Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Taste of Home by Margaret Maron

Margaret Maron is the author of twenty-six novels and two collections of short stories. Winner of several major American awards for mysteries (Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity), her works are on the reading lists of various courses in contemporary Southern literature and have been translated into 16 languages. She has served as president of Sisters in Crime, the American Crime Writers League, and Mystery Writers of America. 

A native Tar Heel, she still lives on her family's century farm a few miles southeast of Raleigh, the setting for Bootlegger's Daughter, which is numbered among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. In 2004, she received the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for best North Carolina novel of the year. In 2008, she was honored with the North Carolina Award for Literature. (The North Carolina Award is the state's highest civilian honor.) 

Margaret's latest, CHRISTMAS MOURNING (Book 16 in the Judge Deborah Knott Series), launches November 1st at Quail Ridge Books & Music.  

by Margaret Maron

My mother was not a gourmet cook in the usual sense.  She cooked “country” —Southern country—which meant crispy fried chicken, smothered pork chops, butter beans and field peas, cornbread lace, and chicken pastry.  Her idea of Italian cuisine was to duplicate the taste of Chef Boyardee’s canned spaghetti and meatballs.  This meant cooking spaghetti in the sauce till it was well past “al dente,” a term she had never heard.  French fries were her only Gallic dish. Nor did she grok cooking with wine.  Indeed, the closest she ever came to spirituous cooking was to drench her fruitcakes in bootleg pear brandy or some scuppernong wine.

She did not clip recipes for boeuf bourguignon or fajitas, but she was a whiz at pastries and hot breads and she never saw a cake recipe she didn’t want to try.

When she died and my siblings and I cleared out her house and divided what was worth keeping, I was the one who spoke up for her old Household Searchlight cookbook. Copyright 1931, it was frayed and tattered and held together with Scotch tape.  You could tell which recipes she liked for those pages are spattered with food and smudged with greasy fingerprints.  Whole sections are pristine in their cleanliness because those recipes didn’t interest her or were for things she already knew how to cook from childhood.

Endearingly, the book’s pages are stuffed with cake recipes clipped from a dozen different magazines.  Those that made it into her permanent repertoire were copied by hand onto one of the end pages or taped to a page she scorned..  No cake mixes for Mother.  Her fruitcake recipe lists 23 ingredients, not counting the booze.

Her favorite, though, was a Spice Chiffon Cake.  It, too, called for many ingredients, and required 7 separated eggs.  The whites were beaten until really, really stiff and then the batter poured over the egg whites and gently folded in.  Folded.  Not stirred.  Mother was very clear about that.

She copied it out for me and I may have made it once.  It’s a delicious cake, light and airy, but way too much trouble for someone trying to cook with one hand and type with the other.  The frosting, hoever, was to die for. And I do make it around the holidays. 

In my Deborah Knott books, I heap lavish praise on her daddy’s housekeeper’s cooking.  My mother is the model for Madie Holt’s way of doing things in the kitchen and my readers are always asking me to spell out her recipes.

So here’s the frosting for Mother’s favorite cake:
Melt ½ cup of butter in a saucepan.  Remove from heat and blend in 2½ tblsp. Flour, ¼ tsp. salt.  Slowly stir in ½ cup milk.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for one minute and do not be alarmed if the mixture curdles.  Stir in ½ cup brown sugar (firmly packed in cup.)  Remove from heat.  Stir in 2 cups sifted powdered sugar.  Set saucepan in cold water.  Beat until of consistency to spread.  Stir in ½ tsp. vanilla.  Spread on cold cake.  Press coarsely chopped pecans into the top.

As I said, the chiffon cake was wonderful, but hey!  Duncan Hines makes a spice cake mix that tastes just as good to me. When I spread Mother’s frosting on one of Mr. Hines’s cakes, I could be ten years old again, sitting at my mother’s table.

Excuse me while I go put “spice cake mix” on my Thanksgiving shopping list.

So what’s the taste of home for you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Retirement - #1

Most of you have already heard by  now that I'm planning on retiring. 

I haven't signed the papers yet - that's supposed to happen next Thursday.  That'll get the ball rolling and the effective date will be either Feb. 1, or Mar. 1.  Right around the corner!  Yay!!!

As you can imagine, I'll have lots to say about all this - it will, after all, be a whole new phase of my life -  but for now I just want to tell you about one of the things I'm going to miss most by not coming to the office every day.

