Fact: Ireland is a Modern Country Sad Fact: Few people outside of Ireland realize this. Thanks to the impressions of popular culture, many Americans still tend to think of bombs, booze or leprechauns when they hear the worlds “Irish” or “Ireland”.  Those who read, remember Yeats or the Potato Famine.  Movie-fans recall Darby O’Gill or The Quiet Man.  Few of either group think of murder. Yet, Murder in a very moder...

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With the arrival of the Holiday Season, everyone is focused on families, friends, and parties, which usually means food.  That’s great because I love to eat; but awful because I’m a lousy cook.  I mean world-class lousy.  I’m the gal who confused teaspoons and tablespoons in Home Ec. class and braised radishes with too much oregano. (Who braises radishes anyway?) My newlywed cooking turned Meat Loaf into Meat Cake and made m...

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At one point, there was just Jane Austen.  A British lady, (by which I mean gentlewoman, not a member of the aristocracy) gifted with humor, keen powers of observation, and the tenacity to create fiction in a time where few men and no women were encouraged to write. Her novels were known to humorists and English Majors but considered too esoteric for the hoi polloi.  In those days, she was just Jane Austen. Now, Miss Austen is an industrial...

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The Memory Everyone has memories they don’t like but can’t shake.  This is one of mine. I was small and my parents were driving back through a desert in the southwestern states.  We hadn’t seen a town for hours, and I’d gotten used to seeing the endless miles of saguaro, yucca, and empty skies. So, when we started to pass a row of shacks that lined the empty road, I was surprised.  These structures didn’t seem to ...

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The Story Everyone has secrets they want to keep. Keeping secrets is harder when you live in a small town. Small towns are the original spots where everyone knows your name.  They also know your parents, your siblings, and whether you went to reform school or college.  But they have secrets they want to keep too. Sometimes, this can make small-town society seem like an insulated conspiracy of silence. Until curiosity or a stranger shows up, tha...

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Strangers to the South take a look at this place and react in one of two ways: either they loathe it or love it.  Either they see nothing but the region’s excesses and sins and complain endlessly about both (“Oh God, it’s so hot! And what happened here! I couldn’t live in this place.), or they fall in love with the South, history, Kudzu and all.  Southerners understand both reactions because they tend to fall into the sa...

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I’ll admit I’ve been on a Brontë kick this summer; heat tends to drive me toward stories about simmering characters in cooler climes, a sure recipe for a Brontë book.  But, for all of my repeated readings of Charlotte Brontë‘s prose and my disaffection for sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights, I never bothered to read the work of Anne Brontë.  Now, I want to bang on the front doors of all my English teachers and ye...

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My obsessions don’t make me a better person.  They eat up too much time and energy and can turn me into an absolute bore but, they are part of me.  I find an interesting subject and suddenly I have to know everything about it.  That’s the mark of an obsessive and, as I say, it has its downfalls.  But sometimes that drive yields obscure treasures. Obsession is one reason I love Daphne Du Maurier’s stories. Two of her most fa...

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The Swans He called them his swans. It’s the story literary freaks, pop culture geeks and gossip mavens all know. The story of a covey of fascinating young women who were known for being beautiful; graceful as swans. Beauty made them famous and envied and rich but it didn’t make them happy, Instead, Beauty made them insecure and lonely.  They wanted friends who’d value them instead of their looks or the powerful men they had ma...

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Summer is here in all but fact, the season when most people take vacations.  If you grew up in the United States, the odds are pretty good that your vacation history involves one or more of our National Parks.  That’s great! The National Park system is one of the smartest, most democratic ideas this country put into place: beautiful spaces are preserved so they can be used by everyone, at an affordable price.  The only problem, for the a...

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The Evolution of a Door: The Misadventures of a Would-be DIY’er
One of My Stories / November 28, 2017

Madison Avenue thinks it knows what presents women wish for. They tell us through commercials all the time. What love token should you give a lady? Give her diamonds. Give her shoes. Give her a new car.  Well, Madison Avenue never heard of me. I wanted a new front door. Door, the First In all fairness, I’ve wanted one for the past 27 years. Our little house came with a rather standard, wooden door; one that let in the weather...

