Sunday, January 31, 2010

We Must All Hang Together by Kelli Stanley

Kelli Stanley’s second novel, City of Dragons, introduces Miranda Corbie—PI and ex-escort in 1940 San Francisco.

City of Dragons (released February 2, 2010) is the first of a series, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, is an RT Book
Reviews Top Pick, and an Indie Next Book for February. “Children’s Day”, a prequel to City of Dragons, will be published in First Thrills: High Octane Stories by the Hottest Thriller Writers, coming June 22nd from Tor/Forge.

Kelli’s debut novel, Nox Dormienda, won the Bruce Alexander Award and was nominated for a Macavity. She lives in San Francisco, and frequents old movie palaces, speakeasies and bookstores. You can find out more about her and her books at her website:

Kelli's cable car "workspace" where she does a lot of her creative thinking. Then, once she gets home, she sits in front of the computer and lets the words flow onto the page.

another "workspace"

We Must All Hang Together by Kelli Stanley

I want to start by thanking Kaye for letting me ensconce myself at her exquisitely comfortable abode, here at Meanderings and Musings. Kaye is such a beautiful, generous and hospitable person that her blog takes on the aspects of a five star—yet secret—bed and breakfast, tucked away in the mountains, still and lovely, but with all the amenities to make you comfortable.

Thank you, Kaye!!

I’m glad to be somewhere so safe, warm and relaxing just the day before by book comes out. City of Dragons launches from Thomas Dunne/Minotaur tomorrow—Groundhog Day!—though it’s far more concerned with other February holidays … Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year, which this year coincidentally fall on the same date.

So I’m nervous. Making the leap from small press to major publisher is a very, very lucky opportunity, and boy, do I know it!

I’ve been touring the web-o-sphere, talking about different aspects of the book … the time and the
setting (1940 San Francisco) and why both city and era resonate with me so much … my PI protagonist Miranda Corbie, who is simultaneously a response to misogynistic images of femme fatales and an ode to noir traditions. She was also a Spanish Civil War nurse and an escort before becoming a PI … a woman with a dark, complex past and an uncertain future.

But today, I thought I’d discuss one of the other major themes of City of Dragons: the soul-destroying effects of racism, between, among and shared within cultures.

The action of the novel centers on a murder that the authorities don’t want investigated. Eddie Takahashi is a nineteen year old Japanese-American numbers runner who is gunned down in Chinatown … during a fundraiser for China in the war against Japan. Assumption is that Eddie was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tensions between Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans had been building since the start of the Sino-Japanese War, and were brought to the boiling point with the Rape of Nanking in 1937 … Eddie’s death, in the middle of the fundraising Rice Bowl Party, is considered payback—and bad for the businesses the Rice Bowl Party profits. But the boy dies in Miranda’s arms, and she’s not backing off from finding out who killed him and why.

The animosity and hatred and resentment that supposedly triggers Eddie’s death was all too real in 1940. There were boycotts of Japanese businesses—some of which were established in Chinatown—in protest of Japanese atrocities during the war, particularly at Nanking, and if you know anything about the events that happened there, you can understand the emotional outrage and anger that it still provokes.

In fact, today, seventy years later, on the very same block where Eddie is murdered—Sacramento Street at Grant Avenue—there is a small office dedicated to telling the world the truth about the Sino-Japanese War, in the face of official denial by the Japanese government. I didn’t know this when I opened the first chapter of City of Dragons here … and was saddened to find that such an effort is still necessary, a memorial to an event and a period of inconceivable human suffering.

Of course, the terrible irony—the exacerbation of the very real tensions in 1940 San Francisco—is that Asian-Americans were lumped together into a melting pot, equally discriminated against by whites, and marginalized as a totality. Racism operates on so many levels … and leaves indelible scars, often transferred from generation to generation.

As for why I chose to write about this subject? Well, I’m a half-Polish, half English/Scottish/American Indian product of a working class girl from Chicago and a young man from the poverty-stricken coal fields of Kentucky. My parents raised me to recognize the inherent dignity of human beings, to understand that the only truly dirty words are those which are filled with hate. And when I was very young, I witnessed what racism is … and the experience has stayed with me throughout my life.

We lived in northern Florida in 1972, and I remember visiting share croppers. I’ll never forget the smell of poverty, of people trying to scrape by with so little and even less hope.

I remember my father picking up an African-American man whose truck had broken down, remember how scared and nervous the man was over this white guy who stopped to help him. I remember their family staying with us for a night, while my father helped him get the truck running.
And I remember the death threats my dad got at work the next day.

My mom had her own story—she was in line to pay a hospital bill, in a sad, broken-down waiting room without couch or furniture. A white nurse saw her, told her she was in the wrong place, and led her to another waiting room, this one nicely appointed. Only then did my mom realize that she’d been the only white in the ramshackle room.

Two separate rooms, two separate services. Even in 1972.

