I just turned seventy and, yes, all the trite comments you’ve heard about, “Where did the days go?” are true. It’s so time-consuming fitting writing into our schedules and then trying to promote what we produce, that it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of busyness and not consider what comes next in our lives and our writing careers. Sometimes, though, there are milestones and events that force us to pause and reevaluate the future. Sometimes, even if there aren’t, we should do so anyway.
After seven books in The Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, I decided it’s time to say goodbye to the characters I‘ve shared the last decade with and shake things up a bit. I’m afraid of sharks, you see, or rather, jumping them. If you’re old enough to have witnessed the Fonz water skiing over a shark in Happy Days, you know what I mean. After that episode, faithful watchers said the show’s quality declined. Henceforth, “jumping the shark” became a term noting a downward arc. Seven books is a lot for a cozy mystery series, and while it’s true that there are some writers―Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, and Janet Evanovich come to mind―who wrote many longer series, for me, while I wasn’t out of ideas, I thought my characters’ adventures were in danger of becoming predictable and formulaic. Regan and her husband, Tom, were starting to show their age. It was time for them to retire.
Saying goodbye to the series was painful, though, and I might have decided to keep it going if not for a very personal event. When I started The Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, Tom was based on my husband, Craig. Tom didn’t stay Craig for long, but Tom’s blue eyes were a hold-over. They remained the same shade of blue as my husband’s. Those intensely blue eyes were the first thing that attracted me to Craig when I met him, and I’m sure the same was true for Regan the first time she spied Tom across a crowded room.
Craig died about a year-and-a-half ago and it was difficult to write in Tom’s voice because, when I did, I saw Craig’s blue eyes. It took twice as long to finish “The Two-Faced Triplex” as it would normally take me to write a book because I knew coming to the end of the story meant saying goodbye to a special connection I had with the love of my life.
Books are full of chapters just like life is, and saying goodbye to Regan and Tom was certainly the end of a chapter in my life. But it’s also an opportunity to find new stories and write new adventures. You all know how much you hate to finish a book you’ve loved reading, but isn’t it exciting to discover the next book in what you hope will be a great series? That’s where I am right now, getting ready to begin working on a new mystery series, Geezers with Tools, about two older handymen who take up home repair as a way to meet single older women. (“Who knows,” Jerry who thinks of himself as a player tells recent widower, George, “we might get lucky. Even if we don’t we’ll probably get dinner.”) and P.I.P. Inc. about an almost private investigator named Pat.
So I’m wiping away a goodbye tear with a big smile on my face, ready for the next chapter in life and in writing.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years before she fell in love with writing and let her license lapse.
After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, a philosophy she applies to her writing, as well. She has written seven books in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, but she has taken breaks to write a stand-alone book called “Mags and the AARP Gang” about a group of octogenarian bank robbers, and to edit “Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.”
She plans to start a new series, “Geezers with Tools,” is about to release, “The Truth About Hosting Airbnb” about her experiences as a first-year host, and editing an anthology of short stories from Santa Cruz authors with the title and theme “Santa Cruz Weird.”
Buy links are www.goodreadmysteries.com (you can find additional sizes there for JPGs using the publication button) and my Amazon page for all the books https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1520785355&sr=1-2-ent
Social Media connections are: https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2918242.Nancy_Lynn_Jarvis
The service was nondenominational and a representative from the chapel, who clearly had never met Martha, read a brief synopsis of her life in a decorous monotone. He droned on about her parents — like her daughter, Martha had been an only child — where she grew up, her education, her marriage to Mireya’s father and her widowhood four years before, the joy Mireya’s birth brought and how wonderful grandson Jackson’s arrival had been for her, and listed all of the charities Martha supported. It was a dry recital, especially for someone as delightful, warm, and interesting as Martha had been. Regan was relieved when his words trailed off.
“Oh my God,” a silver-haired woman from the front row who was dressed, not in dark mourning colors, but in bright red and purple, jumped to her feet and seized the microphone from his hand. “Martha lived, relished life, and enjoyed it fully,” she exclaimed, “but you’d never know it from listening to him, would you?
“I’m Judi Pardini, Martha’s best friend.” She surveyed the room with a raised eyebrow and a mischievous smile on her face. “Now, I know many of you think you should have that title. After all, to Martha there were no strangers, only people she wasn’t best friends with yet, but I’m the one she shared all her secrets with and I bet none of you can say that. If you want to challenge me, please do; let’s hear from you. Who’s first up to tell a Martha story?”
Heads turned and people squirmed, but no one rose. Regan hadn’t intended to, but she didn’t mind public speaking and thought perhaps she should say something to break the ice. She was about to accept Judi Pardini’s prompt when Martha’s friend began speaking once more.
“Oh, I know. This is a difficult situation,” Judi continued, this time without mirth. “Martha treasured the friendship of all of you who are here. Being Martha, she would have still prized the friendship of those who didn’t come, but her heart would have broken a bit that they couldn’t bring themselves here to pay their respect. Knowing what to say and what to do when a loved-one passes is always difficult, but suicide adds to that burden and we all know the police believe Martha committed suicide.
“Every one of you in this chapel knows what zest for life Martha had, so I want to reassure all of you who did come here today. I don’t believe Martha committed suicide. Not for a minute. Martha wouldn’t do that, especially not now. Martha didn’t commit suicide; she was murdered.”
Regan signs on to play consoler-and-chief after the body of Martha Varner, one of her favorite clients, is found and the woman’s distraught daughter begs Regan to stop escrow from closing on a purchase her mother was about to make.
Martha Varner’s death, at first ruled suicide, is quickly ruled homicide. The dead woman’s best friend thinks she knows who Martha’s killer is. The police have a different suspect. And Regan? Well, she has her own ideas about who killed Martha Varner.
She just can’t imagine how complicated playing amateur sleuth will make her life and how dangerous her investigation will prove to be for her husband, Tom.