Saturday, February 22, 2014

Keeping Fracking Out of North Carolina

One of my hens after molting.If fracking comes here, no more hens.

This blog is dedicated to my friends in Lee and Chatham County whose lives are threatened by fracking should it come here.


I’ve been thinking lately about two things: how, when, in the past, people told me that what I wanted to do couldn’t be done, and how I did them anyway.  I seldom failed.  Several folks lately have told me that there is no way we can stop the fracking coming to North Carolina.  I do think we can stop it.  Not easily.  Yet I believe that the fracking is all wrong: ruins our human environment so we can’t breathe good air, have clean water, grow food out of the earth.  It makes us sick.  We have so many ways to provide ourselves with energy without fracking: wind, water, sun.  If we work and fight and do all we can, we can prevail.  Let’s believe in a future we can make possible.  
The second thought is about how we have choices. Yes, we do. I found a lovely quote about this in Louise Penny’s Still Life: Her character Myrna says (p. 140, in the paperback edition):

“Life is change.  If you aren’t growing and evolving, you’re standing still, and the rest of the world is surging ahead.  Most of these people are very immature.  They lead ‘still lives, waiting.’

“Waiting for someone to save them.  Expecting someone to save them or at least protect them from the big, bad world.  The thing is no one else can save them because the problem is theirs and so is the solution. Only they can get out of it.... Ultimately, it’s us and our choices.  But the most powerful, spectacular thing is that the solution rests with us as well.  We’re the only ones who can change our lives, turn them around....”


I wrote these lines in a poem not long ago, and I believe them to be true:

We have to believe in 
the future in order to ward it off 
when the sky darkens and omens 
fall all around us.  Only the patient
serenity of our spirits, allowing each
day’s exuberance, will do it, will keep
us upright, well-balanced, firmly 
rooted in the miracle of present time.
–A Thread of Light V.


If fracking comes, no more lively beets, peas, onions in my garden.


Where to begin?  Here is one place I’m working.  Doesn’t it make sense?  This is only the beginning, but simply reading it gives me hope.  Anson County in North Carolina passed a moratorium which I’ve used as my model here. Judy Hogan

Draft of a Moratorium to Keep Fracking Out of Chatham
“Whereas, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners finds that the extraction of natural gas in Chatham County’s rural and agricultural environment poses a significant threat to the health, safety, and welfare of residents, neighborhoods, and natural features; and

“Whereas, the Board finds that significant environmental, community, and human health impacts have resulted from commercial natural gas development in other states; and
“Whereas, the Board finds that the State’s authorization of natural gas development automatically means allowing such activities to occur within Chatham County, thus allowing for the deposition of toxins into the air, soil, water, environment, and bodies of residents within our County; and

“Whereas, the Board finds that existing State laws and regulations do not adequately protect the health and welfare of our County’s residents by not addressing natural gas development locality-specific effects on the unique natural, geologic, demographic, financial, and other conditions that exist within County boundaries; and

“Whereas, the Board finds the North Carolina General Assembly and the Mining and Energy Commission are moving too fast toward enabling hydraulic fracturing to occur in North Carolina before adequate regulatory protections are established; and

“Whereas, the board finds that natural gas development is a conditional use, and Whereas, Chatham County is primarily rural and agricultural in nature, with the majority of residents living in rural areas, and

“Whereas Chatham County’s income is dependent on a healthy agricultural industry, with over _______ billion (?) in agricultural income earned last year according to North Carolina Cooperative Extension; and

“Whereas, Chatham County is home to Jordan Lake, a state wildlife refuge; and Whereas, the Jordan Lake State Park and Wildlife Refuge provides critical habitat for ____ birds, —amphibian and reptile, _____mammal, and ___ fish species, including migratory waterfowl, migratory song birds, and threatened and endangered species; and

“Whereas, Jordan Lake provides recreation and environmental education for more than a million visitors annually; and

“Whereas, over two million residents of Chatham, Durham, and Wake Counties depend on the public water supply sourced from Jordan lake; and

“Whereas, the Haw and other (which ones?) rivers and streams are a likely water resource from which natural gas operations would draw millions of gallons of water to use for natural gas development; and

