Thursday, February 23, 2023


 The literary genre cozy mystery is defined in this way:

The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other. The amateur sleuth is usually a very likeable person—most often a female of “a certain age”—who is able to get the community members to talk freely (i.e. gossip) about each other. There may be law enforcement involved, but it’s the amateur sleuth who solves the mystery. Also, there are no gory descriptions of violence or explicit sex scenes. And if the mysteries appear as a series, it’s important to have engaging and interesting characters that the reader cares about and wants to know more about the lives of these people.

 From the beginning, I’ve been breaking some of these rules, since Augusta is a somewhat prominent resident of the city of Cincinnati. And while Augusta has some sleuthing skills, which she expands over the course of the series, the mystery is actually solved by Cincinnati Homicide Detective Malcolm Mitchell—though with Augusta’s assistance in various ways. Not the least of which is the romantic interest which appears quickly after a somewhat confrontational first meeting.

 Instead of community gossip, Augusta’s musical community is often involved in one way or another, since many of the victims (and sometimes the perpetrator) are also musicians. Unique to this series, I believe, is the inclusion of music in every book.

 Other elements we find in Augusta’s mysteries include social issues; for instance, organized crime is important to the plot in three of the books. International espionage pops up in one. My current w.i.p. (The Case of the Casanova Cantor) begins during the “long, hot summer” of 1967. The plot includes Augusta championing racial diversity in casting opera productions at the fictional school, The Conservatory. The KKK comes into the picture.

While Augusta and Malcolm are wild about each other, I close the door and turn off the lights when things begin to get heated. And I’ve managed to sidestep gory details about the murder victims, other than some clinical observations by the coroner—who also happens to be a musician. A friend of Augusta’s, he plays the organ sometimes at a church where she sometimes is a guest soloist.

 From comments I’ve received, I believe the people who most enjoy the series have become good friends with my protagonists. For me, that is one of the most enjoyable experiences in writing these books. To learn new things about my characters and share them with the readers.

 The first book takes place in the spring of 1963, and about six months pass between the events in each subsequent book, and the same length of time between publication. There has been a bit of a hiatus in the series following book eight, The Case of the Bogus Beatle, set in the late summer of 1966. 1967 was a turbulent year in this country, and I hesitated to move into that time period. But since these books are more mystery than cozy, I decided to forge ahead, and the result will be in readers’ hands sometime this coming spring.

 Here's the Prologue:

 The “long, hot summer” of racial unrest in the United States during the summer of 1967 exploded in Cincinnati’s Avondale neighborhood on the evening of June 12. Tension had been building in the city over several years. and it came to a head after the arrest and conviction of a Black man, Posteal Laskey, for several brutal murders. Many felt Laskey had been railroaded, and following a tense but peaceful protest meeting a rock was thrown, smashing through a window.

Chaos quickly ensued. Avondale was a changing neighborhood, where for many years a majority of its residents had been members of the Jewish community. At the majestic Rockdale Temple, a showcase of Reform Judaism in the city, confirmation rehearsal had been completed. The young people had just begun to exit the building and found themselves caught up in the disturbance.

Eugene Geller, Cantor for the Temple, along with several other adults—and with no little difficulty—managed to get the young people to safety. Once assured his charges were out of harm’s way, Gene attempted to return to the Temple to pick up his car.

By then, violent street fighting ensued. Noise, objects, and smoke filled the air as members of the Cincinnati Police Department squared off against the rioters.

Gene did his best to avoid being caught up in the fray. In the confusion of the melee, he kept in the shadows, dashing toward a corner, rounding a building…and disappearing without a trace.

Rockdale Temple, c. 1967

All of the "Augusta McKee Mysteries" can be found on Amazon

Saturday, February 18, 2023


In the story of Scheherazade, the monarch Shahryar, on learning of his first wife’s infidelity, had her put to death. He then vowed to marry a new woman each day and have her put to death the following day before she could be unfaithful to him. At least, that’s the story as I understand it. Needless to say, he eventually ran out of eligible women to marry, and the brave Scheherazade, who was a reader (love that part) and had collected many stories, offered to marry her king. On her wedding night, she told Shahryar a story but didn’t finish it as the sun rose. So he kept her alive to hear the end of the story.