A Sense of Taste, A Sense of Place,

With the arrival of the Holiday Season, everyone is focused on families, friends, and parties, which usually means food.  That’s great because I love to eat; but awful because I’m a lousy cook.  I mean world-class lousy.  I’m the gal who confused teaspoons and tablespoons in Home Ec. class and braised radishes with too much oregano. (Who braises radishes anyway?) My newlywed cooking turned Meat Loaf into Meat Cake ...

The Murder Mystery No One Expects
I know a Good Story / November 9, 2017

At one point, there was just Jane Austen.  A British lady, (by which I mean gentlewoman, not a member of the aristocracy) gifted with humor, keen powers of observation, and the tenacity to create fiction in a time where few men and no women were encouraged to write. Her novels were known to humorists and English Majors but considered too esoteric for the hoi polloi.  In those days, she was just Jane Austen. Now, Miss Austen is an i...

A Tale of Autumn’s Light
One of My Stories / November 3, 2017

If you listen to painters, they are obsessed with color and light.  Well, if you listen to stories of artists, that’s what they talk about.  Me, being a word instead of a picture person, I didn’t understand what they meant.  Color is color, light is light, right?  You either have it or you don’t.  Then I took a look at Autumn around here and I began to see what all the fuss was about. The quali...

Home Story
Stories about Stories / October 10, 2017

All stories are about being human and all humans need a spot they can call home. More than shelter or status symbol, “home” is part of a person’s identity and many writers are known for theirs.  Faulkner didn’t stir from Rowan Oak unless he was forced to.  Daphne du Maurier’s obsession for Menabilly changed the course of her life.  But both of these homes are grand houses of great estates, sp...

End of Summer Report Card
One of My Stories / September 5, 2017

“I’m just a Summer Girl,Living in a Summer World…” The only thing is, Summer is ending. That much is obvious, even without the store displays of Halloween Costumes and Football gear. Days are shortening, outside light is yellowing, and the trees have begun their annual game of pelting our metal roof with nuts. (it’s amazing how something that small can make that large a noise!) Autumn is coming again, and i...

Blossoms of Evil
I know a Good Story / August 29, 2017

The Memory Everyone has memories they don’t like but can’t shake.  This is one of mine. I was small and my parents were driving back through a desert in the southwestern states.  We hadn’t seen a town for hours, and I’d gotten used to seeing the endless miles of saguaro, yucca, and empty skies. So, when we started to pass a row of shacks that lined the empty road, I was surprised.  These structures didn’...

The Stories We Hide

The Story Everyone has secrets they want to keep. Keeping secrets is harder when you live in a small town. Small towns are the original spots where everyone knows your name.  They also know your parents, your siblings, and whether you went to reform school or college.  But they have secrets they want to keep too. Sometimes, this can make small-town society seem like an insulated conspiracy of silence. Until curiosity or a stranger sho...

Assaulting a Boston Fern: Confessions of a Broke H&Ger (Part 1)
One of My Stories / August 10, 2017

It’s time to come clean First Confession: I’m a lifestyle/Home & Garden nut. Even though I nearly flunked Home Ec (twice!) growing up, I really love a pretty house. Ditto, lawn, and garden.  Set me inside a home-improvement store and I will happily spend us into the poorhouse.  Second Confession: We’re already too close to the poorhouse for me to do much home-improvement. Hey, that’s how it goe...

Redeemed by the South
I know a Good Story / August 1, 2017

Strangers to the South take a look at this place and react in one of two ways: either they loathe it or love it.  Either they see nothing but the region’s excesses and sins and complain endlessly about both (“Oh God, it’s so hot! And what happened here! I couldn’t live in this place.), or they fall in love with the South, history, Kudzu and all.  Southerners understand both reactions because they tend to fall i...