Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hello, folks,

I hope this lovely Saturday finds you well and able to enjoy some quality time with family and if you're a writer, with your keyboard!

I want to share a letter I wrote to Dean Koontz. And yes, I actually mailed it, along with a "thank you for the inspiration" copy of Tremolo.

I can hear you now.

"What? You actually wrote to one of the most successful, amazing, astounding, prolific writers ever to grace the planet? Are you nuts? Why would he read a letter from you? He gets 20,000 pieces of snail mail a year. And that number is growing!"

I know, I know. It's rather crazy. But I just finished reading the third book in the Odd Thomas series, Brother Odd, and I felt compelled to share my reactions with the author. I know how much it means to me when my readers send me their "book reports," or feedback of any type. I revel in it. And so, why hold back just because this man is a monument to writers everywhere?
Besides, he might still get that same thrill once in a while, like we do, when someone picks up on a passage of which we're particularly proud.

I've copied the letter below, minus a few lines that referred to plot surprises. Don't want to be a plot spoiler now, do I?

While we're at it, why don't you share some of your favorite writers with us? Tell us how they inspired you in your own life or writing.

So, dear friends, remember to take pleasure in the little things - whether it's a tiny petal on a cinguefoil flower, the crest of frost on your window, or the sparkle of love in an old woman's eye. And if you're writers, write like the wind!


December 5, 2007

Mr. Dean Koontz
PO Box 9529
Newport Beach, California 92658

Dear Mr. Koontz,

Last night during a grueling bout of insomnia, I reached for my copy of Brother Odd. With my flickering flashlight, I took great comfort in joining Oddie in his race to save the children of St. Bartholomew's. I delighted in the reappearance of Elvis with his quirky outfits and antics, and loved getting to know the monks, sisters, and children. The repartée between the Russian and Odd was stylish and witty - it floored me!

I'd been savoring this book as a treat each night, for your dedication to the craft brings such joy. After all, who else speaks of "light buttering the walls," or "shadows oiling the corners." God, I loved those passages, replete with perfectly chosen verbs and lovely imagery. Pure enchantment. The scene painting was profoundly enjoyable - what a fantastic setting for Odd's third adventure! I couldn't stop reading, even though I wanted to stretch it out to enjoy every single sentence.

Two hours later, still wide awake, I lay in bed with a monster smile plastered on my face. Uncontrollable. Recurrent. Unfading.

I'd finished the book, and continued to imagine the scene between Odd and Jacob (one of the most important and wonderful characters you've ever drawn, no pun intended!) You tore into my heart with that one, especially when Jacob laid his head against Odd's shoulder. So priceless, so moving, so... Koontz. Thank you for that unforgettable moment.

Flossie won my heart, too. What a lovely, tragic, brave and unforgettable child. Anyone who loves dogs that much couldn't help but become a favorite, even with the bit part she played. ;o)
The short but sweet visit with Ozzie was comforting, as well, because I'd missed him.

Anyway, I realize you receive over 20,000 pieces of mail each year, and probably read feedback like this ‘til you want to scream. But as a writer, I never tire of the "book reports" my readers send me. Each time they say they "couldn't put it down," or "stayed up all night to finish it," or "gave it to their mom to read," I experience that tingle of validation that keeps me going.

With that in mind, I decided to write once again to connect and thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing Brother Odd.

As a token of my deep respect and gratitude, I've enclosed a copy of my latest book, Tremolo: cry of the loon, a coming of age mystery set in Maine in 1964. Midwest Book Review recently honored me by writing, "...his style is lilting and beautiful. He weaves childhood memories of the lakes of Maine into a stylized whodunit that is original and breathtaking."

I'm not including this as a ploy to get you to read it, promote it, or help me in my career.

I know I will get there with hard work and persistence. And I will. I'll never give up, and I'll never stop writing, even if it's just for my own therapy and to satisfy that daily craving to create.

Rather, I am giving you Tremolo because it's the only way I know to thank you - it's such an integral part of me, it's my way of bowing down to your great talent and once again, from the bottom of my heart, thanking you for the Odd Thomas series.

Warmest regards from an avid student of your work,

Aaron Lazar at School #7, reading to fourth graders on National Reading Day. These children were a true delight - beautiful and bright, and they LOVED to read!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Hello, friends.

My life has been replete with one-two punches. Actually, it's usually one-two-three. You know the old saying, "trouble comes in threes?" Well, sometimes I'm relieved when it stops at three!
It's par for the course, as I'm sure it is in your lives, as well.

This week was no exception - but it sure was a rough one. And I was reminded of the power of writing as therapy and distraction. Such a wonder. And I thanked God for it, once again.

It started out with my wife's MS. Another exacerbation, a really bad one this time. Mind you, she hadn't suffered massive flareups except a few times a year for the past ten. The Avonex was working, doing its job of reducing the severity and frequency of exacerbations. But over the past year they have come closer together and with increased intensity. New symptoms, both mental and physical, have plagued her until it seems as if there is never going to be a reprieve.

So, the wintry week started out with the knowledge that we're going to have to change therapies. There are three current interferon type treatments used now, and we're going to switch to another called Copaxone. It requires one shot a day, as opposed to the weekly Avonex shot, but if it helps, it'll be worth it.

You'd think this would be a simple thing, right?

After three days of playing telephone tag, we finally connected with the doctor, and discovered we have to fill out a form (paper form, not even online), mail it in, and get "registered." What? Yes, registered to use this new treatment. Then a nurse has to come to the house to retrain her on the injections, even though she was already trained.

Okay, so we took yet another deep breath and prepared to wait.
Then the phone died.

Both the downstairs and upstairs. And I couldn't find my glasses to try to figure out what tiny little wires had come undone. We switched over to our cell phones, because what happened next made the week's usual troubles pale in comparison.

My mother-in-law, who lives in an addition on our home, is a sweet and loving woman. I adore her, she is a blessing to our home, and she drives my wife and daughter everywhere, helping me stay at work (an hour away) for the more mundane local appointments, etc. Apparently the day before Thanksgiving, when she was expecting her son and his family to arrive any minute, she felt some pain in her chest. And it rose to her jaw a bit. And her arms hurt a little.

Yup. The alarm bells are ringing now, aren't they? Call 911!

She didn't. She thought it was probably heartburn, and let it go. And she's an old Yankee stoic who avoids the doctors at all costs and doesn't even like to take an Advil if she can tough out the pain.

Then it happened a few more times. After Thanksgiving. She felt so tired, but couldn't figure it out. Must be that darned anemia. Must eat more meat, she thought.

When I got wind of this I told her she needed to be seen immediately. She promised, and the next day they discovered she'd had a heart attack. Or two. Or three.

We rushed her to the ER, a battery of tests were run, and it was determined that she needed an angiogram. Probably had a blockage in one of her arteries.

By the way, when all this was happening, our microwave died and the water well pump switch kept misbehaving. The kindly repair man from down the street (bless his heart, he's 88 years old and still working!), tried to fix it a few times and ordered us a whole new tank and pump, since the old one was ready to go. So during this whole week we either had no water, or had to run downcellar to reset the switch. Mind you, when my wife's MS is bad, she can't walk reliably.
I spent the evening with my mother-in-law at the hospital, while they stabilized her and prepped her for the angiogram by thinning her blood. Which caused uncontrollable bodily functions I won't detail here, but that humiliated the poor dear. She is a very private person. I helped her through it, and she got through the night.

The next day, after much waiting, they transported her via ambulance to one of the best heart hospitals in the country, Rochester General. Within an hour of her arrival, she was in the cath lab and on the table.

The cardiologist told me ahead of time that she would likely need a stent and angioplasty. But there was a slight chance that she'd need open heart surgery. The expectation was that the procedure should take no more than 45 minutes and that we'd know within the hour.

