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Thursday, April 1, 2021

Remembering an Infamous Man

Often, our personal memories of famous (or infamous) folks are more vivid and impactful than those provided to use by the news.

Such is the case of G. Gordon Liddy.

For those of you too young to know his name, Liddy became famous because of his role in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration. Some call him the “mastermind” behind the break-in that culminated in Nixon resigning.

Liddy spent more than four years in prison. He later said he’d do it all again for his president.

His loyalty to a difficult president and his participation of illegal acts made him a pariah to some. My mom never lost her empathy for him.

Mom and Liddy’s wife, Fran, went to the College of New Rochelle together. They were friendly and Mom lived in Fran’s mother’s home when Mom started her career as a teacher at an elementary school in Poughkeepsie, New York. They kept in touch as Fran married and started her family. Mom recalls the boys as being “good swimmers” and “each one of them was athletic.”

When Liddy ran for a seat in the New York congress, Mom held a cocktail party for him. She remembered her guests were more interested in drinking than listening to a fledgling politician, but Liddy was a good sport and kept his introductory remarks short and his humor sharp. If his later years evidenced anything, it was that he was passionate about what he believed in and didn’t shy away from taking action he felt compelled to take. “He had a dry wit that softened his imposing manner,” she recalled.

Why write these memories? I’ve written about Liddy’s involvement in a devastating chapter in


my family’s life. An arsonist burned down our family barn. Although not the lead prosecutor on the case, Liddy helped our family as much as he could.

The help he gave Mom and our family during that difficult time was enough to engender Mom’s lifelong sympathy for him. Be he good or bad, she wasn’t going to abandon him. During his four years in prison, she corresponded with him, recalling that his responses were “sparsely written” but appreciative of her connection.

When Fran died, her funeral was to be held in Poughkeepsie. A blizzard made travel difficult, but Mom made it to the church, only to find it locked. The priest said the storm had kept the family from traveling from Washington. Mom sent her condolences, but always regretted not being able to say her final good-byes in person. “I wanted Gordon to know I tried.”

When I told Mom of his passing, she said, “I’m truly saddened. I hope his death was peaceful.” She wasn’t going to forgive his wrongs, but she wasn’t going to take away from his good, either.

Of all the reactions I’ve read about his life, I think Mom’s recollection of him is the most kind.

 

 

Friday, March 19, 2021

THE MOST NERVOUS SPOUSES OF ALL

My crime-writing friends often joke about their search histories being stuff of NSA nightmares or of the sidelong glances received when overheard in public sussing out gory scene details.

Then, there are the nervous smiles from our spouses.

One friend couldn't decide on which poison to use to kill a pesky antagonist. Arsenic? Too common. Cyanide? Too traceable and the bitter taste a dead giveaway that could stop a victim from drinking a lethal dose. After sounding ideas off her husband, she gave him an iced lemonade made without any sugar to see how much he would drink before stopping.

He took a sip, put down the glass, and asked, "We're happy in our marriage, right?"

Long live the long-suffering spouse of a writer.

I thought my husband and I were beyond such misunderstandings or fear. After a year of 24/7/365 togetherness, all fears and worries should have been dispelled, or at least thoroughly aired out.

A Zoom writers' group proved me wrong.

We start each session with a prompt and write for five minutes. I've posted a few of the responses in this blog and it's always fun to see the different ways we continue from a single beginning. This time, the prompt read:

The last few nights she had a recurring dream about ...

I continued with:

"...killing him.

The delicious thought wrapped her in layers of warmth. No more leg twitches. No more snorts and grunts. No more stale flatulence.

She'd be free.

The wave of happiness receded with wakefulness. "Damn it," she said as she pulled on her robe.

Night after night. Happy. Wake. Happy. Wake.

She couldn't take anymore.

Then the dreams invaded her days. She couldn't stop the thoughts. Her only respite came in planning actions. Gun? Too messy. Poison? Where to buy? Accident? How? When? Where?

The thoughts wrapped her in happiness.

