Friday, February 28, 2014


It's been a pretty busy February for me (see all the posts on the Olympics under this one) but, before Black History Month is officially over, I wanted to re-post my tribute to Mabel Fairbanks and her extraordinary contributions to figure skating!

Check it out, below:

Originally posted on 2/20/13

When Jo Ann Ferris reviewed On Thin Ice: Enhanced Multimedia Edition at (, she wrote:

It should be mentioned that one of the characters in On Thin Ice, African-American figure skating coach, Antonia Wright, is based on Mabel Fairbanks, the first African-American skater who paved the way for African Americans and other figure skaters from minority backgrounds to be part of the sport.

I fictionalized Mabel's story for On Thin Ice using videos from The Ice Theatre of New York to tell her alter ego, Antonia Wright's, story in words and images.

Toni Wright plays an even bigger role in my latest Figure Skating Mystery, Skate Crime: Enhanced Multimedia Edition.

Enjoy an excerpt below:

At the age of eight, Toni Wright stood alone at the entry gate to New York City's Wollman Outdoor Ice Rink in Central Park, waiting for her turn to pay the twenty-five cent admission and take a spin around the slick oval in her brand-new Christmas skates. She wore — at her mother's insistence — her waterproof rain pants. But Toni, frankly, had no intention of falling down. For the past year, she'd watched other boys and girls glide gracefully across the rink and she felt certain she would be able to do the same.

When it was her turn, Toni plunked down the required two dimes and a nickel, and was already pushing the door with her shoulder when the girl working the window leaned over across the cashier's sill and grabbed Toni by the arm. Toni turned her head slowly and gazed at the older teen with the same look Toni's mother unleashed on any salesgirl, waitress, or taxi driver unfortunate enough not to realize whom they were dealing with.

"Is there a problem, miss?" But unlike her mama, who had no patience for dealing with fools, Toni followed her Daddy's instructions to always be polite. Especially to the ignorant. He said it was their job to teach them, in particular, the right way to behave.

Either the girl wasn't accustomed to being addressed as "miss" or she didn't realize the query was directed at her. She yanked Toni backwards and announced, "No niggers allowed."

Toni sighed. So this was to be another case of her needing to educate somebody. Well, Daddy did say it was their burden to bear.

As politely as she could manage — her eight-year-old patience not being quite as sturdy as Daddy's — Toni explained, "This is a public facility. You are not allowed to make rules like that."

"It is a rule," the girl insisted.

"Please show me where it's written, then."

"It's a rule."

Toni yanked her arm free. It wasn't very ladylike, but she couldn't figure out any other way to do it The girl had hurt her, squeezing so tightly. But Toni would never let her see that.

She said, "I've given you my money, and now I am going skating."

Before the cashier could make another lunge at her elbow, Toni slipped through the door and walked over to the bench, sat down, and without looking at any of the faces now staring curiously in her direction, proceeded to take off her shoes and slip on her skates. She waited until she'd taken a few wobbly step on the ice and come crashing down on her bottom — Mama had been right about the waterproof pants, after all — before allowing a couple of tears to slip free from her eyes. She figured those people watching would think she'd just hurt herself.

That first day, Toni fell down fourteen times — she counted. But she came back the next day. There was a different girl at the window. Either she'd heard about Toni from the day before or she didn't subscribe to the same unwritten rule of exclusivity, because she let Toni in without a word of protest.

She just sniffed rather haughtily, but even Mama didn't consider those sorts of slights worth her while.

The second day, Toni fell only nine times. By the end of the week, she felt she'd gotten the hang of going forward. Now, she thought it was time to tackle the backward strokes that most of the older kids were doing, the ones that permitted them to fly like the wind. Toni tried it by herself for almost a month. She watched the others as closely as she could — hopefully without them noticing; if they did and glared at her, Toni scurried away as fast as she could, realizing that, in this instance, she was actually the one in the wrong — and attempted to replicate exactly what they were doing. But going backwards by crossing her foot in front proved much too confusing. She would master a step or two, then lose her rhythm and find her ankles tangled in a hopeless muddle. She said to Daddy over dinner that maybe it was time to get herself a coach. He set down his fork. He didn't say anything.

The Wright family lived along Striver's Row in Harlem, in a four-story row house built by no less than David H. King, the same contractor who'd built Madison Square Garden and the base of the Statue of Liberty. They boarded one live-in girl to keep the house tidy on a daily basis and had another come in once a week to do what Mama called heavy work, beating the carpets, washing the windows, scrubbing each bathroom until it gleamed. When Mama and Daddy threw dinner parties, they'd even have another girl in to help with the cooking and the serving and the cleaning up.

Daddy said there was no shame in hiring people to help with what you couldn't do yourself. It was a blessing on them and on you.

Which was why Toni couldn't understand his hesitation about hiring her a coach for skating. Surely Daddy had seen how hard Toni was working. She wasn't being frivolous, like her friend from next door, who took up ballet dancing, then horseback riding, then oil painting, only to drop each within the course of a month. Toni was determined to stick with her chosen endeavor. She merely needed some help, that was all.