My poor wife stayed home to worry (she still couldn't walk reliably) and I waited with my laptop and cell phone, trying to keep my wife's two brothers (who lived far away), my three daughters, and my wife appraised of the situation. It was a cell phone nightmare, but surprisingly, my battery held up and that part actually functioned.

Thank God for my laptop. I'd been alternating between reading Dean Koontz's Brother Odd (such an inspiration to all writers!) and working on my twelfth book during the long waits by her bedside. But now I needed it more than ever. This was the turning point. I knew the risks were high for an elderly woman in her eighties. And what if...

I did okay for the first forty-five minutes.

I wrote two chapters, blinded myself to my swelling fears and allowed myself to be taken into Sam Moore's life. Poor Sam. He'd lost a loved one and was traveling back in time through the power of the green marble to try to fix it.

I kept thinking how I'd fix things if I'd had the chance. Would've got her to the hosptial sooner had I known. Would've taken her right up to this hospital yesterday, had I known. Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. You know the thoughts.

An hour passed and I started to panic. An hour and a half. The cell phone they'd assigned to me didn't ring. I kept checking it to see if it was dead. Hoping she hadn't had a sudden complication. Wondering how they'd tell me if she did. Would a doctor come out, instead of calling?

I plunged back into my story, wrote what felt like good stuff, once again amazed at the therapeutic powers of the process. Somewhat distracted and able to breathe, I kept going and punched out another chapter. Life and death dramas occured around me in that waiting room, and each time a family's cell phone rang, we all jumped.

After almost two hours, the phone rang. The nurse asked if the doctor had called me yet, and was suddenly full of apologies because he had forgotten me. My mother-in-law was fine. The doctor called and said that she'd been about to have a massive attack. Two arteries were blocked 80 and 90%. But they'd successfully cleaned them out and successfully put a stent in one.
I brought her home yesterday in a raging snowstorm, but she's resting comfortably in her own bed. Winter is definately here now, which is okay by me. And we're so greatful for this early Christmas present. We still have our dear lady, and it looks like she's going to be just fine.

The new pump is in, but we still have no water, and we're starting to run out of the supply in the tub that we use to flush the toilets. Our kindly repair man was here until 8:00 last night, trying to figure out an unexpected new problem. I sent him home and told him to get some rest, that things would seem clearer in the morning.

Regardless, the mechanical problems will resolve eventually, and life will go on. And maybe we'll be able to think about putting up our Christmas lights this weekend. ;o)

I think I'll go write a chapter. I need another dose of therapy.
- Aaron
PS If you would like personally autographed copies of Double Forte' , Upstaged, or Tremolo, I'm running a special this month. All three books signed and mailed to you for fifty bucks, ten off the usual price. Email me at aaron . lazar @ (minus the spaces) for details.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Title: Silenced Cry
Author: Marta Stephens
Publisher: BeWrite Books
Publisher's Address: 32 Bryn Road South,Wigan, Lancaster, WN4 8QR
ISBN number: 978-1-905202-72-0
Price: $15.50
Publisher phone number and/or website address:

Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Author of the LeGarde Mystery Series

Heads up, mystery lovers. There’s a new crime writer in town, and her name is Marta Stephens.
Stephens’ debut novel, Silenced Cry, is supremely addictive, propelling readers into the action from page one and corkscrewing through a wild ride of corruption, abuse, and villainy.

When Detective Sam Harper’s partner, Frank Gillies, gets a peculiar tip about a drug-related suspect holed up in a local bar, they hurry to apprehend him. The bust goes terribly wrong, and in one heart-pounding moment awash with bizarre twists, the suspect and Gillies end up dead in a rain-soaked alley.

Riddled with guilt and facing an increasing number of unanswered questions about Gillies’ past, Sam tries to move forward, but becomes exasperated when he’s placed with a new partner who hails from a corrupt precinct. In spite of their rocky start, Harper and Mann learn to tolerate each other. Their first case calls them to a construction site to investigate remains found in a sealed up wall. Horrified, they discover the remains belong to that of a baby girl – killed when she was only days old.

The cold case consumes Harper, who digs into the past with persistence and unparalleled drive. Strange connections with his and Gillies’ past pop up. Walt Harper, Sam’s father and an ex-cop familiar with the suspects, grows distant and secretive.

What is Walt hiding from his son? And could it possibly relate to Sam’s partner’s death? The answers lie embedded in a complex maze that will shock and satisfy the most assiduous crime mystery buff.

Stephens writes with a consummate skill. She’s serious about her craft, and it shows. Tight suspense, perfectly chosen verbs, natural and innovative beats, and authentic dialog propel this work to a level far beyond those works commonly found on the best sellers list. Stephens’ writing soars with focused intensity and her characters are real – they hurt, they fall in love, they suffer angst and explode with anger.

Stephen’s second book in the Sam Harper series promises thrills and intrigue matched only by Silenced Cry. This reviewer will be first in line for his much-anticipated copy.


Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in-law, dog, and four cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at Kodak, in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening; preparing large family feasts; photographing his family, gardens, and the breathtakingly beautiful Genesee Valley; cross-country skiing across the rolling hills; playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending “time” with the French Impressionists whenever possible. Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his “two little buddies” to be one of the finest experiences of his life.

Double Forté is the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in November, 2004. Upstaged followed in October, 2005. His third, Tremolo: cry of the loon, was released via Twilight Times Books in November 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his twelfth book, For Keeps. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in early 2008, followed closely by Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at, or stop by his websites at and

Friday, November 09, 2007

-New review for Tremolo by scholar/reviewer Bob Williams-

Reviewed by Bob Williams

Tremolo: cry of the loon by Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books 2006, ISBN 1-933353-08-2, 223 pages, $18.95

This is the third book in the Gus LeGarde series of mystery novels. Unlike the other books, it takes place when Gus was a boy of eleven and he and the twins, Elsbeth and Siegfried Marggrander, vacation at a Maine resort run by Gus’s grandparents. Lazar has drawn heavily on this material in his other books and in this one he proves what a rich source it is.

As Gus and the twins return home from a boating accident, they encounter a young girl, bleeding from a blow to her mouth, and pursued by a drunken man whom they assume to be her father. The search for the missing girl, Sharon Adamski, runs through the story, in some ways its dominant thread but not the one that most occupies the reader.

The real attraction of the book is – and this quality it shares with the other Gus LeGarde books – the charm of the author and the opportunity for the reader to share in a gracious life built on warm relations with family and friends. The joys of the table and the love of music and the appreciation of the quiet joys of reading embrace an ideal but not impossible world. Lazar has added other strains to this medley. An occupant of one cabin is the mysterious Miss Jones, in reality Rose Kennedy seeking a quiet retreat where she can mourn the death of her son, shot down by an assassin in Dallas. She and young Gus become friends and it is he who rescues her cat Ivanhoe, frightened by a burglar.

It is no accident that the villains in Lazar’s books are villains without redemption. Like a figure from Elizabethan drama or opera they will not only stop at nothing, they will joyfully add gratuitous evil deeds beyond what any reader could expect. It is as if the existence of unqualified malevolence in others is the cost of Gus’s idyllic world, a kind of restoration of balances. Brigit Marggrander, mother of the twins, was the victim of the camps in Germany during World War II. This is another strong statement of the evil that exists in the outer world beyond the charmed circle of the LeGarde family and friends.

Lazar cleverly involves the story with To Kill a Mockingbird, a movie that Gus sees with his parents and which they all find overwhelming. It is a brilliant choice for it is a parallel with the LeGarde circle and the circumstances of Tremolo.

This – if the world is at all just – should be the break-through book for Aaron Paul Lazar. He has served his apprenticeship with two excellent works, but Tremolo reaches far beyond these and is a monument to the enduring values of love, integrity and bravery. Experimental writing is fun but charm and honesty and high ideals have staying power. Tremolo has all the signs of persistent endurance.

