Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hi, folks.

I've finished up the tough-but-necessary jobs that stopped my current work in progress in early December. I slammed through Mazurka (the third in the LeGarde Mystery series) to polish it "one more time," before sending it to Twilight Times Books, as requested. I should be hearing back real soon about their decision. Here's my current cover design.

I reread and outlined Firesong: an unholy grave (fourth in the series) so that I could write a decent one paged synopsis for my agent, who will be pitching it to the "big boys" this year. I hope whoever picks it up will use my cover, below. (Or some version of it!)

And I finally reviewed the first 26 chapter of Lady Blues, so I'd remember what the heck I wrote a few months ago. Here's my cover design place holder. What I really plan to do is overlay an image of a beautiful black woman in the background of the stage lighting. I'd like to make it rather ethereal, and almost ghostly. Ideas on implementing this?

Happy sigh. I'm writing 'new' again. Imagining scenes again. Living Gus's life again. And it's grand. My juices are flowin' and I'm in Heaven. God, I love this part.

Anyway, if you don't see a lot of clever posts or new photos, you'll know it's due to two things:

My Canon Powershot G2 died. (sob)

And I'm already into chapter 29 of Lady. ;o)

I may post some of my old photos, just for fun. Maybe I'll follow Steve's example and put up some of my old Europe photos. Would anyone like to see them? Here's one, just for fun:

I'm thinking of sponsoring a writing contest, too, where the prize will be a copy of Tremolo when it comes out in print this year. Ideas? How about a flash piece that is so imagery rich you are transported to the scene? In 500 words or less? What do you think?


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ice Storm, January, 2007

It's about time.

Winter. At last.

Of course, many of you know I have a sickness. Yeah. It's called loving winter. One of my aliases is Nanuk of the North. I love snow. I thrive on it. I crave it.

Okay, enough. I hear you laughing all the way up here in Upstate NY!

Today we were graced with ice that enclosed all things natural and fortunately didn't take out the power. We like flushing our toilets, thank you very much. Being on a well has its perks, but
one of them isn't being self-sufficient during a power outage.

Here is a photographic journal of our yard today, and its scintillating offerings. If you're inspired to write a haiku about it, feel free to post and I'll add it to the photo of your choice.



Here's a lovely haiku sent in by literary critic and good friend,
Thomas Fortenberry:

lavender waves kiss
our frozen tree of life
now forever held

[c 2007 thomas fortenberry]

Dried Pods from Stella Dora Daylilies

One of my favorites. Love the snow crystals on the wire.

Red Berries, encapsulated

Not your typical apple tree photo - this is one
of the ancient trees that edge the back of the

An old fence insulator from our horse paddock.

The birdfeeder needs filling!

The view behind our old paddock, blackberry canes crystal-coated.

Such symmetry in nature...

Closeup of a lawn ornament by our rose bushes and currants

An old fence post

Love the way this ice hangs...

Frozen Kale from the garden

Ice coated grape vine in corkscrew shape

This ice was so thick you could barely
see through it - dripped down from the
gutter overhead.

Circle of Life?

The birdbath is frozen

My friendly ghost shows up every so often.
Do you see his face in the lower circle?

I normally hate burdocks, but these were
enclosed in globes of ice. Glorious!

More red berries, sparkling against the sky

One of my favorites, a frozen lilac bud.

Duck with white plumage

And beautiful green throat

Frozen in time now.

- Lesia Valentine
Red Heart Novels

Nancy Luckhurst sent this one in. She's just starting up an editing business, and is a very talented writer. Check out her site to contact her at: www.nancyluckhurst.com

Sweet smile cherub face
Steadfast gaze, your quiet eyes
What is it you see?


Lesia Valentine, a fine paranormal writer, editor extraordinaire, and book trailer expert (you can hire her to make your trailers, too!) submitted this one:

You should have warned me
Little boy with haunted face

Would be coming soon.

And here are a few haiku from Jeanne Fielding, who just left NY for sunny Virginia!

Biting ice

Chillingly lovely

Stay indoors



Ice scare no longer



Wintry lass

icy fingers reach

not here. [smile]

Thanks, everyone, for sending them in!

