Sunday, February 28, 2010

How My Mother-in-Law Helped Me With a Murderer by Clea Simon

Clea Simon is the author of the Dulcie Schwartz series that started last year with Shades of Grey and continues this month with Grey Matters. She has also written the Theda Krakow mysteries, Mew is for Murder, Cattery Row, Cries and Whiskers, and Probable Claws, and several nonfiction books. She has excerpts up on her home site at
and blogs at // 
Follow her on Twitter @Clea_Simon/ 

Cats keep coming up in Clea Simon's mysteries. While real cats and real feline health and safety issues figured prominently in her Theda Krakow series, in her new Dulcie Schwartz series, the felines are a bit more fanciful. In fact, Dulcie keeps seeing and hearing the ghost of her late, great cat, who seems to be looking out for her and for her new kitten as her second mystery, Grey Matters, opens. But while writing Grey Matters, it wasn't the supernatural that was bothering Clea. It was the very human question: What would make anyone commit murder?


How My Mother-in-Law Helped Me With a Murderer 
by Clea Simon

My mother-in-law thought the murder made sense. When I outlined how one particular suspect could have done it, she nodded sagely – as only a 93-year-old lifelong reader can – and weighed in. “We’re all capable of horrible things,” she said, “if we’re provoked.”

Now, this was a friendly discussion. My husband and I were taking Sophie out to brunch. But I was in the throes of plotting my new Dulcie Schwartz mystery, Grey Matters, and I was too distracted to simply chat about the family or the strawberry butter for the popovers. And so I had hijacked the conversation, in order to get some feedback.

Grey Matters was still in the planning stage then. My publisher, Severn House, wanted a follow up to Shades of Grey, and I needed to get a synopsis to my editor, and I was having trouble. I had my victim. He’s the kind of smug pretty boy who almost (almost) deserves to get killed. He sure had a lot of enemies. And I had pretty strong ideas about who his ultimate enemy was going to be, but I wasn’t quite sure. And so I brought up the big question:

Have you ever thought about what would drive you to murder?

What would motivate you to kill? Answering that question is one of the major challenges of writing mysteries. After all, I prefer the kind of whodunits where the crime comes from a believable human source. You know, a crime of passion – the murder of a cheating spouse or the accidental thwacking of a lousy roommate – rather than those serial-killer thrillers where someone has a taste for blood. And so I’ve got to spend some time thinking, “what would make /me/ kill?”

It’s fun, in a way. I mean, we all get angry. But it’s also a pretty difficult question to answer. I have never killed anyone. Not even close. So making that leap of faith can be hard.

“She’s upset. She’s emotional…” Sophie was making the case for one of my suspects. I had presented this character as my first choice for murderer. And Sophie, being a loving and supportive woman, was trying to play along. “So maybe she does something. She’d probably regret it afterward.”

She was right – but something was wrong. I knew that the character we were discussing – one of the academics who populate Dulcie Schwartz’s insular little world – was troubled. While I love academia, I do realize that the people who devote themselves to books can be, well, a little removed from reality. Even my heroine, Dulcie, is a bit naïve at times. A graduate student, writing her doctoral thesis on an obscure Gothic novel, she thinks she’s very rational. She’s certainly very smart. But she can be a tad blind about the people around her. It’s one of her endearing traits – and one of the reasons the ghost of her late, great cat, Mr. Grey, has chosen to stick around and take care of her. However, she likes this character. Could this character really be the killer?

Sophie was trying, she really was. She knew that I needed to get started writing. But as I spoke to her, I realized that we were both trying too hard. The character I’d pegged – the one I was setting up as a villain – might be troubled, but she was no killer. I needed to look elsewhere until, sure enough, I found the bad apple hiding among my characters.

It took me a while, and it wasn’t until the popovers were long gone that I found my villain. But when I did, I called Sophie and told her my news.

“I can’t wait to read it,” she said. Even though she now knew who the murderer would be. I can’t wait for our next brunch.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Saturday Morning Meandering

If you've been following Meanderings and Muses for awhile, you know two things.

