November 28, 2020

A Pandemic Park Tour by Maggie King

 When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

The great pandemic of 2020 is quite a big, juicy lemon. Baking artisan bread, sorting out sock drawers, and/or binging on Netflix are a few of the many ways folks around the world are making lemonade.

My husband I took to the local parks.

Last March, one week into lockdown, we came up with the parks idea. Parks are places where we could enjoy the outdoors while being socially distant. Parks offer oases from civilization, even when civilization is mere steps away. Richmond, Virginia abounds in parks.

We were familiar with a few of the parks that dot the Richmond landscape, but most were new to us. Fortunately, all have remained open since March. Bonus: parks generate lots of writing ideas. The mystery writer in me sees crime scenes everywhere!

Here are the parks we’ve visited over the past eight months (except for the hot, steamy summer when we took a break):

Mid-Lothian Mines Park is a preserve where we learned about the earliest coal mining in America. Trails wind through beautiful woodlands and past the cut stone ruins of the mines. A short walk through a tunnel leads to a lake with more walking trails.

In the picture, I pose in front of the ruins of the Grove Shaft.

Forest Hill Park, listed in Virginia's Historic Register, has been a quarry, an estate, and an amusement park! Walking around the park’s lake and climbing the pictured stone staircase invigorated, to say the least. I love outdoor staircases, a remnant from my years in Los Angeles.

The rustic Larus Park is a gem. We took a 2-mile hike through a rolling forest landscape with streams and many species of trees. The park is family and dog friendly and offers lots of different trails to explore. Small creatures abound. Despite being a mere mile and a half from home, neither of us had ever stepped foot in Larus Park.

Deep Run Park: hands down our favorite spot. Peaceful and beautiful with two ponds, walking and biking trails, and picnic pavilions. Many enjoy fishing and waterfowl-watching. Seeing people out and about, relaxing and enjoying themselves, reminded me of Europe and somewhat satisfied the longing to travel—a longing that we need to put off for now.

Bryan Park’s history dates back to the 19th century, making it one of Richmond’s oldest parks. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the site of Gabriel's Rebellion, a planned slavery insurrection. This sprawling park attracts visitors out for a scenic Sunday drive. The stone gateway entrance is impressive.

Unlike most of the parks on our tour, Glen and I have visited Bryan Park many times. We’d hoped to see the place ablaze with azaleas in April and were disappointed to find only a smattering of the blooms. Bryan Park is a picturesque spot, but it runs along Interstate 95, disturbing the peace.

Maymont Park is a Victorian estate and public park. It features Maymont Mansion, an arboretum, formal gardens, native wildlife exhibits, a nature center, and Children's Farm.

With Maymont’s open spaces, rolling hills, and natural beauty, you'd never guess you were in the middle of the city. Lots of trees are twisted into abstract shapes. Most of the animals are hidden from public view (animals social distance as well).

Tuckahoe Creek Park is quiet, desolate, and other-worldly, but close to civilization. The turtles came out in force to entertain. It’s a marshland, so we didn’t get in much walking.

Besides walking through parks, I bake (not artisan bread, though), read, watch movies and shows, and participate in a LOT of webinars on Zoom. If anyone knows how to look decent on Zoom, please let me know! Alas, my sock drawers, and other drawers, remain in disarray. I try to write, but, like many writers, I find myself pandemic-challenged. I have three short stories coming out in the next year, and I’m looking forward to presenting them to the world.

Through it all, I don’t forget that I’m one of the lucky ones. The pandemic hasn’t impacted my life to a great degree, but I’m well aware that it’s been devastating for many. I pray that they will find the help and comfort they need.

Stay safe, everyone. Visit us in Virginia once the pandemic ends. Put our parks on your agenda.

And keep making lemonade!


I’m giving away 2 e-copies of Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Please comment for a chance to win and leave contact info. Thanks for stopping by.


Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries, 50 Shades of Cabernet, and Deadly Southern Charm.

