Wednesday, December 31, 2008

and A Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

This is the time of year that we know there are certain things we can count on: Sentimentality seems to rise to a high level, we're encouraged to reflect on our lives, and we make lists. This nudge to do these things seems to come from all corners, including subliminal messages from our own brains. Why is that?? Is it because we've been programmed into a "Old Year/New Year let's reflect, let's make lists, let's watch a soppy movie and cry" mode over the years? Whatever it is, its all O.K. with me 'cause I am a constant list maker, I tend to over-analyze every action or inaction I make in my life, and I'd rather boo hoo over a soppy movie, or book, better than most anything I can think of.

Lists. This is indeed the time of year when lists are popping up all over the place. How many of you join me in being an avid list maker? I can’t pack for a trip without a list – even for a weekend. If I do, invariably I’ll get to wherever I’m going without my toothbrush or favorite jammies. But aside from all that, my very favorite lists are "Best of" lists.

Since most of the blogs I follow are written by writers and/or book lovers, it’s not surprising that most of them are doing their “Best of 2008” books. I love these! It is too fun to see how some of the same books show up on several lists, but even more fun to spot a book I’ve somehow missed and never heard of on some of them. And, of course, there are all sorts of additional “Best of 2008” lists up and running. Movie lists are also biggies. This isn't one I'm quite as interested in. We don't seem to get to the movies too much any more, and would rather just rent one to watch at home, or re-watch old ones on the classic movie stations - especially those old classics that I know I'm going to need a box of Kleenex next to me while we watch. And of course, there's always that list of "Favorite Classics." Or the "The Best Tear Jerker Movies." I love those! Firmly place "Imitation of Life" at the top of both these lists for me.

These lists go on endlessly, and I think they're all terrific fun. Janet Reid puts her own clever spin on it and has written about 8 things she loved in ’08.

And then there are the pieces being written about reflections on our lives. Not all of these are sentimental pieces, of course. And some of them aren't really reflections in the true sense of the word, but more of a "preview." One of my favorite writers also happens to write one of my very favorite blogs. Check out J.D. Rhoades' "What Fresh Hell is This?" for a preview of 2009.

And Laura Lippman has done her annual (this is #2, but its quickly becoming a tradition, I think) "One Word Resolution Challenge" at her Memory Project Blog.

So. I see I've gotten off on a tangent. Imagine that. But this blog IS after all named "Meanderings and Muses," so bear with me please while I meander and muse.

I knew I wanted to write a New Year's piece, but opened up this composing window to write without a clear thought in my head about what on earth it might be.

My friend Ken Lewis suggested I write about Uncus. Uncus was the dachsund we had when I was in high school. When I left for college Uncus took over my bedroom. The first weekend I came home from school for a visit I went out with friends one evening and when I came home, everyone was in bed. Including Uncus, who was loudly snoring away in my bed. Which, he, unfortunately for me, now considered (quite selfishly) to be his bed. And when I tried to get into "our" bed, he growled at me. Growled. At me. I was stunned. It scared me a little bit, but mostly it hurt my feelings. I'd only been gone a few weeks! I had shared this bed (when it was mine) with him for many years! I knocked on Mother and Dad's bedroom door to share my dilemma, and get a little help, but to no avail. "Oh, he's just kidding. Isn't that cute? ha ha. Just go to bed - he'll be fine." harumph. I don't remember all the details about how I convinced Uncus to share "the" bed, but we apparently came to an understanding about it all.

But I don't want to write about that.

I want to make my own list. My 10 Favorite Books of 2008. But its hard! Don't you think its hard to do a "Ten Best?" I admire those of you who can do that. I'm not going to try to do that. And instead of including just books in my list, I'm adding writers I've discovered this year who moved onto my "new favorite writer" list. Actually, because my memory is so bad, there may be some writers here who I actually discovered last year. But. Since this is my first year blogging, and so my first year for doing this list, who on earth is gonna know - right?! Well, in the spirit of transparency - I do do one of these lists every year at DorothyL, but I'm counting on everyone there having a memory as bad as mine.

In absolutely no particular order - - -

Friend of the Devil, Peter Robinson

Another Thing to Fall, Laura Lippman

Red Knife, William Kent Krueger

Death's Half Acre, Margaret Maron

The Drifter's Wheel, Phillip DePoy

Where Memories Lie, Deborah Crombie

Swan Peak, James Lee Burke

The Cluttered Corpse, Mary Jane Maffini

Buried Lies, Peter Rennebohm

Mightly Old Bones, Mary Saums

Another Man's Moccasins, Craig Johnson

Baby Shark's High Plains Redemption, Robert Fate

In a Dark Season, Vicki Lane

The Cruelest Month, Louise Penny

The Murder Stone, Louise Penny (available in the U.S. in Jan. under the title "A Rule Against Murder"

Killer Heat, Linda Fairstein

14, JT Ellison

The Black Hand, Will Thomas

Stalked, Brian Freeman

The Price, Alex Sokoloff

Defending Angels, Mary Stanton

Death Will Get You Sober, Liz Zelvin

The Fault Tree, Louise Ure

Hank Phillipi Ryan

Roberta Isleib

Sharon Wildwind

J.D. Rhoades

Brett Battles

Robert Gregory Browne

Zoe Sharp

Toni McGee Causey

Steve Hamilton

Evelyn David

Reed Farrel Coleman

Pari Noskin Taichert

Ken Bruen

Lee Child

(I know. I'm the last person on God's green earth to discover Ken Bruen and Lee Child. What can I say? I am an eejit).

O.K. - now I have to make myself not go back and re-read this list because I know there are books and writers I've just forgotten. One of the things I think I need to do is start keeping a log of what I'm reading. I do sort of do that at but its not done by year, so its no help for end of the year "Best of" lists. But. Then again, since this "is" my blog, after all, I guess I can just come back and add to my list any ol' time I want to, huh? Cool!

Now its your turn! Let's hear your favorite books for the year, and what new writers did you discover in 2008 that went immediately on your favorite writers list? Let's see your lists. Or heck, if you have a totally different list you want to share with us, that'll be fun too. Whatever you want to do. Reflect? o.k. - go right ahead. And here's my New Year's hug to each of you.

p.s. - Yes, I did get new earbobs for Christmas! They're gorgeous honey amber drops, with a pendant to match. Santa is a lovely man.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wishing you all the Happiest of Holidays!

So, what's Santa bringing everyone this year?!

I'm hoping for new earbobs.

Here's to everyone having their wishes come true.

Hugs, my friends -

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

No, I most certainly am not shy . . . .

but I am an introvert.

I have tried and tried to explain to friends the difference between being an introvert and being shy, but people who are not introverts just don't really seem to hear what I'm saying, possibly because I'm not saying it well. But, one thing for sure, they just don't get it.

A friend, bless his heart, sent me this article which just about says it all.

Many times, I've said I'd like to write about this subject, but I don't think I can say it all as well (and for sure not as succinctly, as this article does!), so I'm just going to toss it out here and see what you guys think and have to say about it.

I'm guessing there are probably a lot of you who join me in this condition. There are, of course, many different levels of introversion - from mild to off the scale. Depending on where someone falls on this scale, most of us are not, after all, totally socially inept. We do fare better socially if we're able to control, to some extent, our social environments, i.e., where they occur, when, and with whom. Pretty impossible to control all those things, so perhaps that's why a lot of us blog.

And is it why some of us who can't imagine enjoying ourselves in a big crowd of people love attending the mystery conventions that I know many of you attend, and which I've recently discovered an addiction to?

what do you think??

