Sunday, August 30, 2015
Pea Vines in early spring at Hoganvillaea Farm.
THE OMENS ARRIVE IX. April 26, 2015
Work with the risen green. It’s the only way
to sustain hope. You, my friend, are quiet,
yet not far away. The new moon’s sliver holds
you close, a bright planet in the spring sky. I
know you want me to fight against this harm
our huge electric company proposes. To learn
of this Machiavellian plot to destroy whole
communities is to say nay. No coal ash in
our water, air, poisoning our lives, our animals,
our gardens and farms. How do we keep our
hope healthy and green? Consider the pea vines,
their tentacles waving, reaching, “looking”
for any string or stem they can cling to, climb.
Consider the infant carrots. Their first two
tiny blades have given way to feathery leaves–
nearly invisible. They will be big, fat, and strong
in no time. The onions and leeks that looked
half dead when they arrived in the mail, are
rising green and hardy. The thyme and oregano
beds, once weeded, fling themselves over
new territory. The fig leaves pop out of limbs
that looked so dead. And I? These people
who have gathered around trust me. If I
tell them to work and hope, they will. They do.
My own hope springs from a mysterious
source, deeper even than my Muse, from
that core the dragon once guarded, that inner
circling sun I released for service years
ago. I know how to risk all. I’ve
penetrated fear and dread, kept despair away
for years. Why? Because it’s how I’m
made and why I’m loved.
Hands Across Our Land. Protest Against Fracking, Gas Pipe Lines, and Coal Ash Dumping, Moncure, NC. August 18, 2015.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Here’s my new publishing project. I’m going to put all fifteen mysteries I’ve written about postmenopausal poet Penny Weaver and Kenneth Morgan, her Welsh detective lover/husband into print through my own imprint Hoganvillaea Books, using Amazon’s CreateSpace. A little history.
Back in 1990, I was a poet and non-fiction writer. I had been to Russia for the first time, which set off love feelings for my host writer there, and I had come afterwards to the Gower Peninsula in Wales for several weeks of poetry writing. I was struggling with what to do with that love, which was taboo, he being married, and rebelling against it, and I think that rebellion was why I sprained my ankle. I got an ambulance to the Swansea hospital. Bed rest was the prescription, no ice available, and so I was housebound for several weeks and couldn’t range the cliffs and valleys of Gower in search of poems. Instead, I wrote them in my bedroom at Edith Merrett’s bed and breakfast, where I had spent other years relaxing away from my usual responsibilities and writing poems–some of my best.
Edith knew I loved to read mysteries, and one day she said, “Judy, you should write a murder.” So, having a lot of free time, I began to plot one based on my own experiences there on Gower. I actually wrote it the next summer, 1991, when my son was home to work for the summer, and my daughter was getting married, and I thought, with less time for concentrated work, I’d try writing my first mystery for fun. I didn’t know all the categories of crime fiction. I’d been reading all the Golden Age writers, Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and some of the moderns, Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Amanda Cross, and Martha Grimes.
Mine came close to the traditional mystery, which I later heard Margaret Maron describe at a workshop: a group of suspects, the challenge being to figure out whodunnit, an amateur detective, little explicit violence or sex. I later removed the explicit sex, but there’s still plenty of erotic experience in this one.
I wrote it, typed it, and tried some of the publishers who didn’t yet require agents for mysteries, and Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s read it and sent me a very nice rejection letter. From the late 90s, too, I began entering each mystery I wrote in the annual St. Martin’s Press First Best Traditional Mystery Contest. After I joined Sisters in Crime and their sub-group the Guppies (great unpublished), in 2008, I began querying agents. I had encouragement also in 2008 from one reader/judge for that contest, even suggestions for revision, Ellen Rininger. She wrote to me: “Judy, you amaze me. You have the positive outlook which will get you far. And you just keep going! We know you have a good product, you are getting wonderful critiques from knowledgeable people. You are making great connections, and we are going to see your name in print on book shelves everywhere. Just keep up the good work!”
