Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Road Trip for Readers by Neil Plakcy

Neil Plakcy’s golden retriever mysteries were inspired by his own golden, Samwise, who was just as sweet as Rochester, though not quite as smart. And fortunately he didn’t have Rochester’s talent for finding dead bodies. Now that Sam has gone on to his big, comfy bed in heaven, his place by Neil’s side has been taken by Brody, a cream-colored golden puppy with a penchant for mischief.


A native of Bucks County, PA, where IN DOG WE TRUST, THE KINGDOM OF DOG and DOG HELPS THOSE are set, Neil is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and Florida International University, where he received his MFA in creative writing. He has written and edited many other books; details can be found at his website,


Neil, his partner, and Brody live in South Florida, where Neil is working on a fourth mystery, and Brody is busily chewing something.

A Road Trip for Readers
by Neil Plakcy
Let me take you on a little trip, to the river towns of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Yardley, right smack dab in the middle of this string of charming towns. I write about a place much like it in my golden retriever mysteries.
Bucks County snuggles against the curves of the Delaware River, forming the boundary between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Within easy commuting distance of New York and Philadelphia, it’s home to a growing and increasingly transient population. As its farmlands gradually give way to suburban developments, some of those old connections are lost. I try to recreate a bit of that lost world in my books—my hero runs into classmates at the local coffee shop, and helps his childhood piano teacher out of a jam.
Writing about Bucks County has reminded me that my high school typing teacher, Mrs. Scammell, still lived at Scammell’s Corner, where generations of her family had farmed. The names of my classmates’ parents were on everything from garbage trucks to antique stores. Today, they have been replaced by chain stores and restaurants, but these the towns along the Delaware’s banks still retain their charm.
Yardley is a small town of Victorian gingerbread and native brown stone. There is only one traffic light in town, at the corner of Main and Afton. To the east is the Delaware River, and the ruins of the bridge to New Jersey that was destroyed in 1960 by Hurricane Donna. To the west is the old mill pond, now Lake Afton, where swans paddle beside the Victorian library, built by local residents in 1878. The mystery section was located beside one of those high, gothic-arched windows, and I used to look out at the water between browsing for the classic mystery authors  who cultivated my taste for crime fiction-- Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie.
Today the library has moved to a modern facility in the country, but children and adults still use its steps to change into their skates for a quick turn on the ice in the winter, creating a tableau straight out of Norman Rockwell.
 Though the Hyatt Pharmacy at the corner is now a Starbucks, Yardley retains a small-town charm. I’ve even converted the Continental Tavern, which has been serving thirsty travelers at this intersection since 1863, into my own bar, called the Drunken Hessian. This is, after all, the stretch of river where Washington crossed the Delaware en route to his attack on the Hessian outpost at Trenton.
My fictional Stewart’s Crossing is just north of Yardley, on a stretch of beautiful riverfront that in real life contains only farmland. River Road, which my hero, paroled computer hacker Steve Levitan, travels a lot, is overhung with oaks, maples and elms and is lined with purple and white phlox on long stems and the tiny pansies called Johnny jump-ups.
As the rest of the river towns do, Stewart’s Crossing straddles the Delaware Canal, and I’ve used the canal and its towpath in my books, starting with In Dog We Trust. Steve walks his inherited golden retriever, Rochester, there. Despite the town nearby, the towpath is wild and quiet, lined with wild apple blossoms in the spring, climbing vines and yellow daisies and buttercups. Rochester loves to chase the mallards, Canada geese, other small birds, and maybe a rabbit or two.
Before railroads, canals played an important role in American commerce and transportation. They carried anthracite coal from the mines of Lehigh County to New York City and Philadelphia. Two hundred years later, the only traffic on the Delaware Canal comes from mule-drawn sightseeing barges run from New Hope, where an artists’ colony grew in the early twentieth century. When I was a teenager in the 1970s, New Hope was filled with hippies, head shops and antique stores, and it still retains a unique character today.
The land is low along the river and the verge is very narrow in many places from Yardley north to New Hope. I placed a car accident there in In Dog We Trust, though I’d probably never walk my own dog there, as the river is so close you can almost reach out and touch it.
In The Kingdom of Dog, Steve takes Rochester up to Bowman's Hill Tower, just inland from the river. It was built of local stone in 1930 and now stands over a nice park with barbecues and picnic pavilions named for Revolutionary War heroes. The picnic grounds are green and rolling, and the slope is just right for little kids to roll down. We often went there for school picnics in the spring. The tower is open from April to November, and is the centerpiece of a 100-acre wildflower preserve.
I’ve driven up the curving road many times, as well as hiking the trail up to the tower through woods that seem untouched since Washington's day. Once you've reached the summit, take the elevator up inside the tower and climb the last 21 steps, through a narrow, curving passageway more reminiscent of medieval Europe than depression-era Pennsylvania, to the observation platform, 110 feet up.
On a clear day, you can see 60 miles in any direction, and you'll understand why Washington sent his scouts to the top of this hill to watch for redcoats. The vista is of farms and fields, but increasingly you'll see renovated half-million-dollar farmhouses and fake-colonial suburbs. Look closely and you’ll see the area where I placed Steve’s alma mater, Eastern College.
I created the small college town of Leighville somewhere outside Upper Black Eddy, just a bit farther up the river from New Hope. Eastern dominates the hill overlooking the river, and provides another environment where Steve and Rochester can sniff out criminal intent. The third book in the series, Dog Helps Those, combines a college mystery with a murder in the world of dog agility training, and gave me a chance to return to the farmlands outside town where my parents used to take me to pick apples and strawberries, and to choose our Halloween pumpkins.
I try to incorporate the landscape of this area where I grew up, as well as years of loving dogs, in creating the world where my characters live. I may not live in Pennsylvania any more, but I love revisiting these river towns in my imagination, even though dastardly deeds occur there!
More information on my golden retriever mysteries, as well as my other mystery and romance novels and stories, can be found at my website,

