Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Posts tagged ‘Barrow’

The Next Big Thing Blogfest

Miss Velda Brotherton, the co-founder of the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop and an amazing, multi-published author asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing blog series. Her Next Big Thing blog posting can be found at: :


Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:

What is your working title of your book?

My latest book is called Ex-Ray. My mom came up with the title. She’s terrible at naming things. She didn’t even name me. Daddy was in the hospital in Tulsa having a kidney removed. She called him to let him know he had a daughter and he named me over the phone. Her cats have all been named “Kitty” or “Fluffy.” I had to name her last two cats—“Betsy” and “Priscilla” So, for my mother to give me a book title is a BIG deal.  My first release was Redneck Ex, so she thought it would be cool for me to have an “Ex” series. Goodness knows I have enough exes to provide material for a 30 volume series! It’s all them, you know? I’m a peach.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Ex-Ray is about a woman who disappears without a trace to escape an abusive marriage. She obtains a new identity and moves to Barrow, Alaska where she becomes a 911 Emergency dispatcher. After I’d finished the edits on Santorini Sunset and I was ready to start a new book, I looked through some old files of mine and discovered a novel I started twenty years ago. I was working as a 911 dispatcher in Barrow, Alaska at the time and the novel included some of the very interesting calls I’d received while I worked there. So, I dusted it off, spruced it up and went to work. It’s darker than my usual work. I’ll admit to days of prevailing indigo moods and nightmares while writing it, but it was worth it. I believe it was extremely cathartic for me.

What genre does your book fall under?

At first, I thought it was contemporary romance, but now I think it’s romantic suspense or possibly women’s fiction. It actually falls into the contemporary romance guidelines, but it’s too dark. I don’t think it’s dark enough for women’s fiction. I absolutely cannot stop the snark. So, even though it’s a dark topic, there are a lot of lighter moments. After talking to a couple of editors, I’m labeling it romantic suspense.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Oh, I love playing this game.  Just love it!

The point of view cmaggiegcharacter is Anne Sutton. I see Maggie Gyllenhaal as Anne.

The antagonist is her husband, Ray Malloy. I see Christian Bale or Toby Keith as the really, really bad guy.


The love interest is Joe Carducci. Joe is simply dreamy. He would be played by Channing Tatum or Orlando Bloom.

channingt   orlandob

Anne’s best friend is Bernadette Brower. I see Gwich’in actress Princess Lucaj playing that role.


What is the synopsis of your book?

The isolation of the Alaska’s Arctic is the perfect place to hide, but you can’t outrun your past. Maggie Shaw flees an abusive husband and assumes a new life as Anne Sutton a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher. Her husband, Ray Malloy, a meth-dealing, dirty cop with a violent temper and a powerful right hook, is determined to find her and the three million in drug money she stole. Using her computer hacking skills, Anne is able to stay one step ahead of Ray until he goes off the grid. Even though she lives in constant fear of discovery, friendships develop and she falls in love with the new cop in town, Joe Carducci. When her past comes crashing down on her, will she be able to overcome her fears and protect her friends or will she once again become victim to Ray’s evilness?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Praying that it will be represented by an agency.  Could everyone reading this take a moment and visualize Ex-Ray with a Random House on the spine of the book?  One second, that’s all it takes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I was editing another book while writing this one, so I’d say about a year.  In addition to being the President of the Oklahoma Writers Federation, farm life keeps getting in the way. If I have the opportunity to actually write every day like I should, I can get a first draft done in a couple of months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I describe Ex-Ray as Sleeping with the Enemy meets Hope Floats.  I do realize those are movies, but what can I say? I don’t follow rules very well.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Good question.  As I mentioned, I’d started the book twenty years ago. A lot has changed since then. Anne and the love interest Joe were always there, but Anne’s reason for being in Barrow changed. It turned out that the guy I was living with at the time I first started Ex-Ray was abusive. Like everyone in such situations, I discovered the extent of his temper and violence too late. This book took a turn toward the dark underbelly of life when I decided to make Anne a victim of domestic violence. Hence the nightmares and indigo moods while I was writing it. I hope Ex-Ray will be helpful and encouraging for women in similar situations. The book is dedicated to my father because he’s the one that dragged me out of the mess.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Alaska. Barrow. Fall sunset by bowhead whale jaw bones and umiaq frame.Well, the fact that it’s written by the still unnoticed greatness that is Claire Croxton should be enough, right? Just kidding!  It’s set in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost community in North America (300 miles above the Arctic Circle.) I lived there for fourteen years, so folks can get a real taste for life in the Arctic. All of the 911 calls happened in real life. My magical formula for NY Times Bestselling novels is: cats + snark + sex = bestseller. NY seems to be unfamiliar with my magical formula, but they’ll discover it soon enough, right? Especially with everyone visualizing a major publisher on the spine of my hardcover book. So, of course all three elements are in abundance.

