Friday, December 31, 2010

Good-Bye . . . Hello


Saying good-bye to 2010 is not a problem for me.

It was a year fraught with some challenges - more so than most.

But I'll have to say, I'm proud that Donald and I (and Harley, of course!)  were able to meet them head-on and get on about our business of living and enjoying our life together.

And looking forward to 2011.  Ready to face its challenges, and looking forward to its joys.

I'm still trying to decide whether or not to make any resolutions.  Some years I do, some years I don't.
How 'bout you - do you make resolutions?  Are you able to keep them?

Here's a few I have made over the years - and I'll bet some of them will look familiar to many of you.

  • To lose weight.
  • To eat healthier.
  • To exercise.
  • To have more patience with people who drive me nuts.
  • To be a kinder, more considerate person.
  • To clean up my potty mouth.
  • To live each day to its fullest.

There are a couple of things on this list I'm proud to say I have actually gotten better about as I become a wiser (ie,  older) woman.  But, I have to admit - I still have a ways to go to become the woman I'd like to be.

One very important decision has been reached today.

One I'm happy to share.

It was the very tough choice about which book I want to start my year off with. 

Last year I started my year with an ARC of Linda Fairstein's HELL GATE.  Book 12 in the Alex Cooper series.  It was a great choice, and a book I enjoyed immensely.  And I can't wait to read #13 - SILENT MERCY, coming out in March.

This year, after much thought and consideration, I've decided to start the year in a whole 'nother way.   The book that is calling my name right now is Keith Richards' LIFE

He may not be a favorite of everyone, but he is one of mine.  Donald and I have been lucky enough to see The Rolling Stones in concert twice - The Steel Wheels Concert in 1989 at Georgia Tech, and The VooDoo Lounge Concert in 1994 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

I've been a fan of Keith Richards, and of The Rolling Stones, since way way back.  Actually, preferring them to The Beatles when I was a teen.  That's not to say I don't adore The Beatles, I do.  But there's just something about bad boys . . . .

One of my favorite songs ever is one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.  It's Salt of the Earth - Enjoy!

And Happy New Year to you all -

Salt Of The Earth
written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let's drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let's drink to the uncounted heads
Let's think of the wavering millions
Who need leading but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
Empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
Or don't they look so strange

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Let's drink to the salt of the earth

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the salt of the earth
Let's drink to the two thousand million
Let's think of the humble of birth

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books Read During 2010

It's always interesting, I think, to read lists.  I'm a list maker from way back and can't seem to accomplish even the most simple tasks without a list close by.

So it only makes sense that all the "Best Of" lists that come out at the end of the year are of special interest to me.  Especially the book lists.  I eat 'em up.  There are lots I agree with, and lots I don't, but I love reading each and every one.

One of my favorites has always been the list put together at the mystery literature econference,  DorothyL.

I haven't gotten around to choosing my favorites yet, but for the first time ever, I did actually keep a list of all the books I read during the year.   I did not include any of the books I didn't finish.

They're not all mysteries, so I'll have to cull those out first to make my contribution to DorothyL, then ponder.  A few will hop right off the page, some will take a little more thought.

Do any of you keep a list of what you've read?

I always say I'm going to and I'm glad I finally did it.  I've been keeping the list here at Meanderings and Muses, and will do it again for 2011.

I know 2010 isn't quite finished, and whatever I do read between now and the end of the year, I'll be adding to the list.  Right now  I'm in the mood for poetry and for essays.  I recently finished Billy Collins' "Ballistics," (which I had loaded onto Kindle on my iPad).  And I'm now rereading Nancy Peacock's "A Broom of One's Own."

If someone were to ask if I have one favorite book from 2010, I think I'd actually have to pipe up with two.

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows


Books Read During 2010


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Traveling - Then and Now

The way we travel has changed significantly.  And I don't just mean from a long, long time ago when we traveled by horse and buggy.

I don't even mean those family vacations we took when we were kids and played all those backseat games with our family.  Remember keeping track of how many out of state license tags you could spot?

And I'm not even talking about back when flying was fun.

Nope, I mean in just a very short time.

Our traveling has changed from loading up the car with this -

and this -

and this -

to this -

Don't you love it?!

Everything.  On one sleek and slim piece of technology.

Books, music, games, videos, and movies.  All right here. 

Want to store some of your favorite photos to show folks?  They have never looked sharper than they look on an iPad.  

All this, along with the convenience of checking email and browsing the web.  

Want to read a magazine or a newspaper?  Right here.  

Want to tour a museum?  Yep, that too.  

Want to know the answer to the most frequently asked question on any car trip - Maps will not only give you directions on where you're going and tell you how long it'll be before you get there, it can even (in some cases) show you a satellite picture of your final destination and give you a little bit of information about it.
Several of you have written since I did my earlier series of iPad posts asking me if I still love it and many want to know what applications I've added.

I do still love it.