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 27

Topic of the Day

I've always been a "vehicular" kinda gal.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 25

Topic of the Day


My high school class has a reunion every five years (and sometimes in between).  We always get together at Dan and Ginger's and so far, apparently, have not worn out our welcome yet. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are You a Closet Southern Belle? by Duffy Brown

Duffy Brown loves anything with a mystery. While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, Duffy longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. She has two cats, Spooky and Dr. Watson, and conjures up who-done-it stories of her very own for Berkley Prime Crime. Iced Chiffon, out October, 2012, is the first in the Consignment Shop Mystery series. Duffy writes romance as Dianne Castell and is a USA Today bestselling author.


Why, hi there!


One of the reasons I wrote Iced Chiffon was that I wanted to set a book in the South, the real South as it really is. It has a flavor all its own from the way folks talk...How’s your mamma and daddy? the food, anything that has a stick of butter and cup of cream has got to be life moving a bit slower, a smidge more meaningful! 


So my question today is... Are you a closet Southern Belle? Now you ask, Okay what the dickens makes a Southern Belle? Well, I just happen to have a little list...


* Do you never wear white after Labor Day or before Easter


* Do you own a strand of real pearls and wear them with pride


* Always drink sweet tea and love it when they have it on the menu


* A part of you truly believes in damn Yankees


* Civil War? What Civil War? Now that unfortunate Northern Occupation...that you know about


* Have Lee as part of your name or your children’s


* Fav movies are GWTW and Steel Magnolias and Fried Green Tomatoes, Something to Talk About


* Actually read GWTW and reread parts from time to time. Wish you had the name Scarlett


* Have a tiara hidden in your panty drawer and know how to twirl a baton


* Have an umbrella that looks a bit like a parasol


* Make sure your children know manners and use them


* Love Red-eye gravy, grits, country ham and make your own biscuits


* Know that prime real estate is The Mall, The Country Club and The Beauty Salon


* Buy more then one can of hair spray at a time


* Have actually said Y’all come back, Bless your heart, Drop by when you can, How’s your mamma?


* Love white gloves and wear hats


* Have a subscription of Southern Living or rippeda recipe from that magazine at the doctor’s office


* Have a pineapple decoration somewhere in your House


* Think the scent of magnolia is heaven on earth


And what about the food? Do you own a Paula Deen Cookbook? Catch her on TV whenever you can? I know how to make cream gravy from scratch and would rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick than put cool whip on my pecan pie! Is there anything better than Southern cooking? Well maybe Italian but that’s another blog.


So, how do you measure up? Is a part of you a Southern Belle? Do you know someone who is? I really tried to keep these characteristics in mind when writing my Consignment Shop mystery series. A gal in NY City is way different than a gal in Savannah and I sure wanted it to feel that way.


I am definitely a closet Southern Belle! I do make fried chicken and bathtub gravy. That’s what my kids call my cream gravy because they could eat a bathtub full of it. I do make my own pies, have white gloves, crab at my kids if they don’t mind their manners, buy extra-hold hair spray, subscribe to Southern Living, have a fancy umbrella that I’ve been known to twirl from time to time and I do know how to twirl a baton for real. I even took lessons and still have the baton!


