“No work would be possible without coffee.” –Henning Mankell, “One Step Behind”

Coffee love

When I was in college, I had a pot-a-day coffee habit. The pot was only big enough to hold four cups, but I diligently drank all of them. I did so because I liked the taste of the strong brew, because I liked the jolt of energy I received from the caffeine it contained and because it felt like the adult thing to do. I woke in the morning and drank a cup of coffee. I had another between classes, a third while working in the newsroom and another late at night when I was trying to stay awake long enough to finish my homework.

By the second year of university, I learned — the hard way — that I had a heart condition, one that was exacerbated by caffeine. On doctor’s orders, I gave up java entirely. The palpitations lessened, even more so once I started taking medicine to ease the condition. And I kept working, just as hard as before, only without the liquid-boost I once enjoyed.

I maintained my coffee sobriety in the decades that followed, allowing myself to consume only one or two cups a year. Drinking more made my heart race.

I still desired to fill the air with the delicious scent of newly ground beans and to listen to the music of a fresh brew dripping into a pot, yet I chose to abstain. Nor did I replace these cravings with other addictions; I simply went without and relied on sheer force of will when age or illness caused my energy to flag.

Then, a few years ago, I drank a cup of coffee. And another. The taste was as I remembered, silky and smooth, but this time the rhythm of my heart didn’t skip a beat or pound. Instead, I was able to consume the creamy, sweet and bitter drink for the sheer enjoyment of its taste rather than the necessary jolt of adrenaline it used to provide.

My annual consumption soon turned into a monthly one, then a weekly one. Now I allow myself to drink one cup a day and it is wonderful, all pleasure with no side effects. Well, almost no side effects. For when I drink coffee, the synapses in my brain begin to fire. In these moments, I must write, talk or move. Unlike tea, which has long symbolized quiet, comfort, warmth and relaxation, coffee demands that I go forth and do something.

Which brings me to today. I need to get some unpacking done. Time to make a cuppa joe and get started.

–Photo by se hui(shirley) Kim

Quote of the week

angry bronze devil

“I mean, 2016 wasn’t a blip. It was the beginning of something. All the bad news that’s arisen isn’t isolated. It’s part of a pattern. This shit is just getting started. The bump that was 2016 isn’t a hill we’re climbing over. It’s the top of Cthulhu’s head as he emerges from the deep.” —Chuck Wendig

–Photo by FooTToo.

2016: The Year In Review


At the end of each year, I always take a moment to examine the ups and downs I experienced. What follows is my personal and professional review of 2016. I:

* Produced hundreds of breaking news stories about the worldwide refugee crisis, the slaughter in Syria, the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Brexit referendum, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Orlando nightclub massacre, the spread of the Zika virus, the Panama Papers leak, the North Korea nuclear tests, dozens of terror attacks, the Juno probe’s arrival in Jupiter’s orbit, the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the 2016 election and countless celebrity deaths.

* Passed the 45,000th tweet mark on my personal Twitter account (@jadewalker).

* Entered an essay contest to win a house in Maine.

* Penned 68 journal entries.

* Wrote 2 poems.

* Worked on my novel.

* Interviewed by Vanessa Lowe for the Nocturne podcast.

* Walked over 1.06 million steps (more than 445 miles) and climbed over 1,060 floors.

* Read 50 books and numerous magazines.

* Watched 39 films and dozens of TV programs.

* Updated The Written Word and The 10th Muse mailing lists.

* Participated in the The Society of Professional Obituary Writers, the New York City Writers Group, the South Florida Freelancers Group, the Journalism & Women Symposium and the Author’s Guild.

* Launched the New Hampshire Writers Guild.

* Traveled to Maine.

* Twice hosted vacationing friends.

* Completed three escape room adventures (and died twice).

* Crossed off an item from my bucket list (was locked inside a bookstore late at night).

* Participated in National Readathon Day.

* Saw Henry Rollins in concert.

* Attended two plays: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Stone Witch.”

* Shot off a large cache of fireworks.

* Completed the Zombies, Run! 5K Virtual Race.

* Suffered from at least 23 migraines.

* Spent nine months caring for my youngest cat Sera, who had terminal cancer, then mourned when she died.

* Celebrated my 7th wedding anniversary.

* Helped my husband find a new job after he was laid off.

* Lived separately from M for months once he landed a great position at a university in Massachusetts.

* Revealed my entire financial background to various firms to qualify for a mortgage.

* Viewed dozens of houses in three states, trying to find one we could afford.

* Bought our first home.

* Turned 43.

End of the year

Goals for 2017

* Finish unpacking.

* Work on my fiction.

* Write more obits.

* Read at least 50 books.

* Win the lottery.

My top 10 favs of 2016: A year spent reading, watching and listening to intriguing stories


This year, I consumed 50 books, 39 movies, dozens of TV programs and many podcasts. Here are my favorites.

(Note: Not all were released during the past 365 days.)


1. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
2. “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America” by Erik Larson
3. “Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time and the Deadliest Hurricane in History” by Erik Larson
4. “Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training” by Tom Jokinen
5. “The Red Notebook” by Antoine Laurain
6. “End of Watch” by Stephen King
7. “Red Right Hand” by Chris Holm
8. “My Happy Days in Hollywood: A Memoir” by Garry Marshall
9. “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food” by Jennifer 8. Lee
10. “In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox” by Carol Burnett

(Honorable mentions: “My Memoirs: Fifty Years of Journalism, From Print to the Internet” by Bernard Gwertzman, “On My Own” by Diane Rehm, “The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays” by Ann Patchett, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” by Kate Andersen Brower and “Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism” by John Norris)


1. This Is Us
2. Stranger Things
3. Grace and Frankie
4. House of Cards
5. Madame Secretary
6. Lucifer
7. Blindspot
8. Outlander
9. Timeless
10. Daredevil

(Honorable mentions: Sherlock, Luke Cage, Elementary, Agent Carter, Supernatural, The Americans, Designated Survivor, The Good Place, iZombie, Covert Affairs, Person Of Interest and Suits)



1. Spotlight
2. Cooked
3. I’ll See You In My Dreams
4. Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World
5. Trumbo
6. Money Monster
7. Sully
8. Before the Flood
9. Doctor Strange
10. The Big Short

(Honorable mentions: Learning To Drive, Captain America: Civil War, Hello, My Name Is Doris, Elvis and Nixon, Mr. Holmes, Jason Bourne, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Finding Dory, Hologram For The King, Weiner, Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens and He Never Died)



1. The Vinyl Cafe
2. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
3. Limetown
4. Nocturne
5. Death, Sex & Money
6. 99% Invisible
7. Dear Hank & John
8. Criminal
9. Radiolab
10. Fresh Air

(Honorable mentions: Tavis Smiley/PBS, The Sporkful, The Diane Rehm Show, The Nerdist, NPR Books, WTF with Marc Maron and the 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop)

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