Possibly the weirdest thing about being an author is the research–especially when it turns up Eleanor of Aquitaine as one’s 23rd great-grandmother. I’m also descended from a Tunisian who married a Spanish princess during the Crusades. And I can count among my ancestors a bunch of Brits who descended upon Providence, Rhode Island, in the early days of the colonies, and brought their incredibly fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren beliefs with them. Nonetheless, the grandfather who contributed that DNA to my mix was a first-class rascal, having been expelled from Albany Business College about 1901 for overturning an outhouse. He later went on to create a milk co-op in New York State that protected farmers’ income for decades until corporate conglomerates dismantled it in court in the late 1980s. He was dead by then, thank goodness, or I expect he’d have had something to say about it.
I’m quite proud of my late quietly crusading accountant grandfather; I’m quite amazed by my genetic connection to European royalty. I’m proud of my First Place Virginia Press Association awards, but possibly more fond of my ribbons for riding my beloved horse, the late Major Yeats, over fences.
But I’m still just a kid born in Brooklyn, NY, to ordinary working parents. And that’s the person who writes the snarky cozy mysteries featuring shelf Barker, a Brit with an Italian-American wife, and a large dose of attitude. I also write some pithy commentary and the odd book about horses. And stuff.
Aside from that, Granny Eleanor might be quite proud of some of my achievements, not least of which is having a “day job” for only about five years of my adult life, spending the rest freelancing. She might approve my love of horses and dogs and fine cuisine; not sure she’d approve of my liberal politics. But my rascally humanitarian grandfather clearly would…even though he was a lifelong Republican.
So here I am: a Brooklyn-born bundle of extreme contradictions. I love the Anglican Church for its beautiful music and liturgy, not to mention a number of lovely piles of rocks and stained-glass. But I follow a more shamanic path myself. I treasure America’s energy, but I live in the EU where the pace is more measured. I love the idea of travel, but rarely set foot on an airplane. (OK, that has more to do with the misery of flight these days, and a soupcon of terror.) I’d love to be a vegetarian for spiritual reasons, but…do mussels come in vegetable form?
You can think Shelf Barker is my alter ego if you wish, or wait until the beginning of the new year and see if the heroine of the second series of mystery novels is more like me than the fictional man named Graham Barker (no middle name because of his Trotskyite parents), but called Shelf. Or maybe none of the above.
My books include the following:
Time on a greased toboggan, dystopian poetry written because of the inhumane veering to the radical racist right of both UK and US politics. Despair, and hope. Cruelty called out. Great times and people remembered. A book for this time, but probably ALL times.
The Ancient Wisdom of Cats: Affirmations for life, inspired by the ancient wisdom of felines and the historic Dartmoor landscape (with photographs by Rachel Burch).
Cow-Tipping and the Deep Blue Sea: Poems of Cornwall and the Atlantic Rim. Illustrated by the author.
The Luminous Shadow of the Muse: Poems of Cornwall and life on the Atlantic Rim. Illustrated by the author.
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