Adventures in Jury Duty

At my age, you would think I would have served on at least one jury, but all of the times I’ve been called, I’d never even made it to the jury box. Until two weeks ago, when I was selected to serve in the US Court.

The trial is over and I thought I’d share my updated thoughts about jury duty.

  1. It’s Expensive – I’m a writer with a part-time job that pays the bills when book sales are sluggish. I don’t have jury duty leave, so I don’t get paid when I don’t work. Sure, the court will eventually get around to sending me $40 a day, but that’s my hourly rate. I’m out more than $1,000 for my little civic adventure. I’m incredibly fortunate because my employer gives me vacation time so I won’t have to take that hit, but I’m out 7 days of vacation.
  2. It’s Boring – You see all those exciting courtroom dramas on TV and in the movies but a real trial is nothing like that. The case itself was interesting, but the process was not. There were lots of “side bar” conversations where the attorneys chat with the judge off in a corner to decide some complicated thing they may not want the jury to hear. They turn on a white noise generator during these side bars and whenever the attorney doing the questioning consults with the second attorney on the team. There’s a whole lot of nothing to do during these times for the jury.
  3. It’s Fascinating – The testimony of the witnesses was fascinating and I found myself completely wrapped up in it. As a juror, part of my job was to judge who might be fudging on the truth, who might be biased because of personal or professional issues and to what degree the witness testimony was trustworthy. I had questions that went unanswered and that made it more challenging during deliberations, but you have to decide the case based only on what is presented so unanswered questions remain unanswered at the end of the day.
  4. It’s Sad – This was a wrongful death case. A man was killed at work, falling off the top of his truck as he was loading it with molten sulfur. The one eye witness had been hard hit emotionally, something that was very obvious during his testimony three years after the fact. No matter how we would decide the case, it’s tragic to hear about somebody who was just trying to make a living, have his life end like that.
  5. It’s Educational – This case made me painfully aware of how dangerous some jobs are. I know this from living in Wyoming and hearing the workplace fatality statistics, but dry statistics can’t show you the real individuals who do this work every day. The men who testified about their experiences doing the same job, were tough but admitted they’re scared up on their trucks every time, but you have a job to do and you get it done. That really touched me.
  6. It’s Frustrating – During deliberations, reaching agreement on all aspects of the decision was an adventure. It took us five hours, but we were unanimous in the end. To protect my fellow jurists, that’s all I’ll say about that process.
  7. It’s Important – I know it sounds corny, but the judicial system wouldn’t work if it weren’t for people being willing to make the sacrifice to answer the summons and come in for jury duty. I know everyone talks about ways to get out of it, but if I were a plaintiff or a defendant, I’d sure be thankful for the people who serve. A jury of ordinary people, taking time to hear both sides, weigh the cases presented, talk through the issues and come to a decision is a beautiful thing.

I’m glad that I’ve completed my service and am free from being called (by this level anyway) for two years, but after all those times not even making it to the jury box, I’m kind of glad that for once, I got to see the process from start to finish.

My Life as a Writer

I have published six books but it’s only recently I’ve begun telling people I am a writer. Before my dizzying dance on the top of the Amazon Best Seller list, I defined myself as my day job, a career coach who  by the way, wrote books. Being a writer was something I thought only other people did, even as my books appeared on the bookshelves of tens of thousands of people.

Being a writer, really BEING a writer, takes a serious investment of time and energy. My characters sit in the back of my mind, whispering ideas, suggesting scenes and waking me up at night to get it on paper before I miss the solution to a thorny plot problem.

To jump-start my creative energy, I write for ten minutes a day. It doesn’t matter what I write about, only that I write. I’ve written a short story that I’ve submitted to journals for consideration and I’ve written snippets of stories that I may or may not develop into books. The free writing, not editing what I write, but letting the words tumble onto the page, has been an adventure for me. I’ve discovered characters I didn’t know were there and settings I can see and touch even though they exist only in my mind.

I returned to the draft I’ve been working on of the second Caribou King Mystery and re-vamped the parts I realized weren’t working and were holding me back. I’ve let my daily writing explore possible twists and turns in this second book, some of which I suspect will end up making the final cut and others are already on the cutting room floor.

I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to string sentences together. I wrote a play in fourth grade that was produced as our class play. I wrote short stories and newspaper articles all through junior high and high school and I won my first check for my writing as a senior. Then life swept in and writing became reports and press releases and carefully cited position papers. It wasn’t until I let my mind wander that I met Jake and Emma, Matt and Kristy, Caribou and her many friends in Coho Bay.

I still don’t make my living as a writer, but most writers don’t make a living from their writing, just as most artists have a day job to support their addiction to their creativity. I’m happy whenever someone buys one of my books and I’m over the moon when someone likes it enough to write a kind review. Then there are the readers who email me and tell me how much they enjoyed what I wrote. Those emails I save and whenever I think I can’t possibly be a writer, I pull them out and read them again.

New Year, New Ideas

Happy New Year! I love setting New Year Resolutions, but here’s my trick to success. I never write them down! That way, by the end of the year, I don’t remember what they were so I don’t remember if I didn’t get where I thought I was going.

In 2016, I do remember one of my goals – to have my new series published by a small press instead of my own imprint, as I do with my Jake & Emma series. That’s when I approached Cozy Cat Press, a publisher I’d had my eye on for a year or more. I’m happy to say that’s one resolution I achieved! The Deadly Art of Deception was released September 30.

In 2017, I hope to release the second book in that series and the (oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying this) the sixth Jake & Emma. I’m also planning to devote more time to my writing since I’ve been writing pretty much whenever I feel the inspiration. That’s nice, but it doesn’t get much writing done! I’ve started writing every day but Sunday and it’s been great. I’ve already written two short stories based on my daily writing prompts.

My second resolution is to start working my way through my “to be read” pile. Do you have books waiting for you? I have them in my e-reader, on my shelf and stacked on the bedside table!

What are your plans for the new year?

Cats & Cozies – A Match Made for Mystery

I love classic cozy mysteries, where ordinary people do extraordinary things all in the name of justice. When I started writing my Jake & Emma Mystery series, I knew I my books would have all the hallmarks of the classic cozy. Jake and Emma are amateur sleuths, or what I call accidental detectives. Their lives were much like yours and mine, until they stumble across the frozen body of a woman after a winter storm. Where you or I might leave it up to the police, Jake and Emma — like all good sleuths — take it upon themselves to crack the case.

Cats are a natural fit for cozies because curiosity is a born and bred part of their nature, as it is with the hero and heroine of any good mystery. A variety of barn cats keep Jake and Emma company but their main companions are a couple of indoor beauties. Peachy is a mature, sedate, orange and white cat whose specialty is providing calm and comfort to the many guests who spend a little time in Jake and Emma’s home in the shadow of Casper Mountain. Peachy is based on one of my own kitties, Willow.

Sparky is a fluffy white tornado whose antics keep Jake and Emma on their toes, but whose purr can melt the iciest of hearts. She is especially fascinated with the lights and glass balls on Christmas trees and you have to be quick to keep the tree from becoming a kitty condo with Sparky around! Sparky is based on one of my own kitties by the same name, who left us last year.

My literary kitties provide humor and color to my stories, but they aren’t feline detectives. If you enjoy your animals taking a more active role, let me recommend two of my favorite authors. Lilian Jackson Braun, late author of “The Cat Who” series wrote about an unusually intelligent Siamese cat named Koko, who never failed to help the inquisitive James M. Quilleran root out the culprit. Koko’s partner, Yumm-Yumm, was a beautiful counterpoint to the regal Koko. My preference is for the earlier books in the series, both when Quill is a starving reporter and in the first few books where he has moved “up north.”

Rita Mae Brown has several series featuring animals but my favorite are the “Mrs. Murphy” books. Mrs. Murphy is a wise and lovely tiger cat who, along with a gray cat named Pewter, and a lively Welsh Corgi named Tucker, takes a very “paws on” approach to crime fighting. Not only do they sniff out clues on their own, they bravely attack any would-be killer who dares to get too close to their Mary Minor “Harry” Harristeen. I’ve enjoyed all of the books in this series.

botb_ebookcover_v3My fifth Jake and Emma Mystery, “Body on the Ballot“, is being released on December 15. Peachy is gone but Sparky continues to offer comfort and moral support. Jake is running for County Attorney, but someone seems determined to keep him out of office. By the time the election rolls around, there may be more than one body on this ballot.

New Release – First time on Cozy Cat

the_deadly_art_of_deception_jpgCozy Cat Press welcomes mystery author Linda Crowder to the family with the release of her The Deadly Art of Deception now out in paperback and releasing on Kindle on Friday, September 30.

Only two seasons matter in Coho Bay, Alaska – cruise ship and winter. Caribou King, owner of The Broken Antler Gallery, is hip-deep in tourists when her old college pal Taylor shows up asking for refuge, saying she has no place else to go. Cara is cautious; Taylor was the wife of one of Alaska’s most renowned artists––Jonathan Snow, who was mauled to death by a bear the previous year. Why would his widow want to return to the location of her tragic loss? Something about Taylor’s story just doesn’t ring true.
Of course, she may not be the only liar in town. Taylor’s former father-in-law accuses her of killing his son in front of a diner full of people, except he may have had a stronger motive. A handsome boat captain seems to fancy both Cara and Taylor but he can’t make up his mind between them ––or between lying and telling the truth. The local constable mistrusts everyone, but may have a reason to be mistrusted himself. Will Cara help her old friend Taylor, or will doing so get her into a heap of trouble? When a headless body is discovered in the bay, Cara wonders just who she can trust in this tiny town.

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