life, my own. 
I took risks over and over. Wherever I 
went, I found people to love, and now 
I’m rich in friends. My writings are coming 
into print, and my friends are buying 
my books. I wanted to understand 
Grandmother Grace’s life, and now I do. 
My friends want to understand, too. Grace’s 
sorrow took her mind away and others 
inherited fear, fear of losing their minds. 
I had fear, too, but I stayed my course, 
kept up my courage, trusted my deep Self. 
My wish and my kindness opened doors 
others found locked and barred. I’ve 
brought Grace and Harvey back to life,
not without pain and fear, but we’re
assuaged now. My health holds. When
dreams take me away from myself, I
always return. I’m okay, now and 
forever, and so is Grace.

***

The mothers' group (ISC) who started the Hillcrest School in Nanking for foreign children. Grace holding baby Margaret, my mother, is second  from left. 1913.

***

GRACE: A China Diary, 1910-6 edited and annotated by Judy Hogan. 
Authors: Grace and Harvey Roys. Wipf and Stock, Eugene, Oregon. 
ISBN: 978-1-5326-0939-8. Paperback: $26.

–BACK COVER QUOTES

“This thoroughly annotated five-year diary, including contemporary accounts of the retreat colony Kuling and schools in Nanking, provides rich and illuminating primary documentation toward understanding the daily personal, family, social and professional lives of American educators and missionaries in early 20th century China, the native culture in which they devoted themselves, and their influence on subsequent generations. A graceful window on the lives of Westerners and Chinese alike.” J. Samuel Hammond, Duke University.

“Grace, a rich portrait of missionary life in early 20th century China, is told through diary entries, photos, narratives, and an epilogue by Judy Hogan, editor and annotator of her grandmother’s diary. Most poignant for me, as a former missionary child, is Hogan’s appreciation of Grace’s difficult transition from the China where she spent her first 32 years to the United States where her mental illness took flight.”–Nancy Henderson-James, author of Home Abroad: An American Girl in Africa

Orders to: Judy Hogan, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559. $30, includes tax and postage.

Other places to buy Grace: 
The publisher via their website by April 22: www.wipfandstock.com
Amazon; in two-four weeks, by May 10, 2017
Ingram: in four weeks, May 10, 2017
Kindle: 3-6 months from April 12. ISBN: 978-1-5326-0940-4

The hardback will also be available at some point: ISBN: 978-1-5326-0941-1

***

The Roys children in 1917 Dick, Gracie, and Margaret, Nanking, China

Sunday, April 9, 2017

No More Coal Ash in Moncure


Judy Hogan and Sheila Crump following Gospel Sing at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, January 2016.

***
It is with great joy that I write that our two local groups, Chatham Citizens Against Coal Dump(CCACAD), and EnvironmentaLEE (E-LEE) have won our court case against the dumping of coal ash in our Moncure community, in Brickhaven as of March 31,2017. Judge Fox of the Superior Court in Chatham ruled in our favor. Here’s the gist from his opinion:

From the last page – the DECISION:
1. WHEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED THAT:
1. The Final Decision is AFFIRMED as it relates to the use of the areas already mined or otherwise excavated in the two coal ash disposal sites (Brickhaven and Colon Road), and
2. The Final Decision is REVERSED as to areas not already mined or otherwise excavated, and the two mine reclamation permits were issued improperly by the Respondents and are hereby REVOKED. 

***



John Wagner and Judy following Gospel Sing, January 2016, holding gift tray made by Dean Tipton.
***

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, our parent group, backed us all the way. Their employee, Therese Vick, who has been helpful from the beginning in December 2014, has issued a press release. Here is part of it.

