Author Archives: Peggy A. Edelheit

An excerpt from #8, The Lush Life

An interview with Samantha

Looking Back At Vol.1 The Puzzle

An excerpt from the The Lush Life

lush-life 

the puzzle

First thing I noticed: my interviewer appeared nervous. Her foot was tapping a mile a minute on the floor, as she glanced down to reread from her notepad resting on her lap. Why the unease? I was the one being scrutinized here. Or did she think she was? Was she worried I was analyzing her? After several mysteries under my belt, I noticed I have that effect on people. She did admit it was her first interview with an author of my stature.

My stature? I had to laugh at that. No pretense here.   Continue reading

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Peggy’s Post: Gaining Perspective

peggyAccording to the dictionary, perspective is the ability to perceive things in their actual comparative importance. And by looking at the past, you are thus able to gain perspective on the present. But what is the point of gaining an accurate point of view if you don’t have the ability to see it for what it is? If you get lost in the details, you then lose the sense of the larger whole. You are ignoring the obvious. You miss the key point. You have tunnel vision. Continue reading

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The Diary

peggy I remember getting my first diary. It was one with a lock and key. This was an event. But what would I write? It didn’t come with a set of instructions. There had to be some magical secret because my sister treated hers like gold. She was an older sister: older enough in years for me to be constantly in her hair. But I was desperate to start writing and had to know that secret. I had no choice but to start spying. Continue reading

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Father, A Portrait

peggyFather. A word so easily said and yet, “Can one really fathom the meaning of such a powerful word?” To each one there is a different meaning, I guess. To me? It’s something that goes very deep, embedded in the depth’s of my heart, and the very root of my being.

When he died, I lost a father, mentor, best friend and confidant that was irreplacable. Continue reading

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Heartless And Heartfelt

peggyWhen those two words come into play in the same story, and they have countless times over and over, as an author, I am intrigued by the individuals, whether real or imagined, who get caught up in it. I also know that it is simply a matter of degree, how far or how little they play out. In my Samantha Jamison mystery series human interaction is a constant. And so this timeless subject brings to mind a true story I’d like to share with you about how someone felt after a heartless and heartfelt scene played out in the Frankfurt train station of all places. Continue reading

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Ah, Paris… We’re sleeping where?

peggyAt first, I was leery, but traveling through Europe by car had been fun.

My husband said, “We don’t need hotel reservations. We’ll be just fine.” Continue reading

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I Remember

peggy I remember when I was a little girl sitting on the piano bench next to my mother, my legs swinging freely because they were too short to reach the floor, enthralled, watching her hands float over the ivory keys, hearing her soprano voice singing along, and being transported to another place by the sheer pleasure of it.

I remember my father nurturing and tending his irises, grapevines, and fruit trees when he wasn’t working. I always preferred playing hide and seek with my friends in my yard because I would always sneak behind the grape trellis and pluck away at the grapes as fast as I could, hoping no one would find me. Afterward, I would sit in the crook of a fruit tree, my legs dangling, biting into a pear or peach, and then wipe my sticky hands on the grass and running to my next adventure.

I remember my mother cutting a small bouquet from her numerous rose bushes still wet from the morning dew and wrapping them with wax paper for me to take to my teacher.

I remember in the summer sitting on the back porch step with a freshly-plucked ripe tomato from my father’s garden, sprinkling salt on top, and taking that first bite as the juices squirted all over me and giggling from the wonderful taste.

I remember my mother never wrote down recipes, not even her favorites. So when I was older, I had her sit down and list the ingredients and instructions, which I promptly filed away, only to laugh years later when I was newly married and finally read them. It was trial and error on my husband’s palate, experimenting with her ‘touch of this and handful of that, with a pinch on top’ until I got it just right.

I remember reclining on the grass under the massive oak trees in our backyard daydreaming and reading my favorite book of the moment, being carried to another world, totally captivated, and thankful the library kept me well supplied.

I remember my father always had a book in his hand, too, whether it was historical, biographical, or a scientific journal while I sat in his lap pretending I was reading it, too. He would often read three books, alternating from one to the other. Love for the written word was passed from father, to daughter, to my three children.

