Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Win a Copy of Tremolo: cry of the loon

Hello dear friends and writers,

Will you forgive me if I do a little self-promotion today? I'd love for one of you to win a copy of Tremolo: cry of the loon. It's the best way of sharing what's inside me with you - that book came straight from my soul.

There's an interview of yours truly on Carrie Runnals Words-to-Mouth website today, and if you comment on it you will be placed in the drawing for a free book. Here are the instructions from Carrie's website:

To Win a FREE Copy of Tremolo:

  • Leave a comment on Carrie's site beneath the interview.

  • Call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message she can play on-air

  • Be sure to subscribe to her e-newsletter, so you're informed of the winning name

  • Deadline for entry - January 15th, midnight, EST

I've copied the gist of the article below, for convenience. But if you want to have a chance to win, be sure to click on the link above and enter a comment.

Carrie: Why don't you start by telling us a bit about Tremolo: cry of the loon?
Aaron: Tremolo is a coming-of-age mystery suitable for all ages, and it particularly plays to the nostalgia of baby boomers. This novel, third in the Gus LeGarde series, is actually a prequel to the founding book of the series, Double Forté, which begins in the current day when Gus is already a grandfather. The novel is set in the Belgrade Lakes of Maine, in summer 1964, when Beatlemania hits the States and the world mourns the loss of JFK. Eleven-year-old Gus LeGarde faces his first brush with evil against the backdrop of the most powerful events that rocked the nation. When Gus and his friends capsize their rowboat in a thick fog, they eventually clamber to shore, where they witness a drunk chasing a girl through the 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's part of the spoils, he becomes a target. Compelled to find Sharon before the villain does, Gus-armed only with a big heart, a motorboat, and a nosy beagle-must dig deep for courage to survive the menace that lurks in the dark woods.

Carrie: Why did you choose "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the film that Gus watched in Tremolo?
Aaron: There are great parallels that link Mockingbird to Tremolo, especially the threads of evil that weave throughout both. My father took me to see "To Kill a Mockingbird" when it first came out in theaters, and it's remained my favorite movie to date. I remember coming home and sitting in the dining room with my father after the movie. He turned his forearm in the sunlight and said, "Wouldn't it be lovely to have coppery brown skin like Tom Robinson?" Dad worked hard to be sure I embraced life and people of all colors and nationalities. Gus and I have tried hard to live up to his example. ;o)

Carrie: Of your nine LeGarde mysteries, Tremolo is the only one that delves into Gus's childhood. What inspired this?
Aaron: I couldn't wait to revisit the glorious childhood summers in Maine at my grandparents' camp in the Belgrade Lakes. The memories bubbled within me, aching to be released for years. It seemed natural to plop my current day characters - Gus, Elsbeth, and Siegfried - into that setting. And thus Tremolo, the prequel to Double Forté was born.

Carrie: What do you think resonates with readers of Tremolo?
Aaron: One of the strong elements of the book involves the simple purity of living life without gadgets. Gus and his pals have no toys, no television, no computers, no video games. They didn't need them. They had each other, and the majesty of nature to entertain them. A walk in the woods, horseback riding, fishing, swimming, boating... all of these things are much healthier for us than the electronic cocoons with which we've surrounded ourselves.

Carrie: How long have you been writing? What stirred you to write?
Aaron: I've loved to write since grade school, when I filled journals with romantic musings and wrote zany stories. But the real call to write - that obsession that demands hours per day at the keyboard and holds me hostage until it's satisfied - started in 1997 when my father died. I was 44, and the loss crushed me. Dad was an energetic Renaissance man. He taught music and played piano, tended large gardens, cooked hearty soups, loved his family and dogs, and embraced life with unbridled passion. He was the model who inspired Gus LeGarde. I'm actually a lot like my father, so there are strong elements of me in Gus, too. It's an interesting amalgam.

Carrie: How has writing has impacted your life? Can you tell us how it changes or strengthens you?
Aaron: When life gets tough I turn to my writing for solace, borne of escapism.Family and friends help soothe life's woes, and are fantastic sources of comfort. Especially those hugs I get from my little grandsons. But there's something uniquely satisfying about turning to the parallel universe I control (when I can't control anything else) and "taking charge." Even if life wasn't fraught with its own problems, I'd still write. I have no choice. I need the stimulation of the creative process every day. I need to connect with readers. I live for that and I encourage my readers to contact me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com.
Carrie: Do you have a motto or favorite saying that guides you?
Aaron: "Take pleasure in the little things." When life becomes unbearable due to family illness or loss, I've learned how to self-comfort by enjoying what God has provided, such as a frosty field on a sunny winter morning, cornflowers growing wild by the roadside, the flash of love in my grandsons' eyes, or the taste of a fresh picked tomato. We must learn to savor these gifts, relish them, and soak them in to comfort us when things get tough again.

Carrie: Who are your favorite writers?
Aaron: In no particular order: John D. MacDonald for his Travis Magee series; Laurie R. King for her Sherlock Holmes and Kate Martinelli series; Dean Koontz for his Odd Thomas series; Stephen King for his dialog (the best and most natural in the world); James Patterson for his early books' scenes with Dr. Alex Cross, Nana Mama, and his children; Clive Cussler for the delightful adventures of the Dirk Pitt series; Dick Francis (always wished he wrote a series); Tony Hillerman for his character development and scene painting; S.W. Vaughn (aka Sonja Bateman) for her face-paced, gripping fiction; and Marta Stephens for her newly debuted crime mysteries featuring detective Sam Harper.

Carrie: What's next?
Aaron: Mazurka, The fourth LeGarde book will be out soon through Twilight Times Books. Also, the debut novel of my new paranormal mystery series, Healey's Cave, will follow shortly thereafter. My current WIP is a standalone novel entitled The Aviary, about an obsessive-compulsive bird breeder and his pet parakeet, Ruby.

Okay, that's it. I need to get back to my manuscript edits that are due January 1st! I'm cracking the whip on myself and hope the next time we talk I can tell you I finished the darn thing! LOL.

Happy New Year!!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rejection. Oh, how it stings. Most of us have been through it - plenty. Seeking jobs, college admissions, love, or publication for our books. It hurts. Destroys our self-image. For a while, anyway. And it tears at the thin fabric in which we cocoon with our fragile writer's ego, protecting the inner belief that our work is valid.A new writer recently emailed me after receiving a flurry of rejections from big agents. With a crushed spirit, she wrote:

"It makes no sense to me. If someone has written a book that is a good read, then why in the world would it not be recognized, published and read? The only answer that makes any sense is that it's not a particularly good read after all."

Alas, if it were only that simple. Let's step back and take a look at the situation.
You wrote a book. Your instincts tell you it's darned good. You envision an agent or publisher recognizing this and sweeping you up in their arms to share with the world. You dream of financial success, recognition, and that sweet validation that makes you feel you're a "real" writer.