One of the first things I bought for it wasn't an application, but a cover for it.  As much as I love the sleek sexy  design, I was worried about it getting scratched up.  I wanted to protect the screen and the metal casing, so I bought a package of screen protectors, and a pretty red leather cover (which I found on sale for a really really good price by doing some comparison shopping on-line).

As far as applications go, there are TONS of freebies out there.  And if you keep an eye on the AppStore and AppAdvice you can snag some apps that are free, or deeply discounted, for a short time only.

But you may as well face it, you are going to spend some money on books, on movies, and on music.  And on apps.  You're just not going to be able to help yourself.  Just go ahead and add the figure you're comfortable with into your monthly budget.  Just saying . . .

Here are some of the applications I love.

My favorite?

It's a silly little fun guy called Talking Tom Cat.  Yep.  My very favorite.  Tom the Talking Cat is a scream.

Here's a description from iTunes Preview:  "Tom is your pet cat, that responds to your touch and repeats everything you say with a funny voice. You can pet him, poke him or grab his tail.
Record your own videos of Tom, save them to your library and send them as MMS, share them on YouTube & Facebook or send them by email."

Another "just for fun" app I like is Pottery HD, which allows you to "create" your own virtual pottery, decorate it and even virtually sell it.

You get the idea - there are so many game applications it will blow your mind.


I was one of those who swore she'd never turn her back on "real" books.  Well, I haven't.  But I have embraced the wide world of eBooks in addition to my real books. 

In addition to iBooks, I've downloaded the Kindle App and the Nook App.  Again, you can find a lot of freebies.  Don't forget to check out the wonderful Project Gutenberg for over 33,000 free ebooks.  Another feature I love about ebooks is the ability to download free samples.  If you hear about a book you think you want, read the free sample before buying it to see if it's one you really want.  I'm using this a lot to check out "new to me" authors, and to catch up on some backlists.

We've all had one of those instances that we really wanted to access a document only to realize it's on "that other computer."  Take a gander at Dropbox.  From the Dropbox home page: "Dropbox allows you to sync your files online and across your computers automatically.  It allows you to backup your files on-line.  A copy of your files is stored on Dropbox's secure servers. This lets you access them from any computer or mobile device. Dropbox uses military grade encryption methods to both transfer and store your data. A free application for iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, and Android that lets you access and manage your Dropbox on the go. Shared folders allow several people to collaborate on the same files. Automatically create shareable online photo galleries out of regular folders."  What can I say - it's great!

Another favorite is Evernote, which is very similar in that you can access your files from any of your computers or phones.  The first thing I did with Evernote was switch about 300 notes (a lot of recipes) from my Palm to this program so they would be on my iPad and my laptop.  It's an easily searchable program and,  for me, the perfect place for quick notes and little memos. 

AND - you can also put Dragon Dictation on your iPad.  This from iTunes Preview: "Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon® NaturallySpeaking® that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. In fact, it’s up to five (5) times faster than typing on the keyboard. With Dragon Dictation you can also dictate status updates directly to your Social Networking applications (Facebook and Twitter) or send notes and reminders to yourself….all using your voice.  So when you’re on-the-go, stop typing and start speaking – from short text messages to longer email messages, and anything in between. Dragon Dictation supports a multitude of global languages. For a full list of currently supported languages visit"

And, if you just want to read a magazine, or a newspaper while you're in the car on this trip - easy peasy.  If the trip is getting kinda dull and you want to drift away for a tour of The Smithsonian or MOMA, they're right there at your fingertips.  Want to tour something other than a museum - well, oTAY - take a virtual tour of Venice, Athens, or Tuscany.  Or you might just need to check your friends' statuses at Facebook . . . 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The View From My Pen by RJ Harlick

 Described by the Ottawa Citizen as “one of the best new voices in the mystery business”, Canadian author, RJ Harlick, writes the Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of West Quebec. And like her heroine Meg Harris, RJ loves nothing better than to roam the forests surrounding her own wilderness cabin or paddle the endless lakes and rivers. But unlike Meg, she doesn’t find a body at every twist and turn, although she certainly likes to put them in Meg’s way. There are currently four books in the series. The 4th book, Arctic Blue Death was a finalist in the 2010 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. The fifth,  A Green Place for Dying, will be published in Spring 2011.

The view from my pen

Or I should more aptly say “from my computer” for I haven’t used a pen since I started this writing business. In fact I so seldom write by hand these days, that my writing has become an indecipherable scrawl, one even I can barely read. But I prefer to use ‘from my pen’ for it conjures up a more romantic image and better sets the mood for this blog. 

Like many writers, I had a desire to write novels as a child and had my own secret drawer full of carefully penned stories that never went beyond my own eyes.  As the years progressed, events and economics transpired to keep this desire out of reach yet not entirely forgotten.  Whenever I thought of writing I had this image of me writing in some idyllic rural location with the sun shining, the birds twittering and the breeze gently ruffling the pages.

The day came, when I felt the time was ripe to realize that dream and I knew for me my writing location would be critical. It would serve as my muse, my inspiration. Curiously enough, at the time of this decision, I was sitting in the screened porch of our log cabin on a hot summer day, overlooking the forested hills of our West Quebec wilderness. Dappled sun filtered through the screen, while birds flitted in and out of a near-by feeder and a soft breeze played with the wind chimes.

