I must have been half asleep when I wrote my post this morning, because I forgot this:

Some years back, the mystery convention Magna cum Murder had a contest: Write a radio mystery! The winner would be performed and broadcast live on a local radio station. The contest ran several years, and one year I entered – and won! I wrote “The Corpse in Fibber McGee’s Closet.” Fibber McGee and Molly was a very popular radio show back in the thirties and forties (and fifties?), and one feature was a hall closet people were warned never to open. But about every fourth show, someone would open it, and things would pour out of that closet for about two minutes. Hilarious!  Since I was writing a mystery, I put a corpse among the other detritus that fell out on my version of the show.  Upshot: a local radio host has gotten hold of a recording of that show and will rebroadcast it on Sunday, February 25, at 9:30 local time on KFAI FM 106.7 on your radio dial. You can also listen to it on their web site. Look for it at If you connect and hear it, let me know.

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Glimpse of Summer

Florida was great! I sent home a short entry for last Tuesday, but Ellen couldn’t figure out how to post it, so . . .

It is wonderful to get out of the car at an airline terminal in two degree weather, go inside and go on an airplane ride for three and a half hours, and walk out of another terminal into seventy-five degree weather. America is a great country, smart enough to get its empire all in one place instead of spread out in bits all over the world, so it’s a short trip to whatever climate you want. Fort Meyers set two high-temperature records the four days I was down there. I got the start of my summer tan sitting outside my niece and nephew’s house and walking the beach on Sanibel Island collecting shells. My niece and nephew were wonderful hosts, I had a relaxing and interesting and comfortable time. Sometimes even a brief break can restore a person’s soul, I don’t think I realized how much I needed that break. Joe and Reggie have a charming little house, a friendly rescue cat that’s part lynx (!) and a very friendly dog of a breed I’d never heard of before: black-mouthed cur. I though “cur” was a slur word, but here’s a middle-size short hair tan dog with big black patches over each eye with that word a part of her breed name. She greeted me at the door with wagging tail and came often to rest her head on my knee to ask for strokes.

And I’m back at work on Tying the Knot. Life is good.

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Ah, Warmth!

I’m in Florida! And the weather’s fine. It cools down in the evening, but the days are nice and hot. Been to the beach of Sanibel Island and picked up some pretty shells, bought some earrings and a bright pink hooded sweatshirt. It is so lovely to go outside in the morning in shorts and top, to sit in the sun and get really warm. The sun falls like a benediction on my face. I think of the far frozen north, where the temperature struggles to reach double figures above zero, and I try to rise to pity for those poor folks. But I’m so busy enjoying the warmth, the palm trees, the kind niece and her sweet husband, that I just can’t quite make it to true pity. Especially when the forecast is for more of the same. I’ll be home Friday.


Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, we’re going to go get our foreheads smudged with the black ashes of last year’s palms. “Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” And Lent begins.

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I finished the short story! I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that means the long writer’s block is ending. The story is close to six thousand words and has two (count ‘em) clever clues embedded in it. It’s not my best writing, but it’s a good story and I’m all cock-a-hoop over it. It’s for the third volume of an anthology called Cooked to Death, pub date not set as yet. My story is called “Joyous Death.” A connection I made with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner worked out really well, he was extremely helpful and I’d like to consult with him again.

I’m going to Florida! I have a niece living near Fort Myers who has been asking me to visit, and I’ve wanted to, but several things have held me back – and finally her husband cut through my worries and simply bought me a plane ticket. So I don’t have to drive alone in an aging car trying to work in a minor detour to visit my sister in Terre Haute. Just go to the airport and fly down for a week. And not bring back the antique chair she picked up for me; will do that another time. See? Just cut down to the basics and it gets simple. You know, that might make a great title for another short mystery: “Getting Back to Basics.”   Hmmmm . . .

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Joyful Death

Does anyone out there have a list of the drugs (etc.?) searched for in the usual medical examiner’s blood screen done in autopsy? Thanks. I’m in touch with an ME, but he’s crazy busy because the Super Bowl is in town, and I’m kind of in a hurry.

And yes, it’s for some fiction I’m writing.

(Later)  Hold on, I seem to have caught our ME in a creative mode.  He’s made a suggestion that works.  It’s so good, I might have to make him co-author!  Isn’t life interesting?

While doing research for this, I came across a saying often found in a medical examiner’s office.  I’m going to have to look it up to quote it correctly, but the gist of it is, Death will joyously help the living.  Meaning via autopsy.

Java the cat has this curious habit I call “holding hands.” When I’m in bed, or sitting comfortably in my recliner, she will join me, snuggling close, and will put one or both forepaws firmly down in the palm of my hand and go to sleep that way. Sometimes I think she’s signaling that she’s had enough stroking, but other times I think she’s just being companionable.

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Dashing Through the Snow – Not!

The talk on my coin collection at St. George’s went all right, but the audience was small, perhaps a dozen. Still, they listened, asked questions, and laughed at the right places. I am going to turn my talk into an essay which I will publish on my web site, complete with pictures of some of the coins.  Meanwhile I will continue to fill in my collection.  Anyone out there got a William and Mary?

Several people have suggested I need to add to our household insurance because of this collection. Perhaps I should ask our agent. But then, my coins are not museum-quality, plus a thief wouldn’t be able to drop them into vending machines or buy a Happy Meal with them (the sad fate of a lot of valuable American coin collections that get stolen). Worse, not every coin shop deals with medievals or even the later coins. Maybe a Victoria or a George III, but an Edward III? Or a Charles I?  So how could a thief profit by his theft?  I love my coins, but mine is not a common taste, even among numismatists. On yet another hand, a thief may not know that.

Yesterday, around nine in the morning, it began quietly to snow. And it snowed and snowed and snowed. Fortunately, I had finished my water exercises by nine and when I went grocery shopping around eleven, it was hazardous out there, but the store was only a few blocks away. By a little after one, I was safe at home, watching the snow blow horizontally past our big front window. It continued like that until nearly dark, and was still snowing lightly when I went to bed.   I like writing about blizzards, but actually being out in one? Not so much. One nice thing about Minnesota is that this kind of thing happens all the time, except in July, and so we are heavily invested in snow removal equipment. The main arteries are already passable and by tomorrow I can drive anywhere in the cities.

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Money, Money, Money

I’ve been reading a really good book, The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford. Starting with the first coins, made in Lydia in the fifth century BC, to our current venture into electronic money, the author uses clear language to show how money shapes culture, even civilization itself. Fascinating!

For anyone in the Twin Cities area this coming Sunday, January 21, and interested in English coinage from Canute to Elizabeth II, I am giving a short lecture on that subject at my church. St. George’s Episcopal Church in St. Louis Park will host me (I’m a member) between the services (8 am and 10:30) from nine-fifteen am until ten o’clock. I will have my collection of English coins on display. For a dollar you can also buy a cup of coffee or tea and choose from among a selection of really good pastries. A sample from my talk:

Control of money belongs to the government, which is why the head of government in kingdoms is stamped on the coin. Father Tom preached a few months ago on Baptism, on how the Sacrament puts a stamp on the new Christian, marking him or her as “Christ’s own forever.” This leads me to come to all kinds of allegorical connections between the Sacrament and my coins, some of them, probably, incorrect, even heretical. But still, Christ is the head of our church, and by Baptism we are marked as His permanently in the same way as these coins are permanently stamped with the face of the person responsible for their existence. I find that a lovely coincidence.

Do come if you can. The doughnuts really are good.

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