One.  You know we've had a lot of snow in Boone this winter.  You'll know that 'cause I've whined and grumped about it.  But I've also taken some lovely pictures of it; even mentioned the magic of it.  And I've gotten some fun pictures too, I think.  Harley in the snow is funny, and a thing of joy.

Trying to offset bad with good when I can  -  that seems to be my way of handling most things.   Lord knows I do get grumpy.  But I don't think it's my natural state.  But, a Pollyanna?  I don't think so.  Most of us are a mix of the two, aren't we?  I don't want to be a Pollyanna - I find them to be annoying and mostly insincere.  But I don't want to find myself permanently living at the other end of the spectrum either.  I dearly hope I never become one of those wretched souls.  Bless their hearts; they are pitiful.  And I find pitiful people boring.  Too boring to live.

And that's the second thing you know if you've been hanging out here for awhile - that I have a problem with negativity and consistently negative people, i.e., the "pitiful people."  I've written about my feelings on negativity a couple of times - here at "What Makes You Crazy?" and here again at "It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to . . ."

Herein lies the problem.  I have been a grumpy person this week.  I don't "think" I've become quite as bad as one of the "pitiful people," but I've gotten on my own nerves, I must say.  It hasn't been my best week.  Usually, when I'm grumpy I'm able to find something in the situation to make me at least smile.  I'm able to see a little bit of beauty, a little bit of sweetness, or maybe a lovely little speck of humor.  I'm easily able to spot something absurd in almost anything, and that's usually enough to make me laugh out loud.  One good belly laugh can pretty much help me over the grumpiness hurdle.

This week started off with a toothache, followed by too many painkillers which made me pretty sick, a root canal that didn't really go all that well, antibiotics that weren't settling so well, and then a snow storm that kept us home from work.  Toss all this together and put a big dollop of guilt on top and there's my week.  Pain and Guilt.  WHAT a combination! deadly.

I sent a note to my faculty and co-workers yesterday apologizing for not being there much this week and asked that they bear with me.  The responses I received made me realize how very self-absorbed I had become.  They were sweet, kind, funny, supportive and understanding.  Sometimes we forget just how supportive many of our friends, family and co-workers actually are.  We sometimes just take it for granted.   And a response from my boss made an impact in a big way.  I had mentioned to him in a private note that a girlfriend clued me in that there are some antibiotics that can bring on "the blues."  Maybe I was suffering from a case of the blues.  He wrote back and said he remembered reading somewhere that when someone is suffering from the blues, that they were supposed to buy themselves something red . . .  like a red dress, or red shoes or something.   A direct reference to the piece I wrote which was included in CLOTHES LINES; "Needing a Little Red in My Life."  That he would remember this, and spoon feed it to me at the perfect time was a gift.  A gift of support and friendship and loveliness and was it appreciated more than he'll ever know.

My boss is a man who has been blessed with great bounty in his life.  He's a devoted husband and dad and he dwells within a family to be much admired.  They're an extraordinarily closely knit three-some and there's never a doubt in anyone's mind where their priorities lie - although never to the exclusion of others in their lives.  Their number one priority lies within themselves.  Within their unit.  And because of the sureness of their love and trust in this unit, it has, I think, given them a generosity of spirit that is quite lovely to find yourself a part of.  They're always there for others when needed.  Always.  Not in ways to bring themselves into the forefront, but to give support and solace in the quietness of sincerity. 

In the meantime, I must admit - even when I've tried really really hard to hold on to my grumpiness and not respond to the antics of my own crazy little family; Donald and Harley, darn if I haven't lost that battle every time.  They are clowns.  Both of them.  Silly as hell.  Crazy as loons, funny as all get-out and I am luckier than I deserve to be to have them.  They have both managed to make me laugh this week.  A lot.  Loudly.  And I thank them.

So, what's my point with all this?

I have no idea.

