By: Fred Yager, Jan Yager
ISBN-13: 9781889262017 $24.95 hardcover
In this novel of psychological suspense, a vicious killer sets out to silence anyone who might know the secret behind the untimely death of an attractive criminology professor, who was best friend and co-worker with Professor Kimberly Stone. Within a week, two other women are also murdered and the only living link to all three victims appears to be Professor Stone.
"UNTIMELY DEATH moves with the non-stop power of New York City itself, with characters guaranteed to hold the reader to the page all the way through. Detective Fiction has an exciting new voice in the Yagers."
—William Parkhurst, True Detectives
Published or Reader Reviews
"In their first novel, Untimely Death, husband-and-wife authors Fred and Jan Yager achieve the literary equivalent of a rookie who hammers a home-run in his first big-league at bat:The prose is smooth, with no puzzling moments to bedevil the reader: The Yagers have written a winner."
"The plot is excellent, the writing is great and suspense is maintained for about as long as any mystery author can keep adding to the goose bumps. In short, it's a page-turner of a thriller."
—Naples Daily News
"Several things happen during the course of this book, and the Yagers have done a good job of describing them. They've also managed to keep the solution under wraps until it's exactly the right time to reveal it."
—Syracuse Herald American
"Untimely Death is one of the most suspense filled novels I have read in ages:For everyone who enjoys a gripping tale, this novel will rivet their attention from beginning to end!"
—Bookviews (Alan Caruba)
"The Yagers keep readers engaged with a nicely paced plot, a love affair between the victims friend and the detective, and some spooky glimpses of the killer from the killer's point of view."
—The Advocate & Greenwich Time
"A fascinating piece of work."
—best-selling novelist Andrew M. Greeley
"Untimely Death moves with the non stop power of New York City itself, with characters guaranteed to hold the reader to the page all the way through. Detective fiction has an exciting new voice in the Yagers."
—William Parkhurst, True Detectives
About the Authors
Fred Yager is a business television producer, communications executive, and screenwriter as well as the author of six nonfiction and fiction titles including the novels Rex and Cybersona and co-author of two career books published by Facts on File, Inc.: Career Opportunities in the Publishing Industry and Career Opportunities in the Film Industry. Fred grew up in a small town in upstate New York with Hannacroix Creek flowing right behind his family's house. He has lived in Texas, California, New York City, and, since 1990, in Fairfield County, Connecticut with his wife Jan and their two grown sons. Fred's previous jobs include 13 years at the Associated Press as a reporter, entertainment writer and film critic, and 14 years at Merrill Lynch including seven years in charge of their business television division. In addition to his book and screenwriting projects, Fred runs his own communications company, World News and Information Network, Inc.
Jan Yager, Ph.D. (the former J.L./Janet Barkas) is a writer, sociologist, consultant, professional speaker, artist, and publishing entrepreneur whose areas of expertise include relationships and business issues including time management and work relationships. Jan's first book published by Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc., Friendshifts®, based on fifteen years of original friendship research, led to interviews on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, The View , National Public Radio, and other programs. Other books include When Friendship Hurts (published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.) as well as two career books by Facts on File, Inc. A prolific writer of fiction as well as nonfiction whose books have been translated into 14 languages, she is co-author of two suspense thrillers, Untimely Death and Just Your Everyday People. For more information, go to: www.drjanyager.com.
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Foreign, Subsidiary & Film Rights
Untimely Death was translated into Swedish and published by Kentaur Press of Malmo in 2000.
For inquiries about translations into other languages, as well as English reprint rights in the United Kingdom, Australia, or India, please direct your inquiries to: email@example.com or call (203) 321-8674.
For film inquiries, direct your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please note: co-authors Fred Yager and Jan Yager also have a completed spec screenplay of Untimely Death available for consideration as well as a pilot for a TV or cable series based on the novel entitled Crime 101 including synopses of episodes.)
For subsidiary rights, including reprints, contact: email@example.com
"When a Husband and Wife Collaborate* "
by Fred and Jan Yager
*This article originally appeared in the Spring 2001 issue of Mystery Readers Joumal® The Journal of Mystery Readers International®. Copyright © 2001 by Fred and Jan Yager. All rights reserved
If the act of creating is itself a mystery, then the act of creating a mystery is even more ambiguous. Which leads us to surmise that collaborating in such a complex endeavor is a virtual whodunit. In fact, one of the vague uncertainties in this obscure process is t he outright impossibility of remembering who done what.
When we collaborate, we bring to the process our own creative genes, visions, and talents that, when joined, form something uniquely different. There may be similarities between this new creation and those that we have created on our own, but it also becomes something altogether different.
