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Meet Sally Handley . . .

I’m always amazed when I read about authors who seem to have always known they

wanted to be writers and who also seem to have followed an unerring straightforward

path to publication. Me? Not so much. Oh, I dabbled a little with writing stories and a bit

of rhyming poetry as a child. But I was more of a reader than a writer. When I graduated

from college with a degree in English Language and Literature, I had a hard time finding

a teaching job, so I spent a year as a clerk/typist, a job that didn’t require any

imagination whatsoever. After work in the evenings, I again tried my hand at writing a

few short stories which I submitted to magazines, all of which were summarily rejected.

Easily discouraged, I gave up.

A year later I landed a job teaching ‘Language Arts’ to middle school students. (At least,

I hope I taught them something.) Of course, there is no time to write when you’re a

teacher--barely any time to even read anything more than the weekly compositions you

assign your 130+ pupils. After six years in the same classroom with the same textbooks,

I suffered burnout. I made the much-discouraged decision to abandon my tenured

position and take a job as an administrative assistant. After one year I was promoted to

the marketing department because—you guessed it –I could write.

I spent the next 25 years having any remaining drops of creative wordplay wrung out of

me as I churned out proposals, press releases, staff bios and project descriptions.

Eventually, I opened my own marketing consulting practice where I taught classes on

marketing to professionals. I even created a writing class for marketers. It was so much

fun that I got the brainstorm to look for other opportunities to teach writing. On a fluke, I

sent my resume to a local community college and got selected to teach English

composition as an adjunct faculty member. Well, I enjoyed that so much, that I decided

to shutter my consulting practice and devote the end of my career to teaching.

So, at this point, you’re probably asking yourself, what was Peg Roche thinking when

she invited me to do this guest blog. Well, I’m getting to that.

Picture it. The summer of 2011. My sister and I are sitting in the gorgeous garden of the

Daniel Webster Inn on Cape Cod. We were admiring the flowers and I said something

about Rosemary and Thyme, the PBS series that featured two women gardeners as

amateur sleuths.  Suddenly I got the spark of an idea. Wouldn’t an American version be

great…a series about two sisters who garden and solve mysteries? And so that’s where it all began. I started writing and quickly realized that years of business and academic writing had pretty much deadened any creative writing skills I had as a child. I needed help. I discovered the International Women’s Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime and Malice Domestic [BTW, I’ll be on a panel at this year’s Malice Domestic entitled: Love and Murder: " Rom-Cozies ".] Then I enrolled in a monthly writing class with author Lauren B. Davis. Slowly, my creative writing skills improved.

In May 2017 I published my first cozy mystery, Second Bloom, the first in my Holly

& Ivy mystery series. Last Fall I published The Mystery of the Bogus Blooms, the 6th

book in the series. I was on a panel at the PSWA Conference last year and we were

asked if there is an optimal number of books for a series. I don’t think there is. I just love

Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series set in Venice. Book 33 in that series comes out

later this year. I actually had to make myself slow down between books because I didn’t

want to reach the end of the series. Same with Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody

series. I read all 23 books and when enough time passed, I started reading them over.

So, no I don’t think there is an optimal number of books for a series, especially cozies.

The only limit is the writer’s imagination.


When Holly Donnelly gets invited to speak about home composting at Pineland Park Community College’s Eco-Fair, the last thing she and her sister Ivy expect is to become involved in, not one, but two murder investigations. Throw in a controversy over a student GMO experiment that yields unexpected results, and once again the gardening duo find themselves called upon to help those falsely accused.  Are the murders and the experiment connected? Can the stalwart sisters find the real killer and save the students’ scholarships? Not without a little help from their friends. Joining them to solve the mystery are trusted allies from past adventures, Kate Farmer and her neighbors, Benny and Razor, along with the plucky Peppy Alvarez and rookie FBI agent Nicky Manelli.


While cozy mysteries are my first love and I have plenty more ideas for Holly and Ivy

adventures, I do get occasional inspiration to write something different. After I attended

my town’s Citizens’ Police Academy, I wrote a stand-alone suspense novel, Stop the

Threat. The class was conducted by the local School Resource Officer whose topic was

the Active Shooter. Having been a classroom teacher, I always cringe when people say

the solution to school shootings is to arm the teachers. When someone in our class

suggested that, I asked myself what might really happen if we armed our teachers.

Once the ideas started flowing, I just had to write that book. Trust me, it’s no anti-gun

diatribe. I just wanted to show that arming teachers was not the easy answer some

might think it is.

Last year a friend gifted me with a book entitled Kindling the Celtic Spirit. I don’t

generally read non-fiction books, but I started on this one as soon as I got it. And BAM!

I immediately got the idea for a Celtic fantasy book that I’m now working on. And what a

lot of fun writing this one is! I can let my imagination soar and not worry about red

herrings and murder suspects.

So that’s been my writer’s journey, long and often circuitous, or perhaps more spiral-like

as the ancient Celts believed, winding in a continuous curve around a central point –

that point, for me, being writing. Not sure where this journey will take me, but for now

I’m just going to enjoy the ride.


Thanks, Sally, for your guest posting. You have had a fascinating journey! For those of you out there hearing all the discussions about teachers having guns in our schools, particularly those with kids still in school, Sally's Stop the Threat is a great look at the pros and cons from a teacher's perspective.

And to everyone out there ...

Happy Mothers' Day! and Happy Nurses' Week!


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Thonie Hevron
Thonie Hevron
May 08
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A lovely post about a wonderful journey, Sally. Thanks for sharing.

May 08
Replying to

Thank you, Thonie!

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