A Character Is Born

In December of 2019 before Covid turned the world upside down, I was flying back to the East Coast from Phoenix. I started talking to the young woman beside me and asked where she was going.
"To Washington to visit my great aunt. She's eighty-five and lives in the house she was born in."
"No other family with her?" I asked.
"No. But we don't worry about her. She rents rooms to Secret Service and FBI agents. There's always someone in the house with a gun."
Although she didn't realize it, my fellow passenger had just given me the seed for a new character. And added dimensions presented themselves. A friend of my parents told me that back in the early 1940s she worked after school in the FBI's fingerprint department, classifying and categorizing prints with a magniying glass. My character could also have worked for the Bureau, eventually becoming an agent. Now, although she's retired, she still keeps her hand in the game and she's fiercely protective of her roomers past and present.
So, I wrote a mystery novel creating a character who is smart, feisty, loyal, and determined. I thought what if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been an FBI agent? The answer – seventy-five-year-old Ethel Fiona Crestwater. A force to be reckoned with. She'll be making her debut in the not-too-distant future.

2021 – New Story or Dangerous Sequel

We begin the New Year with a sense of relief. Pundits and commentators repeat the mantra, "2020 is in the rearview mirror" as if rolling a digit from zero to one means the worst is behind us.
I'm reminded of that great shot in Jurassic Park of the T-Rex chasing the vehicle. The mirror bears the phase "Objects Are Closer Than They Appear." As we put distance between us and 2020, we would do well to remember that phrase. We are not outrunning the problems that led to our past year of infamy: a year that saw racial reckoning and protests; a year that saw a large number of our fellow citizens willing to infect others with a fatal virus because they didn't want to be inconvenienced or told to wear a mask; a year of political turbulence where leaders seek power by pitting us against one another.

2020 might be in the rearview mirror, but its underlying root causes are very much with us and ahead of us.
The story of 2021 will be told in how we confront the issues that did not magically disappear when the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2021. It will be told through civility, compassion, empathy, hard work, and a realization that seeking the common good is the goal of a democracy. If we, the characters in the story of 2021, make these our themes and motivations, then 2020 can truly be relegated to the rearview mirror and together we can focus on the promising way ahead.

Charles Dickens in the Age of Covid-19

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epic of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…*" it is the time of Covid-19, it is the test of our age, and it is the calling for hope, for a shared hope that the best virtues of humanity will prevail – love, compassion, kindness, consideration – that we may look back and say what we witnessed and what we did were far, far better things because they were done in service to one another.
Stay home – Stay safe

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A Tale of Two Cities

The Day Babe Ruth Died in Asheville

One thing I enjoy about writing fiction is not just making things up but rather discovering historical facts that can fuel a fictional story.

The Sam Blackman series revolves around the Past creating murderous consequences in the Present. The events don't have to be major, but they do have to be interesting. Such is the case of the story of how Babe Ruth died in Asheville, North Carolina.

In the spring of 1925, the Bambino and his Yankee teammates were traveling by rail from training in Florida back to New York. Along the way, exhibition games were scheduled to build excitement and generate revenue in the days leading up to the season opener.

After stopping in Knoxville, Tennessee, the team continued by train to Asheville. Evidently, Babe Ruth consumed so many hotdogs and drank so much beer en route that he collapsed in the Asheville depot. He was carried to the Battery Park Hotel and word rippled through the reporters that Ruth had died. The news spread like wildfire around the globe. For twenty-four hours, Babe Ruth was dead in Asheville.

Then the facts caught up with the fiction. The Babe had an intestinal abscess severely exacerbated by his horrendous diet. He would not return to the team until June. One reporter dubbed it, "The bellyache heard round the world." I ask you, how many towns are famous for who didn't die in them?

But that trip to Asheville wasn't his last. In 1931, the Babe and teammate Lou Gehrig played exhibition games, each hitting homeruns in historic McCormick Field. And that leads to the "what if?" question – who got those homerun baseballs? If autographed by those giants of the sport, what would they be worth today? And though Babe Ruth escaped death in Asheville, would someone else tied to the game not be so lucky?

It's a mystery to me and one worth exploring. Stay tuned….

What's Snew?

When I was in college, a friend of mine used the corniest opening line to start a conversation with a woman whom he found interesting. In all seriousness, he said, "Excuse me, but you've got some snew on your shoulder."
Alarmed, the woman checked each shoulder, and, seeing nothing, asked, "What's snew?"
"Not much. What's new with you?"
Would you believe the couple are nearing their fiftieth wedding anniversary?

"What's new?" It's a question to consider as we enter 2019. A new resolution? A new diet? A new exercise regiment? A re
newal of lapsed friendships? For me, one thing will be plotting and writing a new book for 2020. Not only will I experience new things in my life, but also in my characters' lives as well. A new year means new discoveries for these people who have grown very real to me. They have pasts that shape their futures. And whether the story happens in the worlds of Sam Blackman's Asheville detective agency or Buryin' Barry's small-town funeral home, new events will create conflict for them and those they love.

At this point, I don't know who will take centerstage or what challenges they will face, but we will share this New Year's resolution, that a resolution of the story will be completed within the year. And that my characters and I will be wiser for the shared adventure.

Then I'll look for more snew. It's bound to be hiding somewhere at hand. All I have to ask is "What's new?"