Books That Changed My Life—Make That, Books that Changed “Me” By R. Franklin James

What’s the difference between my ‘life’ and ‘me’? When I contemplated writing on this potential topic the first thing that came to mind was: why would anyone care what books changed my life?  I’m not Oprah, Lee Child or Agatha Christie, or in politics—or anyone else of celebrity. But then I thought that as a reader vs. a writer, I would be interested in knowing what books had the capacity to change lives—how people were transformed.


The first book that changed my life was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I was in high school and the radical thinking of “self-ness” was enthralling to me. She had the ability to fictionalize social issues without being boring. She was followed closely on the heels by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. He was not a mystery writer, but I loved the way he could make words sing off the page. He is my favorite to this very day. These two books are about as opposite in thought and style as books can be but their storylines are timeless from the 1930’s to the 21st century. They also had three things in common: first, they made me think about the story between the words; second, they were entertaining; and, third, the prose while wildly different was lyrical with no wasted words, and each one with meaning. I knew I wanted to write like that.

I have come to realize that true classics, regardless of genre, are stories about the human condition. That said, I write in the genre of mysteries.


I loved and still love to solve puzzles. While I read Nancy Drew in my younger years, in college my interest was snared by John LeCarre and his novels of intrigue and betrayal. Because of him, my goal to write page-turners was forged forever. From then on, I wanted to write suspenseful mysteries with twists and turns that kept the reader guessing until the very believable end.


Then there was Agatha Christie, with story plots that also kept me turning pages and P.D. James who wrote flawed characters that seemed so real. There is Walter Mosely who transports the reader into a mid-20th-century world that is just as built as any science fiction work.


I’m not a person who reads the book and then goes to see the movie version. I don’t want the exactness of the author’s words interpreted by an actor that may not fit my imagination. Books that change my thinking stand on their own as works of literature and personal growth, which may sound like a lot for a book to accomplish, but the good ones do.


Today, I find that my taste in books is not meant to change my life as much as to enhance it—to feed it and hopefully make me a better writer. Most recently, Louise Penny’s, The Great Reckoning, brought me up to attention. Her words in the context of a powerful plot touched on all my senses and emotions. Harlan Coben can do that and so can Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci, and the late Sue Grafton’s Yesterday.


As a mystery writer, I write best in the style of what I like to read.  After completing my sixth book in the Hollis Morgan Mystery Series—The Identity Thief, I’ve come to realize that the best series are carried by strong characters that span a protagonist’s arc. Hollis, is a former ex-felon turned attorney, who sees life as a half-empty glass. But, it was her pardon for insurance fraud made it possible for her to take the bar exam.  It was her husband, now her ex, who set her up to take his stay in prison, now, she finds herself coming to the aid of those who also face disgrace or injustice.


A good book of fiction no matter what the genre must convey “meaning” for the reader. Characters must be made real and have compelling storylines so that readers can think: “Wow, that’s the way it is for me, too.” Additionally, a mystery writer wants the reader to think: “I should have seen that coming, but thanks to the author, I didn’t.”


Franklin James is a native Californian and a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. After years of public service, and serving as Deputy Mayor for the City of Los Angeles, she went back to her first love—writing mysteries. In 2013, her debut novel in the Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, The Fallen Angels Book Club was published by Camel Press.  Her second book, Sticks & Stones, was released in 2014, followed by THE RETURN OF THE FALLEN ANGELS BOOK CLUB (2015), THE TRADE LIST (2016) and THE BELL TOLLS (2017). The next book in the series, THE IDENTITY THIEF was released earlier this year. R. Franklin James lives in Northern California with her husband. See more about the author on Facebook and at :


Must a mystery have a murder? by John Lindermuth

Modern readers have come to expect one or more dead bodies in crime stories. But, with the increasing violence encountered in ‘real life,’ many are becoming offended with the amount of gore in fiction, which may partly account for the growing popularity of those novels termed ‘cozy’. In these books murder exists, though it’s mentioned after-the-fact and never seen in its most brutal aspects.

Still, the questions remains–must a mystery have a murder?

What’s most important for many readers in a crime novel is a puzzle. Why a crime was committed and who did it? And, if they can answer those questions before the author reveals them, more the joy. This is most evident in ‘classic’ crime tales which often didn’t focus on murder as the highlight of the menu.

Murder is absent from several of Conan Doyle’s best Sherlock Holmes tales. Wilkie Collins didn’t need a murder to intrigue us with The Woman in White. And there’s no murder in Dorothy Saylor’s Gaudy Night.