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why I'm Here, and Ta DA! - Introducing the Meanderings & Muses 2009 Dream Team

I have a cold.

I hate colds.

It would be so easy to fall into “poor pitiful me” stuff, and I’ll admit to a little of that, but honestly? Whining gets on my nerves, so I try awfully hard not to do it. ‘Course, I don’t always succeed, but dang - what can be more fun sometimes than an all-out wailing, poor, poor, pitiful me party, complete with a gallon of ice cream and one huge spoon while dressed in your favorite jammies. Boy howdy.

O.K. - two spoons.

Donald has the same cold and is fighting the pity party thing right along with me.

But. As tempting as it may be, I just can’t be pititful right now. Anyone who has been graced with the kind of support and friendship I have this week couldn’t dare allow themselves to fall into pitidom.

After years of not understanding the world of blogging and swearing it wasn’t for me, when I step back and take a look at where I am now, it makes my head swimmy. Not only am I writing a blog, I have what can only be a blogger’s dream team lined up to play with me for the whole of next year. Take a look at this list on the left - Gloriosa.

A lot of you are going to remember me saying I was not a fan of blogging. Talk about eating your words - oy. Though, I must say, in this particular instance, I am happy to do so. But. HOW did I get here, especially with this tremendous group of people agreeing to do guest spots at Meanderings and Muses, along with a group of people who have written me asking that I continue blogging after I wrote a couple of pieces, just because they enjoy what I have to say? How on earth did this happen?

Well, for one thing Meanderings and Muses wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Robin and Deborah who have written me with ideas and suggestions they want me to write about. They have shown a level of support and encouragement that has floored me, but as it happens, they've provided just the push I guess I needed to do this. I just didn't know it.

And I can tell you for sure it wouldn’t have happened without a group of people who need to remain nameless because it’s a VERY secret society. A group gathering almost daily on the internet to chat, gossip, support one another in a myriad of activities, and occasionally get irritated with one another. They’re the group of people who tapped my desire to write these pieces you’ve seen and will continue to see here. It a group I love without bounds.

Oh, O.K. - one name I gotta give up.

Earl Staggs. Or as you’ve seen me refer to him all over the internet; “Earl Darlin’.” Earl is one of my favorite people on God’s green earth. He’s also one of my favorite writers. He’s a master. If you haven’t read his short stories, you’re missing out. If you haven’t read his MEMORY OF A MURDER, gracious - what ARE you waiting for??

Additional reasons I'm here include that very first invitation to blog from Evelyn David at The Stiletto Gang (Thank You, Rhonda and Marian!), with follow up invites from JT Ellison at Murderati, and Rob Walker at Acme Authors, and Patti Abbott for her Friday's Forgotten Books. Thanks, guys - very much. More than I can say.

As for the guests you’re going to find here next year, as you can see they include writers who are well known, writers who are on their way to becoming well known, and some who are just getting started, bloggers, readers and mystery fans. If there’s one common thread, besides being lovers of books and words, its that each and every person you see here as a guest will write something that will touch you in some way. It might make you cry, or laugh, possibly anger you, or just make you think. Remember please, that it will not necessarily be an opinion that matches mine, but the very thought of censoring what someone says disgusts me as much as I’m sure it does you. It might be a light and fluffy piece about cooking or what someone did on their summer vacation, or it might be hard and tough. It might just be something they have on their mind and want to share or get off their chest. That’s what I’ve discovered blogging is all about. A sharing in which the writer invites others to participate and give back. An exchange of words, ideas and/or feelings in which things get tossed around and back and forth.

That’s another part of the puzzle of how I came to start Meanderings and Muses. I gave in and actually started reading blogs as I would hear about them. I swore I didn’t have time to do this - and really, who does? There are a beezillion of them out there. But as you browse your way through them you come to realize that while they’re not all for you, some of them are touching you in some way and you find yourself going back for more. Or they’re providing one place in which to give you information you’re interested in - such as one of my all time favorites; Sarah Weinman’s “Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind.”

There are several which have me captured, and I’ve added them here as a permanent part of Meanderings and Muses with links so that you can all get to them quickly. And will add more as I discover them, so send me recommendations, please! I don’t read them all every day, but I always know that when I do settle down for a day of catching up on things, they’re there and I’m going to enjoy them. They’re just like books in that some writers will appeal to you, while others will not. Its no surprise that some of my favorite blogs are written by some of my favorite writers. Over time, I am no longer surprised that some of them are written by people I’ve never heard of. Voices that may never find their way to the New York Times Best Seller list, or be the recipient of one of the awards given out at writer/fan conventions. And you know what - that’s not the goal for many of these writers. That does not, however, diminish their writing skills in any way. Not one iota. You know this to be true. So take a minute and take a peek at some of the blogs I have listed here and possibly discover a new voice you’ll enjoy.

What has evolved from the early days of blogging is that there are many bloggers who have a dedicated following. I know, for instance, that when I drop in at “Murderati” to see what any of those wonderful people (GREAT writers, every one!) have to say, the chances are that I’m going to run into the same folks leaving comments most days. They have become an integral part of the group. Seeing their responses is as interesting, and as important, as the original post. And what’s become obvious is that while we agree on a lot, there are things we’re not going to agree on. The interaction that then takes place is just like it would be if it were happening in the real world. A quick little snappy retort, some hurt feelings, some apologies and some making up. I find this phenomenon immensely intriguing.

So, I hope you’ll continue watching this spot. I can’t promise you there will be something new and exciting here every day - actually I can promise you that there won’t be! I have a job, and I have Donald and Harley, and I have to read (a LOT) or I get grumpy. One little tidbit I really do want to share (I'm a pushy old thing sometimes, you know). Women out there reading this who are not married. This is some good advice, people - listen up!! Make sure, please, if you do decide to marry, that you marry a man who makes you laugh. And if he can make you laugh every single day of your life for over 22 years like Donald Barley has me (well - O.K. - not "every" day, but a gracious plenty of 'em), you'll be able to handle whatever curves life throws at you.


On January 12th one of my favorite people, a very good friend and an excellent writer, Pat Browning will kick off Meanderings and Muses, 2009. Mark your calendars and come see what she has to say and chat with her a bit. She wrote the book FULL CIRCLE, which has just been re-released under the title ABSINTHE OF MALICE. Its terrific! If you’re a member of the community of DorothyL, you’ve seen me and a bunch of other people rave about Pat's book.

Then dear friends, stick around. I can promise you a year filled with people you’ll enjoy. I know the schedule you see here will be changing, so keep your eye on it, please.

Which brings up a point. Emails and announcements. I know I’ve been sending out a lot of emails while this project has been getting off the ground. If you’re like me, they’re not really always appreciated. So tell me if you want your name removed from the mailing list. You are not going to hurt my feelings - I promise.

Happy Holidays, all!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books

This post originally appeared at Pattinase: Friday's Forgotten Books on Friday, December 5, 2008.

Patti Abbott does "Friday's Forgotten Books" every week at her blog - I encourage you all to check it out, and perhaps get with Patti about sending her your own choices for a favorite forgotten book.

Kaye Barley is a long time reader of most anything and a fairly new blogger also of most anything ( She lives in the beautiful North Carolina mountains with her handsome husband of 22 years, Donald, and their faithful companion, Harley Doodle Barley - the cutest Corgi on God's green earth.

The Pierre Chambrun series by Hugh Pentecost

Hugh Pentecost. I thought I had remembered the
PERFECT forgotten books. Perfect! Couldn’t wait to squeal about an author who I haven’t heard mentioned in forever. You can imagine how my chin hit the floor as I read Lesa Holstine’s November 28th blogwhen the name Hugh Pentecost jumped off the page at me.

