Friday, November 28, 2014


     Among the many things at which I've failed as a parent is instilling a sense of family tradition in my children.  It wasn't that long ago that I read about a study which found that the happiest, most secure children are those who have a strong sense of their roots, including time-honored family customs and rituals.  Well, I personally suck at following customs and rituals, which obviously has made it tricky for me to pass them along to my offspring.  But then came yesterday.
     Yesterday was Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with just the four of us, and then my daughter's boyfriend joined us for dessert.  And that was when I learned that - as perhaps I should have remembered from last Thanksgiving, but didn't - we now have a wonderful new Thanksgiving tradition at our house, thanks to my ever-inventive husband.  While we eat dessert, we go around the table and take turns reading aloud from WALTER THE FARTING DOG.

     It's a fairly straightforward narrative.  Walter is adopted from the pound by an unsuspecting family.  By the time his gastrointestinal disorder makes itself known, the kids have already fallen in love with him.  Heartless Father, however, deaf to the heartrending pleas of his children, cannot tolerate the noxious fumes and is resolved to send Walter back from whence he came.  Tragedy is imminent... and then wouldn't you know it, Walter saves the day in the very nick of time.
     Naturally, this deceptively simple tale operates on many different levels.  For example, Walter's farts - despite the graphic nature of their descriptions in the book - may simply be metaphors for any form of "difference," or deviation from the norm.  And Father's desire to send Walter back to the pound may well be a euphemism for his belief in the practice of eugenics.  Father is clearly a cesspool of repressed rage whose excessive degree of repulsion with Walter hints at a dark secret in his own past.  I foresee many years of deep and meaningful family discussions as we plunge ever deeper into the postmodern symbolism of Walter and his "socially unacceptable" means of expressing his unconscious impulses.
     Best of all, though, is the fact that we now have a family tradition of which we can be proud.  Thanks to Walter, I have newfound confidence that, despite all my parental failings, my kids are going to be okay.

Monday, November 24, 2014


     I only have a couple of things to say about the grand jury's failure to return an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson; I'm too demoralized to write anything lengthy.  But what I do have to say is based on my knowledge and experience as a criminal defense attorney for the past 27 years.  Grand juries are the pawns of prosecutors, who are experts at manipulating the outcomes of grand jury proceedings.  How do I know this?  Because I've heard prosecutors boast about it, proudly repeating the aphorism that they "could indict a ham sandwich" if they so chose.  Prosecutors are obligated to leave the voting to the grand jurors, but they treat this as a mere technicality; every day, in every county of every state, prosecutors knowingly and intentionally manipulate the grand jury system to achieve their own desired results.
     You saw Prosecutor McCulloch.  You saw his disdain for his own witnesses and their credibility; his pugnacious insistence that the essence of the case against Wilson was a twisted myth perpetuated by the media.  I don't know whether he personally made the presentation to the grand jury or whether it was one of his minions, but here's something else I know from experience: prosecutors' offices are completely hierarchical in structure.  The prosecutor calls the shots, and everyone who works for him or her falls into lockstep or risks getting fired.  Can there be any doubt that the resentment McCulloch so openly communicated to the public tonight for the fact that he even had to present this case to the grand jury was unmistakably communicated to every person in his office?  And can there be any doubt that the message was then passed along subliminally to the grand jurors themselves?  The same witness can present the same testimony, but be viewed completely differently, depending on how the prosecutor presenting the case chooses to conduct the questioning: respectfully, neutrally, skeptically, or anything in between.  Grand juries return indictments on ludicrously weak charges ALL THE TIME.  Prosecutors have acknowledged to me that they routinely over-indict, submitting charges on which they know the grand jury will return indictments but which they themselves know they won't ever be able to prove at trial beyond a reasonable doubt, in order to have more bargaining chips when it comes time for plea negotiations. When grand juries do decide to no-bill cases, it's almost always because the prosecutors recommended that they do just that.
     To me, there's no doubt whatsoever about what happened with the Ferguson grand jury.  Any doubt I might have had was decimated by McCulloch's demeanor.  In probably 98% of cases presented to the grand jury, prosecutors make sure to get the result they want.  This case falls within that 98%.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


     Okay, so now this blog isn't allowing me to post my own comments in reply to other people's comments.  This is a very annoying glitch which I haven't encountered before.  I've tried my (extremely limited) array of tricks, all to no avail. Are there any tech wizards out there who can help me?  I'll just thank you in advance in case you have a suggestion to offer, because if it doesn't work I still won't be able to leave a comment to thank you, but I will nonetheless be very grateful!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


