Sunday, December 27, 2015

Liminal Reflections

                                            SAILBOATS, LAKE CHAMPLAIN
                        Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite on paper, 2015

Winter weather appears to be on the horizon at last here in Vermont, after what seems to have been the longest autumn ever.  This calm stretch has been strange, but it has also offered extended opportunities to contemplate big skies, bare light on the bare landscape, and reflections on waterways that seldom remain open and free of any ice so late into December.
Reflections, light, and water were important to me in 2015, coming up again and again in my painting and writing. So, as the year ends, it seems fitting that I take some time to go inside and reflect upon the currents, shapes, shadows, and light-falls that have guided my explorations.
Among these thoughts are those of deep gratitude for you who follow the words, images, and sounds I share. It is an honor to have you partake of these offerings, these energies I receive and transmit as best as I can. Thank you for your part in the confluence!
I look forward to new adventures and explorations in 2016, including the publication of the fifth book in the Liam Dutra New England mystery series, THE ISLAND OF ANCIENT LIGHT, sometime in the fall.
I wish you all wonderful things, for right now--and the year ahead!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

from THE ISLAND OF ANCIENT LIGHT ( Novel in Progress)

Over the past summer and fall I have been working on THE ISLAND OF ANCIENT LIGHT,  the fifth novel in the Liam Dutra New England mystery series.

 I finished the first draft a few days ago,  and I would like to celebrate by sharing a short excerpt here.
This scene finds Liam, a historian and writer with a penchant for stirring  up troublesome old secrets, at the beginning of a quest that takes him along the shores of Lake Champlain:

  …The morning brought good omens for my excursion up the lake in the Sea Nymph. They were bird omens, pretty much my favorite kind.
 Three massive great blue herons pterodactyl-ed over me in the silver-gray mist down at the marina in the quiet morning— the first herons I’d seen all season.
  A few minutes later, with the fourteen-footer and 50-horse Evinrude outboard chugging out into the smooth and silver lake passage, the mist breaking up to reveal a soft summer-blue sky above, I spotted an osprey, the mostly white fish hawk patterned with dark brown--massive, crook-winged, and powerful-- winging directly overhead.
 Both the heron and osprey feel like familiars to me, and sometimes they seem like guides in my line of work as a historian, writer, researcher.
  The heron knows how to hunt wisely and calmly: waiting and waiting in stillness at water's edge, then grabbing its prey decisively when the moment arrives.
  The osprey is always in motion, seeking its meal from a long view high above, then-- after finding it-- diving suddenly, explosively, into the water’s surface tension; grabbing with sharp talons and pulling up the dripping, struggling prey.
  I’ve found that both methods can work well when investigation and exploration—-the finding of lost things, lost stories— is the mission at hand....

    - excerpt from THE ISLAND OF ANCIENT LIGHT, a novel in progress by Kevin Macneil Brown (Coming in autumn  of 2016.)


               The Liam Dutra Series is available in print and kindle editions at


                                                      Kevin Macneil Brown's Author Page


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

October Ridge (Poem and Painting)

                                          October 6, Morning- Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown,
                                          watercolor on paper, 2015.

At the place below river bend you will find
the stone sluice, gray with shadows
that morning sun will soon submerge.
Turn north here, and toward
the quartzite mountains.

The wooden gate has fallen and rotted,
 but it’s still there,
 beneath a rusted galaxy of  dead leaves released
 by October wind and rain.

The climb toward the ridge will be a long one,
but you will arrive
at a grove of great beeches—you will know them by their
copper shimmer.

Reaching this high place, please, if you would like to,
write some words on the empty sky revealed
through and between
the trees above and around you.

 I would feel blessed if you would wait for me here:
 I am wandering somewhere along that ridge,
 and my heart is full to overflow
 with the dream of our reunion.

-Kevin Macneil Brown

Monday, August 10, 2015

Memories, Boats, and Reflections.

This summer I have been making paintings of boats, in particular following a fascination with their reflections on water in different conditions of sunlight and weather. A few days back I had a small epiphany when I realized-- and remembered-- one strong source for this.

When I was a boy I spent long summers in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where both my parents were born and raised. Back then, walks to the working harbor with my Grampy Brown-- John Brown-- were the very best part of my summer days. In memory I can still see the chaos of many boats along the piers, the patterns of reflection and shadow, the colors and motion of light and shade on the  never-still water.

Now, at Lake Champlain--mostly at Perkins Pier in Burlington, Vermont-- it seems that I am exploring,through sketching and painting,  some part of those mysteries and possibilities that I felt back then in Gloucester at seven or eight years old.

 The light and wind are always changing. Boats at moorings do not sit still. But there's plenty of summer left, and the beautiful angled light of autumn to follow. I figure I will  never run out of images to paint. 

And I find myself happily surprised to be learning how deep surfaces can actually be.


 Boats in morning light at Perkins Pier.  Watercolor sketches by Kevin Macneil Brown, Summer 2015.

Monday, July 27, 2015

summer light seen from front steps (watercolor painting)

Last week, a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms led me to abandon plans for a day of lakeshore painting.
But the light and shadow of a summer afternoon, seen shimmering right from my front steps, captured my attention. I made two sketches, and then realized I wanted to paint what I saw. So I did.
The thunderstorms never arrived, at home or at the lake.  But as it turned out, I was happy to be reminded that sometimes the front yard is exactly far enough to go.


Sketch  and painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, graphite and watercolor on paper,  2015.

Monday, July 13, 2015

River Morning

           River Morning, July
             Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite on paper, 2015.

Viridian of river, a current
strong enough to float blue slate
beneath the three mile bridge--
the bridge (sap green) that Hopper painted
in watercolor circa 1934.

