For all Realtors who’ve sworn they could write a book on some of their more colorful clients and transactions, Nancy Lynn Jarvis, owner of HomeScape Realty in Santa Cruz, Calif., is on her third.

"Readers get a look at how real estate works. Sometimes it’s a tough business and sometimes some pretty funny stuff happens," says Jarvis, author of "The Death Contingency" and "Backyard Bones," and founder of the publishing company selling her titles on and through her Web site,

The tough part of the business is what led Jarvis to writing. She’s been a Realtor for more than 20 years and recently founded HomeScape Realty with her husband when he became a broker. She’s an Accredited Buyer’s Representative and built a strong business on repeat customers.

But the housing meltdown in 2007 gave her pause.

"I took a timeout and didn’t actively work. As a game to keep from being bored, I thought I would write a mystery. I had so much material to work with and not a clue on how to organize," she said from her home office.

What she did know, or at least she thought she knew, were her characters. Initially, she put herself in the shoes of Regan McHenry, the intrepid Realtor/protagonist Jarvis’s Santa Cruz-area-based mysteries are built around. Many of the scenes Jarvis creates are based on actual experiences.

On a "goodwill, how’s the new house coming along" drop-in, McHenry finds her client’s children digging for bones in their new backyard to find what they think is a long-deceased Great Dane. On another escapade, McHenry shows the house of a seller who has an ax to grind with his soon-to-be ex-wife. …CONTINUED

When McHenry asks the seller if she and her prospective buyer can open the shower curtain, the seller gives an OK, saying the water is running for another reason. McHenry and her client open the curtain to find the wife soaping up.

But when it came to discovering a murder in one of the houses McHenry was selling, Jarvis knew she had to separate herself from the main character.

"As Nancy, I didn’t want to find a body. I was sobbing, shaking. I had to separate myself from my character. It was a freeing exercise. Now, the characters diverge more and more from where they started. The characters started telling me things about the story that I didn’t know. I listen to the characters," she said.

Technology has helped to keep Jarvis prolific.

"I wouldn’t have attempted to write anything without a laptop or spell check," she said.

Sales of her books are rapidly approaching 1,000 since the first title was published in December 2008. The working title of her next one, "Buying Murder," finds McHenry and her husband buying a beach cottage and forgoing a formal inspection.

Jarvis is having so much fun with writing that she isn’t interested in going back to selling houses. She’s referring a lot of her clients to other Realtors whom she’s worked with through the years so she can concentrate on her writing. And she’s stepping outside her realty circles. Some of her most loyal readers are non-Realtors.

"The appeal is wider than I thought it would be," she said.

Leslie Mladinich is a San Francisco Bay Area based freelance writer.


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