Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Littlest Angel by Krista Davis

On a frigid March day, when snow lay in frosty melting piles, I came upon the car of my elderly neighbors stopped in the middle of the road. The car doors on both sides were flung open. Naturally, I was worried for their welfare. I spotted the husband standing in the snow and bent over not too far from the road. Was he sick? Had his wife fallen?
I parked behind their car and jumped out.
“Puppies!” They yelled.

Huh? I ran closer. Indeed, they were herding puppies. Or trying to. The little guys seemed to be heading in every direction. Farther down the road, I saw other neighbors chasing puppies.

I volunteered the back of my Jeep, and we began to swoop them into our arms and deposit them in the rear of the car. One looked completely different from the others. Larger and mostly white, she was desperately trying to keep the puppies together and was clearly upset that we were taking them away. She stiffened and trembled when I lifted her and carried her to the car.

Three puppies had to be pulled from their hiding place in a drainage ditch pipe. At last we had nine dogs corralled and safely deposited in my car. I couldn’t bear to bring the little sweethearts to the pound, so I did the only logical thing – I put them in my laundry room.

Most of the puppies were black and tan, with white socks and white tips on their tails. The dog who had seemed different looked like a Jack Russell Terrier. Her fur was yellowish and harsh. She had black ears and a black spot on her rump. Her tail had not been docked. It seemed to me that she was an adult. She showed no signs of having been pregnant so I didn’t think the puppies belonged to her. Instead of carrying her into the laundry room, I set her on the ground and coaxed her. The poor baby was terrified. I finally picked her up and took her inside. She was horrified, and fought me, trying desperately to escape from my grip.

When all the dogs were in the laundry room, I fetched a bowl for water and a large jellyroll pan that I filled with puppy kibble. The puppies and the Jack Russell knew exactly what to do. They pounced on the food. Their tummies full, the cute little babies settled around the room.

The Jack Russell walked to each one as though she was counting them. She sniffed each puppy thoroughly like she was making sure they were all present and in good condition. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

Satisfied that they were all fine, she sat down between two of them and watched me with worried eyes. I could imagine how scared she was. They had all been abandoned, and now they were in a strange place with people they didn’t know. She had no idea what might happen next.

They all slept in the laundry room that night. In the morning, I let the Jack Russell out to run with my golden retriever. She flew like a dog in a cartoon, as though her feet didn’t touch the ground when she ran. She played with my golden and followed her when called. I knew then and there that she had found a home with us. Back inside, she spotted my golden’s big round bed, which happened to have a gigantic dog bone on it. Honestly, I think she thought she had found dog heaven. She made herself at home on the bed and went to work on the bone – and my golden, bless her, never growled or acted peeved for one moment.

We named the Jack Russell Terrier Buttercup. Her awful fur became soft and snowy white long ago. She’s a constant delight and an occasional rascal. And she’s the inspiration for the character of Trixie in my new book, MURDER, SHE BARKED. She’s even on the cover! The puppies all found homes (two with me!). But all these years later, when I gaze at my sweet Buttercup, I still remember that touching moment when she felt responsible for the abandoned puppies and checked on them one by one.



To celebrate the launch of Krista’s new series, Buttercup and her siblings are looking for dogs and cats to join their street crew.
They're giving away Murder, She Barked bandanas to dogs and cats to promote the book. One lucky dog or cat who leaves a comment here today (it’s okay if their people leave comments for them) will win one, too! Photos of winners (hopefully wearing their new Murder, She Barked bandanas) will be posted on and on this Pinterest board! board so your dogs and cats can share with their friends.

Krista Davis’s new series for animal lovers debuts on December 3rd, with MURDER, SHE BARKED. Like her characters, Krista has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and cupcakes. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats. The Diva Frosts a Cupcake is the seventh book in her Domestic Diva Mystery series. Three of those books have been nominated for Agatha awards and three have made the New York Times Bestseller list. 


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pat Conroy/Cassandra King Book Signing

I adore Pat Conroy.

This is not news to anyone who knows me or has been following Meanderings and Muses for any length of time.

I've written about him several times here, (and here, AND here) and relayed a story about a signing Donald and I attended in Atlanta for Mr. Conroy's BEACH MUSIC tour.

We had planned on going to see him in Asheville when he was there touring for SOUTH OF BROAD, but didn't make it.

So, you better believe when I learned he would be in Charlotte at Park Road Books for his THE DEATH OF SANTINI tour, I got excited and immediately started making plans to be there.  It also happened to be the day before my birthday, which made it even more special.  And then I found out Cassandra King, his lovely wife, would be doing a signing there also.  For a book geek like me, this is just about the best kinda birthday ever.

