Thursday, August 29, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Aaron Paul Lazar

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Aaron Paul Lazar is visiting my blog today. To read his bio and see his photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Aaron is running a contest for a free electronic copy of the latest book in his young adult Gus LeGarde series, Don't Let the Wind Catch You, the cover art for which appears above. Aaron will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post. He will give away a Kindle compatible copy and a Nook compatible copy, so be sure to specify which format you would like in your comment.

In the book, when young Gus LeGarde befriends a cranky old hermit in the woods who speaks to an Oneida Indian spirit named Penaki, he wonders if the man is nuts. But when Penni rattles tin cups, draws on dusty mirrors, and flips book pages, pestering them to find evidence to avenge her past and free her from earthly bondage, things change. What Gus doesn’t understand is why his mother hates Tully. His relentless digging reveals a hint of scandal about Tully and Gus’s maternal grandfather, Marlowe Wright. Can his natural compassion help him accept the not-so-normal facts about Tully and Marlowe?

On horseback, Gus and his friends ride through woods overlooking Conesus Lake, following Penni’s trail to an abandoned house reportedly infected with the deadly Genesee Valley Fever from the 1700s. Unafraid, they enter and make an astounding find that could rewrite history. Gus summons courage beyond his years in this poignant and powerful telling of the sultry summer of 1965.

Sounds like a very interesting read to me, even if you aren't a young adult! Below is Aaron's guest post.

An Indian Soul by Aaron Paul Lazar

I’ve always been fascinated by Indian* culture. Not from a touristy point of view, mind you, but more from a strong, unyielding pull that comes from deep inside me and seems to grow stronger with every year.

I’m not sure why this is happening, but I do know I have some native blood flowing in my veins. My grandmother told me that one of her French Canadian ancestors married a native woman. I’ve been proud of that fact all my life, but went along blindly accepting the fact without asking more questions until it was too late. My grandmother and father both died in the same year—1997—and there’s no one else to query about which tribe my great, great, great grandmother may have belonged to, or where she lived in Canada. I do know that my grandmother was born in a little town named Beau Rivage, near Quebec, and that it no longer exists because of an intentional flooding done to create a lake, or some such thing. Some folks have suggested our tribe was the Metis, but I have no proof. I never asked my grandmother more than that. Sigh. I really wish I had.

But there’s something inside that draws me to the woods and outdoors with such a visceral pull, I can’t resist. I’m deeply happy when I’m hiking in the woods, tending my gardens, or sitting beside the Sacandaga River. I frequently imagine what life would have been like as an Indian brave—hunting, tending orchards, managing crops, running through the woods all day. It’s more than an occasional speculative thought. I seem to think about it a lot.

I believe God intended us to live as one with nature, managing our woods and fields carefully, without chemicals. This concept starkly contrasts with the lives many of us have now, sitting in an office behind a computer screen. Our bodies aren’t meant to do that, they’re meant to move and bend, with the strength and agility that comes from activity. If only we could somehow recapture the beautiful, natural ways of our ancestors who lived and nurtured the land, I know we’d eliminate high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and more.

When I started to write my Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, the sequel to Tremolo: cry of the loon, I decided to make the ethereal spirit who shows up in chapter 1 an Oneida Indian.

The Iroquois Nation, whose people call themselves the Hau de no sau nee, consists of six individual tribes located in the northeastern region of North America. The Six Nations includes the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. I chose the Iroquois tribes because I know people of this tribe once lived and walked on the same trails I frequent, and it seemed fitting, you know?

Penaki, or Penni, as she’s affectionately known, pesters young Gus and his friends to find evidence in an old abandoned house that is rumored to still harbor the virus for the Genesee Valley Fever, which killed hundreds in the late 1700s. She needs to be avenged by having the truth come out, so she can be released from her earthly bonds.

When I write about Native Americans, whether it’s Don’t Let the Wind Catch You or my new Tall Pines series, I feel most inspired while sitting by the Sacandaga River in Hope, New York, or hiking the deep woods nearby. I picture the land before roads bisected its wild beauty, before electric poles marred its view, in a time when man had to rely on his skill and wit to survive.

Like I said, I’ve always been fascinated by this culture. In lieu of going back in time to live life among the trees and rivers, I guess I’m creating a new world, where treachery may lurk around each corner, but where natural beauty abounds, as well.

I’m definitely enjoying the ride.

You can read the first chapters in Don’t Let the Wind Catch You by clicking on the title. Let me know what you think by contacting me at aaron.lazar AT

*I’ve read a lot of books on Indians lately, and have been educated to discover that most tribes don’t like being called Native American. They prefer either their tribe name (like Seneca or Cherokee), or native people, or Indian. So I’m trying to dump the PA term from most of my discussions to honor them.

Thanks Aaron! Now, who has a comment or question for Aaron Paul Lazar? Good luck in the contest!