In order for this collaboration to work, our two voices will dissolve into one. And as the novel evolves, it takes on not only a voice of its own, but also a life of its own as well.
As mystery lovers, we want to be surprised at every turn. In order for the ride to be thrilling, you can't know when the dips and turns are going to take your breath away. So we write with that in mind. We also strive to create interesting enough characters so that the reader will also want to take the ride.
If there's a formula for how character development and plot are supposed to blend, we don't have it. We're not sure anyone does. But it's that secret recipe that often separates what you like and what you don't. It's called individual taste and a good part of the mix involves the reader. With us, the collaborative process really starts with the rewriting. Until then, we're both pretty much doing our own thing, and we come at it from our distinct perspectives. The writing part is still pretty much a solitary activity since we exchange drafts and discuss our drafts but do not sit nearby. (However, our separate offices are right next door on the lower level of our house.)
For our first novel, Untimely Death (Hannacroix Creek Books, 1998) we went back and forth like this more than twenty times before we were comfortable with it. Then we rewrote it a half a dozen more times after that to get it just right.
With Just Your Everyday People (Hannacroix Creek Books, 2001), the process was a lot faster. Maybe ten rewrites from start to finish.
In both cases, the stories evolved from an idea Jan had. Untimely Death began with a detailed outline. Just Your Everyday People began as a dream. But we are both strong willed people, so we both were able to inflict an equal amount of our creative energy into the final product. Since we are both our own toughest critics, the book had to appeal to both of us. When we're both satisfied, that's when we're done.
Once the book was published, we thought it would be twice as easy to promote our novels since two authors for one book should mean that we could handle twice as many opportunities as one author. The reality proved to be quite different. Almost everyone, from bookstore event organizers and TV or radio talk show hosts to feature writers expected both of us to be involved in every promotional activity.
Recently, as we drove to a social engagement an hour away, we were discussing the plot of our third co-authored mystery. As we got into a heated debate over some of the key attributes of one of the leading characters in our new novel, we wondered what other married couples talk about on their long drives, or what we used to talk about before we started writing novels together.
"Taking My Hits, Following My Dream" An author of nonfiction discovers fiction's realities
By Jan Yager
*This article was originally published in Newsday newspaper, December 24-25, 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Jan Yager. All rights reserved.
I HAVE SPENT the last two decades as a successful author with 10 nonfiction books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles to my credit. I've also taught college and worked as a sociologist, consultant, and seminar leader.
But since the age of 10, I have dreamed of being a novelist. The books I cherished growing up - "Gone With the Wind." 'Marjorie Morningstar" and "Something of Value" - were all novels. However, the few times I got up the courage to send out my short stories or the novel I wrote when I was 25, the rejection letters devastated me. Into the drawer or closet those efforts (and dreams) went - for decades.
Writing nonfiction books was a lot more "doable" than fiction. The numbers were on my side: 45.000 nonfiction books published annually vs. 5,000 novels. Nonfiction was so much more concrete and tangible than oh-so-subjective fiction.
To the world. I had an enviable job. The book contracts came steadily, sometimes even two at a time. I appeared regularly on TV and radio, and had been profiled in People magazine and The New Yorker.
But I noticed something about my career: my first five books were written from my gut and I cared deeply about those issues - crime victims, where to get help, being single. But as I got more successful, and I began to take on assignments I call "OPP's." or "Other People's Projects," I found myself feeling as unfulfilled by my career as so many others seemed to be.
Then, in December 1991, I was offered a book contract, based on a proposal, for a subject I really cared about, but the advance was unacceptable. I said "no," and for the first time in years, my deck was completely clear.
Before I committed months or years to the next project, I found myself, on April 9, 1992 - I remember the exact day - sitting down at my computer and writing a novel, with a frenzy reminiscent of how I used to feel when I wrote nonfiction. With total commitment and without work distractions. I was finally pursuing the dream I had harbored since 10. I felt a rush through my entire body.
My arms ached as I typed 50 pages each and every day. It was only pain that forced me to stop each night.
Writing this novel about a criminology professor named Kimberly Stone was mesmerizing and energizing. As my characters told their stories through me. I felt a strong sense of creation surpassed only by the moment I fell in love with my husband or the birth of our two sons.
Each morning, I eagerly woke up at four o'clock so I could get at least three hours of writing in before anyone else awoke. Then I wrote for two hours while my youngest son was in nursery school, returning to the computer for another two or three hours after dinner.
I rewrote again, and again.
