P.S…. I’m still here.

It seems impossible that it has been a year since I actually updated this blog. I’d be ashamed if I had time for it. But ain’t nobody got time for that.

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It is once again my birthday, and I have once again used the occasion to examine how I spent the days in the year just past and how it would like to spend my life in the years ahead. Like every year that passes, this one came and went faster than the one before. I suppose it is an inevitable irony of getting older that time speeds up just as you begin to appreciate every minute you have.

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I accomplished many things this year in an arena that means a lot to me (state level politics) and I had a blast otherwise. I made many new friends, tried to keep in touch with old ones and, most of all, truly treasure the time I had with my daughter (who grows more adult every day). F did very little writing over this past year, perhaps the least of my adult life. But the writing I did was good and it kept me in the game. My friends in my writing group, the Weymouth 7, also kept me close to the writing world as well and I was grateful to them for it. When November rolled around, I was even able to get away from the rest of my life and join them for a writing retreat at the beach for a glorious six days of wallowing in nothing but plot lines and characters. During that time, I was able to make friends with my work in progress again and to make great headway in turning it into a book. It is a new Casey Jones and I was happy to find that I had missed her and that I both wanted to and could bring her to life again. Casey is and will always be a part of me and it was good to be reunited with her again.

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Casey Jones - Face OnlyAs if to reward me for not giving up the ghost, I had an unexpected request this month from a publisher who wanted to look at my Casey in progress. It is quite rare, rare enough to be deemed unheard of, in fact, for a publisher to show interest in an older series that has not broken out onto the bestseller lists. I am grateful that this publisher believes in me, and you better believe I am taking them up on their offer and sending them my Casey in-the-making. They may or may not publish it, only time will tell. But, regardless, it is good to know that I am not the only one out there who enjoys Casey and who appreciates the world I have built around her. I know that many of you who read my books also appreciate her, and I want to take the time right now to say “thank you” to you all.

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I am not one to walk away from anything unfinished. I’m not sure I could if I tried. Finishing things is my obsession. So this post is my pledge to you that I will indeed finish Casey #7 this coming year. Who knows? I may even find time to post more than annually on this blog as well. So thanks for sticking with me as I live my life. I’m still writing and I’m still here. Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, One & All — Including Moi

new year birthdayToday is my birthday, and if you’ve been following this intermittent, rarely-updated blog of mine, then you know that I like to use my birthday as a day of reflection. I look at the year behind me and the years I have left ahead of me and I adjust how I spend my time. It helps that my birthday is so close to New Year’s Eve. It allows me to make New Year’s Eve resolutions without actually admitting to doing so.

This year was a year of reckoning for me in many ways. I had a serious Come to Jesus meeting with myself and I gave myself a good talking to about priorities when all was said and done.  You see, in my other life, my job revolves around politics. And, as you can imagine, this was a big year for politics. To put it simply — politics ate my life in 2012. Days, nights, weekends, holidays… politics ate them all. After finishing my latest book in February, just in time for the primaries, there was precious little time left for writing, friends or exercise. Life pretty much consisted of work, more work and, happily, my amazing teenage daughter. It was fine while it was happening, it was just my life, but now that it is all over I find myself out of balance, out of energy and in need of some serious reallocation of how I spend my time and energy. The truth is: I miss my writing. It keeps me sane.

I’m not built for doing one thing and one thing only with my life. I get bored and distracted and, yes, I admit it — there may be more than a touch of ADHD going on. This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I want to be at the party. I want to be alone. I want Rocket Man to move over and let me drive. My Yin and my Yang have always battled over which will control my life. They probably always will. People, can’t we all just get along?

A case in point: I have a ferocious ability to concentrate on the task at hand. And I do mean ferocious. Just ask my (still wonderful) ex-husband, Andy, who used to play cow punk rock with his musician friends in our one-room New York City apartment while I wrote my books less than 10 feet away. If you don’t think this is impressive, then clearly you have never heard Warner Hodges of Jason and the Scorchers play guitar.

Continue reading “Happy New Year, One & All — Including Moi”

Mazel tov to us all!

Birthday journal

Today is my birthday. Not to put too fine a point on it, I am officially older than dirt. But I am also undeniably happy to be here and feel extremely lucky at the year behind me, a year which unfolded in unexpected ways and ended on a far happier note then it began. I woke up today feeling lucky and grateful for what I have.

I also woke up thinking of my friend Rick. I think of him on my birthday every year because of the great gift he gave to me, without even realizing it. Here’s how: Rick’s birthday is soon after my own. Conscious of what it is like to have a birthday near the holidays, I always tried to reach out to him and press him to celebrate in some way. But a few years ago, he explained to me that he liked to spend his birthday quietly and use it as a day of contemplation, as a time to look at his life and make conscious choices to do things differently if it was not as he hoped.

Continue reading “Mazel tov to us all!”

When death is no longer an abstract

My Dad, top row at right, at Harvard on a Neiman Fellowship in 1955, before the responsibility of caring for six children derailed his exceptionally promising journalism career. Rather than working late at the office and climbing the career ladder, he would come home to cook dinner for us.

Is there any obsession greater than death? No matter how hard we try to hide it, isn’t the popularity of crime fiction an indication that we humans remain, as we have for thousands of years, obsessed with the idea of no longer being here?  We are driven to wonder…. Where do we go? Where do our loved ones go? Do we linger, somehow, in this world? And if it is true that readers of crime fiction are, perhaps, more obsessed with death than most people — what does that say about the writers of crime fiction? Surely, we are the most fascinated by death of all? We spend our days thinking and writing about nothing else.

But the truth is that death is benign when you are writing about it. All those words, the plot, the puzzles, the mysteries surrounding it are artificial buffers that protect both the writer and the reader from truly experiencing the ultimate power of death. These buffers allow us to dance around it, poke at it and flirt with its finality without actually feeling the incredible pain it can bring into our hearts. Reading and writing crime fiction is a talisman of sorts — maybe if we steep in it enough as entertainment, it will pass by our door in real life?   This is impossible, of course, and when you feel an all-too-real threat of death that hits close to home, it looks and feels very different.

I have been lucky in my life. Even at my age, I have experienced relatively few losses. Yes, I have lost a friend who died far too young. I have even lost a sister, which was like losing a part of myself. She had always been there in my life and then she was gone forever. But her conduct in the face of impending death was one of such bravery and fierceness that her death was less a passing and more of a battle that left me filled with awe at her spirit. I have lost a parent as well, when my mother passed away almost five years ago. But she had suffered from Alzheimer’s for nearly a decade and when her body finally gave up its burden, we had long since come to terms with having lost her.

Now, though, death has become so much more than an abstract. My father, frail in health at age 86, survived a night two years ago that no one, most especially the doctors, thought he would make it through. Four times that night the doctors came to us to confirm that we had a “Do Not Resuscitate Order” on him and four times we confirmed it. He did survive that night, though, fueling my belief that, somehow, my family had cut a deal with death to pass us by. Since then, my father has been living with his heart working at 25% capacity, no small feat for a man who towers at over six feet tall. As it turns out, as we had always suspected, he really does have the heart of a lion. It has been steadily beating over the past two years and this tenderhearted, uncharacteristically sweet man has been with us for far longer than we expected. His life has become more limited, of course. He is confined largely to his bed at his nursing home. But in that time, it is as if his essential nature has distilled and burned even brighter, endearing him to staff even as it has made it more inconceivable to his children that we might lose him one day. This is no ordinary father, mind you. He did the heavy lifting when we were children, taking care of us in addition to working full time. When you have six children, this is an accomplishment that borders on the heroic. Continue reading “When death is no longer an abstract”