Tag Archive for: Body Business

How Do You Feel About Emojis?

by Gay Yellen

Once upon a time, I had a comfortably introverted life. That all changed in 2014, when my first book came out, and my publisher urged me to join the rest of the world on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms.


At first, it was tough to emerge from my cocoon, but little by little, I was posting like a pro. I came to feel pretty comfortable about it, too, until last year, when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about the generation gap in how people interpret what the little emoticons mean.

Take the smiley face, for example. People over the age of thirty generally use it to express happiness, or to indicate a positive response, like saying “good job!” Or perhaps, “I’m happy for you.” But you might be dismayed to know that twenty-somethings and teens find it patronizing, and if they use it at all, they deploy it sarcastically.

The skull and crossbones icon has also been reinterpreted by the younger set. Instead of pointing to danger, they use it to show that they are laughing so hard, they’re dying. And the frowny face? For most people, it’s a sign of disapproval or frustration. But for the younger set? They are more likely to be pining for the unobtainable object of their affection.

Since reading the WSJ article, I second-guess myself almost every time I reply to a post. Does my response feel genuine to the person receiving the message? Or does it come across as ironic when it’s meant to be sincere?

And what to make of the pile of Poop emoji, especially if it’s smiling? Even after consulting the internet for the answer, I’m not really sure, although I did learn that, in 2015, it was the most popular emoji in Canada, while the Eggplant reigned supreme in the States. Excrement and sexual innuendo. Lovely.

Thank goodness there’s one icon whose meaning we all seem to agree on. We still feel good when the universal symbol for love is delivered to us, although it may help to know that various heart configurations and colors connote different degrees and types of affection. These days, younger people prefer to use the word “fire” and its icon to indicate their strong positive feelings, especially when the response is to a “hot” person or idea. Heart-hands are gaining on in popularity, too.
If you’re concerned that people may misread your intentions when you use emojis, you could try consulting emojipedia.com or a few emoji bloggers for an answer. Be warned, however, that you might end up even more confused.

As for me, I’m thinking the safest bet it to revert to an old standby that has worked to express our true feelings for centuries: words.
Readers, how do you feel about emojis?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning

Samantha Newman Mysteries including
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)

Coming soon,

The Body in the News

Look! Life! Time… and The Saturday Evening Post

Yesterday, I cleared out my mother’s last storage space, and now a dozen boxes and the same number of overflowing paper sacks are stacked three deep in my living room, which now resembles the local Goodwill store. I’ve given away half the stuff, but the things that slowed me down are choosing the special items I want to give to relatives and friends, and a stack of old magazines: Look, Life, Time, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Each publication provides a fascinating glimpse into what the world was like decades ago. Mom was very particular in what she saved. History-changing movements like the U.S. political climate and space exploration were high on her list, as well as social change, especially reflected in the magazines from the ’60s.

The Saturday Evening Post from October 17, 1959 is the earliest issue. Nine articles featured everything from the changing role of the family doctor to a profile of F.D.R. There were four short stories and two serials in that issue, too, including a mystery by Erle Stanley Gardner. What a writer’s market it was!

The most recent issue is Life, from January, 1983 which reviewed the most meaningful events from 1982 and covered conflicts in Central America, the Middle East, Poland, Iran and Afghanistan. Sound familiar?       

But, the advertising! Just one peek at what was new and cool back then shows how different our world is today. Here are a few ads for your enjoyment: 
Exciting and New!
Will it work with my IPhone?


Who needs Google maps?

Braniff and Pan American. Long gone.

The convenience of Siri and Alexa is breathtaking, offering information about almost anything in an instant. And we no longer have to plug a lightbulb into a camera to take a snapshot. Too bad we haven’t made much progress on more serious problems that have plagued us for decades.

Bad news aside, at least good old Speedy still has a solution for our everyday aches and pains. Plop plop. Fizz fizz!


Gay Yellen writes the award-winning

Samantha Newman Mysteries including
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)

Coming soon,

The Body in the News

Gay Yellen: Back to the Big Easy


I am writing this from my hotel room in New Orleans, under the spell of memories from the past. In this city, where I spent three of my four college years, my visit has filled me with nostalgia and a sudden sharp awareness of unintended consequences.

Barely a month into my freshman year, I happened to notice a call for auditions for The Fantasticks, a musical I adored, on an obscure bulletin board. Luckily, there was still time for me to try out, so I screwed my courage to the sticking place, took my shot, and got the part. And from that moment, my future was sealed. I changed my major from English to Theater and never looked back.