On the Southern Belle scale I’m about a 7. Well, maybe an 8. What about you? What is your Southern Belle Score? Are you a closet Southern Belle like me who sometime feels as if they got born on the wrong side of the Ohio River? Or are you a Yankee through and through and proud of it?


I’ll give away three Iced Chiffon totes and a signed copy of Iced Chiffon from the replies.


Ya’ll have a good day now, ya’ hear.


October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 24

Topic of the Day


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Research Your Book on EBay! by Sarah R. Shaber

Sarah R. Shaber is an award-winning mystery author from North Carolina. Her new historical suspense series begins with LOUISE’S WAR. It stars Louise Pearlie, a young widow working for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, during World War II.

Shaber’s Professor Simon Shaw murder mysteries are available as ebooks for Nook and Kindle or as trade paperbacks. She’s also the editor of Tar Heel Dead, a collection of short stories by North Carolina mystery writers.

Sarah is involved in speaking engagements, teaching writing classes, and conferences. 

She lives, writes, cooks, reads, and chills with her husband, Steve, in Raleigh.
Research your book on EBay!
by Sarah R. Shaber

My Louise Pearlie suspense novels are set during World War II in Washington DC.  Writing successful historical fiction means, first, that the tone, language, and setting of these books bring Louise’s life alive for my readers.  Which means that her times have to come alive for me, too.  I’ve found that the best way to do that is to bury myself in material from the period--books, magazines, diaries, even menus and maps, so I can recreate the feel of wartime Washington DC for my readers.

I’ve written about this before, but I suspect few of my fellow writers took me seriously. I’ve discovered that a great way to recreate the past is to cruise EBay for research materials.  I just plug “1943”, “Washington DC 1943”, or “February 1943” into the search engine and see what comes up.   Thanks to EBay I own a perfect copy of an Esso tourist map of DC from the forties, complete with street names and the location of parks, national buildings, hotels (the Mayflower!) and department stores (Woody’s! Saks!).  I can move Louise around her city with complete confidence.  I’ve also found several Sears catalogs, women’s magazines, and popular novels.  Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote some of her mysteries during those wartime years, and I’ve got a copy of “The Yellow Room” that is a great source for language, customs, and clothing.

But, you might ask, isn’t shopping for research materials expensive?  Not when you compare it to the cost of a trip to a library or archive.  Most of what I’ve purchased cost just a few dollars.  A library card for the college library near me costs $160, and I can’t park nearby for more than two hours.  Plus I have never found menus, maps and old women’s magazines at the library! 

Let me share with you just a couple of my recent finds.  First is “Your Share”, a Betty Crocker pamphlet of recipes for housewives coping with rationing.  Where else could you find dishes like “Full O’Boloney”--a bologna casserole, jellied ham loaf, or a war cake made without eggs, flour, and butter, described in such unappetizing detail. 

Then there’s a little magazine I bought called “The Woman,” chock full of articles like “I’m a Housewife on War Plant Hours” and “Pre-Marital Relations Ruin Marriage.”

My favorite is “What! No Husband!  A Bachelor answers 5000 Women.”  This bachelor suggests that “old maids” need to think more about babies and religion and less about themselves to catch his attention!

            You can’t buy this kind of material for your book—oh, yes you can!  And if you do you’ll own it and can refer to it throughout the writing of an entire series!

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 20

Topic of the Day


Friday, October 19, 2012

Bitchin' and Moanin' and All That Jazz . . . .

It's easy to bitch and moan.  Too easy.

Problem is it's boring.

What's harder is to find something to sing about instead.

I've had a couple days of not feeling so great - and no, I know you don't want to hear the details, believe me - I do know that.  Nor do I want to share them (again, there's that boring thing).

But what I do want to do is tell you that I say my "Thank You's" every single day for Donald Scott Barley.

He knows I love to hear him sing. 

Sometimes without telling him I will stand outside the bathroom and listen to him sing in the shower.  He's sings beautifully.

He sings a lot of Don Williams and he sings George Jones' "Choices" like a dream.

I've asked him a couple times to record a CD for me, and i haven't given up on that just yet, but his gift to me this week was to sneak off behind closed doors and do a video recording of himself singing one of my all time favorite songs ever.  "House on Pooh Corner."

Y'all - i love this man. 

and i love my life.

So, if you hear me bitchin' and moanin' please remind me to come to my post dated 10/19/2012 in Meanderings and Muses to remind me of the good stuff I'm blessed with.

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 19

Topic of the Day


October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 18

Topic of the Day


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where I've Been and What I've Been Doing . . .