Daddy asked, "Any colored teachers at that rink there?"

"No, sir."


"Yes, sir?"

"I say this: You find yourself a coach willing to teach you, and I will pay her price. But you need to come to me with an agreement first.  Does that sound fair?"

"Yes, sir," Toni said, still unsure why Daddy seemed to think this would be so difficult.

It proved rather difficult.

As he must have known, none of the teachers at Wollman was willing to take Toni on. They didn't give a reason. They simply said no. But then again, to actually give the reason out loud, well, as Mama liked to say, that would have been an insult to both their intelligences — if the latter had any, that is.

Toni was ready to give up, to tell Daddy that maybe, like her friend from next door, she'd like to try dance lessons, after all. There was a lady on Hamilton Heights who gave classes, and those were for colored girls only, so there would surely be a space for Toni if she asked.

But that was before the boy that came right up to her at the rink as she was taking off her skates after another fruitless day of attempting to master backward crossovers and asked, "You got a lot of money?"


For more on Mabel Faribanks and other skaters of color, check out this wonderful site:

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Congrats to Dick Button on New York Times piece.

Honored to have been part of your "tweeting and twittering your horn... with extraordinary style and flair."

Read the entire profile at:

Friday, February 21, 2014


Murder on Ice, the first book in my Figure Skating Mystery series, was inspired by the 2002 Olympic Pairs judging scandal. Last night, when Russia's home-crowd favorite, teen-ager Adelina Sotnikova came out ahead of the more mature and lyrical YuNa Kim and Carolina Kostner, there was, once again, talk of crooked and nationalist judges fixing the results. (There had been similar murmurs earlier, when the Americans won their first ever Olympic gold in Ice Dancing over the defending champion Canadians. I spent this Games producing 2-time Men's Olympic Champion Dick Button's Twitter commentary. His take on the fix? The US Skating Association isn't smart enough to pull it off.)

In this eerily prescient scene from the beginning of Murder on Ice (written twelve years ago), TV figure skating researcher Bex Levy is sitting in the broadcast booth with the announcers, Olympic Champions and long-time married couple, Francis and Diana Howarth as, at the World Figure Skating Championship, the Ladies' gold medal seems to go to the wrong person.

But, is the fix really in?  Or is something much more sinister at play?

Please enjoy this FREE preview of Murder on Ice: A Figure Skating Mystery!

Xenia Trubin was next on the ice. Bex checked her notes. The twenty-six-year-old Russian and European champion was skating to a selection by Shostakovich and, contrary to Diana's earlier sarcasm, she wasn't portraying Russia's grief about Stalin's five-year-plan. She was portraying man's inhumanity to man in an age of commerce and globalization.

By doing a triple Lutz-double loop combination.

Bex presumed her lack of understanding of what one had to do with the other was probably a cultural difference.

This time, Diana didn't wait for Gil to scream and Bex to kick her before picking up the slack. When Xenia's music entered the slow, lyrical section, the one wherein she ran backward on her toe picks with a look of abject terror on her face, symbolizing her fear that commerce and globalization would crush her with its mighty weight right there in the middle of the rink, Diana announced, "Despite her numerous titles—though, I must point out, those are mostly European—Xenia Trubin is nowhere near the jumper her main competitor tonight and for most of this season, America's Erin Simpson, is. In fact, even if she lands everything here tonight, Xenia only has six triples planned in this long program, whereas Erin Simpson will be doing seven, including two in combination. Erin's program has a great deal more difficulty in it, and, as a result, I'd say that this world championship is Erin Simpson's to lose. Don't you agree, Francis?"

Once again, Bex guessed that Diana thought she had Francis figured out. Since, with Lian's program, Diana had parroted an opinion Francis expressed earlier only to see him turn on a dime, disagree completely, and embarrass her on air, she must have thought that by expressing an opinion she knew he didn't agree with, she would at least be prepared for his inevitable attack on her. Bex was rather proud of herself for figuring it all out. With this being the last event of the season, she felt like she was finally getting somewhere in her decoding of the Howarths.

Mistake Number Two.

For both Bex and Diana.

After a half-century partnership, Francis was inevitably one step ahead of his wife. Instead of giving her the vehement denial she expected, he once again pulled the rug out from under her by—go figure; Bex figured she might as well give it up—agreeing wholeheartedly.

"Absolutely, my dear. Absolutely. Xenia Trubin may be the best Russia has to offer, but she is no match for America's one-two-three punch of Simpson, Ares, and Reilley. Her technical skills are weak, and no amount of arm waving, rushing from place to place, or rather unseemly—if I do say so myself—spinning positions will be able to cover that up."