Sun-splash on gravel bar
sandpiper flashing, silver
and buff in morning light

that song
a floating bell

the floating stone
is gone now
skimmed or sunken, like
space or time or memory.

Black locust, yellow birch, butternut
thicket to shade the curving
dark boughs holding, then releasing,
the veery’s sweet and spiraling
summer river song.

- Kevin Macneil Brown

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Launch and Trailer for SUMMER AND THE STEEL BLUE SEA

The Kellogg- Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vermont is one of my favorite places. As a writer and reader  I go there to explore, dig, discover, and enjoy. It's an honor to be presenting my latest book to my community and the world beyond, beginning right here in this wonderful library.

SUMMER AND THE STEEL BLUE SEA by Kevin Macneil Brown- Book trailer from Kevin Macneil Brown on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

On Writing a Summer Book

I wanted to write a summer book. My favorite summer fiction unfolds with atmosphere, sense of place, mystery, adventure, and plenty of the great outdoors. And outdoors is where I like to read in the summer: beach, backyard chair in the sun, maybe with a cup of coffee on the porch if it’s a cool, rainy day. With all this in mind, last spring I decided that my eighth novel would be a summer book-- thus I would write the complete first draft over the course of one summer.
I had been pleasantly surprised by by the number of readers who suggested that I write a sequel to HIGHWAY IN THE BLOOD and bring back Buck Hawkins, the steel guitar- playing accidental sleuth who narrates that 1970s-set novel. I was out on a trail run in May of 2014 when a full idea for story-line, setting, and most of the characters arrived all at once-- just as the ferns were unfurling and the maples leafing out to full green. I got the first draft written between May and August, writing in the mornings, letting the story resonate and deepen further during warm- weather runs in the woods and along Vermont back roads. As with HIGHWAY, I had a great time opening up my own memories of Vermont and New Hampshire in the 1970s. And of course, with Buck being a  working musician-- as was I during that era-- there was another  aspect of memory that was especially fun to delve into.
SUMMER AND THE STEEL BLUE SEA took 5 drafts, written between May of 2014 and April of 2015, making it the first of my books to be completed within a year’s time. (This feels like some sort of milestone to me--though of what, I’m not exactly sure.)
 I hope readers will  pick up on the beach-read vibe I intended, and that--in any season--they will enjoy the unfolding mystery, adventure, and sense of time and place that went into the pages.


You can find a preview and link for purchase here:

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When It's Sunset on the Sugarbush (A new song for spring)

Spring has been especially late in arriving here in Vermont. While the ground has softened and the ice has left the lakes and ponds, snow showers keep on coming just about every day. The grass still has some greening to do, and the maple buds are still closed up and tight.
While waiting,  I've been immersing myself in old western swing, enjoying gigs with my cowboy band, Big Hat, No Cattle. One result of all this is a new song I've just finished writing and recording-- a new old-school western tune with a New England  maple sugaring theme.
Here's a relaxed living room video of the song, along with a link to the recorded version, which features some western-style steel guitar. I hope you enjoy!

All of which might be a good segue into what's coming up soon: SUMMER AND THE STEEL BLUE SEA, the second novel in my Buck Hawkins mystery series, will be out in early June. Buck is a steel guitar player, a Vermonter who plays western music.  Final edits on the book are in the works right now. Please stay tuned !


Saturday, April 04, 2015

Cantos 1-3 (watercolor paintings)

                                          Canto 1- Teresa of Avila
                                            Canto 2- Julian of Norwich

Canto 3- Hildegard of Bingen

Paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper, 2015.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

pilgrim river path

   I grew up in the watershed of the great Merrimack River, which flows from the confluence of the Winnipesaukee and Pemigewasset Rivers in New Hampshire, 117 miles to the sea at Newburyport, Massachusetts.  When I saw Damian Mark Ryan’s series of photographs taken during walks along the railroad tracks and river paths of the Merrimack River mill city Haverhill, Massachusetts, I felt an instant resonance with my own journey; a powerful evocation of the layers of past, present, and possibility that vibrated with memories of the power of place. I knew within moments that I wanted to compose music to accompany these images.
   Damian Mark Ryan was a good friend during my high school years. We spent much time in conversation-- often walking alongside the Pemigewassett, just a few miles from where it became part of the Merrimack at Franklin Falls. We talked about literature, art, film, music, and, sometimes, our feelings about the New England landscape.  Before long, our conversations led to collaborations on student film projects.  Damian and I “met" again recently via social media, and it has been a nice surprise to renew a creative collaboration 40 years later.

  The texture of the music-- performed on electric baritone guitar with delays-- was suggested by the idea--and images-- of a lone pilgrimage through an urban New England landscape full of memories that are strong yet perhaps just out of reach. The intervallic, rhythmic, and harmonic structures are based on factors and addends of the number 12, again rooted in the the idea of pilgrimage and deep contemplation. Indeed, one possible translation of the Abenaki place name Merrimack  is “ at the deep place .” -KMB

Saturday, February 14, 2015

winter light on sleeping mountains

 Sub-zero temperatures, strong winds, icy roadways, and the constant accrual of snow have made this a rugged winter here in central Vermont.  Despite some hard slogging, I have been doing my best to hold in my heart and mind the beauty and mystery of winter, and somehow the contemplation of mountains-- along with the making of art and music inspired by this-- has helped.

The other day, following up on some research, I stopped at the library to look for a copy of Francis Parkman's THE OREGON TRAIL. I found a well-worn 1925 edition and took it from the shelf. Opening to a random page, I came across these words:

 There is a spirit and energy in the mountains, and they impart it to all who approach them.

With those words resonating, I offer a sampling of recent watercolors, along with a new soundscape composition for steel guitar and wordless vocals.  -KMB


       Park range, winter- paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite on paper, 2015.