That elusive dream haunts just about every new writer I've ever known. Then, after years of toiling, burning the midnight or early morning oil, sweating and suffering and bleeding onto the pages - most realize, in time, that they'd better not quit their day jobs.If every "good" book were accepted and published, we'd need a great deal more space to store and sell them. I've read that bookstores today stock only 2-3% of the published books in the world. Imagine all the "real" books that don't end up on their shelves? Now imagine all the good books that never get published. It's mind-boggling.

There are enormous quantities of books submitted annually to publishers, and only a relative handful of agents and editors to scan through the 0.05% that are accepted for the slush pile. They often receive hundreds of submissions per day. Imagine reading 100 emails every single day from authors who want to be heard? It wouldn't be hard to feel jaded in short order.

Publishers and agents have cut down their staffs, because of the economy, and it's probably even harder for them to get through the slush piles now, with the fear of job loss if their next pick doesn't bring in some cash.

There are plenty of horrible books submitted each year, too. But there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of very good books out there. Yours may be one of them. (If it isn't, keep on working on your skills until it is!)

Are you in this boat? Have you had your books summarily dismissed by the powers that be, over and over again? Have you hired or courted superb writers to help you perfect your story? Have you scoured your book dozens of times for typos or inconsistencies? Have you researched the heck out of every point that needs confirmation? Have you assured that your dialog is crisp and believable? Have you hacked away at unnecessary adverbs and adjectives? Have you just plain told the story in the same voice you use to speak? And your book has still been rejected?If not, count your lucky stars, for you are among one of the very few who got picked up at the starting gate. If so, let me share something with you.

Rejections may have nothing to do with the quality or value of your book. Most often, they have to do with the market, and what's "hot" this season. It could be the mood of the agent or editor who's reading your stuff, or the fact that your book slides between genres. Maybe it features young adults, but doesn't follow someone's blueprint for what a YA book needs to contain. Maybe it's absolutely perfect for a publisher, but they've already filled the slot for your genre on their list this year. Maybe the first level editor falls in love with your book, but her boss doesn't. Or you get all the way to the top of this year's short list, only to be told you didn't make the cut.

Sound familiar?If you don't get picked up in the first five years by high profile agents or publishers, I recommend seeking a high quality small press. It's not easy to get into their world, either. But you don't usually need an agent, and they can provide a nurturing home for you, as well as help you get your books out to the public.

And let me tell you friends, it's that public, those lovely readers, who will provide the validation you've sought for so long. When the first person (who isn't family or friends) comes up to you and gushes over your characters, or when you receive that unsolicited email from a stranger who NEEDS your next book or "they'll just die," or that lady who's been staring at you with stars in her eyes finally approaches you in the grocery store and says she wants to marry your lead character... that's when the validation just washes through your writer's soul. It's even better than the glowing reviews. Trust me.

So, the publishing game is tough. But it's not hopeless. There is still a place for us in this intensely competitive world. Acceptance by a high profile firm does not necessarily equate to a good book, just as rejection doesn't always equate to a bad book. Just look at the bestsellers out there. Some are quite odious, filled with plot holes, flat characters, and poor editing.

So, why bother?

Even with staggering odds in today's market, every year several "newcomers" are "discovered" and offered lucrative contracts. It does happen. We hear about it all the time. The next "hot" book will be discovered any day now. And it could be yours.My final bit of advice is this:

If you are a passionate writer, you need to write independent of what agent represents you, how many times your work has been rejected, what publisher has thumbed their nose at you, how many readers you have or don't have, how many books you have published or not published.

Okay. Group hug.Now just keep writing. And remember to write like the wind!

- Aaron

(author reading advanced release excerpt of Healey's Cave, release date spring, 2009)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at www.legardemysteries.com and www.mooremysteries.com and watch for the fourth book in the LeGarde series, MAZURKA, coming in January 2009 from Twilight Times Books.

Monday, December 01, 2008

LeGarde News - Dec. 1st 2009

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and we survived the usual disruptions of near-catastrophes and broken appliances, we can all gear up for Christmas. Every single year I make the lofty proclamation that we’re going to beat the rampant materialism that’s taken hold of our country, and simply exchange homemade gifts or letters. Usually I end up being tempted to buy far too much for everyone, and then the “even up” dance begins, where we ratchet up the total cost of Christmas to something we once again can’t afford.

But this year I really mean it. I’ve purchased a modest amount of art supplies and board games for our grandsons (they’ll be deluged in electronic gadgets from others), a few warm fuzzy outfits and simple toy for baby Isabella, and have worked for hours on photo gifts – such as calendars, puzzles, coffee cups, and a deck of cards. I hope I can stand by this noble practice. My fingers are crossed and my mind is set. I’ll report in next time so you can see if I caved or remained strong. LOL.

On the literary front, MAZURKA and HEALEY'S CAVE are due out in January and April of 2009. I’ll update you with a special bulletin when I get the print copies in hand. We’re still waiting for the reviews from the big review houses, such as Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, etc. But the time is fast approaching. If you’d like to reserve an autographed copy of either book, just let me know at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed corresponding with the students at Pfeiffer University who read
TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON (the third book released and the prequel to DOUBLE FORTÉ), for their Mystery Writers class. We had a ball corresponding, the students loved hearing from a “real” author, and Gus LeGarde now has a new group of folks who plan to follow him through the series.

I’ve agreed to do several new radio shows, as well. The dates and links will be posted on my events page, on http://www.legardemysteries.com/ when it’s all settled. Hope you’ll stop by and join us. Some of the hosts include our own Kim Smith, Dr. Niama Williams, Renée Giroux, and Dr. Kent Gustafson.

The book signings are over for the season, and now it’s time for me to take a break from all that and luxuriate in writing during the cold winter months. But if you’d like to order some books for Christmas, I’m offering specials on all three books. And if you’d like to buy them as an autographed gift set, you can save over ten dollars buying through me. What a deal, huh?

Best wishes to all. I hope your holidays are splendid, full of love, and warm you to the core. And as I always say, remember to take pleasure in the little things.

- Aaron

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Title: The Devil Can Wait
Author: Marta Stephens
Publisher: BeWrite Books
Publisher's Address: 32 Bryn Road South, Wigan, Lancaster, WN4 8QR
ISBN number: 978-1-905202-86-7
Price: $15.99
Publisher phone number and/or website address: www.bewrite.net

The Devil Can Wait
by Marta Stephens
Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Author of the LeGarde Mystery Series

Looking for a deliciously convoluted tale that will twist its way through your brain and keep you up late into the night? Look no further, for Marta Stephens has just released the second book in the Sam Harper crime mystery series, The Devil Can Wait.

Stephens’ debut novel, Silenced Cry, was addictive, propelling readers into the action from page one and corkscrewing through a wild ride of corruption and abuse. Unlike many “seconds” in a series, The Devil Can Wait does not disappoint, and expands Detective Sam Harper’s world from the fictitious seaside town of Chandler, Massachusetts to the steamy jungles of Columbia and through shocking revelations in the Vatican itself.