I'm just rambling.  Sometimes it feels good to just ramble on about thoughts and feelings going nowhere in particular until a point of clarity pops up.

My point of clarity, I think, is that although I use this particular trite little saying often, it is, at base, my truth  -

Life is good.

Happy Saturday, y'all!

p.s. - Yep, expecting more snow today.  So I've made us a big pot of vegetable, beef and barley soup.  yum.  And about that root canal?  Feeling MUCH better - Yay!!!

another p.s. - Anyone want to share what magic they use to fight the blues??  Read, write, sleep, paint, make music, run, retail therapy, throw pots . . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Long Live The Book! by Sandra Parshall

Sandra Parshall's Broken Places, published this month, is her third mystery featuring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. It has received starred reviews from Library Journal, which praised its “sharp prose”, and Publishers Weekly, which said the story “grips readers from the opening page with a suspenseful plot that will leave them breathless.”

Sandra’s debut novel, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her second book, Disturbing the Dead, was one of three mystery/suspense finalists for the Benjamin Franklin Award, given by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

She lives in the Washington, DC, suburbs with her husband Jerry, a longtime Washington journalist. When she isn’t writing, she’s either taking pictures or taking orders from her two demanding cats, Gabriel and Emma.

Long Live The Book!
by Sandra Parshall

A book is a wondrous thing, a compact vessel crammed with life and death, love and hate, joy and despair, giving us portraits of the real world or worlds that exist only in our imaginations.

All of this magic created with little marks on paper. Words.

Those little marks, with their angles and curves, can make us cry and laugh and explode with anger. They can instruct us, soothe us, and break our hearts.

The concept of The Book is arguably mankind’s greatest achievement. Humans, alone among animals, are blessed not with one written language but with many. We have used our languages for less than noble purposes – to attack each other, to sell deodorant, to explain how to use a microwave. But we have also recorded the history of our species, explored our diverse cultures, illuminated the world we live in.  And with language and books we have given expression to the uniquely human talent for storytelling.

When I was growing up in a household with few books, I dreamed of having shelves filled with them. I loved the look and feel of books. I thought I knew exactly what a book was: a bound, printed volume I could hold in my hands.

All these years later, I still love books, but I’ve let go of that limited definition. I now own more printed books than I know what to do with. I can’t store them all, much less find time to read every one. I’ve learned to appreciate paperless books. I’ve been checking out unabridged audiobooks from the library for years, and I’m willing to buy new books as audio downloads. I don’t own a Kindle or Sony Reader, but sometimes I wish I did, when I consider how much storage space they liberate.

I still love the words, but I no longer demand that they be printed and bound.  The words themselves, in whatever form, are The Book.

I know a lot of people who cling to the belief that the physical form of a book is as important as the words it contains. Some of my friends declare they will never touch an e-book reader because each purchase of a Kindle or Sony Reader pushes “real books” closer to extinction. They see themselves as sentries, standing guard over their beloved books, protecting them from a quick and terrible death. Someone in an online group I belong to recently predicted that printed books will last only as long as those of us who grew up without electronic devices are still around. When our kind dies out, she believes, the electronics-dependent younger generations will discard printed books as too expensive, too bulky, too inconvenient. The revolution will be complete.

I’ll admit the thought makes me sad (and so does the notion that I’m among the last of the dinosaurs, in a sense). I love the look of a wall lined with full bookshelves. I still love striking covers and beautiful type. Those little marks permanently printed on paper still stir my excitement and anticipation. But I have seen the future, and it is digital. Much of our daily reading has already moved out of printed form. Many people now get most of the news through their computers, and every writer I know, down to the most stubborn Luddite, does research online. I even know people who read novels on their multi-function cell phones.

I hope an appreciative audience will always exist for fiction. I don’t care what form people read it in, and I don’t care if they sometimes listen instead of read. Fostering the love of fiction – that’s what we should focus on, not a doomed effort to stop the move to electronic content.

Long live The Book!