Even as Francis was speaking, Xenia finished up another of her so-called unseemly spins, nose pressed to her knee, bottom in the air, arms—well, Francis was right about that—flapping by her sides, and collapsed on the ice, breathing heavily. After a dramatic respite on the ground of either recuperating rest or ongoing fear of capitalism, she slowly stood up and, after bowing to the judges, waved to the crowd, her face an unreadable mask of not happiness, not sadness, not relief, but determination. Xenia knew that her biggest battle was still ahead. She didn't appear to give a damn that the crowd's applause was perfunctory and lukewarm while they strained their necks to get a glimpse of Erin Simpson, warming up rinkside. When Xenia skated, she gave the impression of not even noticing that the audience was there. All she cared about were the judge's marks.

Her numbers came up rather quickly. She'd barely sat down in the kiss-and-cry area and taken a parched sip of bottled water and kissed the indifferent flower girl who dumped an armload of limp roses at her feet, before they popped up on the scoreboard, indicating uniform votes. And, indeed, every judge on the panel but one gave her a 5.8 for technical merit, and a 5.9 for presentation. The Russian gave her two 5.9s.

"Those are a little high," Francis mused, stating the obvious for the service, Bex guessed, of the blind in the audience.

"But, there's still plenty of room on top for Erin," Diana bolstered.

"Oh, absolutely, no doubt about it. Erin Simpson is certainly capable of earning straight 5.9s and maybe even some 6.0s for her technique, her jumps are that solid. And, to be honest, her presentation is equal, if not superior to Xenia's."

And, Bex mumbled to herself, don't forget the "perky" mark. Erin Simpson could easily outscore anyone on that all-important, "perky" mark.

Bex guessed that "perky" kind of came naturally when you were nineteen years old but barely an inch over five feet tall. No hips, no breasts, no body fat. With those dimensions, Erin was hardly a candidate for a "sultry" performance, or even "non-pedophilia-inspiring." Perky was all she had. A huge, huge, huge smile, cosmetically twinkling lids beneath blue eye shadow, a sprinkling of freckles across her pert little nose, and a blonde, bouncy ponytail. Adorable.

If you were twelve.

To Bex, this umpteenth case of arrested development actually looked kind of creepy. Sure, Erin Simpson may have been a four-time U.S. champion with over a million dollars worth of endorsement deals, her own television special, and an official Web site, "Erin Excitement!" but would a college guy want to date a Girl Scout?

Granted, at the World Championship, dating wasn't really an issue. It wasn't even about looking attractive, although Bex had heard enough people over the course of the season whisper that "So-and-so should really get her teeth fixed if she expects that artistic mark to go up," and "So-and-so is going to get his nose fixed so it matches his partner in profile," to think that looks had nothing to do with the final results.

But, the fact was, Erin Simpson looked the way skating liked its champions to look. Cute. Innocent. Wholesome. Erin at nineteen going on twelve was much more the world champion ideal than Xenia, who'd dyed her usually mousy brown hair an orange red that, to paraphrase Francis, truly never, ever grew out of a human head that color, and, for her costume, wore shredded black rags dripping from her arms like sludge.

In comparison, Erin's dress, a sparkly robin's egg blue with sequins across the bodice, lace trim around the skirt, and puffy party-dress sleeves, was a blast of good taste and restraint.

Erin wasn't taking any chances with her look this year by trying something cutting edge or new. She knew the stars might never align so fortuitously again. Thanks to the serendipitous retirement of the defending gold medalist, this year was her first real, odds-on-favorite chance at a world championship. Erin had finished third for the past two years in a row, both times behind silver medalist Xenia Trubin. For her part, Xenia had finished second for five years in a row.

These were two women, Bex knew, who both wanted the title very, very badly.

Xenia out of frustration. She'd been competing on the world championship scene since she was fourteen. She'd worked her way up from twenty-first place to second. And then she sat, entrenched there, watching younger girl after younger girl pass her in the ranks.

And Erin... Erin wanted the title because she'd been born to it.


Her mother was Patty Simpson. Seven-time U.S. champion. Olympic bronze medalist. Four years later, Olympic silver medalist. Never Olympic champion. Never world champion.

That, Patty proudly told anyone who would listen, would be Erin.

Patty put her little girl on the ice at fourteen months. With Mommy as coach, Erin's first competition was at age three. She was the youngest U.S. novice champion, then the youngest U.S. junior champion, then the youngest World Team member all by age twelve. Her career, to date, was identical to her mother's. They looked so much alike (since there'd never been a father around that anyone knew of), that people whispered that Erin had been cloned, not born.

But this was the year Erin Simpson was scheduled to break her mother's pattern. She'd beaten Xenia all season in their Grand Prix head-to-heads. This was the year Erin was scheduled to win the world championship.

She started her program off strong, taking the ice and, right off the bat, landing her (albeit tiny) triple-triple combination to an explosion of partisan cheers from the arena.

Her next jump, however, a triple loop, was only a double.

"It's all right, it's all right," Francis chanted like a hypnotic mantra. "Remember, the long program has no required elements. You don't lose points for the things you don't do, you only accrue them for the things that you do do."