But, Lesa and I do tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so perhaps not too surprising. Except this was a series which ended in 1988! How ironic is it for the two of us to want to re-read and remember these books at exactly the same time, and want to bring them to “Friday’s Forgotten Books?” It gives even more emphasis to the fact that they deserve to be remembered. Lesa did her usual excellent job inbringing these books to life and stirring some interest.

If you haven’t already read the Pierre Chambrun series, I too encourage you to try to find them and give them a try. I
think my love of and curiosity regarding all things having to do with hotels must stem from discovering Kay Thompson’s ELOISE at an early age. I find myself drawn to books which have hotels as a “character.” Especially a luxury hotel, which is a world unto itself. Upon discovering this series, I was in heaven. I continue re-reading the novels and short stories simply to lose myself in the Beaumont Hotel.

Hugh Pentecost was the pseudonym of Judson Philips (1903-1989). Philips was a founding member of the Mystery Writers of America and served as its third president, in addition to being Grand Master in 1973. Pentecost’s luxurious Beaumont Hotel is the leading character in 22 books. When asked if the Beaumont was based on the Plaza, the Ritz, or another luxury New York City hotel, Mr. Pentecost replied that although he knew these grandhotels well, none of them were as well known to him, nor as well loved, as his own Beaumont, which was as real to him as his own home.

While we don’t ever find Eloise scampering the halls of the Beaumont, there’s a host of interesting characters with their own stories and secrets to keep us entertained. At the start of the series, which was begun in 1962, we’re introduced to Pierre Chambrun who is the much admired, well loved, lord and master over the Beaumont. We’re also introduced to a cast of supporting characters – most of whom arestill employed by the hotel when the series ends in 1988. The
re are few character changes; but the changes are important to the series, and I think perhaps one of the reasons for its successful, long life. They include replacing Mr. Chambrun’s original insignificant secretary with the intriguing Ms. Ruysdale. The involvement between Chambrun and Ruysdale is developed slowly and intricately during the series until the very last line in the verylast book leaving no mistake as to the nature of their relationship.

Another important change is losing a likeable key character, Alison Barnwell, public relations manager. Alison marries and she and her husband move away from the city to open their own hotel. By replacing Alison with Mark Ha
skell, the series gains its “voice.” Its through Mark that the rest of the stories are told. The relationship between Mark and Pierre is very much like that between Nero Wolfe and Archie. A relationship which would not have been as wholly believable with a female character during this time period. One additional recurring character who remains a favorite is the elderly Mrs.Victoria Haven. Penthouse resident. One time stage star, and legendary beauty. A woman of great dignity, intelligence, mystery and humor. My favorite booksin the series are the ones which include Mrs. Haven.Into this close, closed and tight knit community fall the adventures of the richand famous, infamous, innocent or not so, scrupulous or unscrupulous, always intriguing visitors with mysteries begging to be solved.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I'm HOW old??

This post originally appeared at ACME AUTHOR LINKS on Friday, November 21, 2008


Kaye Barley with her Aunt, Eve Burchette, Harley, and her Mom, Hazel Wilkinson.

Thanks to my friend Rob Walker for inviting me to drop by. Rob just recently celebrated a milestone birthday. And I’m following right on his heels. We both agree that we cannot possibly be . . . . . - forget it, I can’t even say it!Let me try again.Six . . . Six . . . Sixty. Sixty years old. HOW did this happen?! I don’t feel 60. And am often told I don’t act 60 (this has not always been meant in a complimentary way)

But oh well, there you have it. Birthdays happen. The milestone birthdays sneak up on us. And while we’re bemoaning those milestone birthdays, other things happen. Like your mom having a birthday. We recently celebrated my mom’s 83rd birthday. At least, I did - only to be told the next week that she had actually just turned 82. Oh, the guilt. Hopefully, she’ll forget that unforgivable lapse. Especially seeing as how I did the exact same thing last year!!

Mom-Hazel Wilkinson

Funny, though, for all the talking she does about her memory and how bad it is, there are things she never forgets. Her only child forgetting how old she is might just be one of them (and as it should be). Before you all start thinking I’m being unkind, please know that she and I have, and always have had, a great relationship. She’s my buddy,and I feel pretty sure she would tell you that I’m hers.

We have not always been best friends though. When I was growing up, she never once let me forget that she was “The Mom.” She didn’t give a twig about being my friend; figuring I already had lots of friends, but I only had one mom, and it was a job she took very seriously.

And she did it well. For one thing, she read to me. And took me to the library. And she taught me how to bake Snickerdoodles. Like some of you, we’ve passed that curve of our family growing larger, and are on the other side of the slope, where its getting smaller, so when we invite family to spend the weekend to celebrate the occasion of Mother’s birth its not as though there’s a house full of people. Just me and Donald and Harley. My mom, her sister Eve, and Eve’s husband J.T. A small little group.

My mom is the second oldest in a family of 11. They’re not all still with us, and those who are live pretty far away and aren’t able to travel long distances for get-togethers any more.

It was a fun weekend. We did all those things families do when they get together - whether they’re a big group, or a small group. We ate too much. We stayed up too late. We told the same stories we tell everytime we’re together. We laughed hysterically, and boo hooed a little.
And we missed the ones who were not there.

It was a perfect weekend, melancholy and nostalgia notwithstanding, and I loved every second of it. But oh laws, did I get tired. Seemed like every time I turned around someone was saying “sweetie, would you bring me a fresh cup ofcoffee/coke/wine/whatever, please.”

At one point during the weekend when I felt as though everyone was well settled,and that they were doing fine at entertaining themselves, and that they all had their beverage of choice, I slipped off to the bedroom to close the door and read. I’m used to a lot of quiet time, and quiet time is in short supply in an itty bitty house with three extra people.

This was just what I needed. I am after all, almost 60! I get tired too you know! But then, you know what? The door opened and peeking around at me was this very short little woman with fluffy white hair, and the sweetest smile and thebrightest eyes, wanting to know if I was O.K. I invited her in and she climbed up on the bed next to me, took my hand and thanked me for having her over for her birthday. And she told me what a good daughter she thought I was.

Next thing I know here comes another woman, this one a little taller, but with the same sweet smile and the same bright eyes - peeking around the door at us,wanting to know if we were O.K. We invited her in and she climbed up on the bed with us. She patted my hand and told me what a good niece she thought Iwas. I put my book away, fluffed up pillows for us all, and asked who might want a fresh cup of coffee.

Quiet time and that book would be there tomorrow when everyone else had gone home. Tomorrow I can go back to being almost 60. Today it feels nice being 6 and being told what a good girl I am.