That was for Formaldehyde, Rooster, the 4th novel written. Then in 2011 I was a finalist in the contest for Killer Frost, the 6th written. That judge said her choice out of the 50 mss she read was a “no brainer.” In the intervening years, with Guppy support, I had queried agents for 3 years, then tried small presses, first for The Sands of Gower, then for Haw (2nd one), then for Nuclear Apples?(3rd), but no luck. When Killer Frost was a finalist, I queried the most encouraging agents, but no luck, then small presses, which I’d already been trying, and Mainly Murder Press in Connecticut, gave me a contract for 2012. Then they published #6, Farm Fresh and Fatal, in 2013. But in 2014, the editor Judi Ivey kicked me loose. She said I wasn’t making enough money, and neither were they. So I again, with several suggestions from “knowledgeable” people, tried other small presses. No luck.
I had noticed that some of my friends, notably Gloria Alden, had gotten five books out between 2012 and 2015, and I had two. She sold them locally mostly, but they sold well at Malice, too. She was using Create/Space. I’m not wild about supporting Amazon, but Gloria found it relatively easy to use their self-publishing tool, and I’m 78, so my time runs short at least for having as much energy as I do now. I rest more, but I do get a lot done in a day, if not everything I wish to. I had also met Tonya Kappes, who self-published from the beginning, four books a year, and recently was picked up by Harper and Row. She’s a fireball, and I thought I couldn’t match her success, but I could find more readers as I got more books out. So I started Hoganvillaea Books. Carolyn Mulford urged me to do four a year, but I think I can do three.
My planned pub dates will be Dec 1, April 1, August 1, each year, starting this December 1. For me putting Sands up on Create/Space was a sharp learning curve. I had asked Anne Kachergis to design cover and bookmarks, and when I was having trouble with uploading the PDF file, or one that would be converted correctly to PDF, I asked Anne’s help, and she did it with relative ease. It cost me more, but now the book is print-ready, and review copies are ordered.
I owe a lot to my two readers: Suzanne Flandreau and Carol Hay, who have read the books in sequence and believe in them, plus caught those little problems and typos, commas, etc., that we all need to fix before we put our books out on the waters of the world.
I’m proceeding as much as possible as a publisher, getting out Advance Review Copies early, and I’m starting pre-sales now.
For $16, including tax, you can order Sands to pick up when Dec. 1 arrives; or you can request it mailed to you for $19, which covers tax and postage. To PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559-0253. It’s 194 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1515191063. Dec. 1 there will also be a Kindle available for $2.99 on Amazon. I'll have them in local bookstores, too.
I already have readings in the works plus a launch at my farm on Dec. 6, Sunday, 4-6 PM. Potluck. Then at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, I’ll read Thursday, Dec. 10, 7 PM, and on Jan 9, Saturday, 2016, 11 AM-1 PM I’ll sign books at Paperbacks Plus in Siler City. Readings at the South Regional Library in Durham, and the Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill are also in the works. I should finish getting all fifteen into print by 2020, and no doubt I’ll be writing a new one or two, also, especially about the coal ash problem I’m working on now.
I had an enthusiastic response to my first two published novels. Julia Spencer-Fleming, a NY Times best-selling author, called Killer Frost “a stellar debut.” Carolyn Hart had this to say: “Farm Fresh and Fatal features an appealing protagonist, an intriguing background, and well-realized characters. Readers will enjoy these characters and empathize with their successes and failures. In the tradition of Margaret Maron.”
Mystery Scene Magazine also praised it: [Farm Fresh and Fatal] is fascinating for several reasons. One, the personal and political infighting that takes place after a murder are indicative of how society at large functions. Two, although the reader first looks at the community as a whole, individuality quickly emerges. And three—but definitely not last—is the fact that vegetables turn out of be a lot more interesting than we’d ever guessed.–Betty Webb.
The Sands of Gower is set in a Bed and Breakfast on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, Wales. Penny Weaver, luxuriating in her two-month vacation, is disturbed by the murder of a German guest. Penny’s independent, outspoken American lifestyle contrasts with the more conservative ways of the village’s pensioners. In the process of solving the crime, Penny and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan are powerfully attracted. This, plus the British post-World War II continuing distrust of the Germans, complicates their investigation.