About the Reviewer: Bob Williams is retired and lives in a small town with his wife, dogs and a cat. He has been collecting books all his life, and has done freelance writing, mostly on classical music. His principal interests are James Joyce, Jane Austen and Homer. His writings, two books and a number of short articles on Joyce, can be accessed at:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hello, friends!

Now that Tremolo: cry of the loon is out, I'm seeking candidates to host my Virtual Book Tour, or Blog Tour during the months of January and February, 2008.

What's a Virtual Book Tour, you might ask? Well, it's basically a succession of reviews and/or interviews or articles posted by a reader during a specific time period. A good example is Beryl Singleton Bissell's Blog Tour. For ten weeks, friends/readers/reviewers hosted Beryl's book, The Scent of God. It was so much fun, and I was honored to be a small part of it. (see a sample, here.)

What does "hosting" mean? (I know, it can all be very confusing!) A Blog Tour host usually reads the book, writes a review and/or interview questions, and posts the resultant said review/interview on their blog. Don't have a blog? Not a problem. You can simply post an article on your website, Gather, or any other social networking site.

If you think you'd like to: 1) Read Tremolo 2) Write a review or 3) Formulate some interview questions for me, then contact me through Gather mail with "Tremolo Tour" in the subject line so I don't miss your note. Or, email me at aaron . lazar (minus the spaces.)

If you're accepted as a Virtual Book Tour Host (I have only eight slots, but am willing to expand it if it makes sense), I will send you a free copy of Tremolo. If you've already purchased it, you'll receive another copy to give away or save. ;o) We'll choose a week that works for you. And the formula above is not cast in stone - you might choose to do a live chat, or simply write about the book, or feature some other clever way to help spread the word about Tremolo. You send me the interview questions in advance of the tour, and I'll return the answers to you in time for you to post them during your week.

Suggestions for reviews: Write a bit about the story and your reaction to it. But don't reveal key secrets, such as the identity of the lady in mourning, or who the villain is, or what happens to poor Sharon Adamski, the missing girl. This sounds pretty obvious, but sometimes folks don't realize they've revealed too much. They call these "story spoilers," and we don't want to spoil the story for anyone, of course!

Sound easy? It is! It does take a little time, but it's also a good way for you to get more traffic to your site, since I'll write a weekly article directing folks to your blog/article, and folks often follow the tour from blog to blog. It's great for networking, too!

Usually there are comments that come with your posting/blog entry, and I will visit to answer all of them during the week. That's why I chose a week for each event - to give time for the free exchange of comments!

Take care, my friends. And for those of you who love to write, remember to write like the wind!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A few weeks ago, I spent a day with a Kodak video crew who interviewed and filmed me wandering about the Fingerlakes and Genesee Valley regions of Upstate NY, in prep for a clip that will appear on their website in a few weeks. They're going to giveaway ten free copies of Tremolo:cry of the loon for ten straight weeks, so I'll be sure to let you know when it starts!

It was odd being in front of all those cameras instead of behind a keyboard, but I have to admit I secretly enjoyed having a captive audience who wanted to hear about my life's passion: writing! Once I get started gushing about my characters, stories, and readers, it's hard to stop me. Oh well. That's just the way I am. ;o)

Maybe next week I'll tell you a little bit about Gus LeGarde, the protagonist of my first series? But that can wait for another day.

We spent October 9th touring the area near my home, and I shared the gorgeous locales that continue to inspire the my novels with the crew who kept me company all day. They filmed me walking along the foggy shore of Conesus Lake, reading from Tremolo, typing on my laptop perched on the edge of Letchworth Gorge (!), and interviewed in front of the fire at the historic Big Tree Inn in Geneseo, NY. Plus, they captured what I'm sure will be breathtaking footage of the lush area and the college town.

I won't spoil the final video that will be available soon by revealing too much, but I thought I'd share a few photos and the interview questions I answered while we finished up at The Big Tree Inn in Geneseo, the restaurant that inspired the scene in Upstaged where Gus and Camille dine at The Elderberry Inn.

It poured first thing in the morning, and we feared it would all be a washout. But shortly thereafter - amidst plenty of mysterious fog - the sun finally came out.

There was a lone boat in the distance in the fog - rather appropriate, since Tremolo: cry of the loon (the new release coming Nov. 15th) opens with a similar scene.

Tim, Tom, and Jonathan, my videographers and producer.

One of the many spectacular views of Letchworth State Park, "the grand canyon of the East." This is not unlike the scene Gus LeGarde describes when he discovered his first wife, Elsbeth, lying at the base of the cliffs - four years before the action starts in Double Forte'. Poor Elsbeth. When the book opens, Gus believes she jumped to her death. But life isn't quite so simple in East Goodland, NY, now. Is it?


Okay, let's move on. Here are the questions I answered for the video clip. The actual video will only be 3-4 minutes long, so you won't hear more than 10 percent in sound bytes when it airs.

Kodak: Are there ways in which designing presses helps you write mysteries, and vice versa?

Aaron: At first thought, you might imagine that there could be NO connection between engineering and writing. After all, electrophotographic engineering involves the science behind the digital presses we design and manufacture at NexPress, the physics behind the toner, developer, imaging cylinders, and the hardware that work together to deliver prints. One might be hard put to understand how such work - data, science, formulas, and hardware - could be even remotely related to writing. But when I'm on a project, whether it's the development of a new toner to meet incredibly stringent standards, or solving a complex system problem, there's always a mystery that needs to be solved. It's that challenge, that incredibly exciting contest, that gets my blood pumping. And its a similar excitement that courses through my veins when I'm reading or writing a mystery, trying to solve it, absorbing or creating clues, and imagining "whodunnit."

Of course, no matter what one's profession, there's always human drama in real life to stimulate a writer's emotions and imagination. My colleagues have experienced appalling trials, and these traumas spark fears.

What would I do if I lost either of my baby grandsons? How would I deal with the sudden death of my wife? What if I experienced a life changing heart attack? How would I handle it if one of my daughters was being abused, or was in danger?

Those are the fibers that make up the cloth of every day life. As in news stories, they generate a germ of an idea that may blossom and grow into a storyline or an entire book Most of the themes I've used had come from my own life, but the influences of those around me cannot be denied.

Kodak: Why do you write mysteries as opposed some other genre?

It's common wisdom that you should "write what you read."
I've always been a fan of mysteries, and used to devour them as a child. My parents would bring home boxes of books from auctions, and I'd be happily lost for weeks in series like The Hardy Boys. I graduated to books by Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and Helen McInnes in the years that followed. As time went on, I progressed to my current favorite novelists, including John D. MacDonald, James Patterson, Dick Francis, Clive Cussler, Laurie R. King, Lillian Jackson Braun, Peter Mayle, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Tony Hillerman.

Kodak: What's the feeling when you think of people actually holding a book in their hands which you've written, sitting with it, holding it, turning the pages, reading the printed words?

Aaron: The feeling is rather humbling and most phenomenal. To think of someone sitting in their living room, inhaling the sights and sounds and emotions I've painted on the printed page, fills me with an indescribable sense of joy and... a little bit of nervousness, too. My readers could be in Australia, or Iceland. Africa or Dallas. On a boat or in a plane. In bed or by the fireplace. Anywhere. Any time. Reading my words. My words... my characters, in the hands of folks I've never met. It gives me goosebumps. My parallel universe is suddenly out there, exposed, being absorbed by someone else. It's a little bit scary, but it can also be validating when they ask for more. That's the best part!

Kodak: Ebooks haven't really caught on. Do you think it's because of that whole tactile experience - holding the book, turning the pages?