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Good morning, Beth and friends. Thanks for having me here today! I've decided that if your readers all have Kindle or Nook, it won't matter. I'll choose two to win free eBooks of either type format. Also - Don't Let the Wind Catch You seems to be capturing many adults' hearts. It's a book that spans the ages, suitable for teens to adult.

I love to discuss the writing process or anything to do with my characters, the inspiration for the series, and more. So if you have questions, feel free to ask!

Best, - Aaron

Dee Callahan said...

Aaron can you tell us what got you into writing and who or what is/was your inspiration? Thank you, Dee Callahan

Cheryl said...

Great post, Aaron. One of my other favorite mystery writers (Marilyn Meredith) has a series featuring a Native American deputy in a small town.

Having read, Don't Let The Wind Catch You, I can tell you I loved Penni: how she did what she did and why.

Can you tell me how you came up with the title? I know it's a line from the book, but I was wondering what made you use it? Is it because of Penni?

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, continue with the wonderful success of 'Don't Let The Wind Catch You'. I'm reading it now and loving it, as I do all your books!


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hello, all! It's wonderful to see you here today. I'm going to answer all your questions - bear with me, I love to talk about this stuff, LOL.

First of all, Dee - thanks for asking about my inspiration. To tell the truth, this whole writing obsession starting back in 1997 when my father died. It simply killed me - I was a total wreck. I started taking long walks in the fall woods, and trying hard to deal with the loss. I'd go back and write poetry about my feelings, and it felt SO good to have an outlet, I decided to start writing a mystery series to honor my father. As a testimonial to Dad, I created the adult Gus LeGarde, which you will meet if you read Double Forte', Upstaged, Mazurka, FireSong, and more. My father was a music professor, loved animals and kids, had a huge garden, and lived in the country - all like me, except for the music prof part. I play piano, but very poorly. Anyway, that was the whole start. Once I began writing, it was like I was bit by a bug. I couldn't stop. I craved it. And it is still going strong today, 21 books later. ;o)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Cheryl and Joan. Thanks so much for your kind comments and for your question, Cheryl. When I was two years old, my earliest memory has to do with my maternal grandmother. She is the character upon whom I based Millie Stone. (And Oscar is based on my grandfather, her husband). Gramma used to take my little hand and run with me across the yard, saying, "Don't Let the Wind Catch You," over and over again. I would laugh and laugh and run with her, thinking it was the best adventure in the whole world. So, to honor her, I decided to name the book DON'T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU. Neat, huh? By the way, Penni just introduced herself to me as I started writing. I actually had no idea I'd add a little ghost to this story - but she had very distinct ideas! ;o) Thanks for stopping by today, Cheryl and Joan. ;o)

Janette Harjo said...

Hi Aaron!
"Don't Let The Wind Catch You" sounds like a MUST READ! You mentioned toward the end of your post how most of the native folk don't especially like being called Native American. Being of native bloodlines myself, I'm the same way.
I stopped using the NA term after I attended the University of Washington and a class I took there enlightened me to the fact that NONE of us are "Native American." This land was NOT America when the Europeans arrived here. we are Native, yes, but not Native AMERICAN.
I, therefore, prefer the term "indigenous" when I refer to myself or others like me. I could talk to you for days concerning the lineage, but I won't take up the space here. :)
I Look Forward to reading your book!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hello, Janette! So nice to have you here today. I'd love to chat with you sometime about your lineage. Fascinated with the subject. "Indigenous" - neat! Good luck with the contest. Do you read with a Kindle?

Beth Groundwater said...

Keep those comments coming, folks! Aaron will respond to them tomorrow, too, and he will announce the names of the winners in his contest tomorrow evening here. Check back to see if you won.

Your questions and comments have been fascinating!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

By the way, Cheryl, I also love Marilyn Meredith. I read Raging Water and loved that main character, Tempe, too. ;o)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Wow, how much fun to see my name bandied about in such a positive way.

Good post by the way, and I loved reading the different comments.

My Native American friends that I know the best prefer being called Indian, and I have a another friend, who likes to be identifed as a Tolowa native.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marilyn - very cool! Your two friends' feelings match what I've heard a lot of - either Indian or the native tribe seems to be preferred. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Ward Whitehorn said...

Hi AAron Having read your info here and the subsequent comments, i'm sold. I'll be looking to read "Don't let the wind catch you" very soon.

Kindest Regards, Ward Whitehorn

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

It's time to announce our winners! I'm pleased to announce that Dee Callahan and Janette Harjo have won eBooks of DON'T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU! Ladies, just email me with your choice of Kindle or Nook formats (.mobi or .ePub) at aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com. I'll get your prizes right over to you!

Thank you, Beth, for hosting me this week. What a blast we had, huh? And thanks for all the folks who commented and asked wonderful questions. Have a terrific Labor Day Holiday if you're in the USA. ;o) - Aaron

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much for visiting, Aaron!