And some pictures of my workspace - - -

 My view - -

My muse - -
DISTURBING THE DEAD--Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist
Agatha Award winner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Work Space - What Does it Mean? by J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison (THE COLD ROOM) is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series. A former White House staffer, she’s worked extensively with the Metro Nashville Police, the FBI and other law enforcement organizations to research her novels.

THE COLD ROOM hits the stands
Tuesday, Feb. 23rd !

What Does My Work Space Mean to Me?
by J.T. Ellison

Kaye requested something interesting from all of us doing her wonderful blog this year. A picture of our work space. Instead of just giving you a picture, I thought I’d talk about what a work space means to me.

Creating a book is a treacherous undertaking. We writers are sensitive artists, don’tcha know, replete with superstitions, rituals, methods. We have to have exactly the right paper, or pencil, or pen, or laptop, or desk, or music, or time…. You get the idea. Our work spaces are our cathedrals. We worship at the foot of the Muse, on our knees until they bleed, sometimes, begging and praying for that perfect storm of ideas, and the exact right shade of post-it notes.

You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

Our offices are sacred, and the tools of our trade as vital as the scepter and staff.

Ah, the tools.

In polite company, I’m referred to as an addict. A junkie. But we’re among friends here. We can be honest, open, forthright. The truth of the matter is I’m an office supply slut. I will do most anything for a fresh notebook, virginal paper and a kick-ass pen. And I cheat on my favorites unabashedly. I schedule time to go through the Levenger catalog. I read the Quo Vadis blog. I’ve started leaving my sunglasses on when I go to Staples because the checkout girl started looking at me with that pitying gaze – Oh, that poor girl, back again.

Offices, and office supplies, have been my Achilles heel my whole life. My very first job out of college, I was plopped at a desk next to a secretary’s desk, given a phone and a chair, and set to work. I cringed. Where was my office? Where was my view? Where was that all-important door that I could close?

Yeah. It took another three jobs before I got the door. Never did get the view.

But in all that time, my desk was my pride and joy. I always have been hyper organized. My inbox was always neat, my outbox full. Pens and pencils had their respective jars, and never the twain shall meet. I filed lustfully, experimenting with alphabetizing, dating, color schemes.

And then I struck out on my own. This was my office:

I wrote my first novel at that tiny desk. A second one, too. We actually just donated it to Goodwill, and I must admit, parting wasn’t the easiest. But maybe it will help some other aspiring author to build their dream.

When I realized I might actually be spending a lot of time at the little desk, my delightful parents upgraded me to this:

Beautiful, isn’t it? It took three days and a near separation for hubby and I to put that together. I still don’t think he’s forgiven me for all that molding. Yes, that is a bat hanging from the light, and yes, that sign on the right does say “Don’t Piss Off The Fairies.” Good advice, that.

My office is still a beautiful, clean and organized space. But now, seven novels in, I find I don’t need the trappings to feel creative. I often find myself in a black leather lounger in my living room, my laptop in my lap on a lapdesk I bought from Staples, my Levenger Circa and Moleskine notebook to my right:

I’ve simplified. The more experienced I become, I realize what’s important is the words on the page, and my surroundings don’t play as big a role as they used to.

But my desk is still clean, and my files are still beautifully organized.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Evening Meanderings - - Gifts

Gifts come in many shapes and many sizes.

Some are wrapped in pretty paper with a perky bow.

Some are not.

Lately, I've received gifts through the magic of the interwebs.

I posted a poem here a few weeks ago that my friend Ingrid sent me.  A wonderful piece by L. B. Thompson - "Variation on a Theme by King David."  That was my first exposure to Ms. Thompson.  And it was the loveliest of gifts.  Because I enjoyed it so much, I passed it along to several friends in the hopes that it might touch them, as it did me.  In return -  Voilà! - another gift popped into my mailbox!  One of those friends who enjoyed it every bit as much as I did, returned the gift by sharing with me this piece which she ran across in a recent issue of New Yorker.