So, this is where I’m supposed to list 5 authors who will also be blogging these questions. Unfortunately, all the bloggers I know are already blogging on this topic.  Having the same people post the same interview on the same blogs could get a tad bit tedious. So, Velda Brotherton took pity on me and told me I could explain why I failed to do my homework and get other authors’ participation. Bottom line? I procrastinated (big shocker) and by the time I got around to asking folks to participate, they were already doing it for someone else. My bad. But, don’t you just love Velda?

You should check out these blogs by some brilliant writers!





Meet Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson

Dr. Summer Leigh Johnson is the main character in Redneck Ex. She’s an anthropologist and the director of the Arctic Research Observation Center in Barrow, Alaska. Laurie at Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts sat down with Dr. Johnson and had a little chat.

Drop by and check out what she has to say.


I love rain. Love it! It’s from all those years living on the North Slope of Alaska. I like being locked inside my house all snug and cozy while the weather outside is frightful. It’s when I’m the most creative. In the Arctic when the weather is nice, you MUST go outside. The chances of it being clear and pretty again soon are slim to none. Even after living in the Ozarks for three years, I still feel the pull to be outside when the weather is nice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cursed the sun since moving here.

Even though I’ve had words with Mother Nature, I’m really thankful the weather here in the boonies is as nice as it is.  Getting inside the house in the Arctic can be hazardous to your health.  Check out this scene from my current work in progress, Ex-Ray.

Anne Sutton is returning home–during a blizzard–from a shift as a 9-1-1- emergency dispatcher. The officer who dropped her off is sitting in the truck waiting for her to get inside safely.

The flakes were sleet-like and razor sharp. It felt like walking through a spider web made of barbed wire. The steps to my apartment were completely buried–a six-foot wall of snow stood between me and the door. I’d only taken four steps from the truck, but when I turned around to ask for assistance, I couldn’t see the vehicle. 

The security of knowing Huffman was still there even if I couldn’t see him, gave me the courage to go forward. Besides, I really needed to pee. 

I turned around and faced the building. I could make out its form and the outside light strained to shine through the blanket of white. My face hurt from the slashing flakes and I pulled down my parka hood limiting my visibility even more. 

There’s no way I can get into the apartment.

I turned toward the truck again and could see nothing. 

Go toward the apartment. It’s easier to find than the truck. If nothing else, you can get under the building.

Facing directly into the wind took my breath away, but I trudged forward. Fortunately, it was cold enough that the pile of snow blocking the door was frozen near the bottom. One step and I sunk to my knees. At least it wasn’t the whole way. The thought of being buried alive in a snow embankment sent a chill much colder than the minus-sixty-degree arctic blast through my heart. Another step. I sunk to my waist. 

I struggled to get out. Pushed my hands on the top of the berm, but it wasn’t sturdy enough to hold me. I wiggled more and my foot hit something solid. Knowing that a large surface area on the snow would work better than trying to prop myself up with my hands, I pushed off and flung myself backward. My torso and waist were out of the hole. I lay on my back as the flakes pelted down on my face. It looked like a scene from Star Trek—the spaceship flying through the stars at warp speed. 

I giggled. 

Quit admiring the stars and get inside, you idiot. Do you want to die?

I shimmied around so that my head was facing the door, I hoped, instead of the street and slid across the top of the snow bank. When my head hit something solid, I maneuvered myself onto my knees and dug out my keys.

By then, I was crying. Scared out of mind. Tears stung my face as they froze to my cheeks. I found the door handle and put the key in, but it didn’t turn. 

Oh shit. Am I at the wrong building?