A dark history precedes the bitter tale of a cursed black pearl ring, whose protectors and seekers have killed to keep its secrets for centuries. Now, just months before the planets align in what is believed to be the sign of a long awaited prophecy, the ring lands in Harper’s back yard, triggering villainy and murder. Murders, that is. Four boys wash ashore the icy Chandler beaches, and Harper’s up to his eyeballs in corpses with few leads and increasing pressure from his captain and the press.

As if multiple seaside murders aren’t enough to drive an already sleep-deprived police force to the brink of exhaustion, a sleazy pawnshop owner and elderly history professor are found dead within days. Is spunky local journalist, Jennie Blake, tied to these murders? If so, what’s she trying to hide? And why can’t Sam stop thinking about the gorgeous brunette in spite of his best intentions?

Stephens has skillfully detailed police procedures in a realistic fashion, a task not easy for one who hasn’t worked a real life police investigation. But on top of this, the author has woven intriguing subplots with a love entanglement that thrusts the story forward to its climatic end. The sexual tension between Harper and reporter Jennie Blake is natural and sublime – adding icing to this already delectable confection of supernatural elements, grisly murders, and the stoic talent and courage of one very likeable cop. Don’t take my word for it – buy it and read it today.

Stephens has hinted at a third in the Sam Harper series. We’ll wait with bated breath, in anticipation of her next taut thriller.


Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at http://www.legardemysteries.com/ and http://www.mooremysteries.com/ and watch for the fourth book in the LeGarde series, MAZURKA, coming in fall 2008 from Twilight Times Books.

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 thirteenth book, The Aviary. The first book of his paranormal mystery series, Moore Mysteries, will be released in early 2008, along with Mazurka, the next book in the LeGarde mystery series. He is a regular columnist for FMAM (Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine), Mysteryfiction.net and has been published in Great Mystery and Suspense magazine and the Absolute Write Newsletter. Contact him at: aaron.lazar@yahoo.com, visit his blog at murderby4.blogspot.com, aaronlazar.blogspot.com, or stop by his websites at http://www.legardemysteries.com/ and http://www.mooremysteries.com/.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hello friends,

I'm out of town this weekend, but wanted to share a haiku I wrote this week after we had our first snowfall. We got about an inch up on our hill. Boy, were those trees and leaves surprised! These photos are from the first heavy frost we had. I couldn't catch the snow on the leaves because it is pitch black out now when I drive to work!
Hope you have a wonderful weekend. And if you are inspired to write a bit about your own environment, or perhaps these photos spark an idea, post it in the comments and I'll add it to the piece on Monday. Remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write, write like the wind!
- Aaron

First Snow

copyright Aaron Paul Lazar 2008

Sugar coated leaves

Like frosted bracelet charms

Dance in stunned silence

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wood Library VideoCanandaigua, New York

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Getting Inside the Author's Head

Have you ever wondered about the inspiration for your favorite author's books? Or where that unique character came from? Was she real? Was she imagined? Was she based on you? (grin)

Have you pondered what drove the author to escape through his private parallel universe? What demons is he fleeing? What wounds is he trying to heal?

Or is it all just madcap fiction, made up from a well of deep stories that keeps on bubbling to the surface of his all too creative mind?

I've answered these questions and many more lately, through indulging in a number of radio interviews this year. It's been a learning experience, for sure. But it's also one of the sweetest ways to get close to my readers and share intimate thoughts relating to life, losses, and writing.

If you'd like to take a listen to a few of the most recent shows, feel free to click on the following links. And when you're done, email me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com with feedback. If you don't already know, I love connecting with readers and consider it one of the best parts of being a writer.

Lazar interview with Magdalena Ball, Compulsive Reader.com (30 minutes)

Lazar interview with Yolanda Renee, Renee's Book Talk (60 minutes)


About the author:

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. Columnist and author of twelve LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries, Lazar savors the countryside in the Genesee Valley in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys.

Visit http://www.legardemysteries.com/

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Author Aaron Lazar with grandson, Julian

Hi, folks.

I'm off in Boston this week, moving my daughter into her new apartment so she can start grad school for her degree in Music Therapy. Time is short, so I've chosen another interview to share with you.
This one was conducted by Kodak. When they asked me to be their "Print Ambassador," we conducted an interview after shooting footage all over the Genesee Valley. By the way, my "day job," as an electrophotographic engineer, involves research and development on massive digital presses. That's what we're discussing, below.

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?

Aaron: 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 goose bumps. 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.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As requested, here are some of my European photos. These were taken with a 35mm camera in the eighties. I've scanned the prints, so the quality isn't superb and the colors have dimmed, but perhaps they'll do the job!

I've also attached an excerpt from Mazurka, fourth in the LeGarde series and about to be released by Twilight Times Books. It's a break in the action - a tour of the Musee D'Orsay, in Paris. Scroll down to the bottom to find it.


Stein Am Rhein







Cross country skiing near Muelhausen, in the Schwabian Albs

Houses in Denkendorf

Notre Dame, Paris

Rainy Paris Street


The Seine

Notre Dame (see what I mean, Steve?)

Cabbies in Vienna (Wien)

My wife, Dale, in Paris

Me, in Paris, about age 33.

Excerpt from Mazurka:

We entered the Orsay Museum when the doors opened at 9:00. After paying for our tickets, we sauntered hand in hand through the grand, light-filled building to the Impressionist collection on the upper level, surprised the hall was relatively quiet. I'd expected that this collection of unequaled masterpieces would be mobbed all hours of the day.

Maybe everyone’s headed for the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa?

I chuckled, but quickly forgot my quirky inner thoughts when I spotted one of my all-time favorites, Jeune Filles au Piano by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Two charming sisters leaned toward sheet music propped on a piano. Long, silky locks rippled down their backs. Pastel bows carefully fastened their hair, capturing the slim plaits whispering across their cheeks. The golden-haired sister perched on a piano bench, her graceful right hand on the keyboard. She bore a faint resemblance to my daughter, Freddie. The pretty brunette leaned over her sister’s shoulder, carefully inspecting the music. Their faces were delicately drawn, their skin creamy white. Innocence leapt from the page. The soft whirls of Renoir’s paintbrush had captured youthful virtue so succinctly that I was unable to tear myself away. Even the background enchanted me. Feathery oranges and greens depicted heavy drapes that provided a soft backdrop for Renoir’s subjects. I knew this painting well and had enjoyed it from many a source, but the immediacy of standing directly before the original dazzled me.

Camille touched my arm and brought me back to earth.

“Look,” she whispered reverently. “The Swing.”

We sidestepped to the next offering. Renoir’s depiction of a sun-dappled afternoon hung before us. Two young men in straw hats and jackets flirted with a young lady who stood on a wooden swing. I imagined the drops of sun playing across her long white dress as she swung slowly back and forth. She wore pale pink flowers in her upswept strawberry-blond hair and responded coyly to her suitors’ teasing with downcast eyes.

We meandered slowly through the rest of the Renoir exhibit, enjoying each piece as one greets an old friend. We paused at Le Moulin de la Galette and enjoyed the sun-speckled depiction of the outdoor café, where companions socialized and danced in the splendor of the afternoon sun. Ornate, white-painted iron gas lamps stood in the background, offering their delicate glass globes to the heavens.

