Coping with Earrings

I don’t know about you guys, but when I’m really stressed, I buy earrings. And I have lots of earrings from my days as a full-time trial lawyer. I still remember the day I walked into Nordstrom’s and realized I had a pair of earrings from every rack. (In Anchorage, Nordstrom’s is conveniently located between the state courthouse and the federal courthouse, a mere ten minute walk from any law office.)

I have kitschy earrings I never wear but they make me happy when I look at them. From my Swarovski period, I have crystal studs and big flashy crystal clip-ons. ACrystal earringst least I think these are Swarovksi. I got these for my mother of the bride outfit and then didn’t wear them.

It’s all a blur now.  Being the MOB is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had. It’s like childbirth only it lasts from the moment the engagement is announced through the inevitable tearful break-up after you’ve spent thousands in deposit, to the tearful reconciliation to the rebooking. By the time, they get married and ALL your ex-husbands show  up, you’re reading for a trip out of the country. But I digress.

The clip-ons are pictured here with the Dumbo I won on the  California Adventureland boardwalk. Dumbo has nothing to do with this piece but he’s cute and so I thought you might enjoy seeing him.

I have white pearl studs and black pearl drops.  I had little diamond chips but I lost one so I’m looking for a pirate to give the other one too. It’s good karma, you know.

But mostly I wear silver hoops these days because – ahem – they match my hair.

Anyway, I find myself suffering over what earrings to wear to the Crimebake banquet. I decided on a black velvet duster with matching camisole and pants. I can pretend I’m Miss Phryne Fisher. It’s November 11 in Boston.

I don’t want to wear rhinestone or crystal because it seems a little too early in the season for glam.So Mysteristas, I’m open to suggestions.


The Long Dark Night of the Soul is Over


So the wait is over. I have a book deal. The book I’ve nursed through I-don’t-know-how-many revisions will be published.

In high school, I had thought about writing as a career. I had a particularly skilled hand at morose self-absorbed poetry as a teenager. And, for some odd reason, I thought I was unique! (That’s what you get for not talking to other morose, self-absorbed teenagers. On the other hand, morose, self-absorbed teenagers don’t talk to anyone, do they?)

I thought about art school which in turn led to visions of teaching high school. Grant Wood could teach high school. Angels can teach high school. If I didn’t like teenagers when I was one, I didn’t expect I’d like them when I wasn’t.

So I went to law school and I get to write my little heart out: legal briefs. It’s a form of technical writing but sometimes there are opportunities to finesse a story. Not lie, mind you, just develop it in such a way that hopefully resonates with the reader.

And then the beginnings of my first started coming together for me five years or so ago.  An untimely death. A character. A plot twist. I felt like I was sitting in a theatre audience watching the story take shape. It wasn’t the whole story; that came with a lot of work. But it was enough. And it was important enough for me to want to tell, so I wrote. And studied writing. And read more than I’ve ever read in my life. And wrote some more.

So in a few months, my first book in the Maeve Malloy series, Deadly Solutions, will be published by Level Best Books. Right now, I’m feeling like Cinderella. Let the ball begin!



shutterstock northern lights

I’ve seen aurora several times since I moved to Alaska many moons ago. Most of the time, someone called and said the lights were out so I’d run outside and look. The best sightings are when it’s warm, which is rare, because warmth and night do not go together in Alaska normally.

Nevertheless, I recall distinctly one event about twenty years ago when someone had called on the phone. There I was standing in the middle of the street in front of my condo, with the aurora dancing overhead. Aurora moves like smoke, dissolving, shifting. For a moment you wonder if you saw anything at all or, if you did, it’s gone. Then it reforms and blazes like fire.

It was a warm night; I don’t remember wearing a coat. What I do remember is the sound.

You’re not supposed to hear sound when you see the aurora. It’s too far away. But I heard a soft hush as if the pantheon of gods overhead were whispering to one another. I read a few years ago that I’m not the only person who hears sound.  It is a phenomenon probably explainable in some dull neurological terms, but I prefer to think that Zeus has just leaned across the banquet table to tell Artemis a secret.

Because mystery is far more romantic than the mundane.

How about you, Mysteristas? Have you seen the aurora?


State Fair!

Fireweed is blooming. Termination dust (snow) is on the mountains. Rain is pouring down. And it’s State Fair time!

Every year around Labor Day, some 300,000 people clog the roads to Palmer, State Fair 2012Alaska, the little-known hamlet just south of the better-known hamlet, Wasilla, to visit the fair. That’s lots of folks considering there are only about 740,000 people in the whole state with 400,000 of them living within driving distance. But it’s tradition.

We go to ride the carnival rides, eat fair food (which as everyone knows is all calorie-free because of all the walking), see the quilt exhibit, the flower exhibit, lots of other exhibits, the farm animals and last, but not least, the giant veggies. Alaska grows some of the giantest veggies in the world. Here is a photo from State Fair 2012 of my three grandkids tired of posing, standing in front of giant cabbages.