Finally, when I finished the 21st rewrite, I was ready to 'sign off" on the novel.
That was one year after I had begun.
Creatively it had been a fulfilling and exciting year: professionally and financially it had been a disaster.
I had basically abandoned my previous career. It's not that I made an announcement that I was writing a novel. I either stopped pursuing new writing or consulting assignments or turned down what was offered to me with a vague "I'm on deadline" excuse.
Our second income had pretty much dried up, but my husband never complained. Yet I was still incurring business expenses for paper, printer cartridges, photocopies, and long distance telephone calls.
As I rewrote, I sent the novel out, obtaining enthusiastic endorsements and encouragement from best-selling authors Andrew Greeley and John Lutz.
But no one was buying my novel. First I went to an agent. When he failed to sell it, I went directly to publishers. Although I came close to selling it twice, and most of the editors who read it were full of praise, the rejection letters piled up.
I didn't throw in the towel. Instead, I wrote a second novel.
Then, 18 months after I threw caution to the wind, I suddenly said, "Enough." I wanted to earn my own money again. I wanted professional acceptance. I missed being published!
So I returned to my old career, but with renewed respect for how lucky I was to be getting published, and. paid, even if it was nonfiction. I also found out there are consequences for being "out" of a career for a period of time. It took a few months to get back into the swing of what I used to do and to renew, or start fresh, business relationships.
No, I'm not abandoning my dream. I'm even finishing a third novel. I have a new agent and know that it's just a matter of finding the right editor at the right publishing house.
I'm also pursuing another dream: becoming an independent filmmaker. But this time, I'm pursuing my dreams in addition to my proven, more secure and lucrative career. I'm not ashamed to admit that I also need some professional immediate gratiication in my work.
I recently read a first-person account by an actor who "crossed over" into screenwriting and, within a year, wrote and sold three screenplays (and had his first child the first day a film started shooting). But I suspect his story is the Hollywood version of what happens when you try a new career. I'm probably more the reality of just how hard it is for those dreams to quickly come true.
I still think my dreams are worth pursuing, however. And I have even found that my nonfiction writing is better because of writing and rewriting my novels. It's more fluid. Clearer. More confident.
I know, someday, I'm going to have the happy ending that actor had when he "crossed over." The important thing is that I'm pursuing my precious dreams. And in the meantime, I'm supporting myself with work that I'm good at, in an industry in which I've already made a name for myself. I've taken the risks to pursue my dreams, and I'm putting in the work, so, with a little bit of luck or mazel, I know my dreams will come true.
You Won't Do It Unless You Start With a Solid Plan
1. Work on your career dream - don't just fantasize - whether you do it full time or part time.
2. If you plan to pursue your career dream full time, make sure you have enough money to live on for the period of time you estimate you will need till your new career takes off.
3. Consider keeping the door to your current job open, if possible, by getting a leave of absence or a sabbatical.
4. However quickly or slowly it takes for your career dream to come true, try to enjoy the journey.
Please note: Four years after this article was published, instead of letting publisher rejection letters determine whether or not her first novel saw the light of print, Jan Yager had her novel about criminologist Kimberly Stone, co-authored with her husband Fred Yager, published to excellent reviews and enthusiastic readers - the Associated Press reviewer wrote, "The Yagers have written a winner." - by Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc., the independent press that she founded in 1996. Entitled Untimely Death (1998), a Swedish edition was published by Kentaur Press in 2000. Jan's second novel, Just Your Everyday People, also co-authored with Fred Yager, (called "a fast-moving story with a well-constructed plot" by Barbara Buhrer in www.mysterybooks.com) was published in 2001.
Jan has not abandoned her dream of having a movie made based on her writings. Completed spec screenplays of Untimely Death and Just Your Everyday People, written by Fred and Jan Yager, including a TV pilot version of Untimely Death entitled Crime 101, with episode synopses for a TV or cable series, are available for sale. (FYI: Three business videos have been developed by Mindleaders.com, based on Jan's published nonfiction books and her treatments for the videos, with Jan providing accompanying learning materials, for these titles: Creative Time Management for the New Millennium, Business Protocol, and Effective Business and Nonfiction Writing. For more information, go to: http://www.mindleaders.com).
Jan's first solo novel, The Binge , is completed; she is looking forward to its publication by Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. in the future. Ask to be placed on the mailing list to be notified when The Binge is available for sale or contact your favorite local or online bookseller to preorder the novel. For more information on this author, go to: http://www.janyager.com/writing. For permission to reprint this article, contact the copyright holder: firstname.lastname@example.org
Links of Interest
Here are other sites related to mysteries: (Checked 11/30/08, initially compiled by Jan Yager on 6/29/2005)
Please note: This list is provided for informational purposes only. None of the content, including information or images, on any of the web sites nor the companies or associations listed are endorsed or recommended. Furthermore, since information can change frequently, we apologize if any of these links are out of date.
