Has Spring Sprung for You?

Exactly when is Spring supposed to begin? I looked it up, and here’s what I found:

The vernal equinox in 2024 arrived on March 19, but that date varies year to year. It hovers somewhere between the 19th and 21st of the month, and is marked at the moment the sun is directly facing Earth’s equator. This is also known as Astronomical Spring.

But, because science allows the date to vary, I’m thinking it’s okay if Spring starts for people like you and me whenever we are able to feel it.

We’ve enjoyed the new season around our home for a few weeks now. Gardens are in full bloom. A multitude of songbirds greet us with their cheery melodies every morning, just like the ones Samantha Newman hears when she visits Serenity Ranch.

Spring is also when our cherished bluebonnets and other dazzling wildflowers begin to blanket our empty fields and rolling hills.

This past weekend made Spring feel official for me, with opening of the annual Kite Festival that takes place in our favorite public park. There’s something wonderful about a day when people of all ages gather on vast green spaces to share a picnic and fly kites.

A live band played upbeat music while children ran around, testing how far they could roam free. They squealed with delight. You couldn’t help but smile at the joy of it.

Those icy winds are gone. Gentle breezes flow. We’re unencumbered by winter coats and jackets, scarves and gloves. The world is refreshed.


What is the first sign of Spring where you liveAnd, when was the last time you flew a kite?

Here’s wishing you a very HAPPY SPRING, full of sunshine, flowers, celebrations, and laughter!


Gay Yellen is the author of the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series including: The Body BusinessThe Body Next Door, and The Body in the News!

Find her on Amazon, BookBub, Facebook, or contact her at GayYellen.com






On Naming Names

In my first stint as a magazine editor, I looked up from my desk one afternoon to see a young deliveryman at my office door, carrying a flower arrangement. He looked lost. “Can I help you?” I offered.

“Are you Gay?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He grinned broadly and proudly declared, “So am I!”

We shared a laugh for a good minute before he set the flowers on my desk, wished me a great day, and disappeared down the hall.

In my twenty-four years on earth at that point, it was the first time I realized that, as a name, mine had become an anachronism. When I told my mother about the humorous encounter, she revealed that she and my Dad had debated among three names for me—Joy, Merry, or Gay—before they settled on the one I have.

Ever since the flower guy’s visit, I’ve always tried to avoid startling any new person I’m about to meet with what might sound like a sexual identity announcement. So, instead of the usual “Hi, I’m Gay,” I say, slowly and distinctly, “Hello, my name is Gay.”

“Gay?” one might repeat.

I nod. “That’s my name.

Naming a fictional character

Choosing names for fictional characters is tricky, too, because the name has to fit. What might it communicate about them and their story?

I first pondered this when I helped write the thriller Five Minutes to Midnight. The author was an international expert on terrorism, and not a native English speaker. To start with, he asked for help in naming the main character, who plied the same profession as he did. The hero was bold and dangerous. After playing with possibilities, I came up with Sartain. To my ears, it sounded like a good cross between the word “certain” and the ultimate tough guy, Satan. The author loved it.

In my own Samantha Newman Mystery Series, I chose Sam’s last name because it reflected her unlucky habit of having to reinvent herself in each book. Now, after the first three books, she’s  in a good place. But given her history, who knows how long it will last?

Do you have a favorite fictional character name? Please share it in the comments below.

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including: The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News.

Have You Read These Books?

As a lifelong book lover, I read newsletters and articles by literary critics on what they think is important to read. So in January, I usually check the various “Best” book lists for the past year.

I’ve long been skeptical of how the books are chosen. When a thriller I helped write earned a spot on The New York Times “Notables” list, it was disappointing to learn why—after five printings in both hardback and paperback and translated into two foreign language editions—it didn’t quite become a NYT “bestseller.” It had more to do with a bookselling logarithm and a publisher’s reluctance to support it than it did with the quality of the book itself.

But to learn what’s happening in the popular culture, I still read the lists. The NYT says the five best novels of 2023 are The Bee Sting, Chain-Gang All-StarsEastbound, North Woods, and The Fraud (written by Zadie Smith, an author I’ve read and enjoyed).

The Wall Street Journal chose an entirely different five: The Lost Wife, The Sun Walks Down, Good Girls, Red Memory, and A Dictator Calls (winner of a Man Booker prize).

Reader’s Digest doesn’t stop at mere books of the year. It also publishes “The 100 Best Books of All Time.” What they do when new books are published is a mystery. They could easily drop Hamlet from the current list. It’s a remarkable piece of literature, but it isn’t a book. But what about the other 99?

In a sign of the times, there’s also a Top 50 Banned Books list. I enjoyed many of those as a child and in high school English class. I’m sure you have, too. Now I’m curious about the rest of them, especially one called Captain Underpants.

When I choose a new book, I often rely on recommendations from friends. I love being introduced to books I wouldn’t necessarily pick up on my own.

So, have you read any good books lately? Tell us about it in the comments below.

And speaking of books, I’m giving away free copies of The Body Business ebook for 24 hours beginning at midnight tonight through midnight tomorrow (Jan. 10th) on Amazon. Tell your friends!

Gay Yellen is the author of the award-winning SamanthaNewman Mysteries include The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News!

Contact her at GayYellen.com 

Gay Yellen: The Return Trip

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re driving to somewhere you’ve never been before, searching for street signs, hoping you don’t get lost in an unfamiliar part of town. Finally, you arrive, conduct whatever business you came for, and head home.