We shuffled slowly past the La Danse à la Campagne and La Danse à la ville, both painted in 1883. Just before we left the Renoir exhibit, I stopped before an unfamiliar work.

It was clearly Renoir, but the bucolic riverside view had never found its way into the Impressionist calendars or coffee table books in my collection. I moved closer to the painting, dazzled by the sense of movement that flowed from its vibrant brush strokes. Golden-green grasses swayed by the riverside, distinctly undulating in the moist river breeze. White clouds rolled overhead across the outlet where the blue river merged with the sea. I wondered if Renoir had picnicked on this airy riverbank as he captured the scene for all eternity.

Spellbound, we moved into the Degas gallery and stopped to admire the bronze figure of the ballerina, Grande Danseuse, sculpted in 1881 by the master. A cast bronze corset anchored an authentic taffeta skirt. The young dancer’s proud face thrust forward in a nearly arrogant expression as she positioned her slim arms behind her.

Next, we strolled to paintings of vivid horse races, marveling at the artist’s ability to capture the excitement of the racing field. Dancers and bathing women covered the walls. Degas worshipped each woman through his honest depiction of her daily activities.

We reached the hall that featured our mutually favorite artist, Claude Monet. We lingered for a long time before the paintings of the artist’s gardens in Giverny, France. I stood, hypnotized, before the works of the genius who so deeply loved nature and light, and turned to Camille.

“You know the large perennial garden on the south side of our house?”

“Mmm hmm,” she answered.

Her eyes were glued to the painting as she luxuriated in the flow of colors bathing her senses.

“Elsbeth and I designed it to match this painting. Grape-colored bearded iris and red poppies. Of course it’s not even close, but that was our intent.”

“I can see it,” she said graciously, smiling and tilting her head to the left. “I thought it looked familiar.”

Our short visit ended with the massive water lily studies that sparkled from the walls. I imagined floating in a rowboat past the dripping weeping willows and sliding beneath the delicate Japanese bridges spanning the sun-drenched lily pond.

“Next time,” I said, “we need to allow several days to spend here, and then we’ve got to visit the gardens in Giverny. They’ve redone them, you know, and have replicated the original designs that Monet planted. Lily ponds and all.”

“Really?” she asked. “I’ll bet they’re gorgeous.”

Her stomach growled loudly, causing a few heads to turn. She blushed. We’d been gazing at the precious artwork for five hours - it had seemed like minutes. But a quick recheck of the time showed it was indeed nearly two o’clock. We still planned to visit Chopin’s residence and take a short tour in the famous Catacombs that snaked beneath the city.

“Hungry?” I asked.

She nodded. I was ravenous, and gladly took her arm to rejoin the thronging crowds on the streets of Paris.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hi, folks. I have a book signing this weekend and am moving my daughter to Boston next week, so I won't be able to write my usual Sunday column for a few Sundays. I hope you understand.

Instead, I'm going to post a few interviews. This one was conducted by Beryl Singleton Bissell, author of The Scent of God.


BSB: As I was reading Tremolo, I kept thinking what fun it would be if you created a series of these “young Gus” stories for middle readers. Sort of like the Hardy Boy’s of the late 20th Century. Do you have any plans for such a series and if not, why?

APL: Actually, I do have plans to continue the “young Gus” series – at least two more books. I haven’t aimed these at any age group in particular, however. It seems my oldest readers (one of my favorite readers is 98 years old!) enjoy the young Gus romps as much as the YA crowd.

I still haven’t “shown” my readers the year after Tremolo, when Siegfried is struck on the head by a motorboat and loses most of his faculties. Poor Sig. He’s my angel on earth.

And let’s face it – I probably won’t be able to rest until I have “documented” Gus’s whole life!
I’ve written another prequel that takes Gus and Elsbeth to Boston in the late sixties, when they both attended the music conservatory. It’s a delicious hippie aged adventure, replete with flower children, white slave traders, and plenty of emotional plunges. That book may generate some of its own sequels. Gus and Elsbeth are just married in Portamento and they discover their pregnancy at the same time that Gus’s grandmother becomes seriously ill. Multiple traumas happen to our poor hero! On top of that, he almost gets pecked to death by a peacock. But that’s another story for another day…

BSB: I’ve noticed how totally good and loving your main characters are, and how totally evil the criminal are. Most of us, even the most jaded, have elements of both good and bad within us. Can you explain why you’ve chosen to present your characters as either good or bad.

APL: It’s strange, but I never really “chose” to do this. It’s just the way it tumbled out of my brain. I’m not sure why, because I’m certainly aware of how most folks are a blend of good and bad. Maybe it’s just exposure to too many movies where characters are painted that way. Or simply the way my crazy imagination works.

Better yet, it could be my passion for opera. You know there are always the good guys and bad guys, and rarely anyone in between. I think that must be it.

BSB: I am interested in ways that your writing has impacted your life. Can you tell us about how writing changes or strengthens you?

APL: This is a great question, Beryl, one that I know you have great insight to in your own life.
When life gets tough – I turn to my writing for solace, borne of escapism.

Sure, family and friends help soothe life’s woes, and they are fantastic sources of comfort. Especially those hugs I get from my little grandsons. But there’s something uniquely satisfying about turning to the parallel universe I control (when I can’t control anything else) and “taking charge.” Gus LeGarde and Sam Moore (protagonists of both mystery series) are a lot like me, and by creating scenes with them I’m able to participate in virtual adventures. Or to relive the loss of a loved one – and work out those feelings. Or to recapture the joy of childhood. Or to get my blood pumping in my virtual armchair by running helter-skelter through the woods after a bad guy. Or to enjoy “visits” with my beloved father and grandparents, who are populated throughout the books.

You get the drift.

But even if life wasn’t fraught with its own very real problems (we have plenty of medical problems in our family), I’d still write. I have no choice. I need the stimulation of the creative process every day. I need to connect with readers. I live for that.

There’s nothing more satisfying that coming across a reader in the local grocery store who stares with star-struck eyes and tells me how she wants to marry Gus LeGarde. And so does her mother. LOL. It’s great.

Seriously, though, there are deep connections that bind us together – whether they are through themes of loss, honor, family, nature, gardens, music, art, or any common element that resonates with readers. I always encourage my readers to connect with me at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com.

BSB: How does your family react to your writing and your writing life and its demands?

APL: You’ll laugh at this one. Or maybe not. Could it be a common problem?

My family is jealous of my writing.

It’s not like I squirrel away in a secret place to write for hours during the day. I don’t. Though sometimes I wish I could!

I get through the day’s needs – engineering, commuting, dinner, babysitting, dishes, catching up – and then I take just an hour or two to write and promote.

Whether it’s late at night or in the early morning, I need a few hours for myself. It was impossible when my three daughters were younger and needed me for everything. You know, laundry, homework, packing lunches, driving everyone to drama club practice, band practice, soccer games, or piano lessons. But as they matured and became more independent, I found the time to pull away just a little.

Even now, it’s never enough. Promoting takes so much time away from the pure writing process that it’s sometimes frustrating. But “nobody ever bought a book they haven’t heard about,” so it’s a necessary part of the business.

My wife is proud of me, but sometimes she gets jealous of “me and the computer.” I try to explain that it’s “me and my books,” but she always mentions about that darned computer. Says we’re joined at the hip.

My daughters seem proud – but they haven’t read all of my books yet. I think that’s because “it’s just Dad,” and they can read them anytime. I guess it’s like that “in your backyard” scenario. I live near Rochester, NY, and I’ve never visited the George Eastman House. Because it’s right there and I can visit “anytime.” Shameful, really.

So now can I add more sex and violence to my books?

Originally I wanted to write stuff that was titillating, but wholesome. I avoided the sex scene details, worried what my little girls would think of their daddy. As time went on, though, in the later books I have added some mild steam to the mix. Nothing scummy or graphic – just sensual scenes between Gus and his wife. In Mazurka, which is due out this year from Twilight Times Books, Gus and Camille enjoy their first “time” together in Paris on the night of their honeymoon. My readers have waited a LONG time for this event.

BSB: With your busy schedule as an engineer, gardener, chef of family feasts and other meals, photographer, blogger, father, grandfather, how do you find time to write?

APL: It’s not easy. On top of the above tasks, I also do the cleaning, laundry, home repairs, shopping, and bills. Oh, I hate doing the bills. Maybe someday when I’m rich and famous (LOL) I won’t have to worry about the struggle. But it never seems to end, even when you think it’s going to “get easier this year.”

But things worthwhile are never easy, are they?

I manage to balance it by putting family first and writing second. The rest comes along for the ride. I also cook healthy feasts on Sundays and we eat off of that every night during the week. Lots of veggies, poultry, and fish. And if the oil change in the car is a little overdue, or if my weeds aren’t all neat and tidy like Sam Moore’s gardens (the creep is retired; I’m so jealous!), or the kitchen floor isn’t shining… well, so be it. I’ve gotta write. I have no choice.

Thank you, Beryl, for these lovely questions! Unique and insightful, they gave me an opportunity to chat about stuff I usually keep to myself. :o)


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Good morning,

Well, it wasn't that hard after all. With help from my insightful friends on Gather.com (thanks, everyone!), I figured out how to record an MP3 file. I actually shocked myself, because it was much easier than I'd anticipated.

If you'd like to listen to yours truly reading from TREMOLO: CRY OF THE LOON, please click below on the photo.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Does this entice you to want to know more?

Was it a good selection? Would you consider buying the entire audio file if I took the month it would require to record the whole book?

Just curious, it's another way to share with my readers and even though it is time consuming, it thrilled me to know that the way the words sound in my head when writing, could actually be heard in your head in the same manner. LOL. Too cool.

Of course, I know this doesn't replace the pure act of reading. Lots of folks (myself included) just prefer that method of absorbing a book.

If you haven't read the book and would like to get to know Gus LeGarde and his world, please stop by my website here or take a visit to my publisher's site, here.

And as always, thanks for your support. For those of you who love to write, remember to write like the wind!

- Aaron

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Marta Stephens (author of Silenced Cry) inspired me yesterday to play a bit with flash fiction through inspiration, after I'd written yesterday's Saturday Writing Essential piece on haiku and imagery.

Funny, I guess June 14th was the day for inspiration all around. Well, it was flag day, wasn't it? Maybe there's something in that! I've posted my piece written in 15 minutes below - not very elegant or "edited," by any means, but it was fun.

I based it on the challenge by Donna Sundblad's Pumping Your Muse writing prompt blog to write about a crime that takes place while hiking. Take a look and stop by to try your hand at it!

Murder at Letchworth

She saw it all in slow motion again, sitting there on the rocks high above the Letchworth Gorge. She saw the blood pool in the dirt on the trail and the calm hand that pulled the pocketknife out of her boyfriend's back.

The musty smell of wet leaves coated the inside of her mouth. She ran her tongue over her lips, noticing for the first time a warm salty wound where she'd bit through the skin. Somehow, it tasted good. And the distraction felt welcome.

This way, she wouldn't have to think about him. The way his dull brown eyes had dimmed and gone dark when she'd turned him over. She banged her fist against her head over and over again.
"Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!"

The attack had been unexpected, out of the blue. She turned her attention to the rock on which she perched, ready to fly into the abyss. Mica sparkled from its crevices. She picked at a large piece, dislodging it and looking at her spooky eye in the reflection.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. But her brain clamped down on her so hard she had to squirm in place rather than give in.

Squinting at the crows that cackled overhead in the beech tree, she shouted up to them.
"Shut up!" They responded, and one flew in lazy circles, close to her.

She felt the panic rise again. Pictured Fred's eyes when he told her about Lucy. Pictured the calm red surf that had filled her heart and had made her reach for the knife, oh so slowly.

Oh yes. He'd deserved to die. He'd really had it coming.

She stood, brushed her bloody hands on her jeans, and leapt from the cliffs to the glistening river water that curved in a metallic ribbon below.

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries and Moore Mysteries enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his websites at http://www.legardemysteries.com/ and http://www.mooremysteries.com/ and watch for his upcoming release, MAZURKA, coming in 2008.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Life Lessons: Just Say Yes

Last night, per our usual routine, my two little buddies came upstairs to play with me.

Grandsons are precious. They’re inspirational. Hysterical. Adorable. And they keep me humble.

All day I’d toiled under major stress, frantic about getting data ready for a big presentation. I was beat. Exhausted, really. But I looked forward to my time with the boys, not just because I’m besotted with them and love being their grandfather, but because there’s something sublime in those playful moments when we laugh so hard we cry. It’s rejuvenating. It’s therapeutic. Like a shot of life that helps you bear up against the tough times.

Julian, four, was ready the minute he burst into our bedroom.

“Look, Papa! I have the dinosaurs!”

He brandished the “sharp tooth” and the “three horn” with pride. Gordie, three, followed him by seconds, reaching for the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

“I want that one!” he shrieked.

Julian gave in quickly, tossing the toy to him. But a look of concern soon crossed his face.

“Papa! I don’t have a dinosaur for you.”

It didn’t stump him for long. He rummaged in the toy box, feet kicking in the air, and emerged with a stuffed red lion.

“Here you go, Papa. You can be the lion tonight.”

Satisfied that the problem was solved, both boys hopped onto my bed and began to zoom and crash their dinosaurs into my lion.

“Whoa! Wait a minute!” I laughed. “Why are you attacking me?”

Playing superheroes is a frequent game of ours, with or without toys in hand. There are always bad guys who threaten the planet and need to be dispatched, and lots of flying and tumbling often ensues. But I like to mix it up a bit, and make sure my darling grandsons learn some tolerance, empathy, and altruistic characteristics during our imaginative play.

“I’m the king of the forest!” I sang. They stopped their attacks and looked at me like I was crazy. I kept on, morphing into the Cowardly Lion.

“Don’t pull my tail. Or I’ll cry.”

