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Let There Be Light

December 15, 2020

BIRTH OF A NOVEL

Chinese Candle in a temple

This time of year, though the hours of daylight are so few, the world seems filled with extra light. The shops are full of decorations in every shape, color, and configuration imaginable and most of the decorations feature light in some form – and it’s not just the shops. I’m doing my bit with candles in my windows. My neighbor’s window is graced with a menorah–more candles. 

The candles displayed by my neighbor and me are just two examples of the traditions honored at this time of  year as many of us prepare for the celebration of a special day – Christmas–or Hanukkah–or–Kwanzaa–or–Ramadan–or some holiday unknown to me, but precious to someone.  Mid-winter is a time of holidays, each with a distinct set of customs and a unique manner of observance. Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated with special meals and the giving of gifts…

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WE ARE BUT WARRIORS – A Review

December 9, 2020

I’ve been focusing on my own books lately, namely the Jennie Connors mysteries. Enough of that (for a while at least). Time to move on to some other books I’ve enjoyed and think you might also.

Estranged twins, Jake and Zack Lowe have to put aside past differences to prevent an assassination that could plunge the mid-east and, indeed, the whole world into greater chaos, more violence. WE ARE BUT WARRIORS is intense, fast-paced, and full of surprises, elements that a reader expects of any good thriller. What sets it a notch above most is the skill with which Ms. Iyer paints her characters without slowing down the action. In addition to the American brothers, there are two strong, capable women – one a Jew, and one an Arab. Both are honorable and committed to finding a solution to the violence that plagues their common homeland. Like the brothers, they are fully human, complex, and multi-layered, so that by the story’s end, we have come to care about them beyond the success of their mission. Having said that, I will add that the plot itself is not a simple good-versus-evil proposition. It looks below the surface tension, acknowledges the duality of the decades-old conflict, and while it offers no easy answer to the problem, it does suggest that there is hope.


The story is well-served by the writing style, which flows smoothly, makes for easy reading, and never gets in the way of the story. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to know more about Polly Iyer and her books, here’s a link to her website:

LOVE ME DEADLY

October 31, 2020

Ta da! Here it is … Jennie Connors Mystery #6. 

What it’s about?

Jennie, Nate, and the Tea Ladies are on their way to a rehearsal for a benefit to help send a special needs group to Disney World? What could go wrong with such a worthy endeavor? If you’ve read any of the other Jennie Connors mysteries, you know anything can happen with this crew.  Read on.

 

The LOVE ME TENDER benefit turns deadly when the star Elvis Tribute Artist is murdered a week before the event. Plenty of people would like to see Adam Clayborn dead, but Jennie Connors is the one found kneeling by the body with blood on her hands.

Jennie would never sabotage the effort to send a special needs group to Disney World. Who would? And Why?

The victim’s ex-wife thinks he was about to ruin their son’s life. His sister and nephew are too distraught (conveniently so?) to talk to the police. The event manager denies any knowledge of the benefit’s finances and his fiancée makes the dubious claim that she didn’t even know the victim. When Jennie’s old friend, Nate, doesn’t show up, he becomes a prime suspect. She believes he’s innocent (at least of murder) but worries about the secret she knows he’s hiding.

Can Jennie sort it out and make sure the police get the right killer before the killer gets to her?

Here’s a link to the ebook:  https://amzn.to/3kKVxzj 

Print book will follow soon. I’ll let you know.

LETHAL JOURNAL

October 22, 2020

LETHAL JOURNAL is the fifth Jennie Connors mystery, the first where I had to step out on my own and learn the ropes of indie publishing. Not too long after BY WHOSE HAND was published, Avalon Books sold to Amazon and, after exploring several other options, I realized it was time for me to learn the ropes of this brave new aspect of the publishing world. It was new territory for me, but fortunately I had the support of the other Avalon authors. Over the years, we Avaloners had become much more than writers who happened to be published by the same house. We were friends and cheerleaders for each other’s work. A lot of emails flew back and forth, but, together, we forged ahead and learned together. It was quite a journey, but I am so glad I took it.

So, what about the book? Read on …

Jennie has been promoted out of the job she loves. But there’s one thing she wants to do before she moves into her new position: Jake Appleton, known throughout Riverview Manor as Sour Appleton, needs to be integrated into the retirement community’s social life. It won’t be easy.
 

Jake spends his days alone, staring out the window and mumbling that the world is full of crooks. Has he witnessed wrongdoing in the construction project going on outside his window? Or is he looking back over his own life. Jake’s not telling. He shares his thoughts only in his journal.

 
Jennie doesn’t give up – and, finally, one morning Jake surprises her. He taps the journal, says “it’s all in here” and agrees to talk to her later that afternoon.

