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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

I was reading an article this week on tips for obtaining a literary agent. What struck me was the author’s authoritative insistence that without a “perfect” manuscript, drafted and redrafted and redrafted yet again, a writer is doomed to be ignored and never to be published. If that is true, I am wondering why so many books are out there, indie and traditionally published alike, because I am yet to read a “perfect” one. Have you?

I myself hate the cult of “perfectionism” because it creates a myth that victimizes the rest of us who are just trying to do our best work. Note that “ best work” is not “perfect work.” In between learning that Dance For A Dead Princess had been nominated by Foreward Reviews for its Book of the Year Award in Romance and learning Dance was the sole Finalist for the Beverly Hills Book Award in Romance, I got an e-mail one morning informing me my “review was ready” from a indie author book review service I had contacted ages ago. I scrolled down and read absolutely the nastiest, snarkiest review of my book imaginable. No, let me rephrase that. The nastiest, snarkiest review of any book imaginable. Apparently I’d unwittingly fallen into the hands of the High Priestess of Perfection. So while munching my slightly underdone egg and overdone toast, and drinking a less than perfectly brewed cup of coffee (but happy to have a warm breakfast anyway), I learned that the High Priestess found my plot “contrived,” thought the use of the diary to tell the inner story was “the oldest literary cliche” out there, and was just outraged because the word “lame” got into the text without an accent over the e. Oh, whoops, my eternal bad. High Priestess said nothing about my ability to draw a reader vividly into a scene. (A New York editor had given me that accolade years ago.) High Priestess had nothing to say about all the readers on GoodReads and Amazon who had stayed up at night to find out what happened. And, of course, she had no idea what the judges at Foreward thought of Dance for A Dead Princess. No, she was dead set in her opinion that Dance wasn’t perfect and therefore not worthy of anyone’s time of day.

Well, I agreed with her. If perfect is your bag, Dance is not for you. But, then, neither are the rest of the books out there. Wonder if High Priestess has given that much thought?

Fortunately, I’ve been a writer long enough to know what I do well, and where I can improve. I listen to honest reader feedback. I learn. I grow. But I have not one single aspiration to be Perfect. My heart was broken enough times on that wheel growing up, and I have no intention of the punched-in-the-gut feeling that comes from hours and hours of working and hoping for that “Perfect” accolade, only to find all effort wasted because the accent mark didn’t find its home over the “e.”

I think it is useless and wrong to preach the religion of “Perfectionism.” One Christmas I went to a luncheon here in San Diego that a local group of attorneys sponsored in honor of the season. We sat in a semi-dark cavern of a room, at fifty or sixty round tables covered in spotless linen (or the lights were dimmed to hide the spots, take your choice), and potted poinsettias were plopped in the center of the table (to give the proceedings that “festive” air, I guess). We ate rubbery chicken with a glob of gravy on top, dressing that I swear was made out of old newspapers, and green beans that had been run through a pot of boiling water for ten seconds flat. (I assumed those beans spoke French.)

Since I was starving, I opted to search for food value in the wilted lemon meringue pie that had probably been parked by each diner’s place around 8:30 that morning. And as I sent my blood sugar soaring on an empty stomach, I listened to the speaker, a middle-aged attorney in a bright purple suit, who was presenting a writing award to a student from one of the local law schools. What interested me was the Speaker’s awe-inspired assurance that this student was “Perfect” because she put every one of her writing projects through at least ten drafts. Had Madame Middle-Aged Purple Suit taken leave of her senses, I wondered. Which one of her clients would have paid the hourly rate of a junior attorney who couldn’t produce a fileable document (fileable, not perfect) in one draft and a final? No client on earth is going to pay for ten drafts. Nor should he or she have to. What unreasonable and unworkable standard of the cult of “Perfectionism” was Purple Suit advocating in the midst of stultifying boredom?

Perhaps Miss Ten Drafts went on to be a disciple of the High Priestess, I don’t know. I never went to another holiday luncheon. I’m not perfect, my books are perfect, my readers aren’t perfect, and I love us all just the way we are. I’m throwing my hat in the ring to stamp out the religion of Perfectionism!