- Aaron

Do you see the face? Maybe it's
my friendly ghost. ;o) If you want
to see my other ghost pix, click

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hi, folks!

Following is a review for a lovely collection of poetry by Maggie Ball, owner of compulsivereader.com. Check out this book, her new joint venture book of poetry with Carolyn Howard Johnson, and her website, here.

Title: Quark Soup

Author: Magdalena Ball

Publisher: Picaro Press

Publisher's Address: P.O. Box 853, Warners Bay, NSW 2282, Australia

ISBN number: 1-920957-23-5

Price: $7.00 (includes postage worldwide)

To Buy: http://www.compulsivereader.com/html/images/quarkindex.htm

Quark Soup

By Magdalena Ball

Review by Aaron Paul Lazar

Author of the LeGarde Mystery Series

Quark Soup is a cryptic collection of alluring poetry that provides fodder for deep introspection, while personifying planets and attributing humans with celestial properties. The subjects of childbirth and supernovas are cleverly interwoven, often cloaking the author’s intent. In great mystery, cosmic wonders flow within love and relationships, titillating the reader’s imagination.

Examine this segment from Coil of Life:

Hurling matter in all directions,

the particles of the embryonic universe

rush away from each other.

In the beginning there was nothing

but plasma soup. Less than a second later

pure energy became

a slippery birth cry still measurable

fifteen billion years later

in the decaying echoes of space.

Is the author referring to the birth of a child, or a universe?

In this excerpt from Aurora, Ms. Ball appears to be pleading with a cold-hearted scientist who has lost the capacity to perceive beauty and perhaps also the ability to show affection. Her earnest entreaty follows.


If I could capture that spectrum

the atomic neon sign of your lost wonder

and feed it to you on a spoon

when your lonely vigil against

poverty and incompetence

becomes ball and chain

I'd give up my own food

stand with my back to the solar wind

close my eyes to beauty

to keep you warm.

I’d be your personal aurora

your talisman against the dark lure of ennui

an electrical current charging

your ionosphere.


Science and passion fold together in masterful imagery as love, loss, and motherhood slip in and out of the image streams captured by Ms. Ball.

The subject of loss is tackled in several pieces, most particularly in Green, which addresses the loss of a mother to cancer. Examine this excerpt:

my fingers worked independent

from intent

tracing the landscape of her arched back

as she bent over her porcelain taskmaster

begging the drugs which she couldn’t swallow

to kill the disease

indistinguishable from her own cells


Honest emotion covers themes like lonely childhood, the perfect universe, an impersonal lover, and the infinite joy of parenthood. With skillful word tapestries, the poems are infused with the wisdom of deep thought and experience, a rare commodity in such a young author. The collection is highly recommended, and will be treasured on this reviewer’s bookshelf.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Every once in a while it's nice to share some of your earlier works with friends. Following is a review and an excerpt from Double Forté, the founding book in the Gus LeGarde series. You may order it at Amazon by clicking here, or contact me at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com for an autographed copy.

Book Review by Thomas Fortenberry
Double Forté, the first of the Gus LeGarde series of mysteries written by Aaron Paul Lazar, is a chilling thriller. But this book is such a far cry from the cliché thrillers of today that it is almost the start of a new genre. This book is thriller, mystery, romance, and literature all at once. I could be done by saying it is just plain good writing, but that doesn’t seem fair for a review. I cannot possibly do it justice, but I will attempt to convey some of the unique majesty of this book. However, I will not be able to mention many specifics of the plot for fear of giving it all away.

This book is set neatly in its own world, a beautiful valley in upstate New York. The world is that of Professor LeGarde, a classical musical instructor. Music informs every part of this novel, from his worldview to the other characters, the scenes and escalation of action, right down to the prose itself. This is a very musical piece of literature with a varied tempo depending upon the scene, its intensity, such as its romance or fear. A very lyrical read.