But someone else gets there first. Jennie finds Jake with a bullet in his head. The journal is gone – and Jennie is determined to find it and solve the puzzle of a lonely old man and restore peace of mind to the residents she loves. If you’ve read any of the other Jennie Connors books, you won’t be surprised to learn that the residents insist on becoming involved.

http://amzn.to/1j7cXnW

Note: A new Jennie Connors mystery (#6) is coming soon. Can’t wait to share that news with you.

 

BY WHOSE HAND

October 13, 2020

I’ve had so much fun writing the Jennie Connors mysteries. I’ve come to think of Jennie and the crew at Riverview Manor, not as characters, but as friends, real friends, people I could sit down with and pour my heart out to over a cup of tea. As for Jennie, she’s the sister I never had. She’s much braver than I ever was, someone I look up to while recognizing her shortcomings. Yes, she has her shortcomings, but she never gives up. She believes in a world where justice prevails and does her best to make it happen.

Here’s a bit about BY WHOSE HAND, the fourth Jennie Connors book:

Have you ever wished someone would hand you the key to the bank? Be careful what you wish for.

When Preston Barrons hands Jennie Connors the key to Barrons Bank and Trust Company and asks her to pay a 2 a.m. visit, her instinct screams “give them back?” But how can she, when her paycheck depends on finding out who made an unauthorized transfer? Money from a recent fundraiser has ended up in the account Webster Barrons and the family is hoping Jennie can clear their son’s name.

Instead of answers, Jennie stumbles over the body of Preston’s right-hand man. She goes looking for the security guard, but he finds her first and assumes she’s trying to sneak out. It seems the only way to extricate herself from bank politics is to find the killer.

 

Here’s a link: http://amzn.to/q4F71G

CONSIDER THE LILLY

September 25, 2020

CONSIDER THE LILLY is the book that introduced the Tea Ladies, six elderly women made up of more spice than sugar. I’d like to say I created this intrepid group, but actually they created themselves. They stood beside me as I wrote, telling me what they would or would not do. 

So … what’s the story?

Jennie Connor’s friend, Lilly, is in big trouble. Two patrons are poisoned while dining at her restaurant. The police are busy with crowd control and don’t notice a shadowy figure climb down the arbor and slip away. Jennie watches and wonders if Lilly’s daughter, Jasmine, is up to her usual teenage mischief. Or is it something more sinister?

While the press focuses on one of the victims, Phillip Jeffries, a junior high principal who’s made a lot of enemies during his career, Jennie learns that the other victim, teacher Leonard Atkinson, has his own dirty little secret.

I hope someone has half as much fun reading CONSIDER THE LILLY as I had writing it. 

Here’s a link – http://amzn.to/phrUoW

 

PUTOUT THE LIGHT

September 7, 2020


The second Jennie Connors/ Riverview Manor mystery:

Jennifer Connors, the activities director of Riverview Manor, is working late one night when she hears resident Nathaniel Pynchon pleading, “Put out the light.” Following Nate down a darkened corridor, Jennie discovers the body of Rosalie Cardamon.

Everyone at Riverview assumes the former actor has finally slipped over the line separating fantasy from reality and committed murder. Only Jennie believes him innocent. But if it wasn’t Nate, who was it? When Jennie learns that wounds left by a thirty-year-old accident are still festering, she wonders if Rosalie’s death could be related. Unfortunately, the police are too busy investigating Nate to care.

http://amzn.to/pd9yqS

LEFT AT OZ

September 2, 2020

cody_leftatoz

I think of LEFT AT OZ as my Little Book That Could. It’s the beginning of Jennie Connors‘ crime-solving adventures – the first book written, but  not the first published. Early in my writing journey, having had a couple of short stories published, I wanted to move on to a full-length novel – a real book – but wasn’t sure I had the discipline to see it through. I told myself You’ll never know if you didn’t try. So I summoned my courage – and was unbelievably proud when I accomplished that goal!

Little did I know that was the easy part. I started submitting the manuscript and received half a dozen rejections. I was disappointed, but not discouraged. I told myself: It’s your first book, a learning experience. Consider it that and move on. Write another. (Yes, I talk to myself a lot, especially when I’m writing.) So I wrote the next book and, miracle of miracles, Avalon Books agreed to publish it. Oh happy day! (By the way, I got the call on my birthday.)

Fast forward a couple of years. Two more Jennie Connors mysteries were published. I was pleased, but never forgot LEFT AT OZ. Had I given up on my first-born too easily? I reread the manuscript and liked it. More than that, I was proud of it. I contacted Avalon and asked if they were interested in publishing it as a prequel. They said “yes”. Another happy day. 

So … what’s the story?

Jennie Connors is crazy about her handsome husband, but she dreads his reaction when she tells him her car was stolen. When she finds a message hinting that the vehicle was left at Oz, she jumps at the chance to find the car before he returns from the West Coast. Following directions given in the message, Jennie finds the car. Problem is – there’s a body in it. It gets worse. Turns out the victim is Robin Langley, babysitter for the Connors’ two young sons. What motive could anyone have for killing Robin? Why steal the Connors’ car to hide the body, then leave a message telling Jennie how to find it? Fearing that a direct threat to her family is behind the sinister events, Jennie determines to answer these answers herself.

http://amzn.to/nDUYOR

 

An Anniversary

June 23, 2020

This month, June 2020, marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of my first published novel, Put Out the Light. http://amzn.to/pd9yqS

I’ll never forget the thrill of getting the call from Avalon Books.  As luck would have it, that happened on my birthday. Best present anyone ever received! I don’t remember what I said, but I know that a few seconds into whatever it was, I realized I was babbling. I took a couple of deep breaths and started over. I don’t remember what I said then either. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avalon didn’t hold it against me and went ahead with the publication of Put Out the Light.

It was a major milestone in my life. I had reached a goal. When I started writing this book, I told myself it didn’t even matter if it was published. I just wanted to see if I could actually write a book – a whole book – so I put those first words on the page with only the vaguest idea of what came next. Finally, I finished the book. I had a story that, at least in my opinion, held together. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. I was enormously proud of myself, but only for a few minutes. It hit me that it did matter to me that the book be published, so I started down the road toward another goal – publication. A different goal. A different process and not an easy one. Nevertheless, after a long and not-always-pleasant journey, I achieved that goal and, since then, have reached a few more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that a goal reached is not an end, but a beginning. There’s always more to the journey.

That’s where I am now – working on the sixth book in the series begun with Put Out The Light. I wish I could say that it’s become easier to reach those goals, but that wouldn’t be true. Writing a book – a whole book – requires an enormous amount of discipline. I suspect that’s true of any goal worthy of pursuing.

Favorite Characters (again)

May 28, 2020

Bored and (much as I hate to admit it) in writing-avoidance mode, I started browsing some of my past musings. I came upon this, written a couple of years ago. It prompted me to wonder about other writers. Do you have favorite characters?

Asking a writer to name her favorite character is a little like asking a parent which of their children they love most. I, and I assume most writers, love all my characters – even the bad guys. Having said that, I admit some have a special place in my heart.

Put Out the Light was the book that introduced Jennie Connors to the world beyond my imagination. It also introduced Nathaniel Pynchon, who started out small and went on to become a favorite. He’s become my go-to guy. When the plot starts to stall, I can count on Nate to do something outrageous and get things rolling again. He’s an 84-year-old Shakespearean actor, who has trouble remembering that, while trickery works out on the stage, it can have serious consequences in real life.  A big help to a stalled plot!

Another favorite is Tess Zumwalt. Tess is a former FBI agent, a graphology expert. She’s quiet and soft-spoken, someone people tend to overlook, a quality she uses to her advantage. She was in the background in the first couple of Jennie Connors mysteries and came into her own in By Whose Hand when an illegal funds transfer prompted a murder and the only clues were some notes Jennie found in a trashcan. Tess is the perfect foil to Nate’s bravado and good person to have around if you’re an amateur sleuth.

Another character I have a special affection for is Caroline Morrow, a peace activist who found a baby in a basket when she went to a folk fest. She adopted the baby, named her Peace, passed along her own Quaker values and … turn the page, 22 years go by  … Peace Morrow is all grown up, just in time for me to write Love and Not Destroy . I had fun writing this because it features an actual museum just up the street from where I live. Strange though it may seem to some, The Mercer Museum is more than a place; it’s a character in its own right.

I said I love my “bad guys” too. An Uncertain Path, the book that follows Love and Not Destroy, was a change of pace for me. It’s not a traditional mystery. The reader knows from the beginning whodunit. We watch Rachel Woodard commit the crime and see how it affects her, how it forces her to examine the impact of her actions on the people she loves. I told this story as a dual narrative, a format I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I wondered how readers would feel about my switching gears. So far, feedback has been good. (Huge sign of relief.)

Those are just a few of the individuals who started out as vague ideas and became real to me as I put them in difficult situations and gave them tough problems to solve. I could go on, but I won’t. The list is too long. That’s the beauty of writing – you meet a lot of interesting people – made according to your own specifications. That last statement is only partly true. More than once, a character has informed me that what I had planned for them wasn’t possible. It wasn’t true to their character. Interesting, since I had created their character in the first place.

Perhaps a more interesting list would be characters created by other authors. (Sounds like an idea for another post.)

How about you? Do you have a favorite fictional friend (or foe), either created by you or another author?

Put Out the Light http://a.co/9A3Ad61

By Whose Hand – http://a.co/dmlVdRb

Love and Not Destroy – http://a.co/30yaaP4

An Uncertain Path http://a.co/3wlVVlm