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.