"And that was a beautiful double loop," Diana chimed in. "She'll get full credit for it."

"It doesn't matter, anyway," Francis insisted. "Remember, now, Xenia Trubin completed only six triple jumps, whereas Erin Simpson has seven planned."

"And she's already landed her beautiful triple-triple."

"It was a marvelous triple-triple. Certainly worth more than one of Xenia's spins."

Erin's music slowed down. Now, Bex presumed, it was Erin's turn to make funny faces and run from rampant capitalism. Although, according to Bex's research, the theme of Erin's program was actually Happiness.

And apparently happiness was neither—"Peanuts" style—a warm puppy nor learning to whistle. To Erin Simpson, happiness was a look of deep longing into the stands, followed by a furrowing of brow and a shaking of her head as if trying to clear it, then a look of constipated pain in the other direction before a sudden music change was followed by her breaking into a trademark grin and performing a move wherein Erin hippity-hopped across the ice, going round and round in circles. Bex liked to call it dog-chasing-own-tail.

"Oh, oh, oh, isn't that wonderful?" Francis all but clapped his hands together with glee. "Such sensitivity to the music, such spirit, such life."

"It's almost as if the music is transporting her, isn't it, Francis?"

"You know, Diana, the theme of her program is Happiness." Francis looked at Bex and winked, as if expecting her to congratulate him for actually having read his research material. "And I can safely say that not only Erin Simpson but the entire judging panel should be very, very happy with this program."

"Did we just witness a world championship performance, Francis?"

"I'd bet my Olympic gold medal on it!"

"Hey, you be careful! That's our gold medal you're gambling with there!"

"Do you disagree?"

"Oh, no, not at all, my dear."

Bex's tolerance level for cutesy dialogue reached gag proportions. Meanwhile, from the booth, Gil cheered, "Excellent, guys, excellent! Keep it going! We'll go to commercial before the marks come up; that'll really keep the tension high!"

Bex gritted her teeth—and not just to hold back nausea. Holding the marks for commercials was a practice she hated. Whenever television bought the rights to an event, they also bought the right to keep the scores from being announced until the time was convenient for them. To Bex, it didn't seem fair to make an athlete who'd worked their whole life for this moment wait an extra five minutes to find out if they'd succeeded or not, all in the name of ratings.

And Erin Simpson didn't seem to think it was too hot of a strategy, either. As soon as she dropped her closing pose, she was looking at the scoreboard. She was looking at it as she waved to her standing ovation. She was looking at it as she skated around to pick up the teddy bears and flowers thrown on the ice. She was even looking at it as she jumped off the ice and into the arms of her nearly hysterical with ecstasy mother.

And still, there were no marks.

The wait whipped the crowd into even a greater frenzy.

As Erin sat in the kiss and cry, waving her arms above her head and grinning even more broadly than usual, the fans began chanting, "Six! Six! Six!"

Patty joined in the chant, then hugged Erin, then looked at the scoreboard.

But they were still in commercial.

Patty hugged Erin again. Erin hugged her back. They kept hugging tighter and tighter, until, at risk for suffocation, both awkwardly let go and, running low on patience, looked around as if the scores might be playing hide-and-seek with them. Starting to get pissed off now, they looked down at the ground, then up again at the scoreboard. Erin jiggled her knees. Her mother put one hand on her thigh and shook her head. Erin quit it and chewed on a cuticle. Now Patty's knees started jiggling.

Finally, Gil Cahill told the referee, "TV's good. Release the scores."

The scores came up: 5.8s and 5.9s for technical.

Erin and Patty hugged again. The fans screamed.

And then the presentation marks: 5.7s, 5.8s, and a 5.6 from the Russian judge.

Erin's perky grin turned into a furrowed brow. Her mother's brow furrowed, too.

The ordinals came up. A five-four split. Four votes for Erin, five votes for Xenia.

Xenia Trubin was the world champion.

"Impossible!" Francis sputtered.

"It's a travesty!" Diana almost beat him to the punch.

"This makes no sense." Francis's finger poked the monitor in front of him. "Both skaters landed the same number of jumps, but Erin had a triple-triple combination!"

"She seems to have lost this event on the artistic mark!"


"I agree! Her program was lovely. Youthful and joyful and carefree, it's everything one can hope for in a skating performance."

"You know what the problem is." Francis was peering closely at the marks now. “Take a look at this panel, Diana. We have one, two, three, four judges from America, Canada, France, and Australia giving the win to Erin, and four judges from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Latvia giving the win to Xenia. The interesting decision is right here, by the Italian judge. By all rights, she should have voted with the West."

Bex's mouth dropped open. Was Francis saying what she thought he was saying? Was he honestly going live on national television and explaining that Western judges were obligated to vote with their Western counterparts?

"You're right, Francis," Diana concurred. "The Italian judge seems to have voted with the ex-Soviet bloc. That doesn't make any sense."