I remember racing my bicycle down the hill of our street throwing my hands up in the air and feeling the wind rake it’s fingers through my hair, tossing it in all different directions. It was exciting to feel free and race against the wind. To this day, the small scars on my knees are a constant reminder of those thrill-seeking rides that occasionally ended with me spread-eagled on a neighbor’s lawn, laughing.

I remember the joy, the heartache, the laughter, the pain, and the numerous celebrations of the births and deaths of the lives of those I’ve loved and lost.

I remember the birth of my three sons like it was yesterday.

I remember reaching the goals I set for myself, and those I never met.

I try to remember to stay humble and gracious to those who believe in me.

It is important for me to remember, to look back, to remind myself never to forget what molded me into exactly who I am today so I will always try to keep my adventurous spirit, my fearlessness, and my love of life.

And most of all, I try to remember what is important and what is not.

Chase your dreams and remember everyday is a blessing.

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The Snake

peggyMy three young boys were playing by our small waterfall moving large rocks at our log home in Highlands, NC (the setting for my first mystery, Volume 1, The Puzzle). They were hard at work hauling and dragging rocks to build a dam. My oldest son said his younger brother suddenly yelled out, “There’s a gigantic snake!” After getting a good look at it, our oldest son ran as fast as he could to go for help. I was in the kitchen baking cookies. He already knew how I felt about snakes and went straight for his father. My husband took the news in stride. He knew kid’s imaginations. They always exaggerated the size of things. He took his time strolling down that dirt road on our property wondering what kind of garden snake they managed to uncover.

He approached smiling, but then did a double take, stopping dead in his tracks. That snake was well over twelve feet long. My husband stepped back a pace and told our oldest son to quickly go back to the house and tell his mother to get his shotgun and cartridges from our locked gun case so he could bring them back to him. Our son ran back, hollering about what was going on. I handed over his father’s unloaded shotgun and he quickly flew through the door. I stared out the window, but they were too far away for me to see clearly. There was no way I was walking out there. I hate snakes.

I was told later on that our son gave the gun to my husband, who loaded the shotgun. He then waited so see what the snake would do, as he was undecided about shooting it. It wasn’t acting hostile. The snake then started to slowly slither toward the woods, but then it stopped. It turned around and rose straight up in the air about four feet, like someone was playing a flute then latched onto a branch with its head. It stopped and just stared at my husband at eye level, showing no fear whatsoever. The three boys and my husband could not believe what they were witnessing. My husband considered his dilemma. His young boys played in that spot everyday, and since the snake wasn’t slithering off like it should and wasn’t talking, the snake had to go. My husband didn’t want to take chances. He raised his shotgun and eliminated the potential future threat.

My husband then picked up a large branch, draped the snake over it and asked our son to go back to the house to show his mother the snake so I could see sheer the size of it, otherwise, I wouldn’t believe it. Well, I have to tell you it the wrong thing for him to do. I watched our son drag it back all excited. I had a fit. That snake was not entering our house. I beat our son to the door, took one look at how long that thing was, snatched that branch from my son’s hand and ran to the edge of our drive and heaved-ho. That snake went sailing over the cliff, branch and all.

Moral of the story to all potential predators vs. my children: Be cautious in the forest and pay attention where you walk or place your hands. ….Oh, and anything that remotely threatens the safety of my children better make sure they know how to fly first: dead or alive.

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A Perfectly Deadly French Mystery

86Aves-garden When I began the Samantha Jamison Mystery Series, Samantha made her debut as my protagonist in solving her husband’s death in The Puzzle in Highlands, North Carolina. Certain distinctive characters from that book went on to Book 2, Without Any Warning at the New Jersey shore. When it came time to do the third in the series, 86 Avenue du Goulet Book 3, I decided to take everyone to the French Riviera. Why? Well, we had a house there and I thought the property lent itself to make a very intriguing mystery.