But as you retrace your route, you begin to notice singular, interesting sights that you’d ignored on your way there. Oh! That must be the new soccer stadium I’ve read so much about, and there’s that new CosMc’s!


E. L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night in the fog. Even though you’re only able to see as far as your headlights, you can still make it to your destination that way.

I’d add this: it’s only after you complete the round trip home that you realize where you’ve been. This is what happened to me when The Body in the News became Book 3 in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series.

The revelation appeared as I recalled a late, spur-of-the moment decision I’d made to introduce a very minor character into Chapter 9 of the book.

Meet Apollo, the sugar glider (and a possible metaphor).


This tiny Pacific island marsupial weighs only 4 to 5 ounces. In the book, he arrives at Samantha’s door, sitting atop the head of a person who’s come to help Sam get through a pesky roadblock in her search for a happy life.

I meant to use Apollo as a bright spot during a dark moment in Samantha’s journey. He’s a creature who is almost too cute for his own good. But as I did my research, I learned that sugar gliders are very popular with exotic pet lovers, and that’s bad news for the little critters.

Now, back to yesterday…

…when I suddenly realized that Apollo and Sam had both been dropped into strange and hostile predicaments. And they each needed to get to a place where they belong.

I could claim that I’d planned Apollo’s situation to be a metaphor for Sam’s struggles, except that I saw the connection only after completing my own foggy writing journey to the end of Book 3. But I’m glad Apollo showed up to help her contemplate new hope for the future, even if I hadn’t seen it coming.

Writers always welcome a little bit of magic to grace our creative attempts, something that can intrigue our readers and add a little spark to our work. Even unplanned, a very minor character can be exactly that.

Gay Yellen is the author of the  award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries include The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News!  Now available on Amazon.

Contact her at GayYellen.com

How the World Turns

by Gay Yellen

Originally, I had planned this post to be all about what led up to the new release of my third book in The Samantha Newman Series. In it, I was going to detail the trials and tribulations that interfered with my ability to finish the story over the past five years, and to offer a free book at the end.

That post was titled “What a Writer Fears.” But with fresh horror happening in the Middle East, this novelist’s writerly problems seem too trivial to consider. Instead of a blow by blow account of the circumstances that held the book back, I’ll just say that for months and months and months, I struggled to create a coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph and chapter.

In short, I feared I would never be able to write again.

Sometimes, moving forward requires taking a step back. Frustrated as I felt, I couldn’t abandon Samantha any more than she could escape her crazy, mixed-up existence—especially when she was about to save another lost soul from ruin and learn an important life lesson along the way.

And so, with the encouragement of my precious fans, and the support of Stiletto sisters Lois Winston and Saralyn Richard, and writer friends Patty Flaherty Pagan and Pamela Fagan Hutchins, Book #3, The Body in the News is now available in ebook and print.

Like the first two books in the series, I wrote the new book to entertain readers, and hopefully, to inform and inspire. I hope it offers a few hours of escape from the messy, scary times we live in.

Life goes on for us lucky ones.

And so—in honor of the debut of Book #3—I am offering the one that started it all: The Body Business, Book #1 in the series, FREE today only. If you haven’t read it, grab it now to follow Samantha as she survives, undaunted, book by book.

May peace reign everywhere in the world. Until then, may we find comfort in books, and joy wherever we can find it.

The Samantha Newman Mystery Series



How I Spent the Summer of 2023

I could sum up the Summer of 2023 in two words: blistering hot! That’s been the headline for so many of us this year.

Humans make plans, and the gods laugh.

Back in June, when the Stiletto Gang posted our plans for the summer, mine included book events, taking a vacation with my sweetie, and promoting my new book.
By mid-summer, I was behind deadline (again) with Book #3 in the Samantha Newman series, and pretty much glued to my desk as I pushed through to the finish line. At least the sturdy air-conditioning kept any outdoor temptations at bay for the duration.
The book is finally done, and early reader remarks are leaving me hopeful for its debut. Fingers crossed!
(More on that below.)

Where did August go?

By mid-August, it was time to get on with the world. We set out on a road trip. First stop, Little Rock, Arkansas, home of an old friend, and as it happens, a great place for an overnight on the road to Killer Nashville, the international writers’ conference where seasoned authors, new writers, and book lovers convene over our shared passion.
The Body Next Door, Book #2 in the Samantha Newman series, was a KN Silver Falchion finalist a few years ago, so this year, it was all about sharing what I’ve learned in my writing career.
I was a panelist on the subjects of Writing Believable Amateur Sleuths, Using Emotion to Appeal to Your Readers, and Adding Romance to Your Story, in addition to moderating two more panels on Writing Suspense.
Whew! Teasing out my thoughts on what makes for good writing was strenuous exercise, but fun, too.
Most fun was making new friends and reconnecting in person with colleagues from around the country.
After the conference we drove east to visit my brother and sister-in-law. Had a great time with them, their darling grandkids, and their remarkable dog, Venus. Then we headed home. All in all, we passed through ten states in two weeks.

Happy September!

Now, finally, I am pre-promoting Book #3, The Body in the News! Huzzah and hooray, it is almost ready to hatch by the end of the month.
Here is a sliver of the new the cover. Stay tuned, there is much more to come in the next few days and weeks!

In the meantime… how was your summer? 

Gay Yellen is the award-winning author of the Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and soon, The Body in the News!