A Sweet Gift

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Those of you who have ever lost a beloved pet will likely understand my blog today.

As I grieve my precious dog Jimmy Lambchop’s passing on March 23, I am even more appreciative of the kindness of friends at this time.

Recently in the mail arrived a wonderful gift and card from my childhood friend Lorie, who dog-sat for me on many occasions over the six years I had my boy. It is a loving memento with Lorie’s photos on both sides of each of the six paper hearts on a yarn string, which I’m displaying on my bookcase.

In the card, Lorie said, “These hearts are your reminder of all the love you received from Jimmy.”

I can’t thank Lorie enough for her time and talent in making this beautiful, sweet gift that I will cherish always.

So, get a clue, Readers. Please give your pets extra love daily. Enjoy every moment you have with them. 

Happy 458th Birthday!

Dear Kids, English Teachers, Librarians, Playgoers, and All Readers,

Sometime between April 23 and 26, the “Bard of Avon,” William Shakespeare, was born in 1564, in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

The exact day of his birth is not known, but his baptism was recorded in the Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford on Wednesday, April 26, 1564. Baptisms routinely took place then within three days of birth and always before the first Sunday after birth. As a result, many people around the world have come to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23.

So, whatever the day, Happy 458th Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare!

I find it interesting that the playwright-poet died in 1616 on his birth date, April 23. His burial was recorded on April 25, 1616, in the same church in which he was baptized. His death at fifty-two-years-old was considered a grand age for an Elizabethan when the average life expectancy was in the early thirties. His monument, erected by his friends soon after his death, still stands in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church. The gravestone below it contains a “curse”: “. . . . Blest be the man that spares these stones,/And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

But what killed William Shakespeare?

According to shakespeare.org.uk, that remains a mystery to this day. Rumors, theories, and speculation are still rampant. Perhaps due to lack of medical knowledge, the cause of one’s death was not routinely recorded back then; neither was his, not even by his physician son-in-law, John Hall. One theory about his death that prevails is that Shakespeare died from an “apocryphal drinking bout.” The story goes that he died shortly after being visited by writer friends Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton, who had come up from London to party with him. But no one knows for certain.

What is known is that Shakespeare made a will in January of 1616, then revised it one month before his death. Did that mean he knew he was dying? Not necessarily. It was customary in England among people of means to prepare a will so as to get their worldly affairs in order.

It was also the custom for Protestant Christians like Shakespeare to prepare to meet one’s maker, to secure one’s soul through meditation on a glorious afterlife in Heaven. Being such a Christian man of culture, he would have eschewed a funeral of pomp and ceremony as part of his spiritual will. So, there is nothing known about his funeral details, which might have been by his design per the times.

Could another illness have caused his death? It’s possible. Shakespeare could have succumbed to an infection, a fever, the flu, or typhus, all of which were common causes of death in the area at that time.

So, get a clue, Readers. Shakespeare’s life and death remain wrapped in many mystery. Perhaps that’s as it should be, given his own words from his play Timon of Athens: “Degrees, observances, customs, and laws,/ Decline to your confounding contraries,/ And let confusion live!”



Know Poe?

Dear Readers,

As I mentioned in my April 14th blog, my research for Book 5, Jacaranda Street: Gravestone Image, has begun. It will be mystery spun from some aspect of American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s life but set in present day California. He is arguably best known for his poem “The Raven” (1845).

I hope you’ll agree that Poe was a fascinating person despite–or because of–suffering an early death (1809 – 1849). Here are three of thirteen facts*:

  1.  Poe was a Literary Trailblazer–  We tend to remember what some call his “haunting poems” and “tales of terror,” but did you know that Poe is credited with being one of the earliest short story writer, the father of the modern detective story, and an innovator of the SciFi genre?
  2. He was Prolific–  He wrote enough poems to fill a book by age nine, which weren’t published; in addition, Poe’s works include short stories, more poems, a novel, a textbook, a book of scientific theory, and numerous essays and book review.
  3. He Created a New Profession–  Poe is considered America’s first well-known professional writer (and thus, starving artist); he eked out his living as America’s first great literary critic and theoretician.  

*According to Melissa Breyer

So, readers, get a clue. I will share other interesting facts about Poe in some of my upcoming Thursday blogs as we anticipate Book 5. I hope you’ll be inspired to read or reread some of the works of this very mysterious and, in the opinion of others and myself, misunderstood genius.



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” (thoughtco.com, 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