By then, my hands were getting numb and my thumbs were burning. 

Gotta get inside.

I tried the key again. It went all the way in the lock, but it wouldn’t turn. 

I kicked and banged on the door, but I doubted anyone would hear me over the wind that rocked the building. 

My tears turned to sobs. I stuffed my gloved hands into my parka and kicked the door some more, cursing and screaming.

Calm down. Maybe the lock is just frozen. 

I put the key in my mouth and it instantly stuck to my tongue. I held it there for thirty seconds, then slipped it into the lock. It fit and the lock turned. 

Thank you, Jesus.

The door opened at the same time I was pushing it. I saw bright white lights and felt warmth wash over me as I fell, weeping, to the floor. 

“Anne, are you okay?” A masculine voice asked me. 

Maybe I’m in heaven. 

“Anne.” I felt hands on my shoulders as someone tried to roll me over. “Shit, Anne. Are you okay?” 

I was on my back and someone was cradling me in his arms. I stopped crying and opened my eyes. Joe held me. A concerned look flashed across his ebony eyes. 

Yep. I’m in heaven.

My sobs turned into laughter. To some it might have appeared maniacal, but I was happy to be alive so to me it seemed normal.

“Can you stand?” 

entrance to my house after the blizzard.

Sure, I can, but I like it here.

I stayed for a few seconds longer than was appropriate and stood. “Yeah, I’m fine.” I smiled at him. “I’m glad you heard me knocking.”

“It was only because I was down here doing a load of laundry.” He took my arm and helped me up the stairs. 

“How’d you get in? It looked like the door was frozen or something.”

“I sucked key,” I explained.

“What?” He stopped midway up the stairs and looked at me.

“The lock was frozen. Sometimes if you can warm up the key in your mouth it’s enough to get to lock to move. If it’s really frozen, you have to resort to a propane torch.”

“You’re kidding.”

“One never jokes about sucking key.” 


Woohoo! Spring is here.  I love it. It’s my second favorite season. Autumn is my fave. Even in the Arctic, you could see evidence of fall.  The tundra would turn a vibrant red color just before it was covered once again with a thick layer of snow and ice. Spring, on the other hand, was just snow and ice.

Here’s an excerpt from my current work in progress, Ex-Ray. Anne Sutton, is a 9-1-1 emergency dispatcher in Barrow, Alaska. She escaped an abusive marriage by disappearing without a trace. She changed her name and appearance and went to the least likely place her husband, a dirty cop, would look for her.  She’s been in hiding for 4 years.

A heads up  about this passage, the prose are purple on purpose. Wow, I liked typing that sentence. Talk about alliteration.

Anyway, enjoy!!

Spring, my favorite time of year. The trees come to life with tiny buds of green. Dogwoods paint the landscape with lacy splotches of white. The vibrant blaze of Redbuds competes with the scorching yellow of forsythias. Tulips and daffodils dance in the cool early morning air that holds the promise of afternoon warmth.

Springtime in the Ozarks anyway. The vernal equinox doesn’t mean squat four hundred miles above the Arctic Circle. That’s not entirely true because it is time for Piuraagiaqta—the spring festival. For a country girl like me getting used to living next to a frozen ocean was a challenge. My first year in Barrow, I thought I was going insane. I’d survived sixty-two days where the sun didn’t rise above the horizon. Spending Christmas in complete darkness was different to say the least. Then, January rolled around and I was giddy, absolutely giddy, when the sun peaked through a whispery layer of clouds. By February, I was wrapped in a severe depression. The sun was up, but it was thirty-degrees-below zero. No way to go outside and play.

When the rest of the world was reveling in a green wonderland, Barrow was still shrouded in a thick layer of snow and ice. How do the Iñupiaq mark spring? By drilling holes in the frozen lagoon and playing golf. My favorite Piuraagiaqta event was the frozen-chicken bowling. The sheer oddity of seeing a frozen chicken skid across the icy lagoon and knock over bowling pins does a lot to buoy one’s spirits.

P.S. They did away with the chicken bowling event several years ago because it was wasteful, but come one. Artistic license here. That’s quite an image, don’t you think?