Judy Hogan, president of Chatham Citizens Against coal Ash Dump said that Judge Fox’s decision “gives me great pleasure in so many ways. We watched our comments at open hearings being ignored, the permits to do this being given rapidly, and the trucks running, then the trains, but we kept saying to our skeptics; “It’s not a done deal!”  E-LEE co-chair Marsha Ligon echoed Hogan. “Good things come to those who wait; we are thrilled that Judge Carl Fox ruled in our favor agreeing that the plans for future use of the Colon and Brickhaven clay pits cannot be entirely considered an act of reclamation.”
BREDL organizer Therese Vick stressed that “not one more shovel of dirt should be moved at either site. The DEQ improperly issued the mining reclamation permits, and they knew it. ...The DEQ is under new leadership. It is time for Secretary Michael Regan to right his injustice, and stop trying to defend the indefensible.”
***

Our CCACAD meeting Friday night, April 7, at the Liberty Chapel annex building in Moncure, celebrating our victory. Photo taken by Donna Strickland.
***
Judy’s poem this Sunday morning, April 9:

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 7 April 9, 2017
For Judge Carl Fox

You were told to hang on, and you did.
It took patience and a great faith to
sustain hope that a huge, rich public
utility company could be defeated by 
a handful of determined citizens. You
worried for their health. Too many were 
already sick and getting sicker from
coal ash toxins in the air. Wells were
poisoned. Risks were taken with
drinking water. All around us the
skeptics were immovable. “It’s a done
deal.” We were considered controversial
for demanding justice. Then a wise and
thoughtful judge told the truth. Dumping
coal ash was wrong; you have to stop.
No more trucks and trains, cutting trees
and digging holes. Your permits are
revoked.  I was stunned yet I saw for
the first time since this plan emerged:
truth and justice alive at last in a
court of law. The constitution remembered.
“Liberty and justice for all.” We hugged
and told stories Ten of us who’d been
faithful, but many more helped, prayed,
gave us space to meet, to sing, sent
money for our lawyer. This small group
of concerned and committed citizens
did change a wrong to a right. We’re
alert now. Best if the huge, rich, public
utility company sets aside its tricks 
and begins to consider justice for its 
customers and truth from its employees.

It’s not too late.

***


Judy with sign made by Martha Girolami March 2015.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Carolyn Mulford: Interview re Show Me the Sinister Snowman


Show Me the Sinister Snowman, by Carolyn Mulford, Cave Hollow Press, March 2017, 290 pp.; trade paperback, $14.95; Kindle, $3.99; ISBN: 978-0-9713497-9-7; Library of Congress Control Number: 2016960483; paperback edition available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, cavehollowpress.com, and Ingram.

Carolyn, you had a long career as a magazine editor and freelancer. When and why did you decide to switch to writing mysteries?

I wanted to write fiction from the time I learned to read, but journalism offered a much better way to make a living. Besides, I enjoy coming up with ideas, researching them, analyzing information, and finding the right words and structure to share that information. Don’t let anyone tell you writing good nonfiction doesn’t require creativity.

When a new generation of women mystery writers gained attention in the 1980s, I became a serious mystery reader for the first time. Early in the 21st century, I decided that what I wanted to do most was write mysteries, novels that focus on how everyday people deal with crisis, stimulate and entertain intelligent readers, and assure justice wins. I came up with an idea for a series, took courses on writing mysteries, and became part of a critique group. I was committed. 

By the way, my sleuths often use reporters’ techniques in their investigations.

Explain the basic idea for the series, including the ongoing characters and the setting. Have you stuck to that idea through your new fifth book?

Two strands of my life came together as I was searching for an idea big enough for a series. One strand sprang from the outing of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame, endangering her and even casual friends and ending her career. I related to the situation. While working in Vienna, Austria, during the Cold War, I’d discovered that a good friend led an operative’s dangerous double life. The other strand grew from interacting with high school classmates at reunions and planning to move back to my home state, Missouri. 

I wove these strands together to create the economically depressed town of Laycock and three ongoing characters: Phoenix Smith, a wounded former CIA covert operative; Annalynn Carr Keyser, a just-widowed civic leader; and Connie Diamante, a struggling singer/music teacher. These three women grew up together, lived very different lives for more than 30 years, and reunite in their hometown as each faces a major life crisis. 

In the first book, Show Me the Murder, Phoenix reluctantly agrees to help Annalynn find out the truth about her husband’s violent death. Conventional law-and-order Annalynn wangles a temporary appointment as sheriff to get access to the evidence and police resources. Armed and dangerous, Phoenix disregards laws and applies her tradecraft to a parallel investigation. Connie insists on using her theatrical talent to assist them. The three form a good crime-fighting team because of their varied skills, conflicting attitudes, and common goals.

Phoenix rescues and adopts another valuable team member, a Belgian Malinois and K-9 dropout named Achilles.