I’m not sure what got me going on this vein, but soon images and scenes from the movie flashed across my brain and the stuffed toy became the legendary lion from the Wizard of Oz.

I turned him with tail flailing toward each boy. Of course, Julian pulled it, laughing hysterically. I immediately launched into faux tears, weeping and sobbing like a crazed cartoon character.

“You pulled my tail!” I shouted.

And thus the game began. Each boy would incite the action by grabbing and yanking on the tail. Then, when the lion cried, they would comfort him with hugs and kisses.

Our play soon spiraled into bad guys lurking in the corner and coming to get us. After Gordie and Julian leapt into the air with fists flying and feet kicking to “get” the bad guys about a dozen times, I convinced them to hide with me under the red flannel sheet on my bed. What does that say about my manliness? I shudder to think. Anyway…

“It’s a magic tent!” I said to their giggles in the dark. “Nobody can hurt us in here.”

Julian, with his too mature analytical brain, said, “But Papa. This is just cloth. A real sword could cut it.”

“Not in our world, my boy. It’s magic! And now we’re… invisible!”

We got a lot of mileage out of that flannel sheet. Julian especially liked the peephole that was there, courtesy of our puppy trying to bury a bone in my bed the other day. Gordie decided to make the puppy into the bad guy, and then we had someone really fierce to fear. Balto lay on the floor, chewing on yet another toy that wasn’t his, a pretend circular saw that made cool noises like a real one. Each time the toy whirred, we ducked under the magic tent. I told them stories about Dorothy and the witch and the wizard, and couldn’t seem to get the scenes out of my head.
After about an hour of this, I grew weary. I’d been exhausted lately, dealing with the death of my beloved dog (that’s another story) and trying to beat two viruses in a row that slammed me in February. I hadn’t yet regained my usual boundless energy, and knew it was time to say good night.

At least, that’s what I thought.

When I announced “five more minutes,” Gordie ignored me and continued to beat up a stuffed snake. But Julian’s face crumpled and he burst into real tears. Hiccuping, breathless, buckets of tears.

“Papa! I don’t want to go!” he wept.

I held him tight and tried a few tactics, but his little heart was broken and there wasn’t much I could do to fix it. Except to play a little longer.

Hey. I’m the grandfather. I’m allowed to do these things.

So, we played a little longer. Gordie refused to pick up his toys in the end, and sneaked downstairs to his mommy. Julian picked them up with a long face, and as he was leaving, the tears returned.

He wasn’t manipulating me. These were genuine tears of grief. We hadn’t had much time together over the weekend when he’d visited his father, and we both felt a little cheated. I decided to stop, breathe, and just do what felt right.

Pulling him close to me, I whispered in his ear.

“Wanna see a special movie?”

He nodded and swiped the moisture from his cheeks, helping me look for our old copy of the Wizard of Oz. We hadn’t watched it since his mom was a little girl, but of course I’d seen it a gazillion times with my daughters and as a kid. I remembered seeing it the last time we’d cleaned, and after a few minutes, I brandished it with a flourish.

“Here it is!”

I wasn’t sure if four was old enough to handle the scary witch, but I ached to share it with him and decided to take a chance. So we set up it, ignored the hitching and bucking of the screen that came with the crinkled old videotape, and prepared to be mesmerized.

Julian snuggled into my lap. Enchanted, he peppered me with questions. Dorothy began to sing “Over the Rainbow,” and his flurry of chatter stopped for a minute. Halfway through the song, he whispered.

“Papa. The girl is so beautiful. I really like her face.”

I choked up and hugged him tight.

“Me, too, buddy. And isn’t her voice pretty?”

He nodded.

“I bet the witch sings awful,” he said.

A laugh snorted out my nose.

“Well, she doesn’t sing much, but she has a scary voice.”

When Dorothy began to follow the yellow brick road, he started to yawn. And stretch. And yawn some more. So we ended our night, with no more tears, and with a memory I’ll always cherish. Tonight we’ll see more, and hopefully this time Gordie will join us.

The next time your child or grandchild wants more time with you – say yes.

Give in.

Just breathe.

Savor your time together, for the special moments are fleeting and won’t return. No matter what your grownup brain tells you about schedules and rules, reject it. So what if supper is late? Or if you lose twenty minutes of sleep? Or if you miss that movie you were dying to see? That stuff doesn’t matter.

Kids do.

Just say yes. You won’t regret it. I promise. ;o)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. See some of his mysteries at http://www.legardemysteries.com/ and http://www.mooremysteries.com/

Sunday, May 25, 2008

There is a moment in every author’s life when he or she experiences a sudden pang of loss, and sweet sorrow descends like soggy tissues on a broken heart.

Man or woman, romance or action writer, sensitive poet or straight shootin’ scene churner, it hits us one and all.

It’s the moment we reach at the end of our long suffering days, those focused, driven, passionate hours, plastered with outpourings of words that evolved into our current work in process. The moment we type, “The End.”

It happens to all of us. Sometimes, there’s a delayed reaction, and suddenly it sneaks up to slay us, the next day. Macho man or lyrical lady, none are immune.

In my case, I don’t actually burst into tears. But my throat tightens, a lump forms, and I fight back moisture that puddles and threatens to overflow.

My God. It’s over. What will I write tomorrow?

Of course, I really know what I’ll write next. I have pages full of books begging to be written, and each vies for attention as the finish line comes into view, weeks before the ending is in sight. Articles crop into my head that have simmered there for weeks. Cover designs lure me like Sirens to the Photoshop Rocks, and I ache to try something new. Perhaps a psychological suspense, or a saucy romance?

What really happens is a tearing apart of a bond that forms between one’s heart and one’s work. It’s an invisible tug, a feeling of companionship about to be severed. This place that has become a refuge from life, this world with new friends, emotive scenes, and free adrenaline rushes – is suddenly balled up into a wad of virtual paper and tossed off the cliff into the next realm. The editing, or polishing phase. Which just doesn’t have the same allure, you know?

Last night I experienced this sensation for the eleventh time. Yup. It was a nostalgic kind of sadness, a choking momentary paralysis reminiscent of stolen memories from my childhood or the loss of a loved one. I finished Lady Blues, the ninth in the LeGarde mystery series.

I admit I am obsessed. I hover over this parallel universe like a frantic father, controlling and finagling events for Gus LeGarde and his family to navigate through until they scream for help. Sometimes, I’m kind. And sometimes, I’m not.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Do you write series books that critics might react to with words like, “How can so many things happen to one guy?” If so, use this trick. Tell the naysayers they must “employ the suspension of disbelief.” It makes them stop for a minute to ponder, it is actually true for any type of fictional venue, and it makes you sound really literary.

If that doesn’t work, tell them, “Hey. It’s fiction. It’s supposed to be entertainment, not a reality show.” Of course, our fictional works are often more authentic than contrived TV shows, anyway. If they’re still being jerks about it, tell them to go buy a manual on brake replacement.