Pamela Foster Interviews Claire Croxton

Don’t you just love your writer friends? Pamela Foster (Redneck Goddess, High Hill Press) read Redneck Ex and asked me some really interesting questions about the book. I’m sure y’all are tired of reading about me, but Pam didn’t repeat any questions that have been asked before. Besides, let’s be honest, I’m awesome and you can’t get enough, right? 🙂

This interview has it all: polar bears, tractors, turnips, drugged GIs and Hitler. Come on. You know you can’t resist.

Check it out:  Pamela Foster Interviews Claire Croxton

Barimisu–Barrow Version of Tiramisu

People come and go quite regularly on the North Slope of Alaska. Personnel changes at some North Slope Borough (NSB) departments is staggering. No point in learning a person’s name unless they’ve stayed there for a year. Just kidding, we’re a friendly bunch of folk, but it is a common joke among the long-timers. When you do find work with someone you like, when they leave it can be heartbreaking.

A colleague was leaving NSB HOE (Hell on Earth) Department to obtain her master’s degree in some foreign place…I can’t remember if it was Pennsylvania or Prague. I was saddened to see her leave—very nice woman.

For her going away party, and we love going away parties—well, parties in general—I decided to concoct a fabulous Tiramisu. Graduate-school-bound co-worker loved Italian food. Certain things can’t be purchased in bush Alaska—or Booger County Arkansas for that matter. Ladyfingers would be the top of the list. Mascarpone cheese? Please!! Alcohol in which to soak the non-existent ladyfingers—not buying it in Barrow. Damp community—more on that later. And Booger County is dry.

A very wimpy substitution for ladyfingers is to bake a cake and slice it in thin slivers. As for the mascarpone cheese, I planned ahead and purchased some the week before when I was in Anchorage. You can use cream cheese. Booze? Well, admittedly, I had quite the stash. Only thing missing was the required Kahlua—funny how I can’t remember what happened to the bottle we brought back from Mexico.

After researching several tiramisu recipes and creative substitutions, I was able to concoct this recipe.


I hate to admit this bit, so Tarimisu afficiandos, please don’t cringe.

STEP ONE: Bake a yellow cake according to the directions on the box. Bake in 9 X 13” pan. Cool and slice into thin slices.

1 ½ cups strong coffee.
½ sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier—which is what I had on hand—you can also replace the Grand Mariner with Kahlua.
3 tablespoons of rum

Boil the coffee and sugar for about 2 minutes. Remove from stove and add alcohol. At this point, it’s always nice to add some alcohol to your system as well. I’ve found that cooking under the influence of wine is quite enjoyable.

1 ½ cup heavy cream
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
16 oz. mascarpone—if using cream cheese, use 14 oz and add 2 T of cream—mix together until creamy

Whip cream and sugar and vanilla into stiff peaks. Gradually add mascarpone


Line the bottom of a 9 x 13” pan with slices of the yellow cake. Drizzle with coffee mixture and then a layer of mascarpone—REPEAT—you’ll have TWO layers of dessert—cake, coffee, cream. Cake, coffee, cream

Chill for at least 4 hours. Before serving garnish with chocolate curls.

Holiday Weekend

When I lived in Barrow, Alaska, I loved the end of June and the first week of July. Borough Holidays abounded. First you’d get a Nalukataq day. Nalukataq events are hosted by successful whaling captains to celebrate their bounty. These are usually held the last few weeks of June and we’d get a couple of 1/2 day holidays to attend the festivities. Nalukataq literally means blanket toss. The hides from the seal-skin boats-umiat-are sewn together to make a blanket. Members of the community grab the sides of the blanket and someone stands in the middle. Then the fun commences. The brave soul on the blanket is tossed into the air and falls back to the blanket to be sent soaring once again. I wonder if the Inupiat invented the trampoline?

This is an umiat--the covering is used to make the blanket

Do NOT try this at home!

Let's Eat!

In addition to the wonderful Nalukataq holidays, the brilliant founding fathers of the North Slope Borough incorporated the borough on July 2, 1972. So, not only did we receive the 4th of July off, we also celebrated Founder’s Day. For example, this weekend, NSB employees would get Friday-Monday off. Come on, you gotta love that, don’t you?

I really miss all those paid holidays.  As a writer I don’t take weekends and holidays off.  Do you?