Yet, as P. D. James tells us (Talking About Detective Fiction), “Readers are likely to remain more interested in which of Aunt Ellie’s heirs laced her nightly cocoa with arsenic than in who stole her diamond necklace while she was safely holidaying in Bournemouth.” Truth is, as abhorrent we may find it in reality, murder fascinates the human species and always has.

There are several murders in my latest novel, The Bartered Body, but they come late in the story and are not its main focus. Here’s a blurb:

Why would thieves steal the body of a dead woman?

That’s the most challenging question yet to be faced by Sylvester Tilghman, the third of his family to serve as sheriff of Arahpot, Jordan County, Pennsylvania, in the waning days of the 19th century.

And it’s not just any body but that of Mrs. Arbuckle, Nathan Zimmerman’s late mother-in-law. Zimmerman is burgess of Arahpot and Tilghman’s boss, which puts more than a little pressure on the sheriff to solve the crime in a hurry.

Syl’s investigation is complicated by the arrival in town of a former flame who threatens his relationship with his sweetheart Lydia Longlow; clashes with his old enemy, former burgess McLean Ruppenthal; a string of armed robberies, and a record snowstorm that shuts down train traffic, cuts off telegraph service and freezes cattle in the fields.

It will take all of Syl’s skills and the help of his deputy and friends to untangle the various threads and bring the criminals to justice.

Read more about my writing on my website:

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Rising and Falling as a Genre Writer by Peg Herring

Jack Elam, Hollywood regular for years in (mostly) westerns, once summed up the career of a character actor.

1.       Who’s Jack Elam?

2.       Get me Jack Elam.

3.       Get me a Jack Elam type.

4.       Who’s Jack Elam?

Genre authors often have a similar experience. At first no one recognizes your name, and you sit at events with your single offering as people pass without a glance. I was once seated next to Sue Grafton at a signing (H for Herring, G for Grafton). Her line was around the room and out the door. Mine was…well, there wasn’t one.

So the first stage is “Who’s Peg Herring?” I was lucky enough to get a respected publisher for my first books and smart enough to work at promotion. I did talks from Michigan to Florida and sent out mailings to bookstores and libraries. My publisher found reviewers, so I saw my name in Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus with kind words about writing style, plot, and character development. In a small but helpful way, that first question was answered: Peg Herring is a mystery writer. Over the years I’ve worked to get as many readers as possible familiar with that six-word sentence.

In a perfect world, that would lead to “Get me Peg Herring’s books,” and I’m still surprised at how many libraries across the Midwest have the Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries on their shelves. Experts tell authors the best incentive for someone to buy the next book is their enjoyment of the last one, so the series served both my publisher and me well–until they decided to stop publishing mysteries.

That was okay, sort of. I had branched out to contemporary and what I call “vintage” mysteries, set in more recent times like the 1960s. My fans bought them, but without major reviewers and a direct library connection, it was harder to let book lovers know the Loser Mysteries and the Dead Detective Mysteries existed. When I finally went independent, promotion became even crazier. The reading world is choked with entries, so new releases fall into a dump truck full of titles, some well-written and edited, some not. A writer must decide when spending her limited promotional funds: To whom should promotions be targeted? Fans who liked my historicals might not enjoy, my humorous caper novel, but readers who’ve never heard of me might look right past an unfamiliar name, since they have no sense of my abilities and style.

I use a varied approach to promotion that depends on the book itself. Of course I start with an eye-catching cover and a great blurb. At promotional sites I match what I have to offer with the types of books their members like. (A site with two dozen covers depicting scantily-clad women grasped by bare-chested men probably isn’t for me.) Since these sites vary in quality, it takes work to figure out whether their membership, format, and pricing fits my needs. Still, the results are better if I take the time to do that rather than a scatter-gun approach. Of course there are no guarantees in promotion, even when an author gives books away. I know people who have hundreds of free books downloaded to their devices. If they never read them, how does that help me sell more books?

Since I write what interests me and not just what sold before, I work to let readers know my name means 1) quality mystery, 2) strong female characters, and 3) a satisfying ending. It isn’t easy. Last week I spoke at a library in Tampa, and after my talk, a woman picked up a book and skimmed the back cover. With a little shriek she said, “Oh, this is you? I read this whole series! I loved it!” If she’d read four of my books and still didn’t recognize my name, you can bet she hadn’t gone looking for my other offerings.

Though it’s an uphill battle, I enjoy the challenge of finding new readers and convincing them to try my work. Looking back, I generally like what I’ve done with my writing career over the last decade. And I don’t really care if ten years from now people are back to asking: “Who’s Peg Herring?”



Peg Herring reads, writes, and loves mysteries. As an educator, she once set the stage on fire. As a tourist, she’s been so lost she passed through the same town in Pennsylvania three times in one day. Friends have lost count of how many times she’s locked herself out of her house. As the award-winning author of several series and stand-alones, she’s safer if she stays in her office and writes, either as herself or as her younger, hipper alter ego, Maggie Pill. Peg’s newest release is Not Dead Yet…, suspense with a big surprise that’s set in 1960s Chicago. Maggie just released Book 6 of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries, Peril, Plots, and Puppies.

Peg’s website:

Maggie’s website:

Why I’m an Indie Author By Judy Alter

In the 1970s, my first novel was published by Wm. Morrow & Co., then a major New York publisher and now an imprint of a larger house. For a beginning writer, it was a coup, and I thought it promised a golden road to the New York Times bestseller list. Instead, I’ve followed a rocky, bumpy road, and I’ve landed, if on the radar at all, on the lower rungs of the midlist ladder. I have been agented and non-agented, published by large New York publishers, small independent presses, university presses, and publishers who specialized in books for school libraries. Today I am non-agented, and I publish my own books. No, I’m not getting rich by any means, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the 1970s and beyond, self-publishing was a dirty term. It meant you couldn’t get a legitimate publisher to look at your work. The implication was your writing was not good,  not salable, not publishable. If you self-published, you paid companies, known derogatorily as vanity presses, great sums of money to publish your work. They produced a quantity of your books and stored them in their warehouse. Publicity and marketing were up to you. After a certain period, the publisher would need the warehouse space, and they would—yes, it’s true—offer to sell you the books you’d already paid to publish.

Then came the revolutionary developments of digital or electronic books and print-on-demand. Both changed publishing forever, by reducing publishing costs and making books more accessible. About the time we were getting used to this sea-change in publishing, I decided to try my hand at mysteries. I was a lifelong fan but never thought I could write one. I went from being a western writer to a mystery wannabe.

I joined Sisters in Crime and began a whole new educational experience. One thing I learned, to my dismay, was that it wasn’t as easy to contract with an agent as it had been in my early experience. Some people submitted 200 or more queries; lots of work never found a publisher. Long story short, after several harsh lessons that cost me a few wasted years, my first mystery, Skeleton in a Dead Space (A Kelly O’Connell Mystery), was published by a small press that specialized in romance. I was their mystery experiment, and I stayed with them through seven novels before they went out of business a few years ago.

It’s no secret that I am in my golden years. When that press went out of business, I didn’t want to spend time on endless agent and publisher searches. I wanted to write. If one of the major mystery houses had come begging, I don’t think I’d have been interested, because I didn’t want the pressure to produce two or three books a year or to maintain my sales. I am fortunate not to need the income, so the slower pace and lower returns of self-publishing are all right with me.

I would not have gone indie (we prefer that term to self-publishing) without a following, but with five books under my belt and a growing audience for my blog, I knew I had readers out there. Not an astounding number, but enough to make me feel good about continuing to write. So now, in my late seventies, if not for money, why do I do it? Because it keeps me and my brain young and active; because I enjoy both the writing and the involvement with the mystery community and with readers; and because some people really like my stories.

A reader once swore to me she saw Kelly O’Connell going into her favorite restaurant. That’s how powerful a reader’s imagination can be if you feed it. I like that a lot.


Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, two books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and two in the Oak Grove Mysteries. Pigface and the Perfect Dog follows The Perfect Coed in this series of mysteries set on a university campus. Judy is no stranger to college campuses. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement and will induct her into its Hall of Fame in June 2015.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her perfect dog, Sophie.

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Buy link for Murder at the Bus Depot:

Tips for changing genres by Kathleen Heady

My first three novels were mysteries. After the third one, Hotel Saint Clare, was published, I started playing around with a fantasy story just for fun.

I created a young girl with magical powers who became involved with a real mystery in English history, the disappearance of the Crown Jewels during the reign of King John, of Magna Carta fame. I have been fascinated by English history since my childhood, so this was a fun way to let my imagination run wild.

I soon had enough of the story written to continue and complete the novel, and this was how I made the “big switch,” from contemporary mysteries for adults to young adult historical fantasy.

I put the mysteries on hold for the time being, and worked on the new novel, called Jewels in Time, with two different critique groups.

Now that Jewels in Time has gone to my publisher, I have entered a whole new world of promoting a young adult novel. I have shifted my focus from a primarily online presence, to include libraries, schools, and teachers.

I will probably go back to mysteries, but I am happy that I followed my imagination and didn’t allow myself to get stuck in one genre. A friend who read the manuscript told me that it cries out for a sequel, so that may happen, too.