The High Priestess

The High Priestess

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One year ago yesterday, I pushed the publish button on Amazon and Nook Press and became a published author. I knew I’d embarked on a journey that I’d always wanted to make, but I had no idea what was coming.

At first, Dance For A Dead Prinessc was an e-book only. I didn’t realize until months later how simple and inexpensive and indeed, imperative, it was to create a paperback on Create Space.

And I started the journey with a website under construction and quickly learned not having a website made me a second-class author citizen. Thus, when I wrote one blogger who offered two-day guest spots for authors, to secure two days to guest post, she replied, “Well, ok. But you only get one day because you don’t have a website.”

But the website lesson was trivial compared to the advertising lesson. For breathtaking amounts of money, I bought ads on Kirkus Reviews, thinking their favorable review of Dance For A Dead Princess would quickly produce a readership for the book. Wrong. Expensively wrong. Ads ran. No one seemed to notice.

Then I tried an all-romance website and had the book’s cover pasted up for a month for another quite tidy sum. Again, no one noticed. My book was simply embedded in a mosaic of other books – most with far racier covers. Since I was a new and unknown author, and readers were perusing this site for their favorites that involved shirtless men, Dance For A Dead Princess wasn’t a candidate for their attention. Another lesson learned.

After a certain amount of frustration, I managed to get Dance up on GoodReads. But since Amazon does not cross-post reviews on that site, all my reviews remained on Amazon.

Then I discovered the Truly Expensive Blog tour. I wonder if I thought it would be effective because it was Truly Expensive or because the owner of the business persuaded me she knew what she was doing or because I had read how some blog tours had put Indie books on the map (and the bestseller list.) But of all the money I threw at advertising in the first year of being an author, the Truly Expensive Blog Tour was the most wasted. The owner of the business and my tour director had more excuses than you can count for why the tour dates weren’t honored and why the reviews promised were never posted. To put it mildly, I’d been scammed, big time.

About this time, I decided to do Facebook ads and Kindle Daily Nation sponsorships, although I also sat up nights hunting for websites where indie authors could post for free or nominal sums. Oddly enough, although multiple indie authors claimed Facebook ads were useless, I found them more effective than anything else I’d tried. And they were happily quite low budget. I began to think that the more money I threw at the problem, the less success I had. Whereas, when I was being cheap, I seemed to get better results.

Another example of that principle was another blog tour organizer, who appeared on top of a Google Search one day. Her rates sounded too good to be true. But this time I was careful to research her company and to ask her bluntly if she kept her promises, telling her the horror story of the Truly Expensive Blog Tour. I was delighted to learn she was everything she claimed to be. Organized, honest, efficient, and trustworthy. And she was able to produce reviews, which are the gold standard for selling books. Almost all of the reviews on GoodReads came from her blog tour (which has now continued for months for a fraction of the cost of Truly Expensive.)

And then, just as the First Year of Being An Author was ending, I received some exciting news. Dance For A Dead Princess is a finalist in the Foreward Reviews Best Book of the Year Award for 2013, with the final results to be published in June. And Dance is the Finalist for the 2014 Beverly Hills International Book Award. That award has one winner and one finalist in each category, so I’m honored to be No. 2 in Romance.

Yesterday I started the Second Year of Being An Author by writing the first press release I’d ever written in my life and sending it off to local media. Whether it gets noticed or not, just doing it felt good. And I contacted local indie bookstores I’ve been meaning to contact for months.

Most of all, so many friends have helped out during Year One. They’ve written reviews, they’ve offered encouragement, they’ve stuck up for me and the book when the inevitable Vicious Reviewers surfaced. Launching a book into the world takes friends, and I am very grateful to mine and to everyone who as read Dance for A Dead Princess. And now Year Two Begins.

eauthor-ebook-e-book-humor

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CHAPTER THIRTY

“So we now know that Michael was bribing Ronald Brigman.” The last few rays of daylight were turning to long gray fingers of twilight as Sarah sat with Alexa in the living room of her tiny, two bedroom cottage. Alexa was curled up on the thread-bare sofa, a blanket over her legs. Sarah occupied the shabby overstuffed chair opposite. It was five thirty, and they were waiting for Jim to come back with provisions for Alexa’s empty pantry. They had only arrived a half hour ago.

