A Short Story of Love, Loss, and Murder(?)

IMG_3219She walked up the steps of her apartment one last time, and felt in her pocket for her key. She thought of kissing the key goodbye—a silly gesture to be sure—and felt self-conscious even though the cabbie wasn’t paying the least bit of attention and no one else was around. So she kissed it, and the moment her lips touched the key, she felt her wedding ring brush against her cheek.

Her husband’s prognosis had been terminal from the start, yet he’d lingered almost two years after the accident, and during those two years, Lydia gave everything away, sold the house, and rented an apartment near the hospital, furnishing it sparely. She told herself she was in limbo during Terrance’s long and slow decline, and this was why she hadn’t bothered decorating the place. But after he died and was buried, she’d immediately bought herself the open train ticket, planning to depart within the week.

She dropped the key into her landlord’s mailbox, and on impulse, she removed her wedding ring, dropping it in her own mailbox with little thought, no regret. The post office was holding her mail, so the ring would lie entombed until she returned. When that would be, she didn’t know.

Excerpt from “Open Ended”, now appearing in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Find it in bookstores everywhere.

A Fair to Remember – err, two actually

Lusting for a lip-smacking satisfying treat with no calories? I have just the thing! Upcoming not-to-be missed fairs, including “the big one,” feature local mystery authors (including me). Details below:

>Albert Park - In His Own Words

Albert Park – at Dodd and Smith

July 25, 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM


Art on the Avenue 2015

At Smith and Dodd Avenue

Smith Avenue comes alive again this summer with art, live music, food, crafts, children and adult entertainment and more! Come see me and other artists and vendors on July 25th from 4 to 8PM. Fun will happen at Albert Park, Doddway Shopping Center, Dodd Park and Smith Avenue. More details of my exact location coming, but the area is very walkable. Park and come find me! All three Arvo Thorson mysteries - Burnt Out, Broken Down, and Washed Up - will be available for purchase.


Fun, food, and mystery at the great Minnesota get-together.

September 2, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM*


Minnesota State Fair

Carousel Park

Stop by the MELSA tent during Read and Ride day at the Fair to visit me along with other Twin Cities Sister in Crime authors. Sign up for giveaways! All three Arvo Thorson mysteries - Burnt Out, Broken Down, and Washed Up - will be available for purchase.

*I’ll post my shift time (a two-hour slot) soon!

Wanted: More Writing Prompts

The strange tale of a euphonium-playing animal-loving character named Tiffanie Brump captured the attention of Revolver‘s editors, who named me “Winner of WANTED 25.” Revolver called WANTED 25  “its most ambitious WANTED contest to date”.

My prize is three-month prompt-based SERIAL PROJECT on Revolver. I love writing prompts. They provide fresh inspiration, take my writer’s mind into new places I wouldn’t have thought of, and fresh, unexpected plots and characters always arise.

I think it’s going to be a fun assignment and have already received my first prompt. Watch for bi-weekly musings at Revolver, and while you’re waiting to see my  new serial, check out their other stories, poems, and projects. And watch for the next WANTED prompt. Always fun, whether you win or not!

Gardens Under Glass


43971923_fabe4c4ee5_zThe photo was taken almost ten years ago when my oldest son was first in Helsinki, and I thought of it this morning as I practiced meditative breathing exercises.

The beautiful flower bloomed inside the Helsinki Winter Garden, which is a place much like Saint Paul’s Como Park Conservatory: both transparent glass skins held together by metal bones, both housing carefully gardened ecosystems of  tropical plants and koi ponds.

There is nothing more restorative than a visit to one in winter.

You step inside such a place and, if you wear glasses, they are immediately fogged up, you become overheated but don’t really care, and the vibrant perfume of growing things saturates you in a healing way.

So it was the perfect day to visit the St. Paul Conservatory–especially now that we are in the thick of winter, experiencing one of the coldest days of the year. I needed the restoration it offered. I could imagine that many similar visits are being made these winter days in Helsinki – which can be even colder, and even darker than winter is in St. Paul

The Conservatory was the perfect place to practice my breathing exercises, by which I mean meditation –

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Nowhere are you more aware of the breath than when you are in such a place, so damp with the thick, wet breath of green things exhaling and inhaling.

As I walked through, occasionally pausing to sit and breathe–I thought how conservatories are much like our own bodies–fragile and resilient–in need of care in order to be remain balanced and vibrant. Beautiful.

I glimpsed a half-dozen gardeners working behind the scenes in staff-only greenhouses. Others stood watchfully in the bonsai room and elsewhere, making sure visitors kept a safe distance from the rarest plants.


Now I am thinking of myself as both a winter garden and its gardener: I inhale and exhale calmly, protecting and maintaining the beauty within my fragile crystal skin and strong metal bones.

Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,

Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

Hello 2015

You lie asleep,

deep in dreams,

deaf to all our

whispered wishes that

somehow you –

the fresh babe of the New Year —

will deliver all we have been denied,

resolve all our sorrows

in the coming tomorrows.


We’ve tasked you with

rectifying bad habits,

sad outlooks,

bettering our butts,

improving our paychecks,

forgetting lifetimes of regret—

in short: affirmation, dammit

that we all deserve, right?


It’s a lot to ask

of a one-day old,

slumbering peacefully

in the dark.


We all kiss you at


drunk in

your new baby smell

shouting you be

Happy New Year,

by which we mean that

you will do everything,

little one,

to make us happy,

finally happy.



“It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.”

~ George Orwell

I thought I’d write about not having nothing much to say. An odd topic for a blog, to be sure.

But there you have it.

This wordless inertia is not the same as writer’s block, as I have plenty of ideas, I always do. More than one work in progress. I feel distracted, but always am; the world itself an unending distraction of unresolved problems, rising tensions, and I’ve often found writing is a good cure for distraction. Writing grounds me, it can be a form of meditation, an escape, I’ll admit.

It’s easy to throw some words on a blank page, fiction-up when reality sucks.

But those times of distraction, when I can get into a world-building mania and think 1398854_10205607049285182_6357952780868727952_oI’m onto something new, invent new characters who deserve to live beyond that initial chapter, tend to….fizzle.

But that’s not what is happening now.

It’s also not the same as giving the work a rest. Where you work like crazy, stuff the work in progress in a drawer, then come back to it with fresh eyes. This “resting phase” is part of writing, essential so you can read your work from a reader’s perspective. But I don’t feel like the writer in me is resting.

It really may be nothing more than the sad, cold, gray fog of November settling down all around. The naked boredom of trees, their leaves shed like playing cards scattered on the table at the end of a game. The players moved on to pretty much nowhere.

My writer’s brain has entered a phase of literary hibernation. To avoid a complete shut down, I’m spending lots of time looking at visual art, allowing my eyes to linger on color and form — day-dreams — instead of constantly world-wording. At some point, the visual fragments I’m collecting may reassemble themselves into poems or prose.

There’s no way to tell whether that will be a day from now — or several months down the road.