It is a place of peace and calm.  During my working years, it was a place where I would seek weekend relief from my 14 hours-a-day job in the highly competitive high tech industry. It was probably what kept me sane during those stressful years.  I knew it was the kind of retreat my heroine, Meg Harris, an escapee from the big city and an abusive marriage, would need to heal her wounded soul.

And thus Three Deer Point was born.  Unlike my own simple log cabin, I gave Meg the cottage of my dreams, a fanciful, rambling Victorian cottage made from sturdy timbers of white pine and fieldstone. Years ago, while visiting a friend’s cottage, I came across a high, pine-covered granite point jutting out into the crystal clear waters of the northern lake. At the time I felt, if I were ever to have a cottage, I would want this type of location.  Though it never happened for me, I made sure Meg’s cottage was perched on a similar lofty point.  From the screened porch of her wrap-around verandah, she can view the passing seasons on Echo Lake while she rocks back and forth in her great-aunt’s bentwood rocker contemplating the latest curve life has thrown her. 

Since the Canadian cold isn’t exactly conducive for writing outdoors, I can only write in my screened porch during the warm days of summer.   The rest of the time, I work in my office with my desk in front of a window with a commanding view of the surrounding wilderness.  Whenever I am at a loss for words and need inspiration I look at the drama unfolding outside; a ten point buck standing stately and proud by the salt lick, rain pummeling the land as lightening lights up the night sky or the sudden white and brown blur of a merlin swooping down to nab an unsuspecting chickadee. Invariably the words start to flow.

As beautiful as this wilderness can be, it can also be cruel. Danger can lurk behind the next bend in the river, beyond the next hill, or can be as close as behind the next tree.  It might pounce as you walk past or lurk in the shadows waiting for you.  And what better place to hide a body, a secret, than in a land where trees out number people a million to one and lakes a thousand to one.  All of which makes this wilderness a perfect setting for a murder mystery.  And I take full advantage of this.  I have Meg paddling down a foaming river, fleeing a raging forest fire, chasing a killer through a forest locked in ice or encountering a moose with her dog Sergei.

In my latest book, A Green Place for Dying, to be released in the spring, Meg finds herself dropped by float plane into the middle of northern Quebec, hundreds of miles from nowhere in search of two missing people, one who is very near and dear to her heart. This is a vast, empty land, where lakes outnumber people a million to one and trees a billion to one. And although it’s not the view outside my office, it is a place I can easily conjure up from my northern canoe trips in a land as stark and empty, but filled with all sorts of villainous possibilities.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ending the year with a look back at where we work

Last year many of the Meanderings and Muses guests honored us by agreeing to a request I made of them; to share a peek at where they work their magic. 

I stole the idea from THE WRITER'S DESK by Jill Krementz

It was a bunch of fun, and quite interesting, to see what people chose to share.  Some chose their "real" office.  Some chose their alternative offices.  Some chose a view from their office window.  And some chose a spot completely away from their laptops where their imagination just soars.

And now, here they all are.  Gathered  together in one spot, shown here in the order in which they were posted.

The Meanderings and Muses' version of THE WRITERS' (and Their Readers') DESKS.  

Gillian Roberts

Liz Zelvin

L.J. Sellers

Sandra Ruttan

Toni Kelner

Lou Allin

Kelli Stanley

Morgan Mandel

Jenny Milchman

Hank Phillippi Ryan

JT Ellison

Sandra Parshall

Clea Simon

Marilyn Meredith

Pat Conroy

Whoa - Pat Conroy?!

Well, O.K.
So he wasn't a guest blogger.


We were part of his Blog Tour with TLC though - you can read it here

That counts.



Jen Forbus

Mary Welk

Karen Olson

Lesa Holstine

Bronson "Bo" Parker

Alan Orloff

Jane Cleland

Patricia Neely Dorsey

Vicki Delany

Chester Campbell

Barbara Fister

Joanna Campbell Slan

Elaine Viets

Larry Karp

Meredith Cole

Chris Grabenstein

Elizabeth Spann Craig

Ooops!  That was Elizabeth's adorable Corgi, Chloe!

Chloe stole that shot, didn't she?!

Marcia Talley

Diane Chamberlain

Sarah Byrne

Mary Jane Maffini

Radine Trees Nehring

Rhonda Dossett

Patty Andersen

Neil Plakcy

Bill Crider

Leighton Gage

Beth Groundwater

N.J. Lindquist

SJ Rozan

Vicki Lane

Barbara Fradkin

Robin Minnick

Louise Penny

Sharon Wildwind

Mark  Coggins

Kate Gallison

Twist Phelan

Nancy Means Wright

Shelley Costa

Deni Dietz

R. J. Harlick

Kaye Barley, beginning Feb. 1, 2011. 

Thank you, everyone.

You've helped Meanderings and Muses
have yet another wonderful year, 
and it is much appreciated.

Here's to spending many more years together