The old friends and their relationships change slightly from book to book as they continue to investigate murders and rebuild their lives. By the fifth book, Show Me the Sinister Snowman, Annalynn has completed her term as sheriff. Each woman is moving on with her life, but they continue to answer requests to help individuals and the police with unusual cases.

I’m puzzled by the mixture of cynicism and compassion in Phoenix Smith, the former covert operative.  What prompted you to give her these contrasting characteristics?

Exploring the inner life of this daring, action-addicted woman fascinates me. (I’m more an observer than a doer.) Returning to her insular hometown after spending many years in Europe forces her to deal with her internal conflicts as well as with her differences with old friends. 

Phoenix grew up in a financially strapped but loving family that stressed personal loyalty and community service. She joined the CIA after her cheating husband shook her assumptions about people. For years she led two lives, with her work as an expert on Eastern European economies as a cover for her CIA assignments. Her dual career required great intelligence, courage, energy, and self-confidence. And it complicated her relationships. Survival required her to deceive friends, colleagues, and sources. 

As a covert operative, she saw greed, incompetence, and treason much more often than idealism. She dealt with scum and accepted that the ends justify the means. Coming home, she regards almost everyone except Annalynn, her lifelong friend, with distrust and skepticism, but compassion kicks in as Phoenix sees innocent individuals being hurt. These include a woman enduring elder abuse in Show Me the Gold, a little girl whose mother is imprisoned in Show Me the Ashes, and a teenager fleeing a violent husband in Show Me the Sinister Snowman. 

I love the dog, Achilles, and how he and Phoenix relate to and rely on each other. Have other readers responded the same way?

Yes, many readers tell me how much they like Achilles. He functions not only as a pet but as a comforter and sidekick. He brings out her softer side, and she encourages him to use his skills. He becomes secure enough to dispute her judgment. For example, he pulls her back when she’s rushing into danger, and he barks his disapproval when she’s impatient with her friends.

Tell us about the road to publication for this series.

I sold the first book after pitching it to a Five Star editor at Killer Nashville in 2011. The first and second books, Show Me the Murder and Show Me the Deadly Deer, came out at the beginning and end of 2013 in hardback and e-book. Five Star released the third book, Show Me the Gold, in December 2015. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery has published paperback editions of all three.
Then came a bump in the road. Five Star delayed the publication of all its mysteries in late 2015 and then announced it was phasing out its mystery line. (That kind of thing happens much more often than readers realize.) Show Me the Ashes didn’t come out until March 2016, by which time I was looking for a publisher for Show Me the Sinister Snowman. Cave Hollow Press released that book March 31 as a trade paperback and an e-book.

What other books have you published?

Before I switched to fiction, I wrote five nonfiction books (all out of print), including a travel book, a biography, and a how-to book on financial fitness for teens. 

My first published novel, a YA historical called The Feedsack Dress, came out almost 10 years ago. Last year marked the publication of another YA historical, Thunder Beneath My Feet. It takes place during the devastating New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. Many people outside the states most afflicted (Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana) don’t know about the quakes, but online reports show tremors still occur almost daily.

What are you writing now?

I’m rewriting the first book of a series with a less lethal protagonist than my ex-spy. I may write some short stories featuring Phoenix and Achilles. 

Former CIA operative Phoenix Smith must play detective again when her K-9 dropout sniffs out a murder weapon at the scene of a congressman’s “accidental” death. Who tried to hide a homicide? She suspects either a corrupt political insider or an enraged abusive husband. Determined to prevent more murders. Phoenix goes with her friend Annalynn, an aspiring candidate, to a political gathering at the late congressman’s isolated antebellum mansion. A blizzard traps them there with three suspects dissembling inside and the sinister snowman lurking outside.



Carolyn Mulford set out to be a writer shortly after becoming a reader in a one-room school in Missouri. She postponed her writing career to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. That experience fostered a fascination with other cultures that led her to work as a nonfiction writer and editor on four continents. She moved from nonfiction to fiction and from Washington, D.C., to Columbia, Missouri, in 2007, the year her first published novel, The Feedsack Dress, came out. Show Me the Sinister Snowman is her seventh novel and twelfth book. To read the first chapters of her novels, go to http://carolynmulford.com.