ClueLass.com and the Mysterious Home Page
Extensive website related to mysteries including an online version of the Deadly Directory with listings of mystery authors, booksellers, and publishers.Created and maintained by Kate Derie.
Mystery Writers of America
Association of mystery writers as well as those involved in the mystery business, such as agents, publishers, or booksellers. Sponsors the annual prestigious Edgar® Awards, named after author Edgar Allan Poe.
Mystery Internet discussion list for authors, librarians, booksellers as well as mystery fans and enthusiasts. Has very distinct rules about what, how, and when to post to the list so read through their website and be aware of their list's rules.
Extensive site for book enthusiasts developed and maintained since 1994 by Ann Chambers Theis. Includes author pages, reviews, featured sites, and more.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Discussion Points
1. Describe the role of secrecy in the novel. How is it a factor in Joan Walsh's murder? What is student Wayne Clark's secret? Does criminology professor Kimberly Stone have a secret? detective Alan Blake? Joan Walsh? Charlotte Katz? Bill Gardner? Richard Meyer? the housekeeper? How did secrecy shape the killer's formative years?
2. Untimely Death is, in part, the story of how a crime impacts on everyone touched by it: the murdered woman Joan Walsh, her best friend Kimberly Stone, Joan's boyfriend Bill Gardner, the boyfriend's young son, the investigating detective, the victim's parents, and the students and faculty where she worked. One critic (Danny Yee) wrote that the novel had "an unusual insight into grief." How did each of the characters deal with their grief following Joan Walsh's murder?
3. The critics are calling Untimely Death "a riveting thriller." How do the Yagers create suspense in their novel? What are the parts that were especially suspenseful to you?
4. The novel begins with Kimberly Stone getting flipped by Richie at her weekly self-defense class. Throughout the novel, Kimberly, "a theorist but not an activist," as the Associated Press wrote, evolves as she becomes more aggressive and active. What are some of the situations where she is passive? When is she more active and in charge? Dr. Stone goes from a professor who discusses the causes of crime to an amateur sleuth. How do you think participating in the actual solution of a homicide will influence the way Dr. Stone will teach her criminology classes?
5. Friendship is another theme in Untimely Death. At the end of the book, the authors write about Kimberly Stone, "As she leaned back until her head pressed against his chest, she silently mourned the loss of one friend while letting herself feel the warmth and comfort of another." How did those words affect you? Where does this scene take place? Who is the other friend that Kimberly is referring to and is that relationship more than just friendship? How would you describe the friendship Kimberly had with Joan Walsh?
6. Why do you think the authors began the novel focusing on Kimberly Stone in her self-defense class rather than Joan Walsh's murder? How would switching those sections of the books have changed the emphasis or tone of the novel?
7. When did you guess the identity of the killer? Were you surprised? Were there any clues that you missed? One reviewer wrote, ":you solve this mystery by carefully matching the killer's thought patterns with the behavior of the characters in the book. I haven't seen this technique used before." What do you think he meant by that?
8. What does the title, Untimely Death, mean? How and when does that theme recur in the novel?
9. What themes, experiences, or emotions in your own life were invoke by the Yagers' novel? What character did you relate to the most, and why?
10. What ideas in Untimely Death do you find particularly absorbing or interesting? Why? What did you think of the artificial daisy in the victims' ears? What was the symbolism of the artificial daisy?
Selected Additional Readings
Contemporary Crime Novels
Higgins Clark, Mary. Loves Music, Loves to Dance. NY: Pocket Books, 1992.
Lutz, John. Single White Female. NY: Pocket Books, 1990.
Harris, Thomas. Silence of the Lambs. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1991.
Classic Crime Novels
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. Translated by Michael Scammell. NY: Washington Square Press, 1972; 1866.
Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy. NY: New American Library, 1964; 1925.
Stendhal. The Red and the Black. Translated by Lloyd C. Parks. NY: New American Library, 1970; 1830.
Media and Other Inquiries
To book Fred Yager or Jan Yager for a TV, radio, or print interview, send an e-mail to the publicity department at Hannacroix Creek Books,Inc.:
email@example.com or fax (203) 968-0193. (For urgent requests only, call (203) 321-8674.)
You may also send an e-mail directly to the authors: firstname.lastname@example.org (No attached files, please).