It had been one of the most difficult days Sarah could remember. The probation department had not shown up at 10:30, nor did anyone call with any explanation for why they failed to appear. As the afternoon wore on, she, Alexa, and Jim had become increasingly tense as they wondered if the slender thread of Alexa’s impending freedom was about to be cut. Sarah eyed her cell phone constantly, bracing herself for word Preston Baldwin had decided to take his chances in the court of appeal after all.

Jim and Alexa whiled away the day-long uncertainty talking about studying at Georgetown and life in D.C. In the midst of her rising anxiety over why they weren’t leaving with Alexa, Sarah tried to tune out their patter about their favorite coffee shops, where to find half-price tickets to the Kennedy Center, and the best place to catch a cab in rush hour. They had led a similar life; and listening to them, hour after hour, made her wonder if they would one day live it again. Except this time, together. Jim had lost Cody. Deep down, Alexa knew she’d lost Meggie and Sam. If Sarah could save Alexa’s life, Alexa and Jim could start over. Sarah wanted to be happy that it might be possible, but the familiar jealousy demon griped her heart and squeezed until she felt as if she couldn’t breathe. Now she felt awkward, alone with Alexa, waiting for Jim to come back, so she could make her escape.

“Have you told Bob?” Alexa asked.

“Yes. He was happy to have his suspicions confirmed.”

“And I assume Tara was mixed up in it, too?”

“She was the one who orchestrated it. Jim says the bank records show payments to Brigman even before he was appointed on the case.”

“So Michael went to her because he knew she’d help him buy an evaluator.”

“That’s pretty much the story.”

Alexa’s large blue eyes were thoughtful in the deepening twilight. There were no street sounds to interrupt the silence. She lived in a little white cottage with bright blue shutters and a bright blue door on Crescent Court, a small cul de sac far from the main roads of Pacific Beach and the constant hum of its traffic. The tiny house was nestled among tall pine trees, surrounded by a white picket fence and had a curved stone path leading to the front door. Sarah had thought it was straight out of a fairy tale when she drove up.

But Alexa was no fairy tale princess. On unsteady but determined legs, she’d made it up the walk from Sarah’s car unassisted, smiled at Mary Hughes, her landlady who was there to let them in. She had crossed the front hall to the bedroom Meggie and Sam had shared, looked for a moment at all their belongings exactly where they had left them, and closed the door firmly and turned away, her face set resolutely.

Now she was looking at Sarah with that same expression. “I wish I could remember why I was at Brigman’s that night. It just doesn’t make any sense for me to be there.”

“It might yet come back to you.”

“Judge Tomlinson wants this to go to trial quickly.”

“Yes, he does. I’d bet he’ll set it within thirty days when we go in on Friday.”

“Is that enough time for you to get ready?”

“I’m going to do my best. Jordan and the ballistics expert have their results in.”

Alexa gave her a small, wry smile. “It’s not so much about being ready as I don’t have much of a defense. The bribe evidence doesn’t help.”

“I know. I wish it did.”

“I wish I could remember why I was at Dr. Brigman’s. I wonder if the truth would help or hurt.”

“It must have had something to do with your children.”

“True. I didn’t have any other reason to talk to him. But he’d just given the lion’s share of custody to Michael. So I can’t guess what I would have had to talk to him about that night. Maybe he called me in so he could gloat over how much it hurt to lose most of my time with them. He liked to do that. There was the humiliation of losing in the courtroom, and then there was the humiliation of being interviewed by Brigman for those so-called psychological evaluations.”

“Bob Metcalf mentioned that to Jim and me. By the way, there is something I should bring up about Meggie and Sam.”

“I think you’re going to say I have the right to at least speak with them on the phone.”

“Yes.”

“I know. I thought a lot about that when I realized I might not have to go back to jail.”

“I can get a court order for phone visits. You know that.”