Then...he didn't wake up. She nudged him. 

She took the pillow from his head. 

Nothing.

"No! No! No! It can't be!"

She woke to a snort.

He rolled over. "Morning," he said.

"Morning, Love. Coffee?"

We read our responses aloud to one another, laughed at our follies, and continued on with our session. Afterward, my husband appeared at my office door. He gave me a nervous smile. "That's not the first time you killed a husband in your writing."

I scoffed. "I haven't! That was the first."

He then listed other times my characters' husbands or significant others met untimely ends. His memory stretched back into years.  

"We're happy in our marriage, right?" 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Sisters in Crime New England at the Newburyport Literary Festival!

Make a Mystery with Sisters in Crime New England Authors


 
​Join Sisters in Crime New England authors Richard Cass, Lorraine Sharma Nelson, Gerald Elias, and Connie Johnson Hambley as they build a story with YOUR clues while pulling back the curtain on the writing process! You’ll provide names, setting, motives, weapon and more. From each suggestion, the authors will talk about what goes in to each decision and how one small detail can alter an entire story. Join us for this interactive and fast-paced improv with authors and enjoy the fun as they create a brand new murder mystery on the spot!

Go to: https://newburyportliteraryfestival.org/ to learn more about registration for this FREE event.
 




 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

COUNTDOWN TO NEW ENGLAND CRIME BAKE!

 


Saturday, November 7, 2020, 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM ET

I'm beyond proud to be Co-Chair of this terrific conference.

The New England Crime Bake is the premier conference for writers and lovers of crime writing in New England. Held every Veteran’s Day weekend, Friday through Sunday, Crime Bake has sold out annually for almost a decade. This year, that pesky virus is keeping us apart, so we've gone virtual!  The conference is FREE this year and more of you can join us!

Jointly sponsored by the New England chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, Crime Bake is a learning experience, a networking opportunity, and a wonderful time. Attendees include writers at all stages of their careers, representing every genre in crime writing, including mystery, thriller, suspense, YA, historical, and true crime. In addition to writers, the conference appeals to all lovers of reading and crime, including librarians, booksellers, agents, editors, publishers, and fans.

The Crime Bake committee has worked hard to capture the essence of what makes this conference so special. We will celebrate the authors in our community who have had their debut novels published and hear the clever turns of phrase in our Flashwords! contest. As always, the Al Blanchard award will be given to the best short story! We'll have panels on writing during the pandemic and what the publishing landscape looks like in 2020. You won't want to miss industry insiders dishing on current trends.

Join us! This is the best year to sample what makes Crime Bake unique and loved!

VISIT THE CRIME BAKE WEBSITE FOR MORE INFORMATION


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Launched! THE SOUL CHANGER'S CONFESSION Short Story

My short story, The Soul Changer's Confession, is included in a wonderful anthology published in Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Volume 4 Book 1 by Running Wild Press.

This collection is built on inclusion of diverse voices but does so organically and with ease. Culled from submissions from around the world, authors from Kuwait, Ireland, France, Saudi Arabia, and more offer slices of perspective and life in delicious bites. A joyful and provocative mix of genres and styles made this anthology one of my favorites.

The Soul Changer's Confession is a bit out of the norm for me. Swapping souls among the living to create eternal soul mates sounds wonderful, but havoc erupts at a nursing home when the soul changer sees too much. Yes, I put a smidgen of crime in there too!

The Amazon listing describes Book 1 as, "[a] cornucopia of stories that span genres and styles. Our editor spanned the globe to find every style and type of story to keep you engaged and make sure that we never, ever fit neatly in a box." Available in Kindle and paperback, this book is perfectly calibrated to our times and for summer beach reading. 

Running Wild Press is woman owned and lead. They describe themselves like this: "We’re a tameless mix of creatives who find each other through books, workshops, conferences, blogs, and word of mouth. We share a love of reading and a flair for the unusual."

As an added bonus, the editors found so many great writers from around the world, they decided to create TWO anthologies. Running Wild Anthology of Stories Book 2 continues the exploration and fun. Enjoy both! 