Kaye -- this was lovely, well put, so well put. Loved the way it came full circle! - Rob Walker

Comments from original post can be seen at ACME AUTHOR LINKS.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bouchercon 2008 - My First B'con

I was buzzing the second I got off the plane in Baltimore. As I started walking down the long concourse of BWI Airport I had fond memories of when it used to be Friendship Airport. A lovely, soft name that would in today’s culture be an oxymoron. Not that BWI isn’t a lovely airport, as airports go, but I miss the days when an airport could even conceivably be named something as gentle as “Friendship.”
I’m not from Baltimore, but I am originally from Maryland. I was born and raised in Cambridge, which is on the Eastern Shore, and is still “home of my heart.” Thankfully, Donald has come to love it as I do, so we get to visit fairly often. But he’s not on this trip to Baltimore with me. I’m on my own. Getting ready to toss myself into my very first big mystery con and have chosen a real biggie in which to toss myself. Whether I sink or swim is yet to be seen.
oh my.
My very first impression of the Sheraton is brisk efficiency as my bags are swept into the hotel before I’ve stepped out of the cab. My second impression is that its extremely well run by well trained professionals who care about that first impression, and about making their guests feel welcome. I was greeted with a smile and a “Good Morning” by every single staff member from curb to front desk, and there were a surprising number of them. There’s a message waiting for me at the desk – a welcome from a woman who works in the Executive Offices with whom I’ve been chatting regarding a box of books being sent to the hotel for me to distribute to some of the book sellers for my friend Peter Rennebohm. Its there, its safe and when would I like it delivered to my room? She just wants to say hi and welcome me. When I call her from my room she asks “How’s the room?” Me being me, had to respond that it was lovely ‘cept I was awfully sorry not to see a little mini-fridge or a microwave. its the Monday before the convention starts, and I have a couple days of free time to play and visit with old friends before the mystery world shows up. Monday through Sunday is a long time to think about buying every single meal out. Besides – I need my milk and cookies at night before turning in. And real milk in my coffee. A whole week without real milk at night while tucked in in my jammies reading my book does not appeal to me. No worries. Before my suitcase is unpacked there’s a knock on the door and a very cheerful woman has brought me a mini-fridge AND a microwave. This is a woman who understands about that glass of milk with your Oreos before turning in. Life is good.
The weather is much too beautiful to stay cooped up in the Sheraton, no matter how nice the hotel is. Its one of those perfect days you just pray for when you’re on vacation. The weather stayed perfect the entire week. Perfect for morning walks down to the harbor to sit with my coffee and just look out over the water. Having been raised in a small town on the water, this is what I need occasionally to restore my soul. That and a four hour shopping spree in Filene’s Basement. Coming home to Boone with the cutest little pink leather ballet flats with an ankle strap – lovely!! There’s for sure no Filene’s Basement in Boone, which is probably a very good thing. You can bet I’ll be the only gal in Boone with pink leather ballet flats with an ankle strap.
Wednesday arrives quickly and with its arrival I watch the hotel change from a brisk, but fairly quiet world to one of convention city hustle and bustle.
I’ve already bumped into BG Ritts on the elevator earlier in the week, and she’s already bustling about in what I came to recognize as her quietly efficient “getting it done” mode. BG and I had not met previously, but recognized one another instantly from pictures and hugged like old friends. She’s been working behind the scenes helping Ruth and Judy and the other volunteer elves put together what turned out to be a perfectly magical event. It was my first Bouchercon, and I knew I was impressed by it all. However, hearing from others who have attended many, it wasn’t long before I realized this truly was a very special Bouchercon.
The event on a whole just felt “right.” But slowing down long enough to start paying attention to little details, its easy to understand why. This has been not just a convention these women decided to put on. It was an outpouring of love for a community, and a family, they love and are embraced by in return. Ruth Jordan and Judy Bobalik had sent their family a love letter. It was, I think, received with an even greater measure of love with huge doses of respect and awe thrown in. Bumping into Ruth, who I had never met before, while waiting for our elevator one morning I had to tell her how impressed I was not only with how beautifully everything was going, but with her amazing confidence in even thinking she could pull this off, which by golly she had. She told me she credits her Aunt Marie with that. Aunt Marie didn’t understand why Ruth might have a shred of a doubt about putting this event together, and bless Aunt Marie – she had it just right. Her Ruth, is indeed, an amazing woman. Those who did not know it before, know it now. Although, I suspect, being pretty new to the mystery community, I’m one of the last to know it. I’m quite thankful for only being late to the party, and not missing it completely.
And speaking of that elevator. A few days into the convention, I noticed a woman who I had been in the elevator with earlier in the week. When I asked who she was you could have knocked me over with a feather. Heather Graham. I am an idiot. HOW could I have had a conversation with this incredible woman and not recognize her?!
After a walk to Lexington Market on Wednesday, I stepped into the registration area and collected my bag of goodies. And what a bag of goodies! Oh my. I put my badge around my neck and hardly took it off again for the next 5 days. BG, bless her heart, showed me that it really didn’t need to hang down to my waist – there is, after all, a way to fix that. (I truly am an idiot). So it hung comfortably at my chest, right where Del Tinsley assured me all eyes would be for the next few days as those of us new to all this, but knowing one another virtually through DorothyL and other cyberworld venues, would be peering as we were anxious to meet up and connect in the “for real” world. And connect we did.
While standing at that registration table with BG and only a couple of other people (which, by the way, turned out to be the last time the registration area was that serene), I looked up and spotted a sweet face I knew I recognized, but asked BG just to make sure. Another dear woman who had taken me under her wing years ago – Sandra Ruttan. Squealing like 6 year olds, hugging, wiping away a tear and then drifting into conversation as if we’d known one another forever, I think I was just beginning to understand that something very special was happening under the roof of the Sheraton Hotel. At least , for me.
Here’s my first Bouchercon “Oh. My. God. “ moment.
Who’s that standing next to me? Not even 2 feet away. Nuh uh, it cannot be. My mouth dropped open and I looked at Sandra and she just nodded. Knowing that this was not an opportunity I’d likely have again I bucked up my courage and with legs shaking, walked over and asked if I could introduce myself and when I did, Mr. Lee Child said, “Kaye Barley. Nice to meet you. Actually, I’ve heard your name.” And this was my first “Holy Shit” moment.
Little did I know how many more there were to come.
As I headed back through the lobby to go to my room so I could dig into my Charmed to Death goody bag to ooooh and ahhhhh over all these books I glanced to my right and saw a sight that made my heart soar. There stood Ken Bruen. Standing in the hotel lobby registering for his room like a meer mortal. I walked over, tapped him on the shoulder and said “hey. Its me, Kaye.” He swooped me up in a hug and gave me a resounding kissaroo smack on the lips, greeted me with a lovely, oh so gentle, smile and a “Kaye, a gra!” that sent my head spinning and my heart soaring. And then he introduced me to the woman of his heart, Lisa Dill, and it was my turn to swoop her into a hug. The two of them glowed with their joy in one another and I felt honored to be included in their circle of light.
This was when I escaped to my room to just sit in complete amazement of what I was in the middle of. After a bit of decompression time, decided magical things were happening downstairs and I did not need to be sitting in my room daydreaming about them when I might be able to witness them.
Getting off the elevator I spotted Ken and Lisa again and spoke to them as I passed. Except. I stopped dead in my tracks staring into the lovely face of Laura Lippman who was having a conversation with them. Now, I do know how very, VERY rude it is to interrupt a personal conversation. I had no intention of doing that. But I was struck dumb in my tracks while my mind was processing the fact that there stood Laura Lippman and Ken Bruen. Together. In the same space. Y’all, it was a moment I can’t begin to describe. I turned into a total half-wit. Just stood there and I could not have moved for love nor money. Laura Lippman (I love Laura Lippman) in her very quiet voice said “I’m so sorry, but I’m really running late for an appointment.” I don’t think I said a word, but I really don’t know. I think I just nodded as she touched me on the shoulder and smiled and moved on. When I finally surfaced from my zombie state and looked at Ken, I apologized and he asked why was I apologizing. Graciousness was in abundance in the Sheraton Hotel that day.
O.K., so once I was capable of moving my feet again, it was back to the registration area to see who I could see. Sandra Ruttan introduced me to Sean Chercover who is without a doubt glowing in quiet graciousness. I’m telling you, graciousness is a word I might seem to be over-using but there’s just not another word that sums up some of these people as well as it does. Sean Chercover is graciousness personified. And he introduced me to his adorable little boy who poked his head out from under the registration table which was, at that particular time, doubling as a rocket ship. For the rest of the convention, Sean Chercover never once failed to acknowledge me by name or with a hug, or a little kiss on the cheek whenever I bumped into him. Graciousness.
I went to bed Wednesday night after calling home to talk to Donald (and Harley!) feeling like a very tired, very star stuck little girl. and Bouchercon is only just beginning.
8:30 Thursday morning had me seated in one of the rooms for a panel session. Robin Burcell moderating Jim Born, Sean Chercover, Vinny O’Neil, and Julia Spencer-Fleming on the Rockin’ Robin panel. Robin, along with several others who were involved in 8:30 panels were voicing a little teeny bit of concern about maybe not a lot of folks would show up at an 8:30 a.m. panel. Now, I don’t know about other cons, but the 8:30 a.m. slot for panels at this particular con was not a problem. This one drew a full house, and it was terrific! Robin did a great job, and all the panelists were lively and interesting and I loved it.