Carolyn Mulford, author of Show Me the Ashes, says: “Distinctive characters, lyrical writing, and an appealing Welsh setting distinguish this charming tale of an introspective poet’s unexpected immersion in murder and romance.”
I hope you’ll be eager to read The Sands of Gower. If you’d like to be on my book list for updates, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
Protest signs held by members of EnvironmentaLEE and Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump at the DENR Hearing on a Mining Modification Permit. Chatham County Historic Courthouse in background. August 12, 2015. Photo by Martha Girolami
THE OMENS ARRIVE XXII. August 9, 2015
Love and protest: they blend themselves together.
If you don’t love a child, a flower, a bird, a home,
a community, you don’t try to protect it. Mindless
corporate power makes war on our village, on
people who often work two jobs, sometimes for
the company which focuses its blind eye on our
gardens, our ponds where we go to fish, woods
where we hunt deer and wild turkey. That
electric company was told to stop killing people
by poisoning their drinking water, so they chose
to poison more people by moving their toxic
coal ash around. They lie and cheat, and no one
stops them. I draw courage from red and yellow
zinnias coming into bloom, from chicks launching
themselves into the wider air of the whole coop.
Now they can fly from snakes. Despite heat that
kills plants and keeps off bees, I pick figs and
plum tomatoes, make preserves and spaghetti
sauce. The sunflowers are seven feet high, out-
stripping even the orange and yellow cosmos.
Change is hard for me, more as I age, but I will
learn how to have the faith of bean seeds
unfurling leaves; of okra seedlings raising their
umbrellas a little more each day. Because I
love these frightened people, I will tame my fears,
and we will all learn bravery. We will free
ourselves from harm. We will not be killed,
nor surrender all we cherish.
Judy's zinnias and cosmos--summer 2014.
Speech by Judy Hogan at the DENR Hearing on August 12, 2015
My name is Judy Hogan. I live in Moncure on Moncure-Pittsboro Road, five miles by air from both hazardous coal ash landfills, and my road is a main truck route from Corinth/Brickhaven to Pittsboro and points west. DENR is breaking its own laws set up to protect the environment and the people of North Carolina by issuing the mining permit and its modification.
We who live near and along train and truck transportation routes are in danger of the coal ash dust coming off the trucks, ruining lawns, gardens, farm animals, household pets, causing children wanting to play outside to be kept indoors; making us sick and killing us slowly. We need air monitors near the site and along the travel routes.
Whatever the EPA says, coal ash is dangerous and hazardous to our health. People are dying around the coal ash dumps and ponds all over NC. Duke is shifting its many leaking coal ash dumps onto other counties and towns so those folks will die, too. Of course Duke/Charah chose two places in Lee and Chatham where many low-income, rural, and African American people live. Business as usual in our country? Pick on those you think have no voice? We object. You will hear our voices.
Those plastic liners intended to keep coal ash out of drinking water are a joke. They can tear or be wrinkled in installation; little rocks and hard pieces of coal can penetrate them; the seals can break; 12 kinds of bacteria can eat them. They do not last 400 years. Such monster coal ash landfills are an experiment and we are the sacrificial animals. Let’s have some common sense, some integrity, some human compassion. Let’s remember that our United States is committed to freedom and justice, to human dignity for all citizens. Thank you.
Photo by Martha Girolami. March 2015.
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Painting of a Russian peasant farm--"First Snow"--by Nikolai Smirnov, no longer with us. It hangs in my living room.
Gifts II. April 27, 2014
Works of art exist simultaneously in two economies, a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market but where there is no gift there is no art. –Lewis Hyde.
