Do you keep a journal? Have you ever heard of a writer’s process journal?
It’s essentially a writer’s diary noting the progression of their project.
My challenge in keeping one is that I’m currently working on three projects.
- My memoir is in the many-eth draft, and I’m now re-writing it in the present tense, hoping to give this great story a breath of life and real emotion.
- My novel Facing the Odds, One Man at a Time is complete! I’ve worked on this book with a writing coach from the jump, and now it’s time to go back from the start and add dimension.
- And I’m doing research for my third book about Alaskan socialite Muriel Pfeil, who died in a car-bombing incident in 1976 after a tumultuous marriage and custody battle with her former husband, real-estate developer Neil Mackay.
Given that I’ve never written a murder-mystery before, it’s been quite a journey. I’ve spent four months following up on one lead after another that ultimately fizzles. Then my luck changed. This past month, I’ve met with a retired judge who helped coordinate Anchorage’s first battered women’s shelter, a colorful lawyer/author who was Muriel’s son’s guardian ad litem, and spoken with some of her school mates. There’s hope yet.
I can’t recall the first time I heard the name Muriel Pfeil.
I was a girl of twelve the day she was blown to bits, but I didn’t hear of it then. That was during the pre-internet times, and I lived 25 miles away, part of a family that didn’t follow the news.
I was a young woman of twenty-one, just on the verge of stepping off a cliff and marrying the man who would soon try to take my life the day Muriel’s brother Robert was executed on the way home from his job as an airline pilot.
I was an earnest professional of twenty-eight, fresh out of college and off food stamps with two little girls, working at the very battered women’s shelter my daughters and I took refuge in when I began hearing other women’s fear about Muriel. It had been sixteen years since the bomb had detonated. “My husband tells me if I leave, don’t dare turn the ignition,” or “How would you like to be the next Muriel Pfeil?”
I was a middle-aged woman attending a Christmas party when I overheard a few people talking about the abduction of Muriel’s little son to the Marshall Islands, and a whispered comment about the judge there who heard the interim custody proceeding who died under suspicious circumstances.
Too many days in my adult life have been haunted by the story of Muriel Pfeil. A finer writer would take the high road and stay out of the story, but I want to be up front with you about why I need to tell her story.
We couldn’t be more different, Muriel and me. She was well-bred, expensively educated, and enjoyed all the privileges forthwith. By all accounts, she came from parents who loved one another and were protective of their children. I am the daughter of two high-school drop outs who likely meant to.
I’ve dined with some of her high school mates, now in their seventies, who have assured me in so many words that Muriel and I would have never been friends. “She was too good for me,” one man said. “Her nose was always up in the air.” Others described her as aloof or reserved.
Whatever the case is, we’ve been together for too long. I waited for someone else locally to tell the story of Neil Mackay and Muriel Pfeil. And now I’ve stopped waiting.
My hope with this venture is that I can introduce you to the real Muriel Pfeil and to Neil Mackay. That we can see what life in Alaska was in the 70’s for women who left their spouses. I hope to explore some of the alibis given in this yet-unsolved murder involving a beautiful socialite and her older, less-beautiful, attorney ex-husband.
I also hope to ensure that Muriel’s memory is eternal, and that in turn, she will let me live the balance of my life in peace.
Last but not least, I’ve done a few things to promote my platform.
I was interviewed as one of the audio-portraits for the national Futures Without Violence Conference this month.
I released my handbook on Amazon–Online Dating Safety: Get Ready, Get Set, Let’s Go! for a mere 99 cents!
And I was invited last-minute to give a reading of my essay Healing from A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone at a gathering. Another writer had cancelled, and I’m thankful for it. What a fun way to connect! Thank you to my dear friend Susan for giving me the chance.
The seasons are changing. I’m looking forward to getting more serious about my writing. How about you?
What’s on your to-do list these days?