Park Road Books is one of those perfect indie bookstores.  They've been in business since 1977, so you know they are doing things just right, and have a caring, professional, fun staff to make everyone feel at home which keeps customers coming back. 

And they have Yola

Yola is the store dog with presence, good manners and a huge hit with everyone.  Yola prances from one end of the store to the other, head held high and let's you know it is a place to be proud of, by golly.  I fell smack in love with Yola.

And then Pat Conroy arrived.  He said hello to the crowd, thanked everyone for coming, and assured us we would have a good time.

And we did.

He is so gracious and so personable.  Spending some time with every single person without making anyone feel rushed or pushed out of the way for the next in line.

He asked me what I did, and I told him I was retired.  He asked what did I do to keep myself busy as a retired person and I told him I had written a book.

He asked if I had brought him one and I said, "Well, there are some here 'cause Park Road is going to carry my book."

And then he asked if he could have one.

He did!

So I said, "Well, sure!"  (I mean - hey - really!).

I took one out of my tote and handed it to him and he said "Is it signed to me?"

Well, at this point, I was speechless.  Yep.  Me.  Speechless.

He said, "Sign it. Go ahead."

And so I did.  Shaking like a leaf.

And then it just got silly.  Really silly.  He was signing one of the books I had brought with me and told him that I appreciated him making an effort to be in North Carolina for my birthday.  He asked when it was, and I said "tomorrow."

He said, "What's the number?"

Well, I thought he was asking me how old I was, so I cheerfully said (loudly) "Sixty-Five!"

Then I noticed he had written "Happy Birthday" in the book, and under it he had written "11/__/2013"


He wasn't at all asking me how old I was.  He was asking the date of my birthday.


I immediately said, "Oops.  That wasn't what you were asking, was it?"

He laughed and laughed, and said, "No, I would never ask that, but you certainly announced it with great enthusiasm."

I got so tickled I almost peed.

So, we got all that squared away.

I got it together enough to thank him, and to move along so the next person in line could enjoy a little bit of time with one of the greatest writers ever, and one hell of a nice man.  Delightful!!!

And, I walked away without my feet touching the ground.

With some books inscribed to me by my literary icon.

Leaving behind my book, Whimsey: A Novel, inscribed to him.




And after a few minutes of happy dancing around my Donald, and catching my breath, I then went to Cassandra King's line.

She is every bit as gracious and as personable as her husband.

She is just lovely!  I have always loved her work, but I have to say - MOONRISE touched me in a very special place.

What a great birthday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Whimsey Give-Away

This week we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving, and I'll be celebrating my 65th birthday.  Sixty-Five!!  HOW did that happen?!  In the spirit of saying thanks for my blessings, of which there are many, I'm doing some giving.  The Kindle version of WHIMSEY: A NOVEL will be free all week.  I would appreciate you helping me spread the word, please.  And if you already have a copy, maybe consider giving a copy to a friend or family member.

Many thanks, my friends!

I appreciate all the support you've given me and Whimsey, and wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Chocolate Truffle Sour Cream Bundt Cake
(Modified version of recipe originally from Sur La Table)
 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (Valhrona)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt (do not use kosher salt)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
1 cup boiling water (note: This is the modification. I forgot to add this cup of boiling water and the cake still turned out wonderfully, so I'm not even sure what the point of it is.)

Chocolate truffle mixture:
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
2 teaspoon powdered sugar
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12 cup capacity bundt pan and dust with 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. In a large bowl, using a triple sifter, sift the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk well and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle (I just used my hand mixer), beat the butter until creamy. Add the granulated sugar and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well for about 30 seconds, after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with two additions of the sour cream. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated. Gradually beat in the boiling water.

Prepare the chocolate truffle mixture by melting butter with vanilla. Sift cocoa with powdered sugar. Toss bittersweet chocolate with melted butter-vanilla mixture then add cocoa-sugar mixture and fold into the cake batter

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for ten minutes on top of a wire rack. Turn the cake out onto the wire rack and cool completely. Dust it lightly with powdered sugar before slicing. - See more at:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Writing the Mountains by Vicki Lane


Vicki Lane is the author of 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. She also teaches in UNC-Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. Vicki draws her inspiration from rural western North Carolina where she and her family have tended a mountainside farm since 1975.  Visit Vicki at her daily blog, on Facebook or at her website.

Writing the Mountains
by Vicki Lane

The hills are alive with the sound of …scribbling and keyboarding. At least, that’s the way it’s beginning to seem. My neck of the woods -- the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and more especially the Asheville area -- is increasingly popular with writers as a setting for their stories.

