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Laughter is Truly the Best Medicine!

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To all my devoted readers,I apologize for my absence and I’m sure you’ve missed by lovely posts imparting my great wisdom. For the last several months, I had lost my writing mojo. Being a lawyer, of course, I still write for work, but my creative well had run dry. I’ve written not a word.  No posts, no short stories and my second book is little more than a sad outline. Every aspect of my life is in transition which for me causes a certain amount of stress. Stress blocks my inspiration and a lack of inspiration just leads to a blank page.  My career, my residence, my social life and even my hair have all recently undergone a significant change.

Last weekend, my best friend for the past couple of decades (I’m not ashamed to admit we are in the over 40 club), invited me away for the weekend.  We spent time with some friends and friends of friends that we just met.  I don’t know why, but it was like going to summer camp for adults.  We instantly clicked with everyone there.  We had good food, good drink and good fun.  The best thing is I laughed more than I have in a long time.  I wasn’t worried about all the deadlines I needed to meet, my bad knee (or my bad back) didn’t hurt as much, my phone wasn’t ringing every day with a new crises.  I just relaxed. 

In writing you are warned about using old adages and definitely you want to stay away from cliches.  But those thing stick around because there is truth in them – Laughter is definitely the best medicine.  So, to all my writer friends, artists or anyone who feels bogged down, call a good friend or make a new friend – just find someone who makes you laugh.  Have a good meal – a friend who also cooks is a double bonus – bring a bottle of your favorite beverage whether its wine, rum or just juice and have a good laugh. Even now a week later, I’m still chuckling at some things that were said.  A good laugh is just a reminder not to sweat the small stuff and take life or yourself too seriously.

 

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Firsts

Who hasn’t heard “there is a first time for everything”? Remember your first birthday? ( I don’t and am suspicious of people who say they do.) Your first kiss? First boyfriend? (Ughh, he set a bad precedent that at post 40 -years-old, I can’t seem to get away from. But that’s another topic.) Your first date? Prom? And to quote a friend the first time you had “cookie-pie”?  As a writer, there are a lot of firsts. Your first book, your first sale and God willing, the first best-seller.

About six months ago, my first book (self-published) arrived in the mail.  Fulfilling a life long dream of, first, finishing a novel and then, second, seeing it in print, was beyond words.  (Ironic for someone who wants to make her living that way.) I felt that joy that you get from the inside.  The joy of finishing something dreamed about as long as you can remember.    The joy of accomplishing something that no matter what happens afterward, no one can take that moment away from you.  I’m sure Micheal Phelps, Gabby Douglas and a host of Olympians know what I mean.   If they never win another medal, they have accomplished something great.  Ask President Obama.  I hope he wins another term, but if not, no one can erase the fact that he was President of the United States.  What about Edith Wharton the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize?  I bet that when she wrote The Touchstone, her first novel, she had no idea that  twenty years later she would win the Pulitzer. If she had known, would that moment have been any more special?  It’s something about the first time that sticks with you for life – good or bad.

What are are you dreaming about today? What do you want to do that you haven’t done?  We generally associate firsts with youth.  The kiss, the prom, the first job all usually happen before the quarter-century mark.  As someone less than a decade away from the half-century mark, I refuse to give up on first times and the joy they bring.  My first book came in a plain brown box handed to me by a nameless  mailman.  No fanfare, no prizes, no million-dollar check.  But the joy, it brought will last a lifetime.  Because I did it! I accomplished something I set out to do.  Whatever my future as a novelist may hold, it will  never happen without that first step.

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Things I Must Not Do in November.

Nimoy as Spock giving the salute.

Live Long & NOT Procrastinate!

The month of November is upon us bringing many good things . . . Thanksgiving, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Black Friday and the start of the holiday season. For some of us writers, November brings a period of temporary insanity known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The goal of which is to write a 50,000 – word novel. For you Trekkies, I can liken it to the  time Spock experienced the pon farr, the Vulcan mating period when Vulcans get “blood fever” and went temporarily insane.  For choc-a-holics or coffee addicts, it’s similar to anytime you need your coffee or chocolate and for some reason you can’t have it, so you act a little crazy until you get it.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days IS an act of insanity. I’ve survived twice and inexplicably come back for more.  In order to accomplish my goal this year, I’ve made a vow to not procrastinate so for the month of November I promise I will not:

1. Watch any Law & Order marathons.  (I hear that is on every hour of the day somewhere in the world, so I’m sure they won’t miss my viewership)

2.  Decide to call friends I haven’t seen or spoken to in ten years.

3.  Read my spam email.

4. Constantly re-dial the Dancing with the Stars line so I can vote against Nancy Grace.

5. Re-organize my non-existent sock drawer.

6. Go shopping on Black Friday.  Go to Target.  Shop for long johns. (I live in GA)

7. Keep up with the Kardashians.

8.  Talk to my spouse.  (Okay, I guess that one is unavoidable.)

9. Go to work. (I guess that one is unavoidable too, since I’m not independently wealthy.)

10. Make To-Do (or Not- To- Do) lists.

Bonus: No Tweeting, Facebooking or Blogging unless it’s about my writing project.

Follow me on Twitter or like my facebook page and see how well I do.

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Call to Action – Save Troy Anthony Davis

Two years ago, I wrote a post asking “Why the Rush to Kill?”  In it I discussed the case of Todd Willingham who was sent to death row in Texas and executed based on faulty scientific evidence.  I also mentioned Troy Anthony Davis, a man on Georgia’s death row due to faulty evidence.  Why  are we as a “civilized” society still using the death penalty in such an arbitrary and capricious manner?  We need to look no further than the 138 men who have been exonerated and freed from death row to realize that our system is broken.

In 2010 the United States was fifth in the number of executions exceeded only by China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen.  Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976,  Georgia, my home state, has executed 51 men, including 3 in 2011.  On September 6, 2011, a 4th death warrant was signed for Troy Anthony Davis, convicted of killing Mark McPhail, a Savannah police officer.  Mr. Anthony’s case has been well-publicized and has drawn the support of many state, national and international leaders, celebrities and members of the clergy.  Most of whom, like me, are probably appalled that a man who has a conviction so riddled with doubt, remains on death row.

Since his conviction, 7 of 9 witnesses have recanted, saying they were pressured or coerced into making false statements and  nine witnesses have signed affidavits pointing to another man as the real killer.  There was no physical evidence and a weapon was never found.

Today is the Global Day of Solidarity for Troy Anthony Davis.  You can get involved or find out more about his case through Amnesty International, the NAACP or the Troy Davis organization. Join the call to action by signing a petition, contacting the parole board, attending a rally or just spreading the word through social media.   TODAY is the day to do something because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” MLK, Jr.

(Find out more about the inequities of  the death penalty here.)

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Review: The Fixer Upper

The Fixer Upper
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the rules to becoming a good writer is to be a good reader. So this year I took the Goodreads challenge to try to read a certain number of books. In addition to reading a greater number of books, I’m trying to read a bigger diversity of writers and genres. However, I can’t seem to stay away from the Southern scribes. Having been a lifelong Georgia resident, maybe it’s the ability to instantly identify with the characters and their way of life that draws me in. Some of my favorite writers are Southerners. Karin Slaughter, Pearl Cleage, Kathryn Sockett and David Fulmer all live in Atlanta and John Grisham’s protagonists usually call Memphis, Nashville or some part of Mississippi home. I stumbled across The Fixer Upper written by Mary Kay Andrews, another Atlantan, and I absolutely loved it.

The story begins in Washington D. C. with a slightly naive Dempsey Jo Kilbrew finding herself in the middle of a growing political scandal as her swarmy boss at the prestigious public relations firm that she works for us puts the noose around her neck to save his own. After she is unceremoniously fired by his assistant, embarrassed, broke and homeless she flees the capital city. She has two choices, she can go west to her jewelry-making mother in California or South to her remarried dad in Miami. She chooses dad. After a few days, she realizes staying with dad and his hot young wife is not an option so she reluctantly accepts a deal pitched by her father. He puts up the money and she invests the labor to restore his recently inherited Victorian house called Birdsong. Once the house sells, they split the profit.

The only problem is Birdsong is in Gutherie, Georgia, an hour from Atlanta and two miles from nowhere. Having no other options, Dempsey takes her dad’s offer and is soon washing windows, laying tile and stripping floors. Throw in a handsome lawyer, a womanizing real estate agent, a grumpy squatter and two determined FBI agents and you’ve got a warm and funny story that asks the question “where is home?” By the end of the novel Birdsong is not the only thing that has been transformed and the once naive Dempsey learns that sometimes home is a place you have never been.