  This title has a dual meaning.  I'm still here, meaning that although I've shamefully neglected my blog over the past two weeks, I still exist.  I just haven't had time for much of anything outside of working at my Paying Job during the day and working at my Nonpaying Job - writing - in the evenings.  Because - and here is the second meaning of the title - my Muse is STILL HERE.  She has hung around for two weeks now, bless her, and she and I have accomplished a lot of revision during her visit.  There have been evenings when she's been here and willing to jump in, but I've been too tired even for her.  For the most part, though, we've been hustling, she and I.
     Amazingly, the crazy system I came up with for adding a new plotline to my book has been working, for the most part.  I haven't completely written each chunk, but I've written enough to know what happens in each episode as well as approximately when in the existing story it has to happen.  Last weekend I drew up on a big sheet of drawing paper a chapter-by-chapter, month-by-month timeline for the book as it then existed, and then I began the process of figuring out where each new partial chunk of story belongs.  And since then I've been transferring those chunks, one at a time, from Document #2 to Document #1, and then fleshing them out with the new ideas that the Muse keeps feeding me.  It's a messy process, but progress is being made.  Of course, once all the partial chunks are in place (which should occur fairly soon, I hope) I'll still have to complete them.  And even then I won't be close to done because I'll have to go through the entire book line-by-line and figure out what needs to be added, or subtracted, or woven together.  But that's all okay, because I can see the endpoint far off on the horizon.
     So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  The world swirls around me and I ignore it all and focus on my book, watching it come to life word by word, emotion by emotion, link by link. 
     Lord, this makes me happy. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


     I spent this weekend in Princeton at the New Jersey SCBWI fall craft conference.  I really enjoyed it.  I learned some things at the workshops, including some great sources for incorporating a new plotline into an existing novel (thank you, Yvonne Ventresca!), some other great resources for writing historical fiction (thank you, Darlene Beck Jacobson!), and what an objective correlative is. (Thank you, Meg Wiviott!)  I met some very nice people.  But here is the best part. 
     As you may know from prior posts, I'm adding a new character and a new plotline to my novel.  I know the character now, and I knew much of how (although not exactly where) she would be introduced into the story.  The problem was that although I had figured out how she would (or would not) be involved with the main character for the three months following her entrance onto the scene, the main story line continued for another seven months from that point, and I had to somehow make myself know what would happen to her for the rest of that time frame.  And I didn't have a clue.
     Until yesterday.  I spent all day Saturday attending workshops, and I'd planned to do the same all day yesterday, but at about 10:30 I looked over the list of available workshops again, and not one of them grabbed me.  So I decided that rather than attend any one of them, I could use my time more productively by actually writing.
     I walked over to the building where lunch was going to be served, found myself a comfortable chair in the entrance hall, took out a pad and pen (because I hadn't brought my laptop with me), and sat down to think about my character and what she needed to do from October to April.
     EUREKA!!  Suddenly, after weeks of fruitless scratching around  in the deep recesses of my brain for ideas, I just knew.  I knew the main thing that had to happen, and as soon as I knew that, it became obvious what had to happen in order to lead up to it, as well as what had to follow it.  I repeat: I just knew. And I started to write. And I didn't stop until people started streaming into the building for lunch.
     This has never happened to me before: a writing puzzle solving itself before my very eyes, and making it look effortless.  And so I'm chalking the experience up to my having been immersed in the magical brew of this conference, from my toes right up to and including my brain, which for that hour and a half magically swelled into a superbrain.  Exactly long enough.  And though, sadly, my brain has now reverted back to its very nonsuper self, I know with 100% certainty that all the ideas I came up with were absolutely right for the story, and that in fact they were the only ideas that could have been right.  And for the life of me, I can't understand how I could have failed to see all of it in the weeks leading up to the conference, when there were so many ENORMOUS clues already existing inside my manuscript, if I had only bothered to look.
     What's that elixir that Harry Potter swallows at some point in one of the books (I can't remember if it made it into any of the movies) that suddenly gives him perfect, almost Godlike clarity of vision, so that in an instant, he knows exactly what he has to do and exactly when he has to do it?  I seem to remember that it involved Harry's marching down immediately to Hagrid's hut, although he couldn't have said why, and its turning out (of course) to be exactly, but exactly, what he needed to do at that precise moment - I believe it was to overhear a conversation which then required him to take action in order to save Hagrid from a terrible calamity that would otherwise have befallen him.
     Well, it was like that.  And you know what else?  At this point, the magic has lasted for a day and a half.  Pretty potent stuff, wot?  Because today I was on jury duty, which is something I dread every time it happens (and it happens to me a lot) because I know full well that I will waste my time traipsing from one courtroom to another but that (as a criminal defense lawyer) I will never ever make it onto a jury panel.  But today - today - as soon as the orientation session ended, I sat myself down in the computer room with my laptop, and I wrote and wrote and wrote all day, and not once did I get summoned to a courtroom in order to sit through the tedious selection process, only to be bounced off the panel and sent back to the jury assembly room to go through the whole thing all over again an hour or two later.  Not ONCE.  I wrote and wrote and wrote, and it flowed and flowed and flowed.
     I can be a real cynic, and it's not often you'll catch me saying this, so listen up: I do believe in magic.  I do.  I do.  I do.