Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I posted this last year on Facebook for Memorial Day. It's just as appropriate this year. They're still haggling over the fate of the Wilderness Battlefield. We're still fighting wars.


In my first book, Pat asks Miss Maggie if she's against all the development around the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. Miss Maggie says she's against the very grass, because the grass grows over battlefields, heals them, and stops us from being able to picture what really happened there. We forget how awful war is and we do it again. I stole Miss Maggie's thoughts from Carl Sandburg in his poem "Grass":

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What is this place?
Where are we now?

Last night I heard that Walmart is building a 141,000 sq. ft. superstore right in Miss Maggie's backyard, on the Route 3 dividing line between Chancellorsville and Wilderness, right about where the rear of the union line was located. If you want to find out about this latest fiasco of greed over meaningful history and what you can do, check out At this point, it looks like Walmart's going to win.

Up on this side of the Mason-Dixon, we around Valley Forge have been fighting the building of a hotel and other development on top of the Continental Army's commissary site during the winter of 1777-78.

What is it that makes local officials want to give away the best of our historical sites--the places from which we and future generations have the most to learn--to money-grubbing giants who won't even have the grace to leave a few dollars of their profit in our own local economies? Why do we do this to our most sacred American places?

Maybe Sandburg's poem has another side -- maybe we WANT our history covered. Most of it isn't as pretty as we'd like. Especially the battlefields. Then again, if the grass didn't do its work, I'm betting that humankind would have given up war long ago.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Thrill of the Blank Screen

I know, I know. You’re all saying, give her an award, her head swells, and she thinks she’s above mere blogging. Or she’s still partying.

Granted, it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted, but my excuse is that I can’t say no to non-profits. May is when all the reports are due both for my singing ensemble ( and my music fraternity (yea! Sigma Alpha Iota!). That means a total of about 22 pages, the size of a short story, so 3 weeks is about right.

But I’m back and I’ve begun a new book.

I hesitate to say that. I think most writers would agree that a new project has a higher chance of failure than a book that’s half done. Once I’ve invested a few months in a novel, I never want to give it up. I’ve put too much into the research and writing and long walks working out the plot. Starting out--that's another thing. A blank screen is scary and I know sometimes I need to get 5 chapters down before I can tell if an idea will go anywhere. Or, at least, anywhere entertaining enough that I want to devote 6 to 12 months to writing it out. So I sort of hold my breath through the first tenth of a book.

Yet beginning a new novel is also exciting. A new idea fills me with energy—I see all sorts of possibilities. If it’s a good idea, it will continue to feed my energy as I write. I’ll be anxious to get back to it. I’ll think about the book when I’m not writing. I know novel writing is essentially a marathon, so yes, I’ll have days when I can’t make something work, or when life interferes. I’ll get stuck. I'll get frustrated and grumpy. I’ll wonder why I didn’t listen to my mother and become a doctor (actually, the sight of blood and gore had a lot to do with that).

At this moment, though, I won’t dwell on that. I’m at the beginning. Like any new relationship or new diet, I think, this time will be different. I’ve learned from my mistakes. This will be easier. I can’t wait to throw myself into it.

This is one of the two reasons I write: the giddy almost-in-love feeling I get at the beginning of a project.

The other is the satisfaction I get typing “THE END.”


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My New Teapot

In the last few days, I think I've emailed or posted this photo just about everywhere, but I only now realize that I forgot to post it here on my blog.

For those of you who don't know, in the mystery writing world, there are major awards called the Agathas. The teapot in the photo is an Agatha Award for best nonfiction mystery book of 2009. The book was my companion guide to Agatha Christie's short stories titled DAME AGATHA'S SHORTS.

I was thrilled with the nomination, but did not at ALL expect to win. (I was up against P.D. James for Pete's sake!) When they announced my book at the banquet, the blood was pounding so hard in my ears, I couldn't hear anything for 15 minutes. When they handed me the teapot, all I could think was "Oh, no! Now I have to climb the stairs to the podium and I'll probably trip and drop the thing." I don't really remember what I said at the podium. I hope it made sense. Pretty sure I babbled.

If so, what I meant to do was to thank (a) the Malice Domestic Conference, since it was there a few years back that I first got the idea to do a book about Christie's short stories; (b) Rod Hunter of Bella Rosa Books, for his enthusiasm in taking the project and publishing a classy-looking book; (c) my brother, for helping me with caregiving duties so I could sneak away to work on the book; and (d) the Delaware Valley Chapter of Sisters in Crime, who've been great friends and major support the last 15 years.

Idiot that I am, I forgot to thank Agatha Christie, not only for the inspiration for this book, but for being my mentor through her works since I started writing.

Think I'll spend one more day up here on cloud nine before I get back to laundry and groceries and bill paying.



Member, Delaware Valley Mystery Authors