I walked out of the office this morning to go check the mail, and glanced at this wonderful piece by Janet Bloch.

When I got back to the office I stopped to spend some time with it, as I've done quite often over the past 12 years.  It's a collage just full of delightful and interesting things placed, tucked away, and hidden in whimsical array.

And here's the caption:

This piece has brought me a great deal of joy, and at times even a bit of peace & solace.  No matter how crazy things might get, Peter Allen is always going to be sitting on the back of that bicycle with his arms wrapped tight around his friend, singing "Dear Prudence."

I love the thought of that.

Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?

Dear Prudence, open up your eyes
Dear Prudence, see the sunny skies
The wind is low, the birds will sing
That you are part of everything
Dear Prudence, won't you open up your eyes?

Look around round
Look around round round
Look around

Dear Prudence, let me see you smile
Dear Prudence, like a little child
The clouds will be a daisy chain
So let me see you smile again
Dear Prudence, won't you let me see you smile?

Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue
It's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lucky Penny by Louise Penny

Louise Penny writes the Chief Inspector Gamache novels, set in Quebec.  She lives there with her husband, Michael, and their golden retriever, Trudy.  Her latest Gamache book, BURY YOUR DEAD debuted on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.  Her previous book, THE BRUTAL TELLING has won the 2010 Agatha and 2010 Anthony awards for Best Crime Fiction Novel of the year.


Lucky Penny.  As a child I used to hate it when people called me that.  It seemed dismissive, cliched.  Mocking even.  But no more.  Now it seems blessedly, simply, clearly true.  

I am lucky.  

Yes, I work hard.  But no harder than you work.  No harder than the person across from me on the bus or plane works.  And considerably less than the chamber maid, the miner, the teacher and nurse.  Hard work is necessary, but it doesn't altogether explain good fortune.  When I look back on my life, and specifically my writing career I know there's no way I'd be where I am without luck.  Dumb luck.  Smart luck.  Divine luck.  All sorts of it.  Great gobs of it.  A wonderful friend and brilliant crime writer, Ann Cleeves, recently wrote an entry for a blog I used to belong to, The Lipstick Chronicles.  In it she lamented how many writers at a recent conference declared their success was due to damned hard work and, well, personal brilliance.  

Ann then went on to write about the role luck has played in her career.  

We'd talked about this before.  And I feel the same way.  How many things had to be in place before I could write my first book?  I needed to live in a society where women are educated.  Not raped and sold and mutilated.  Not marginalized.  I had to have had a great education and be able to write (not a given in Canada anymore, I'm desperately sorry to say).  I had to have a mother who read to me.  I had to have a roof and a warm bed.  Safety.  Food.  Peace.  A husband who loved and supported me.  Friends who believed in my dream.  

And then I could write.  

How lucky is that?  But it didn't end there.  I had to be inspired by other writers.  And finally, when I'd finished the book and been rejected by at least 50 agents and editors world-wide (which in itself turned out to be fortunate) I entered a contest by the Crime Writer's Association in Britain and was shortlisted.  Now the fact I even found the contest was lucky - but the biggest stroke was yet to come.  

We were invited to the banquet in London.  Oh, my God!  Every person I'd tried to meet for 2 years, every agent, editor, publisher, was going to be in one room.  For two hours.  And I was going to be there too!  We flew to London and I went and spoke to bookstore owners and asked them one question:  Who are the top literary agents for crime fiction?  They narrowed it down to three.  

I was desperately nervous.  The hair was done.  The dress bought.  Shoes chosen.  Nails done.  Candles lit.  Virgins sacrificed.  Finally the cab dropped us off at the banquet.  I put a smile on my face, hoping I looked more confident than maniacal.  My purse held two things.  Money for the cab ride home (in case I lost Michael - my mother raised me well) and the now dog-eared list of the three top literary agents.  

We started circulating.  Everyone knew everyone else.  Everyone was happy to see each other.  Everyone was chatting away.  Except me.  My smile began to fade as insecurity burrowed in.  I'd forgotten to leave that in Montreal.  Finally I got up my courage and asked a kind looking woman if she could point out the first agent.  She shook her head.  

'Not here, I'm afraid.'

I asked about the second agent and she pointed across the crowded room to a woman surrounded by admirers.  I approached.  Took a breath.  Said a prayer.  Made sure the smile was in place.  