I’m here today to attend the wedding of a child of a college friend, the one who had played my father in The Fantasticks those many years ago. As my friend prepares to hand over his son’s welfare to the lovely bride, I hark back to that play, in which the fathers of two young lovers fret over their children’s future.

After the marriage ceremony, in a toast to the bride and groom, my friend spoke about how unintended consequences had brought the young couple and all of us together for the joyous occasion. In essence, he said that, if he and I had never met, and if I had not subsequently married a man who, at his own alma mater, had wholeheartedly supported the campus club where the young couple met, their knowing one another—and thus their wedding—might never have happened.

Later, when my goosebumps subsided, as we gaily marched down the street behind the happy couple in a jazz band “second line,” I harked back even further, to the what if’s of the past. How do any of us end up to be the people we are, circumscribed by the mates and friends and places that define our lives? And who would we have become if the path had shifted even slightly?

As my mind slides from the sublime celebration that took place only hours ago to my everyday task at hand—finishing the third book in the Samantha Newman Mystery Series—I’m still feeling the impact of my friend’s comment about unintended consequences. As an author, I face fateful choices every day for my main character. Will she? Won’t she? Should she? Would she? It’s a constant inner dialogue as I decide Samantha’s future.

And yet, in real life, do we ever give those unintended consequences a second thought?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning

Samantha Newman Mysteries including
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)

Coming in 2022,

The Body in the News! 

Gay Yellen: Spotlight on Kathryn Lane

Today, I interview our own Stiletto Gang-sister, Kathryn Lane, award-winning author of the Nikki Garcia Mysteries. Missing in Miami, her fourth book in the series, has just been released.

Kathryn is a woman of many parts: artist, writer, and former international corporate executive, all of which provides rich background for her stories. What is it like to be a world traveler who solves crimes? Read on…

Gay: Kathryn, when your series begins, Nikki Garcia is a crackerjack forensic accountant, a rather nontraditional kind of sleuth. And yet, you managed to turn the investigation into a riveting read. As the series progresses, Nikki picks up other skills, and by the time we get to the new book, which takes place in Cuba as well as Florida—she’s almost a full-blown spy. Did you plan this character progression from the start?

Kathryn: I’d love to answer with a resounding, “Yes, of course I planned it that way!” But when I wrote the first book, I did not know I’d be writing a series until my publisher insisted I create other books with Nikki as protagonist. Being a pantser (a writer who doesn’t pre-outline) I developed her into a sleuth, thinking it would otherwise get boring if she was always investigating corporate fraud around the world.

Gay: I see similarities between you and Nikki: a love for travel and good food, and a background in corporate finance. How is she different from you?

Kathryn: I’m not nearly as brave as Nikki!

Gay: The character of Eduardo, a Colombian physician, is a dreamboat: romantic, wealthy, and kind. Did you pattern him after a real person, or is he simply a dream?

Kathryn: I was single when I wrote the first book, so maybe Eduardo represents my dream man. He is purely fictional, as are all my characters, except for some mentions of real or historical persons. After completing the first book, I met Bob, who is now my husband and who shares three of Eduardo’s characteristics: he is immensely supportive of my work, he’s kind, and he has a romantic streak—he lights a candle for our dinner every night we eat at home. The one trait he’s missing is that he’s not wealthy, doggone it! 

Gay: In the new book, you mention a novel I happen to be reading right now: Klara and the Sun, by Kazuro Ishiguro. What was behind that choice?

Kathryn: In every mystery I’ve written, I’ve mentioned another author or visual artist whose work I admire. As I was writing Missing in Miami, I read Klara. In that story, a girl named Josie suffers from an illness that is never fully defined. I mentioned the book because Andrea, the missing girl in my novel, also has an illness. I don’t expect many readers to catch the comparison, but the connection sparks my own creative juices.

Gay: I’m fascinated by your world travels to… is it over ninety countries? Each of your books is set in a different location, and they each seem to offer a bit of a traveler’s guide for the area. Having been to so many places, how do you decide where Nikki Garcia will go next?

Kathryn Lane
Kathryn: I’ve traveled to ninety-four countries. As a child, one of my dreams was to travel. I have accomplished that by working for Johnson & Johnson, even though I had also traveled before my corporate job. For my novels, I pick locations that I like, and more importantly, that fit the story. I like to think that the reader is walking the streets of a location with Nikki as she carries out her investigation.

Gay: Thank you, Kathryn, for giving us a peek behind the scenes! Readers, you can find out more about the Nikki Garcia Series on Amazon, on BookBub, or at Kathryn’s website.

Wow, the places Kathryn has traveled! What about you, readers? What foreign lands have you visited?


GAY YELLEN writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries, including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and the soon to be released Body in the News. Gay would love to hear from you in the comments below, on Facebook, or BookBub, or via her website.




Gay Yellen: It’s Read a New Book Month!

December is so jam-packed with festivals and holidays, you’d think that whoever creates those random observances like Eat a Red Apple Day or Chocolate Cake Day would choose a less hectic time to shine the spotlight on reading. As we hustle and bustle our way through the waning days of the year, how much time do we really have for quiet pleasures? Nevertheless, December is Read a New Book Month. Frankly, I think it would be better to name it Buy a New Book Month as a reminder to put one or two on your gift list. 

At the Stiletto Gang, writers and readers don’t need a special month to remind us to read a book, new or not. Books are our passion.

While I’m writing, I’ll still buy a new book to support a colleague, or to join in on a book club discussion, or for my own research. And I manage to sneak in a few pleasure reads along the way.

My alma mater’s book club selections tend to be ones I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own, yet I’ve learned so much from them. The Yellow House, by Sarah Broom, won nearly every award for non-fiction memoir in 2019. It’s a remarkably honest and moving story of what it meant for one family to grow up poor and Black in New Orleans. We also read Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See, a meticulously researched historical fiction set in Korea between World War II and present day that follows the lives of truly extraordinary deep sea divers. I learned a lot about Korea and world history from that one.

Our neighborhood book club recently read Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, by Kathleen Rooney, which fictionalizes the life of the highest paid ad woman in the 1930’s. If you’re fond of the era, or Macy’s, or New York City, you might enjoy following this witty woman as she meanders through the Big Apple and reminisces.

I’ve accumulated more books in my to-be-read stack than I’ve been able to crack open this year, including some by sister Stilettos. There are many goodies to pick from by our Gang. Just scroll down and open a few that strike your fancy.

I hope to read more next year, too. To me, an unread book is a missed opportunity to travel to a new place, meet interesting characters, learn something new, or merely enjoy the pleasure of reading.

With deepest gratitude to all our readers, I wish you a warm December, full of books and love.

Here’s to Read a New Book Month!

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning
Samantha Newman Mysteriesincluding:
The Body Business and
The Body Next Dooravailable on Amazon.
Coming soon in 2022:

Gay Yellen: Talking to Trees

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has me thinking about the emotional connection humans often feel for trees. In “Why a Tree is the Friend We Need Right Now,” columnist Elizabeth Bernstein describes her relationship with the banyan tree she first encountered while worrying about a sick relative, and to which she returned again and again to seek comfort under its boughs.

The heartfelt gratitude she expressed for her banyan reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book, The Giving Tree, and also of my own tree-friends.

My relationship with trees began with my childhood summertime reading and the mimosa tree in our front yard. I’d climb up to the sturdy limb that perfectly fit the curve of my back and, cocooned in the cool, dense shade of its feathery leaves, I’d read my latest Nancy Drew.

In the neighborhood today, hundred-year oaks and other wizened trees abound. Like the WSJ columnist, I feel an attachment to many of them. I revel in the shade of the ancient oaks that shelter a nearby path, bending toward each other like a giant arbor. There’s one with a burl that looks like a teddy bear. I pat its fat belly as I walk by.

Down the street there’s one that appears to be winning a decades-long power struggle with a city sidewalk. I cheer it on as it pushes the cement away from its powerful roots. Another favorite shelters a little fairy house.

Fairy house tree.

I also mourn the giants cut down too soon, along with the charming brick bungalows they stood beside—only to make way for new, gentrified, and decidedly unremarkable houses. 

Thoreau once opined that “trees indeed have hearts.” So when the WSJ states that a “calming and awe-inspiring tree is the perfect antidote to anxiety,” I heartily agree. Especially nowadays, when anxiety seems to lurk around every corner.

Do you have a special relationship with a tree? If not, go out and find one. Spend time there. Hug it, if you feel the need. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series. She’d love to hear from you, in a comment on this post, on FacebookBookBub, or via her website.

Gay Yellen: Cruella and Me

Two fictional characters are making me crazy. One’s a famous villain, the other, a hero, and lately, they’ve pulled a switcheroo.

Cruella de Vil, the nefarious puppy kidnapper of Dodie Smith’s novel, The Hundred and One Dalmations, is the villain. Ever-popular, her story has been made and remade into film at least four times. And she’s invaded my writing life twice.

In 2014, a magazine reviewer called my antagonist in The Body Business “the Cruella de Vil of the year, the kind of villain you just love to hate.” The description was perfect, though I hadn’t thought about Cruella when I created my own greedy vixen.

That same year, I was asked to name the actor I’d cast as the hero of my book, Samantha Newman, a determined young woman with grit and a fair sense of justice. After Emma Stone’s quirky performance in “Easy A,” I chose her, partly for her physical features, but mostly for her sense of comedy which, like Samantha’s, is tinged with an interesting blend of snark and genuine heart.

Fast forward to today, and imagine my surprise to discover that Emma, my Samantha of choice, is now starring as Cruella in a new Disney release. Presto change-o, hero becomes villain, and I have mental whiplash.

It helps me a bit to know that Samantha is somewhat of a mischief-maker herself. And Stone is a terrific actress. I’m hoping she’s great in the part. The reviews have been mixed, but I’m a fan, so I’ll watch the film and
decide for myself— as soon as I get over the shock.

Truth is, we all have a combination of hero and villain inside us. For some, it’s a
daily struggle. But as long as we keep our good guys real and consign our bad
guys to make-believe, I think we’ll be okay.

P.S. If you know Emma, please tell her there’s a film franchise just waiting for her to make it happen. This author would be eternally grateful.😊

Have you ever cast a favorite actor as the hero in a book?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries. Gay would love to hear from you, here, on Facebook, BookBub, or via her website.

Untitled Post

Gay Yellen: Block that Gift!

A wonderful friend threw a fabulous launch party for me in 2014 when my first book, The Body Business, was published. And several months later, she bought me a gift I’ll never forget. She said that the moment she saw it, she knew I had to have it.

I knew she meant well, so instead of recoiling in horror at the otherwise harmless paperweight, I thanked her for her thoughtfulness. But just to be safe, I hid it in a closet, far away from the room where I write.
The Gift

By the time I finished the second book in The Samantha Newman Mystery Series, the gift was out of my thoughts. That book was such fun to write!

I’d planned to launch Book #3 in 2020. But in early January, an unidentified virus brought me to my knees. It was March before I could sit at my desk to do mundane tasks like open mail and pay bills.

Then my husband’s brother died. And my mother died a month later. By May, I found it impossible to concentrate on any project that called for clear thinking. Add to that the general distress we all suffered last year, and. . .

. . . Book #3—all 70,000 words of it from 2019—lay dormant. More than once in my struggles, that elegantly wrapped gift haunted me from the closet. I considered slinging it off the balcony. 

By last summer’s end, I managed to return to writing with a short piece for the Jungle Reds and my monthly Stiletto Gang post. Which made me wonder why, if I could  put 500 words together for a blog, I still couldn’t manage a few more to complete my book?

Words are words, right? So, what’s the difference?

I think I’ve figured it out.

Writing Fast vs. Writing Deep
In my magazine days, part of my job as managing editor was to oversee the monthly deadlines of our staff writers and contributors. When it was time to lay out an issue, if a scheduled piece was M.I.A., or a writer went rogue, delaying the print run was never an option. I had to find or write a filler. Fast. 

I got good at writing fast. Laser focus and a hard deadline was all it took. Similar to writing a monthly blog post. But it takes much, much more than that to write a book.

Novel writing is deep. It’s immersive. It requires sustained concentration, plus the mental energy to wrangle multiple loose threads into a complete, coherent whole. Which was impossible for me to accomplish in 2020.

Really, I’m fine. . .

The Bright Side
These days, with comfort tea to bolster me, I’m back at work on Book #3. I’m glad to be going deep again, and so very grateful to have made it through. Fingers crossed for getting it done by spring.

I hope you survived last year intact, and with enough resilience to weather the ill winds that still batter us. May our beloved country be restored to health. And may you have a sweet 2021.

Gay Yellen is a former magazine and book editor. She writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series, including The Body Business and The Body Next Door. Book #3 in the series is slated for release in 2021. Gay would love to hear from you, here, on Facebook, or at her website, GayYellen.com.