Sunday, December 10, 2017

Blue Song, Far Shimmer (New Book)

I am excited to announce the publication of the sixth Liam Dutra mystery novel, BLUE SONG, FAR SHIMMER.  This one sends Liam on the lost trail of a Vermont woman who vanished back in 1925. As Liam traces her past through a far mountain landscape he finds himself confronting his own darkest fears and visions. 

Here's the first chapter if you'd like to check it out:

Chapter One

   Golden light suffused the chapel of Saint Augustine’s church.  The sound of the choir had the hushed feel of gentle snowfall, a soft blur as they sang--together, for the most part.  Or maybe it was that pale light somehow blending with the music, making harmonies sound better, more perfect than they actually were. 
 Our daughter, Rose, was a sleeping bundle, warm in my arms. Of course she was asleep: What better way to quiet an over-excited five-year old than a Mass delivered in murmurs on Christmas Eve by an elderly priest who seems to be barely awake himself?
Shawn’s mother, Faye Donahue, had warned us that Father Thomas, a guest of the parish this night, might be lulling, to use her word for it. But she was thrilled to have her daughter and granddaughter with her in church tonight. It was a promise we’d made to her, and making good on it felt right.
I myself was doing my very best to stay awake. The mellow light and stained glass, the kind voices, the smells of soap and perfume and wool clothes tinged with winter wood smoke were pulling me into dreamland.
But a sudden cold draft from the cathedral’s open doors at the end of the service stirred me awake. I stood, handed over to Shawn the slack bundle that was our daughter, and slipped into my old gray sweater.
Outside in the dark, people thronged in chattering groups to their parked cars along Barre Street. A century ago this street and been home to work-sheds for the granite industry and rows of apartment houses for the laborers--many of them Italian, Scots, Irish, Swedes---here in the hill-nestled city of Montpelier, Vermont.
 This church, tall and imposing with its gray stone and big rose windows, had been the heart of the neighborhood back then. In a smaller way, it perhaps still was, though the industry was almost-- though not quite--gone, and the people who lived here now were more apt to work for the State of Vermont, or the big insurance company up on the hill, or the retail stores and restaurants downtown and on the outskirts.
 From the shadows beyond a streetlamp, a tall, broad-shouldered man called out Faye’s name. She moved toward him, showing that same taut confidence of stride and bearing, that same quizzical tilt of head that I so often saw in her daughter.
 Shawn kept moving, as I would have, too, so as not to stir up the sleeping kid. I hung back, waiting for Faye.
Faye called me over to where she stood with the big man in the shadows.
 “Somebody who’d like to meet you,” she said, “And I think you’ll be very interested in what he has to say.”
 “Ethan LaSalette,” the man offered a handshake. I felt the hard calluses, saw now that he was about Faye’s age.  Even in the hazy light of the streetlights I could see that he had dark eyes and dark hair, a full and friendly-looking face.
“I’ve known your mother-in-law since we were kids,” he said. “Look, it’s cold out here. And I don’t want to keep you from your family. But I wanted to connect with you. I think we can help each other out.”
 His breath made a luminous vapor in the lamplight. The sounds of voices came from the front of the nearby church, along with a variety of footfalls--winter boots, high heels, dress shoes--on the stone steps.
“I saw your local history column in the paper, the City Bridge,” he went on. “I read what you wrote about looking for traces of a woman named Marie Dubois; about trying to find a granite statue she had posed for back in the 1920s.”
I had just begun the weekly column the month before. It was hard to believe that the one-sentence query at the end of what had been only my second column had already stirred up interest.
 “Like I wrote,” I said, nodding, feeling my heartbeat kick up a notch. “She’s only a name in somebody’s diary, a few sentences. But I’d love to know who she was, what might have happened to her.”
Ethan nodded back at me. 
     I could see that Faye was grinning, even as she hugged herself against the cold.
  “A woman named Marie Dubois was my mother’s cousin,” Ethan said. “Marie disappeared when she--Marie, I mean--was a young woman. And my mother was haunted for decades by… not knowing what ever became of her. And I’d like to know more about her, too. I can tell you some things. Maybe you know some things that I don’t. Let’s get together soon. But someplace warm, that’s not the church steps on Christmas Eve.”
 “Yes,” I said, thinking, if this is the same Marie Dubois, then here it is, the first gift of this Christmas.