For me, the panel sessions are actually where the problems begin. But. You just have to realize – this is a problem that’s actually just a small part of quite possibly being in heaven for a few short days. You start looking at the program and there you are – faced with making decisions. There are five panel sessions going on. Each one is going to have at least one person you want to see. OR its going to be on a topic that’s of great interest to you. What to do? I am the wrong person to answer that question. I usually ended up getting caught up in conversation and missed being where I was either A) wanting to be (I thought), or B) where I was supposed to be because I had told someone I’d be there. I screwed up more than once with the being where I was supposed to be thing. All I can do is humbly apologize one more time. And swear I’ll try to do better in Indianapolis.
The panels I did attend were all wonderful. Those that I missed, I’m just trying not to think about.
The next panel I attended was “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down.” Moderated by Ali Karim, who reminded us all several times that it was, after all, 5:00 in Europe as he had another drink. The panelists were Ken Bruen, Michelle Gagnon, Con Lehane, Jason Starr, and Liz Zelvin . This panel was WAY lively and I very much enjoyed it. Very much. And hearing Con Lehane muse time after time about just why it might be, exactly, that he was on this particular panel was a hoot. It was also the first place I ran into the stunningly handsome, sweet, funny and utterly charming Bob Fate. And if you think for a second I didn’t throw my arms around his neck and hug him from here to glory, well – you’re wrong. I did. Baby Shark’s daddy is a delight. If you haven’t read Baby Shark, you should. If you haven’t met Bob Fate yet, you should. By whatever it takes.
After each panel session, the authors were all scooted down to the end of the corridor and seated in the signing room. This, I thought, was brilliantly done. The room was, at times, a bit small feeling, but face it – you’re not going to find the perfect room in most hotels to perfectly accommodate and hold signing lines for both Lee Child and Ken Bruen at the exact same time. My advice here is to just chill out, strike up a conversation with the people around you who you know you share an interest with seeing as how you’re in the same line after all, and just soak in the moment. Its probably not a moment you’re liable to have a whole lot of. Enjoy it. Savor it.
In addition to signing my book and writing a lovely inscription, Mr. Bruen bowled me over with yet another kiss. I could learn to really like this guy, you know?
Then I scampered over to have Lee Child sign a book and I was the very last person in his line. Lovely!!!! It gave me an opportunity to visit for a few minutes and even ask to have a picture taken. Reed Farrel Coleman stepped right up to the plate and took a picture and made me laugh to boot by telling Lee he wasn’t the best looking one in this particular picture! HA! (He was though). Then Mr. Child offered to take a picture of me and Reed. And then, asked his assistant if she had yet given me an invitation to the Reacher’s Creature party. She did that and I thanked him and went to sit down alone in a corner to hyperventilate. The man is dreamy and dishey and gracious. And it was another moment of supreme joy.
Next panel was “Concrete Jungle” moderated by the wonderfully smooth Reed Farrel Coleman. I was over the moon in awe of him along with Thomas Cook, Steve Hamilton, David Hewson and Laura Lippman. I’m a huge fan of every single one of these people and this was the panel session I had to keep blinking my eyes so as not to give in to tears. This was, I think, another one of those OMG moments. You know? It just hits you like a quiet, private thunder bolt that you truly are in the midst of greatness. Now for those who have been doing these mystery conventions for awhile, it may be all kinda ho hum every day business as usual. But for this gal – it was very big, very heady stuff.
I scampered like a wild woman to get to the signing room again. Bumped into my buddy William from California yet again. William and I seemed to have the exact same taste in our reading and writers and had shared a lot of “standing in line time.” A regret I have is that I don’t recall his last name and didn’t ask for an email address to drop him a note to tell him how much I enjoyed his company and quiet humor.
As soon as I got to the front of Laura’s line, she apologized to me for having to wander off as soon as I saw she & Ken Bruen on Wed. morning. Can you imagine?! I then proceeded to fall all over myself apologizing and trying to explain how forces had struck me totally paralyzed and glued my feet to the floor and how I truly had not meant to intrude. And there it was again. Graciousness. She proceeded to write a lovely little personalized something in my book that made me cry. Again. Laws, I bubbled up a lot at this convention.
And lo and behold, who was sitting to Laura’s right, but Laurie King. Her signing line had just finished up and I had the opportunity to tell Ms. King how much I admire her work and that I had given no less than a dozen copies of her FOLLY to favorite girlfriends.
Thursday night I had dinner with Mary Jane Maffini and Shelley Costa Bloomfield. Love them both to pieces! It was fun and lively and past time for us to have finally met one another. I’ve admired their talents as writers, and now I just love ‘em to bits as terrific women who are huge fun to hang out with.
I thought Shula’s restaurants in the hotel did an outstanding job taking care of the mobs and mobs of people coming in and out of there from early in the morning for breakfast until 2 a.m. for drinks, or just a place to sit and visit. The waitstaff and the hosts and hostesses were unfailingly courteous and fun with ready humor and a welcoming smile. And I thought the food was delish. Hotel food is always expensive, of course. It can sometimes also be less than satisfactory for the money. I did not find that to be the case at Shula’s. ‘Course, I was one of those lucky ones with a fridge and microwave in her room to handle left overs . . .
Opening ceremonies were, I thought, quite wonderful. Awards were given and graciously accepted. Speeches were made – none of which lasted too long, all were enjoyable. Mark Billingham is without a doubt, the MOST brilliant Toastmaster. B’Con was now officially open and off with a bang.
Milling around after the ceremony with my friend Margaret Maron was, as it always is when spending time with Margaret Maron, a joy. It also took us approximately one hour to move from ballroom to bar as she was stopped by friends and fans. She is always unfailingly gracious, lovely, and lively and greets everyone with the exact same degree of delight. And how cool it is to be introduced to practically every person in the room by Margaret Maron. I could not wipe that grin off my face.
After spending a short time having a drink with Margaret & Joe, I said my goodnights and wandered upstairs to my milk and cookies and a little bit of time to muse and remember and ruminate over a perfect day. And my nightly call home to Boone. When Donald put the phone down low so I could speak to Harley he barked at me. Talk about hurt feelings!!!!
Having breakfast Friday morning with Margaret & Joe started things off just right. And how do you top having breakfast with Margaret & Joe Maron and being introduced to Caroline Todd and Charles Todd – the mother/son writing team of the Inspector Rutledge series. And ooops – lookie there – there’s that Bob Fate fella AGAIN!
Margaret and I wandered down to our Friday morning’s 8:30 panel - “Southern Accents” moderated by the always delightful Chris Roerden. Panelists included some of my very favorite writers in the mystery field. I am unapologetically partial to southern writing and you just don’t get much more southern than Vicki Lane, Mary Saums, J.D. Rhoades, and Cathy Pickens. These guys were terrific! This was my first exposure to Cathy Pickens, who immediately impressed me. Add another name to the list of “gotta tries.”
Next up was “Sweet Home Chicago” based solely on the fact that I wanted to meet Shane Gericke. Shane is the creator of Emily Thompson who, I think, is one of the coolest women in the thriller world. His work, along with a few other thriller writers I’ve recently discovered, has helped broaden my reading list to include writing a bit different from my usual traditional mysteries. My gain, for sure. And by golly - who knew I’d bump into Bob Fate and get to sit next to him during this panel?! Really. Who knew?! The man will never believe I wasn’t stalking him. This was yet another enjoyable panel with Michael Allen Dymmoch moderating Jack Frederickson, Shane Gericke, Sam Reaves, Steve Sidor and David Walker. Anyone, including myself, who thought some of the Chicago corruption tales might be exaggerated or over-blown left this panel believing differently. I found it to be fascinating. And meeting Shane was a highlight. The man is a charmer.
Having Bob Fate on one side of me and Shane Gericke on the other to have a picture taken was pretty cool stuff, for real.
Friday lunch was an event some of us planned weeks before the convention. These were women I very much looked forward to meeting and spending time with.
One of them, howver, ended up having her plans changed to meet with her editor – understandable, huh?! Another was working the silent auction and couldn’t be there, and another was in the hotel and didn’t know where to find us because I didn’t have my cell phone with me. A lot of you who know me know how much I hate cell phones. Well, this time I really should have tossed that personal prejudice aside because it kept me from meeting someone I admire, and enjoy corresponding with, and was never able to catch up with for the rest of the week. As someone I love reminded me recently – “We make plans. God laughs.” True, and not to be forgotten.
By this time I was overwhelmed and felt in need of a much needed “time out.” I highly recommend a bit of advice I received from Jon Jordan. Sneak off to your room for some alone time, kick off your shoes and prop your tired ol’ feet up. Just don’t get so carried away with it you forget to get back into the fray!
There’s always someone to see and visit with in the corridor. Or hanging around the registration desk. Or in the mega wonderful book room. Or the most perfect hospitality room I’ve ever been in – always well stocked with a wide array of goodies from fresh fruit and yogurt to some of the most devilishly delish cookies to Smith Island Cake to chips and pretzels, along with a never ending supply of bottled water, coffee, tea and soft drinks. Oh my. This little haven was a pure stroke of genius. Nice comfy chairs to sink into for quiet conversation, or some alone time without going all the way back to your room – especially if you were staying elsewhere. And you just never knew who you might bump into.
I loved the book room. I heard one disgruntled body say it wasn’t large enough. When IS a book room ever going to be large enough for a bunch of people who love books?? I bumped into Vicki Lane in the book room – one of my favorite women in the world who also happens to write one of my favorite series. A lovely fortuitous accident was walking in just as Louise Penny was sitting down to sign her newest. Oh my. That was truly a high point for me. The book room was a favorite place to be.
I caught up with Shane Gericke and wandered to the Authors without Borders cocktail party an easy walk across the skywalk. Bumped into some fun folks, including Robin Burcell and LJ Sellers and BG Ritts, where I promptly became “Camera Girl.”