It was an old estate property built in 1954 by a married couple. It was all stone, with stone courtyards and curved arches, surrounded by elaborate gardens. Here is an excerpt from Book 3 describing the mysterious gardens and why it was a perfect backdrop for my next mystery. This was the exact way the gardens presented themselves when we first bought the villa. I merely added the intrigue and mystery, and, of course the storyline.

…I hustled up the stone path, but was startled when confronted by a massive several-foot-high cactus. I barely edged around it and pressed on, briefly turning now and then; noticing the views of the Mediterranean getting better the higher I climbed. A few empty pedestals with broken shards caught my eye too. What happened to the statues?

So many pathways crammed this unusual upper garden, but then they always seemed to turn off to a narrower connected pathway, which automatically led you right back toward the villa. Why the strange maze of paths?

I stubbed my toe and looked down. In the dark, these paths could be hazardous. On the edges of the path, stones were angled in an upright pattern. Intentional?

Whoever initially designed all this must have had a specific purpose in doing it this particular way. Why? Was I over-thinking the garden’s strange quirks?
I turned back to view the villa and spotted that the flat surface of the roof over the garage was also paved with the same earthy colored stone. At the very end of it, two old cement angel statues faced each other. That was it. Nothing else was up there. Why were they the only things up there?

A metal, spiral staircase led up to them. Like a magnet, this property began luring me in and latching onto me. Why was the staircase locked at the bottom with a gate?

I finally reached the upper level area where an abandoned swimming pool sat in disrepair, the mosaic tiles around its perimeter falling off or missing. The unusual structure I had noticed from below was a collapsed cabana, a stark contrast to the well-maintained gardens.
Why the disparity between the pool and lush gardens?

I turned again. The panoramic view at this height was spectacular, but being on a timetable, I had to keep going. I paused once more at a gated ‘fruit cellar’ that I was tempted check out, but staying focused, I turned away instead and hastily walked out the back gate to head for Martine’s.

However, my fascination for the villa and its property wouldn’t let me go. I stole one last look at the gardens that seemed to be calling me back for further scrutiny. Strange. Something wasn’t right. I could feel it…

I also tried to capture the beauty of not only the property but the whole area in general in describing what Samantha saw the first morning she woke up at her leased villa and looked out her second floor terrace at the Mediterranean Sea.

…I stepped out onto the deck. The residential area and town of Les Issambres had not changed much since I was here a year before, just a few new villas and houses here and there had sprouted among all the beautifully landscaped properties dotting the mountainous terrain. Yachts and jet skis crisscrossed far below as the sun reflected off the sea’s surface.
To my left in the distance were the beaches of St. Raphaël jutting out into the water and the magnificent Esterel mountain ranges beyond. Off to my right in the distance was the lovely town of St. Maxine and the bay of St. Tropez.
I looked downward. The small manicured lawn off the living room directly below was shaped in a half circle, just like the upper terrace where I stood. A stone wall, three feet high, bordered it to protect people from falling below.
Part of that curved wall dropped about two stories to the neighbor’s house and their pool, and then it curved around to my villa’s side gardens. Red bougainvillea spilled over it and trailed to the bottom. If you didn’t know where the wall was, it appeared as a lush carpet of red, and although beautiful to the eye, to a veteran, it concealed lengthy thorns, as sharp and painful as miniature daggers.
The wall continued from the back to along the side of the villa where stone arches ran parallel, wrapping around to the front entrance. I looked far to the right where an expansive stone stairway descended from the kitchen patio to a mosaic, tiled fountain.
At the bottom of those steps a maze of pathways cut from the same stone sloped downward along the lower gardens that contained benches and flower-filled urns.
I leaned out further and noticed in one shaded corner a cement table and chairs under a blooming magnolia tree. Ah – a perfect writing spot. I felt as though I had stepped into a Monet painting. At every turn, a blended brushstroke of color! With my agent lambasting me for taking this vacation instead of staying focused for my next novel, it seems as though this burial mystery was just the ticket I was looking for. Apparently my next book was emerging and unfolding right in front of me…

Our neighbors really were Martine, Jean, and their dog, Sonia, as in the book. In the interim of writing this mystery Jean passed away, so I dedicated the book in memory of him with a special thanks to Martine. All the rest of the names in the book are fictitious. I did spend time working in the gardens with our French gardener and the location of all the other properties that surrounded us and their exact locations played right into the mystery, including the house with the red light across the way. The mysterious cat lady who came and went at dusk, slipping cat food under our garden gate really did exist.

