Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who's That Knocking?

copyright, 2008, Aaron Paul Lazar

Good morning, friends!

How was your week? Were you able to get much reading or writing done? I am relieved because I finally got through the lengthy pdf ARC edits for two of my upcoming books, and also completed the dreaded synopses for both in 250, 150, and 50 word versions! Phew. Now THAT'S scary! I think writing the 50 word synopsis is harder than writing the books!

Glad that's over, now I can get back to writing Sanctuary, my third Tall Pines mystery.

With Halloween just around the corner (tomorrow, actually!), I thought I'd dig into the bowels of my articles to find something suitably spooktacular. ;o) (Can you say "reprint?" LOL.)

I thought I'd dust this piece off and share it with you today. Let me know if it gives you a chuckle or a thrill.


Who's That Knocking?

Living in an antique home has its problems, especially when you're not a handyman. My father taught me all sorts of wonderful things when he was alive, including an unbridled passion for the arts, gardening, nature, gourmet cooking, and the love of a good mystery. He didn't know much about mechanics, plumbing, electric, or woodworking. Though I've tried to learn over the years with self-help books and advice from friends, I remain singularly unhandy, perpetually bowing with an unholy need to the whims of the local plumber and electrician.

Take, for example, the twenty-six windows that are crumbling as we speak. The six-by-nine inch panes are coming loose from their wooden mullions with alarming frequency. Or the floorboards in the bedroom, a lovely old yellow pine, that poke up like teepees when it's hot and muggy. Yeah, they need to be treated with some kind of poly something-or-other, but for now, the moisture makes them swell. Consider the two wells that sometimes work in concert - except for the hundred times a year I have to run down to the cobwebbed cellar and reset the breakers or tap on the pump to make it work. The disadvantages are many.

But there are also great benefits, such as the three working fireplaces. Or the soil that surrounds the property, rich and black, untouched by bulldozers. It's not like the hard packed fill they put in the new housing tracts. I don't need to "amend" this soil. I just need to keep up with the produce and flowers.

Most intriguing of all, however, is the rich history.

Our house was built in 1811 by Dr. David Hunt. We just celebrated our 200th anniversary!

Okay, so compared to the homes in Europe, it's just an infant. But in terms of our country and its young age, it's amazing. Think about it. This house was built and lived in more than fifty years before the civil war!

Imagine the births, deaths, dramas, romances, and heartaches that occurred within these rooms. Did the inhabitants suffer from small pox? Starvation? Were they affluent? How many horses or cows did they own? And... how many ghosts linger in these plaster and lathe walls?

Let's examine the past 100 years. According to an elderly neighbor, over seven people have died on Hunts Corners. Traffic accidents. Maybe even horse and buggy accidents. Auto drivers not stopping for the all-way stop signs, or sliding on ice, or drunk drivers plowing right into the telephone pole. Sad to think about. Makes you wonder about their spirits. Did they ascend to Heaven? Or do a few guilty souls remain in the area, confused and wandering, seeking the path to redemption?

Recently, I began to ponder another death disclosed to me by a young neighbor friend. We began to correspond after he read a few of my books. He's a bright and entertaining young fellow who happens to be a voracious reader. We clicked. And we chat back and forth about books and life and sometimes... about the history of our area.

It seems Hunts Corners has a mystery all its own, stemming from the early 1900s. As the story goes, my young neighbor's great grandmother noticed something odd one day. While going about her daily duties, Mabel realized she hadn't seen the young girl who lived next door in a long time. Anna no longer attended school, and very rarely made an appearance outside the home. When she did, Mabel noticed a thickening in her middle, well-wrapped by heavy garments. She suspected the girl was with child. In that era, a pregnancy out of wedlock was unthinkable. Shameful. A sin. The family would endure public humiliation if news got out. So Anna was sequestered for nine long months as Mabel watched the child grow in her belly.

When the time came for the baby to be born, there was no activity in the house. No child was seen. No doctor arrived. All was quiet.

Speculation grew. Was the child stillborn? Or worse, was she murdered by a family cloaked in shame? Rumors were that the little baby was buried behind Anna's house.

Since then, there have been reports of children pointing behind the house, exclaiming about the "little girl in the weeds." The adults couldn't see her.

But I think I might have, last winter.

I rose early to photograph our Christmas lights. They were unusually festive last year, better than all past years. We'd added a few lighted deer for fun, and I was bound and determined to capture the beauty in the blackest of night. It was a clear, chill morning. Five A.M. Not a breeze stirred. Most households were fast asleep. Few cars passed by.

I brought my trusty Canon Powershot outdoors and took dozens of photos. Later, when I viewed them on my PC, I saw the ghost. There she was - looking straight at me with wide open eyes. Filmy, transparent, but with a clear face and body. Only two shots revealed her, although I took dozens that morning.

The photos are untouched, straight from the camera card. And yes, I know there's probably a scientific explanation. Maybe the light from the flash illuminated ice crystals in the air, causing a momentary illusion. But I'd like to ignore that for now and just consider it a visit from my friendly little ghost.

Last night I woke to a tapping sound. Usually it's Max, on his chair, scratching an itch and thumping up against the armrest. I rose to check, but he lay still, mouth open, breathing evenly.
Could it be my grandson knocking on the door? I looked. No one was there. All was quiet, no little boys or cats were hoping to gain entrance.

I went back to bed. The tapping resumed. Looking out the window, I noticed headlights flashing by, briefly illuminating the darkness. Was that a flash of white? A face? Or simply the reflection on wet streets?

The tapping resumed. Outside my window. On the second floor.

Could it be?

I buried my head beneath the covers and said my prayers.

Well, that's it for now, dear friends. I won't be around next weekend, so let's get together in two weeks, and until then, remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write, write like the wind!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review by Aaron Lazar
Author: Denise Hamilton
Publisher: Scribner
ISBN-10: 0743296745
ISBN-13: 978-0743296748
Price: $17.82 hardcover; $12.99 Kindle 
Author’s website:

DAMAGE CONTROL is a complex psychological thriller set in current day Los Angeles, peopled with vibrant characters battling fears of survival and loss, tautly stretched loyalties, and well-camouflaged villains.

The story begins when Maggie Silver—a young PR rep who’s struggling to support her cancer-stricken mother and keep a house with an upside-down mortgage—is assigned to insulate Senator Henry Paxton and his family from the press by spinning the sordid facts of his aide’s murder and protecting the family’s reputation. After all, the Senator has been tapped for a much higher office, and chances are he’ll move upward quickly.

The problem is Maggie knew the Senator’s family when she was a teenager and was the poor church mouse best friend of rich kid Anabelle Paxton. Years have passed, and in the time since they grew apart, neither has acknowledged or faced the memories of the one horrible night they shared on the beach.

Hamilton weaves some interesting themes throughout this complicated novel, including subtly erotic romance, power struggles and cover-ups, and dangerous flirtations with potential killers.

The author’s style is breezy and smooth, and occasionally she sneaks in some lovely poetic passages, well worth savoring.

“At the cemetery, Anabelle threw the first spade of earth on the coffin. The wind shifted and ash fell softly and silently over us all, blanketing the dark soil and clinging greasily to our clothes, reminding us of where we’d come from and where we would all return.”

(Note: the “ash” here refers to cinders from the wildfires burning nearby)

Here’s another simultaneously lovely and unsettling segment:

“A voice whispered at the edge of my consciousness as the jets screeched and the tide sucked the pebbles. If only I could make out the words. But it was just out of reach, echoing with faint, faraway laughter, taunting me with secret knowledge.


What if she’d crossed the highway to the ocean, swimming out until she drowned? I pictured her body carried on the swell of the waves, arms spread like wings, orange crabs crawling in and out of empty eye sockets, long blond ropes of hair floating like seaweed, a million microscopic sea animals clinging to her curves, illuminating her in a phosphorescent shroud.”

Most intriguing was the author’s inclusion of scents into the story. Hamilton’s descriptions of the perfumes Maggie loved and remembered was evocative and poetic, and her use of fragrance as a vital clue was brilliant. Her passages reminded me of my own passion for essential oils and their subtle, complex aromas capable of transporting one to places quite foreign and delicious. I discovered after reading the book that Denise Hamilton spends time with fragrance in a professional capacity (she blogs about perfume, for one thing) and this explained the interesting additions. See this passage:

“The previous Christmas, we’d stood at her mother’s vanity table, dabbing Caron’s Nuit de Noel behind our ears from the ravishing black Deco crystal flask. It was Christmas in a bottle, rich and exotic, all mulled wine and candied chestnuts, green pine with sandalwood and roses and a holiday goose roasting on the horizon. Anointed for midnight mass, we’d floated down the stairs in a cloud of scent and black velvet.”

Although this reviewer is hardly a perfume aficionado, the descriptions of this fragrance brought to mind the Young Living essential oil blend “Christmas Spirit,” a delightful amalgam of orange peel, cinnamon bark, and spruce leaf oil.

In DAMAGE CONTROL, surprises are deliciously revealed and sufficiently shocking. Denise Hamilton is a proficient writer who maintains perfect tension and keeps her readers turning the pages.

I recommend this tightly woven tale of deception and love.


Aaron Paul Lazar
Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. The author of LeGarde Mysteries, Moore Mysteries, and Tall Pines 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 website at and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases, FOR THE BIRDS(2011), ESSENTIALLY YOURS (2012), TERROR COMES KNOCKING (2011), FOR KEEPS (2012), DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (2012), and the author’s preferred editions of DOUBLE FORTÉ and UPSTAGED (2012).


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review by Aaron Paul Lazar
Title: Stealing Faces
Author: Michael Prescott
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Ulverscroft
Genre: Thriller
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, and eBook
ISBN-10: 0708943500
ISBN-13: 978-0708943502
ASIN: B00547KH66
Price: Kindle, $ 0.99; Large Print, $29.91
Author’s website:

I’ve been reading and reviewing a fair amount of books this year, all of them quite good, and most of them on Kindle. Of course, I vet them before I accept a review request by reading the first few pages and the synopsis. There’s nothing worse than reviewing a book that bores you to tears or that just isn’t your cup of tea. So I almost always love the titles I accept.

In the midst of all these excellent books, however, came STEALING FACES. This high suspense thriller literally knocked my socks off.

Mr. Prescott’s writing style is what hooked me from the beginning. Smooth, tight, and fast flowing, the prose held me as spellbound as the suspense. Frankly, STEALING FACES is one of the best-written novels I’ve come across in a very long time, and I can’t believe I haven’t discovered Mr. Prescott’s work to date.

Cray has been stalking and killing women for over a decade. Well-respected by day, savage hunter by night, the man’s character is impeccably drawn using inner thoughts and dialog. The contrast between his day job (revealed partway through the book) and his secret, sick obsession, accentuates his evil.

Now, meet protagonist Elizabeth Palmer. Desperate, broke, resourceful, and lovely, this woman has fixated on finding and bringing Cray to justice since she escaped his clutches twelve years earlier.

From the first primal scream of Cray’s victim to the kaleidoscope of terror-filled memories experienced by Elizabeth, Prescott doesn’t let his readers relax, or even take a breath. Both characters, juxtaposed brilliantly against each other, drive the story forward to its very satisfying conclusion.

The plot is well recounted in many of the 100 plus reviews on Amazon, so let it suffice for me to say that many plot threads and themes are tightly woven into this book, with shock after shock and absolutely no letting down of the tension. I would actually recommend STEALING FACES as a primer for those interested in pursuing a career in writing thrillers.

Thank you, Mr. Prescott, for showing us all how it should be done, and for several nights of delicious, exhilarating thrills.

Highly recommended by Aaron Paul Lazar,

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Chasing the Writing High

It's October. The Finger Lakes region has been beautiful lately, really gorgeous with its purple asters and bright yellow golden rod, deep blue skies and hints of red and orange colors streaking the hillsides.

I've been waiting for this moment forever. All year, really. I dubbed the year of 2011 "the year of endless edits," because that's all I've been doing since January.

It's not a bad thing, it's really part of a great trend with my publisher. She's decided she wants to release more of my backlogged books, rather than release just one or two a year. We have the first two Tall Pines Mysteries, books 2 and 3 in Moore Mysteries, a new LeGarde Mystery, and two "author's preferred edition" rewrites from the early LeGarde series, all of which are scheduled for release in the next six months, and all which required focused edits.

Compared to last year, 2011 really stunk. I mean, in 2010 I wrote three new books. I was on a constant writing high. Some prerequisite editing came in between (for FireSong, just released in July), but all in all, it was a very satisfying year for filling my aching need to create.

Last week I sent in the final edited manuscript for Upstaged. Done! Fertig! Fini! I was excited to start book three in my new Tall Pines series. Frankly, I was crazy with enthusiasm. After all, nothing gives me a thrill like writing fresh stuff. New stories. New twists. New characters. It's pure. It's fun. And I love it so much it can be scary.

I normally don't research very much.

There. I said it. As terrible as that is, it's true. I write from my experiences and also make up a lot of stuff. I know, I'll look bad by admitting this. But I can't pretend to be who I'm not.

This time, however, my new featured character comes from a Seneca reservation, where she's fleeing a monster who wants her dead. I don't know much about the reservation, except that my daughter and her husband used to go there for cigarettes when they used to smoke. To help with the background, I ordered four books from Amazon to teach me about the Senecas. Then I started to plan the book.

Big mistake! I never have more than a few loose ideas or themes ready to go when I start. The real planning, the real thinking, comes when I'm writing each chapter.

I started to panic. I couldn't make up my mind on characters, ages, plot elements. I drove myself crazy, woke up in the middle of the night worrying about it.

This is my sixteenth book. What was wrong with me? I started to wonder - what if I'm done? What if I never come up with another good idea again? Why can't I just plunge into this like I always do?

I've been doing this torturous "planning" all week, changing my mind a hundred times, talking to my writing pals about it, and going... nowhere.

This morning, I decided enough was enough! I've been craving writing for so long, wanting it so bad, that I was starting to get depressed. It was time to just start.

So I did. I let the first chapter out through my fingers onto the keyboard, and thus Catori was born, with all her problems throbbing in the foreground and with a nice clear picture appearing in my head. I don't really know where this story is going, except that I've got to help this poor girl escape her tormentor, bring her to the Adirondacks (Tall Pines cabin) to be safe, and figure out how to bring down the bad guys.

Hey, someone's gotta do it.

I've gotta remember to write like the wind, and stop this over-thinking stuff. Right?

Think I'll go write chapter two.


Aaron Paul Lazar

Please visit my website or my page here on MB4!

Double Forte': A Gus LeGarde MysteryFirst Book in LeGarde Mysteries
Upstaged: A Gus LeGarde MysteryBook 2 in LeGarde Mysteries
Tremolo: cry of the loon Publisher: Twilight Times BooksBook 3 in LeGarde Mysteries
Mazurka (A Gus LeGarde Mystery)Book 4 in LeGarde Mysteries
FireSongBook 5 in LeGarde Mysteries
Healey's CaveFirst Book in Moore Mysteries (Green Marble Mysteries)