“I do, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Her lovely eyes held Sarah’s, and she realized once more what a compelling presence Alexa Reed could be. “What could I say to them? They’ll ask when they can come home. You know I can see by their room, Coleman didn’t let them take anything but the clothes on their back. Meggie’s favorite doll and Sam’s beloved Mr. Wiggles, the bear, are still here. They would never have left willingly without them. He wants to obliterate me from their lives.”

“But that’s just it. If by some miracle the jury acquits you, it would take a custody fight to get them back. The court would want to know why you didn’t at least ask for phone visits now.”

Alexa looked away toward the fireplace that she’d filled with dried flowers in happier times. After a minute or two she said, slowly and carefully, “I know you are right. But the odds of me being acquitted are slim to none. The best I can hope for is prison time. And it would be a lot of prison time. I can’t do something now that would hurt them by getting their hopes up that I’m coming back when I know what the real story is.”

Sarah nodded. “I understand your decision.”

Alexa gave her a small twisted smile. “You’re lucky you never had children.”

Suddenly Sarah wanted to scream. She wanted to run out of the room and scream at the Universe for giving her this case.

But at that moment, Jim opened the front door and came in, carrying two large bags of groceries.

“What are the two of you doing in here in the dark?” He continued on into the living room and turned on a lamp.

“We were busy talking and didn’t realize the sun had set completely,” Sarah said.
“I was telling Alexa you’d confirmed the bribes.”

Jim nodded. “I wish we could do more with that evidence.”

“I know,” Alexa said. “It’s doesn’t help much, if at all.”

“Not so far,” Jim conceded from the kitchen where he was putting away the food. The house was so tiny it was almost one big room. “I’m making my favorite bolognese sauce tonight.”

Sarah felt as if one more minute in the tiny cottage with the two of them would suffocate her.

“Thanks, but I have to go home. I’ve got work to do.” She stood up as she spoke.

Jim left the kitchen and came into the living room.

“At least stay and for supper. I know there’s nothing to eat at your house.”

“I’m going to pick something up on the way home,” Sarah lied. In truth, she hadn’t any appetite after the stress of the day and knowing what was to come.

Jim frowned. “I think you should stay.”

“No, I can’t. Really, I can’t.” Sarah turned to Alexa who was observing the back and forth with Jim with calm blue eyes. She knows she has no reason to be jealous, Sarah thought. She knows he isn’t interested in me. She turned to Alexa. “I’ll pick you up at 7:30 on Friday morning. Get as much rest as you can.”

“I’ll pick her up on Friday,” Jim volunteered. “I’m closer than you are.”

Sarah studied him quietly for a moment before she said, “Ok, fine. I’ll meet the two of you there at eight fifteen. Get some rest, Alexa. You’ll need it.”

“I will. Thank you for everything.” Such sincerity in those eyes, Sarah thought. That would have helped with the jury if she’d had a story to tell. But she couldn’t remember anything.

She picked up her purse and her briefcase and turned toward the front door just as Jim stepped into her path.

“I think you should stay. You need to eat.”

“Not tonight.”

She’d started this case feeling as if she and Jim were on the same team, but now she was only a cumbersome third-wheel.

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Hi, Everyone, Two bits of exciting news for Dance For A Dead Princess this week. First, at long last, it is available in paperback at Amazon.com!

Second, below is a preview of the review of Dance For A Dead Princess that will be in the October edition of the Midwest Book Review!

Dance for a Dead Princess is a work of fiction loosely based on facts surrounding Princess Diana’s life, and opens with the premise that Princess Diana received a death threat shortly before her accident, recorded the phone call, and gave the information to a close friend in America who subsequently died under mysterious circumstances.

Diane’s close (and rich) friend Duke Nicholas, the second richest man in England, would seem to have more than enough resources to track down this missing information, (which seems to have wound up at a Wall Street attorney’s office), but though he can lure Taylor to England with the promise of selling his ancestral estate to one of her clients, he can’t force her to turn over the tape. Nor can he control the unexpected: his sudden infatuation with her.