Aaron: Ebooks are a great value that open up a world of publishing to thousands of authors whose work might not be available through other means, and some folks just love them. However, the majority of my readers have told me they want print books. They want to hold the book in their hands, turn the pages, feel the accompanying sense of "progress" that comes with it, and be able to put the book on their shelf when they're done. They want to save it for their children, and know it's going to be there in a hundred years.

I feel the same way. I like to carry a book in my back pocket or briefcase, sit out in the sun without worrying about the sun glaring off a screen, or having to tote around a heavy laptop or ebook reader. I especially love the feeling of holding the book in my hands when I finish a great read. It feels like a more personal connection with the author, without electronic ads popping up in the background. I turn the book around in my hands and "savor" the look and feel of it when I'm done. It becomes like an old friend, and the experience is only completed after I place it on my favorite bookshelf. Plus I especially love it when I can get the author to sign the flyleaf.
Kodak: Print has obviously played a big part in your life. Could you expand on that?

Print has opened up the whole world to me, allowing me to connect with my readers in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise. That's what it's all about - the connections. The people I've met at book signings or through email have been astounding. And oftentimes, there are moments that just floor me.

Take for example the case of Jamie, a very successful young entrepreneur, who contacted me after reading Double Forté. He told me Gus LeGarde had "shown him that cooking a pot of stew, reading a stack of books and watching the Bambi movie with the ‘little ones' in our lives is more important that studying statements, proformus, and packing for the next business trip." He said, "I feel as though Gus, through your words, is actually slowing me down a little bit. Tonight, because of your book, I spent a little extra time while tucking them in. reading an extra bedtime story, and rocking the little one in her bedroom for ten minutes or so." His feedback warmed my heart. Even though I write mysteries, Gus is a diehard family man, and the books are filled with warm moments between him and his grandson, for example. If just one of my books causes just one of my readers to spend more time with their children...that's more than enough for me.

Kodak: What do you think it means to be an ambassador for print? And how do you think that role, for you or anyone, will continue to drive the future of print?

Aaron: Being an ambassador for print means to engage, motivate, and inspire readers. By creating a mystery series that grabs readers who want to learn more about the characters, to delve into their past and future, to dig deeper into the mysteries and come back for more - that seems to inspire them to read more, and that means more printing.

And if my humble words can influence one single reader, like Jamie, then that is the most satisfying and validating part of the whole process. Let's face it, print is here to stay. And along with all the other authors on this planet, I'm honored to be a small part of that process.


The photo at the top of this article was taken after a long long day of being "on" and having to look and sound like a witty author. It's hard to do for a rather simple guy like me. But I made it, and even though you can tell I was ready to drop, my daughter wanted to take a shot of me when it was all over. ;o)

Thanks, Allison!

Thanks for stopping by - and remember, for those of you who love to do so, write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I've been busy trying to catch up with promised reviews - here's another that will hook you from page one - a superbly written mystery by Jack Maeby.
- Aaron

Title: The Thorazine Mirrorball
Author: Jack Maeby
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Publisher's Address: P.O. Box 4897, Culver City, CA 90231-4897
ISBN number: 1-93406966-3
Price: $5.95
Publisher phone number and/or website address:

The Thorazine Mirrorball
by Jack Maeby
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Author of the LeGarde Mystery Series

Jimmy Mack isn’t crazy.

Well, at least not now. After two years of debilitating depression and forced exile in an asylum, characterized by chunks of memory loss and high doses of heavy meds, the twenty-one-year old rhythm and blues piano player is finally back.

Assigned a room in a halfway house in Albany in 1972, Jimmy reconnects with his old music buddies and lands a lucrative gig in the Adirondacks. All goes well, until a group of thugs nearly drive him off the road and people around him start dying, jeopardizing Jimmy’s already fragile mental state.

The young man, frazzled with nerves, is smitten by every pretty woman who crosses his path, particularly singer Yvonne Marshall, with her caramel skin and velvet voice. The woman oozes sex-appeal, creating a trail of shuddering men in her wake.

From one fast-paced scene to another, this book moves. Maeby also displays a deep musical insight, with perception that reflect his history as a band member with acts such as The Neville Brothers, Etta James, and Carly Simon, as well as his accomplishments and awards for his compositions in the film and musical fields. Yet within the action, there are also moments of poignant poetry couched in Maeby’s words.

“It was the opening movement of a dance done by demons, the prelude to panic, and then to darkness. If the feeling had sound, it would be an atonal moan in the bass register, accompanied by brittle, frenetic percussion. I knew it as the insistent, cruel pulse of anxiety.”

Jack Maeby has created a superb thriller in this taut and colorful novel. Characters jump from the page–such as Shorty, the irascible record shop owner who becomes inadvertently involved in a shady music business deal. Each of Maeby’s characters tremble with life; their natural dialogue is easy to swallow. The prose flows effortlessly, with none of the forced literary faux pas often made by first time novelists. There is no excess here, each word is precisely placed and potent. It is clear that in addition to his innate talent, this writer has done his homework.

The Thorazine Mirrorball is highly recommended for all lovers of mystery/suspense, music, or crime novels. The only question remaining is this: when will Mr. Maeby produce his next jewel?


Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in-law, dog, and four cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at Kodak, in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening; preparing large family feasts; photographing his family, gardens, and the breathtakingly beautiful Genesee Valley; cross-country skiing across the rolling hills; playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending “time” with the French Impressionists whenever possible. Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his “two little buddies” to be one of the finest experiences of his life.

Double Forté is the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in January, 2005. Upstaged followed in October, 2005. His third, Tremolo: cry of the loon, is scheduled for release via Twilight Times Books under the Paladin Timeless Imprint November 15, 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his twelfth book, For Keeps. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in May 2008, followed in June 2008 by Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at, or stop by his websites at and

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hi, folks!

I thought I'd share a review I just wrote for Maggie Ball's debut novel, Sleep Before Evening, an important read with deep insight into the human condition.

Talk to you soon,


Title: Sleep Before Evening
Author: Magdalena Ball
Publisher: BeWrite Books
Publisher's Address: 32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancashire, WNA 8QR
ISBN number: 978-1-905202-97-4
Price: $17.99
Publisher phone number and/or website address:

Sleep Before Evening
by Magdalena Ball
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Author of the
LeGarde Mystery Series

Life isn’t perfect, but seventeen-year-old Marianne Cotton is blessed with a loving and devoted grandfather who carefully schools her in piano, the arts, and literature. An “A” student, Marianne basks in his attention while eclipsing memories of her deadbeat dad. Lily Cotton, Marianne’s self-involved, bipolar mother, loves her daughter within her own limitations. The needy artist frequently requires tending when moods swing, forcing Marianne to table her own needs and emotions to care for her. A series of men has invaded their lives, providing a less than perfect environment for Marianne.

The brilliant young woman manages to survive until her senior year in high school, when just before finals, Eric Cotton collapses into a vegetative state. Although Marianne is convinced her grandfather is still alive inside, the decision to pull the plug is made by Lily and her current husband, Russell. Marianne interprets this act as a deep betrayal, and reels in shock when she’s notified that her grandfather has been removed from life support.

Faced with spiritual solitude, Marianne starts to unravel. She falls for a handsome and charismatic street musician named Miles, who lures her into a world of sex, drugs, and smoky club blues. Marianne’s pain is diminished with each fix she accepts from her new group of exotic and seemingly attractive friends. Armed with a fake ID, school recedes and her scholarship for NYU seems unimportant. Marianne lands a job at a sleazy bar, serving drinks to overweight groping men and pushing through the motions with more mental lethargy as her craving for absolution and oblivion careens forward, driving her to a nearly lethal intravenous heroin addiction.

Magdalena Ball’s writing, insightful and deep, engages the reader from page one. Her characters linger long after the story resolves to its perfect conclusion. Highly recommended for a glimpse into the motivations behind heroin abuse, as well as thoroughly alluring family drama, Sleep Before Evening is powerfully addictive in its own right.