And this isn’t about Florida. The South often gets a bad rap over racism, but I’ve actually seen more of it as an adult in other places. There are hateful –isms and –phobias of all human kinds, and they are an evil that know no boundaries and call everywhere home … even progressive, liberal San Francisco.

And this, partly, is why I wrote City of Dragons. I believe in the power of fiction, and while my primary goal is to entertain people, I also want to give people something to think about, something to learn, something to discuss. Something that I hope will be a testament to what all kinds of people in all kinds of ages have endured because of race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or whatever other artificial barriers we erect to identify—and divide—ourselves.

1940 San Francisco was a gorgeous and lovely town, full of Benny Goodman swing and Art Deco buildings and pretty hats. It was also a place and time rife with the challenges our species is still trying to overcome. Ben Franklin’s words are more true than ever … if we don’t hang together, we shall most assuredly hang separately.

I hope you enjoy City of Dragons … and the trip back in time. Thanks for listening … and thanks to Kaye again, for having me over!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fighting Those Ol' Winter Time Blues

This has been a brutal winter. and its really only just begun with another big snow storm due to slam into us tonight and tomorrow. Big plans for cooking up a pot of spaghetti sauce at our house this weekend. If we're going to be snowed in - we're going to eat well. always. It's a rule.

All this has had me thinking back to last winter and what I did to help fight the blues, and found a post here about going to see Willie Nelson in February. Yep. Willie can help fight the blues, for real. He puts on a terrific show and he was just what the doctor ordered.

This year though, Willie's not gonna make it to Boone.

More's the pity.

'Course, even if he did, we're spending so much time being snowed in - or iced in - getting into town to see him might be iffy.

For the most part, we've been able to make it in to work - some days a little later than our normal start time, but we've been there. There were a couple days that we didn't make it, and even a day or two that the University actually closed (VERY unusual). Most of our major problems - including the big power outage that lasted for several days - have been caused by ice.

Feather Photo by Jill Smith

So. Since Willie isn't planning a trip to Boone this winter, I had to find another way to chase away those Ol' Winter Time Blues.

It started small.

I decided that the prints I bought last May while we were at Topsail Island had languished around the house long enough. Time for a trip to the frameshop. There's some tired old stuff hanging on our walls and it's past time for them to be retired and replaced with some color. These wonderful prints by North Carolina artist Ivey Hayes will be just the thing.

They'll will come home from the framer's next week with pretty new red wooden frames.

You know what's coming next, don't you? You know how you can not do one thing around the house like this without it leading to something else . . .

And many of you are aware of my love of red. It's all about adding a little red to my life.

Maybe I have cabin fever, but I'm not really sure that's what it is. I'm the original hermit, and could stay in our little house for days and days and days on end without leaving and be perfectly fine with that. It's not at all unusual for me to come home on a Friday after work and not leave again till Monday morning. I love that. As long as Donald and Harley are around. And my books. And if I have email and the internet, I am truly fine. And a phone to check in with my mom. Sadly, I cannot talk the woman into computers and email. Ain't gonna happen.

But the living room started looking as tired and as old as the things hanging on the wall that I'm retiring.

Time for a change!

This chair has been restuffed, reupholstered and re-slip covered more times than I remember. It started out in our apartment in Cambridge when I was a kid. I still love the classic lines, but am over the blue stripes. We had it cleaned not long ago, but it's still kinda dingy. Think it has anything to do with the fact that two cats (George and Martha Ann) once loved and practically lived in it, and now Harley has laid claim to it?

The new look?

Ta DA - - --

here's the fabric I ordered -

And next the loveseat. Gotta go.

It's in pretty good shape, actually, but I'm ready for a change. AND, obviously, in need of some of that red in my life. (Too much red, says Donald. If he's right {as he so often is}, one of these pieces will just have to move to a different room.).

Here's the new loveseat fabric -


What do you think?

I think it'll all look terrific with this chair we bought last year. You can be sure this chair can bear some of the burden of this "Out With The Old!" phase I'm going through 'cause I've been over the moon about it since the day it found its way to our house. It makes me smile, and hopefully, when the other two pieces are re-done they'll all get along famously and I'll be the one smiling like a lunatic.

And next . . . .

hmmmmm . . .

This tired old braided rug will just have to go . . . .

Stay tuned, everyone!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tell Me the Landscape by Lou Allin

Lou Allin is the author of the Belle Palmer mysteries set in Northern Ontario, ending with Memories are Murder. Now living on Vancouver Island with her border collies and mini-poodle, she is working on a new series where the rainforest meets the sea. On the Surface Die and She Felt No Pain feature RCMP Corporal, Holly Martin, in charge of a small detachment near Victoria. In 2010 Lou will debut That Dog Won’t Hunt, a novella in Orca’s Raven Reads editions for adults with literacy issues. Her website is and she may be reached at

Lou's work view is of Washington State across from the Strait of Juan de Fuca looking at Port Angeles

Tell Me the Landscape by Lou Allin

Northern Ontario and Canada’s Caribbean are as far apart in reputation as in distance, but they’ve been my home. Seven months of winter or of rain, I made peace with my environment by taking Ortega y Gassett’s advice: “Tell me the landscape in which you live and I will tell you who you are.”