“Whereas, the State of North Carolina and Chatham County have experienced drought within recent years and cannot afford to endanger already limited water resources; and

“Whereas, according to the United States Geological Survey, approximately 2.7 million North Carolinians depend upon well water for their water supply; and

“Whereas, approximately _______ Chatham County residents depend upon well water for private water supply; and

“Whereas, while private wells are not subject to inspection, citizens using privately supplied drinking water are at greater risk of drinking contaminated water; and

“Whereas, the Board recognizes that all residents, natural communities, and ecosystems in Chatham County possess a fundamental and inalienable right to clean, drinkable and usable water that will sustain health and life; and

“Whereas, the Board finds that North Carolina’s unique geography and minimal separation between shale formation and groundwater supplies puts well water users disproportionately at risk of groundwater supply contamination; and

“Whereas, local governments will incur increased costs for services such as regulatory compliance monitoring, emergency services, maintenance of roads and bridges, and increased policing and other social services; and

“Whereas, the Board believes it appropriate for natural gas owners and operators to pay for these additional services that the County will have to provide to protect the health and welfare of its citizens;

“Therefore, the Board hereby adopts this Moratorium, which temporarily prohibits natural gas development activities, including hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, from occurring within Chatham County while ordinances are developed, enacted and implemented to protect the rights of Chatham County Residents and the natural resources we enjoy.”


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Paperbacks Plus! An Amazing Bookstore

Interview with Pat Dawson, owner of Paperbacks Plus!

1. How did you come to own a bookstore and when?

I have owned Paperbacks Plus! For the past 17 years.  When the original owner decided to close the store, she held a going out of business sale.  During the last week of the sale my husband, Jim, and I drove by, saw the sale sign, went inside and bought books…lots of books.  Driving home Jim, the smart guy, said “You should have just bought the whole store.  So I immediately replied, “Okay,” drove home, called and bought a bookstore over the phone.  

2. Have you enjoyed it?  Why?

I don’t think enjoy really expresses how much I love being here.  I love the delight on a new customer’s face when they discover the wide range of genres we stock, as well as calling an existing customer when that perfect book for them comes in.  I enjoy the “treasure hunt” of looking for and finding great books for the store….and getting to read them before they can be placed in the store.

3. How do you keep the bookstore afloat in a difficult economy?

Independent bookstores always struggle.  By listening to customers, by keeping up with and hopefully ahead of new popular series and authors as well as the well-loved classics the store is always evolving.  Recently a new addition to the store has opened.  The Cheap Book Nook has taken over the entire back room and all of the hundreds of books there are $1.00. Our policy of accepting trade-ins, giving store credit or buying outright also help our customers by allowing them to purchase large amounts of books for little money.  In addition to local authors’ books I also carry a variety of North Carolina items made by one of the local authors and by local artists/craftspeople from time to time.  Locally produced honey has become a surprisingly popular addition.

4. Give us an idea of the variety of your customers and what sorts of books they want?

The customers are as varied as the types of book they are looking for:  Locals, regulars from Raleigh and further, out of town visitors, old, young and all ages in between.  What they all have in common is a great love for books and bookstores.  If the book they are looking for is not in, I can order a new copy or add their request to my “Book of the Holy Grail” list to search for a used copy.

5. Tell us about your schemes for getting attention to the store, the books, and the local authors?

Where to start?  Nights with local bands playing at the store, cake tastings, beer tasting, arts & craft exhibits, Holiday Bazaars with over 30 vendors, Buy Local night, Wholistic Health event for humans and animals, pet adoption, Santa at Christmas, Chili Cook Off, Irish night and the Siler City Farmers’ Market Mini Market during the winter months.  Believe it or not, in between all this, hundreds of book signings have been held over the years with both local and non-local authors.  The effort and enthusiasm that authors put into these is always appreciated.  They are here with good weather, bad weather, crowds of people or an intimate showing.  Newspaper articles, Facebook, my email list, networking, flyers and good old fashioned word of mouth helps to spread the news of these events.

6. I participated in your Local Author Showcase in 2013, and you certainly worked hard for us.  Why?

The Showcase was the culmination of an idea I had been kicking around for awhile.  There are so many amazing authors right here in our area that don’t have an outlet to share their work and so many readers who have no idea of the talent here.    I always found reasons to delay.  Finding authors, renting a venue, coordinating everyone, advertising, food for the authors and guests...until one day I thought “Do it or don’t do it….and that is how the Showcase was born.