As far as promotion goes, this puts me in the position of wearing two hats. I still work on promoting my “back list” of mysteries. I am a member of my local chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization for writers and readers of crime novels. This is a fantastic resource for getting to know other writers and learning about the craft as well as tips on publishing.

If you are a writer who is considering changes genres, here are some pointers from my experience:

  1. Follow your inspiration. If you have a story idea that you can’t get out of your mind, go with it. There is a reason why that idea is there.
  2. Research the new genre. I have been reading more young adult novels, and talking to young people about what they like to read. Look at websites and get involved in groups dedicated to your new genre.
  3. Join a critique group, and or find readers for your new manuscript. But don’t feel bound to follow every criticism. You know what you want to say.
  4. Follow it through. I have always reached a point in writing a novel where I think: I have this much written, it would be a waste not to finish it.
  5. Enjoy the process. There are parts of writing that are just not fun – like editing for me – but ultimately we are writers because we like to create imaginary worlds, and that is fun.

Kathleen Heady is a native of rural Illinois but has lived and traveled many places, including numerous trips to Great Britain and seven years living in Costa Rica. She is the author of three mystery novels, Hotel Saint Clare, The Gate House, which was a finalist for an EPIC award in 2011, and Lydia’s Story. Jewels in Time is her first novel aimed at young people. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two cats, Tang and Sirius Black.

Saved by the Book by Ken Kuhlken

My friend Don Merritt has often criticized me for my faith in Christ. He imagines I’m smart and questions how a smart person could possibly believe in such nonsense. I have tried to explain that all us humans encounter different experience, which can lead to different views of reality. He argues that no experience should lead anyone sensible to belief in the ridiculous.


Maybe he’s right. Anyway, the longer I live, the less I care for arguing. But in case some readers or descendants of mine wonder about the cause of my ridiculous beliefs, I’ll give some details about how a book pointed me on the road I have taken ever since, for better or worse.


First came a whole lot of tragedy. Within a couple years, my dad died, then my mom fell sick with spinal meningitis and got stuck in a hospital isolation ward for some months. I was an only child, on my own at sixteen. My friend Eric moved in to keep me company. I’m pretty sure we became closer than most brothers.


Soon after my mom came home, Eric began receiving dark premonitions. Then he got expelled from school for a minor offense, which you could find depicted in Reading Brother Lawrence. About a month afterward, a Volkswagen driven by a careless friend of ours careened off a mountain road.


Eric died in February of our senior year.  In June, I went to work as a restaurant’s pot washer. Because I worked a split shift, ten to two and six to ten,  six days a week, I hadn’t much time to devote to my girlfriend Liz. And on my night off I sometimes preferred a party or a dance to hanging out alone with her. One of those nights, she declined to go with me and I left the dance with Serena whom I didn’t know sat next to Liz in summer school.


Girls talk. Liz decided I was a creep. I probably was. In any case, I felt mighty guilty. Not just about my disloyalty to Liz.  Also about my dad’s death, the rude way I sometimes  treated my mom, about Eric having gone on a road trip I backed out of, and simply about my inability to  be the kind of person I admired. Like St. Paul, I grieved that I didn’t practice what I wanted to do, but instead often did what I hated.


That summer, Serena flew out of a convertible and died (no seatbelt), and around that time I picked up a copy of Dostoyevski’s Crime and Punishment.


Lots of readers consider the book difficult. I suspect they only shy away because Russian nicknames can get confusing. The basic storyline is rather simple. A university student falls for a currently fashionable idea that superior people have the right to break any law in order to achieve goals that will benefit humanity. He suffers severe depression because of his poverty and other factors, and in this state decides to knock off an evil pawnbroker, steal her money, and use it for good causes.


The brilliance of the novel resides in the characters, especially with the readers’ access into the mind of a fiercely disturbed man, and even into the perspective of a reprobate drunkard who’s daughter is both a prostitute and an archetype of purity and heroism. Marmeledov, the drunken father, tells Raskolnikov, the murderer, “He will come in that day and He will ask: ‘Where is the daughter who gave herself for her cross, consumptive step-mother and for the little children of another? Where is the daughter who had pity upon the filthy drunkard, her earthly father, undismayed by his beastliness?’ And He will say, ‘Come to me! I have already forgiven thee once…. I have forgiven thee once…. Thy sins which are many are forgiven thee for thou hast loved much….’ And he will forgive my Sonia, He will forgive, I know it… I felt it in my heart when I was with her just now! And He will judge and will forgive all, the good and the evil, the wise and the meek…. And when He has done with all of them, then He will summon us. ‘You too come forth,’ He will say, ‘Come forth ye drunkards, come forth, ye weak ones, come forth, ye children of shame!’ And we shall all come forth, without shame and shall stand before him. And He will say unto us, ‘Ye are swine, made in the Image of the Beast and with his mark; but come ye also!’ And the wise ones and those of understanding will say, ‘Oh Lord, why dost Thou receive these men?’ And He will say, ‘This is why I receive them, oh ye wise, this is why I receive them, oh ye of understanding, that not one of them believed himself to be worthy of this.’


I copied a part of that scene onto the back of a business card and kept the card in my wallet for years.


I’m hardly a fast reader and no book ever written could keep me up all night. But Crime and Punishment — 211, 561 words (I looked it up) — I read in a few days, shut in my bedroom between pot washing shifts, refusing to speak to my mom or to eat unless she graciously brought me a sandwich and lemonade,


Crime and Punishment convinced me to write novels. I have finished about twenty. Half of them belong to the Tom Hickey series, which is more about crime than punishment. In most of the others, I tackle issues of guilt and how it punishes both the truly guilty and those who erroneously take on guilt, as most of us humans do.

My latest, Newport Ave, is about both crime and punishment.



About Ken

Some of Ken’s favorites are early mornings, the desert in spring, kind and honest people, baseball and other sports played by those who don’t take themselves too seriously, most kids, and films he and his Zoe can enjoy together.

He reads classic novels, philosophy, theology, and all sorts of mysteries. On his blog, he offers some

hard truths and encouragement about living as a writer.

He has long been the author of novels, stories, articles, poems, and essays. Lots of honors have come his way, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Poets, Essayists and Novelist’s Ernest Hemingway Award; Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel and Shamus Best Novel; and several San Diego and Los Angeles Book Awards.

Though he advocates beer in a video, he actually prefers Scotch.


Some links to buy Newport Ave: AmazonSmashwords; or Goodreads and other stores, or directly from Hickey’s Books.


Excerpt from Newport Avenue:



GREG MAIRS WAS a high school senior when his girlfriend called with the news. The next day, his amigo James said, “Come on, Romeo, make up your mind.”

The boys were carrying longboards on their shoulders down Newport Avenue toward the pier.

“Crap,” Greg said.

“Jesus, man, do you love her or don’t you?”

Greg shifted the board from his right to left shoulder. “Sure, I guess. I mean, she’s a babe, a lot of laughs, we have a good time.”

Then James stopped cold, staring downhill at the Silva brothers. Tony stood in the middle with legs spread, his stance and shoulders as wide as the sidewalk. Junior was stationed in the gutter. Leaning against the schoolyard’s chain link fence was Marco, the oldest and boss of the family since their papa got gaffed.

“No sweat,” Greg said. “They just want to talk.”

James harbored no such illusion. He was plenty enough acquainted with Portuguese families who made up the Point Loma tuna cartel to know they were big on honor. Knock up the little sister, you’re liable to die.

Junior made the first move. He aimed a forefinger at James. “Scram, Dobchek. This ain’t about you.”

“Yeah, then what’s the deal?”

“Just get lost, Whiz.”

Before James could decide how best to give his amigo a getaway op, whether to take a swipe with his board or to drop it and lead with his fists, Greg passed him by.

Greg was approaching Junior, their classmate through whom he met Lonnie Silva, when Tony blindsided him with a sharp jab to Greg’s cheekbone.

When Greg’s board hit the pavement, the fin cracked. As if he prized the board more than life, he bent and began to flip it over.

Tony launched a kick that caught Greg in the ribs and landed him on the board. Now Marco joined in, blasting James’ amigo in the face and skull, in the side and belly and neck with his pointed toe Mexican shoes.

While his brothers kicked and stomped and used their fists to prevent Greg from rising, Junior hopped onto the sidewalk and held up his hands, warning James to stay put.

But James was no observer, not since the incident that sent his dad to prison. The pulse in his head throbbed. All his faculties felt powered by hot blood. And his mind had split in two. Half stayed behind. The rest flashed to six blocks down Newport Avenue and three years back when a man came running into Virgil’s grocery yelling threats while James stocked shelves and his sister Olivia was sweeping.

But even with part of a brain and stoked with adrenaline, he was smart enough to calculate the odds of a schoolboy taking on three tuna fishermen. He spun around looking for help. All he saw was a weapon in the schoolyard, propped against the backstop a few yards inside the gate.

Fear of sharks, saying goodbye, and starting anew by Nancy Jarvis

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 (you can find additional sizes there for JPGs using the publication button) and my Amazon page for all the books

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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.