The Nickel Capital of Sudbury, ravaged for a century by logging, mining, smelting, and acid rain, is no longer the black moonscape where astronauts supposedly trained. In the thirty years that I lived there, an immense regreening program turned the city into a model of environmentalism. Rye-on-the-rocks brought back the grass, and over twenty million pine seedlings were planted in an effort shared by community, business, and government.

Living on a vast meteor-crater lake north of the city, I was blessed with crown land in all directions. Not only could I forge for hours on my own paths with my dogs, but I could paddle a canoe to quiet inlets where bass bit and peregrines nested on high cliffs. The landscape called me to sing its praises. In a paradise of two hundred lakes, I gave my realtor sleuth Belle Palmer a specialty in cottage properties so that she could roam, too.

My first mystery, NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER, opened with a snowmobile accident
and the cover picture of a hand frozen in a lake. Like me, Belle rode a modest 250 Bravo, VW of the snowmachine world. What better ending than a rip-roaring chase from jewel to jewel with the ice thawing at the edges? Winter freed us from summer’s limitations.

Switching seasons, BLACKFLIES ARE MURDER’s cover had a
pail spilling blueberries and suspicious blood dotting the bushes. The bear-baiting in the initial scene was taken from memory, an ursine smorgasbord of doughnuts tied into alders and lemon pies on rock shelves. Bug dope stained every page, and I have the memory welts to prove it.

The wilderness was ideal territory for dogs, and Belle lived with Freya, a hardy German shepherd. But what about sending a mini-poodle puppy into a blizzard? BUSH POODLES ARE MURDER featured an apricot devil whose paws had to be thawed from ice balls every ten minutes on the snowshoe path. Tiny Strudel (Friday in real life) became a mighty huntress of shrews. On the cover she posed proudly in her Anna Karenina cape.

The beauties of autumn presented a new challenge in MURDER, EH? The final chase scene ended at Thor Lake, faithful to topographical maps. Since each of my books featured a relevant recipe, luckily a deserted cabin had the ingredients for nutritious bannock. To add a macabre touch, the remote lake, accessible only by train, was the scene of a murder-suicide this year.

The final entry, MEMORIES ARE MURDER served up the fly-ridden Burwash area, former scene of an Ontario prison from which no man ever escaped. Elk had been relocated there in a pilot program a few years ago. Belle’s old high-school boyfriend, a zoologist, came north to study the animals and drowned mysteriously. In another life-imitates-art moment, just before the book appeared, hunters found the body of a missing woman very near the opening scene location.

Though evidence pointed to the husband and an accomplice, charges have not been laid.

After leaving behind my plow truck, two snowblowers, five shovels, and a scoop, I moved to Canada’s Caribbean, the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, where the rain forest meets the sea. Bananas and kiwis grow in my yard. Bugs flee the salt air. “Welcome to Paradise,” the realtors say, but they know that BC also means “Bring cash.”

The climate is mild, neither too hot nor too cold. The snow-capped Olympic Mountains in Washington State across the Strait of Juan de Fuca assume a life of their own as mist rolls in and foghorns moan. But gone is the wilderness. The timber companies have been raping the land for over a century, threatening job losses if challenged. They own the major portion of the island and prefer to log near the water where it’s more convenient. Only through world pressure was the treasured Clayoquot Sound saved from the saw. With the market for lumber floundering, their latest plan is to convert their leases to real estate and reap a million dollars an acre. Only sensible zoning can prevent that, and it’s going to be a hard fight.

In my new series, starting with AND ON THE SURFACE DIE, Holly Martin, RCMP corporal, commands a small detachment west of Victoria. She may not have blizzards, but the book ends with a century typhoon that hit as I arrived in 2006. There was no Christmas that year, only two five-day power outages as thousands of three-hundred-foot Douglas firs fell uprooted across power lines, crushing cars and houses. It’s a rough way to make the front page of The Globe and Mail, my neighbour said, her seven-acre waterfront estate of Sitka spruces now a war zone. Woodpiles will be stocked for years, but burning the debris (landfills are scarce on an island) filled the air with smoke January to June.

Learning about my new home has brought more guidebooks. Instead of blueberries, we have salmonberries, salal berries, and the toughest plant in the world, Himalayan blackberries. Tomatoes won’t grow on this windy coast, but artichokes thrive. Bald eagles soar, and western jays squawk. We still have bear aplenty, and deer, too, but elk have replaced moose. How odd that the island has no foxes, but small wonder that it has a rabbit overpopulation. No poisonous snakes, but poisonous salamanders. And an unusual gift, banana slugs, a helpful detrivore which scours the environment and has only one lung! Always present is the generous beast of the Pacific, bringer of crab, shrimp, salmon and “hali,” in this former fishing village, Sooke. With its intertidal zones, world-famous Botanical Beach sets the murder scene in AND ON THE SURFACE DIE. At low tide, the sea creatures emerge. Mussels, starfish, anemones, rock crabs, and the primitive chitons, especially the gum boot variety, huge pink erasers weighing several pounds.