By now it was getting easier to whip that camera out and snap snap snap. Which is a great thing ‘cause I have a terrific collection of pictures to share with you all at
Back to the hotel and starving we popped into Shula’s for a bite and ended up at the table closest to the door. HA! Why lookie there – its Bob Fate! Swear to God. I’m now quite sure its him stalking me – not me stalking him. And that’s perfectly fine with me. He and the lovely Gwen, joined our table, along with Liz Zelvin, and Mary Saums. Donna Moore dropped by, as did a host of others. It was another B’Con perfect moment. The whole group seemed just comfortable, relaxed and quite content with the conversation and the getting to know you stuff and next thing we knew we were deciding we were much too comfy where we were to attend the Reacher’s Creatures party. This, Liz & I agreed, is what the B’Con bar scene is really all about. Its not about the drinking – seeing as half of us were drinking coffee – but about the camaraderie. And the bar just happens to be the place where it happens.
Saturday was quite a day. Bumped into Margaret again and was introduced to her friend Carolyn Hart. Oh my. And to Susan Dunlap, and Dorothy Cannell. Oh my. And re-introduced once more to Gillian Roberts and Marcia Talley. Oh my. And to Laura Lippman (who I tried to apologize to once again and realized I really really had embarrassed the both us by over apologizing and finally just shut my mouth). And Twist Phelan. I tell you – hanging out with Margaret Maron is a rush!!

My 8:30 Saturday morning panel was another total delight. Louise Ure moderating Dorothy Cannell, Susan Dunlap, Margaret Maron and Gillian Roberts in “Toys in the Attic.” This was another one of those panels where I had to keep blinking my eyes so as not to just break down and have an emotional hic-cup of major proportions. These women are remarkable. Louise said they would not let her use “legends,” when introducing them, but she did manage to say that they are the traditional mystery “Grand Dames.” That, I’m sure, is not even up for discussion. These women are obviously dear friends who have known one another a long time. The gentle barbs, teasing and loving insults were like watching poetry in motion. I loved this panel.

