Behind the Pages

Check out the back story behind my books.

How did you think of that story?

Where do you get your ideas?

See below to get an insight into the cobwebs inside my mind that make these stories.

Irish Eyes

When I was in college, I wrote a term paper for history class about an Irish Immigrant coming to the US at the turn-of-the-century and getting involved in the seamstress labor union fight of the time. The idea of that character stayed with me all these years. So when I decided to write a historical saga about a family, I wanted the matriarch to be an Irish immigrant around 1900. The struggles of those immigrants astound me. Someone coming to another country and starting anew is brave and fascinating, as is the time period. I’ve read and researched a lot about this era and wanted to set this in Chicago, my hometown. As a history buff of my place of birth, I never shy away from talking about the significant events in the city’s yesteryear. The 1893 World’s Fair is a favorite and so many other things happened at that time. My later father, who’s grandmother was an Irish immigrant, got me hooked on our city’s history and I will put it in any book I can.

Cupcakes, etc.

Some writer’s say, “it came to me in a dream.” This series literally came to me that way. I saw The Little Shoppes building and the cupcake crew right in front of my very eyes. I expanded for the rest of the characters, but that was the catalyst. I love to tell women’s stories and the challenges of a bunch of women who own their own businesses in one boutique mall is very appealing. Together, they have their individual and collective highs and lows and personal and professional successes and failures, but the way they help each other is admirable. And the idea of the reality show/confessional format was too good to pass up. I admit, I watch my share of reality and contest shows and I always wondered why no one has written a book using a similar format. So I did. It’s so much part of our pop culture fabric these days. I can’t wait to tell more stories about these wonderful multi-faceted women. More to come.

Puzzle at Peacock Perch

Full disclosure, I live in a senior active adult community in sunny Florida. It’s great.

After living my whole life in the Chicago area, I was charmed at the collection of people from all over the world. There were Southerners, Midwesterners, New Englanders, New Yorkers, Canadians, Australians and Europeans, all living together. The varying cultures and differences were a refreshing change.

The other revelation was the vast experiences and knowledge from their former occupations. It was like a giant think tank. If you needed to know something, no matter what it was—from rocket science to exotic plants—chances are someone had done that for a living.

And with all the community activities, everyone spent a lot of time together. It soon became clear to me that there were very few secrets.

So, during the pandemic, I wrote an interactive whodunit play, with the help of our small community theater group, which lampooned how the gossip mill, both verbal and on social media, can take on a life of its own and help solve a mystery. Since we performed it on Zoom, attendees played detective in small groups and discussed clues and suspects. That gave birth to the Secret Senior Sleuths Society.

And in this book series, I can delve into the process of the detective work more with its twists and turns and explore the suspects, learn more about what motivates the detectives and take a peek at what it’s like to live in a typical American senior community. It’s probably not what most people expect of a retirement community.

It’s an interesting examination of a micro-society, although somewhat exaggerated, and how word-of-mouth can skew perspectives.

The Sailor and the Songbird

I’ve always had a special attachment to the WWII era. I love the movies, the clothes and the music. Who knows, maybe I was there in a past life. This is not a true story, merely a machination of my mind on what could have been, but I did know a real sailor on the USS Franklin – my father-in-law, LeRoy Hamilton. He was a young airplane mechanic who was thrown into the water and survived the long and arduous trip back to New York with the ship. He didn’t talk about the war much at all. Both he and his family were full of pride at his service, but it wasn’t discussed.

After his passing, I was able to interview some of his shipmates from the Franklin who lived nearby for the local newspaper on the 50th anniversary of the Franklin explosion. Looking in the rearview mirror a half-century later, their memories were foggy on the names and dates, but they spoke fondly about their comrades. And their recollection of their experiences during the incident was still crystal clear.  As I looked at pictures of the young men they were at the time, I saw the glint in their eyes with the joy and hope of the lifetime ahead of them. They didn’t look like old men, just guys.

It wasn’t the first war to end all wars, but with a sense of global purpose, a housing shift from an urban to a more suburban society, and the lasting impression of women who really worked and earned a living, it was a mark for changes to come. And they lived it. 

Beck’s Rules

I worked at the Herald-News in Joliet, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, for several years. One of the city editors, John Whiteside, was enthralled by a decades-old cold case of a newspaper reporter, Amelia Molly Zelko, who disappeared in the 1950’s. It was a big story for a couple years, but time pushed it to the forgotten past. Whiteside brought the case back to life nearly 30 yA decades-old cold case of a newspaper reporter, Amelia Molly Zelko, who disappeared in enthralled one of the city editors, John Whiteside,ears later with a series of columns over nearly the next 30 years. He made her an urban legend in the area. Unfortunately, the case was never solved. I worked with a different editor in a different department of the paper, so I didn’t know Whiteside, and to be honest, I never read his columns in detail about the Molly Zelko case, but I always remembered the passion he conveyed that the injustice should be righted and truth be found. I always thought that would be a great story. I decided to fictionalize the entire case, not about Molly Zelko or the aspects of her unique story, as inspiration to think about my own journalistic career and who I wanted to be as a newspaper reporter. I didn’t read or research any of Zelko’s story, as I wanted it to be the mere jumping point for my mind’s tale. I wanted to feature my own experiences as a journalist and highlight aspects of the surrounding towns where I grew up. Outside the area, no one really knew Molly Zelko’s story. And this book is not her story, but this series is an interesting fiction about what a character like her would do. The main character, May Beck, is a composite of fictional and real newspaper reporters and female sleuths I admired, like Rosalind Russell in My Girl Friday , Lois Lane, and the Nancy Drew series of books. A couple of the stories May Beck investigates in Beck’s Rules Series are ones I dogged as a young reporter on the beat. This first book is a different take on her origin story. The other books in the series will feature May Beck’s unrelenting quest for truth and unquenching thirst to solve mysteries.

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