Even though I am a series writer who gets to “keep” his characters from book to book, there is always a feeling of loss, because I feature new characters from the local community in each successive book. The main cast of characters are ever-present. I’ll never lose them, thank God, and they do provide an immeasurable amount of comfort each time through. I feel deeply for each one, I know them inside and out, and I treasure every scene I get to share with them. Okay, that sounds a bit hokey, but it’s true.

But the featured characters usually don’t come back. They flit in and out of Gus’s life, providing wonderful counterpoint or drama, need or redemption, and then… they’re gone. Oh, occasionally I mention them down the road, but it’s not my practice to bring them back. Just as my hero, John D. MacDonald never reintroduced Travis McGee’s lovers (he usually killed them off, much to my disappointment), each new episode thrust a needy client or vicious villain into our view for just…one…book.

And so, last night as I sat alone in the dark room with my sticky-hot laptop humming as it shut down, a sense of loss hit me. Hard.

I would spend no more evenings with Kip Sterling, the octogenarian who lost his memory on the night Glenn Miller mysteriously disappeared, the jazz era “music man,” shoveled from nursing home to nursing home for the past sixty years, with no family or real identity until Gus LeGarde befriended him and began to dig deeply into his past.

Or Bella Dubois, Kip’s Nubian black lover who crooned bluesy tunes in Harlem between secret trysts with Kip, her beloved piano player. I had fallen hard for Bella, just as Kip did, and imagined wonderful blue smoke-filled nightclubs with her purring at the microphone in a slinky green dress that sparkled and shifted like surf on the beach. Never mind that I hate smoke and can’t stomach the stench of it, I suppressed that little bit of truth to imagine the romance of the era.

And what about Debbie, the feisty, stout nurse who used to be a dancer, with the penny red curls and sense of righteous justice, who would not bend beneath threats from Novacom, the evil drug company? I grew quite fond of her fiery courage.

Or my most recent favorite, Lucy Sedgewick, the gay ex-FBI agent-turned-woodworker, who partnered up with Gus to save the lives of Debbie and Kip when the power of the mighty dollar turned against them? Gus and she shared the loss of their beloved partners through cancer, and the bond between them had just begun to cement toward the end of the book.

Maybe I’ll bring Lucy back. Or perhaps she’ll get her own book some day. It’s definitely on the list.

So, what do you do when you type “The End?” Do you put your work aside for a while, go out and live life for a few weeks? I’ve done that a few times. Sometimes it’s plain necessary to recharge the creative juices.

Or, do you immediately turn back to chapter one to polish the manuscript and look for inconsistencies before you send it out to your critique partners or inner circle of pre-readers? Alternatively, do you put your manuscript aside for a year to let it simmer, while you blast few a few more novels?

I’ve done it both ways. Normally, I set it aside for at least six months, and give in to my massive craving for “creating new.” Then, when I’ve forgotten most of what I wrote (don’t laugh, I’m serious!), I return to it and am both delighted and horrified at what I’ve written. That’s when the real roll-up-your-sleeves editing begins.

My advice is to discover what works for you through trial and error. There’s no hard and fast rule about dealing with this hand-off, and no unwritten rule that you must deal with it the same every time.

Most importantly, whether or not you need a hiatus in which you reconnect to family or friends, be sure to return to writing as soon as possible. Whether it be an article, like this, or the start of your next best-seller, keep writing. Don’t ever stop. Give us more, and steam ahead to forge those new bonds that will hopefully return you to the tissues the next time you type, “The End.”
Read excerpts, reviews, readers comments, interviews, and more at Aaron Paul Lazar's websites:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

© Aaron Paul Lazar 2008

I headed for my parents’ house on a rainy June evening, anxious for the tastes and aromas of home. Savory beef stew, bubbling on the stove. Spicy lavender, growing by the porch door. I even anticipated the musky smell of wet dog, having missed owning pets while on assignment in Germany.
I’d settled my wife and daughters back in our house in the country after a grueling flight from Stuttgart to Logan. After getting the place back in shape—the larder stocked, the lawn mowed, and the cobwebs whisked clean—my roots called to me. I needed to see my parents and grandmother. It had been far too long.

I parked in the driveway and soaked in the sight of the old cedar-shingled colonial, nestled between towering blue spruces and flanked by an overgrown Bartlett pear. Flashes of my childhood raced across my mind’s eye: my chestnut gelding grazing on the back field; family feasts on the redwood picnic table under the plum tree; devouring my mother’s cooking, and toiling in my father’s sumptuous gardens. I was finally home, where family had patiently waited as the one-year post overseas had stretched to four.
After long embraces and reunion tears, we gathered around the supper table, just as I’d envisioned so many times in the throes of homesickness. Ginny, my father’s beagle, sat at my feet, begging for morsels. I surreptitiously dropped a piece of cornbread under the table, and heard her satisfied snuffling as she sought and devoured the tidbit.

“When do we see Gram?” I asked between spoonfuls of Chicken Paprikash.

My parents exchanged uncomfortable glances. Mom shifted in her ladderback chair.

“We have something to tell you about Grandma,” she began. Her fingers tapped a tango on the table beside her linen napkin, and she tossed my father a nervous half-smile.

My heartbeat quickened and I imagined the worst. She’s dead. My grandmother’s dead.

“What is it?” I set down my spoon and pushed back my seat. Ginny scooted to the side, then laid her head on my lap, her big brown eyes rolling up to mine. I stroked her soft ears and waited.

My mother nodded to my father, who took over.

“Gram’s in a home now,” he said. “She got sick, son. Alzheimer’s.”

I stared across the table. My jaw dropped. Indignation welled in my chest.

“You put her in a home?” My voice cracked on the last word. “I thought you said you’d never do that? We were going to take care of her. Amy and I would’ve taken her in, if you couldn’t. What happened to the plan?” I conveniently ignored the fact that I hadn’t been around for the past four years.

My mother began to explain. They’d tried to care for her at home. The dining room had been transformed into a bedroom for Gram, so she could avoid climbing stairs. They'd brought in her pictures, her Lincoln rocker, her quilts, and the display case with her miniature Hummel figurines and collector’s plates. Her two bedroom cape cod had sold for a mere sixty-five thousand dollars.

“She thought I was a stranger, John. She kept calling 911.” My mother’s eyes brimmed with tears; she dabbed at them with her napkin. “We found her outdoors, in the middle of winter, wandering around in her nightgown. She nearly froze to death, looking for the ‘hen house’ She thought she was a young woman again, and kept trying to do her chores. She wouldn’t take her pills, kept thinking I was trying to poison her.” My mother stopped to collect herself, pressing the napkin to her eyes. Her chest hitched a few times.

“She turned into a different person,” my father added. “She wasn’t herself, yelling at your mother all the time, really getting hysterical. Of course we didn’t blame her. She was frightened and didn’t recognize anyone.” He paused for a moment.

Ginny’s tail thumped the braided rug. I leaned down to hug her, and she quivered with excitement, lapping my cheek.