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Uncomfortable Complicity of Silence

We are encouraged to say something if we see something. I did and found my voice.

Elder abuse is a hidden epidemic, one that will spread as the stress of financial hardships resulting from widespread unemployment and economic turmoil grows. It has no cure and the only known preventative is in the actions society takes. I learned it was essential not only to understand what I was seeing, but to have the courage to speak up.

National Council on Aging, NCOA, (www.ncoa.org) reports that approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse, with estimates as high as 5 million elders abused each year. Elder abuse is broadly defined to include all types–such as neglect, physical, emotional, and verbal abuse–one study estimates that only .07% of cases are reported to authorities.

When narrowed down to financial abuse and exploitation, the statistics are even more grim with the American Association of Retired Persons (www.aarp.org) stating that 1 in 44 cases are reported. Of those, few were prosecuted and even fewer resulted in conviction.

I held a natural reticence toward silence when I considered something was a private matter or a family affair. Husbands and wives quarrel. Parents reprimand children. Without physical harm, I did not understand my duty to report.

In elder financial exploitation, a bias exists to blame the victim. Granny should have read the fine print better or she freely chose that her child should have a new car or fancy vacation. It’s none of our business to question her decisions or to question the sudden apparent wealth of her child. By blaming the victim, we absolve ourselves of taking action.

I politely demurred and kept my silence until I realized the perpetrator banked on that, making me complicit in the crimes.

There is a price to the elder for our silence. NCOA stated elder victims have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated. Then there is the price of the concerned person who breaks the silence and dares to question the bonds of trust within a family. I know this because I am paying the price of breaking my silence. By honoring the trust of a beloved elder, I betrayed the trust of a family member by seeking help.

At its core, trust is a slippery weapon when used against the elder. Age or illness may have diminished their abilities, but trust and judgment remain as their tools for retaining independence and relevance. The World Health Organization recognizes an “expectation of trust” exists between the older person and their abuser. The elder writes checks or signs documents with trust, even as their eyesight may fail them or their ability to decipher terms wanes. Two-thirds of abusers are those who the elder naturally trust the most.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports, "Perpetrators are most likely to be adult children or spouses, and they are more likely to be male, to have a history of past or current substance abuse, to have mental or physical health problems, to have a history of trouble with the police, to be socially isolated, to be unemployed or have financial problems, and to be experiencing major stress . . . Most studies indicate that older women are more likely than older men to be victims of abuse.” (emphasis added)

The urge to protect the abuser is my beloved elder’s greatest hurdle. Like other elder victims, she is embarrassed and will not admit to harm in fear of the consequences the perpetrator may face. Age has made her increasingly dependent on others and often the abuser is the person she most relies upon for her support. By taking action against the abuser, she risks increased isolation.

Laws, created to protect, necessitate the elder to bear witness against the perpetrator, leading to few Orders of Protection and abysmally low conviction rates. Legal standards to prove duress or fear are not calibrated to the frail.

I did not challenge my own silence when learning of a single instance of misappropriation. Yet, repeated instances exposed her inner turmoil and caused my concern. The family did not want to see abuse and challenged my intrusion. The authorities supported me and encouraged her to break her own silence, even while acknowledging the devilish difficultly in prosecution.

With the weakening of our economy, incidences of elder financial exploitation will inevitably rise. As employment weakens, it may be the elder with the only secure source of income through their Social Security, investments, or retirement plan. They are ripe for harm. We need to help elders by recognizing the patterns of abuse that evidence financial exploitation.

There is a time in life when the child becomes the caregiver, the overseer and the protector. As a parent or guardian, we would never let a child be bullied, abused, or hurt. As the tables turn, we must offer that same code of protection to our aging population. It is our time to speak up and ensure our elders are safe and protected.

 


Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Writer's Community - Video Interview

Writers are always wondering how to reach readers. Take a look at this brief interview to learn how writing and author organizations can help you connect with readers, too!