Tag Archive for: Samantha Newman Mysteries

Creating Colorful Characters

For novelists, creating a memorable character that jumps off the page and into a reader’s imagination is darn hard to do. Which is why I frequently envy the person working at his desk in the other room, who always seems to be having fun.

Critters by Don

When my husband retired, people who knew him speculated on how he would spend his time once he left the company he’d founded. Write a book about his ground-breaking career? Open a restaurant? Learn to sail?

Nobody expected him to become a trash collector, but that’s exactly what he did. And then he created colorful characters from what he found.

The first creations came from a long-neglected “junk” drawer. Once he had repurposed most of that supply into a few funny faces, he expanded his search for more bits and pieces outdoors, where he struck it rich.

Don’s Doo-dads

We live near a big city park with hundreds and sometimes thousands of visitors daily: runners, joggers, walkers, golfers, picnickers, folks pushing strollers and herding children. They come to ride the zoo train, see the animals, meditate in the Japanese garden, steer the paddle boats, or simply sit under a 100-year oak and feed the squirrels.

After a day of family fun, there’s always stuff left behind: a random baby shoe or sock, an odd earring, a broken barrette, the cap from a juice drink, the innards of a smashed calculator or mobile phone. If he comes across an interesting piece of detritus, he’ll bring it home and turn it into a piece of whimsy.

Besides the stand-alone Critters, he’s made magnetic Doo-dads that can be worn on clothing or stuck on the fridge. These funny-faced eye-catchers tend to be conversation starters, which encourages him to make more. Neighbors have donated their own odds and ends, eager to contribute to the process.

DELETE, Ms. Elegant, and Bad Hair Day

With each face, a unique personality emerges. A character you might want to meet, or avoid. A face that reminds you of someone you know, or would rather forget. Sometimes I grab a magnet pin to wear, depending to my mood. Feeling spiffy? Bad hair day? Or, if the writing’s not going well, I may sport the one with the DELETE button for a mouth. Enough said.

From time to time, someone asks to buy a piece, but the creator is not keen on selling. For now, his Critters & Doodads reside on shelves and inside cabinets, and only come out on request.

Yet every time a new Critter or Doo-dad emerges from a box of junk, it’s guaranteed to bring smiles. And these days, we all can use more of those. Including novelists.

Is there a silly something that brings you joy?

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.


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: Writing a novel is like…

How do you describe what writing a novel is like? Here’s E.L. Doctorow’s version:

Some say writing is similar to riding a bike: you start out slow and wobbly, but then you get the hang of it. I take issue with that one. Writing my first book was a breeze compared to my third. So for me, writing is definitely not like sailing gleefully down the street on a two-wheeler. Another author likened it to making a puzzle: you create the pieces—characters, setting, plot, etc.—then fit them together in a complete story, thus solving the puzzle, too. There’s something to that, I suppose. I feel a touch of joy in simply working on a manuscript, even when my own puzzle has me stumped, until the moment when the pieces fall into place.

Here’s what one of today’s most popular writers says:

I agree with all of the above, except the bike analogy, because even now, on some days, it feels like I have completely forgotten how to write.

How about you, Gang? What’s writing like for you?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning
Samantha Newman Mysteriesincluding:
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)
…and, coming soon in 2022:
Body in the News

Gay Yellen: Rubber Duckies

 Ever been to a duck race? It’s fun and inspiring.

Last weekend, thousands of rubber duckies were dumped off a downtown bridge into Buffalo Bayou, the main waterway that flows eastward through the Port of Houston to the Gulf of Mexico.

…and they’re off!
What’s more fun on a sunny day than a family-friendly outing that’s also a fundraiser for a good cause? This year, all proceeds for the event went to the Play it Forward Fund at AFAtexas.org. This marvelous group touches the lives of thousands of kids during the school year and in summer by providing music education for those who might otherwise have none, given our tight public school budgets these days.
Everyone near and far was invited to “adopt” a duck for $5, or simply come to the race and enjoy the music performed by AFA students, whose outstanding musicianship at such young ages is truly remarkable.
From the moment the ducks hit the water, the suspense built as the crowd tracked their progress downstream to the finish line. Adopters whose ducks finished ahead of the flock won great prizes that were donated by generous sponsors. The luckiest duck won $2,500 cash from a local bank. 
The Master of Ceremonies was Len Cannon, a very popular news anchor here. I had the pleasure of assisting him as he called the race, charmed the crowd, and interviewed delightful young AFA musicians.
Those who’ve read The Body Next Door, Book 2 in my Samantha Newman Mystery Series, may recognize AFA’s Play it Forward Fund. It was the inspiration for Let the Children Play, the fictional foundation created by Carter Chapman, Samantha’s mysterious love interest. It’s one of several scenes in my books where fiction meets real life.
This particular real-life group inspires me beyond my writing. It’s a reminder that there are infinite ways we each can help enrich the lives of children. Houston’s Bayou City Duck Race is just one of them. Here’s hoping you’ve found a worthy cause or two in your own hometown to support.
Best of wishes to each and every one of you for
a Very Ducky Thanksgiving!
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.