Aaron Paul Lazar resides in Upstate New York with his wife, three daughters, two grandsons, mother-in-law, dog, and four cats. After writing in the early morning hours, he works as an electrophotographic engineer at Kodak, in Rochester, New York. Additional passions include vegetable, fruit, and flower gardening; preparing large family feasts; photographing his family, gardens, and the breathtakingly beautiful Genesee Valley; cross-country skiing across the rolling hills; playing a distinctly amateur level of piano, and spending “time” with the French Impressionists whenever possible. Although he adored raising his three delightful daughters, Mr. Lazar finds grandfathering his “two little buddies” to be one of the finest experiences of his life.

Double Forté is the founding book of the LeGarde Mystery series and was released in January, 2005. Upstaged was released in October, 2005. His third, Tremolo: cry of the loon, is scheduled for release via Twilight Times Books under the Paladin Timeless Imprint November 15, 2007. Mr. Lazar is currently working on his twelfth book, For Keeps. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in early 2008, followed closely by Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at:, visit his blog at, or stop by his websites at and

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hello, Readers and Writers!

For those of you who spend time writing, I hope this finds you producing work with astounding depth and sublime allusions.

Or at least writing. Something. A few lines that make your mother chuckle? Or a conversation that smacks of reality?
Wherever you are in the writing process - be is poetry, essays, historical pieces, or novels - keep going and write every day.

That piece of advice has been touted often, and I must say, for the most part, it is sound. The more you write, the more your skills evolve. Of course there are days when you will want to take break and just live. Breathe. Laugh. Swim. Gorge yourself on life. And those days usually fill the writing well with plenty of material, don't they?

And those of you who read 'til your heart is full and your soul satisfied - I know you appreciate the effort that goes into the process.

Frankly, I'm amazed at how much my own prose has changed - and changed again - even over the past few years.

Remember I mentioned a while back that Tremolo: cry of the loon, is coming out soon? Well, we now have an official print release date from Paladin Timeless Books (an imprint of Twilight Times Books): November 15th, 2007. Tremolo is the third Gus LeGarde book, a prequel to Double Forte', that whisks Gus, Siegfried, and Elsbeth back to the summer of 1964. It's a "coming-of-age mystery." Genre slotting is so hard to do these days, but since my publisher is a literary independent who doesn't get all bent out of shape by precise genre tagging, I think it will represent the book well and should suffice.

Anyway, I finished revising the manuscript for the umpteenth time. I spent ten days on it, refining and tweaking to smooth the prose, removed ungainly adverbs (like ungainly, LOL), hacked away at the excessive prepositional phrases, removed the "ups and downs" sullying the prose, and much, much more. It's a tighter read now, and I'm glad I did it.

If you'd like to read an updated excerpt - click here.

On top of all that, I prepared many cover designs for my publisher to consider, and she's chosen the one I've posted here.
A back cover blurb is almost as important as the cover art. Once you attract the potential reader with a dazzling cover, they normally flip the book over to glance at the blurb. If the first sentence or two doesn't capture them, enticing them to open to chapter one to sample the first few sentences - all is lost.

So, back cover blurbs are often honed (at least by me) like a fine work of art, with much solicitation from critique partners. If you have only 150 words to describe your entire novel, you must choose words judiciously to pique your reader's interest.

Things have been hopping in other areas, too. Kodak has contacted me to do a video shoot for their website They want me to share my passion about print and how it's affected my life as an author. Of course, it's all about connecting with readers! I'm very passionate about that. ;o) They'll be filming me on October 9th in and around the Genesee Valley and Geneseo, NY, the historic and beautiful locale where the LeGarde Mystery series takes place.

Did you ever think your lowly and humble LeGarde Mysteries author would be a movie star? LOL!

Okay, so it's not The View or the Oprah show. But it should be fun. And they're going to giveaway ten copies of Tremolo each week for ten weeks as a promotion. A very nice gesture, don't you think?

In keeping with this whole crazy Tremolo week, I'm going to share the current blurb I've written for the back cover. I'd appreciate comments from those of you who have been through this grueling process before. As always, I welcome your suggestions.

Here's a statement I've developed to help define the target audience. Like Stephen King's movie, "Stand By Me," or my all time favorite "To Kill A Mockingbird," Tremolo features young characters, but is not targeted exclusively at young readers. I actually wrote it for folks in my generation who may have grown up in the fifties/sixties or those who wish they had. ;o)

"A book with universal appeal, Tremolo will satisfy adults who yearn for simpler times as well as young readers seeking adventure and mystery."

How does that sound?

And since my mysteries often combine elements of poetic family scenes interlaced with chilling terror, I've come up with this little blurb to help explain it.

"Tremolo is the perfect blend of the sublime and sinister."

Do you think that will attract interest?

Boy, this marketing stuff and all the things that go with getting a book out are really a lot harder than writing the actual book! But they're important. After all, as someone once told me, "nobody ever bought a book they haven't heard about."

Tremolo, Rough Draft of Back Cover Blurb:

"Summer, 1964: Beatlemania hits the States, and the world mourns the loss of JFK. For eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde, the powerful events that rocked the nation serve as a backdrop for the most challenging summer of his life.

After Gus and his friends capsize their boat at his grandparents’ lakeside camp, they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the foggy Maine woods. She’s scared. She’s hurt. And she disappears.

The camp is thrown into turmoil as the frantic search for Sharon begins. Reports of stolen relics arise, including a church bell cast by Paul Revere. When Gus stumbles on a scepter that may be part of the spoils, he becomes a target for the evil lurking around the lake. Will they find Sharon before the villain does? And how can Gus--armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle--survive the menacing attacks on his life?"

Well, thanks so much for stopping by. I'm actually simultaneously babysitting for my grandsons this morning, so it's been a bit of a challenge getting this prepared and tending little boys' needs at the same time. Daughter Jenn has nursing clinicals in the city today, and she had to leave really early, seven AM. Phew. I hope this all makes sense!

Warmest wishes for a wonderful week,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hello, folks.

This week I received news that my publisher, Lida Quillen of Twilight Times Books and the Paladin Timeless Imprint, is hoping to schedule Tremolo: cry of the loon, the prequel to Double Forte', for printing in late November. This will be the third Gus LeGarde book in print, from a current total of nine. Lida's been juggling numerous successful books and events all summer, working hard to grow her top notch independent press. It has earned a wonderful reputation in the community. Here's a link to her current newsletter, if you'd like to take a look.

The search for a "paint and brush" artist for the cover hasn't materialized, for various reasons. So, Lida allowed me to take another crack at the cover. Nothing is final yet, but this is one version. It may end up getting scrapped or changed, but I thought I'd share it anyway. I'm always interested in the feedback you folks provide, so feel free to weigh in with your own opinions!

Originally I had some loon and/or rowboat images in the cover, but so far they haven't seemed right. Too cluttered. The image I'm striving for is mysterious and eerie - fog on the lake at night. But I'm not sure if it's enough.

What do you think?

In the process of doing this I happened to revisit the manuscript. Guess what happened? What ALWAYS happens.

I choked and panicked.

Too many adverbs. Examples of passive writing. Extra prepositional phrases explaining where my characters are standing or sitting that just plain slow down the story. Too many uses of "up" and "down" that are not necessary. And so on.


I wrote this years ago - in three months, as I usually do. And of course I polished it many times afterwards, coming back to it years after the original penning. But the last time I worked on it was with my editor over a year ago.

Since then, I've learned a great deal. Skills accumulate the more you write and study the craft, the tips and tricks for smoother, more powerful prose add up over time. And now the stuff I write (like Lady Blues, which I just finished, or For Keeps, which I'm halfway through), is so much stronger than the earlier works.