7. What are the advantages to you of owning a bookstore?

Talking with the good friends who visit and enjoying being surrounded by the world of books.

8. Are you ever bored when you’re tending the store?

Never -- although the myth of me being able to sit and read all day with an open box of bon-bons is greatly exaggerated, I can assure you.

9. Give us the hours and days that you’re open.

Wednesday 9:00AM – 1:00 PM.  Thursday and Friday 12:00AM – 5:30 PM.  Saturday 10:30AM – 5:00 PM.

10. Tell us a little about you, your interests, native of Siler City or where?

I grew up I a small Texas town much like Siler City, could not wait to leave and then spent long years trying to get back to a small town.   I lived in New York for a few years, and then moved to Maryland where I was in property management for 10 years.  My husband, Jim, being from North Carolina, wanted to move back home, and in 1992 we arrived.  After vowing never to be a “corporate body” again I worked first at the Bynum General Store and Post Office, then at an orchard greenhouse until that fateful day we drove past Paperbacks Plus!  

My two passions in life have always been reading and animals.  In first grade I was reading Nancy Drew, girl detective, while everyone else read Dick and Jane.  I had a collection of dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, chickens, horses, cows, moles, squirrels, raccoons and anything that crossed my path as a pet growing up.  Currently I am owned by Lili Ann the Siamese cat who appeared mysteriously in a locked Paperbacks Plus! one morning.  My other co-owner is Abby, a Shiloh Shepherd, who is a popular worker at the store.  You have to have a strong ego when people call or drop by for Abby and then promptly hang up or leave if she isn’t in that day. Now if I could just teach her to shelve books.

11. How has owning a bookstore enriched or changed your life in good ways?

After reading the above, I think all the ways my life has been enriched and blessed are so evident.  After 17 years I am looking forward to many, many more years and new friends.
Stop in and visit.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Review: Carolyn Hart's Castle Rock

Castle Rock.  Carolyn Hart.  Seventh Street Books, Amherst, NY.  Feb. 11, 2014.  174 pages.  Paper ISBN: 978-1-61614-873-7 $13.95.  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61614-874-4. $9.99.

Castle Rock is one of my favorites of the early novels being reissued by Seventh Street in their Carolyn Hart Classics series. Serena Mallory, the ward of rancher Dan McIntyre, in her early twenties now, is helping Dan run the New Mexico ranch.  When her parents were killed, he had taken her in.  She has grown up with his niece and nephew, Julie and Will.  Jed Shelton is a ranch hand who had turned up two months earlier when his car broke down.  He was then hired.

Early in the novel Serena suspects that something is not right at Castle Rock Ranch.   After the summer guests arrive, as well as Julie and her new husband, Peter, more things go wrong.  Uncle Dan dies after an accident on horseback, and then more accidents occur, which suggests that someone is trying to get rid of Serena, who is named ranch manager in Dan’s will, as well as his grandson Danny, who ultimately inherits the ranch when he comes of age.

Serena is drawn to Jed, but Julie’s flirtation with him seems to be working too well.  Serena wants to trust him, but she knows so little about him, and she’s afraid he’s responsible for the evil that is threatening the ranch and its people.

In good romantic suspense fashion we readers are teased with doubts about whether Serena and Jed will ever get together.  We also wonder, along with Serena, whether Jed is behind the accidents, all of which could have led to death.  Suspense builds even more when Danny disappears, and Serena sets out to find him during a horrific storm.

I like the determination in Serena to discover what’s going on and take care of Castle Rock and Danny.  She infuriates Jed by risking herself as she does.

It’s a lovely tale of courage and grit, in which a young woman does what she feels she has to do, no matter the risk.  The characters live on the page.  The evil is felt, and the dangers are real.  A working ranch that is also a dude ranch in the summer is well portrayed as well the New Mexico landscape near the Anasazi ruins.  The story is simply and well-told, and we both worry for Serena and cheer her on.