Buy Links
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XNLZ14X/r
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/show-me-the-sinister-snowman-carolyn-mulford/1125943429?ean=9780971349797

News Flash: Five Star put her first four e-books on Overdrive. You can download them.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Rushes In


Young beets and onions a few years ago.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 5 March 26, 2017

Spring, once it’s official, rushes in,
heedless, yearning again toward green,
blooms, seeds. I can never keep up.
I turn eighty in two months when
these seeds will offer me peas, beets,
onions, lettuce. I didn’t used to count
days, but now I do. Each day is a gift
we can’t give back, can’t save, can
only live as if it were our last. It
might be. Keep the heart beating
by using it and all my other muscles,
tendons, organs, nerves, bones. The 
body is wedded to the soul. Keep
the soul happy, and the body will
flourish, hold off death, warm us
after a walk, sleep hard; and once
awake, find us plenty of puzzles to
solve and conflicts to agonize over. 
Each time we penetrate fear, come 
through those annoying, pesky doubts,
we re-find our balance, see light ahead,
not so terribly far off.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Heavy Gate That Was Between Us


Russian peasant farm, "First Snow," by Nikolai Smirnov

BEAVER SOUL 15  July 8, 1992.  Komarovo, Russia

I sleep in a Russian field.  A magpie
and a cricket sing my lullaby.
Walking here, I saw campion and scabious.
A bumblebee visits the meadow sweet.
After these months of readying myself,
July is mine.  Russia is mine.  Nothing
can take my peacefulness away.  Even sun!
At Komarovo!  Where there is little sun.
It is not the Bay of Finland which
draws me, but this meadow a-buzz
with insects, steaming itself dry so
slowly that no mist rises.  Perhaps 
only the tall, lyrical birches give it
away: I’m in Russia, not Wales,
not North Carolina.  The magpie
could be mistaken for a mockingbird;
the wildflowers could be picked in
Wales.  Blackberry vines would look
the same wherever they were.  But
I’m here.  Because I wanted to be
here.  Because the door opened once
and only I passed through.  Now I
learn the secret life of the beaver
in a new way.  The vulnerable white
bark of the birches opens in me a new
softness; the grasses tremble around
me with an unfamiliar tenderness.
My soul comes to rest.  The meadow welcomes
me now because the people here
have tugged the heavy gate that 
was between us open.  It is as if
we were all seated in this sunny
meadow.  Our fears have retreated
like cowardly, humbled animals
to the shadows around us.  We 
drink nectar.  We find all the 
words we want.  And our eyes
say the rest.  Our language is
the only human one; our tongues
taste ambrosia.  A kind, pale
light is with us, day and night.
We are never alone.  The jasmine
and wild roses rejoice with us.
The rain laughs and disappears.
Our quiet voices climb the
white sky and, when we awaken,
the white light beckons us

to morning communion.

I wrote this poem nearly 25 years ago, while staying at a Writers House of Creativity, Komarovo, near St. Petersburg in Russia. It's in my book Beaver Soul, published in Russia in 1997, and here in 2013 by Finishing Line Press.  A signed copy: $12, with tax and shipping $15, PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Gospel Sing Benefit-Judy's Speech

 First Coal Ash Train to Brickhaven pit January 2016

Gospel Sing-Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 
Mar 12, 2017, Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

I want to thank everyone–the Mt. Olive congregation, and especially, Pastor Headen and Cathy Smith, for arranging this event and welcoming us into their church, also the two choirs from Liberty Chapel and Ward Memorial churches, and all our visitors. We began fighting the dumping of 12 million tons of coal ash in our community in late 2014, and have been to court to challenge the Department of Environmental Quality’s permits to do this. We’ve attended hearings, held protests, written letters, and held fund–raising events to pay our wonderful lawyer, John Runkle. The money donated today goes to Mr. Runkle. In our fight have also been EnvironmentaLee and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League of which both our groups are 501-C-3 chapters, so donations are tax-deductible.

I’ve lived in Moncure eighteen years and decided when I came, that I would work to stop the pollution threatened then: a low-level nuclear dump. The pollution attempts have been constant, but we have in time won them all. This one has been especially hard, but we are working hard. What I want to talk about is our community, and what a blessing it is.