She completed that story but began a new one which once again she didn’t finish. She did this for a thousand and one nights, during which time the monarch fell in love with her, and when she finally ran out of tales, he didn’t want to lose her.

I first heard about this when a very young girl by listening to Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral suite based on this story, so it’s no wonder that literature and music were firmly joined in my appreciation for both art forms.

And as I weave my current story, The Case of the Casanova Cantor, book nine in the Augusta McKee Mysteries … and my seventeenth book overall…I begin to feel like a modern-day Scheherazade. But I’m not answering to a despot in order to save my life. I’m finding a way to fill my remaining days, however many may be left to me, with two things that bring me joy…music and writing. At eighty-five, who knows how much longer I may be around to create new tales?

Since I began writing on May 6, 2013, this coming May I will complete three thousand, six hundred and fifty-two days (two Leap Years in that period) of weaving my tales. (Take that, Scheherazade!) Admittedly, I don’t sit at my computer to put words on paper (so to speak) every day, but they’re brewing in my head constantly. I never dreamed when writing my first book, How I Grew Up, that ten years later I’d still be at it.

Since I live with an elderly cat (Josey is fifteen) who spends most of her time sleeping, my distractions are primarily teaching people how to use their voices correctly so they can sing all their lives. I’m grateful I can continue to do this, and equally grateful to be in touch with several former students who share their activities with me.

How fortunate am I, in this turbulent time in both our country and the world, to be able to escape into my own world, meet wonderful characters, tell their stories, and share our music in my stories.

All my tales are available in both Kindle ebooks and print editions on Amazon. Take a journey through them and perhaps you’ll find something you will want to read!

Photo by Katy Burton, Pocono Cinema



Saturday, November 12, 2022



This morning, November 12, 2022, I  released my sixteenth book (fifteenth novel), And This Shall Be for Music.In many ways, I believe this is the book I’ve always wanted to write. The primary purpose of the book is to share the immense power music can have in our lives. I see it as the most powerful force in the universe, and I’ve said that in many different ways in most of my novels.

 I first met the character Lindsey Cameron when I was writing the two books in “The Cameron Saga.” In Memories of Jake, she was the much-longed-for and much loved first child of Andrew and Mary Cameron, born after Andrew had been treated for PTSD and had begun his successful career as an artist. Near the end of the book, we learned she hoped for a career as an opera singer. In Man with No Yesterdays we again encountered Lindsey and learned she was quite a determined young woman.

 Lindsey wanted me to tell her story, but in 2017 I obviously was not ready to do that and instead embarked on a series of murder mysteries which were great fun to write. The first two volumes in “The Augusta McKee Mystery Series” were released in 2019, and over the next three years, during which time our world turned upside down, writing the mysteries was truly an escape for me…going back to Cincinnati, the city I love most, and the 1960s, the time I lived there.

 After releasing book eight in the mystery series, I felt ready to tackle Lindsey’s story. I knew it was not going to be an easy story to tell—Lindsey had to deal with some extremely difficult situations as a very young woman. Near the end of her undergraduate study at the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, in the early spring of 1996, her two housemates were in a freak accident and one was killed, the other badly injured, including the loss of his lower right leg.

 I had written about four chapters in 2017 and went back to that material, which needed to be reworked. I began in December of 2021 and completed Lindsey’s story only recently. Writing a long, character-driven book after eight much shorter mysteries required a different rhythm to what I was doing, and many rewrites. But I think I’m ready for my new baby to meet the world. Early readers have given me very strong, positive responses, and all agree this book is the most powerful and most personal novel I’ve written.

From a beta reader, Ken Van Camp: “Wonderful job, your best book yet! I would recommend this book to people dealing with a great personal loss, as it does a beautiful job of showing people working through the grieving process, and coming out the other side of recovery. Of course, the music therapy is a strong and original theme, and the character development is outstanding.”

A long-time friend who has been active for decades in the entertainment and film industries agreed to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) and had this to say: “A tremendous piece of work that resonates in so many different ways—in particular the way music affects us in a way that nothing else does.”

 Comments such as these are definitely heartening. However, there is still that writer’s trepidation about releasing this work, in which I bare my heart and soul to the reader.

But that’s life, isn’t it? And in truth, it’s why I write. To share that which is my passion.


Available on Amazon, print edition and Kindle:


Monday, September 26, 2022



The fifth book I wrote, Memories of Jake, dealt with two brothers who served in Vietnam in the late 1960s-early 1970s, and the impact their service had on them and their families. Andrew, the older by two years, an artist and musician, enlisted from a sense of duty after his first year of college. His rakish younger brother Jacob, an athlete and ladies’ man, enlisted immediately after high school from a desire for adventure.

During Jake’s time in Vietnam, where he served as a Green Beret, a helicopter crash resulted in severe retrograde amnesia. He could remember a great deal about the world, but almost nothing of his past life other than a few early childhood memories. Such a memory loss meant he could not continue with what he had hoped for, a career in the military.

Eventually, Jake left home and lost all contact with his family for nearly two decades. His disappearance resulted in Andrew being hospitalized and treated for deep-seated mental and emotional problems. However, with good care and the love of his family, he recovered, but he never stopped wondering where Jake could be.

While writing Memories of Jake from Andrew’s POV, just for fun I wrote a short chapter in first person of a romantic tryst Jake had with Andrew’s college art teacher who found him attractive and charming. I shared it with Ashleigh Evans, my editor, and she loved it and thought I should include it in the book. We added a few such first person moments. Since Andrew was an artist, they are termed “Sketches” in the book.

When I reached the point of Jacob’s disappearance it became apparent to me I couldn’t finish Memories of Jake until I knew exactly what had happened to him. So, time out from one book while I wrote a fairly detailed outline of where Jake had been during those years. Readers of Memories of Jake often commented on how real a character Jake had become to them, and I knew then that I needed to tell Jake’s story in a second book.

Only, I let Jake tell his story in the first person. In Man with No Yesterdays, this great-grandmother attempted a novel by a young warrior. Except, of course, at that point Jake was no longer a warrior…and didn’t know who he now was. It became undoubtedly the greatest challenge I had set myself, and it took time and effort, but it resulted in a book many people have read and appreciated.

Jake’s memories from Vietnam were never recovered, but he met other vets, one of whom had served with him, and he told Jake about some of their experiences. The book required a great deal of research because Jake traveled from his home town in Pennsylvania, first south, then across the continent, and eventually into Canada. He met many people on his odyssey, and this author journeyed with him while learning a great deal.

My talented editor, Ashleigh, also an artist, painted a portrait of Jake as I had envisioned him. It later became the image on the book’s cover and the original painting hangs next to my computer. More than most characters, Jake is an integral part of my life.


If you read and enjoyed “The Cameron Saga,” you’ll appreciate my upcoming release, And This Shall Be for Music. The protagonist, Lindsey Cameron, is Andrew’s daughter, a talented, aspiring opera singer who learns how quickly our life can change.

Memories of Jake and Man with No Yesterdays can be found on Amazon 

on my author page

Saturday, August 27, 2022



During the forty-plus years I’ve had a private voice studio, I’ve been privileged to work with some unusually gifted students…students who have a naturally beautiful voice, excellent musical skills, an innate sense of musicality, and a passion for music. It has been immensely gratifying to see a few of them become professional performers, sometimes for only a few years, sometimes building a successful long-term career.

  I often say to these students: “We don’t choose music, music chooses us.” And I believe that to be true. However, being a Chosen One isn’t all smooth sailing. Especially in the World of Opera.

 Even when a young singer has “all the tools,” there are no guarantees. It’s a difficult and demanding profession. Singers in particular are musical athletes. They need to be in great physical condition and constantly care for the voice. They spend hours and hours learning new music, memorizing music, coaching, studying, and rehearsing. They must be willing to travel sometimes at the drop of a hat. Despite this, as one of my most successful students said at one time, “sometimes the best singers never make it.” The factor that can’t be ignored is luck—being in the right place at the right time, or being the right choice for a particular opportunity.

 My recent research into music therapy led me to wonder about the incidence of mental illness and emotional distress in this population (performers), and it was no surprise to learn that it is indeed higher than in the general population. These are by and large sensitive people who respond more intensely to the stressors they undergo as they attempt to build a career.

Yet a passion for music and the skills for performance are powerful motivators, and many people continue to pursue such a career. I for one am grateful they make this choice…for what would life be without the music they share with us? The reward goes far beyond receiving remuneration for their “work.”

 Magical moments can happen in a live performance…magical for both performer and audience alike. For a while, all else is forgotten, and together we enter into an unforgettable time and space which removes us from our day-to-day existence.


“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, 

flight to the imagination and life to everything.” 

– (attributed to Plato)

picture by Tristan Flanagan for cover of my book, "You Are My Song"

Thursday, August 11, 2022

In Memoriam: Robin Williams and Jerry Hadley

(originally published on August 11, 2014)

 “All is ephemeral, fame and the famous as well” – Marcus Aurelius

It was a shock to learn today that Robin Williams, known no doubt worldwide for his many talents, died at the age of sixty-three, an apparent suicide. It was impossible not to hear about it – it was splashed all over the social media and on all evening newscasts. What we are told is that Mr. Williams was, and had been, suffering from depression.

In one of those life is stranger than fiction parallels, I had recently been researching a very fine American singer, tenor Jerry Hadley, who also took his own life not many years ago, and apparently for the same reason, depression. Hadley had one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard. He was opera’s Golden Boy for a time, and sang all over the world for nearly a quarter of a century beginning in 1979. From what I have read about him, he was a generous and caring colleague, with charm and wit. He was a very good-looking man. He was a fine musician and was equally at home in the standard operatic literature and in contemporary works. He was also comfortable in musical theater.

He was married to a pianist, Cheryll Drake, whose photos show her to be as lovely as Jerry was handsome. She was his accompanist and mother of his two sons. It would seem Jerry Hadley had it all. Though his fame was not as widespread as Robin Williams, he was well-known and admired by opera lovers. 

And yet. In 2002 Jerry and Cheryll were divorced, and for five years he did not perform. Apparently he stopped singing, and suffered from a deep depression. Whether the depression preceded the divorce or the reverse was true, the result was the same: a beautiful voice was stilled. I read that in 2007 Jerry had begun a comeback, and it seemed he was on the threshold of a second career. There was a new woman in his life. And then on July 10, 2007, he apparently shot himself in the head, suffering irreversible brain damage. He was put on life support for a time, and after being taken off the machines died two days later, on July 18.

I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about Robin Williams’ death in the days to come, and perhaps learn more about the depression he suffered that caused him to end his life. Williams was a genius. It would be difficult to find anyone in this country who was not familiar with his work. Of his many films, two I admired greatly were Awakenings and Dead Poets’ Society. In recent years I don’t recall hearing much about his impromptu comedy, but for those of us who saw him on various television variety shows and watched him launch into an impossibly funny and brilliant routine, it can only be described as “awesome.” He was one of a kind.

So here were these two gifted men, still young (Hadley was fifty-five when he died), famous on at least some level, seeming to have all the things so many people aspire to. Yet both in such despair they chose to leave the world they seemed to have at their feet. Hadley’s depression we know was of long duration; it’s possible Williams’ was as well.

I’d like to think there may be a lesson here. Mental illness still carries far too much of a stigma. If we have friends we think may be in trouble, we have to learn to reach out to them. We have to learn to reach out to them.

Depression is a terrible disease, as we learned to our sorrow once again today. Godspeed, Robin Williams. You gave us much joy. How sad that it seems you had lost it.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Why I Write About Music


In my book Memories of Jake, the first in a series of two about brothers who served in Vietnam and how they managed to survive it, my character Andrew Cameron is an artist. Yet music is vital to his very existence. Andrew listens to music as he paints; it inspires him. Music provides hope, comfort, and healing throughout his life, through whatever challenges he must face. Music is also part of the happiness he experiences.