But, please do not misunderstand me. This is not a fantasy or whimsical bit of fluff. This is a very serious, very intense novel about real characters. Lazar does a fantastic job getting inside the minds and exploring the emotions that drive all the characters. The world is very solid and presented in such a complete way that you become a part of it. We understand these people and why everything in this book occurs. That is a very nice and rare trick for an author to pull.

Double Forté is a refreshing work of handcrafted beauty, even given its nail biting nature. Lazar has crafted an original character in LeGarde, one which I am very glad to learn has an entire series dedicated to him. I strongly recommend this book to all fans of James Patterson, Iris Johanson, and Mary Higgins Clark. You will not be disappointed.

[c 2005 Thomas Fortenberry]

Thomas Fortenberry is an American author, editor, reviewer, and publisher. Owner of Mind Fire Press and the international literary arts journal Mindfire
, he has judged many literary contests, including The Georgia Author of the Year Awards and The Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction. Among other awards, such as twice winning Best Novella of the Year, he has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He currently edits for two journals, Mindfire and The Istanbul Literary Review, though he has done editorial work on numerous magazines, anthologies, and journals in the past (such as Maelstrom, Ragnarok, Phic-Shun, Morphesium, and The Global Knowledge Series of Arts and Sciences [GKSAS]).

The following excerpt requires a bit of explanation, since I've pulled it from the middle of the book. Read the snippet below, then scroll down to chapter 32.


Baxter, an ex-cop gone bad, kidnapped his own child and held her shackled to a bedpost in a remote cabin. Gus LeGarde, our hero, discovered, rescued, and delivered her to the arms of social services. Baxter escaped and has been stewing in hot revenge, lurking in the wintry woods outside Gus's homestead. Ready for his return, Gus has been on edge, even though the police are camped outside and his behemoth brother-in-law, Siegfried, is keeping watch from his apartment in the carriage house. Harold is Gus's black-hearted son-in-law, and Billy Thompson is the owner of the home Baxter broke into.
I think that will do it! Enjoy!


Chapter 32

Something clattered on the porch beneath my bedroom window.

Max jumped off the bed and trotted through the hallway toward the stairs, whining softly. I sat up and pulled back the heavy down comforter, allowing chilled air to steal over my body.

Wondering if the noise had been part of a dream, I waited, listening hard in the hushed darkness. Max's toenails clicked on the stairs as he descended and whined again from the first floor – louder this time.

A muffled thud came from the porch.

Baxter. He’s back.

I leapt to my feet, crossing cold floorboards to the foot of the bed. Grabbing my bathrobe, I threw it on and hurried to the window overlooking the parking area and barn. My breath fogged on the glass as I peered outside and my heart beat staccato against my ribs.

A shadow flickered at the edge of my vision. Startled, I scanned the border between the woods and the horse pasture. I strained hard to see, but found nothing amiss. The stirring could have been a nocturnal animal making its meticulous way across the frozen ground, or a heavy fir branch swaying in the wind. Beside the barn, a plume of exhaust puffed into the darkness. The police cruiser was still in position.

Leaving the lights off, I felt my way downstairs. Deep orange coals glowed through the glass door on the woodstove. I searched for Max, finally locating him on the far side of the great room near the front door.

Moonlight reflected from his wiry gray coat and he pressed his nose to the crack at the bottom of the door. I stole to his side, barely breathing.

“What is it, boy?”

His tail wagged once, but he didn’t budge from his vigil. I patted his back and felt hackles rise beneath my fingers. A low growl emerged from his throat.

Icy fingers tap-danced down my spine and a shot of adrenaline surged through my bloodstream. I ran to the mudroom, sliding my bare feet into a pair of felt-lined galoshes, then grabbed Max’s leather leash from the hook on the wall. He remained glued to the door.

I scanned the room for a weapon. Max growled again, issuing a short, warning bark. I sprinted to the hearth and felt among the fireplace utensils, closing my hand around a cast iron poker.

Max pulled hard when I snapped the lead to his collar and opened the door.

A rush of cold air invaded my lungs and my bathrobe flapped in a gust of wind. Max strained hard at his leash, nose in the air. We stepped onto the porch and he immediately pulled to the right, barking wildly as he dragged me toward the corner of the house.