And Louise, who I adore even more now than I did a week ago, allowed me the honor of escorting the ladies to the book signing room. I think Louise realized she was stuck with me, so allowed me to do something just to get me out of her hair. Bless her. On the walk down to the book signing room I was treated to more banter. I suggested they take this act on the road and immediately applied for the position of “roadie.” Discussion and disagreement about what exactly a roadie does was just a hoot. Another treasured B’con moment.
Now I really needed to get a box down the street to Office Depot to be shipped home UPS. Not only had I accumulated a lot of books, but that shopping spree at Filene’s Basement wasn’t too smart for packing lightly either. I’d already taken one box the day before, using dirty undies and jeans as “packing material.” It worked well, so we did it again.
Who knew going to Office Depot could be such fun?! It was here that I met Bobbye Johnson and her husband. Bobbye is a DorothyL lurker and recognized my name. We had some giggles and shared a hug. People in the mystery community LOVE to hug! I love that. And another fortuitous accident occurred with Bobbye. Walking back to the hotel she mentioned how much she really enjoyed Robin Burcell’s books, and as we walked into the lobby, Voila!, there stood Robin. I took tremendous pleasure in introducing them. Too fun!
Bobbye was not the only DorothyL lurker who introduced herself. Sarah from Australia spotted me downstairs outside the Karaoke rooms after enjoying Don Bruns’ guitar concert. She is a doll! And once I met Anita we seemed to bump into one another everywhere we went.
That’s the thing of it. You find yourself bumping into folks all over the place and those quick hi’s and hugs are lovely. Julia Hyzy and I never did get to have a real conversation, but we did get to exchange a few hugs. Hank Phillippi Ryan and I did get to chat a little, although not as much as I would have liked. LJ Sellers and I were able to visit a little and she gave me a copy of her book, which I’m excited about reading, and not bothered a whit by the title. I got to meet a lot of DorothyL folks and that was one of the very nicest things about the week. Caryn is as cute and perky in person as she is in her posts. If I had not gotten to meet Linda Gerber I would have been beyond disappointed. And even got a hug from Neil Plakcy! And my friend Becky Swets seemed to turn up whenever I had a need for a hug and/or giggle. Aubrey Nye Hamilton will always be my convention partner - even if she's not around, she will live in my mind and in my heart as a partner in crime. There were many, though, that I missed. There’s just not enough time in a day to seek out or be able to find everyone you want to. So. Indianapolis? You bet!
Walking down the corridor and seeing a line approximately 44 miles long to have Lawrence Block sign a book? Oh my.
See the VERY tall Harlan Coben wander the halls? Oh my.
Walking back from the harbor on Saturday afternoon, bumping into three women – one of whom I recognized immediately. I had met Marcia Talley a few years back at Cape Fear Crime Fest in Wilmington, NC and its always a joy to read her newest. To bump into her was a treat. But then came a major “Fan Girl” moment when I realized the women with her were Deborah Crombie and Kate Charles. My mouth was opening and closing, but there weren’t any words. My half-wit persona yet again. Big sigh.
Another Saturday panel I attended was William Kent Krueger moderating Judy Clemens, Mary Jane Maffini, Kit Sloane, and Persia Walker on “Otherside: Keeping it Plausible” Loved this one too (why, of course), and was blown away by Ms. Persia Walker who I was not familiar with. I found this young woman to be major impressive and am quite excited about discovering this bright talent.
Being invited to join the Murderati group Saturday evening? Wow. I love that group. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to chat with them all. So. Indianapolis? You bet!
Sunday morning’s interview with Laura Lippman was priceless. I have no words to fully say all I’d like to about her, so just know she is quite wonderful. I know that’s inadequate, but I cannot begin to do her justice. Being able to sit down right next to the incomparable Meg Chittenden to see Laura's interview was pretty darn cool too.
And the brunch. Oh my. I’m going to admit being a bit disappointed that the traditional Sat. night banquet was being replaced by a Sunday brunch. Shows what I know. It was another stroke of genius. The hotel was quite accommodating about changing check-out times, and no one was surprised at that. By now, the Sheraton had proved itself to be a class act. I have a ton of stories about this wonderful hotel. Within 24 hours of arriving on Monday, most of them knew me by name. Asking for extra coffee at the front desk became so routine that just by walking by would elicit a “Mrs. Barley?? Need some coffee?” The bartender in Shula’s was a doll about letting me borrow real mugs to take to my room ‘cause I don’t like drinking my coffee from a paper cup. The evening I needed a safety pin, front desk staff scampered until they found me one. Dressed up a little more than usual in anticipation of going to the Reacher Creature party, one of the young women behind the desk made a point of telling me I looked pretty. The hostess at Shula’s never once lost her big smile and greeted me by name and a hug. When I went downstairs Saturday evening to print out my boarding pass, I had so many people helping me I forgot why I was there. And when I left on Sunday I collected hugs not only from Marcus Sakey, but quite a few of the hotel staff. I felt just like Eloise.
But I got off on a tangent. The brunch.
The brunch was just wonderful. The food was beautifully presented, bountiful and delish. And the opportunity to wander around for final hugs and goodbyes was wonderful.

Getting a final big ol’ smackeroo kiss from Ken Bruen was wonderful. Being able to share a table with a lively and lovely group was wonderful.
The awards were given and received. Speeches were made. Tears were shed. A “Thank You, Larry” video for Lawrence Block was brilliant. And then there was Mark Billingham. Genius. Pure unadulterated genius. I loved everything about the brunch and am so glad I decided to stay - which I almost did not.
It was hard walking out the door of the Sheraton that afternoon, knowing it meant that was the end of Bouchercon 2008.
Shane Gericke and I shared a car to the airport, and as luck would have it – Baltimore held one final delight.
Mr. Darryl Wainwright, our driver, was typical of the kindness and grace I had basked in since arriving in Baltimore. We had a wonderful chat about the days when citizens of Baltimore were world famous for scrubbing down the marble steps to their brownstones. When Baltimore culture included window screens painted by local screen painters with murals. Mr. Wainwright is a gentleman, a husband and a dad who has raised five children in the City of Baltimore, and is now the proud grandparent of one grandson in college. He was gracious and humorous and gladdened when we voiced our appreciation to his fine city for a few days that will live in my heart forever.
Being able to share a cup of coffee and some B’con stories with Shane before heading in different directions in the airport, and then flying off in different directions, was a lovely way to end Bouchercon 2008. I thought. Little did I know it really wasn’t over yet. The blogs are still full of stories. The pictures are just beginning to pop up. And people have popped up in DorothyL saying such lovely things about someone named Kaye Barley, I fear she may have died! Louise Ure wrote beautiful words at Murderati and made me cry. Even if my name were not included in this piece, I still would have cried. As it is, my name was included and I am humbled by it. Louise Ure is a tremendous talent with the heart and soul of a poet – very much like her friend Ken Bruen. If you attended B’con, it will touch you. If you didn’t, it will still touch you. We all need a touch of grace in our lives, and Louise gives it to us.

Ken Bruen left a message on my Facebook wall that made me wail out loud, and in a moment of EXTREME Blatant Self Promotion, which I refuse to apologize for, I share it with you:

You were voted most wondrous, warm, amazing person at B'con
Your marvellous accent alone would have won it for you and your initials didn't hurt either
But God must have loved me real well on Wednesday that the very first person we met was you, it was never equalled and never will
You are the sheer light of the Mystery world and any other world
What a true Grace to be counted as your friend

Friday, September 19, 2008

Guest Blog at Murderati on September 19, 2008

This is part of a post which originally appeared at Murderati on September 19, 2008.

I am tickled and honored to have been asked to drop in here by JT while she’s off gallivanting. I have no idea what the woman was thinking, do you? I’m no writer and my resume includes exactly one blogging gig besides this one. But, we all love her, and I for one don’t want to disappoint her so what the heck, let’s see where it takes us, and have some fun with it. Being invited places is always nice. But dang - being invited someplace to speak your opinion is just about as cool as it gets.

My one and only other blog gave me the opportunity to write about my experiences and feelings about smoking and quitting. That I was invited by the delightful women at The Stiletto Gang was a kick and I had a lot of fun. After reading what I had written, JT suggested I consider writing my impressions on how the internet compares to the figurative office water cooler. Smoking and quitting was a fairly easy thing for me to write about since it was all direct experience. After thinking about JT’s suggestion for this piece, and fretting about it a little, I realized how the two pieces are actually part of the whole.

The first thing that pops into my mind when I think about the office water cooler is probably the same image that pops into your heads as well. It’s the cartoon we’ve all seen for years - a group of people clustered around the cooler, little paper cones of water in hand, engaged in conversation and looking thoroughly entertained with themselves. We know, of course, they aren’t really there for the water. Nope, this is where everyone knows to come to meet up with co-workers and buddies to exchange a bit of gossip, catch up on office news, talk about last night’s ball game and/or night on the town, and, in some cases, over time, form significant friendships. It's the place I might have gone for some words of encouragement while I was trying to walk away from my cigarettes.

There’s just not a lot of hanging out around a water cooler these days. Literally or figuratively. Offices that once had plenty of staff to get the necessary work done are now making do with a lot fewer people, which means not nearly as much free time to hang around and visit with co-workers. Not as many co-workers either. With the economy the way it is, and jobs disappearing the way they are – who can afford to be seen goofing off and hanging around the water cooler? Much easier to goof off and visit with friends over the internet. Hooray email, discussion groups, Facebook and blogs! The newest equivalent to that tired old water cooler. And an answer to an introvert’s prayers. Someone who may not have felt comfortable joining these water cooler groups may find their niche in an internet group. (A fun topic for another day, don’t you think?)