"You know, Diana, as a citizen of the world, it was my sincerest hope that with the dissolution of the Soviet Union we would finally see an end to block voting. And yet, here we are again, the ex-Soviets all voting together and, clearly, somehow swaying the Italian judge, too."

Bex's mouth could no longer drop open. If it dropped open any further, she would be licking her shoes, and in this booth, there was no room for it. What the heck were Francis and Diana saying? Could they even hear themselves? Could they hear what they were suggesting? What can of worms were they opening?

"Gil," Bex whispered into her headset. "Gil, we can't let them say this. Stop them, please. We have no proof. It's libelous. And it doesn't make any sense—“

"Be quiet, Bex, it's good television," Gil flicked on his switch to the announcers. "Great chatter, you two, keep it going, keep it going."

"I wonder how they did it," Diana mused. "I wonder what they offered the Italian judge to ignore that beautiful performance by Erin in favor of that avant-garde mess of Xenia's."

"This is horrible. Just horrible." Francis's voice had dropped to funeral dirge mode. "I offer my sincerest apologies to everyone watching at home, but, for the life of me, I can't think of any way to explain this decision. I am embarrassed for our sport, Diana. I don't know what to say. Poor Erin Simpson. Poor, poor, lovely Erin Simpson. She won the world championship tonight. And the Italian judge stole it from her as surely as if she'd ripped the gold medal from that sweet, brave child's neck….”

Jordan Ares was the last skater of the night. She skated well and won the bronze medal. But, by that point, nobody cared. Even before the competition was officially over, the local radio station was announcing: "Corruption at the world championships!"

By the time Bex followed Francis and Diana out of the announcer's booth, the media, both print and television, was camped outside like a salacious throng, demanding that the pair comment on the travesty that had just occurred.

“Travesty," Francis said. "That's the perfect word for it. It's a travesty. Obviously, some sort of fix was in, some sort of deal was made, to keep our beautiful and talented, dear American champion from winning the gold medal."

"It's the Italian judge,” Diana repeated. "Look at her marks. She voted for Xenia over Erin, and there was no reason for her to do that. The Italian judge isn't part of the Soviet bloc. Clearly, she had to have been coerced."

"How can you say that?" Bex waited until she'd sequestered Francis and Diana in their 24/7 dressing room before unleashing all the comments percolating in her mind earlier. "Don't you realize that by suggesting there was a conspiracy on the part of the Soviet bloc, you're also implying that there was a conspiracy on the Western side? I mean, yes, all the ex-Soviets voted together, but so did all the Western countries. How is that not a conspiracy on both sides?"

Francis and Diana looked at each other.

"Hmm," Francis said, "I never thought of it that way."

"What an interesting point you've made, Bex."

And then they refused to say another word on the subject.

Erin Simpson's defeat, plus a fetching photo of her tear-stained yet bravely smiling face, made the front page of every major American newspaper the next morning.

Her quotes, "I skated my very best. I'm happy with my performance. My job is to skate, and the judge's job is to judge. This silver medal is the silver lining on my cloud," made her seem simultaneously modest and plucky. Erin did five satellite interviews, seven cable talk shows (both news and sports), and called in to every national morning show to express her utter satisfaction with the decision.

Meanwhile, as Erin insisted how content she was and how she wouldn't trade her hard-won silver for a trunk of gold, her official Web site, "Erin Excitement!" launched a petition to strip Xenia of her gold medal and award it to Erin instead. By nine a.m. the morning after the long program, it had seven thousand signatures, including one poster who listed their address as Sierra Leone, Africa. Gee, and here Bex had assumed the people of Sierra Leone had bigger things to worry about—what with the machetes chopping off limbs and all—than the outcome of the World Figure Skating Championships.

Obviously, not all was sunshine and lollipops in the Simpson camp. Because, for every brave-trooper smile Erin offered the media, five minutes later there was Patty, snarling.

"Anyone with eyes could see that Erin won last night. She and Xenia landed the same number of jumps, but Erin had a triple-triple combination. And if you want to talk about the artistic mark, well, just listen to what Francis and Diana Howarth said on the air! And their judgment is beyond reproach. They were Olympic champions, for Pete's sake. They truly understand artistry. I'd like to know what the Italian judge was looking at. Actually, no. I'd rather know whom she was listening to!"

Xenia, for her part, was also besieged with interview requests. Her quotes, though, were less pithy. "I win gold medal. I am best."

Her coach, Sergei Alemazov, elaborated, "The judges decided that Xenia is the winner. Yes, the vote was very close. But, very often in the past, the vote was very close. Erin Simpson is a nice skater. But Xenia won on the artistic mark. Xenia is terribly artistic. Xenia is a grown woman. Erin Simpson is a child. And Erin Simpson skates like a child."

In fact, the only person not getting airtime was Silvana Potenza, the Italian judge.

Though that wasn't due to the media's lack of trying.

They'd practically camped outside the poor woman's hotel room door, screaming questions and flashing lights in her face whenever she stepped outside. But Silvana Potenza, a fifty-something woman who either was rather round or simply looked it due to perpetually being wrapped in a russet floor-length fox coat, refused to say a word.