Baxter stood in silence, his face a mask of fury. He wore a red parka and a black ear-flapped hat too small for him, probably stolen from Bill Thompson. Ice crystals had formed on his beard and mustache. His gray eyes glittered and he stepped toward me, clenching and unclenching the axe in his massive fist. My stomach lurched.

“Baxter.” The name rushed from my lips in a harsh whisper.

He spit words with malice, his eyes narrowed to a slit.

“Where’s my daughter, LeGarde?”

Max barked and lunged toward him. I held him back, keeping the leash taut.

“She’s not here. She’s in a foster home in the city.” I lied without hesitation, hoping to divert him from the knowledge that Sadie slept soundly in a bed two miles away.

The light in the carriage house snapped on and Sheba barked in concert with Max. The carriage house door slammed.

He took two steps toward me, brandishing the axe in the air.

“Tell me where she is or I’ll haunt you, LeGarde. I’ll take your family one by one, just like you took my girl.”

Footsteps approached.

Siegfried? Or the cop?

He growled like an animal and swiveled toward the noise, simultaneously hurling the axe toward me.

I sidestepped. It sailed past and thumped heavily onto the porch boards.

“Professor? Was ist los? (What’s wrong?)”

Siegfried called from the snow-packed lawn, fully dressed and brandishing a baseball bat.

I turned to answer, but Baxter tackled me before I could get a word out. The force of his body knocked me over the porch railing and into the snowy ground below, out of sight of Siegfried or the police.

I landed on my face in the snow, my legs pinned under Baxter’s weight. Max barreled around the porch with leash flapping. He raced toward us, barking hysterically. Baxter leaned into me, pummeling my head with his ham-sized fist. He jumped up and kicked my ribs, hard. Max attacked him, tearing at his leg and I tried to rise, in spite of swimming vision, but my legs had tangled in Max’s leash.

“This is just a teaser, LeGarde. If I don’t get Sadie back, expect more. Much more.”

He kicked me again, this time under the chin, and took off toward the woods. I flew back, landing with a thump on my back.

Sitting up slowly, I brushed the crumbs of snow from my hair. The leash had wound itself tightly around my left leg. Max pulled on it, trying to follow Baxter. I unwound my leg and held him back, rubbing the chafed skin on my exposed calf.

“Are you okay, Professor?” Siegfried asked, arriving breathless. He offered me his hand.

A light snapped on from an upstairs window. Harold frowned at me from his bedroom.

I pulled my pajama pant leg down over my scraped leg, stood up with Siegfried's help, and dragged Max to his dog-run, clipping the lead to his collar. He streaked to the end of the seventy-five foot run, continuing with frenzied barking.

I didn’t recognize the police officer who appeared at my side.

“Mr. LeGarde, what happened?”

The officer rested his hand on the butt of his revolver, looking poised for action. I cinched the robe tighter around my waist and looked toward the woods, fingering a large lump forming on my temple.

“It was Baxter. He went that way.”

The young deputy snatched the phone from his belt, shouting into it. I shivered in the biting wind, and walked with Siegfried into the kitchen.


As always, if you have feedback or questions, don't hesitate to post below or email me at aaron.lazar@yahoo.com. The LeGarde Mysteries website is here. Come on over for some lovely Chopin piano music and a tour of the LeGarde world.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I Love Winter

Fragile snow
clings to
cold bare branch
Safe for now

Yesterday, winter finally arrived in upstate NY.

Julian adored the fresh snow, packing snowballs with one red and one blue mitten.

All went well, until Gordie stepped into the "pond" wearing only his winter snowboots.

They aren't waterproof, so he ended up inside. But Julian and I continued to play.
See the chairs we sat in to cast our lines into the water last week? What a difference!

You know how I'm always talking about "picking kale" and cooking it up for dinner? Here it is - still growing strong, in January!

I loved the way these branches lay, so delicate and ready to be blown down to bare wood with the slightest puff of breath.

This is the view behind our barn, looking across the street. The low setting sun glowed golden, highlighting snow on trees in the distance. The clouds were dramatic and rolled across the horizon in a delicate symphony.

If you'd like to write a haiku or poem about any of the above photos - feel free to send it and I'll post it here.

For haiku, use either of the following formats for syllable count.




Remember to delight in the little things around you - a birdsong that greets you at dawn, clear stars shining in the frosty sky, or the crunch of your boots on snow. Life is there for the taking - savor it!

Here's our first entry, by good friend and crit buddy SW Vaughn! She made me laugh. ;o)

Sorry, friend...
Tires slip, cold wet feet
Snow just sucks!

And here's an entry by my favorite reviewer, Joyce Handzo, from In the Library Reviews.

icy wisps
dance leap and giggle

Thank you, Ladies!

Mr. Thomas Fortenberry has stepped up to the challenge. Here's his delightful entry:

Old Man Winter's Candy Cane

licking frozen kale
Old Man Winter's candy cane
reminds me of home

[c thomas fortenberry]

Friday, January 05, 2007


In 2006, I nearly ran out of vacation days early, due to too many unexpected family emergencies that claimed my vacation time. By September, only three precious days remained from my annual allotment.

I needed all three days to have Christmas week off. My employer gave us Monday and Tuesday for free, and with vacation to fill Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I would be able to secure a ten-day pass, counting weekends. Naturally, I guarded those three little days with my life. When appointments came up, I worked early or late to make up the time. When my daughter needed a ride to college for a few meetings, I took her to work with me after the visit, to avoid using my vacation. It was a hard fought battle, but I did it.

The time off was heavenly. I ate my way through pounds of Christmas cookies, made candy bars mysteriously disappear, and generally behaved in a shameful, glutinous fashion. It was a blast!

One of the best parts was being a kid again. I played superheroes with my grandsons. Repeatedly. Julian was Spiderman, Gordon was Superman, and I was awarded the role of Batman. I really wanted to fly, but the boys made me feel better by telling me about my Batmobile. In hindsight, it was kinda fun to drive the Batmobile while humming the Batman song. They were generous, however, and awarded me flying powers by knocking their knuckles against mine with appropriate sound effects. In no time at all, we were flying over mountains and oceans together.

We made play dough, rolling and shaping the blobs until our snowmen were six balls deep and our snakes almost fell off the table. When the boys’ great grandma dug out her mini-rolling pin and cookie cutters, it added a whole new dimension to the fun. Never mind that I had to crawl around on my hands and knees later and pick up a gazillion gobs of dough. It was worth it.

But my favorite activity was fishing.

Yes, fishing. In January, in Upstate New York, we sat out in the back yard and cast with their new kiddie poles toward a giant puddle that had formed beneath our Willow tree. Instead of the usual snow and ice, the winter season has been strangely mild, and it was warm enough most days to play outdoors.

Julian picked up on casting like a pro, but Gordie couldn’t quite figure out how to press the button and release at the proper time. So, we did it together. Watching the plastic fish bob through the water was delightful, even though I ended up having to rescue the fish from the apple tree branches several times. More often than not, I ended up standing on the lawn chair with a rake to pull the branches down, but it worked, and the fish were saved for yet another cast.

We cooked, too. Wonderful comfort food meals with homemade applesauce, fresh picked veggies like kale, collards, and sprouts, and mashed potatoes. My buddies helped, washing potatoes and adding ingredients. So what if the paprika sprinkled on the deviled eggs was a ¼ inch thick on some and missing on others? They tasted great and we scarfed them up in no time.

In addition to enjoying my grandkids fully, I was able to reconnect with two of my lovely daughters who came home for visits. We played cards, sat by the fire and talked, and took turns babysitting the two new puppies in the family. I also did lots of writing, caught up on correspondence, and actually completed some industrious cleaning projects that had been preying on my mind for months.

One of the best things about this time at home, however, was the lack of connectivity with the rest of the world. I was unplugged for ten days. No television, no radio, no newspapers. I retracted from all the violent sensational headlines, enjoying being cocooned by my excursions into superhero land and sleep hog heaven. I didn’t miss it. Not one bit.