Music is in every book I write. How could it not be? As a child, my engineer father, whose avocation was playing the trumpet, frequently had recordings playing on the stereo in our home. Mostly classical orchestral music, which he loved and which I came to love as well. Like many young girls, I studied piano and ballet, learning more musical literature, and I eventually discovered opera at the age of 14 by listening to a Saturday Metropolitan Opera broadcast. It was, as I’ve said before, like falling in love, a love that has lasted a lifetime. Music has never failed me.

 I’ve had interesting responses to the music in my books. One reader’s review referred to my work as “music-centric” and I really like that description. Another reader, who hadn’t anticipated that music would permeate the pages, entitled her (one star) Amazon review of Eli’s Heart: “You should be an opera enthusiastic (sic) to really enjoy this.” Well, an honest appraisal from her point of view; the book is certainly full of music.The main characters are two musicians who meet at the age of sixteen.The young man, a piano prodigy,was born with a defective heart. Yet he and his love manage to enjoy a fulfilling life which includes his highly successful career—because of the music that brought them together and filled their lives.

That was my second novel, and I am now at work on novel number 15. The main character in this latest one is Andrew Cameron’s daughter Lindsey, who has wanted to be an opera singer since she was seven. The book begins in 1996, just before she completes her bachelor of music degree. It is definitely “music-centric,” and there is a great deal about the world of opera…among other things. (Maybe I should offer my one-star reviewer a complimentary copy?) Once again, my characters face challenges, and the music in their lives helps them to meet those challenges. So if you’ve read ”The Cameron Saga,” and choose to read And This Shall Be for Music when it’s released, you’ll revisit old friends and follow Lindsey’s path and that of her close friends and the man she comes to love.

 When I write about music, I describe it from the point of view of the listener or performer, or both. This excerpt is from the prologue to Memories of Jake. Andrew’s younger brother Jake has been missing for some years after returning home from Vietnam with retrograde amnesia, choosing to try to find the man he is now rather than struggle to recapture who he once was. Older brother Andrew receives a phone call from a sheriff in North Carolina, which is where Andrew was last seen. Human remains have been found and since Jake’s is an unresolved missing person case, it’s necessary to have them tested. Andrew hears back from the sheriff and puts on a recording to help him deal with this new crisis.


 Listening to this music always helped him reconnect with all the good in the universe, and when the second movement of Brahms’ Requiem started, Andrew was able to focus on the music and let it wash over him. The repeated timpani beats seemed to him the broken heartbeat of all humanity; the stately chords led into the chorus singing softly:

 Behold, all flesh is as the grass,

And all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.

For lo, the grass withers,

And the flower fades away.

 The orchestra returned, the chords changed and the powerful forward movement of the music culminated in the chorus now bursting forth full force with the repeat of the opening phrase and then dying away softly. But Brahms wasn’t done yet. An a cappella section was like a light playing through the gloom:

 Be patient for the coming of the Lord.

See how the farmer waits patiently

To receive the rain.

 The entire first section was repeated. Then came the part Andrew found so powerful he had to remind himself to breathe. A complete change of mood, the sun bursting forth and completely destroying the darkness:

 But the word of the Lord endures forever …

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

 Andrew had been introduced to the Brahms Requiem when he returned to college after his tour of duty in Vietnam. He had felt lost for a time, unable to shake the experiences of the war, no matter how hard he tried to forget them. He needed some way to reconnect with the boy he had been before he left: the boy who loved art and music and beauty and peace. Brahms’ music helped bring him back; it spoke to him of hope and a great promise. Death is not the end, it proclaimed. Not even for his lost brother, no matter what may have happened to him.


The remains uncovered in North Carolina, Andrew learns, are not Jake’s. Hope remains alive for his missing brother.

 Writing this book was a wonderful, gripping, emotionally wrenching, yet uplifting journey. It wasn’t easy to write, and it isn’t easy to read. But many readers have found it well worth the journey it took them on. Memories of Jake is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

To order: