I wrote two books about Finny Aletter. A Denver stockbroker, she decided to give up an exciting life of money and trading and living on the edge to rehab old houses. Yeah, it was the eighties, and she was burned out. Time for a hands-on job, time for simplicity she could get her mind around. But something happened, and the more basic life she craved was complicated by murder.
I’ve begun the process of formatting my two Finny Aletter mysteries for publication on-line, which will take a bit of time, so I thought I’d introduce her to you, my charming audience. I still walk by her house a couple of times a week, and I’m waiting to hear what she’s up to these days. (Her house was modeled on a gingerbread-trimmed three-story beauty I toured with a friend back in the day.)
Finny was a parallel image–of sorts–to my own life. After earning my B.A. in English Lit. (Go, Buffs!) I worked with several Law Enforcement Assistance Administration anti-crime programs, including one of Denver’s youth services bureaus, designed to divert juvenile offenders from the justice system. (I swear to God, you can do anything with an English Lit. degree.) After a couple of years, my husband & I wanted to reproduce our glorious genes & I left juvenile crime to raise my own little potential criminals. I went from fighting crime–so I wrote grants and reports, it counts–to voluntarily becoming a domestic.
We lived–and continue to live–in a century-plus-old house, Victoria Turtleshell, and over the years we’ve repaired, renovated, and sobbed quietly in corners over never-ending maintenance. I’d done my research on rehabbing. And, having chosen to be a stay-at-home mom, I’d discovered that I had no standing in our society. At parties, when asked what I did for a living, a truthful answer produced glazed eyes and fellow guests wandered away. In spite of my sparkling personality! I began to lie. “I’m a brain surgeon,” I’d say, then sneer at the lawyer-therapist-designer who’d asked and made MY eyes glaze, whereupon I’d stagger away, since it’s hard as hell to see where you’re going when your eyes are glazed.
Soon I grew weary of such games. I’d already experienced the epiphany every would-be writer goes through, that fatal moment when one sets down an unsatisfactory book and proclaims, “I can do better than THAT.” Clearly, it was time to prove it. And, my character could leave a somewhat glamorous life in order to join the eighties return to the Arts and Crafts movement, or whatever they were calling it. She, too, would go through the angst of trading one world for another. More importantly, when people asked me my profession, I could say, “I’m a writer.” No glazed eyes after a statement like that. No, eyes sparkled as eighty-five percent of those who asked wanted to tell me about the books they would write someday when they had time. The other fifteen percent wanted to know where I got my ideas. Alas, it took a long time to invent an answer: The Idea Store.
I will draw a curtain over the years that followed, at least for now. (Writers will use anything as grist for the mill, but I’m too short on time today to rake up what can only be called an eccentric adventure in getting published. And in a decent mood, which wouldn’t last.)
Finny came into being and eventually starred in her own books. Only two, but two is a plural.
And that, dear readers, is where we stop for today.