So - with a bit of trepidation - I asked my publisher if I could have one more "go" at it. She graciously agreed, although it's against her policy at this point in production. I'm being careful to maintain the integrity of the manuscript, but feel much better as I scour it one more time, cutting the excess and fortifying the weak.

It's not like a fresh rewrite, although that would be ideal. But I have to stop somewhere and realize that each book will be better than the last (in writing quality) and that it's a quandry I'll have to live with for the rest of my career. There are just too many darned stories to get out of my brain to stall and completely rewrite everything all over again. If I gave in to that desire, I'd not only drive myself crazy, but I'd never be done and my readers would be a bit...shall we say... bored?

On top of all this, my poor wife is having some serious health problems, complications with her MS, so I cancelled my booksigning today to be with her. She needs me, and that's more important than anything. Fortunately the event was part of a larger gathering of authors, so my absence won't be cataclysmic.

Next weekend I'm off to Heron Hills Winery for another solo event, and after that, to the Woods Library in Canandaigua. If you'd like to see the events calender, feel free to hop onto my site at and click on the events page. I'd love to see you if you're in the area!

Have a wonderful weekend.



Aaron Paul Lazar works as an engineer by day but can be found on weekends in his gardens with his two toddler sidekicks, grandsons Julian and Gordon. His passion lies in writing, where he has created eleven books with characters of depth, color and substance. Lazar entices readers with intricate plots, lush imagery, breathless action, gourmet meals, classical music, bountiful gardens and surprising romantic moments.
Mr. Lazar also writes monthly columns for the Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Voice in the Dark newsletter, and The Back Room ezine and has been published often in Absolute Write. He lives in Upstate NY with his extended family. Visit his websites at:;, and his blog at

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good morning, friends!

I pray this finds you well, ready to enjoy your Saturday. For those of you in the States, I hope you're poised and ready to experience a lovely Labor Day Weekend, and that you'll be able to fill a bit of it with some writing time.

My week? It's been overwhelming, actually. Horribly hectic. Filled with a gazillion family appointments, all scheduled to be done before college starts up again for the twins. On Tuesday, I sat by my daughter Allison's side and patted her foot while she was zoomed head first into an MRI unit (fortunately it turned out okay), and the rest of the week was full of allergy, eye, dental, primary care appointments and more. Allison's twin, Melanie, was off on a trip to Boston and Connecticut, searching for the perfect master's program for music therapy. There were lots of phone calls for advice and consultation.

Of course, this was all fit in over a full work week of engineering. On top of that, school started last Monday for eldest daughter, Jenn. She's returned for her final year of nursing, and our babysitting duties have skyrocketed. Now, you all know how much I adore my two little grandsons, Julian and Gordon. They are the light of my life. I crave time with them. I am blessed and rejuvenated by their proximity. But some nights, Jenn doesn't get home til 9 o'clock. It makes for a very long day.

And guess what suffers?

Right. My writing time.

So - for the first time in a long time - my characters have woken me almost every night at 2AM. It's totally unplanned, but has occured four times this week. My protagonist, Sam Moore, has been thrust into a psych ward after three people in his life were brutally murdered within a week, and he's not happy. Not only is he a suspect, but he's losing it just like he did when his little brother disappeared fifty years ago. Poor Sam. And he wants the green marble to take him back in time - so he can bring them all back to life. So, with this bizarre solution of middle of the night writing (2-4AM), Sam has robbed me of my sleep, yet soothed my writer's need to create.

Has this ever happened to you?

I awoke at 7 this morning, two hours after my usual routine to prepare for my Saturday Writing Essential piece. Although we are not paid a salary for this job, I consider it an honor and take it very seriously. So, I panicked a little when my grandson peeked in the room and I realized I'd lost two hours. Again.

Balto, our puppy, squeezed past Gordie into the bedroom and did the "I have to go out" dance, so I took him down and clipped him onto his run. I leaned on the porch, drinking in the cool morning air, tempted to wander out to the gardens to pick vegatables or take photos.

As I stood there waiting and just breathing, a lime-colored hummingbird flitted into view, attracted by the tall spires of lavender flowers in the coleus. He flitted around the spike, dipping repeatedly for the nectar. He didn't have much of a choice left in this garden, since the monarda dried up in the last three weeks of oppressive heat.

Anyway, this full-of-energy little bird suddenly stopped mid-air and simply hovered. He actually seemed to be staring right at me. He just hung there, wings beating, holding his position. As if he were trying to tell me something. Relax. Enjoy. Breathe.

And so, dear friends, I plan to follow his advice. Whether I'm losing it, like Sam Moore, or whether it was an important symbolic message meant to mysteriously pop into my brain, it's a good idea. After the chairs are delivered and errands are done, I'm going to relax. I might just weed those beets a little, or do some mowing, or maybe make a chocolate zucchini cake, or... Well, I promise that whatever I do, it will be because I want to do it, I enjoy it, and I've made a conscious decision to do so. ;o)

I hope you all have a spectacular weekend, whether you're down under welcoming spring, or celebrating the passage of summer to fall up North. No matter where you are, be sure to remember to breathe.



Aaron Paul Lazar works as an engineer by day but can be found on weekends in his gardens with his two toddler sidekicks, grandsons Julian and Gordon. His passion lies in writing, where he has created eleven books with characters of depth, color and substance. Lazar entices readers with intricate plots, lush imagery, breathless action, gourmet meals, classical music, bountiful gardens and surprising romantic moments.

Mr. Lazar also writes monthly columns for the Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine, Voice in the Dark newsletter, and The Back Room ezine and has been published often in Absolute Write. He lives in Upstate NY with his extended family.

Visit his websites at:;, and his blog at

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Imperfect Petals - a photo essay

Dedicated to Tonia and Debbie, who have suffered numerous challenges this year, particularly the recent loss of their beloved dog, Buddy. But neither lady has lost her gracious and optimistic spirit. I pray these images lend a small measure of comfort to my dear friends.

There's something both attractive and endearing about imperfection.

Take this sunflower, for example. Drawn to it, rather than its symmetric neighbors, I captured it in the early morning light. Gold shafts of sunlight filtered through the trees on the horizon, picking up a flower here, a leaf there. This one was almost fully exposed to the morning rays. And it attracted me precisely because of it's very lovely asymmetry.

See the little bites taken out of the far reaching petals on this giant zinnia? Even though the little yellow star-like flowers on its center look just perfect, if you look closely, you can see a few ragged edges. I love this tangerine-rose color, and hoped to find something on the blossom that would qualify it for this essay. ;o)

Look at this crazy lavender zinnia, with persistant petals growing right out of the center. I think it's going to be a double header.

This has got to be my favorite, with its weary worn petals. And that little weed that's twining all over it. Somehow this zinnia strikes me as rather heroic.

This shaggy lion's head seems proud and fierce. Note the tiny holes in its petals.

And this giant sunflower is spent, tired after treating us to its pristine beauty. Soon the petals will drift downward, and the birds will feast.

A moth has found a comfortable perch on this oversized dinner plate.

And finally, this pumpkin leaf. It isn't precisely a petal, but I loved the way the sun shone through it, and there is a tiny hole in its middle.

Why should flowers and plants be flawless? There's allure in each departure from perfection, in each tear or ragged edge that veers off the predictable path. I find them equisite.

Thanks for coming with me on this morning tour. I hope to post more photos of lush lilies and burgeoning vegetables in the next few days. ;o)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

My readers often ask, "Are you Gus LeGarde?"

I laugh and tell them, "Hardly. Gus is a much better man than me."
I genuinely mean it when I say it. But is it really true?

When I started writing the LeGarde Mystery series, I planned to base Gus on my father - a wonderful Renaissance man and a talented pianist/music professor. At the time, he'd just passed away from cancer, and I was overwhelmed with grief. The idea of starting the series as a testimony to him was appealing, and it provided some serious therapy.

Dad and I were a great deal alike. We were passionate about French Impressionist art, nurtured huge gardens, cooked like maniacs, and loved our dogs. So, as I began to write, particularly in the first person POV, Gus ended up being a lot like me.

But am I Gus LeGarde? And is he a better man than me?

Gus and I are very much alike. So much so that my friends always think it's me in the stories, and I often get asked questions like, "What was the name of the book where you and Camille went to Europe with Siegfried?"

We do look alike. We have the same wavy dark hair with silver sprinkled at the temples. The same hazel eyes. The same shoe size. But he's twenty pounds thinner and more fit than I am. (Hey, I'm allowed to dream, right?)

Gus and I grow expansive gardens, cook lush feasts for our families, adore our grandchildren, and dote on our dogs. We're good husbands, and responsible citizens. We live in big old houses in the country, and are crazy about nature, particularly the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes regions of upstate NY. We love to ride horses and love to swim. We devour mysteries and read in bed before going to sleep.

However - Gus can run for miles in the woods without getting an asthma attack. He can hold his own in a fistfight, lucky devil. I get out of breath walking up stairs and I've never been in a fistfight in my life. Call me a pacifist. I've always used words better than fists, I guess.

Gus also plays a flawless Chopin etude without even looking at the music. His artistry is perfect, his skills precise. I struggle through the simplest Chopin waltz.
He is drawn to trouble, ferrets out the villains, and fights to uphold honor for the common good. I struggle get through my day to day existence and only write about courage and upholding justice. I sure believe in it, but I don't really participate, do I?

Let's talk about church. Gus is a better parishioner than I ever was, even when I regularly attended our local Methodist church. He's on all the committees; plays organ for church services when needed at local nursing homes and prisons, and is an outstanding parish leader. I used to do some of that, until the committees took up far too much of my writing time and we lost the best pastor we'd ever had. I became discouraged and let the organized religious part of my life go - especially when my grandchildren moved in and going to church meant losing precious hours with them. Right now, they're foremost in my life. I know God understands. ;o) And I will go back to church when they're older and life settles down a little. I miss it.

Wait just a minute, now. Gus has a lot more time than me, doesn't he? Hmmm. There may be something to this line of reasoning. He lives five minutes away from his job where he teaches music at the local university. I drive one hour each way to work, twice a day. That's a lot of driving. And he teaches a few classes a day and is free to hunt scoundrels and investigate evildoers to his heart's content. I'm stuck at work at least ten hours a day.

Now I'm starting to get jealous. Which is really sick, since he's my own invention.
Gus also has Siegfried, his gentle giant brother-in-law who chops his wood, mows the lawn, feeds the livestock, and cleans out the horse stalls. Wow. Gus really has it easy. No wonder he has time to chase down the villains!

I'm warming to this angle. Let's see...

Gus has another advantage: Mrs. Adelaide Pierce! I'll admit, I always wanted the "real" Mrs. Doubtfire, and I invented Adelaide because I longed for her in my own life. During the weekdays she shops, helps with the grandkids, does mountains of laundry, cooks meals, and cleans the house. Sigh. Those jobs fall to me most of the time, since my wife is disabled. And I do lovingly care for my sweetie pie (see below), bringing her meals, monitoring her meds, and generally loving her a whole lot. We both weave chair seats on the side, to make extra money. Hey! There's something Gus can't do!

And I just thought of one more thing. I take photos. Some of them are nice. And Gus doesn't have a clue about photography. He's got a good eye for art, but he leaves the photography to his adopted father figure, Oscar Stone. But Oscar's a better photographer than me. He's published coffee table books galore. Wait a minute, let's not get off on that tangent...

We really are one and the same soul - with a few minor perturbations. His thoughts are my thoughts. When he mourns his first wife, I tap into the feelings of fear and grief I experienced when my wife almost died, when the threat of her demise hung over our family. When Gus mourns his father's passing, it's my grief he's feeling. He cherishes his grandkids like I do mine, with the same fierce sense of adoration and protection I feel toward my little buddies, Julian and Gordie. And when he picks his sun-ripened tomatoes, or his juicy plums, or his aromatic basil, he's raiding my garden. Each meal he cooks has been my real-life creation, and every book he reads I've read.

The next time a reader asks me if I'm Gus LeGarde, I might hesitate before spouting my usual answer.

After all, he may be a better man, but there is no Gus without me. ;o)


Visit Gus on his website at

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Blog Tour for The Scent of God, by Beryl Singleton Bissell

If you've never been on a "blog tour," let me explain. A series of nice folks from all over the planet offer to "host" the tour, which usually involves a book review and a personal visit from the author in the spotlight, accomplished through a series of interview questions. This week, I'm proud to host Beryl Singleton Bissell and her book The Scent of God.

The book keeps calling my name - even though I finished it weeks ago - and I'll probably reread it frequently over the course of my life. I plan to buy more copies to give away as birthday and Christmas gifts, too.

Yeah, it's that good.

Here's the review I wrote:

Title: The Scent of God

Author: Beryl Singleton Bissell

Publisher: Counterpoint, a member of the Perseus Books Group

Publisher's Address: 387 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016-8810

ISBN-13: 978-1-58243-361-5

Price: $15.00

Publisher phone number and/or website address:

Author’s website:

Author’s blog:

The Scent of God

by Beryl Singleton Bissell

Review by Aaron Paul Lazar

The Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell is a work of fine art, reminiscent of a painting by Rubens or a haunting Saint-Saëns melody. The beautifully crafted memoir offers words that glisten like gems on each page. Lush imagery, redolent with heady scents and vibrant color, transports the reader to locales ranging from the sanctified to the exotic. Readers will savor every chapter of this alluring tale.

The story begins in 1947 in Saddle River, New Jersey. Beryl, one of four siblings in a Catholic family, catalogs her mortal sins at an early age and is riddled with guilt when her mother serves meat on Friday or the family misses Mass. Her father’s binges and the rage and panic his drinking elicits in her mother, cause Beryl to seek comfort in nature. With her siblings, she happily tramps through the lakeside woods - swimming, fishing, tobogganing, and exploring abandoned farmhouses. In sixth grade, Beryl begins attending a private boarding school run by Catholic nuns who teach her about a God of unconditional love. This knowledge calms and thrills the young girl, who longs for stability and acceptance.

When Beryl is thirteen, her father’s drinking causes him to lose his position as vice-president of a New York bank, but he is offered an alternate position in Puerto Rico. When the family relocates to the tropical island, Beryl draws inward, avoiding friends and life outside the home. Beryl’s sister’s popularity and her mother’s critical harping about her weight increase her sense of displacement. Witnessing the drowning of a young boy, however, brings her face to face with her own mortality and the superficiality of earthly success. This new knowledge, in combination with a mystical experience of God’s love and the breakup with her “first love” -- a handsome young Puerto Rican boy -- set her on a course toward a life of commitment to God whose love is eternal and unchanging.

At the age of eighteen, and in spite of her parent’s initial disapproval, Beryl enters the Monastery of Saint Clare in Bordentown, New Jersey. With visions of becoming a saint, she thrives on the simple goodness of the daily processes in the cloistered nunnery, enjoying working in the bakery, her daily prayers, and the quiet camaraderie of her sister nuns. Her experiences in the monastery are lovingly and honestly recounted, providing a rare glimpse into this life.

Twelve years later, Beryl is deeply ensconced in the tranquility of the monastery when she receives the news that her father has taken ill, and that she needs to return home to assist her mother with his care. Returning to the island reawakens her senses.

“I woke that morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below, the pink and gold of the rising sun playing across my face. Despite my father’s condition and my mother’s frailty, I felt a wild surge of happiness. Eight floors below my window, a receding wave shimmered back toward an oncoming breaker, leaving a froth of bubbles to mark the edges of its ride. A solitary man jogged along the beach, the wet sand forming silvery halos around his footprints.”

In the course of caring for her father, and in the most delectable and surprising twist of this true story, Beryl meets Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest who preaches at the local church of Saint Jorge. At first irritated by the man, Beryl slowly finds herself falling in love as she gets to know him better, igniting the most painful yet wondrous struggle of her life

It would spoil the story to reveal more. Suffice it to say that the segment of the book involving Vittorio is sensual and captivating, never offensive, and completely addictive. Be forewarned that The Scent of God will lodge in your heart and invade your dreams for years to come.

Thankfully, the author is working on a sequel to The Scent of God. This reader anxiously awaits the next chapter in Beryl’s delightful true-life saga.


Now, let's meet Beryl!

Here are the interview questions:

Aaron: The luscious Puerto Rico you described haunts me, making me crave the ocean and an abundance of ethnic cuisine. And those sun-drenched scenes in Italy completely floored me, especially coupled with the emotions evoked by your memoir. Have you returned to the locales of your youth? What did you find?

Beryl: Ah, Aaron. You’ve asked a question that could consume pages of type. I shall try to synthesize but saying that the first time I returned to Puerto Rico, after an absence of more than 14 years, I was stunned by the changes that had taken place -- much like the surprises that greeted me when I returned for the first time as a nun after an absence of 12 years. Then it was the massive infrastructure of superhighways that had risen while I was gone, this time it was the glut of high-rise hotels and condos that now lined the once beautiful shoreline. I felt disoriented, sickened, and claustrophobic.

To experience the island as it once was, one has to high-tail it out of the San Juan suburbs. The city of San Juan remains historic and gorgeous but the suburbs, especially the Condado and Miramar sections where I grew up, have been sacrificed to tourism. Once outside those suburbs, the Puerto Rico that I knew and loved as a child re-emerges.

I returned to Puerto Rico several times, beginning in 1995, to research material for The Scent of God. Bill had recently entered my life and he came with me, falling as much in love with the island as I am. While in Puerto Rico we stay with friends, and at small country inns called Paradores – two or three different Paradores each time we go. These Paradores, located throughout the coastal regions and in small mountain towns in the interior, give the traveler the chance to experience the island’s culture and unique beauty in a way cosmopolitan areas do not. From them one can foray into the countryside and explore the sites, visit with the people, practice one’s rusty Spanish. The countryside is where I find the Puerto Rico
I love. I wrote a piece for Gather last year about getting caught up in a mountain motorcycle funeral that might give readers a flavor of these experiences. Remembering Puerto Rican Style

I have not gone back to Italy since Vittorio died. It was too difficult to travel alone with tiny children, and when they grew old enough I didn’t have the means to take them, and when I did have the means to take them life was changing too rapidly for any of us to fit such a journey in. I have stayed in touch with his family in Italy and Bill and I talk about such a trip once things settle down for us.

Aaron: Was the process of revisiting some of the most difficult events of your past therapeutic? Did you find it cleansing, or did stirring up the past trouble you?

Beryl: Here’s a warning. When you begin to write memoir, prepare for pain. Clothe yourself in courage and know that the journey will be traumatic. Believe also that, done well, writing your memoir will be therapeutic.

In brief, this is what the writing The Scent of God was like for me. I’d gone through 8 drafts of the book, each time getting a little closer to the truth of the story, when I received a letter from an agent telling me that it was a great story but that I hadn’t told it yet … and she was right. I’d deliberately avoided dealing with some of the more painful and revelatory experiences that were essential to understanding the past. The rewrite I did then was a prolonged and excruciating examination of conscience, one that I hope has prepared me for the even more painful journey my next book is proving to be.

Aaron: Your appreciation for life, dare I say, “lust for life,” jumps from the pages of The Scent of God. Your passion for nature, food, colors and tastes, all blend beautifully with the fascinating story. The descriptions of food left me salivating. Do you like to cook, Beryl? And if so, can I come over for dinner?

Beryl: I love wonderful food -- especially when prepared by someone else. I think of myself as a resigned cook, accepting the need to prepare meals but wanting to get it over as quickly as possible. I have been trying to look at food preparation as an art but must acknowledge that I’m much better at appreciating this art when created by others. I love to read about, hear about, and observe these artists at work even more than I enjoy feasting upon their creations. I am totally enamored of the scent of food – especially from ethnic cultures.

Aaron: Tell us about the dog who is featured in your photo used as an icon on What a beautiful animal!

Beryl: Shelby lies next to me as I write. She moved into our home five years ago while I was away on a month-long writing retreat. Shelby was at that time an eight year old Collie/Springer Spaniel mix that had been dropped off at the Animal Alliance in Duluth that no one seemed to want. She seemed resigned to her fate and lay in the kennel, surrounded by leaping, yelping, please-take-me-home doggies, looking quietly at Bill. The spaniel Bill had hoped to adopt had been claimed only minutes earlier so Bill took Shelby for a walk to check her out. Anticipating returning with a spaniel, he’d left the truck door open. Shelby jumped in. She’d claimed him. When I returned home and found her waiting at the door, I was more than surprised: I was downright unhappy. Shouldn’t we have discussed this first? It took but a day for Shelby to win my heart.

Aaron: You have a great affinity for nature and seem most happy when you’re outdoors. Tell us how your childhood growing up in the most diverse locales cultivated this affection.

Beryl: Place a child, any child, in the midst of a naturally beautiful environment. Give them the freedom to explore the fields and woods surrounding their home, to lie on their backs and watch the sun shimmer through the leaves of a tree, to spend hours watching an ant attempt to carry a crumb across a patch of grass, to float in an icy cold lake or push their hands into the sandy bottom of a creek, and they are bound grow into persons who love the out-of-doors. Give them the space to observe and marvel, the silence to listen and ponder, and they might also become artists and contemplatives. Take them from one culture and put them into a new one where they feel out-of-place and awkward, and they will most likely seek joy and friendship where they’ve found it before: in nature. That is what happened to me and nature remains the place I call home.

Aaron: How did you survive such traumatic losses? Did the love or your cherished children help you through the pain? (I’m trying not to be too specific here, so as not to spoil the story

Beryl: We survive traumatic loss because, for me, the alternative is unthinkable. Given the choice to survive or succumb, I’ll choose survive every time. I’ve been blessed with a temperament that recognizes the transitory nature of joy, that believes in transformation, honors growth, and gives thanks for life – and a will that chooses to believe that death is transitory rather than terminal.

Aaron: What’s next? Do we get a glimpse into the subsequent phases of your life? I want to know more, as I’m sure do all your readers.

Beryl: I’m at work on the memoir that picks up where The Scent of God left off: where the river I’d ridden till then hits floodtide – washing me onto even stranger shores and into experiences I’d never envisioned. Let’s just say that I have crammed several lifetimes into this one and have several more stories pummeling my soul and demanding release.


Aaron Paul Lazar is an engineer by day, but his passion lies in writing. The first book in the LeGarde Mystery series, Double Forté, is an absorbing tale of love, intrigue, and murder; “a feast for the senses that will leave you breathless.” Upstaged, the second book in the series, features a disturbed stage mother, a deviant predator, and a twisted saboteur who lurks backstage, terrorizing the drama club with deadly, psychotic games. “Lush, vibrant, and delicious.” Lazar’s latest book, Tremolo: cry of the loon, a literary coming-of-age mystery, is available through Twilight Times Books.

Lazar has written a second series featuring paranormal mysteries with Sam and Rachel Moore, a retired country doctor and his wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Watch for The Green Marble, coming in 2007 from Twilight Times Books.

Lazar’s monthly columns are featured in the Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and the Voice in the Dark newsletter, and his writing advice articles have been often published in Absolute Write. He lives in Upstate NY with his extended family. Visit his websites at;, and his blog: