With a Little Help from my Friends

artwork from Pixabay and Depositphotos

By Lois Winston

As authors, we spend much of our days in our writer caves. Sometimes, we rarely leave the house for days as we peck away at the keyboard, increasing our word count. Living life in a vacuum is hard, though. Sometimes we need to bounce ideas off someone, and let’s face it, kids and spouses are rarely helpful when it comes to figuring out the perfect murder or choosing whodunit from several possibly suspects. That’s why critique partners, as well as writing communities, are so important. Often, they’re the only people who truly “get” us.

My latest book, Sorry, Knot Sorry, the thirteenth in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, released earlier this month. In-between a month-long virtual book tour, I’ve been mulling over possible plots for the next book in the series.

I’ve always had a weird fascination with unusual personalities and often put them in my books. Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law is a perfect example. She’s based on my own communist mother-in-law, minus the French bulldog.

Years ago, we had some very strange neighbors living across the street from us. They’ve been parked in a recess of my brain for two-and-a-half decades, waiting to spring forth as characters in a book. I wondered, though, were they too over-the-top?

I decided this was a question, not for my critique partner nor my fellow writers. I needed to hear from my readers. So, in my May newsletter, I introduced them to the couple I had dubbed The Stoop Sitters. After relating the story, I asked if they thought The Stoop Sitters should become characters in my next book.

Everyone who responded loved the idea. I don’t know yet who these characters will be, but based on the overwhelmingly favorable responses I received, they will show up in some way in the next book.

I had already set up the possibility of The Stoop Sitters back in A Stitch to Die For, the fifth book in the series. Circumstances which occurred in that book resulted in the house across the street from Anastasia being torn down and replaced with a McMansion. Since Anastasia has yet to meet her new neighbors, they could be The Stoop Sitters.

Have I piqued your curiosity? Are you dying to know more about The Stoop Sitters?

When my husband and I purchased a home in an upscale New Jersey suburb, the house across the street stood out for all the wrong reasons. It was a dilapidated mess in need of major repairs. We suspected the resident or residents were elderly with a limited income. Much to our surprise, we discovered the owners were a couple in their late thirties or early forties. They had two school-aged kids.

The parents didn’t seem to have jobs. They’d camp out on the top step of their small concrete landing for hours at a time, either together or individually. Just sitting and smoking and often drinking beer, but never conversing with each other. Often the husband would remove his shirt and lie back on the landing, his massive stomach pointing heavenward. He’d remain that way for hours, apparently napping.

When Mr. Stoop Sitter wasn’t sprawled bare-chested on the landing, he’d spend hours mowing his lawn, an extremely small barren patch of packed dirt and weeds. For hours, he’d walk behind his mower, trimming the nonexistent grass, until the mower ran out of gas. The next day, after refilling the mower, the scene would repeat. It continued each day throughout the year, except during rain and snowstorms.

I need to stop here to mention that I’m not a voyeur. My home office was situated at the front of the house with my desk positioned under the front window. It was impossible not to notice The Stoop Sitters.

One day, my concentration was broken by a cat fight between two women. I glanced up from my computer screen to find Mrs. Stoop Sitter standing on the sidewalk, accusing another woman of trying to steal her husband. The scene was right out of Real Housewives of New Jersey, minus the camera crew. Eventually, Mrs. Stoop Sitter hurled one last warning, stormed up the steps, and entered her house, slamming the door behind her. The other woman turned and walked down the street. I never saw her again.

Now, Mr. Stoop Sitter was no one’s idea of a catch, but the scene I’d witnessed proved otherwise. Obviously, there’s someone for everyone. At least in Mrs. Stoop Sitter’s mind.

Eventually, the Stoop Sitters sold their house to a developer who tore it down and built a McMansion. There’s a story to be told about the people who moved into the McMansion, but I’ll save that for another time.

So what do you think? If my readers can suspend their disbelief enough to accept a communist mother-in-law and a Shakespeare-quoting parrot (not to mention a reluctant amateur sleuth who stumbles across more dead bodies than the average big city homicide cop in an entire career,) will they buy into the Stoop Sitters?

Would you? Post a comment for a chance to win a promo code for a free audiobook download of any of the currently available Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.


USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where can also sign up for her newsletter and find links to her other social media: www.loiswinston.com

12 replies
  1. Marianne Shields
    Marianne Shields says:

    Oh, I see infinite possibilities with these weird porch sitters. Why aren’t they working? Lotto winners, trust fund babies, witness protection victims, bank robbers, embezzlers? How fun it will be to include them.

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