“With the new medicine, she’s a little calmer. It was a hard decision, son, but the right one.” My mother tried to smile, but her face crumpled. She breathed deeply and stood. “Dad’s going to take you to see her tomorrow, so you can check out the place for yourself. It’s a homey place, has a nice feeling to it. Not too fancy, mind you, just comfortable. And… she’s safe now.”

Numb, I nodded and leaned down to pat Ginny’s smooth flanks. I didn’t want to lose it in front of them.

“Just one more thing. She probably won’t know you. You should be prepared,” my mother said in a voice that trailed off to a whisper.

Not know me? My grandmother and I had shared an exceptional bond. I'd written dozens of letters from Germany over the past four years, assuming she'd read them, and not expecting an answer. With her arthritis, she had a hard time holding a pen steady, and we'd agreed on the one sided letter writing campaign before I'd left the country.

Impossible. She’ll know me.

The next day, we entered a modest gray clapboard house and climbed a wooden stairway to the second floor. Several elderly patients peeked from their doorways. Dad greeted most of them by name, stopping to chat with a few along the way. When we reached Gram’s room, a stranger sat on the edge of the bed. Dressed in a loose, faded housedress, she looked fifty pounds lighter than the grandmother I remembered. Her short blond hair, so carefully coifed throughout her life, had transformed into wispy gray locks that lay flat and lifeless, framing her thin face. She wore no jewelry, no lipstick, and no shoes. I approached slowly and sat beside her on the narrow bed.

“How are you, Gram?” I took her small hand in mine.

Her eyes widened with indecision and she carefully inched away from me. She smiled as if she were entertaining a guest and gently drew her hand from my grasp.

“I’m fine,” she said. Her wary eyes darted to my father. She looked down at her hands.

"Would you like to see pictures of my girls?” I asked.

“All right.” She spoke with forced politeness.

I pulled out a packet of photos.

“Here’s Meredith in our house in Germany. She just turned ten. You should see her play the piano. She sure loves music. She’s just started on the Chopin Preludes now.”

She seemed to relax a little, and accepted the photo, running her fingers lightly across the glossy surface. A small sigh escaped her lips. “So sweet,” she said. “She’ll be a heartbreaker.”

Encouraged, I continued through the pack.

“Here we are at the Christmas Market in Stuttgart. There’s my wife, Miriam. And that’s Alice, and there’s little Micki. Alice is seven and Micki just turned five.”

She carefully took the photo, gazing at it. “They look a lot alike. Such pretty curls. What’s that building in the background?”

I warmed to her question. “It’s the Stiftkirche spire, right in the middle of the city. There are old castles intermingled with new buildings. This one street, called the Koenigstrasse, bans cars; it’s filled with shops and pedestrians. You’d love the Christmas Market. Glass blown ornaments, outdoor vendors in the old cobblestone square, hot mulled wine served from copper kettles... The present I sent you last year was bought right there—”

“Ben?” she asked, looking at my father. Her eyes danced between us and she played with the buttons on her housedress with one frail hand. “Do I know this handsome young man?”

Dad hesitated, looking at my crestfallen face, then patiently answered. “Yes, Mother. It’s your grandson, John. He’s my son. Your grandson,” he prodded gently. “He’s been gone for a few years on assignment in Germany.”

She looked up at him and nodded vacantly.

I sat up straighter, looking into her confused eyes, pleading. “Gram? It’s Johnny. Remember? Don’t you remember me?” My voice caught and I choked out the last few words.

She smiled and put a trembling hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure I would’ve been very proud of you,” she said.

I sat still, grateful for her empathy, but crushed. A leaden sensation played around my heart.

My father changed the subject. “Are you hungry, Mother?” he asked. “John and I are taking you to lunch today.”

She brightened. “Yes, I am. I’m tired of the old-people-food they force on me here. They tell me I eat like a bird, but it’s because there’s nothing good to eat. And they won’t give me any beer. Can you imagine that? The Prohibition is over! What kind of a hotel is this, anyway?”

I smiled involuntarily as I recognized traits of my familiar, feisty grandmother. She was still in there, somewhere.

Dad pushed her shoes to the side of the bed and helped her put them on. Her forehead crinkled and she stood unsteadily, looking around the room for something.

“Gram? Can I help?” I asked.

“My pocketbook. I can’t go out without my pocketbook.” Dad laid his hand on her arm and flashed me a melancholy look.

“It’s okay, Mother. I’m buying today. No need for your purse.” He helped her into a worn blue cardigan and we shuffled down the hall. When we passed the bedroom of an elderly man, she leaned over and whispered in my father’s ear.

“You have to do something about that Mr. Timothy, son. He keeps hitting on me. My stars, he must be at least eighty.”

“Okay, Mother. Will do. I’ll have a talk with the old coot.” Dad smiled. Gram would be ninety next April.

We drove to the restaurant that specialized in her favorites: golden fried scallops and Narragansett beer. We slid into an empty booth across cracked red vinyl seats, and picked up the sticky menus. Dad and I shared one side, facing Grandma. She held the menu, but didn’t read it. Instead, she looked back and forth between us.

“You know,” she said, “you look like him!” She nodded toward my father.

I smiled. “I should, Gram. I’m his son.”

“Oh…” she said. She still didn’t get it.

I tried another tact. “Do you remember camp? On Great Pond?” I touched on a few of my favorite childhood memories.

Her eyes lit up. “Of course I remember camp. What do you think I am, addlepated?” She began to reminisce about people I hadn’t known, who had been her guests at the fishing resort before I was born. Although she didn’t remember me, we discovered a common ground. The tall pines. The cool, sparkling lake. The lonely tremolo of the loons. I took a long pull on my beer. A bead of sweat rolled down the green glass surface and pooled on the Formica. We sat in contented silence, sifting through sweet memories.

“Gram?” She looked at me expectantly, a pink blush spreading over her soft cheeks. “Yes?” “I remember when you and Po-pa used to bring me a slice of pizza from the café, always late at night. You’d wake me up for it. It was cold, and wrapped in a paper napkin. Best darned pizza I ever had.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmured with downcast eyes. “I don’t remember anything these days.”

“It’s okay. It doesn’t matter.” I patted the back of her cold hand and warmed to the childhood memory. “You also sang to me. Every night, before I fell to sleep.”

I began to sing—softly—so as not to arouse stares from the other patrons.

“Bon Soir Mes Amis, Bon Soir.

Bon Soir Mes Amis, Bon Soir.

We had such a good time together,

But now we must say Bon Soir.”

Before I reached the second stanza, my grandmother’s eyes lit up and she joined me, singing in a wavering soprano. My heart swelled. Her eyes sparkled and her face crinkled with joy. She popped the last scallop in her mouth, and laughed with a tinkling wind-chime sound, reaching across the table to lay her hand on mine.

“Oh, my. I love that song. I used to sing it to you when you were a boy.” Warmth filled her eyes. “Isn’t it nice to be with family?”

** Bon Soir, Mes Amis is dedicated to my grandmother and based on a true story. **

***Watch for Aaron's two new books this summer - MAZURKA (fourth in the LeGarde series), and HEALEY'S CAVE, the debut book in his paranormal green marble mystery series.