On Taylor’s part, she views Nicholas as a spoiled, selfish rich man and only wants to represent her client as quickly as possible and return home. She’s recovering from a broken engagement and the last thing she needs is another romance. But then, the last thing she also needs is involvement with a piece of evidence that could and place her in jeopardy while providing the definitive word about Diana’s death.

The plot becomes even more complex with the discovery a document which relates a history that gives her more compassion for Nicholas, who is battling to save his drug-addicted ward. Add an arrest for murder and Taylor finds herself more than immersed in a wildly twisting affair that moves between romance and murder mystery.

Now, I almost hesitate to mention the romance factor: too many romance novels are insipid, predictable, and shallow writings. And I even hesitate to bill this as a ‘mystery’ (even as a ‘historical mystery’) because so much genre writing in this area is also too dry.

Not so Dance for a Dead Princess, which maintains a vivid set of protagonists, clearly outlines motivations built upon their realistic personalities, and adds the backdrop of romance and mystery to create a complex and ever-evolving story line that’s anything but predictable.

For one thing, the historical references run the gamut from past to present. This lends a realistic background to the novel which clearly shows connections between timeline events and what motivates the protagonists. British history is offered as a real force affecting not only past, but present events.

For another, motivations for actions are clearly drawn. Nicholas is drawn to investigate Diana’s death not because she’s a famous personality, but because she was his friend – and his last connection to his wife, also deceased. So his drive to investigate her death comes from a personal, not a political, connection: “How many nights had he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah, and about the impossibility of being in love? Too many to count. He ached to tell her now how empty his life had become without either of them.”

The connections between Nicholas and Taylor are forged from a number of motivators; from shared feelings to an overall event that ties them together, and are thoroughly explored in a plot ripe with high drama, tense scenes, and realistic twists and turns throughout.

Fans of good solid fiction writing will find Dance for a Dead Princess is clearly more than a cut above genre writing, and will relish the definitive conclusion which leaves nothing hanging and much to enjoy.

D. Donovan, Senior eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

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CHAPTER THREE

Trevor Martin had done well for himself, Sarah reflected, as she sat opposite his massive mahogany desk on Monday, sipping the coffee his assistant had brought in. He could afford a three-office suite on the thirtieth floor of 600 West Broadway to house himself and his two associate attorneys. The associates were tucked into the interior spaces, but Trevor’s office overlooked San Diego Bay, now sparkling in the August morning as if the sun had thrown handfuls of diamond dust over the gray-blue waves.

“You aren’t going to like what I have to say about this case,” Trevor began.

“Try me.”

“Well, to get straight to the point, your client is as looney as they come. The court declared a doubt about her mental competency to stand trial a week after the preliminary hearing. Basically, she went straight back to her cell at the jail after the prelim, curled up on her bunk, and hasn’t spoken a word since.”

“Wouldn’t it be a bit of a shock to be held for trial on two murders, knowing she’s facing the death penalty?”

Trevor shrugged. “She’s a lawyer, herself. She had to know what was going to go down from the minute she pulled the trigger on Brigman.”

“Did she tell you she did it?”

“Of course not. She claims she left Brigman’s at 9:30 and went home to Pacific Beach. But that can’t be true because her cell phone shows her in Brigman and her ex-husband’s neighborhood at 11:15 p.m. Alexa had just enough time to kill Brigman and then drive over to Michael’s and shoot him.. She was between murders when Meggie called. And, as you probably know, the Glock .9 used to kill them both was registered to her.”

“How did she explain the cell phone evidence?”

“Not very well. She says she was driving around because she couldn’t sleep and was missing her children.”

“Isn’t that possible? They were little. She’d be likely to miss them.”

“Oh come on!” Trevor leaned back in his chair and shook his head at her stupidity. “In what universe does a woman with motive and opportunity just happened to be driving around the neighborhood of the two men she hates above all others at the very same time someone is using her gun to kill them?”

“What does she have to say about the gun?”

“That it was stolen. She claims she reported the theft to the police, but there’s no record of a police report.”

“How can you be sure there’s no report?”

“Preston Baldwin is the deputy district attorney who’s prosecuting the case. He’s the number three man in that office, and we go back a long way. He’s turned over all the discovery, and no police report.”

Sarah studied Trevor until he began to squirm in the silence. If you put an ill-fitting, thousand-dollar suit on a donkey and turned it into a person then added a beer belly, you’d get Trevor Martin, she reflected. He was thin, except for the paunch, in his late fifties, with a bulbous nose, and squinty dark eyes of an undefined color. He combed his sparse gray locks over Donald Trump-style and wore a suit that matched his hair. Everything about him said mediocrity. Sarah reckoned he’d earned his high-class address based on cunning and deceit and not on legal talent.

“You mean you’re conducting your investigation into your client’s defense relying solely upon the word of the man who’s prosecuting her?”

“Look, you’re making way too much out of this. I told you, Preston and I go way back. We’ve tried probably a hundred cases against each other. We socialize. In fact, I was at a barbecue at his house the night after the prelim. If that report had been in his file, he’d have turned it over.”

Sarah tried to keep her face impassive, but she could tell Trevor was becoming more and more agitated by her disapproval. He leaned over his desk and hissed, “Don’t waste your time on sympathy for this woman. She’s a consummate lying, manipulating bitch.”

“I’m sorry, did you just call your client a ‘bitch’? What about fiduciary duty and duty of loyalty to the client? Did you tell her you were partying with opposing counsel the night after she was bound over to face the death penalty?”

Trevor was incensed. “Don’t quote the Rules of Professional Conduct to me. I know them. But I also know how to survive in this town. My relationship with Preston Baldwin has lasted for twenty years. Clients come and go. As will Alexa Reed. No, I didn’t tell her Preston and I are friends. That’s my private life, and I’m not bound to reveal my private life to clients.”

“But that’s not how it works,” Sarah said. “Our duty of loyalty is to our clients, not to the attorneys we try cases with. If you had a social relationship with opposing counsel, you should have told her.”

Trevor shrugged. “I can see you’ve got a lot to learn. This isn’t New York, Ms. Knight. We do things our own way.”

“This is beginning to sound like my meeting with Hal Remington.”

“Better not cross Hal if you want to work in San Diego.”

“Funny, that’s exactly what he said.”

Trevor leaned back in his padded leather executive chair and adopted a paternal tone. “If you want to go on some sort of crusade, claiming we’re all unethical, you’re welcome to do it. But remember, we’ve all been here more than twenty years, doing our jobs, and not getting into any trouble with the state bar. If you start accusing us of shafting our clients – even if we do – you won’t get to first base. Who do you think the state bar is going to believe? You and a string of convicted felons, complaining about their trial attorneys? Or us?”

“That’s the speech Hal Remington gave me.”

“And he was right on the money! Look, Ms. Knight. Alexa Reed was a washed up associate at Warwick, Thompson, and Hayes. She got herself pregnant twice without much time between babies to hide her incompetence and to give herself an excuse to leave the firm. Michael, on the other hand, was a brilliant young lawyer who made partner in four years.”

“Was he brilliant or just the son of a sitting United States Supreme Court justice who was a former Warrick, Thompson partner himself?”

“If I have to answer that question, you haven’t heard anything I’ve said so far. Anyway, Alexa gets herself knocked up twice. The firm lets her go; and then she files for divorce, claiming Michael beat her and persuaded the partners to fire her. Ronald Brigman did her psychological evaluation in the custody case and found she was lying about the beatings and about why she was fired. Based on those findings, Brigman decided to give primary custody of the kids to Michael. Not less than a month later, Brigman and Michael are dead, killed with the gun registered to Alexa, who claims she was just driving around aimlessly in the neighborhood when someone else used it. Come on, Ms. Knight. How much time do you think anyone should waste investigating this case?”

“As much time as it takes to get it right. Did you interview the children?”

“Meggie and Sam? Of course not. They’re only six and five.”

“And they were in the house when their mother supposedly shot their father. What if she didn’t shoot him, and the children are the missing to prove it?”