My friend Thelma gave me the perfect little nudge this morning.  I've been posting photos every day, but have not taken the time to write.  and there's a reason! 

Most of you know I've been writing a book.

A lot of you have asked when I'm going to actually tell anyone what the book is about.

Well here 'tis -

This is my make-believe cover (I'm having the best time with all this!!!) - - -

The working title is "Whimsey."  It's Southern Fiction with a splash of magic, including a wicked pixie named Earlene who fancies tight-fitting designer clothes and Louboutin stilettos. A cigar smoking matriarchal ghost also drops in from time to time just to make sure things are going as planned . . . .

The protaganist is an up-and-coming jewelry designer who fears her talent has deserted her. Along with her four best childhood friends, Emmaline Hamilton Foley has been invited to be a resident artist at the new upscale gallery owned by her aunt, famous artist Zoe Hamilton. To join them, she’ll need to regain her talent, face the demons from her past and her feelings about Eli Tatnall, whom she loved as a girl. Will moving back to the Georgia artist’s colony on the Island of Whimsey bring the all magic back?

Whimsey is a story of hope and affirmation. It's a story about best girlfriends and families, connections and feelings. It’s about the things in life that make us happy and the things that scare us to death, and the people who walk through our lives with us.
Right now, the manuscript is in the hands of some first readers.
I've already gotten valuable feedback from several folks.
Pretty soon I'll be going through the nerve-wracking, heart breaking process of sending out query letters. 
One step at a time - one small step at a time . . . .
Wish me luck, everyone, please!!!!

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 17

Topic of the Day


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 15

Topic of the Day

There's a series of fountains surrounding the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge, MD
Here's two of them


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Photo A Day Challenge - Day 11

Topic of the Day
"Something Close Up"

Photo by Don Barley

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Voice I'm Hearing by Vicki Lane

Vicki Lane is the author The Day of Small Things and of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries which include Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony-nominated In a Dark Season, and Under the Skin. Vicki draws her inspiration from rural western North Carolina where she and her family have lived on a mountainside farm since 1975. Visit Vicki at her daily blog, her website, or on FACEBOOK. .


I have waited most of my life for God Almighty to speak unto to me – to maybe lean out from a dark thundercloud and roar down a mighty command, or to talk in tongues of fire from a bright red maple in the fall, or maybe whisper in my ear on a still and starry night. I have listened and prayed and listened some more but He ain’t spoke, not once. Just now, I think as I lay in my hidey hole near the springhouse and hark to the cruel sound of the whip, the weeping of the women, and the whimper of Aunt Lolie’s babe, just now would be a good time for Him to commence.


This is the voice I’m hearing these days – the voice of a mountain girl in Madison County, NC, caught between the various factions during the Civil War – “the Late Unpleasantness” as an aunt used to say. My mountain county was divided – there were few slave owners and many folks wanted no part of either side, North or South. Some enlisted for the Confederacy; some fled to nearby Tennessee where Union troops could be found; many simply stayed home, trying to avoid conscription by either side.


My county avoided the big battles. But the war took its toll in other ways and the Shelton Laurel Massacre is still remembered around here.



It began, according to the histories, in January of 1863, when fifty armed and desperate men from the community of Shelton Laurel (also known as Sodom) entered the county seat of Marshall in search of the essential salt which they, as suspected Unionists, had not been allowed to buy. They ransacked stores and plundered homes -- even pounding up the stairs of Confederate Col. Allen's house to rip blankets from the beds of his sick children.

Retaliation was swift; a few days later a troop of Confederate soldiers made its way to Shelton Laurel in search of the raiders. The result was the Shelton Laurel Massacre, in which 13 men and boys (some as young as 13 and 14; most, if not all, non-participants in the raid) were rounded up and executed. Women, some elderly, were tied to trees and whipped when they would not say where their men were; an infant was laid in the snow in an attempt to force the wretched mother to name the raiders and their hiding places.

Civil war -- brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. The families of the victims of the massacre knew the killers. And for years, bitter resentment simmered, breaking out now and then in private vengeance. Over a hundred years after the Civil War and the Shelton Laurel Massacre, our county still was known to many as "Bloody Madison.


This is the story I’m trying to tell.


My journey as a novelist began in 2000 when I took a writing class…. Signs in the Blood, my first Elizabeth Goodweather book, was published in 2005, more followed. With the publication last year of Under the Skin, my sixth novel, I found myself ready for a change of direction and, as well, for a bit of a hiatus . . . an escape from the pressure of a deadline, a time to recharge the batteries.


And I wanted to stretch myself a bit – to move away from the murder mystery which, with my amateur sleuth, was becoming a little embarrassing – the dread Jessica Fletcher syndrome – ‘What, she’s found another body?’ 