Maggie is a founding member of Sisters in Crime Central Virginia, where she manages the chapter’s Instagram account. Maggie graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Business Administration, and has worked as a software developer and a retail sales manager. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and two mischievous cats.

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October 25, 2020

Tennessee-Nashville at Night with Author Linda Thorne


On Monday March 5th, I was at work when my boss stepped across the hall from her office to mine, stood in my doorway, and told me the first case of Coronavirus in Tennessee had been reported in her county, a county adjacent to where we worked in downtown Nashville. That was the beginning. By the end of the week the iconic ATT&T building in downtown Nashville (also known as the Batman Building) was closed for cleaning due to a second case.


From there a domino effect went into action and reports popped up here and there, and everywhere.  On March 12, just a week from the start, Tennessee Governor Lee issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency until mid-May. The next day, Friday March 13th, was my husband’s birthday. We decided to take a chance and go out to dinner while we still could. The picture below is us enjoying a night out at a Mexican restaurant.


After dinner, my husband suggested we hit Great Clips for haircuts, saying this might be our last hooray before places closed. We got haircuts and then went undercover.

On March 16, Nashville mayor forced bars to close in Nashville and all other cities in Davidson County and imposed limitations on restaurants. Schools were closed by March 20.

 On April 2, Governor Lee issued a temporary "stay at home" executive order for the entire state. Barbershops, beauty salons, and restaurants closed too. The order continued to be extended. Sometime close to the end of March my employer ordered all non-essential workers to work from

home. To the day of this post, I still work from home with no sign of this changing. Below is a picture of downtown Nashville on a regular Saturday night before the entertainment places were closed followed by what the city looked like after the closure.


On May 15, the state of Tennessee announced Phase 2 reopening. I believe this was when hair salons, restaurants, and gyms could reopen under certain restrictions. I had my hair cut at the safest place I knew on two separate occasions, but the last time, the beautician next to mine was not wearing a mask. She had a doctor’s excuse not to. I never went back. My husband never went to begin with. He bought clippers online and we have helped each other cut our own hair. A first for both of us.

Killer Nashville’s Writer’s Conference continued to choo-choo along as if it could pull off its big conference planned for August 20th through August 23rd. It had much of the schedule prepared, speakers, assigned, but by the end of the first week of July, it too threw in the towel. I’ve included the link to a post I wrote about this sad event: Killer Nashville, The Pandemic, and Me..

Killer Nashville, The Pandemic, and Me

The Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference, held annually in late

August, recently cancelled but link to details here:

Following the fall of Killer Nashville’s 16th annual writer’s conference, the 32nd annual Tennessee famed Southern Festival of Books went on earlier this month, but virtually, leaving out the tents, the book sales, the outdoor activities, the vendors, the indoor author sessions, and the crowds. It did go on, but not with the indoor/outdoor festivities it has come to be known for.

It’s sad for me to watch such a lively city wait to come back.    

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Note about Linda Thorne’s post:  Such a current topic.  I wish you all health and safety during these times of trouble.  I’ve been lucky with my job as it’s considered essential. There’s trash during pandemics or not.  I know many aren’t as lucky.  I know more and more of us have family and friends who’ve been affected with this pandemic through illness, loss of income and all the other things that go along with this.  As a person who went through periods of food insecurity, I know how bad that is and I am praying for you for all these reasons.  Annette

October 7, 2020

Greetings from Rhode Island, Home of Eliza Carter


As the tiniest state in the nation, Rhode Island often gets lost in the shuffle, but we apparently made a comeback in the headlines with our calamari! To be honest, though, I didn’t spend this past summer as usual. I doubt any of us did. No frequent trips to the beach, followed by sampling the sea’s fried delights at a different roadside stand every weekend (variety is important). 

But while I wasn’t able to loll in the sand as much as I would like, I did do more hiking than I have in recent memory. I drove around the state with my family (it only takes forty-five minutes) searching for new-to-me and long-unvisited trails. Some of my favorites:           

Sachuest Point

 Right next to Newport’s world-famous beaches is a secluded wildlife refuge. There are sandy paths to roam, cliffs to admire, and the sound of crashing waves echoes in your ears during the entire hike. If you’re there in the morning or at dusk, you’re likely to spot deer. Turkeys are almost a certainty, as well as a number of other local birds.       