Sarah noticed Trevor Martin’s face begin to go dark red. Could he be on the verge of a heart attack? “Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way anyone can prove Alexa Reed is innocent. Interviewing the children wouldn’t change a thing. Besides, Coleman Reed and his wife Myra took Meggie and Sam to D.C. to live with them as soon as Alexa was arrested. Justice Reed requested a protective order from the superior court to keep people like you from bothering them. You want to talk to the children? You’d better have an airtight reason. Look, Ms. Knight. Remember what Hal Remington said: don’t try too hard if you expect to work in this town. Just file a few in limine motions to make it look good, do some cross examination, and accept the inevitable outcome. This client is a guilty nut job and them some. You’re here to make it look good and get paid. That’s all.

“And by the way, this case is going nowhere fast at the moment because Alexa Reed is curled up in that catatonic ball in her cell. She wouldn’t talk to me, and I doubt she will talk to you.”

“So I gather there’s a hearing coming up to determine whether she is competent to stand trial?”

“Right. On September 3, the day after labor day.”

“And who is the psychologist who is evaluating her for that hearing?”

“Percy Andrews.”

“What didn’t you request someone out of L.A.?”

“Because I didn’t need to. Percy Andrews has been doing court appointed evaluations in this town for twenty years.”

“And that’s my point. Isn’t it a conflict of interest to have him evaluating the woman accused of killing a colleague?”

His mouth became a tight line and he stood up abruptly. “I’ve got another appointment coming in ten minutes. I’ve given you all the help I can. And I’ve warned you. If you have any questions after you go over the file, you can call me.”

But not bloody likely you’ll answer, Sarah thought as she shook hands and left his office.

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It all began in Costco with Gwyneth Paltrow. I hit Costco about twice a month because one of my dogs has to have prescriptions filled in the pharmacy. Otherwise, I might not be much of a Costco shopper because the warehouse is off my beaten path, and I can wrangle most things I want out of Vons and Trader Joes now that we’ve become a household of one or two.

Fortunately I have never been afflicted with Costco Syndrome. I have never gone into a warehouse planning to spend a hundred bucks and come out with a five thousand dollar hot tub or a monster flat screen. I know people who’ve done that and cut up their membership cards immediately afterwards. (Good thing, too.)

No, I put my consumer blinders on whenever I enter those massive doors and buy the prescriptions and the boring stuff like enough paper towel, TP, and garbage bags to last through a ride on Noah’s Ark; a mega box of Clif Bars for my son who lives on them; and two bottles of my favorite zin, twelve bucks and under, for nights when I’m ready to unwind from writing unbrief briefs and my current novel in progress.

But I admit I have one weakness: I browse the book table after I’ve munched through the samples (and resisted buying of all the preservative laden convenience foods Costco is pushing that particular day). The book table, however, is my Armageddon. Like most word-obsessed people, I have a weakness for books. And I’m a foodie on top of that, so a cookbook is not to be resisted. Not long ago, I staged a personal intervention in which I promised my rational self not to buy another cookbook until I had cooked at least one thing from all the others I’ve been acquiring after visits to Anthropologie. BUT THEN . . . .

That day, “It’s All Good,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cook book sang its siren song to me in all it’s glossy picture laden, healthy food glory. I didn’t buy her first one – maybe because I didn’t find it at Costco dirt cheap – but “It’s All Good” became my extravagance of the day.

I sat up nights reading it along with the other cookbooks languishing in the Give Us Attention Pile. Soon I was concocting Gwyneth’s warm mustard lentil salad (a major yum) for lunch and her olive oil fried eggs for breakfast. (I added my own sprinkle of crisped prosciuto on top.) AND THEN I discovered “Avocado Toast.” As she says, it isn’t really a recipe. You stick some sliced up avocado (or mashed up) on some toast with Vegenaise and maybe sprinkle on some chili flakes.

Being Ms. Paltrow, she puts her avocados on gluten free bread. But I took one look at that stuff at Vons and decided bread made from sawdust is not my thing. So I began to browse the bread aisle, a low-carb dieter’s nightmare.