Today I unplugged the Christmas lights. There was a twinge of sadness as I walked around the property, extinguishing the white lights that illuminated the yard for weeks, or the blue lights twinkling on the back porch. The two deer and Christmas tree flickered out with nary a tail swish or head bob – ready for next year’s display.

After four days of back-to-the-grind, I’m trying hard to hold fast to the memories and that lovely sensation of pretending to be retired. Sigh.

Now - how many days ‘til Easter?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Coming Home

The past nine days have propelled me from dizzying heights of joy to the depths of despair. I survived, and thankfully so did my grandson.

A rare new form of strep bacteria invaded Gordie’s baby lungs, aggravating his asthma. He wheezed, coughed, and struggled to breathe. I can relate, because I have asthma, too. Unfortunately, I passed on the genes that cause it and am still struggling with the associated guilt.

Gordon is a two-year-old with a sturdy build and curly copper hair. But when he lay inside the oxygen tent in his voluminous hospital gown, he looked frail. Tiny. The moisture coated the inside of the clear plastic walls of his tent and turned his hair into damp ringlets. I couldn’t look at the IV. The bloody spot beneath the layers of gauze made my stomach lurch, and the board they attached to it to keep him from bending his elbow made it worse.

For three days he stayed in the hospital with his parents in attendance, enduring six daily nebulizer treatments, slugs of massive antibiotics through IV, and the dreaded prednisone. Improvement was slow. Finally, after three long days, he came home.

Though still wheezing, Gordie ran from person to person and toy to toy – picking them up and playing as if he’d been away for a year. He jumped onto his tall fuzzy horse and cantered side by side with his three-year-old brother, Julian. He found his beloved turtle, and searched for his dinosaur – the one that looks like George’s dinosaur on “Peppa Pig,” his favorite cartoon.

He also picked up a few bad habits - understandably so. When things didn’t go his way, he screamed, “I don wannit!” I chilled to think of the times he must’ve said that to the nurses or doctors who hurt him while working so hard to keep his airways open. The only saving grace is he probably won’t remember the experience. He’s still laboring to breathe, but he’s home now.

This morning I choked up when he woke before the rest of the household and found his way up to my bed. I rubbed his peaches ‘n cream skin with the back of my hand and snuggled with him under the covers, thanking God for his recovery.

While Gordie was in the hospital, I stayed home from work to care for Julian. We visited Gordon and stayed in close touch; thankful he was in good hands. For the next four days, we spent time side by side.

My grandsons and I were always very close, even though they’re only two and three years old. But this experience cemented our bond even tighter. Though we worried daily about Gordon throughout this ordeal, Julain and I rejoiced in the gift of time together. My gardening buddy and I spent hours outdoors each day, from early morning until suppertime and sometimes beyond.

We planted a forty-foot triple row of onions and mulched beds with oat straw, watching bumblebees buzz around the flowers and listening to the symphonies of birdsongs each morning. We watched the progress of the peas, beets, lettuce and other seedlings as they sprouted and grew. The peas have over five leaves on each plant. We know. We counted.

Each morning, after breakfasting with Grandma, we’d march outside. Julian would say, “We have a lot of work to do today, Papa, don’t we?” I’d agree, listing our chores. We raked, chopped dead tree limbs, cultivated, and created most impressive burn piles. I continue to marvel at the intelligence of our little three and a half year old. Smart as a whip, he has a deep understanding of things around him, incessantly curious about the process of life. He uses words like “actually” and “absolutely” and makes me laugh when I realize how much like me he sounds. We both exulted in the therapeutic power of working hard together outdoors.

Things take time to grow. With time, seedlings turn to plants, given sun, rain, and good soil. Baby lungs heal, provided time and meds. Worries diminish, after hours in the sun with a little boy. And thankfully, life goes on.


This is a piece I wrote last summer - just thought it would be fun to share. Gordon (right) is now three, and Julian (left) turned four in October.

Thanks for stopping by. If you'd like to see some more photos of skyscapes, lakesides, gardens, flowers, or ghosts, please visit the LeGarde Mysteries website at: