Tag Archive for: Samantha Newman Mysteries

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

It’s World Hello Day!

There are lots of things to love about November. Cool, crisp mornings. Warm, cuddly clothes. A lovely fire in the hearth. And hints of cinnamon spice everywhere.

I recently learned that today, November 21, is annual World Hello Day. At first it seemed like a made-up trifle akin to National Pickle Day (which was actually last Tuesday). But after researching the origins and purpose of this holiday, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong.

World Hello Day

World Hello Day was created in 1973 by two young brothers, Brian and Michael McCormack, as a panacea for the Arab-Israeli war known as the Yom Kippur War. Gathering all the money they had at the time, these two bought postage and sent out letters to as many world leaders as they could and asked them to support this new holiday.

from Pete Seeger

Within the first 12 months of their campaign, the results were overwhelming. World leaders, educators, Nobel Laureates, show biz celebrities and other luminaries responded. And in the last 50 years, they have managed to gather the support of 180 countries.

It’s interesting to read the thoughts of people like James Michener, Colin Powell, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, and Whoopi Goldberg on the subject. My favorite replies are the little ditty that Pete Seeger offered, a wacky postcard from David Sedaris, and a heartfelt letter from the Idyllwilde Elementary School in Florida.

You can read more of these interesting letters here: https://worldhelloday.org/letters/

How to Celebrate

World Hello Day is a good opportunity to express our concern for world peace. According to the organization’s website, anyone can celebrate simply by saying hello to at least ten people. Friends and family count. Extra points if you greet a stranger, or say hello in a different language. And if you’re inspired to encourage a world or community leader to settle a conflict, go for it.

It seems a bit Pollyanna-ish to think that the simple act of saying hello can lead to world peace. And, we may feel silly saying hello to a perfect stranger. But we can start by greeting the nearly invisible people we encounter in an ordinary day: the checkout clerk at the grocery store, the people we pass on the sidewalk, someone we’re sharing an elevator with or sitting next to at the theater.

Acknowledging another human being’s existence can go a long way toward recognizing that we’re all in this crazy world together. At any rate, that’s the philosophy of the McCormack brothers, and they’re trying to make a difference. Why not try it, too?

And while you’re at it, say hello to Book #3 in the Samantha Newman Series, The Body in the News. I’m overjoyed (and relieved) that it’s finally out there!

Who have you said hello to today?

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

Gay Yellen: Weeding and Wording

Just found out that today is National Weed Your Garden Day, which couldn’t be more appropriate for me at the moment, though instead of culling crabgrass, I’m weeding out words.


The most common offenders I’ve dug up so far are: just, seemed, felt, but, winced, smiled, and a few other crutches a writer too often leans on.

The good news is that this exercise signals my last round of self-editing for The Body in the News, Book 3 in my Samantha Newman Mystery Series. Once this task is completed, I’ll be sending the manuscript to my publisher.

The bad news is, I’ve been so focused on finishing the new book that I completely forgot to plan a subject for this, my monthly Stiletto Gang post. So, in honor of this “national” day, let’s talk about weeds… oops, I meant words.

I was surprised when a friend commented that she thought I consciously chose to use more common language in my books than I use in my natural speech. Well, yes, and no. The characters in my books are not me, and even though I write their dialogue, the way they express themselves is their own.

When the writing is going well, I’m listening to Samantha and Carter and their supporting cast as they dictate their words to me. Older people use different words than younger adults and children do. Sticklers for facts, such as my detective, Buron Washington, are more clipped and precise when they speak. And so on, down to a new character whose vocabulary is unique unto itself.

However, the weeds in this manuscript are entirely my fault, and I must get back to yanking them out, one by one. But before I go, here’s a question:

Does the way a person speaks reveal something unique about their mood or character? How so?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mysteries including The Body Business, The Body Next Door, and out later this summer, The Body in the News.

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.