Seeking the “Outre”?

Dear Readers,

As of today, April 14, my Book 4, Saffron Street: Island Danger, is off to the editor!

That means many things, but for this moment, it allows me to start thinking about Book 5.

My next Botanic Hill Detectives mystery will have a problem wrapped around a long-deceased woman and the American poet, Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849).

Research on one of my favorite American writers has begun. This is what I seek: Was Poe really insane as some critics, biographers, and readers down the centuries have proposed or propagated? Did he want or even earn the label, “The Master of the Macabre”?

I had an English professor years ago who contended that Poe was not mad, insane, obsessed with cemeteries, or even an odd bird. Rather, Poe was a hardworking, starving writer who had a difficult life. He was orphaned at the age of two and was eventually and inexplicably disinherited by his foster father John Allan. Poe quickly became disillusioned with his own life, turning to alcohol after the death of his young wife.

This particular professor was unhappy that two centuries later, many still promote the “insanity lie” about Poe. It was, in part, created by the writer’s adversary and uncomplimentary biographer, Rufus Griswold, who shortly after Poe’s death, made him out to be a womanizing, drug-fueled, immoral madman. Poe’s friends vehemently denied Griswold’s ruinous image. They claimed Poe was a misunderstood genius, not recognized in his own time.

Worse, perhaps, is how too many still consider Poe to have been a writer of horror without asking why his frequent themes, or motifs, were death and loss.

So, why did Poe write stories and poems that haunt us? Was it because he was disillusioned with life, or was it perhaps from his acceptance of death’s inevitability with the horror being death’s unpredictable timing? Was it both?

Esther Lombardi wrote in her article “Edgar Allan Poe’s Detailed Philosophy of Death” (, March 2, 2019) that “perhaps death was an escape.”

My former professor thought so, too, saying that through the writer’s stories, “Poe sought the outre–the bizarre, the unusual, the otherworldly–in an attempt to rise above life, to find death in life.” To escape his woes even briefly, especially the loss of his wife. His burdens could have also explained why his writing was rife with dying young women.

So, get a clue, Readers. I believe it’s important to ask then seek the truth about why authors write as they do and what inspires their frequent themes, so we don’t label them too quickly or worse–incorrectly. In real life, Poe was no gravedigger or an author to drag out just for Halloween. To think of him merely in those terms is to miss much about the man and his works.



Making Progress

Hello, Kids and All Readers,

If you read my blogs or my March 31st newsletter, you know that on March 23, my sweet dog, Jimmy Lambchop, passed away.

It’s been two weeks and one day since that horrible event.

Those of you who have lost a beloved pet know what I’m experiencing: the too-quiet house, the heartache, and the feeling of being adrift in a rudderless boat on the ocean. These overwhelm me at times.

But the living must continue moving forward! I am working to do just that. It has involved establishing new routines throughout my day, routines that I alone can control. There is some freedom to be found in that kind of solitude, but I’d take my precious boy back in a heartbeat.

I realized today that this is the first time in forty-six years that one or more people/animals haven’t been dependent upon me. Some might welcome that type of freedom. I haven’t realized the benefits yet if there are any. I’m a nurturer, used to doing for others, not just for myself. I can’t remember who the independent me was from all those years ago!

So, get a clue, Readers. Grieving takes time, and no two people do it in the same way. But out of loss can come growth. One just needs to be in the right frame of mind. I’m making progress to that end. Slowly.

Doggone Heartache

Hello, All Readers and Fans of my dog Jimmy Lambchop’s blog, which appears in my monthly newsletter.

It is with deep sorrow I report that the love of my life, my poodle-bichon sweetie Jimmy Lambchop, passed away yesterday. 

He fought hard but couldn’t overcome complications from his major, emergency surgery that took place on March 10.

I gladly inherited Jimmy from my mom in March of 2016, shortly before her death. Coincidentally, today is the six anniversary of her passing. (When it rains, it pours.)

Mom had Jimmy for three and one-half years before he became my little boy. He had been left on the porch of a doggie daycare center as a puppy, so they named him “Porch” (ugh!). That facility kept him for almost one year before giving him to Second Chance Rescue to offer for adoption. That’s how my mother found him in 2012. She named him Jimmy. I added Lambchop when he started owning me.

His unconditional love, prancing and cute head wags when he wanted a walk, sweet disposition that made everyone near and far fall in love with him, gleefully tossing his toys over his head, eating every meal with gusto, face-lick kisses given generously, and cheerleading my writing from behind me on the bed have forever endeared him to me. My broken heart will wear his paw prints all over it until the end of my life.

Jimmy, my precious one, thanks for being my boy for six years and two days. They were the best years and days of my life. I can only hope they were among the best for you, too.

R.I.P. Jimmy Lambchop       October 3, 2011 – March 23, 2022






Hello, All Readers and Dog Lovers,

I have my precious dog Jimmy Lambchop home with me now. Lucky us!

Last Thursday, he had major, emergency surgery. Complications arose, delaying his discharge until yesterday.

Here he is, comfortably resting in one of his favorite places in the house.

He will probably tell you all about his hospital adventure in his blog that will appear in my newsletter on March 31.

To subscribe to my monthly Botanic Hill Detectives’ Newsletter, please click HERE.

So, get a clue, Readers. How has a pet made you feel lucky? Enjoy them each day. They bring such joy to our lives.

Doggone Doggerel

Hello, Readers,

It’s been a long day. I had to rush my precious poodle-bichon, Jimmy Lambchop, to the emergency animal hospital this morning after first taking him to his primary vet.

Jimmy’s in a life-threatening situation with a clogged gallbladder and tumor on his spleen, so out those offending organs must come.

Driving home, knowing that Jimmy was in good hands, I thought about how special our Fur Babies are to us. I am sparing no expense to ensure that my boy has the best medical attention possible.

For some reason, the term “doggerel verse” popped into my head. I know its meaning. The word doggerel is derived from the word dog, as you might guess. But doggerel verse is nonsense, poorly written poetry, or verse that is technically flawed! If you want to read a great example of doggerel verse, check out Scots-Irish poet William McGonagall’s (1825-1902) very flawed poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster.”

But my point is this: how dare someone centuries ago link the great word DOG with something as odious as DOGGEREL verse. That’s so unfair to dogs!

So, get a clue, Readers and dog lovers. Maybe you could write a great poem about a dog, thereby ensuring it isn’t doggerel!






“No More Apricots”

Hello, Adult Readers,

Standing in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, I’d like to introduce–or reintroduce–you to a female Ukrainian poet named Lyuba Yakimchuk.

She was born in 1985 in Pervomaisk, Luhansk, in what was Ukraine’s industrial east. She and her family lost their home and fled as refugees in 2014 when Russian-backed militants occupied her city. Before that invasion, people of her town used to pick the wild apricots from the trees on their country’s border with Russia and give them to conductors to sell on trains that ran between Moscow and Kyiv.

She and her husband are currently living in Kyiv. As of yesterday, they were still there in order “to donate blood for Ukrainian soldiers and to try to be helpful.”

Yakimchuk is a multi award-winning poet, vocalist, and important artistic presence in Ukraine. Kyiv’s New Time magazine listed her among the 100 most influential people in the arts in Ukraine.

In 2021, she published a collection of poems entitled Apricots of Donbas about people surviving war. The first line of her eponymous poem is, “Where no more apricots grow, Russia starts.” The collection has been translated into over twenty languages including English.

Her poetry is described as “playfulness in the face of catastrophe” and evokes Ukraine’s fight for independence and legacy of war. Yakimchuk said, “Language is as beautiful as this world. So, when someone destroys your world, language reflects that.”

So, get a clue, Readers. Perhaps you will feel compelled to investigate this courageous Ukrainian poet’s works. You can find Apricots of Donbas HERE.