Pescadero by Mark Doty

The little goats like my mouth and fingers,

and one stands up against the wire fence, and taps on the fence board
a hoof made blacker by the dirt of the field

pushes her mouth forward to my mouth,
so that I can see the smallish squared seeds of her teeth,
      and the bristle-whiskers,

and then she kisses me, though I know it doesn't mean "kiss,"

then leans her head way back, arcing her spine, goat yoga,
all pleasure and greeting and then good-natured indifference: she loves me,

she likes me a lot, she takes interest in me, she doesn't know me at all
or need to, having thus acknowledged me.  Though I am all happiness,

since I have been welcomed by the field's small envoy, and the splayed hoof,
fragrant with soil, has rested on the fence board beside my hand.

And that, my friends, is my Friday Evening Gift to You.  Enjoy!

You can read more about and by Mark Doty here -   and  here  -

I'm enamored with modern poetry with a whimsical slant - anyone have any they'd care to share?

Agatha Award Nominees Announced

Malice Domestic® was established in 1989. It's an annual convention which is held in metropolitan Washington, D.C., honoring the traditional mystery, which Malice describes as, "books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie." This year, it's 22nd year, it's being held April 30-May 2, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. More information, including Registration, can be found at the Malice website.

A ballot listing each category's nominees is given to all attendees at the convention. Attendees vote by secret ballot, the ballots are tabulated and the winners announced at the Agatha Awards banquet, which will be held this year on Saturday, May 1, 2010.

Here are this year's nominees:

Best Novel:
Swan for the Money by Donna Andrews (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett (Berkley Prime Crime)
Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen (Berkley Prime Crime)
A Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books)
Air Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan (MIRA)

Best First Novel:

For Better For Murder by Lisa Bork (Midnight Ink)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Delacorte Press)
Posed for Murder by Meredith Cole (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
The Cold Light of Mourning by Elizabeth Duncan (St. Martin’s Press)
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Minotaur Books)

Best Non-fiction:

Duchess of Death by Richard Hack (Phoenix Books)
Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James (Knopf)
Blood on the Stage by 1925-1950 by Amnon Kabatchnik (Scarecrow Press)
Dame Agatha’s Shorts by Elena Santangelo (Bella Rosa Books)
The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar (St. Martin’s Press)

Best Short Story:

“Femme Sole” by Dana Cameron, Boston Noir (Akashic Books)
“Handbaskets, Drawers and a Killer Cold” by Kaye George, Crooked ezine
“The Worst Noel” by Barb Goffman, The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)
“On the House” by Hank Phillippi Ryan, Quarry (Level Best Books)
“Death Will Trim Your Tree” by Elizabeth Zelvin, The Gift of Murder (Wolfmont Press)

Best Children's/Young Adult:

The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford (Viking Juvenile)
The Hanging Hill by Chris Grabenstein (Random House)
The Case of the Poisoned Pig by Lewis B. Montgomery (Kane Press)
The Other Side of Blue by Valerie O. Patterson (Clarion Books)
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer (Philomel)

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Do You Fool Yourself ? by Hank Phillippi Ryan


Of the TIME book of your choice:

Charlotte (It was random, I promise!)

Just email me your choice at hryan at whdh dot com and tell me your address!

It’s time for DRIVE TIME! Charlotte McNally discovers big problems in the world of wheels—including an expose
into the dangers of recalled cars. (Yes, it was written before the Toyota recall.) And to celebrate the publication of book 4 in Hank’s best-selling mystery series, those who comment will be entered into a drawing for an ARC of the Agatha-winning book one, PRIME TIME (or the TIME book of their choice!)

Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 24 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank’s won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first mysteries, Prime Time (which won the Agatha for Best First Novel, was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and Face Time (Book Sense Notable Book), were best sellers. They were both re-issued this summer from MIRA Books.

Of the IMBA bestseller Air Time (MIRA Sept. 2009), Sue Grafton says: "This is first-class entertainment." Drive Time (MIRA February 2010) just received a starred review from Library Journal, saying “Realistic and compelling…Placing Ryan in the same league as Lisa Scottoline…)."

