Author: C. Michele Dorsey


When the ground is frozen, hard, dry, and brown, I try to imagine them as they were in their majesty the previous April. I pass by day after day, shaking my head over the improbability that they will rise again. My pessimism is reinforced by the winter grey and brown thicket of branches that serve as their backdrop. They are all dead. There is no hope.             But I am a mere human fool. I cannot give up on the daffodils. I am tortured at my own hands, forcing myself to search for any sign of life. What would have the audacity to spring out of this deadly mess?             And then on a frigid afternoon, I see a barely perceptible sign of life. A little green point is poking through the dirt. My heart quickens, not daring to believe or hope. When I return several days later, I am excited to see the green point has become an inch of emerald showing off to its jealous surrounding thicket. The daffodils have survived.             My gratitude is short-lived. I am an impatient human. I scold the daffodils about how long it is taking for them to grow. “Come on, show […]

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Why We Write and Read about Crime

While I share online event fatigue with many of you, there is no denying Zoom has saved the day or now, the year. This was evident to me during the fabulous MURDER AND MAYEM online conference, the brainchild of Dana Kaye and Lori Rader-Day, which was on Crowdcast this past weekend, when a single comment created value for me that transcended all else on the schedule. One advantage of an online event comes in the form of a sidebar that appears next to the main presentation, where a contemporaneous conversation among attendees takes place. Among the chatter about how much we all miss one another, little gems will sparkle. Brilliant comments or provocative questions appear that never would be available to everyone who attended an in-person conference. Someone (forgive me for not remembering who, but the scroll fires as rapidly as the synapses in the attendees’ brain cells) posed the question about whether writers who write about crime, most often murder, are ever troubled that they are essentially entertaining people with tales at the expense of the pain that real crimes bring. People chimed in, revealing they also had been troubled by the question. The fascination with crime can feel […]

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A (Writing) Room of Her Own

Who won a copy of The Empty Chair, Murder in the Caribbean, the giveaway from Penny Goetjen’s appearance on Miss Demeanors last week. The winner is Nancy Novacek.

The Question of the week for my fellow Miss Demeanors is the question readers never seem to tire of, which is When and Where do You Write? What is your daily writing process and where does that magic take place? You are in for a real treat!

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A Trip to the Caribbean with Penny Goetjen

Note: Please see below for a chance to win a signed copy of Penny Goetjen’s mystery The Empty Chair: Murder in the Caribbean Michele: I don’t know about you, Penny, but between a long winter and even longer time under house arrest with Covid restrictions, I sure would love a field trip to a Caribbean island where we both have set a few of our novels. Penny: I know what you mean about wanting a getaway. And what better place, in the middle of winter, than the Caribbean with its warm, seductive breezes and alluring, white sand beaches? Michele:  What was it that first drew you to the islands and when did you know you wanted to set a novel there? Is your island real or imagined? The islands in The Empty Chair and its sequel Over the Edge are the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas in particular. And what drew me to them and continues to draw me is the stunning turquoise water. It just never gets old. Neither does year-round summer, balmy tropical breezes, or spending most of the time outside. The inspiration to write The Empty Chair came during one of my trips to St. Thomas. At […]

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Birds and Words

When I am in St. John (USVI) or San Pancho (Mexico), I am awakened by loud, rude roosters. On Cape Cod, boisterous turkeys in mass flock to my bird feeders early and vocally. Wherever, my day begins with birds. After grabbing a mug of dark French roast coffee with nothing added to ruin it, I perch on my writing spot and start measuring how the day is going by birds and by words. On a good morning, I will look out at the feeders and find six to ten Bluebirds chowing on the pricey mealy worms we buy each month. Their iridescent blue feathers contrasted with their fat peach bellies never fail to delight me. After waiting a lifetime, I saw my first Bluebird two years ago. It was love at first sight. Other mornings, I will look up from my keyboard to find loud and annoying starlings not just at my feeder, but in it. While the Bluebirds will surround the platform and peacefully coexist while they dine, one fat ugly Starling will sit on the platform precluding anyone else from joining him while he stuffs himself. Throughout most mornings, I am visited by cardinals, both Mr. and Mrs., […]

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Loving Letters

There is nothing like a handwritten note delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to make my heart flutter. I’m not necessarily referring to love letters, although here’s a public invitation to my husband to write me one if he’s so inclined. I’m referring to any personal communication from another human being who has taken the time and made the effort to move pen in hand on my behalf. I received many handwritten notes during the last year while we’ve all been isolated during the pandemic. I have also written more. Maybe the isolation inspired the lovely notes written in less than perfect cursive. Perhaps we’ve all tired of email and the even less perfect text messages with their uncivilized and lazy abbreviations. “Where for art thou?” in old-fashioned penmanship speaks more to me than, “Where r u?” My cousin John, one of my favorite people on the planet, is a gifted artist. He writes a beautiful note and decorates it and the accompanying envelope with his drawings. Several months ago, we spent an afternoon perusing letters written by our Irish ancestors. “My dear cousin Madeline,” they would begin, prompting John and I to introduce a new salutation in our letters […]

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Where Do You Get Ideas?

The question writers are asked most often seems to be, “Where do you get your ideas?” Since I was blessed to have a profession (lawyer) where I helped people solve their problems, I regularly witnessed the follies of human beings. Sitting in a courtroom every day, I was never bored and kept my ears, eyes, and a separate notebook open. I have more ideas than I’ll ever be able to use, but that’s not true for everyone.

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Eat, Drink, and be Literary

Welcome to By the Book, Miss Demeanors’ style. In the tradition of the New York Times Sunday feature, the question of the week is: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three authors, dead or alive, do you invite, in addition to your fellow Miss Demeanors, of course?

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Books to Get Me Through

Yesterday, my fellow Miss Demeanor, Susan Breen, talked about buying each of the books recently nominated for the Edgar in the best novel category. She rationalized, quite reasonably in my view, that money not spent in restaurants during the pandemic could be redirected to purchasing books.

But with so many books, how do I choose which books? The reasons seem to fall into the categories of Smart, Savvy, Sentimental, and Seemingly Silly.

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