(excerpt from BLUE SONG, FAR SHIMMER, by Kevin Macneil Brown, Liminal Editions, 2017)

 The book is available in print and kindle editions at


Sunday, December 03, 2017

First Snow at First Light

Second cup of coffee kicked on a  snowy Sunday morning, and next thing you know I had set up telecaster and a 20th-century digital delay, improvised and tracked this sonic meditation in one take. Added a little bit of ambient mandolin, then mixed down quickly, to keep the mood. I'm thinking this might be a regular thing in the coming winter. I like the impetus to work quickly and commit to the moment.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Watercolor Layers

I thought it might be fun to share the layers of a recent watercolor painting. The painting was made at home after my summer trip to Colorado. I had in mind the sunset that greeted me just an hour or so after getting off the plane.

First thoughts and memories.

                                             Sky and mountains.

                                           Sunset, Sand Mountan, Routt County,Colorado

                                         Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite on paper, 2017.


Friday, August 18, 2017

Colorado Sketchbooks

In July I traveled to Routt County, in Northwest Colorado. I visited family and did some historical research for a novel in progress.  On family outings and on solo trail runs  I carried small sketchbooks and a minimal pocket watercolor set. I made sketches of landscapes that caught my eye and heart, with the plan of making larger paintings from them in the months ahead. Here are a few I would like to share.
                   Mount Zirkel and Big and Little Agnes Mountains as seen from Steamboat Lake.
                            Hahn's Peak from  Steamboat Lake. In 1866, Joseph Hahn found gold, but succumbed to a brutal winter storm in 1867, before much could be mined. Others finished what he had started. The peak, part of the Elkhorn Range, dominates the landscape around it.
A solo trail run on the South Fork Trail in the Routt National Forest took me up though spruce and aspen and open meadows. One long meadow descent brought me to the quiet power  of the South Fork on its way to the bigger Elk River. I stayed a while, waded in the cold, rocky waters, then settled in to sketch.
                     Two views of the Zirkels as seen from the South Fork Trail.

All watercolor sketches by Kevin Macneil Brown, July 2017.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Midsummer Shores (watercolor paintings)

As always, the places where water, sky, and land come together are the places I love to paint.

Rocks at Oakledge, Lake Champlain

                                                     Berlin Pond, Changing Skies
                                  Paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper, July 2017


Monday, April 17, 2017

First Drafts and Passages

With the first draft  of a novel  put away to rest---or cure, or proof, or ripen-- for the next two or three months, I have been thinking about the way each book seems to bring to me an inner crisis.

Some books actually begin with the crisis: the thing I’m feeling a deep need to work out; a yearning and restlessness beyond any understanding or resolution except via the irrational magic of making it into a story somehow.

At other times the crisis gathers force only when I am well into the writing, and suddenly the narrative takes over most of my energy and focus, until the story is shaped, completed.  This can be exhausting, physically and mentally.

Each book has had its own arc of crisis and resolution, and with experience I have come to learn—to feel inside—the moment of passage. That’s when I know the first draft—what I call the story draft—is ready, along with its writer, to rest for a while.

As one who is fond of sky and water metaphors, I can describe it like this:  The story that forms and becomes visible is shaped by things unseen, just as the waves on the surface of a lake or sea take their shape and form and motion from the vectors of the wind and tides, from the shapes and proportions of whatever lies hidden below.

                            Island-  Mixed media collage and scan by Kevin Macneil Brown, April 2017.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunrise and Old Western Songs

The first day of spring is the official release date for my new collection of songs. This album gathers together western and Americana-style originals written and recorded over the past two years.


Sunday, February 05, 2017

Winter Light, Close to Home

 My focus this winter had been on writing, with mornings spent on a first draft of the sixth Liam Dutra  New England  mystery novel.
 I have nonetheless managed to find some time to paint, usually in the afternoons. These painting sessions have often become a sort of meditation on what is right here all around me-- a welcome respite from the immersed- in- another- world feeling that comes with writing fiction.
Here are a couple of recent watercolors.

Afternoon, Late January

Whiterock and Mount Hunger in Morning Light, January

Paintings by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor and graphite, 2017.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

New Year, New Light

                                                           First Light, First Day of the Year  
                                         Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown, watercolor on paper, 2017

It happens each year, of course, but I am always surprised at how noticeable the lengthening of the days and the strength of sunlight become,  just a couple of weeks past the winter solstice.

Another kind of light has found me in recent days also.  In December I was struggling to see my way further into the novel in progress. My production slowed way down-- despite a good start, I was feeling stuck.
 Just yesterday, however, something shifted. Here's what I wrote in my journal:

  ....logjam seems to breaking up...I think I need to just keep writing, letting the story come to me and take shape around the energy points that I do have in place already. It's a bit like a submerged mountain range: the high peaks are clear and visible, as is some of the ridge line. But there's a lot of mountain still beneath the water, waiting to be found. I've never had a story come to me this way before...