All our neighbors were from Paris with second homes on the Riviera. They were always gracious and hospitable to us on every occasion and the complete opposite from which I described the neighbors in the book, then again, you never know. I mean, after all, this was fiction, right? Since then, we have sold the property and I explain in the beginning of Book 4, A Lethal Time what really happened (which was true) to the old villa and it’s property after Samantha and her ‘crew’ left.

Like I said, I merely added the intrigue and mystery, and, of course the storyline. …Okay, Okay, so maybe my characters had a little say in it.

P.S. This is the exact location of my Memoir, The Riviera Is Burning. This is where my family and I fled the famous French Riviera fires one summer and explains my fear of fire to this day. We were a very lucky family.

Chase your dreams and remember, everyday is a blessing.

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The Puzzle Desk

the puzzleWe were moving across town and were selling our smaller place mostly furnished, deciding we’d move the few things we were keeping ourselves. We both had good intentions, but as time wore on with all the packing and unpacking, loading the car and making quick runs back and forth, I found it was all heading south by the third day.

By the fourth day, I was donating, tossing, or leaving behind items I thought I would never part with. All that attachment, especially to the heavier pieces (not worth hiring a mover for) suddenly seemed not worth the effort. Did I really need this? Was it worth lugging several miles? Would it fit in our new place? What did I ever see in that piece in the first place? What was I thinking keeping it all these years?

I never thought I was capable of being so ruthless, but after several days and nights of sore muscles and lack of sleep, I was bordering on the edge. It was sort of like going through your closet and deciding on the keep and the donate piles. After several hours that emotional attachment started to wear pretty thin. All I kept envisioning was the time and effort involved in lugging all that stuff in and out of our SUV.

Normally I was a very easy-going individual, but several days into the big move, I was transformed into Sybil with multiple personalities. Happy, then depressed one minute and near hysteria the next. I wanted all this done. I wasn’t writing and was going toward the dark side from withdrawal. My schedule was no more. I was eating fast food from the drive-thru on the fly. Breakfast, lunch and dinner went by the wayside. Answering emails and twitter went down the toilet as well.

Where did I leave the normally pleasant, cheerful me? Was it in that keep or donate pile? Finally, on the last day for making final decisions about shutting the door one last time on the old and embracing the new, I walked into my old bedroom and there squeezed into the corner sat my desk, my puzzle desk. Yes, you guessed it. That was the desk where I wrote my first mystery, The Puzzle.

It was an old desk with multiple secret compartments. After a while, I thought I’d found them all, but I always managed to find another when I swore there were no more to be discovered. Just like in my mystery, The Puzzle, another secret was revealed. It was where I sat hour after hour: happy, sad, frustrated, brain blocked, pounding out clues and dialogue. I stood there just staring at it, but then decided that since I had moved onto other mysteries and embraced new horizons, that maybe my desk should too. Why not let someone else discover and unlock all those secrets just waiting to be revealed?

Besides, it was very, very heavy…

…It was day number eleven of our big move and the last of what we were taking with us was finally at the new house. We were on our way back from the store, when we decided to stop at the old place for one last look. I walked in and stopped dead in my tracks. Staring at me was The Puzzle desk. I looked at my husband and sighed…

“Can we make one more trip?”

Post Script:

We found an additional surprise puzzle piece when we went to lift (lug) it into the back of our SUV. The desk magically slid apart and separated into two large pieces, which made it not the heavy piece we originally thought to be! What a surprise! We stood there gaping and then laughed. Another puzzle piece was discovered, which cemented the deal to take it with us. Everytime I pass that desk to this day I smile, glad I brought my friend with me. Who knows there might be another surprise lurking somewhere in this old gal.

Chase your dreams.

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