Gil Cahill was in heaven.

"Is this terrific or what?" he raved at the production meeting Friday morning. This was a daily event when they were in the middle of a show. The entire cast, staff, and crew got together so Gil could explain to them why they were the most useless people on earth and how he "could pull a dozen, non-English speakers in off the street and they would do a better job in each and every position." The only lucky sons of guns exempt from the daily enlightenment were a rotating series of cameramen, who had to miss the fun because one cameraman was on duty at all times, shooting all the skaters' practices, lest something exciting happen while the rest of them were absent.

Gil went on, "You know, I thought we might get a little ratings bump with worlds being in America this year, hometown crowd and all, people love that shit. And then, when we had two girls in the top three, I thought, yeah, that should pick up a couple of extra households. But, this! This is freaking, friggin', fucking fantastic. We're raking in free publicity from every newspaper, radio station, and TV station in the country. Everyone's talking about Erin Simpson. I've got a source telling me she's on the next cover of Time and friggin' Newsweek. Can you bums imagine what kind of numbers our exhibition show is going to get on Sunday? Everyone wants to see this kid and the Russian who stole her medal. We're going to go through the roof!"

"Uhm ..." Bex wanted to raise her hand, but Gil Cahill had a problem seeing anything outside his own ego. She settled for shouting. Or, as they called it at 24/7 production meetings, business as usual. "Gil! Gil! Gil, you know, I was thinking. Maybe during the Sunday show, we could do an element-by-element comparison of Xenia's and Erin's program, and show how they broke down and why some judges may have valued technical merit over artistic, and vice versa. I think it could be really informative."

Gil looked at Bex for a moment. Then he faked falling down on his chair and snoring.

"I take it that's a no?" Bex asked politely.

"You're new, Bex, so I'm going to share with you a little 24/7 rule, kiddo. We don't bite gift horses on the ass around here."

"I'll keep it mind."

"Good kid."

Bex changed tacks, addressing Francis and Diana. "So let me get this straight. Just so I can put it down in the research notes for Sunday. You two claim that Erin lost last night because the panel was stacked against her."

"Well, actually the panel wasn't stacked against her. It was five to four, pro-West. She should have won, if only the Russians hadn't gotten to the Italian judge and made her change her vote," Diana patiently explained.

"So you're saying that if the Italian judge voted with the West like she was supposed to, Erin Simpson would have won, no matter how she skated?"

"Erin Simpson skated beautifully last night. No mistakes. No falls."

"But you're saying that it doesn't matter. That how the two women skated is irrelevant. You make it sound like all victory is dependent on the panel. That it's preordained."

"The results were certainly preordained last night. The Soviet bloc wanted Xenia to win, and win she did, even with that mediocre performance."

"But, doesn't that mean that all the times Erin beat Xenia at the Grand Prix this season, she only won because the panel was stacked in her favor?"

Diana and Francis looked at each other.

"Hmm," Francis said, "I never thought of it that way."

"And does that mean that when you two won your Olympic gold medal, it was only because the panel was stacked in your favor?"

"What an interesting point you've made, Bex," Diana said.

And stood up to leave.

With Francis by her side, she was barely to the door, when Mark, the lucky cameramen assigned to shoot the ladies' practice for the exhibition, burst into the room, breathing heavily. He'd run all the way from the arena to the hotel, lugging his heavy camera on his back, and now he could barely get the words out between his gasps.

"Did you hear?" he demanded. "Silvana Potenza! She's dead! Murdered!"


Read more in Murder on Ice!

Or, for more bang for your buck, get the entire Figure Skating Mystery series at discount! Just click the link below!

Thursday, February 20, 2014


This month, in addition to pieces on Olympic figure skating I've written for BlogHer, The Times of Israel, Kveller and more, I've also been priviliged to share my views on the subject with:

Deseret News

J Weekly 

ESPN's Sports Pen


As someone who also regularly interviews people, I know that reporters do their very, very best to get their stories right. But, when it comes to writing about a subject they aren't familiar with, mistakes inevitably get through.

There is at least one factual error (sometimes more), in each of my interviews above.

Find it, email it to me at and I'll send you a free, enhanced electronic copy of the first book in my Figure Skating Mystery, "Murder on Ice." (It's based on the Olympic judging scandal of 2002, only, in this case, the judge accused of cheating to give Russia the gold ends up dead... and it's up to TV researcher Bex Levy to figure out whodunnit!)

Have fun!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Whom should you be rooting for in the Ladies' Olympic Figure Skating competition scheduled for Wednesday, February 19 and Thursday, February 20?

There are, after all, so many elements that go into making a winning program. Judges are looking at jumps, spins, footwork, spirals, connecting moves, musicality and artistic presentation.

You could spend years acquainting yourself with the intricacies of the sport, the new Code of Points, the subtle differences between an inside and an outside edge, not to mention a Lutz and a Salchow jump, or a Donut Spin versus a Biellmann.