Take Lee Smith, whose books about the South ring true and clear -- Lee has a fine new book out set mostly in Asheville. Guests on Earth is the story of a young girl who is a patient at Highland Hospital during the time Zelda Fitzgerald was there. It’s a great look at the place and the period, as well as the famously troubled wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but more than that, it’s a thoughtful depiction of mental illness.

Tommy Hays’s latest offering What I Came to Tell You is also set in Asheville with scenes set at the Thomas Wolfe House and historic Riverside Cemetery. It’s billed as young adult but I think it would appeal to any age. A timeless tale of love and loss and guilt and redemption.

Sallie Bissell’s part Cherokee litigator Mary Crow is back in another Appalachian thriller The Music of Ghosts. Sallie can write some creepy stuff – you might not want to read this when you’re alone…

Ron Rash – whose Serena (set in the area) has been made into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence (of The Hunger Games – part of which was set in and filmed in North Carolina) has several others set in my own Madison County – The World Made Straight and The Cove. Ron is an amazing writer – when I first discovered him, I went on a binge of reading his backlist. The Cove is set during WWI, and tells the story of Laurel Shelton, a simple mountain girl, and her love for an escapee from one of a group of German Merchant Marines being interned at a once-famous hotel in Hot Springs (NC) – the same hotel I wrote about in Under the Skin.

And this same hotel and German intern camp are the center piece of Terry Roberts’ recent A Short Time to Stay Here. I met Terry when he emailed me and mentioned that his great great grandfather Benjamin Franklin Freeman had lived near our farm. I investigated and found B.F. Freeman’s grave in the cemetery that adjoins one of our pastures. Small world.

Still in Madison County, Mark Pinsky’s recently published Met Her on the Mountain is the result of Mark’s forty year obsession with the unsolved murder of a Vista worker – they were still talking about this when we first moved to Madison and Mark has set forth a plausible solution as well as a close examination of small town politics and the ‘them vs, us’ mindset that may well have influenced the investigation in this case.

Also from Madison County – and in the most authentic way possible – are the books of Sheila Kay Adams, a seventh-generation ballad singer (and my younger son’s eighth grade teacher.) Back then Sheila was working on a book, inspired by a workshop she’d taken with Lee Smith and poet (later poet laureate of NC) Kathryn Stripling Byer. To my great joy, Sheila asked if I’d proofread Come Go Home With Me, a collection of charming vignettes about her growing up in Sodom Laurel. And as I read, I thought to myself, she’s just telling stories – like she was sitting next to me. I wonder if maybe I couldn’t tell a story too . . .

And then I found that I could and added my Elizabeth Goodweather books to the heady mix of Appalachian story telling. Over time I went on to discover – and meet in person – many more fine writers whose inspiration came from Appalachia.

I first met Kathryn Stripling Byer when I went with Sheila Kay Adams to hear Lee Smith speak and then to a party at Kay’s house. Kay’s poetry is simple, beautiful, and accessible – she speaks the language of the mountains – Descent, Girl in the Midst of the Harvest, Black Shawl, Catching Light – her collections of poetry are luminous evocations of the simplest of things – those that matter the most.

Tony Earley became a friend before I ever had a publisher. He’s best known, perhaps, for Jim the Boy but his wicked sense of humor shows up in his short stories, some of which have been published in The New Yorker. The most recent is an adaptation of the traditional Appalachian Jack Tales.

Charles Frazier, best known for the phenomenal Cold Mountain, put his hero Inman in my neck of the woods. I was thrilled beyond belief, if not reduced to a babbling fan girl, when he came to lunch at my house last year. You never know who’ll turn up in these mountains…

Pamela Duncan, Wayne Caldwell, Wiley Cash, Mark DeCastrique, Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Silas House . . .  the list goes on and on. Who am I leaving out in my wandering census of western North Carolina writing?  Lots, I’m sure, This link will take you to some more good ones.

They say you can’t swing a cat in Asheville without hitting a massage therapist – I suspect the same is true in western NC for writers. Maybe it’s something in the water.


 please note:  comments for Meanderings and Muses are moderated.  If you don't see your comment right away, it's because the moderator (that would be me) is not at her laptop, but will return and all comments will be published at that time.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

What one author has to say about "Whimsey"

"I sat up last night to finish reading Kaye Barley's WHIMSEY, a beautiful book, with Kaye's personality shining through every page. I can't decide whether she wrote a fairy tale for adults or a Cinderella story for the child in all of us, but I loved it."

So says Pat Browning, a woman I admire who also happens to be a writer I admire. 