Her website is

Do You Fool Yourself?
by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Television is all about TIME. Getting breaking news on in time. How much time there is until the next deadline. How much time they’ve allotted for your story. How much time there is until someone is going to tell you you’re late. There is no late in TV.

I’ve been a TV reporter for more than 30 years. And as a result, if you want to know what time it is, don’t ask me. I only know what time it is for me.

I see you looking baffled. But here’s what I mean. I don’t know what time it really is—because I’m fooling myself about it. And somehow, it works. How can we fool ourselves? I mean, we should know, right?

For instance. The alarm clock-radio on my nightstand is set nine minutes fast. So when it rings at 7:30, the time I usually have to get up, I creak open my eyes, try to focus on the green numerals, and my brain yells: GET UP! It’s 7:30.

Then there’s a pause, while the other half of my brain happily reminds me that it’s really 7:21, and I delightedly hit the snooze.

Why? Why not just set the clock for the real time? Then set the alarm for, say 7:21, then hit the snooze for nine minutes and get up at the real 7:30?

Because then I don’t get the precious nine “extra” minutes of sleep.

There’s a clock in the bathroom where I do my hair and makeup—I set that one about 12 minutes fast. Here I’m fooling myself to get me to hurry up. I look at the clock, mid-mascara: it’s 8 o’clock already! I panic. Hurry! Then I realize it’s actually just twelve minutes until 8 o’clock, and I have plenty of time, and I can relax a bit. I’m no longer behind—I’m ahead.

Does that make any sense? Do you do that?

I do it with the clock on my wall at the TV station where I work as a reporter—I set that fast, too, but it makes sense in the world of unmissable deadlines. I suppose. I can’t be late, so if the clock is fast, it’s less likely that’ll happen.

My husband says: why don’t you just set the clocks to the REAL TIME? And I see his point. Kind of. But faking myself out works for me.

I also fool myself with money. On payday, I enter the income into my not-so-perfect checkbook register—but I put the deposit amount as less than it really is. So I have a little pad.

My husband says—why don’t you just write down the real amount? So you know how much money is actually there? Not some theoretical amount? Yeah, I see his point. But that doesn’t work for me.

I also hide money from myself in my wallet. The other day, I unzipped a little pouch on the side and there was the secret 20 dollars I had tucked there for emergencies. But I had forgotten it was there! So much for the emergency idea. But see—I’ve done that several times. And I always forget it’s there. Then I’m always delighted to find it.

Is reality so complicated and unmanageable that we have to fool ourselves into making it all work? My little self-trickery makes me happy, and it makes my life work very nicely.

Do you face reality? Or do you have your secret ways?


Here’s my office, since we’re sharing work spaces.

On the desk are two rocks, one inscribed “patience’ and the other “imagine. There’s a bottle of wine that’s a gift from Sue Grafton, and the mirror that I figure is the feng shui answer to the problem that my back is to the door.

Out the window, two huge maple trees.

These are the bookshelves.

This is what used to be the floor in front of the fireplace. (I can find things, though. I really can.)

And my chair with nametags from conferences. (Do you save those?)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake . . . and . . . Guess What? Yep - MORE Snow

Some of you wrote and asked for the recipe for this, so here 'tis - - -

Chocolate Walnut Pound Cake -

sifted cocoa for preparing the baking pan
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs,room temperature
1 2/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup vanilla yogurt, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 3-oz. bars bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 325.
Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
Dust with sifted cocoa (instead of flour).
Cream the butter with an electric mixer.
Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat for 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, soda and salt.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and the vanilla yogurt to the batter, ending with the flour. Mix in the vanilla extract, nuts and chopped chocolate.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake at 325 for approximately 1 hour and 10-15 minutes, being EXTRA careful not to overcook (mine only took an hour).
Let the finished cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn cake onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

This recipe is from The Pound Cake Cookbook by Bibb Jordan.

i love this little book.
Notes: I didn't use the loaf pan called for in this recipe, obviously. The dough was much thinner in the heart shaped pan than it would have been in a loaf pan, so took much less time to bake. Much less. The first time I baked it, I left it too long and the cake was dry. The next time, I think I only let it bake for about 45 minutes or so. Check it early and often! The other thing I did a little differently was to toss in few extra walnuts along with a few more bittersweet chocolate chunks than called for. yum.

