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.

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 One and Only Skizitz

I am not Skizitz and I didn’t know anyone like that, but I wish there was. Growing up I always wanted people to see what I saw. I thought if they knew how much their words affected others, maybe they would stop? What better way for them to see but in black and white print? Many times teachers, other kids, friends and even parents don’t realize that their actions can create deep ideas in a kid’s mind that are hard to forget and easy to use as obstacles. Many adults can tell you their growing up horror stories and few can say it was easy, but they learned things, often too late. Skizitz’s non-reaction to others is how every kid wishes they could be. Do want you want and be yourself without a care as to what anyone else says. I always wanted to do this and I didn’t a lot of the time. I hope my readers take this to heart and adult and kid alike examine what they say to others and even more, what they listen to. Words do matter, but how we let those words affect us is more important.

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.

Diary of a 6th Grade “c” Cup

This is the somewhat fictionalized, but mostly biographical tale of a part of my own puberty. In the 6 th grade, as I was going through the teasing and ridicule of being an “early bloomer,” I had the idea to write the book and the title. I have been writing bits and pieces of the book for decades and finally realized something when my children were going through that stage. What I experienced was I designed this bookbullying, plain and simple. When I was a kid, there was no public conciseness about bullies. Kids were told just to suck it up and adults and schools did absolutely nothing to stop it. It’s out there now, which is good. Schools have policies and people are more aware, but it still goes on in every school and every playground, every day. I wanted this book to peel back the curtain and give people the view from this girl’s unique perspective. There are more books in this “Growing Up Is Hard” series that will tackle different aspects of adolescence from my experiences and some from other people I knew. Times, places, and certainly style and fashions have changed, but I find that at the core of growing up, a lot of same things happen to each generation. This book is designed for YA, youth audience, but I think many women may find it’s a blast of the past remembrances of their own puberty experiences.

How an Angel Gets Its Wings

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life.  I watch it every year and have read many books about the making of the movie.  One year, when my sons were small, one said to me “Mommy, don’t all angels have wings?” I explained that he needed to help people to get his wings. At the end of the movie, my son said “Mommy, he did good. Now he’s a REAL angel.” That resonated with me for years and made me envision angels getting their wings by performing acts of kindness…and Sydney was born. The problem is, I can’t draw. I really can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler. I looked for an illustrator who could collaborate and finally found someone who shared my dream and believe it or not, it was someone in my own family. My brother-in-law is an Art teacher and incredibly talented artist, but I didn’t think he would be interested in collaborating on children’s books.  At a Christmas family vacation last year, we talked about it in line at Disney World and then started working.  Isn’t that funny, you just never know.  Now we have decided to write more Christmas Books. 

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