As I was an ambassador for Sudbury, showing its beauties to the world, I’m now sounding warnings for this spectacular part of Canada. Vancouver Island stands on the brink of disaster not only because of the logging, but because so many people want to come and live here. Locals feel like “pulling up the drawbridge,” and perhaps the rising ferry fares will do that. It’s not just our whales that need saving from “development” and the attendant pollution. It’s the land itself. Will the green forces succeed or will we be paving paradise again?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Squealing About A Book

I read a review about a book at Lesa Holstine's blog (Lesa's Book Critiques) that struck a chord. The book was SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT. And then she did an interview with the author, Beth Hoffman, and I was even more sure this was a book I had to read. Lesa said she thought this would be one of the most talked about books of this year, and I have to agree. She also said (quoted from Beth Hoffman's website) that SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is “Exemplifying Southern storytelling at its best…”

Being a fan of "all things Southern," I just kinda thought this might be my cup of tea.

Sometimes books or authors are recommended by saying, "if you love so and so, you'll love this
one." I'm not very good at that. But. I think I might be able to do that with this one. IF you loved Sue Monk Kidd's SECRET LIFE OF BEES, then I do indeed think you'll love Beth Hoffman's SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT.

I sat down with this lovely book this past Sunday and that was the end of my day. Dust bunnies flourished, grew, multiplied and did it all again, and I just didn't care. I found myself quickly and totally bewitched by CeeCee Honeycutt as she struggles to make a life for herself as she also tries, at age 12, to watch over and take care of her mother Camille. Camille thinks it's 1951 and that she's still the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia, when actually it's 1967 and they're living in Willoughby, Ohio with a mostly absent Mr. Honeycutt.

After tragedy strikes in Willoughby, CeeCee is whisked away by great aunt Tootie to a place called Savannah. And there she meets a bunch of southern women who do what southern women do - embrace life, laugh irreverently at just about anything, nurture and teach. If you're also a fan of "all things Southern" - and even if you're not - you'll fall in love with these women right along with CeeCee. You'll laugh at the wackiness, and cry at the sadness. You'll be totally smitten with each of these women, expected eccentricities and all, and when you finish the book you'll wish for more.

To quote my friend Nan, "this is a book I'll be packing to take with me to the old folks' home."

Do you have favorite books you'll read again and again, and know that you'll want them close beside you when you've moved into the old folks' home? This is one of mine.

And maybe I'll plan on doing a post with a list of some more of those well loved books I'll be planning on taking with me. Help me here, and tell me what some of yours are 'cause I'm betting some of them might be mine too, and I've probably forgotten a lot of them.

For full FTC disclosure.
I bought this book.
No payment of any kind has been made for the above stated opinion.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trivial Trails by Toni L.P. Kelner

After nearly twenty-three years of living in Massachusetts, transplanted Southerner Toni L.P. Kelner may actually be getting used to it. She drives even when there's snow falling, thinks it's warming up when it hits the mid-thirties, and uses the phrase "wicked good" almost daily. More importantly, she no longer sets her books in the South. After eight Laura Fleming novels and a fair number of short stories set in North Carolina, she's now writing the "Where are they now?" series about Tilda Harper, a Boston-based freelance reporter. Tilda specializes in tracking down the formerly famous from TV and film. The second, Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, was released earlier this month.

Toni is also a prolific short story writer, with her first PI story coming out in Delta Blues, edited by Carolyn Haines, and a vampire courtroom drama in the MWA anthology Crimes By Moonlight.

When not working on mysteries, Toni co-edits urban fantasy anthologies with NYT bestseller Charlaine Harris. Death's excellent Vacation, their third, will be out in August and they're working on a fourth.

Toni lives just north of Boston, where there is currently snow on the ground. She and her husband, fellow author Stephen P. Kelner, Jr, have thousands of books but only two daughters.

Toni's Workspace - The stuffed poodle on top of the computer is named Deadline, and is always looming

Trivial Trails by Toni L.P. Kelner

In my "Where are they now?" series, protagonist Tilda Harper is a freelance entertainment reporter who specializes in tracking down the formerly famous. She's also a fan of both old and new TV shows and movies, and could probably name every one of the Cartwright Brides from Bonanza. In other words, she's made a career out of trivia. Come to think of it, now that I'm writing about Tilda, you could say that I'm making a career out of trivia, too.

This may not sound like a worthy goal, but the fact is, I like trivia. Yes, I know the dictionary definition says that trivia is "matters or things that are very unimportant, inconsequential, or nonessential; trifles; trivialities." But I prefer the origin of the word: "derivative of trivium, place where three roads meet." Because for me, the lure of trivia is the places were trivia intersects.

Sure, it's interesting knowing that Mark Leonard, Robert Brown, and David Soul were guest stars on different episodes of Star Trek, but isn't that tidbit more fun when you know that in that same time period, the three of them co-starred in the show Here Come the Brides? It's not just the facts themselves that fascinate me, but the trails that trivia leads me down that can keep me surfing the web for hours at a time.

In Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, my latest release, Tilda is writing simultaneous stories on pinup queens and TV cowboys. On a metaphorical level, this works because both cowboys and pinups are American idealizations. They're larger than life--ultra masculine cowboys versus ultra pinups. And on the trivia level, it's awfully entertaining to follow the trail from pinups to cowboys.

In fact, why don't you ride along and I'll take you down some trivial trails.

1) Start with the Queen of Pinups, Bettie Page. In addition to her photo work, she made a handful of movies, including the films Striporama and Varietease. And no, I am not making up those titles.

2) Varietease was directed by Irving Klaw, the man behind a lot of Bettie's bondage photos. Even though he himself didn't see the point of tying up pretty girls, he knew those photos made money, and he did see the point of that.

3) Klaw also directed the film Buxom Beautease. I didn't make up that title, either.

4) One of the stars of Buxom Beautease was stripper Blaze Starr, who was later the paramour of controversial Louisiana governor Earl Long. I didn't make up the name Blaze Starr, but she did--she was born Fannie Belle Fleming.

5) The romance between Starr and Long was immortalized in the film Blaze. The real Blaze Starr even had a small role in the movie.

6) Blaze starred Paul Newman as Governor Long. Paul Newman is Newman's own name, by the way.

7) Newman starred as two legendary cowboys: Butch Cassidy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Buffalo Bill Cody in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson. And yes, Butch and Buffalo Bill are nicknames.

So there you have an exciting trail from pinup queens to Hollywood cowboys. Of course, Newman played movie cowboys, and I wrote about TV cowboys. So I'll try another trail.

1) Start with Bettie Page again. Bettie never intended to be a model forever. She wanted to act, and in addition to her work oddly titled films, appeared in off-Broadway productions and a few TV shows, including the original version of The Jackie Gleason Show.

2) Next to Gleason himself, the most famous star of The Jackie Gleason Show was undoubtably Art Carney, who played Ed Norton.

3) Carney guest starred in an episode of the TV western The Virginian.

Not a bad trail, though I tend to prefer them long and winding. Now, of course, you're wondering if I can go the other direction, from TV western to pinup queen. Follow along!

1) Let's start with Bonanza. It wasn't the first TV western by any means, but it was one of the longest lasting and next to Gunsmoke, perhaps the most iconic. (The fact that there really was a Ponderosa tourist attraction is what gave me the idea of using an attraction based on the fictional show Cowtown as a plot point in Who Killed the Pinup Queen?) Bonanza is, appropriately enough, a bonanza for trivial trailblazers because of all the guest stars during its twelve-season run. They included three of the castaways from Gilligan's Island; the actresses who played Hot Lips Houlihan in the movie M*A*S*H and the actress who played that role in the TV version; The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E; and Batman, Batgirl, the Penguin, and the Joker from the TV series Batman. But I digress, which is awfully easy to do while I'm tracking trivia. Guest stars aside, Bonanza featured Ben Cartwright and his three boys Hoss, Adam, and Little Joe. Little Joe was played by Michael Landon.

2) Landon is another treasure for trivia trailers. He was in three long-running shows: Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, and as a bonus, he was in the B-movie classic I Was a Teenage Werewolf. But in a more obscure role, he had a small part in an unsold pilot for a western called Luke and the Tenderfoot. I'm surprised it was never picked up--the cast included Charles Bronson, Edgar Buchanan, Ellen Corby, Richard Jaeckel, and Lee Van Cleef. It also included a relatively unknown character actor named Leonard Nimoy.

3) Nimoy was still fairly unknown when he appeared in an episode of Get Smart as a member of the villainous organization KAOS. Admit it--you thought I was going to bring up Star Trek, didn't you?

4) Get Smart was co-created by Buck Henry, who was famous for--among other things--writing for and appearing on Saturday Night Live. He was particularly funny as John Belushi's cohort in the Samurai sketches.

5) Before Get Smart or SNL, Henry was a member of a camera club in New York, and wrote about his experiences in Playboy in 1992. That's how he met--and photographed--Bettie Page.

I could keep blazing trivia trails all day long, just because it's so much fun. But just to bring it back to books, I'll point out that following bizarre trails and making unexpected connections is what mystery writing is all about. So expect me to be tracking trivia for some time to come, and to misquote famous TV cowboy Roy Rogers and his cowgirl wife Dale Evans Rogers:

Happy trivia trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Friday, January 22, 2010

True? Not True? You Decide !

Lesa Holstine. I'll bet you are all familiar with our Lesa. If you don't know her, please stop by Lesa's Book Critiques and meet her. She always has neat things going on. Terrific reviews, and interviews, and news of who she's hosting at Authors @ The Teague. I don't mean to embarrass her by saying this, and I know I've said it lots of times before, both here, at her place and all around the blogging world, AND all around the mystery world. She is one of the classiest people on God's green earth. She has a sense of ethics I'd like to package and distribute widely. She always plays fair. She keeps her blog, along with her ideals, at a level that most of us strive for and she keeps the bar high for us all. Sometimes when I want to come here and rant wildly about something that has rubbed me wrong I back off a bit because I know it's not something Lesa would do. Now that's not to say I won't rant - you know me better than that - but I'll at least try to keep it at a level that I won't be too embarrassed about at a later date. (Lesa? Forgive me if I fail at this from time to time, please!).

For these reasons receiving an award from Lesa is especially meaningful.

The woman has been the recipient of so many blogging awards from her peers that one of her readers came up with and designed an original award for Lesa to bestow on fellow bloggers.

It's the "Lesa's Bald Faced Liar (SCRATCH THAT!) 'Creative Writer' Blogger Award."

And - Ta DA! - I'm one of the recipients.


Thank you Lesa!

It comes with a few rules. Rules that Lesa made up. And here they are:

Recipients must -
1. Thank the person who gave this to you.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you.
4. Tell us up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth.
5. Allow your readers to guess which one or more are true.
6. Nominate seven "Creative Writers" who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies.
7. Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
8. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know you nominated them.

First, I'll pass this along to seven "Creative Writers." These are folks I feel sure will have fun coming up with a few outrageous lies, and I'm betting will have at least one very fun outrageous truth we'll enjoy learning.

1. Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer.
2. Jill's Life.
3. Book Chase.
4. Cobbledstones.
5. Exile's Return.
6. Mornings at Noon.
7. Patricia Stoltey.

And now. Here are seven statements. You get to decide which are lies and which one statement is the truth.

I'll stop back later this evening and tell you what the one truthful statement was.

1. I danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen in Atlanta.

2. I sang on stage with Willie Nelson in Atlanta (just one short chorus of "On The Road Again").

3. I was on Atlanta TV getting a kiss from a camel.

4. I danced on stage with Brooks & Dunn in Charlotte.

5. I was part of the peanut gallery for the Howdy Doody Show.

6. I was on Atlanta TV helping Paula Deen make Shrimp & Grits.

7. I was a finalist for "Jeopardy" but got beat out by a zoo keeper from San Diego and didn't get to be on TV.

So. There you go.

True. Not True? You Decide !

- - -

Okeey Doke - Truth Telling Time!

Kissed by a camel and captured by the Atlanta TV news while it was happening. You better believe I heard about that for a very long time. It was a long time back - back when Atlanta would every so often close down a section of Peachtree Street for events. This particular event was a fund raiser for the Fox Theatre. "Save the Fox" was a very big deal which ultimately was also very successful. The Fox Theatre was originally the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque; designed in the 1920s as a headquarters for the Shriner's organization. It later became one of the grand old theaters. Southern Bell tried to buy it in the 70's with plans to knock it down and put up a building of their own. It was one of the few times the citizens of Atlanta stepped forward to preserve a piece of Atlanta's rich architectural heritage. Sadly, a huge amount of Atlanta's wonderful architectural history has been lost forever to make room for corporate growth and expressways. However, a four year campaign resulted in The Fox being saved and it is now a National Historic Landmark.

During the event I'm speaking of where I get smooched by Gus the Camel, three or four blocks of Peachtree Street were closed off and The Fox lobby was open for viewing. Several restaurants set up "A Taste Of" food tables, there were bands, and various other fun things to do in efforts to raise money for the "Save the Fox" campaign. One of those things was to pay $1.00 for a kiss from Gus. Gus' handler told me he thought Gus was particularly attracted to me (or to my perfume) 'cause he seemed to get a bit carried away with what was supposed to be a quick little kiss on my cheek and gave me a big sloppy lick on the side of my face instead. As it happens, one of the news stations' camera men was there to catch it all live. My luck and my claim to Atlanta fame. Not near as cool as any of my list of lies here, huh?! LOL! Oh well - it was fun, and it was for a great cause. Here's a picture of me and Gus. Wonder if he thinks of me from time to time?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On Becoming an Artful Writer by Robert W. Walker

Robert W. Walker is a graduate of Northwestern University and NU’s Graduate School of Education; he holds a master’s degree in English, and has recently turned his 1972 dissertation into a novel entitled Children of Salem.

His novel Dead On was released last year by Five Star Books. Rob is the author of the 11-book Dr. Jessica Coran Instinct Series, the 4-book Detective Lucas Stonecoat Edge Series, and the historical trilogy featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom in City for Ransom, Shadows in the White City, and City of the Absent.

Rob has published over forty novels and has recently begun publishing in ebook format as well.

While he grew up in Chicago and was born in Corinth, MS., Rob now lives with his wife, Miranda, and their four children in Charleston, WV. To learn more about Rob or to get his help on your next story, as he is an accomplished editor as well, visit him online at:,

On Becoming an Artful Writer

by Robert W. Walker

Martin Scorscese was awarded a special life’s work Golden Globe award for directing films, and his acceptance speech was a long eulogy to all those who came before him, all those he learned from and built upon. Ever watch a young artist at work? Go to any museum and you will find a young painter at an easel set up before one of the Masters—Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Rembrandt. A look over the student’s shoulder shows that she’s not painting just anything, but rather she is attempting to duplicate the master artist’s method, trying to determine precisely how the artist in question used line, shape, light, shadow, brush stroke, color, medium, pick, pencil, charcoal—the whole of it. A student of art learns skills, tools, and techniques via mimicry and imitation, or if you prefer stealing—focusing so closely on how Renoir did it to learn it and own it. The how and why of the masters has to be harnessed. Even if one doesn’t care for Picasso’s art, one needs to know how he pulled it off.

Writers do the same, but they do so via voracious reading. As a writer reads, so shall he reap. Learning the art of establishing shots, openings, dialogue, settings, character, plot, props, symbols, metaphor, simile, texture, depth, color, tone and the marriage of all the parts amounts to working on a PhD in Letters. Steinbeck liked to say, “I’m just a storyteller” and that’s all well and good, but he was also an artist to learn from—a writer’s writer in other words.

Writers who succeed in finding their own brush stroke(s) or style do so by closely examining and trying their hand at crafting words in the “voice” of various writing masters—either consciously or unconsciously. All artists in all fields build on the backs of those who came before. Even the genius Shakespeare built upon playwrights who came before. For the struggling, thrashing young writer mimicry and imitation is the wisest form of flattery if one is to eventually learn from the masters and succeed. This success is measured in how far the young writer then moves on to find his own voice.

In short, read it, study it, steal it, own it, and use it. As a crime writer, thievery comes easy. Look at E.B. White’s description of the barn and later the rope in Charlotte’s Web. The method he uses—simple, straightforward, making a singsong of the verb WAS—has become for me a tool I use when called for. I read those depictions and studied White. I can now move others with a simple description when I need it, where I need it in my own work. Does it harm White that I stole his method for my purposes? No, not at all, and I have no reason to apologize. My first novel was to be the sequel to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, and I never looked back.

Whether you plan to write literature or genre fiction, it behooves one to challenge oneself to learn the tools and skills of the masterful hand at work. The student writer has to set up his easel before the master, be it Dickens, Dumas, Austen or Dean R. Koontz, and put that understanding into actual practice—as in writing a chapter of Twain or Hemmingway, or Faulkner, trying out all the various ranges from simplicity to complexity and back again: the serpentine sentence to the hammer blow of a two-word declaration. Try out the extremes. Test and challenge oneself with the two-step of an O’Henry or the beauty of a Chekov. If it’s Stephen King you wish to unseat, you do a chapter of King. It’s your story in Kingly style. The point is any struggling writer can and should learn from the classics and the masters just as painters, sculptors, poets, and film directors learn. I for one am still learning, but thanks to those who came before me, I have learned a great deal, and I owe homage to them all.

Thanks and do leave a comment, and find my 8 Free chapters of Children of Salem at and Dead On at a bookstore near you.


Me and Ellery Queen

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
is the longest running mystery fiction magazine still in existence, having been launched in 1941. You'll always find first rate short story fiction by well established writers and big name authors. You'll also be able catch a glimpse of some brilliant new kids just coming into their own, as EQMM accepts and welcome any and all submissions. It has always been an honor to be included between the covers of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

and this month you can find a little nod to me and Meanderings and Muses.


Thanks to Bill Crider.

Bill Crider is one of the good guys.

He is truly one of the most universally admired and respected and loved people you could ever hope to meet. He's been an integral part of the mystery/crime fiction community for a long time.

He's the well-known author of the much loved Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery Series - the latest of which, MURDER IN FOUR PARTS, was published in 2009. The next, MURDER IN THE AIR, will be published this year. In addition to writing novels and short stories, he also pens the Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine.

But shoot - that's enough about that guy! You get the picture, right? He's great and he's one terrific writer, so if you're not familiar with his work, I encourage you to check him out. You will thank me.

Anyhoooooo0 -

Back to me and Ellery Queen.

Bill Crider is an Ellery Queen monthly contributor with his "Blog Bytes." And here's some of what he has to say about moi . . . "Kaye Barley seemed to be having more fun than just about anyone at Bouchercon. Her blog is Meanderings and Muses . . . . Besides her excellent Bouchercon report, filled with pictures of just about everybody who was there (except me), you'll find book give-aways, lots of guest blogs by crime and mystery writers from all over, and, of course, a few meanderings and muses. Check it out."

Y'all. How lovely is that?!