Or, you could sit back, relax, and let television make the decisions for you.

They would really, really prefer it if you did.

Find out why, as well as behind the scenes stories about Peggy Fleming, Janet Lynn, Tai & Randy, Irina Rodnina, Tonya Harding, Oksana Bauil, Michelle Kwan and this year's Sochi 2014 Olympic Figure Skating team at:,0

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Want some novel reading to go along with your Olympics watching? As the women's figure skating finals come into view, read up on the world behind the scenes in Alina Adams' hilarious and entertaining mystery, Murder on Ice.

Granted, Murder on Ice is set at the world championships, but close enough. For those of us who follow figure skating once every four years, this is all a fun new experience...

It's not enough just to have an intriguing setting, though — fortunately, the book comes through with a clever mystery and plenty of funny. An Italian judge is murdered — and Bex's boss decides that, as a researcher, Bex is the perfect person to find the killer in time to reveal on air at the finale! But no pressure.

Bex, underpaid and generally beleaguered, sees no choice but to agree. She does already know all the players and quickly becomes adept at nosily sussing out their secrets.

One of my favorite passages is when Bex considers the lengthy and detailed descriptive travel passages in mystery fiction. I've often wondered about the same thing.

    "As a reader, Bex had assumed the technique was nothing more than filler. […] However, now that she was a sleuth herself, Bex decided to give all those poor, maligned writers the benefit of the doubt and guess that the interminable itinerary listing was actually a sensible way of organizing their thoughts in a linear fashion, the better to make sense of the knotty puzzle before them."

She decides to give it a go:

    "She noted that they seemed to be driving down Nineteenth Avenue. The street was … street colored. Concrete colored. Gray.
    [… ]

    And, anyway, now they had left Nineteenth Avenue and were driving through Golden Gate Park, which was pretty and green, as parks are wont to be. Finally, they pulled out of the park and alongside the Pacific Ocean. It was blue and big and, presumably wet."

Ha! As a writer who frequently adds in description after writing the story, I chuckled along with this.

Read the complete review, as well as how the multimedia enhancements add to the story at:

Monday, February 17, 2014


Whether it’s the kid going door to door doing odd jobs to fund his Olympic dream, the single mom struggling to make ends meet while going for the gold, the comeback from an injury or the out of nowhere surprise contender, everyone has a story to tell. At ABC, it was your job as a researcher or producer to find that story, and to tell it in a visually compelling manner – in under three minutes.

When I was there, some skaters made it easy for you. For instance, Russia’s Elena Bereznaia was struck in the head by her partner’s blade. She required brain surgery, suffered a stroke, needed to learn to walk and talk all over again – and went on to win Olympic Gold with her next partner (whom she was also romantically involved with).

Israel’s Misha Shmerkin trained at an ice-rink so far North that he had to regularly duck rocket attacks from across the Syrian border.

France’s Surya Bonaly was born in Africa (later, that part of the story proved to be untrue, but it was fun while it lasted), adopted by a French couple and switched to skating after becoming a World Tumbling Champion.  She eventually fired her coach and began training with her mother – who’d never ice-skated.

But then, there were people like World Pair Champions Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov. At one point, the Senior Producer and I were brain-storming ideas and the best I could come up with was, “They are the most boring team to ever win a major title.”

Potentially true, but not exactly the Up Close and Personal Way.

Eventually, I pitched presenting them as a metaphor for the collapse of the Soviet Union.  They trained under one system, but just as they were set to reap the expected rewards, it collapsed, leaving them floundering without a road map – or funding.

Later, a fellow sports journalist told me our piece was the first time she ever gave a damn about Eltsova and Bushkov.

Read my entire post about how watching the Winter Olympics will make you a better writer at:

Friday, February 14, 2014


Jennifer Comeaux, whose romantic Figure Skating Trilogy I am in the process of reading, is giving away a FREE copy of my own Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1) on her blog today, in honor of the Men's Free Skating program.

Enter at: and tell her Alina Adams sent you!

Thursday, February 13, 2014


“People don’t realize how much television networks have influenced what viewers are actually seeing,” she said. In fact, it was because of the networks that the “figures” portion of the figure skating competition was removed altogether.

More than two decades ago, skaters would trace figures in the ice in addition to performing a free skate routine. The two scores were then combined.

But Adams says viewers couldn’t understand how a skater who scored higher in the figures portion but lower than fellow competitors in the flashier free skate could still win a medal.

“So the networks decided the ‘figures’ was boring and put pressure on the skating federation, and they decided to drop it,” she said.

Read my entire interview in J Weekly, here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Adams said she approached well-known Olympic figure skating and analyst Dick Button about live tweeting during the Sochi Olympics. When figure skating hits the air, Adams will be producing a way for people to communicate with Button during the broadcast with the hashtag #PushDicksButton.

But that’s just the latest moment in Adams’ career behind the curtains of ice skating.