During my ill-spent youth, I worked in a booth that sold balloons and inflated toys. We built a rickety plywood structure near the Midway behind which we lived in a camper trailer. Working from an hour before the fair opened until an hour after it closed and hanging out with the other carnies after-hours seemed glamorous at the time. Now all I remember is that my feet were always wet and cold and I spent most of the time wondering when I could go to the bathroom.

After thirty-five years in Alaska, I still go to the fair almost every fall with or without kids. My favorite things at the fair are (in this order):

1.      Ice creamState Fair 1983 bars dipped in molten chocolate and rolled in sprinkles,

2.      The quilt show,

3.      The farm animals, most especially the cattle and lamas and alpacas.

4.      The giant vegetables,

5.      The hot water faucet in the ladies’ room.


What about you, Mysteristas? Are you going to your state fair this year? What are your favorite things to do, eat or see?

Next to Justice, I Like Winning Best.

Matlock said that. matlockx-large

I like winning. I like winning a lot.

In my “day” job, I’m a litigation attorney. After doing court appointed work representing indigent accused earlier in my career, a noble job by the way, I figured out pretty quick that getting laughed at by prosecutors and cops was a drag.

Attorneys have a very clear idea about who the good guys are and who the bad guys are and I wanted to be a good guy. Mind you, I have nothing but respect for those who choose to defend the indigent accused. Spending one’s weekends visiting jails is a drag. The people you meet are often not very uplifting creatures. And the pay is awful.

One of my major shortcomings is that I like being the good guy. And so I worked in different areas of law, mostly in sole practice where I had no one but myself, the IRS, a ton of creditors and my kids to answer to, but I have learned that you don’t have to sell your soul to practice law. You can work the kinds of cases that you feel good about and make money too. Maybe not as much money as when you sell your soul but the trade off is worth it.

Nowadays I represent injured employees who have been treated unfairly by workers compensation insurance companies. And I do love winning those cases. So much so that Ifist-pump blog on my attorney website about it, post this little man, repost it on Facebook and then boost the post. I know for a fact insurance adjusters follow my FB page and so I am sending them a very direct message.

Because I love to gloat.

There is only one downside with owning your wins is that you have to own your losses too. Or you develop a zen-kind of philosophy that you not your wins or losses, that you are a human being — as are those sad insurance defense attorneys and adjusters I beat — and what I do is what I do, not what I am.

I’m sure I’m not alone. I bet you like to gloat too. Admit it. It feels good when you find an incorrect charge on your credit card and you’re successful in having it removed. Or when you dispute a traffic ticket and win. Or when you talk down a car dealer on his price or negotiate a favorable price for buying or selling your house. Or an agent signs you. Or a publisher signs you. Or you win a writing prize. Or your short story gets picked up.  Don’t you tell everyone you know? Because we’re only human.

And vindication feels oh so good. Better than chocolate.

What about you? What wins are you most proud of?


Father Brown

I am enchanted with the BBC mystery series, Father Brown. Seasons 1-5 are available on Netflix.


Father Brown is a priest in a charming English village. He is a mild-mannered, but headstrong, with the super power of connecting with bad guys’ need for redemption. Mark Williams, who you will remember as Ron Weasley’s father in Harry Potter, plays the Father.  His memorable eccentricities include riding around the village on a bike and carrying an umbrella everywhere he goes — although it apparently never rains in that part of England (it must be somewhere near Camelot).

Sorcha Cusack plays Mrs. McCarthy, the parish secretary. She may look familiar to you if you watch a lot of British mysteries, as her sisters, Sinead and Niamh, have appeared in Poirot, Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders. They look enough alike that I thought they were one person at different stages of her life until I jumped on Google.

There are various Watson-types besides Mrs. McCarthy that change up during the course of the show. Two of my favorites are Lady Felicia and her chauffer Sid. Lady Felicia is appropriately pictured here in red as she is a married lady who doesn’t act like one. She and Mrs. McCarthy tend to bicker like sisters. The roguish Sid is a former criminal, or maybe not so formal, who has the ability to go where the Father and the ladies cannot go. One of my favorite episodes was when he went undercover in a seminary.

The frustrated cop who tells Father not to do something when he should know that is exactly what Father is going to do changes from season to season. The name of the character is different and the actors are different but the role is defined by the function so, like Inspector Barnaby’s sidekicks, the characterization varies little.

Readers, what British mystery series is your favorite? Is there a character you especially like?


GRANTCHESTER_EPISODE2_02.JPGI, for one, am thrilled about the new season of Grantchester from our friends across the pond. I just want to take Sidney home, feed him a warm bowl of soup and wrap him up in a blanket.

And I want to slap Geordie around the head and shoulders with a wet dishtowel. An old, stinky dishtowel.

And sweet Leonard, another character I’d feed warm soup to and wrap up in a blanket. I want to keep him safe and tell him everything is going to be alright. I’d marry him and we could be lovely friends, going to bingo together, reading, going for walks.

Readers: who is your favorite Grantchester character?