And that’s when I met Dave’s Killer Bread. The picture of the ex-con on the package was riveting, along with his statement, “ I was a four-time loser. I spent fifteen years in and out of prison.” Now, I write unbrief briefs week after week for more than four-time losers, and I was intrigued by anyone who could leave that life behind and bake bread. In fact, lots and lots of bread. There were so many varieties with seeds and sprouts and no bad things in them (ok, Gwyneth, they did have gluten, but it’s not a problem for me) that I thought I’d died and gone to Foodie Carb Heaven.

As soon as I got home with my loaf of Dave’s Lite Killer Bread, I made a beeline for the website. And here’s what I found:

Dave Dahl is the son of Jim Dahl, who purchased a bakery in Portland, Oregon in 1955. Jim worked extremely hard to develop bread made with whole grains and no animal fats. His bread from the 1960’s, “Surviva,” is still popular today. All of Jim Dahl’s children, including Dave, worked in the family business as they grew up. But Dave, who suffered from severe depression, didn’t appreciate his father’s work ethic, and went on to a life of drugs, assault, armed robbery, and burglary. And to terms in prison in Oregon.

But after fifteen years, Dave decided to be treated for his depression, and he learned drafting design while in prison. He expected to continue with that work, but after he got out his brother Glen, who now ran the bakery after Jim’s death, welcomed him back. Dave put everything he had into developing “Dave’s Killer Bread,” and the family business quickly had a hit.

Here is a link to a great video of Dave telling his story. You want to see this, I promise. http://www.daveskillerbread.com/daves-story/video.html

Dave believes in giving back in lots of ways. One third of his work force consists of ex-felons like himself. And he returned to the prison where he was incarcerated to tell the others they, too, could turn their lives around if, as Dave puts it, they had the humility to ask for help.

Having seen so much hopelessness in my “day job,” I was overwhelmed when I read Dave’s story. And the bread – by the way – makes the most divine Avocado Toast.

“Dave’s Killer Bread – Just Say No to Bread on Drugs!”

Dave

Dave

The Killer Bread

The Killer Bread

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I wanted to have this post up by the Fourth of July, but life intervened. The machine at my local FedEx that binds my unbrief lawyer briefs sputtered and died for the third time in the last month. Although I am one of the biggest accounts at that store, corporate FedEx is hemming and hawing about fixing the machine or firing me as customer. In the meantime, I am driving across the county to get the unbrief briefs copied and bound.

But enough corporate soap opera. Even if it’s after the Fourth, this is the kind of story that will make you smile any day of the year.

On September 11, 2001, when Carmen Footer, Joanne Miller, and Elaine Greene heard that America had been attacked, they felt they had to do something. So they grabbed their flags, walked up to Main Street in their hometown of Freeport, Maine, and began to wave Old Glory. The response was so overwhelming they pledged to be there every Tuesday for a year. Now, twelve years later, the Freeport Flag Ladies, as they are now called, are still there. And they haven’t missed a Tuesday since 9/11.

In a recent ABC news feature, Elaine Green explained their mission. People drive by and wave and honk every Tuesday because, “They’re happy to have that gentle reminder, this is their country. Freedom is not free.” The Flag Ladies make everyone who passes by “feel more connected to their country.”

The Flag Ladies’ mission has grown since that first tragic day in our country’s history. They now go to schools, churches, and community events with their patriotic message. And they travel five hours to greet military flights leaving and returning from overseas.

Elaine met a solider heading to Iraq in 2004 whom she will never forget. “His father called me about three to four months later to thank me. He said, ‘My son was killed. When he left, he was in a very dark place but I got a call when he arrived in Iraq and he said, I met some ladies and dad, and I’m going to be okay became I met people worth dying for, if it has to be.’ His father was calling to thank us because we gave his son his dignity. He didn’t die in a dark place. If I never did another thing in my life, it’s all I ever had done, it would have been enough,” Said Greene.

On September 11, 2001, Carmen, Joanne, and Elaine set out to be three tiny sparks of light in the darkness. They never knew how their lights would grow and shine and touch so many others. See? A story that will make you smile on any day of the year.

The Flag Ladies

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