Some of us have worked long enough that we can easily remember when the water cooler hangout was a reality. And if, come Monday morning, you didn’t care about discussing football, you knew which office water cooler to avoid. There were days you just didn’t want to listen to that guy tell you why your favorite team lost again. Same deal with internet cruising, but better – no one can force you to listen to their opinion, ‘cause you’re in charge. You can even walk away without hurting anyone’s feelings. You are the master of your browser. Don’t like what that person’s got to say? Ta da – Hit that delete key! Or your scroll key, or, by gum - just leave. You can go anywhere you want to go, and meet a whole lot of people along the way. You can collect a group of like-minded souls to hang out with, and you can leave behind those you don’t want to spend time with. Leave one water cooler and find another. We’ve all managed to find our own special on-line water cooler. We’ve all met friends who may have started out as “virtual” friends, and who may in fact still be “virtual” in that we have not yet met face to face. But their importance in our lives has, in many instances, become every bit as important as the friends we see on a regular basis.

Those of us who hang around the internet a lot have learned that you bump into the same people quite often while you’re cruising around, which makes sense, of course. Those interested in books and reading are going to be hanging out at websites, blogs, and discussion groups that focus on books and reading. Folks who are interested in building treehouses probably run into the same group of people wherever they tramp around on-line. Bumping into the same people at different internet groups brings, at first, name recognition. After awhile you’re able to remember certain little things that go with the name – if they’re smart and funny, or dreary and sarcastic, if they seem kind, or tend to be grumpy and cynical. From this initial awareness, a casual acquaintance might blossom into a friendship. The casual camaraderie we experience over the internet has become a daily part of our lives.

There is, of course, the dark side of this relatively new social networking in the cyber world we’re all a part of, but for today, let's focus on the positive. We’ve all met people who have become quite dear, and quite important to us. I’m still a bit amazed and in awe of this phenomenon, and would enjoy hearing from some of you about your experiences with it and feelings regarding it all.

And to the Murderati group – Thanks so much for having me. You’re the best!

Comments left for the original post can be seen at Murderati.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This was originally posted at The Stiletto Gang Blogspot on Friday, July 25, 2008

Smoking and Not Smoking

Kaye Barley is an avid mystery reader and Dorothy L poster who lives in the beautiful North Carolina mountains with her handsome husband of 22 years, Donald, and their faithful companion, Harley Doodle Barley - the cutest Corgi on God's green earth.

I’ve quit smoking.

I think.

Just taking it one hour at a time. But I think I have it licked.

The Stiletto Gang has invited me to talk about it, so I’ve decided to come clean with why I decided to quit.

During a conversation with a girl friend living in Maryland, a bell went off in my head when she mentioned that Maryland was becoming a totally smoke-free state. I’m going to be in Baltimore for a week. In a hotel. Unable to smoke. For a week. EEK! This is when I started having the same nightmare night after night.

Imagining myself at Bouchercon - finally meeting writers I’ve admired for years, being nervous, of course. But not able to have a cigarette. Finally meeting folks from DorothyL, which might also make me a little nervous. Unable to have a cigarette. Nervous and unable to have a cigarette tends to make a smoker a bit grumpy. So there I’d be. Nervous, wanting a cigarette, knowing I couldn’t have one, making everyone around me miserable, turning into a raving lunatic woman, ending up in handcuffs and dragged off to the hoosegow for being disruptive and disorderly, and still not being able to have a cigarette. Oy - what a fun trip this could be.

It just seemed easier to try to quit.

And so I did.

When Evelyn invited me here, I decided to do a little light research, which meant a stop at to see what books I might be able to find to start me off. I found “No Smoking” by Luc Sante, which is an interesting book whatever your views and feelings are about smoking. First of all, the packaging had to have been thought up by a marketing genius.

Secondly, I think the book gives a fair, fun and interesting picture of what an important part of our culture cigarettes once were. As “No Smoking” points out, there was a time when the whole world smoked.

My parents are both from large families and to the best of my recollection, everyone smoked except my Aunt Belle. My earliest memories include huge family get-togethers with kids running wild in big backyards while the grown-ups sat at picnic tables eating, drinking and smoking. Each of them keeping a close eye on all the kids, each of them always available for a hug, and each of them recognized as a constant source of deep affection, offered up in equal parts of nurturing along with life lessons, and rules to be learned and followed.

These are treasured childhood memories that come to mind often, and always bring a smile. They’re times my family recall with love and laughter.

At the head of one of the tables my much adored grandfather, Pop-Pop Wilkinson, would preside with either a cigar or a pipe, and it was his attention we all vied for.

Cigarettes were everywhere. Were there any movies made in the 40s or 50s in which people weren’t smoking? How many of us still think some of those were the greatest in the history of film? As opposed, maybe, to the graphic blood and guts violence we now see in movies? Is watching that healthier for us and our children than seeing Audrey Hepburn smoke a cigarette in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

And it wasn’t just the movies. Great mysteries had good guys and bad guys smoking up a storm. Nick & Nora Charles “wore” their cigarettes as part of their elegance. We have a few protagonists smoking in today’s mysteries, but most of them, like Elaine Flinn’s Molly Doyle, and Kathryn Wall’s Bay Tanner, are in a constant battle with themselves in an attempt to quit. In I. Van Laningham’s short stories, Andi Holmes successfully quits. Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective starts out a smoker. If the protag isn’t trying to quit, he/she is most likely one of the bad guys, as is the case of Ken Lewis’ Curt LaMar, in “Little Blue Whales.”

Who can imagine Frank Sinatra on stage singing those torch songs without that cigarette? We may not see singers on stage with a cigarette in hand any more, but does it really mean they’re all living a cleaner, safer lifestyle? And why is it the world’s business anyway?

I was never one of those people who fantasized about “if only I could quit.” In my mind, my future was me being this feisty old woman flicking ashes on anyone who might even suggest I put my cigarette out while in their presence. Driving my scooter hell bent for leather all over the Wal-Mart parking lot, daring anyone to get in my way, smoke billowing around my head like it once did Pop-Pop Wilkinson’s

To those of you who don’t smoke - believe it or not, there are some people who don’t want to quit. That’s their choice. And there are the people who are trying desperately to quit but just haven’t yet been able to. I’ve been one of the lucky ones, I think. I’ve had tons of support. Lots of phone calls, and some awfully nice cards, and notes and email from people offering encouragement. It’s meant a lot. It also meant a lot that of all the people who took the time to write, no one preached at me. Praise glory and thank you for that.

If you’re a non-smoker and want to help those you care about stop smoking, try huge doses of patient kindness. I can promise it’ll work a lot better than a constant negative pounding. Smokers already feel like the latest in a long line of persona non-grata. The lowest of the low. The only one lower might be a person who smokes while wearing a mink coat. Let’s all feel free to stone that poor dumb clod to death. And while I’m on this little rant (I love to rant), why has the government, at any level, gotten involved in our business about this? To protect the health of non-smokers? I’m sorry, but really. Smoking laws coming from a government who can’t clean up the air or water from industry pollution? Let’s see. The EPA was created when? 1970? Gloriosa, don’t even get me started.

With the help of a prescription written by my doctor, it really hasn’t been too tough. Not as tough as I thought it might be. Tough enough though, that I hope I make it this time ‘cause I’m not sure I’d do it again.

So, you people who think the whole world needs to hear what you’re saying into that cell phone of yours? If you see me smoking – please try to have this number handy - 1-800-424-8802. That’s the number for the EPA National Response Center. It’s the number you call to report an environmental emergency. Better to do that than tap me on the shoulder to give me your opinion about my smoking.

Comments left for the original post can be seen at The Stiletto Gang Blogspot.