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Justice can be a bitter pill.

A Portion of the memorial for Caylee Anthony n...

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The net and tv are abuzz with debate about the Casey Anthony verdict, most people expressing passionate opinions either for or against conviction.  We’ve all heard that quote “better ten guilty men go free than one innocent man  be convicted.”  That belief is one of the fundamental cornerstones of the American justice system, but when that person that we believe to the core of our being is guilty does go free, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

In the Anthony case, on one side we have gut instinct and emotion.  How could a mother not report her child missing and be out partying while her precious little one was gone? Why did Casey Anthony show no remorse? Why did she lie to the police?

On the other hand, we have the facts or lack thereof.  No cause of death, no direct evidence of who put duct tape on the little one’s mouth or wrapped her in the blanket. Who really made those searches about chloroform? Was chloroform even used? Was the odor in the car a decomposing body? One expert said it was, one said it was not.

I admit that I haven’t followed the trial that closely, so I’m sure I’ve missed some details.  But even if I had been watching, I cannot supplant my judgment for that of the jury.  It’s easy to say that the jurors must be stupid or not have been paying attention, but my experience as a defense attorney has been that most jurors are very conscientious and they want to make the right decision.  I’ve interviewed jurors after my own trials and what they discussed in the jury room and what issues they thought were important were not always the same issues I thought were important, but they, not me, were the ones watching and listening to every witness.

So what’s the takeaway from this case?  Our justice system is not perfect, no system can be because people will never be perfect.  Every juror takes an oath that they will be unbiased and listen to the facts, but every human being has biases whether he or she wants to admit it or not.  We don’t know what those jurors were thinking or discussing, but we should accept that 12 strangers came together and collectively agreed that the State didn’t meet its burden.  That is what we MUST remember – convictions, no matter how badly we want justice, should not be based on gut instinct, emotion, guesses or feelings, but facts.  If you have any doubt about that, ask the 200+ men who have been freed from death row.

While our system is a system of imperfect people, I still believe its the best there is. Casey Anthony is just one defendant in one case and should not be used as an indictment against the entire system.  Justice is  quietly meted out in thousands of cases every day in court rooms across the country more often fairly, than not.  So while we may be collectively outraged, are we moved enough to fix the broken parts?  As with too many things in this country, our outrage will fade and Casey Anthony will be forgotten by most when the next big story comes along.  However,  I do believe that people reap what they sow, and that there will someday be justice for little Caylee Anthony.

Justice … limps along, but it gets there all the same.

GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ, In Evil Hour

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If you can’t do the time, then don’t do this…

A motor officer writes a traffic ticket for a ...

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Yesterday’s postaday topic was to describe the perfect crime. I can’t describe the perfect crime, but here are some “do’ s and don’ts ” gleaned from my years as a criminal defense attorney:

 

 

1. Don’t commit a crime with other people.  Nine out of ten defendants are “given up” by their co-conspirators.  If it comes to you are them, they are going to choose themselves.  Every single time!

2. Don’t commit an armed robbery at your place of employment. (Yes, even if you wear a mask.)  Someone can still  identify you without seeing your face.  Maybe it’s your distinctive booming voice made for radio, your fiery red hair that slipped from under the ski mask or the scorpion tattoo between your thumb and index finger that gives you away.  Your co-workers will know it’s you.

3.  Make sure the getaway car is tuned-up and in proper working order.

4. Don’t bring identification.  You are one dropped wallet away from being caught.

5. Remember to take off your work ID, badge or uniform that has your name on it.

6. Don’t wear pants that sag, shoes with long laces or, for the ladies,  extremely high heels.

7.  If you need to call the police to your home, get rid of all illegal drugs or stolen property first.

8.  Don’t take photos of your crime with your cellphone to memorialize the occasion.

9.  Don’t confess to anyone – the 911 operator (those calls are recorded), your cellmate (see #1 – they are always looking for their own deal),  a relative ( the reward money will trump family loyalty) or your significant other.  (She may not tell immediately, but once you make her mad. . . )

10.  If you have an outstanding arrest warrant or drugs on your person, don’t visit someone in jail or go to the courthouse.

BONUS:  If you must drink to the point of becoming intoxicated, DON’T drink before you:  drive, report to your probation or parole officer,  appear in court on your traffic ticket and if you must call 911 get a sober person to do it.

But the real lesson is “don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”

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