Her full 5 Star review can be seen here -  

She wrote a book I have recommended here, there and all over the interwebs; ABSINTHE OF MALICE (published originally under the name FULL CIRCLE).  And I hear she's writing a sequel . . . (tapping my toe impatiently).

But, being totally honest, I think Pat's greatest gift is her talent for memoir and narrative non-fiction.  She has graced Meanderings and Muses as a guest every year since it began, and she's one of the first people I invite back when I start working on the schedule for the next year.  She has traveled the world and offers us a peek into places many of us will never have an opportunity to visit.  She offers that peek to us with her inimitable voice and viewpoint.  We've seen her riding a camel, dining with handsome strangers in magical places.  She shares photos I wish I had taken.  And she always leaves me wishing for more. 

She does a lot of guest blogging, and I follow her wherever I can find her, including her own blog which you can see here -

To read words of praise from a woman who has been an inspiration to me for so many years is, indeed, a lovely, lovely thing.

Thank you, Pat!!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's a Book

"Columbia, SC - November 6, 2103 –In support of (print) books and indie bookstores, a group of authors gathered together in New Orleans earlier this fall to make a video where they all read aloud from Lane Smith’s It’s a Book. The project was devised by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and once it was confirmed that Lane Smith and the book’s publisher Macmillan supported the project, the taping began.  Authors graciously (and often gleefully)  stepped into a makeshift studio to read their lines with little notion of what the final outcome would look like, but nevertheless believing in the good cause the project was designed to highlight: the benefit of print books and indie bookstores.   The result has been everything they and SIBA and her member booksellers could hope for: a wonderful read-aloud of Lane Smith’s It’s a Book! "

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Next Year's Schedule

Ta DA!
Here they are - - - -
Next year's Meanderings and Muses guests. 
All of whom, I'm very proud to say, also happen to be friends.
I love this gig.
January 12 - Mary Jane Maffini
February 16 - Pat Browning
March 16 - Deborah Crombie
April 13 - Earl Staggs
April 27 - Mike Orenduff
May 18 - Reed Farrel Coleman
June 15 - Sarah Shaber
July 13 - Diane Chamberlain
August 17 - Margaret Maron
September 14 - Hank Phillippi Ryan
October 12 - Bronson "Bo" Parker
November 16 - Vicki Lane
December 14 - Lesa Holstine

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How I Got Here by Dee Phelps

The Disappointment Room will be available soon at all venues and at:

Dee can be contacted at her web page at,, or on facebook.

She will be participating in the following book conferences/festivals/fairs:

February 2014:  Murder in the Magic City, Birmingham, Alabama
                          Feb 8-9

                          Savannah Book Festival, Savannah, Georgia
                          Feb. 15-16

                          Amelia Island Book Festival, Amelia Island, Florida
                          Feb. 20-23

May, 2014:        Malice Domestic, Bethesda, Maryland  May 2-4

                          South Carolina Book Festival, Columbia, SC
                          May 16-18

June, 2014:       High Country Festival of the Book, Boone, NC
                          June 28

August, 2014;    Killer Nashville, Nashville, TN  Aug. 21-24

Dee Phelps

Nearly every writer has a past occupation before they jumped into the murky waters of literature.

I’m no different.  Here’s my former life:  I schlepped bed pans for a living, aka, a nurse.  When my three sons, (lovingly called, The Three Stooges) were little and before I transferred to our local hospital’s surgical floor, I worked in a physician’s office for a gastroenterologist.  Yes, yes –a proctologist--a butt doctor.  But it was the perfect mommy job – 9-5, off weekends.  Here’s the rub…as the stooges got to be teenagers, they began teasing me about my job.  David:  “Hey guys, come meet my mom, the butt nurse.”  Ross:  “Mom, you never recognize anyone until they walk away.”  Wade:  “Mom, you know ever butt-hole in town.”   Hahaha.  Very funny!  NOT! 

I loved my nursing career.  It was fulfilling and I felt like I was “giving back” so to speak.  Making a difference with the life I have been given, and making a difference in the lives of those I cared for. 

Nearly ten years ago, my precious husband passed away tragically, and suddenly.  Understandably, I was a mess, but I also had a big life altering decision to make.  I could go along down the familiar path, OR, I could take the thorny, scary rutted road of writing.  I wish I could tell you that I have always wanted to write, but I didn’t.  I also wish I could tell you that I had always written, but just never had the time to do so, but that would be untruthful.  I chose the road less traveled; the scary path, because it was therapy for me (and a lot cheaper than a shrink!)  I wrote because my heart was broken; my soul shattered.  And because the heinousness of my youth would have looked like the Conroys grew up in Disneyland, I had buried a child, and after Bill’s death I needed to purge my mind of my past.  I had to learn to like and love me and life in all of its beauty, that I had repressed my entire life.  I pulled up my boot straps and took the first step on the scary road of writing full time. 

I started with a children’s book, The Flower in the Thickets, about a seedling unknowingly dropped in a thicket patch by a gardener on his way to plant his garden at a mansion on the hillside, and how that little seed struggled to grow and receive nourishment as the horrible thorn-laden thickets tried to prevent him from surviving.  Subconsciously, perhaps I was writing about my life.

Then I went on to do international travel journalism for a national magazine and some feature writing for a local on-line newspaper.  But I wanted more. I wanted to write fiction—the Great American Novel. (Don’t we all!?)  Thus began my journey writing The Disappointment Room.  Now, a disappointment room was a real thing.  A fact.  My husband’s family, before the Civil War, owned a cotton and indigo plantation nearby where I live in Beaufort, South Carolina.  One day, and I remember it as if it were yesterday, my mother-in-law and I were sitting around her kitchen table drinking coffee.  David was on her knee and she was feeding him cheese grits with little pieces of tomato and eggs cooked in.  She looked up at me and said, “Darlin’” in her sweet, thick, Lowcountry accent, “I want to tell you a story…”   She told me about disappointment rooms and a hundred different tales of life on the plantation that had been passed down to her from generations before.  I was enthralled with every story and shocked at some of them, especially the one about the disappointment room.  I carried those tales with me for years…and the day I decided to quit my day job and began my journey as a writer…I knew exactly what I wanted to write about.

Knowing an untrained novice writer has a snow ball’s chance in hell of succeeding in the world of literature; I went back to school at our local college then spent a year learning the “business”.  The next year was spent on researching the historical aspects of the book—then there was no turning back.  I was all in.  I felt compelled to tell the story of a child, whose mother was so ruthless and selfish, and her husband about to be elected to the US Senate, that she, in order to save face, sentenced her toddler son whom she mistakenly thought was mentally challenged, to a disappointment room. 

Here is my question for you:  What did you do before delving into your career as a writer and what was it that made you do so?


Friday, November 1, 2013

Apple Pound Cake

We're going to a neighborhood dinner party this evening (I love our neighborhood). 

My contribution is dessert, and I'm baking an Apple Pound Cake which is smelling pretty good right now.

But, when I got ready to start baking a little earlier I realized I didn't have enough all-purpose flour, so I went on-line to see what the acceptable equivalent might be.  In place of one cup all-purpose flour, I could use one cup plus two tablespoons of cake flour.  Whew!  Saved me a drive into town to the grocery store.

This is one of my favorite "go to" recipes, one I've been baking for years.  It's from one of my favorite cook-books - an oldie but goodie. 

SOMETHIN'S COOKIN' IN THE MOUNTAINS, A Cookbook Guidebook to Northeast Georgia

It's one Donald and I picked up on one of our trips to the North Georgia mountains while we were still living in Atlanta. 

The executive editors were Cathy and Jay Bucek who owned a wonderful little spot called "Mark of the Potter."  It's a delightful cookbook, and so much more.  It's a terrific guidebook to the N. Georgia mountains and contains several hand drawn maps along with drawings of landmarks and places of interest, like this one of the upside-down bridge. The Mark of the Potter is still there and still lovely, but sadly, Jay is no longer with us. 

The recipes were submitted by local restaurants, businesses and local folk.  Every one I've tried has been a winner.

Here's the Apple Pound Cake recipe from Bruce Mitchell of Nacoochee Mound, a large Indian mound in White County.  Although I no longer follow this recipe as written, I'm including it as Bruce wrote it with notations relating to my changes.  You, of course, should either follow it to the letter, or not.

Apple Pound Cake
2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 cups of cooking oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup coconut (I do not use the coconut)
3 cups tart apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I do not peel the apples)
1 cup pecans, chopped (I usually do not use the pecans)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the sugar and oil.  Beat with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy.  Combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to the sugar mixture and blend well.  Beat in the vanilla and coconut.  Fold in the apples and nuts.  Pour into a greased 9-inch tube pan (I usually use a Bundt pan).  Bake for 80 minutes, or until the cake tests done (may not take 80 minutes).  Turn onto a wire rack to cool.  (this recipe does not call for leaving the cake in the pan to cool before turning it out, but I do that.  For about 15 minutes.)
And - - 
ta da!
Here's a picture of the finished product!
I'll let you know how it tastes after tonight's dinner party!