We all fear loss: of people, of things,
of what is familiar. We fear change,
which, often enough, is our only
salvation. I love this home I’ve made,
this small farm, my healthy hens
wandering the orchard, my dog who
now digs up the backyard on a long
treasure hunt after voles, children’s art,
paintings by Russian friends, even a
ragged orange sari from Nabaneeta,
given forty-five years ago and taped
to my desk to be a curtain, this
writing chair I’ve made a new cover
for five times in more than forty years,
and written in it more than eighty
books. The climate worsens. Growing
my food is harder each year. If
fracking comes, I will leave. It
means giving all this loved property
away. These hundreds of gifts
will make me richer. I already
see what will happen. The single
student I had in my winter class,
whom I scolded more than praised,
now brings me raspberry canes,
tomato, pepper, and okra plants.
I took Robert eggs, and he burned
off one of my tree stumps in the
meadow. I am reprimanded. I
forgot the mystery of the gift,
which has to move. The secret
of eternal life then?
Give it all away.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
Current Affairs: A Tiara Investigations Mystery. Lane Stone. Originally released by Mainly Murder Press in 2011. Currently available on Amazon. Paper: $13.99. ISBN-13: 978-1512265385; Ebook: $4.99. ISBN-10:1512265381. 242 pp.
I read this first mystery in Lane Stone’s Tiara Investigations series in 2012. Lane and I were both having our first mysteries published by Mainly Murder Press. Several of us published first by Mainly Murder have gone on to publish elsewhere. Lane says we’re MMP orphans. I say we’re graduates. MMP got us started. Lane’s second novel, Domestic Affairs, came out from Cozy Cat Press. She’s working now on her third one, Foreign Affairs.
As I reread Current Affairs, I caught more of the humor and was also struck by how she plays with the Southern lady syndrome. Three former beauty queens, living in Georgia--Leigh Reed, Tara Brown, and Victoria Blair--form a detective agency which specializes in finding out what wandering husbands are up to. Their conversation and actions spoof the stereotype of the Southern lady’s proper behavior. For instance, they discuss their sex lives. All three are smart and have special skills which come in handy. Victoria left the corporate world where she learned to be a whiz at computer technology. Tara is a lawyer, and Leigh worked for the Park Service and is married to an army general. She knows the military speak for weapons technology. Yet they are, in scene after scene, whimsical and creatively mischievous. They are laid back and yet right on the money. Their side kicks are their three Standard Snauzers. Leigh’s is Abby, Tara’s is Stephie, and Victoria’s is Mr. Benz. Sometimes the dogs go out on cases with them–for defense. They don’t carry guns.
The novel begins with their research into the amatory activities of local policeman Jerome Kent. When they give their photos of Kent and a very young blonde to his wife, Kent threatens to close down their private eye business, but all their paperwork is in order.
David Taylor, their next client’s husband, is an engineer for a weapon the military is using. His wife Kelly says he’s out a lot at night and takes private phone calls. The Tiara three go in pursuit when he leaves his house after a phone call, but someone shoots him before they can discover who he planned to meet. The dogs chase the shooter, and Kent shows up, not thrilled to have the women involved. Naturally they turn up more information than he does, though to do so they get into ridiculous predicaments from which their imagination, skill, and whimsy extricate them.
Current Affairs is loaded with humor that works. Humor writing isn’t easy to pull off. I also like the human tone, the real love Leigh has for her general husband and he for her, though she is a peace activist. Genuine affection among the three friends binds them together as much as their interest in helping women catch their errant husbands. In short, they’re outrageous, and their unlikely methods solve crimes.
Once you’ve enjoyed Current Affairs, you’ll want to read Domestic Affairs. I look forward to the release of Foreign Affairs.
Lane Stone is a native Atlantan and graduate of Georgia State University. She, her husband Larry Korb, and the real Abby divide their time between Sugar Hill, Georgia, and Alexandria, Virginia. She’s a member of both the Chessie (Chesapeake) Chapter and the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She also published with Jacqueline Corcoran Maltipoos are Murder, which is the first in their Doggie Day Spa Romance Mystery Series set in Middleburg, Va, “the nation’s horse and hunt capital.”
Lane’s website: www.lanestonebooks.com
Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/Current-Affairs-Investigations-Mystery-Mysteries/dp/1512265381/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=