Have you noticed I haven't mentioned snow in a couple of days??

I was boring myself silly with all the "weather chat !" Pfftt. God save me, please, from becoming one of those people who can't find anything better to talk about than the weather, or my doctor's appointments!

But - I can't seem to help myself! What can I say - other than, "yes, yes, yes, it is still snowing."

We had snow most of the weekend. And then last night it snowed some more. We woke up to an additional 6 inches of snow this morning. We're supposed to get a foot by Thursday morning. I'm betting we beat that little prediction. So far, Boone has gotten 61.9 inches of snow this year - that would not include the snow we got in December.

You've seen pictures of our pond, but you've never seen one quite like this -

Where'd it go?! It's under all that snow. Know what this reminds me of? Remember the story in Fannie Flagg's FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE about the lake that was taken away by the birds? I LOVED that story. Loved the book, and even loved the movie. No little birdies have swooped upon our pond and taken it away, but Mother Nature sure is dumping some serious snow on it, huh?

My friend and neighbor Jill has some gorgeous and fun snow pictures of all her animals. Jill lives up the road. Jill loves all this snow. Take a look and enjoy -

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Rejection by Robin Burcell

Robin Burcell, an FBI-trained forensic artist, has worked as a police officer, detective and hostage negotiator. The Bone Chamber is her latest international thriller about an FBI forensic artist. Face of a Killer received a starred review from Library Journal. She is the author of four previous novels. Visit her website at:

A few months ago, Robin Burcell was a guest on
Meanderings and Muses with a tongue- in-cheek blog post about trying to make her book video trailer (which can be seen here) go viral. THE BONE CHAMBER was released in paperback this January. With her book tour over, it’s time for her to submit a new proposal to her editor for the next thriller in her FBI forensic art series. But with that submission comes the very real possibility that her editor might reject it. And then what?

Writing is such a solitary profession, it helps to know that other writers experience similar feelings. This is Robin’s updated take on the subject of rejection, something she penned back when she first started writing, and something that she believes still holds true today.

Chocolate-Covered Rejection by Robin Burcell

We writers live with constant stress. Mailing off manuscripts is a trial in itself. So is the anticipation of checking the answering machine each day, hoping that The Call is waiting for you when you get home. You count the blinking lights indicating the number of messages. How many messages were you expecting? Is The Call among them? It’s enough to raise your blood pressure.

Worse yet is the dread of checking the mailbox. You pray fervently that you won’t find your manuscript contained within, because if you do, you have just entered the realm that all writers fear: The dreaded “R” word. Rejection.

How do we live with it? How do we plod on, forcing ourselves back to the keyboard after yet another priority package received from the postman sends us into a tailspin of depression?

I don’t have a clear cut answer. I only know from my own experience the intense wave of self-doubts about my writing ability after taking my mail key, opening the box and seeing that red, white and blue envelope that I so carefully labeled with my return address. (Or these days, checking my e-mail and finding the one from my agent that details her conversation with my editor about my latest proposal.) Of course, I pretend to myself it is no big deal, and after reading the dreaded news, I think rather flippantly, “Oh well.” But then I sit in a daze for several minutes, with no desire to write anything ever again.
I know I need help and so call a fellow writer, test the news out on her. She, of course, assures me that no, I am not a failure, and yes, I will come out of my rejection-induced slump. She suggests eating chocolate. Not only will I feel better, but within a day or two, I’ll be back at my keyboard.

A day or two? If I wait that long, the melancholy that threatens to engulf me will win. I don’t feel like writing. I want to cry. But being a professional, I contemplate her suggestion. I go to the refrigerator, find a forgotten chocolate bar of my daughter’s, take it back to my computer. I open the candy and promptly devour it, waiting for the miraculous cure. At first, nothing happens, and I blame it on the cheap quality of the chocolate. But then, while I sit patiently before my computer, staring at my unfinished chapter—all the while wondering if perhaps I ought not to run to the store and get some seriously expensive chocolate—a funny thing happens.

I discover a small typo.

I correct it and soon find another. It glares out, asks to be fixed. Before I know it, I find myself typing whole words into real sentences. Soon there is an entire paragraph and by the end of the evening, I finish the chapter. I survive! I want to shout to everyone that it isn’t the end of the world after all.

I can still write!

So what’s the moral of my story? One should handle a rejection letter (or e-mail) the same as any other obstacle. You have to get right back into that saddle. Get to that keyboard and write, write, write. (And if it is not writing that you are pursuing, get back into the saddle and try, try again no matter what the goal.) But just in case, keep a supply of chocolate on hand. I plan on storing mine in the freezer for that psychological edge, since I hope never to have to pull it out again. But when I need it, its only a thaw away.

So how do you handle rejection? Whether it is a story submission or a proposal for a deal at work. What is your comfort technique to get past the R word?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Where Am I ?

Happy Weekend !

I hate to be one to wish my life away, but . . .

I admit it - I am wishing this winter gone.

And every weekend gets us one week closer to spring - Yay!!!

This is not only Valentine's Weekend, it's Donald's birthday.

We celebrated a little by going out to dinner last night.

Today we're going to scoot over to my Mom's for a little while - maybe play a little Canasta.

Sometime today or tonight I'm going to bake him a cake in my new heartshape Bundt pan. A chocolate walnut pound cake. Yum.

In the meantime, I'm also hanging out with my friends at Poe's Deadly Daughters blogspot this weekend. I hope you'll drop by and say "Hey!" We're going to talk about Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Snow Pictures - February 2010

More snow . . .

February 6, 2010

Harley's gonna take us on a little walk . . .

"o.k. guys - stick with me . . . "

"Look - Mom built a little snowlady!"

"I like her - "

"This is my Mom's truck. She loves her truck."

"Follow me down the driveway and we'll go see what Proffit Road looks like."

"Pretty view, huh?"

"Looking down Proffit Road".

"Look closely - we might see Sissyfriss Sockmonkey and Lou Lou Skiptoo. They come visit once in awhile. They wear their snowshoes and come up Proffit Road from Auntie Coo Coo's house. they are FUNNY! Especially when they've had a glass (or two) of wine. I love Sissyfriss and Lou Lou."

"And . . . . Looking up Proffit Road"

"Otay - I'm not supposed to be down here by the road, so hurry, hurry - back to the house!

But don't forget to stop and enjoy the sights . . . we don't get snow like this every year, you know (which makes my mom really happy)."

"See our pond?! I love our pond. And behind it is a creek. I love our creek. When it's not so cold I sneak in there and get my feet wet. And that's an old abandoned music house that nobody uses anymore. It's starting to fall down now, but it's not ours, so we can't do a thing about it. big sigh."

February 10

"We're having a blizzard!! Let's go see how things are looking!"

"Whoa! Snowlady! Are you under there?!!!"

"You o.k. in there? Here's a kiss."

"Gonna go for a walk, but I'll be back. Mom & Dad are home today, so we'll be out to check on you."

"Come stand here! It's pretty over there!"

"hmmm - long way down though . . . "

"Try this! It's fun!!"

"Better get in the house - my feet are getting cold. How 'bout yours?"

"Let's take a peek out back. But let's do it from the kitchen door if that's O.K. with you. My feet are REALLY cold."

"See that fence? Inside there is my playground. I love it in there."

"This is inside my playground."

"This is inside my playground too. Dad keeps his grill out here (I let him, it's O.K.) See it? You can see a speck of it in that big snow drift."

Back to work - February 12