The trail network at the Cumberland Monastery, home to Nine Men’s Misery. Constructed in 1676, Nine Men’s Misery is believed to be the oldest veterans’ memorial in the nation, erected to commemorate colonists who were killed during King Philip’s War. The monastery itself is no longer used by a religious order, but instead serves as the public library. Although it suffered fire damage in the 1960s, it’s a fantastic building.          

These trails are absolutely stunning when wildflowers are blooming, but I think I’m even more excited about visiting them in fall. The leaves are just weeks—perhaps even less—from their peak. Northern New England gets all the acclaim and glory for its foliage, but Rhode Island’s is nothing to sniff at. And the best part is you can blink without missing it. There’s time to enjoy autumn’s robes before they get covered in snow. Though I’ll take my cross-country skis and snow shoes back for that, happily enough, in a few months.

I finally ventured out to eat in my favorite seaside town in August (and yes, I partook of calamari—there’s just no way for a home cook to do it justice).  Bristol was once a center of whaling, fishing, and trade, as well as, sadly, the trafficking of enslaved people. Many homes date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and although its history is complicated, the town’s architecture and setting by the ocean are stunning. St. Michael’s Church, on the main thoroughfare, was founded in 1718 by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London. Much of the downtown area is on the National Historic Register. It holds the country’s oldest Fourth of July parade each year, down Hope Street.

Rhode Island is a state rich in history, which is perhaps one of the reasons I’ve always been in love with the subject. Writing historical romance was a natural choice. I write in many different time periods and settings, but two things remain constant in my stories: a deep appreciation for the past and a happily ever after.

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September 28, 2020

Hello, from Pennsylvania! From Cindy Speer

I am really happy to be able to talk about my state!  I grew up here, and have lived here all my life.  That does not mean I’ve not traveled…I’ve road tripped across the US and into Canada several times, and while I have seen wonders that fill the heart with such joy at their beauty, I find that I love this area the most.  I love how very green it is – the deep forests, the limestone rocks and their random formations, the roller coaster hills.  This part of PA has the Appalachian Mountain chain running through it, so flat we are not. 

I live in a valley a bit away from people…on a very hilly bit of land.  When the windows are open and if it’s been raining, there is a creek (crick, if you are from this part of the state) that runs and you can listen to the water, which is so soothing to my heart.  Right now we are waiting for a good frost so that the leaves turn bright, but it is still fairly green here, fairly warm for late September.

My modern stories…Blue Moon and Unbalanced take place in south western PA.  Libby from Blue Moon shops in Uniontown, Andromeda from Unbalanced works out of the Pittsburgh office, her boyfriend Alaistair owns a storefront that can be along any of the river towns that fill the area.  (We have three rivers – the Monongahela runs not far from my house, and there’s the Youghiogheny and the Ohio) and Alex, the protagonist from Blue Moon gets tied up, movie villain style, on train tracks that could have run along any of those rivers. 

Those elements seem so very normal and every day to me, but I know from my travels that other parts of the US are quite different.  Right now I hear the night bugs chittering away through my open window.  The barge works down at the river booms as something is sent into the water of the Mon.  One of the long coal trains wails its warning as it trundles through the dark.  The leaves will fall, the bugs will be silent, but the boom and wail will continue on, muffled as my windows close against the cold, but still there.

They don’t have much to do with my most recent book, though a river divides the lands of the Fae and Human, and it is airships, not trains, the dominate the land.  But I suspect the deep forests of the north are the deep forests of my Laurel Highlands, the green gold light through the trees the same I have seen on many occasions as I drive through the forest roads and home.

If you would like to catch up with me sometime, please visit my webpage, – there you will find links to my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, though if you search for me by my fill name I am sure you will find my easily.