And was immediately rebuffed.  Looking imperious, the agent gave me a smile that, had I been a man would have guaranteed infertility.  No, she wasn't taking on any new writers.  The people around her smiled too and I could feel their mirth slam into me.  

I wish I could say it had no effect on me, but it did.  I slunk away, hurt.  And would have left had Michael not taken me by the hand and whispered, 'Let's just walk around the room once more.  We'll just stroll.  No need to speak to anyone.'

I took his hand and we strolled and by the time we got back to where we'd started the hurt had turned to anger.  I asked after the next person on the list.  The last person.  My last hope.  

The person I asked looked a little surprised, and amused.  And pointed.  There, at a table, was the third agent.  Drunk.  And loud.  

I looked at Michael.  He looked at me.  Stricken.  We stayed for the banquet.  I didn't win the award, but I met a few kind people who were very encouraging in a vague sort of way.  Then we left.  No award.  No agent.

The next night Michael's sister took us to a drinks party in London.  It was close to Christmas and this was something the English seem to do.  Combine a cocktail party and a 'sale of goods'.  In this case, items brought back from a woman's co-op in Afghanistan.  Lovely items meant to be sold for Christmas presents with the money going back to the women.  I wandered around and finally saw a magnificent pashmina.  Reaching out I grabbed it just as another woman took hold of it.

We both held on.  It really was magnificent.  And, as only two English woman can, we chatted aimlessly about the weather and the season and the party, while delicately tugging the shawl.  Finally the other woman asked, 'Who are you?'

I gathered what dignity I could and said, 'I'm Louise Penny.'  

She tilted her head, puzzled and said the most extraordinary thing.  'Really?  I have a post-it note with your name on it attached to my computer.'

Of all the things I thought this woman would say, that would have been my last guess.  

I looked at her and asked, 'And who are you?'

'Teresa Chris.'

That was the final name on my list.  The third woman.  The literary agent who hadn't been at the banquet.  

In all of London, I'd found her.  Attached to the other end of a pashmina.

I let go of the shawl.  But Teresa and I have been attached ever since.  She became my agent and within weeks the book no one wanted, that had been rejected internationally, was sold to publishers all over the world.   

That was luck.  Or fate, perhaps.  But not my doing.   

I don't deserve all the wonderful things that have happened to me.  I know that.  Everyday, as I sit in our living room writing, with a cafe au lait and a dog at my side and Michael playing the piano or writing himself, I know how lucky I am.  And one day, as blithely as all these blessings came they will go.  All except, perhaps, one last thing that will never leave.  My gratitude for having had such great good luck at all.


I'm a huge fan of Louise Penny's work, if you're interested in how I feel about BURY YOUR DEAD, click here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Reads

I have a few favorite books that also happen to be terrific books for Halloween reading.

Scary books!

But the fun, old fashioned kind of scary, not the yucky blood & gore stuff that's passing itself off as scary these days.

I just LOVE these books!

and the "Georgetown Trio" by the incomparable Barbara Michaels:

In the spirit of Halloween, what are your favorite scary books?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Villainy Begins at Home by Robin Minnick

Robin Minnick is proud to say she's a friend of Kaye Barley whose Meanderings and Muses blog has graced us for just over two years now. Kaye, who as her fans know is no slouch as a writer herself, could classify as a patron of the written arts because she gives out so much in attention, accolades, and support. She is one of the many reasons Robin keeps at it, and one of the many reasons Robin has completed one novel (looking for an agent, people), nearly finished the next, and will work on a new Christmas story during November's NaNoWriMo. Robin lives in Fayetteville, NC with her husband and some of their children. Previously they lived in Nashville, TN, and they have family scattered, it seems, across the universe.

by Robin Minnick

Children and pets are great. And despite the fact that my husband practices being a curmudgeon on a daily basis (he’s planning on buying a dump truck when he’s 80 and driving on the highway crowding the passing lane at only 53 mph), despite his desire to attain true orneriness, he loves kids and animals.

The loving kids part is pretty obvious; we have six of them. One is married, one is working in New York City, one is fresh out of college, two are in college, and the youngest, who just turned 17, is a junior in high school. Possibly too much information, but I wanted you to get the picture.

We’ve always had animals, pets and otherwise, and at the heart of all of it you could find my husband.

There were the frogs that migrated into our backyard kiddie pool that we allowed to mature and hop on their merry green way. Only to learn the next year that some frogs are migratory when Dave discovered three of them trying to climb our driveway. This was followed by the bullfrog who made his way up the overflow pipe into the sump pump closet, living in the pool of water below. He stayed with us about a year, harrumping periodically. We didn’t know what it was until I opened the closet at an opportune moment. After that, in response to David’s remarks about ‘little green frogs’ and ‘burping frogs’, there hasn’t been a Christmas go by that he didn’t receive some kind of frog – including a stuffed one that sings carols.

Then there was the possum invasion that Dave was called upon to deal with. Starting with the adult possum that, upon a wildlife handler’s advice, we captured ourselves and released onto a local horse farm. Per the handler’s instructions, Dave suited up in sweatshirt and flak jacket and heavy gloves, pulled the 30-pound animal by its tail out from under the table, dropped it into a cat carrier, and slammed the door shut, avoiding with shudders the 3-inch sickle claws and vicious teeth. We removed two others, one that fell into a trash barrel, and another large one that, prodded with a curtain rod, followed a can of cat food into the carrier. Oh, and the babies! Six abandoned babies that tried to live under our house but kept crawling from the crawl space into the ceiling of our downstairs family room. Dave took to yelling “Possum!” every time someone went downstairs.  Including the time I landed on the second step, staring eye-to-eye one of the babies hanging from the pipes!

There was the stray cat who stalked us and laid siege to our house until we let him in.
Turns out my husband, who is the first one to complain about our numerous felines, had been slipping him cat food, because “Well, jeez, we couldn’t let him starve!”

There was the time he took our pit bull/black lab cross up into the unfloored attic because CLEARLY the dog needed to see upstairs. Freaked out that Domino might take off across the non–existent floorboards and come crashing through the ceiling, I dubbed this “Letterman’s Stupid Pet-Owner Tricks”. He could have made a mint off that category.

Most recently my wonderful man decided to see what our new puppy and our older dog would make of raw eggs in the shell. Our more mature dog dropped hers on the floor and rolled it around. It leaked egg, and she licked that up. Puppy, being puppy, ate the whole thing. Mmm, calcium!

But, you have to love a man who grouses and then gets up to take the dog out at 2 a.m. because even though it’s the son’s job, there’s no reason the dog should have to wait for a teenager to wake up. Who invests thousands in dance recital costumes and miles in travel to dance lessons and years later says he wouldn’t have spent it any other way. You have to love a man who will get his kids – and dogs -- up in the middle of the night to watch for meteors.

Kids and animals have long been a yardstick by which we measure the ‘good guy’ factor.
“He likes kids and pets; he can’t be all bad!” Even books have been known to follow this simple precept. How many bad guys have pets – other than working guard dogs or snooty sycophant cats? How many characters who avoid children turn out to be the maladjusted, crazed villain? So, maybe it would be a twist to have the cookie lady off the Scoutmaster for not awarding badges, or to have the animal rescuer systematically murder the members of the city council. And maybe a detective who genuinely dislikes kids.

I’m very glad my husband loves kids and animals. I truly don’t expect to see him committing foul deeds any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I won’t model a villain on him.

You wanted to see where I write. Well, one of the places I seem to do a lot of writing is in my car! Over the years I’ve had to do a lot of waiting. So I perfected the art of traveling ‘heavy’, always having some kind of materials for writing with me. Here you see the latest vehicle I use, along with tote bag, netbook, clipboard, pens, and paper. I’ve written in two different vans, a Datsun, a Ford Galaxy, and at least 3 Subarus. When I shop for a car, I definitely have to consider its ‘office potential’!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Little Run Down the Boardwalk of Memory Lane


Here’s an excerpt:

“My family calls it, simply, the Big House.  Each summer for forty-two years I have traveled here from winter homes across the United States.  The Big House is where I learned how to swim, play tennis, sail.  The Big House is where I first kissed a girl, first got drunk, first experimented with drugs.  My most vivid dreams and nightmares are set here.  It is where I read the books my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather read as children, and where I wrote my own first book.  It is where I decided to get married.  It is where my wife and I buried keepsakes to remind us of two miscarried babies, not far from where my grandfather’s ashes are buried.  I have come to recognize the peculiar rattle each window makes in its casement, the luffing of each window shade, the texture of each forest path under my bare feet, the sound of each screen door slamming, the nine-second pause between the beam from Cleveland Ledge Light that stripes my wall as I lie in bed at night.  Although I have spent only a month or two here each year for four decades, I have always thought of it as home, if home is the one place that will be in your bones forever.”

The writer describes how, as children, he and his brothers would point out, and loudly shout out, landmarks along the way during their summer journey from their winter home to the sprawling 100 year old, four-story, eleven bedroom summer home on Cape Cod.  And how his children are now pointing out the very same landmarks on their summer journey to the Big House.  And continue the pointing and shouting once they reach the house; in a kind of “Hi House, I’m back” arrive and reacquaint tradition.

And while reading I remembered my own family’s summer journey.  The journey WE took every summer.

There certainly weren’t any Big Houses waiting for us, unless we count the rooming house kind of hotel we always stayed in while we were there.  The Dennis.  Or as we always referred to it, “Miz Dennis’ place.”  

Ella Phillips Dennis came to Ocean City in 1890 to regain her health. Two years later she built the Dennis Hotel (I guess she regained her health!).  She was also a staunch Presbyterian and has been given credit for founding the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City.

Miz Dennis became well known for her ability to speak her mind and is said to have made statements to, among others, the local newspaper, concerning the men of Ocean City, MD that “Ocean City is seventy percent built by women, run by women and the men are all henpecked.”  (She sounds pretty healthy to me.)

Miz Dennis was one among a group of smart, savy, formidable women known as the Petticoat Regime of 1890-1926.  Of the thirty-two hotels and boarding houses listed in a 1926 guide to Ocean City, all but two were owned and managed by women.  

More about that here:

Now, I don’t know who actually owned “Miz Dennis’ Place” when we stayed there, but I do think it was still in the Dennis family.  I remember the place as well as I remember any place I’ve ever been.  I remember the long hallways, and I remember it having odd little nooks and crannies – the  types of little hidey nooks children just love.  I remember big wrapping porches, and I remember everyone being wonderfully kind.
Obviously, my family didn’t have much in common with Mr. Colt’s family.  At least not financially, and  not culturally.  But, we did share a love of the sea.  And the need to emotionally reconnect with a place that holds our hearts.

My traditional reacquaintance with Ocean City goes sorta like this.

Mother and Daddy and I drive from  Cambridge.  Me in the backseat bouncing, and pointing and squealing, “LOOK!  There’s  Mr. King’s filling station!  Wonder if he’s there?!  Can we stop and say Hey?!”  

"LOOK!  There’s Mr. & Mrs. Ruark’s restaurant!  Wonder if they’re there?!  Can we stop and say Hey?!”  

"LOOK!  Isn't that Miss Clara's house?!  Wonder if she's there?!  Can we stop and say Hey?!"

"LOOK!  There Aunt Dot & Uncle Bob’s restaurant!  Wonder if they’re there?!  Can we stop and say Hey?!"

Needless to say – the two hour drive usually took a bit longer than two hours.

Approaching Ocean City, we cross a bridge, windows down and we can smell the salt.  And we feel “different.”  We know there’s something in the air.  Some shimmering “something.”   Something that’s hard to define.  You just know it when you experience it.  You just have to let yourself feel it.  It’s pure and clean and freeing, and I guess if we have to give it a name, it would be joy.

After crossing the bridge, we turn right and go to the parking lot at the very edge of town, past the very beginning of the Boardwalk.  As we get out of the car and I start to run, I hear my dad say, “Kaye Alan, don’t run!”  

I hear my mom say “You’re going to fall!”  

Did I listen?!  Why, no – of course not!  Fall?!  Me?!  Pfft!

And with the waves hitting the sandy white beach to my right, 

and Marty's Playland along with Trimper's Carousel to my left, my little feet would hit that Boardwalk going a hundred miles an hour. 


And boom.

Down I would go.

And it would hurt!  And my knees would be all skinned and I would cry.  Loudly.

I’d collect hugs from Mother & Daddy and hear an “I told you so” or two.  And then we would have to start the hunt for a band aid.  And there was always some kind shop keeper who would have a band aid they would give us.  Along with the use of their bottle of iodine.  Just seeing that bottle would have me screaming like a maniac.  “No No No No.  No No No No.”

Mother saying, “This might burn.  Blow on it, ok?”

MIGHT burn?!  BLOW on it?!  WTF????

Before it was over with I’d be blowing (in between the “No No No No’s), Daddy would be blowing, the shop keeper would be blowing  (surely in hopes the other customers didn’t think he was responsible for the brutal murder of this pitiful child screaming “No No No No.”), sometimes a couple other kind and nosy customers would join in on the blowing.  All blowing on my skinny little bloody knee while it got painted with iodine and plastered over with a huge band aid.

Very pretty.

Did this happen more than once?

Oh yes.

Which was a topic of conversation amongst the family for years.  Guaranteed to bring laughs and guffaws.  And the question was always asked, “Well, why didn’t you think to take your own iodine and band aids?!” 

GOOD question!   

But I think Mother & Daddy always left the house thinking, “surely to God, this child is NOT going to fall again this year.”  



The child was clumsy.  What can I say?

They did, eventually, start remembering to put the iodine and a tin of band aids in the car.

Why that passage at the beginning of this blog reminded me of my clumsiness on the Boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland might elude some of you.  

Then again, maybe not.

There are always memories connected to places we love.  

One memory will stir another memory, and so it goes . . .

 and it doesn't have to have a thing to do with how big a place is, or how much it costs, or if it's on Cape Cod, the French Riviera, or a small resort town in Maryland.

We all find common ground in our memories of what we love best in our lives.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Mystery of Amnesia by Alan Cook

Alan Cook spent his first life as a pioneer in the computer industry. Unfortunately, his attempt to get rich by going with a startup company didn’t pan out, and he eventually decided it was more fun to write mysteries. Now that his books have received several awards and gotten some attention (especially as e-books on Amazon Kindle), he is writing with renewed fervor. His next mystery, Forget to Remember, is about a victim of amnesia and will be out in November. He lives with his wife, Bonny, on a hill in Southern California. His website is

The Mystery of Amnesia
by Alan Cook

Let’s say you have an accident—e.g. you get hit on the head. When you regain consciousness you have a headache, of course, but there’s more. You can’t remember your name—or where you live, or anything else about yourself. You still have your basic intelligence and knowledge, but the personal part has disappeared, as if somebody removed a folder from a file or deleted it from a database.

You expect to receive help regaining your identity from the government, and, indeed, there are lots of websites devoted to missing persons. But what if nobody is looking for you? You find out that government can be more hindrance than help.

You want to get a job? What’s your Social Security number? No number, no job. You want to drive? Where’s your driver’s license? You want to travel? Where are your passport and other I.D.? Worst of all, where’s your birth certificate? Without that, you are a non-person as far as government is concerned.

Benjaman Kyle knows all about this. He was found unconscious in 2004 behind a Burger King in Georgia. He didn’t remember his name or background, and still hasn’t regained his identity, despite the efforts of many people, including Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist. Colleen, a friend of mine, appears to be getting closer to the truth, and may yet come up with the answer.

She suggested I write a mystery about an amnesia victim. She writes nonfiction, but this would be fiction—not about Benjaman. Naturally, I immediately enlisted her as my expert. She even became a character in the book.

How does an amnesiac regain her identity? It definitely helps to be in the computer age. There are millions of websites devoted to missing persons. You can post information about yourself and look for information posted by your loved ones. But what, as I said above, if nobody is looking for you? That makes the job harder.

What are your skills? What jobs or training might you have had? What parts of the country and the world are you familiar with? Your accent, your mannerisms, your knowledge of anything and everything, are all clues to who you are. When your case has become well known (as Benjaman’s has) you can make appearances on television shows and have articles written about you.

Another thing you can do is take a DNA test. Fortunately, both Colleen and my wife, Bonny, are experts on DNA. They educated me about it, including mitochondrial DNA that women pass on to all their children. Since men don’t pass it on, it remains constant in the female line forever—or at least for thousands of years, with few mutations.

The Y chromosome is passed intact from father to son, and shows the male line. Then there’s the autosomal DNA that appears in the twenty-two non-sex chromosomes. If you have significant matches with another person, you are probably related, and statistical analysis can tell you how closely related you might be.

More and more people are getting DNA tests and posting their information on the Internet, looking for cousins. This makes it easier to search for relatives.

My advice is not to get amnesia. It’s not fun to be a non-person. Writing an amnesia mystery, however, is another matter. That was fun, made better by the support I had. My book, which is coming in November, is called Forget to Remember.

There are rants, and then there are rants

This is sort of a harmless little ol' rant.

At least, I think it is!

Sometimes, though, once I get started I can get kinda wound up, and it "could" end up a full fledged crazy woman rant.  We'll see how this one goes.

Drama Queens.

Do you hate 'em?!

I just hate 'em!

for real.

Now, granted - it IS fun to be a Drama Queen once in awhile.  And okay - I admit it - I turn into one when I have a major rant.  But, I don't live that role daily.  For one thing, it's exhausting!  And for another,  it's boring.

I'm as bored to death by them as William Holden playing Joe Gillis here is by Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond.

Actually, I adore Norma Desmond.  Sadly, though, the Drama Queens I've encountered haven't a smidgen of the flair she had.

I mean, IF you're gonna be a Drama Queen; at least be entertaining with it.

Keep me on the edge of my seat wondering what on earth might come next.

Instead, I get whiners who want to start every single conversation with a tale about how busy they are at work (sigh), or how sick they've been (so sorry, sigh).  Now, I don't mean to sound un-sympathetic.  If this weren't a pattern with some people I would be ever so sympathetic.  But these are the people you have to wonder how on earth they ever find the time to pee they're so over-worked.  Or how they ever have time to enjoy a sunset 'cause they're always so sick.  It's pitiful.  And I guess that's my rant.  Pitiful just bores me to tears.

Does it you?  Or am I just mean mean mean?

oooh - Mean People!  I REALLY hate mean people!  So, I hope I'm not one.  Well, okay - sometimes I can be.  But only when pushed and I feel the need to push back.  (that's fair?  right?).

I try to keep one rule in mind when I use Meanderings and Muses to vent.

For every rant, I try to mention something I like.

Well, I like the old bumper sticker that says "Mean People Suck."

And I love "Sunset Boulevard."

What do you love?

What do you hate?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bouchercon by the Bay Magic Moments

Judy Bobalik's B'Con Magic Moment needs no words . . .

I told you!
no words . . .

A Magic Moment - - -

My magical Moment (no pix, alas)... the panel on Roman and Greek mysteries, with three of my all-time faves, Lindsay Davis, John Maddox Roberts and Steven Saylor, all trading quips and
anecdotes with the moderator, who happend to be the editor who launched my career at St. Martin's Press.
This is why I love Bouchercon!
Roberta Rogow (who is no longer published by St. Martin's, but keeps writing anyway)

A Magic Moment - - -

Hi Kaye,
I'm just packing to leave San Fran and I remembered you asking for best of moments.  Mine is arriving on Thursday to find an e-mail from my publisher that Publisher's Weekly had reviewed A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN, my first PW review coinciding with the first time I got to speak at Bouchercon.  The last time I was at this conference was 2004 in Toronto - before I was published.
Stay well,
Phyllis Smallman
"characters you'd love to have a drink with and a sense of place that captures the essence of the Sunshine State"
 The Hamilton Spectator

A Magic Moment - - -

Hi Kaye:
My first "AHA moment" came Thursday morning.  I was sitting in the dining room at the tail end of the continental breakfast.  A woman was walking towards us and I thought I recognized her from her pictures.  I guess I was staring as she came over to our tavle,  I was right, it WAS Hank Phillippi Ryan, who is nicer in person than she seemed from her emails!
Patricia Jones

Magic Moments - - -

Fran Read

Patricia Pedersen

Kat Tromp, Patricia Pedersen, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Fran Read, 

Patricia Pedersen and Emily Bronstein

From Meredith Cole - - - -

"I wish you were here Kaye!!!

I went for a walk around the neighborhood with Kathy Ryan, and we couldn't help take pix of everything. Laura Disilverio decided my outfit needed some sparkle for the St. Martin's party, so she took off her necklace and lent it to me for the evening. Mystery writers and mystery fans are the most generous people, aren't they? I'm standing in front of the Bay Bridge, and I don't think the weather gets any lovelier than this.

Other photo is the view from the hotel. Gorgeous."


From Molly Weston

 Our SinC workshop dinner!

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Here's our very first Bouchercon by the Bay Magic Moment.

From Tasha Alexander

Hi Kaye!!!

Wish you were in San Francisco! Here's a pic I took last night when
Andrew and I were on a sunset cruise with Jon and Ruth Jordan. 
Talk about a spectacular way to spend an evening. 
Gorgeous views and even better company....