Tag Archive for: Award-winning

How Cozy!

First, a happy piece of news!

The Body Next Door has just won GOLD in the 2024 American Legacy Book Awards. I am honored and happy for the recognition, the fifth one for this, my second book in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series. I’m also amazed and amused. Here’s why:

Flashback to 2014:

I’d helped someone else write a successful thriller, and just finished the first book that was all mine. I wrote it as a thriller as well: fast-moving and tense, bad guys revealed from the beginning, there’s a bomb, and good people might die.

But the publisher who loved it marketed The Body Business as a Romantic Suspense novel, not a thriller.

Then I wrote a sequel, The Body Next Door.  When it was released in 2016 (the recent American Legacy prize is for backlisted books), many readers and reviewers called it a Cozy. The first prize it won back then was a Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem award, which, as I later discovered, is given for cozies like Agatha Christie classics. I was pleased, but confused.

So, what makes my book a cozy?

Cozies are very popular entertainment, but when I studied the genre more than a decade ago, I encountered a slew of rabid rule-keepers that strictly defined what made a book a cozy and, especially, what must never happen in one: graphic sex, cursing, and bloody violence. Not wanting to incur the wrath of the cozy police in the form of angry reviews, I laid low.

While there’s no graphic sex in my books, the bad guys in the first book do some pretty unsavory things. Also, cozies are usually set in small towns, while my series is set in a big metropolitan area. It’s common for a cozy protagonist to own a cat or other sentient pet (Samantha has none) and to manage a small business, preferably a cozy store or restaurant. Neither element is present in my books.

And yet, to my amazement and amusement, The Body Next Door has won a Best Cozy award again. Now I’m wondering if the series should be described as Cozy.

The rules seem to have loosened in recent years. Are cozy readers more forgiving?

Which brings me to Book 3, The Body in the News, which was recently released. It follows the continuing saga of Samantha Newman, who must solve yet another murder while still struggling to find her true calling. The story features the main characters and settings from the beginning of the series and adds a few colorful new ones, too.

I’m still wary of calling the book anything except a Romantic Mystery. Full of suspense, with interesting characters and a dollop of humor, whichever way someone wants to classify my books is just fine with me, as long as they have been entertained.

Do you look for certain genres to enjoy, or are you an omivourous reader?

Please comment below!

Gay Yellen is a former magazine editor and national journalism award winner. She was the contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte), an international thriller and New York Times Notable. Her award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series includes The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and The Body in the News.

Gay loves to connect with book clubs and community groups in person and online. Contact her through her website, GayYellen.com.


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: Great Balls of… Ice?

Warning: the writer is grouchy today because the old refrigerator died.

Great Balls of Ice

It was a 1983-vintage custom-designed fridge that we inherited when we bought our home thirty years ago. It was sleek, streamlined and fit in seamlessly with the cabinetry. But it was too old to be repaired, so the search was on for a new one. My husband hoped it would make crushed ice.

The first model we chose had a delivery window of 4-6 weeks, minimum. No fridge for a month or more? Cancel that.

Moving down the row, we noticed a different brand’s floor model with a big SALE tag on it. It could be delivered immediately, and it made crushed ice. We grabbed it.

The dispenser options on the door display are Cubed/Water/Crushed. Hubby seems satisfied with the crushed. On the other hand, I have a problem with the so-called “cubed.”

Does this look like a cube to you? No. It’s a rectangular pyramid with a rounded-off top, kind of like a mini lump of half-spent charcoal. Those smart fridge engineers had to know it wasn’t a cube. Maybe “lump” was too down-scale a word for the marketing team. Sure, the pieces chill like a cube, but still… it rankled the editor in me.

For a visual reference, here’s a cabochon amethyst cut in a shape called “sugar loaf” that’s almost identical to our lumps. Obviously, gemologists are way more careful with their language.

Anyhoo, back to the new fridge, where we discovered that it also makes a third kind of ice, described in the 67-page owner’s manual as “Craft.” To our amazement, there’s a bonus shaping device that lurks inside the bowels of the freezer compartment that is more special and even craftier than your everyday two-way ice dispenser.

It makes balls of ice as big as billiard balls, and they are so extra super-duper that only three per day can be “crafted” to become the crystal wonders pictured in the photo at the top of this post. New ones announce themselves with a kerplunk, plunk, plunk that emanates from the deep.

Why are we engineering such useless gizmos for our over-pampered selves? Is there a big demand for a perfectly round chunk of ice so heavy it could tumble from your Scotch-on-the-rocks and knock out your front teeth?

This new whiz-bang appliance is too busy and bulky and bossy to love. You barely touch a door and it smugly announces that it’s keeping everything at a perfect temperature. Leave a door open longer than it “thinks” you should, and it sends out an annoying series of beeps. As if we didn’t already have more than enough things to beep at us. And did I mention that it looks like the backside of an elephant?

Truth is, I miss our old machine. I’m still trying to chill out about its replacement. Wish me luck.

Do you have an emotional relationship with an inanimate object? Love it, or hate it?

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