JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT

 

My beloved once told me that I was a good story teller, and it went to my head. That comment sent me on the road to making up stories for my students about the world of science, scientists and the very students in my classroom. These silly stories received a warm enough welcome that just fueled the fire of my ego. It moved me to get more serious about investing my energies into producing a story big enough for a book.

But what kind of book? I lived in a world of classrooms filled with young students, whose minds were like sponges when it came to a good story. So, I decided to attempt a mystery with an attractive young couple who meet a ghost on one of the best beaches on the East Coast, Fire Island.

I just needed to create a main character who would suck the reader into the story. That became the major quest. I had a wealth of role models in my students and that gave rise to my smart (not nerdy), attractive (not gorgeous), daring Annie Tillery. Early in this quest for the main character I decided that Annie would not do it all alone, and I created Tyler Egan, the most perfect boyfriend. Annie and Ty became the “dynamic duo” of my series.

What was so important about creating a female role model? In light of the fact that women are 50% of the work force, and filling significant roles in increasing numbers, I thought I had a great opportunity to have my heroine, Annie, show how a girl can start on that pathway. Annie Tillery is independent and smart, she is daring, but with a safety net.

Ty is not only the love of Annie’s life, but her best friend. Being a bit older he helps her with the issue she has with her alcoholic mother and her father who works overseas.  Ty’s dad is an alcoholic too. Ty admires Annie’s fine ability to puzzle out mysteries and Annie looks up to Ty for his support and strength. The books include their sweet little romance which adds to the exciting flavor of a page turning story.

The history of Fire Island lends itself to ghost stories. This ghost happens to be hiding a secret that impacts on national security. The book, The Madonna Ghost, is the first of a series called Annie Tillery Mysteries.

This book sold locally, inspiring me to move on to the next book, Girl with Pencil Drawing. One day I was sitting on my stool at the check-out desk in the library at Seaford High School. No one was in the library since the librarian did his best to keep kids away from “his” books. I loved library duty. It was quiet and I had a chance to write the case study “mystery stories” I created for my forensic science classes.

I was dating a man (my next beloved) who lived in Brooklyn Heights in an old brownstone that had a hidden room in his basement. I was teaching about how art pieces are authenticated and forgeries detected. I had just seen “The Train”, a classic film about the fate of the art the Nazis confiscated during WWII. These elements came together forming the basis for what I thought was a great stand-alone next Annie Tillery mystery.

Another aspect of this story is the attention paid to how art is authenticated. This plot in particular shows Annie’s interest and facility with science. The American economy is based on science and technology. Shows like CSI and NCIS feature attractive young people engaged in scientific endeavors. I like to refer to my Annie Tillery Mysteries as Nancy Drew meets CSI. I’m hoping girls who read my books are inspired to look into a career in science.

The truth is that I did write this first draft and put it away for a few years. When I picked it up again and read it, I realized I didn’t know word one about book writing, even though I had a good story and credible research. I decided it was time to invest in a writing course, specializing in producing a novel. This is really where Annie Tillery Mysteries was born.

In 2010 and 2011 I self-published The Madonna Ghost and Girl with Pencil, Drawing. In 2014 I published Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys and in 2016 The Mystery of the Lost Avenger.

Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys has it all. The story is set in exotic Istanbul and Cappadocia, a land of enchanted caves and rock formations. The plot involves ancient mysteries, archaeological secrets, and thieves who will commit murder rather than give up the treasures they steal. Annie acquires new friends. Cedric Zeeks is trying to find a link between his African ancestors and the inhabitants of a 9,000 year old town in Cappadocia.  Yelda and Ahmet Atsut, twins with a Ouija board and awesome sleuthing talents, help Annie and boyfriend, Ty Egan, solve the mysteries, both the ancient ones and the ones that threaten them as they work the archaeological dig.

In this story, Annie enters a man’s world. Most of the characters in this book are strong males, some good, some not so nice and even criminal. Annie holds her own. She can wield a shovel at the dig, and she can work in a DNA lab. She can also put clues together to solve the mystery, even when her life is in danger. After publishing this book, I decided that it would be the last of the series where Annie gets a concussion as pay back for her detective work.

  The Mystery of the Lost Avenger takes place in two times, the present and in 1943. The mystery revolves around Annie’s great grandmother, Charlotte Wheeler, who was a Womens Air Service Pilot (WASP) during WWII. She tested and flew the Avenger aircraft for Grumann Aviation Corp. and became enmeshed in some wartime intrigue at the plant. Annie and Ty, and her mother, Carol Wheeler, become involved when the wreckage of an Avenger airplane, crashed in 1943, is discovered with a note from Charlotte implying a mystery about the plane. When NCIS contacts Carol, the investigation into Charlotte’s past begins. Buckle you seat belts and prepare for take-off!

What can I say about the role of women in WWII? One expert claims the War could not have been won without the roles women played. This becomes an inspiration for Annie, and the story should become an inspiration for all the girls who read “Avenger”. Heck, as Rosie the Riveter said, “We can do it.”

Self- publishing has given me a confusing maze of opportunities. My world has been filled with websites, contests, book fairs, webinars, and endless newsletters claiming to imbue me with the secrets of becoming a “successful” writer. And after self-publishing four books, I think it’s about time to turn to the other side of publishing, the endless stream of rejections from traditional publishers. I’ve learned a lot about the book world and it boils down to a contest between those rejections vs. the decisions, decisions, decisions of the self-publishing world.

I produce a local access TV show, The Writer’s Dream, seen on YouTube. I interview authors about their books and the elements of their journey including writing, publishing and marketing. I have a question I like to ask them: What do you want to get out of the author’s journey? I’m not really sure I can answer this myself.

The goals that come to mind include a best-seller, fame, a movie contract (now you’re talkin’), recognition as a writer, reaching out to the reader with a good story, sharing information, elevating the reader with an inspiring story, and on and on. I started out just wanting to write a good story and have some fun. Where it goes from here? Your guess is as good as mine.