But I wasn’t ready to move from the setting – my beloved mountains. The problem was, as I was recently reminded, in how to find the universal in the local. I think that the Shelton Laurel Massacre is perfect for this, the event that is both the culmination of other events and the catalyst for others yet to come.


Just now, in this contentious election season, I find myself marveling at the things that divide us as a nation, wondering how people I personally know to be good and decent people can think so differently about the issues at stake in the election. And I realize that these are the same questions the folks of Madison County had way back then, that the story of a long ago, local tragedy can speak to timeless and universal questions.


I’m writing without the safety net of a contract – or the goad of a deadline. And I don’t know when it’ll be finished – or, indeed, if it’ll be published. There are no guarantees. But I believe this is the story I’ve been called to tell.










Bouchercon 2012

Bouchercon 2012 is taking place as we speak.

Am I sad about not being there?

oh, Laws - yes.

(insert loud sobs here)

But I've been following all the fun in Cleveland and have enjoyed seeing pictures of some of my favorite people.

If you're on Facebook, check out the Bouchercon 2012 photo album. -!/Bouchercon2012?fref=ts

It looks as though my Jungle Red buddies are having a big ol' time, and from all reports, their panel was a HUGE hit (who's surprised by that?! - no one!).

and you can read about it here.

Other news would include winners of The Macavity Awards, presented by Janet Rudolph at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during opening ceremonies on Thursday night.

And the winners are...

Best Mystery Novel: Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran

Best First Mystery Novel: All Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen

Best Mystery Related Non-Fiction: The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, edited by Charlaine Harris

Best Mystery Short Story: "Disarming" by Dana Cameron

Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery: Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of Bloodstains by Catriona McPherson

The Private Eye Writers Association presented The Shamus Awards Friday night, and the winners are...

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel:
A Bad Night’s Sleep, by Michael Wiley (Minotaur)

Best First P.I. Novel:
The Shortcut Man, by P.G. Sturges (Scribner)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel:
Fun & Games, by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland)

Best P.I. Short Story:
Who I Am,” by Michael Z. Lewin (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2011)

The Hammer--a commendation celebrating a memorable private-eye character or series, and named after Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer--was presented to Nate Heller the character created by Max Allan Collins.

The Anthony Awards have been presented.  I have highlighted the winners in bold red -  

The End of Everything—Megan Abbott [Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown]
Hurt Machine—Reed Farrel Coleman [Tyrus]
The Drop—Michael Connelly [Little, Brown]
A Trick of the Light—Louise Penny [Minotaur]
One Was a Soldier—Julia Spencer-Fleming [Thomas Dunne/Minotaur]

Learning to Swim—Sara J. Henry [Crown]
Nazareth Child—Darrell James [Midnight Ink]
All Cry Chaos—Leonard Rosen [The Permanent Press]
Who Do, Voodoo?—Rochelle Staab [Berkley Prime Crime]
The Informationist—Taylor Stevens [Crown]
Purgatory Chasm—Steve Ulfelder [Thomas Dunne/Minotaur]
Before I Go to Sleep—S.J. Watson [HarperCollins]

The Company Man—Robert Jackson Bennett [Orbit/Hachette]
Choke Hold—Christa Faust [Hard Case Crime/Titan]
Buffalo West Wing—Julie Hyzy [Berkley Prime Crime/Tekno]
Death of the Mantis—Michael Stanley [HarperCollins]
Fun & Games—Duane Swierczynski [Mulholland]
Vienna Twilight—Frank Tallis [Random House]

"Disarming"—Dana Cameron, EQMM June'11, p.24
"The Case of Death and Honey"—Neil Gaiman, A Study In Sherlock, p.167 [Bantam]
"Palace on the Lake"—Daryl Wood Gerber, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, p.184 [Wildside]
"Truth and Consequences"—Barb Goffman, Mystery Times Ten, p.121 [Buddhapuss Ink]
"The Itinerary"—Roberta Isleib, MWA Presents The Rich and The Dead, p.189 [Grand Central]
"Happine$$"—Twist Phelan, MWA Presents The Rich and The Dead, p.276 [Grand Central]

Books, Crooks and Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure—Leslie Budewitz [Quill Driver/Linden]
Agatha Christie: Murder in the Making: More Stories and Secrets from Her Notebooks—John Curran [HarperCollins]
On Conan Doyle: or, The Whole Art of Storytelling—Michael Dirda [Princeton University Press]
Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film—Philippa Gates [SUNY Press]
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion—Charlaine Harris, ed. [Ace]