I couldn't believe it though when I read that there was not one single picture of Bill Crider in my Bouchercon 2009 piece! How could that be? I remember running into him in the book room and having a little chat. What on earth happened that I didn't grab the nearest soul and insist they take our picture? Everyone was pretty much onto me by then, I'm thinking, knowing to give me a wide berth or be pressed into "photo duty."


I do have a picture I'm quite proud of from Bouchercon 2008. Why lookie here . . .

Judy & Bill Crider, and me - ta da!

And of course, I expect you all to hang around and check back as often as you can, but do plan on a visit right here with our Mr. Crider in August.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

News - Good News and Incredibly Sad News

The Independent Mystery Booksellers Association has announced the nominees for the Dilys Awards, given to the mystery title of the year which the member booksellers have most enjoyed selling. The Dilys Award is named in honor of Dilys Winn, the founder of the first specialty bookseller of mystery books in the United States, and is presented at the Left Coast Crime mystery convention.

These are this year's nominees -

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
A Quiet Belief in Angels by R.J. Ellroy
The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
The Shanghai Moon by S.J. Rozan


Mystery Writers of America has announced, on the 201st anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, its Nominees for the 2010 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2009. The Edgar® Awards will be presented to the winners at their 64th Gala Banquet on April 29, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.


The Missing by Tim Gautreaux (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)
The Odds by Kathleen George (Minotaur Books)
The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books)
Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (Random House - Ballantine Books)
Nemesis by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett (HarperCollins)
A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Simon & Schuster – Atria Books)


The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano (Grand Central Publishing)
Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley (Simon & Schuster - Touchstone)
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (MIRA Books)
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield (Minotaur Books – Thomas Dunne Books)
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (HarperCollins)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)


Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano (Akashic Books)
The Lord God Bird by Russell Hill (Pleasure Boat Studio – Caravel Books)
Body Blows by Marc Strange (Dundurn Press – Castle Street Mysteries)
The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice by L.C. Tyler (Felony & Mayhem Press)


Columbine by Dave Cullen (Hachette Book Group - Twelve)
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide by Dick Lehr (HarperCollins)
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (The Penguin Press)
Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)


Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Random House - Alfred A. Knopf)
The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives edited by Otto Penzler (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown and Company)
Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak (Thomas Dunne Books)
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)
The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent (Fall River Press)


"Last Fair Deal Gone Down" – Crossroad Blues by Ace Atkins (Busted Flush Press)
"Femme Sole" – Boston Noir by Dana Cameron (Akashic Books)
"Digby, Attorney at Law" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Jim Fusilli (Dell Magazines)
"Animal Rescue" – Boston Noir by Dennis Lehane (Akashic Books
"Amapola" – Phoenix Noir by Luis Alberto Urrea (Akashic Books)


The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (Random House Children’s Books – Alfred A. Knopf)
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Penguin Young Readers Group – Philomel Books)


Reality Check by Peter Abrahams (HarperCollins Children’s Books – HarperTeen)
If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)
The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Penguin Young Readers Group – Viking Children’s Books)
Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Books)
Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell (Random House Children’s Books – Delacorte Press)


“Place of Execution,” Teleplay by Patrick Harbinson (PBS/WGBH Boston)
“Strike Three” – The Closer, Teleplay by Steven Kane (Warner Bros TV for TNT)
“Look What He Dug Up This Time” – Damages, Teleplay by Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler & Daniel Zelman (FX Networks)
“Grilled” – Breaking Bad, Teleplay by George Mastras (AMC/Sony)
“Living the Dream” – Dexter, Teleplay by Clyde Phillips (Showtime)


"A Dreadful Day" – Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine by Dan Warthman
(Dell Magazines)


Dorothy Gilman


Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Zev Buffman, International Mystery Writers’ Festival


Poisoned Pen Press (Barbara Peters & Robert Rosenwald)


(Presented at MWA’s Agents & Editors Party on Wednesday, April 28, 2010)

Awakening by S.J. Bolton (Minotaur Books)
Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof by Blaize Clement (Minotaur Books)
Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron (HarperCollins – William Morrow)
Lethal Vintage by Nadia Gordon (Chronicle Books)
Dial H for Hitchcock by Susan Kandel (HarperCollins)


Sadly and ironically, on top of all this, as we send our congratulations to all the above nominees, we learn that Robert B. Parker (himself the winner of two Edgars and a former MWA Grand Master) has died.

Many writers in the crime fiction community mention Robert Parker as one of the reasons they started writing in this genre, and many readers will mention Robert Parker as one of the reasons they read crime fiction. Not many of us could resist the wise-cracking closeness of Spenser and Hawk. The first book in the Spenser series, The Godwulf Manuscript, still retains its original appeal and its popularity and is referred to often as "a classic."

Sarah Weinman's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind might be the best place to watch for updates as updates and tributes continue to come in.

I am one of a multitude of fans who will miss this giant of a man.

9/17/1932 - 1/18/2010