Adams’ career with the sport began in the 1990s, when she was a figure skating researcher and television producer for sports media outlets, including NBC and ESPN.

She was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated with her family to California when she was 7 years old, and her background speaking Russian helped her.

The job took her everywhere.

“The thing about figure skating is that it takes place all over the world," Adams said. "I loved traveling to far-away locations like Nagano, Japan, for the 1998 Olympics, Switzerland for the World Championships. Heck, even Rhode Island and Florida for professional skating shows was fun.”

Behind the scenes, she saw every storyline imaginable unfold from the drama of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding to watching as a 15-year-old Michelle Kwan learned she had won her first World Championship in 1996 — a moment Adams recalls as one of her favorites.

Adam said moments like the Kerrigan attack didn't seem as large stories when they originally happened.

“I was in Detroit in 1994 when Nancy got hit on the knee, and while we were all aware of it, we never imagined it would blow up into the international phenomenon that it did,” Adams said. “And yes, we were all joking, ‘Maybe Tonya Harding did it.’ But, we didn’t mean it!”

The Olympics, from behind the TV cameras, isn’t as poetic or as perfectly executed as a figure skating routine. Adams recalls those days as something like a “madhouse.”

More behind the scenes scoop, plus how you can Push Dick's Button at:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Figure Skating isn't exactly the kind of sport you want to listen to on the radio. It kind of loses something, no?

It's not even the kind of sport you want to read about. I tried the best I could to describe the beauty, power, athleticism and artistry of skating in my series of Figure Skating Murder Mysteries, Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop and Skate Crime, but it wasn't until I was able to add videos by The Ice Theatre of NY as part of the story that the skating truly came to life. (Check out how it works, here.)

However, when it comes to me talking about some of my favorite skating memories as a TV researcher, writer and producer, including Michelle Kwan winning her first World Championship, watching Michael Weiss attempt to land a quad with Brian Boitano, sharing a broadcasting booth with Dick Button and Peggy Fleming, translating for Irina Slutskaya and more, radio is a pretty good venue.

I did two interviews yesterday all about the Olympic team competition and the upcoming individual events.

Listen to me on ESPN's Sports Pen, here.

And on WDLB AM 1450, here.

How do I sound?

Monday, February 10, 2014


What? You can't think of a single reason?

Over at The Mustard Seed Marketing Group blog, I've made a list of 10!

Read it here, and chime in if you agree (or even if you don't...)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Yalsa The Hub: Your Connection To Teen Reads featured Murder on Ice in their post, YA Reads for Perfecting Your Triple Toe Loop:

Murder On Ice by Alina Adams
Bex works as a researcher for the 24/7 network. She’s helping cover the World Figure Skating Championships. The announcers argue over the winners –even going so far as to say someone bribed a judge. When the judge turns up murdered the next morning, the police believe it to be an accident, but with the accusation of bribery, Bex isn’t convinced. After a little digging, she’s  sure it’s murder. If she wants to keep her job, Bex needs to solve this crime and fast.

Read all their recommendations, here.

Meanwhile, IdeaMensch interviewed me about enhanced ebooks, and got me to reveal this personal little tidbit:

IdeaMensch: What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Alina Adams: A few years ago, after a panel on writing, a fellow author came up to me and said, “I’d love to do an enhanced ebook, but I’ve priced it out and those IT guys are so expensive.” “I sleep with my IT guy,” I explained. (It’s alright, we’re married.) “Oh!” she exclaimed. “That would be so much cheaper!” So what web services do I use? My husband. And what do I love about him? More than just his web services.

More trade secrets at:

Monday, February 03, 2014



Have you ever wanted to talk (or shout) back at Dick Button? Now is your chance!

The Emmy-Award winning commentator will be live Tweeting the coverage on NBC of the Men's Short Program (2/13/14), the Men's Free Program (2/14/14), the Ladies' Short Program (2/19/14) and the Ladies' Long Program (2/20/14) at

In his new book, "Push Dick's Button: A Conversation on Skating from a Good Part of the Last Century-and a Little Tomfoolery" (available now on Amazon and via:, the two-time Olympic gold medalist invites readers to take a seat with him on the couch while he ruminates about skating's good, bad, ugly... and controversial.

During all four nights of "Push Dick's Button: A Live Olympic Skating Conversation on Twitter" readers will be able to do just that - in cyberspace - as they scroll though Button's comments on the unfolding competition - and enjoy the chance to, at long last, talk back!

The first man to land a triple jump in competition and the creator of the inaugural World Professional Championships, the perennially pioneering Button now leaps (with toes perfectly pointed, of course) into the Brave New World of interactive, expert, figure-skating commentary, promising to answer questions and respond to comments - good and bad! - from his followers!

To join in the conversation, all you need to do is follow:  To talk back, use the hashtag #PushDicksButton.

"Push Dick's Button: A Live Olympic Skating Conversation on Twitter" is brought to you by Alina Adams' Figure Skating Mystery Series (5 Books in 1), also available on Amazon.