I knew no one when I moved here in late 1998, and now I count many here my friends and good neighbors, and fellow fighters for justice. People here have helped me with yard work, firewood, rides to the doctor or to get my car. People I didn’t know have introduced themselves in the post office. My life is rich because I have so many caring and generous neighbors. I’m very glad that Moncure is my home and that I’m part of this community, and I want to tell you: The coal ash dumping is not a done deal. When people say that, it sends out a message of despair. We have hope of winning this fight. Hope is harder than despair, but we can do it. Duke Energy is big, rich, and powerful, but we have the power of love, hope, and strong spirits. I challenge all of us to join those who are already fighting, to say, with them, “This is not a done deal. We are going to stop this dumping which brings harm: illness and death to us. We will not give up. Together we can stop this insult to our lives, our families, and our children.”

***


Judy with sign, 2016, later vandalized. We fight other ways.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The High Places


Judy's kitchen table in the spring of 2014, daffodil time

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 2 March 5, 2017

You agreed: our story/our history
should be told. I wanted to give you
my heart whole, and I did. I couldn’t
forget the high places where we rested
and were one, each having a wing. You
left the whole story to me. I held back
until now. If we soared, we also lost
ourselves in the tangled skein of anger,
scorn, tears, deadly silence. You could
silence me, whose one great need was
to speak. Since I’m alone now, I’m free
to tell it all: the agony and loss of
paradise, and its rediscovery. We were
fools, yet wiser than everyone around
us, living our lives as if we were one
bird, one fight, with only one home,
and that always together. The love
has outlasted your death. I’m aging
but I’m speaking. Once you would 
have frowned at what I’m telling, 
but now, from your new place of

contemplation, you’re smiling.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Those Eternally Linked Lives


Peach and pear tree blooms 2013 in Judy's orchard.

***
Those Eternally Linked Lives 1 February 26, 2017

There’s no stopping spring once she stirs
to life all those roots under the soil cover.
Daffodils can weather ice. Peepers can go
back into their mud, but peach blossoms
come only once and kill so easily. Human
love has many changes it can ring. It can 
spring to life and then die when reality
pricks its bubble. We sometimes see
and feel what we want to, and the other
person never stops being strange. Our
souls never fuse. When the real thing
happens, we may fight to get away.
We don’t like feeling helpless or
taken captive by what we’ve seen and
loved. We don’t realize how lucky we
are, when, all unaware, we start a fire
in another person’s hearth. There’s a
deeper wisdom at work, one that 
throws off the conventional trappings
and goes for the knowing depths of 
our souls, when one moment becomes
sufficient to last us a lifetime, no
matter the consequences. We prepare
to pay the costs even before we know
what they are. Only later do we realize
how lucky we are and how that love

sustained us and changed our lives.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Eternally Linked Lives


Full Bloom 30. February 19, 2017

The Full Bloom years resurrect your great love,
which exalted you and made you suffer. Those
memories, hidden, but still alive line the way 
you walk with your always inquisitive dog.
What you see are the young hardwood trees,
their branches February bare, but they hold
your gaze and won’t let go. I was in a farmyard
in rural Russia, with people around me, but
so alone. Segregated and tended like a queen
bee, separate bowl and spoon, not allowed
to help. Everyone worked, but not me. I was
the guest. The man I loved with my whole
heart laughed at me. Then I found a stream
bank I could sit beside and write out my
sadness. To have felt connected in an eternal
way and then left alone was anguish enough,
but then he taunted me. I couldn’t see that he
was hurting, too. He’d never tell, but he did
hear me, made time to talk to me, stopped
laughing. It wasn’t a tie we could break,
though we both tried. Those eternally linked
lives can be hard to live with. Yet we did.
Now the bare twigs, their lines clean, their
sap soon to rise, remind me of what I’ll

never lose, no matter how long I live.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Questionnaire by Wendell Berry


Goff Creek with muddy water, prior to coal ash dumping in Brickhaven, Chatham County, N.C. photo: John Wagner, 2015

Here's a questionnaire for you. One size fits all.

***
QUESTIONNAIRE by Wendell Berry from New Collected Poems, p.375, 2012

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
we could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security
for which you would kill a child.
Name please the children whom

you would be willing to kill.