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. 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Review: Gloria Alden's Ladies of the Garden Club

Ladies of the Garden Club, Gloria Alden.  Willow Knoll Publishing, 2012. Southington, Ohio.  Paper $14.95.  ISBN: 978-1-4942952-4-0. 307 pages.

Many traditional mysteries are set in villages.  Gloria Alden’s take on life in the small town of Portage Falls in northeast Ohio is portrayed in her Catherine Jewell garden series intimately and accurately, and includes both the town’s ugliness and its admirable qualities.  Her books, and this third one is her best yet, in my opinion, remind me of the movies made during the forties and early fifties, with their focus on small town life and its profoundly human qualities, movies like “I Remember Mama” and “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

It’s not that there’s no evil in Portage Falls, but that the whole world of the novel is fully human.  Even those who do evil to their family or neighbors are human, and goodness, basic decency, and kindness continue to dominate this landscape.

Catherine offers a workshop  at the local showplace, Elmwood Gardens, on poisonous plants, many of which grow in people’s gardens, without their awareness of which ones can be poisonous if eaten.  I learned that the leaves and stems of tomato and potato plants, which belong to the nightshade family, are poisonous, even the little green spots and eyes on the potatoes.  Certain mushrooms, of course, and one, the beautiful but deadly Fly Amanita, becomes the cause of death in the first garden club member who is poisoned. Castor beans are from another poisonous plant and are used to kill another garden club lady.

New characters in this third book in the series include the unhappy T.J. Carter, who wants to be a boy and tries to keep her name Tiffany Jane a secret.  She’s spending the summer with her grandparents because her parents are getting a divorce.  Catherine makes friends with her and encourages T.J. to play with her dog Alvin.  T.J. and Alvin bond quickly.

Boris Hajde is another new and interesting character, who has Asperger’s Syndrome (high-functioning autism) and lives alone with his pet buzzards and his collection of dark-leaved plants like Black Wizard Dahlias, and Edge of Night and Black Forest Calla lilies.

Among the garden club ladies are Louise Brogden, who has discovered Feng Shui and wants to clear up everyone else’s clutter as well as her own.  She goes so far as to give away her husband George’s prized comic book collection, which he rescues in time from the local bookstore before it is sold.  Then there’s the bossy garden club president, Frances Fenstermaker, who doesn’t believe other people can get things done unless she personally micro- manages them.

Catherine herself is a relative newcomer to Portage Falls, and since she gave a garden workshop on poisonous plants, when a garden club woman dies from eating the highly toxic Fly Amanita, which grows near Catherine’s Roses in Thyme garden business, and the victim is found by Catherine in her greenhouse, some townsfolks suspect her to be the murderer, including Joe Salcone, who works with Catherine’s friend, Police Chief John MacDougal.  Catherine is afraid John suspects her, too.  The kindergarten teacher, Polly Popcorn, also had a rough time when gossip circulated a few years earlier, accusing her of smoking marijuana and having wild parties.  She could have lost her job if the teachers’ union officer, George Brogden, hadn’t cleared her of this gossip.

I enjoyed all the characters and their doings and attitudes, and I was glad to read of the building love between Catherine and John. I do like a little romance in a mystery book.  The plot is nicely twisted, and suspense builds as more garden club members die.  Catherine can’t believe anyone who attended her poison plant workshop could be mean enough to kill anyone.  This concept of suspense is made clear in Elizabeth George’s Write Away, i.e., that we readers care about the characters so much that we want to know not only the meaning of what has already happened but what might happen next, and so keep reading.
My Russian friend, Mikhail Bazankov, believes that village life is the best place for “building the human soul.”  We might say, “for the human soul to grow and flourish.”  Here the village world is threatened but comes through, yes, with loss, but stronger.  The bonds between the good characters sustain the villagers as they have to accept their losses, and even weak people, like the Ralph Derryberry from the first two books, who is known by all the villagers to be lazy, using his bad back as an excuse so as not to work, can still learn and change because of the basic environment of caring and accepting the differences between people. 

I see this happening in my little town, and I believe it to be an international phenomenon–alive also in the books of Agatha Christie, Louise Penny, and many other mystery writers, who are familiar with the “homegrown evil” and also understand and value the “homegrown goodness” found in villages and small towns.


Gloria in her study-library, with her dog Maggie

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 came out in late 2013. 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.