Anastasia is Back, and This Time the Crime is Real!

 

By Lois Winston

Most mystery writers and readers are fascinated by true crimes. Even if our reading doesn’t branch out beyond cozy mysteries, many of us watch everything from Murder, She Wrote reruns to each iteration of the Law & Order franchise. Some of us have even become hooked on true crime podcasts. 

 

Me? I’m a news junkie. All my books have been inspired in some way by actual events, or human-interest stories. Inspired is the key word, though. For instance, in A Stitch to Die for, the fifth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I wove in a thread about Munchausen by Proxy Disorder after reading about several high-profile cases.

 

However, I’ve never incorporated an actual crime into one of my plots—until now. For Guilty as Framed, the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I’ve centered the plot around a yet unsolved crime that took place in 1990. 

 

For years I’ve been fascinated with the burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It’s still considered the largest art heist in history, and to this day, not only haven’t the perpetrators been caught, but none of the artworks have ever been recovered. Worst of all, many of the suspects have since died.

 

But how do you incorporate a true crime cold case into a cozy mystery, especially when that crime might one day be solved, no matter how the likelihood diminishes with each passing year? I certainly couldn’t have my sleuth find the paintings or unmask the actual perpetrators. I don’t write alternate-reality fiction. In addition, the crime was committed in Boston, and my amateur sleuth resides in New Jersey. Besides, Anastasia is in her mid-forties. She would have been an adolescent at the time of the theft.

 

This was the puzzle I set for myself. Like my sleuth, I can be extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something. I may fail at a task, but I rarely give up and walk away. It helps that I’m a pantser and not a plotter. So I started out by reading everything I could get my hands on about the theft, watched a few documentaries, then just started writing, allowing my brain free rein. After writing myself into a few corners, backtracking, and beginning again…and again…and again, I came up with a story that uses various events from the actual crime, making them plausible within the pages of my story. Of course, I had to take authorial liberties along the way, but hey, I’m writing fiction. I can do that. 

 

I invented several characters for the purpose of advancing my plot. I’ve also changed the names of suspects and their relatives, whether they’re still alive or not, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and yours truly. But in the end, I stayed true to the major events of the crime but found a way to involve my sleuth.

 

It’s just too bad that Anastasia couldn’t solve the mystery of what happened to all those missing artworks. There’s still a huge reward outstanding for any information leading to their recovery, and anyone who knows anything about Anastasia knows she could really use the money.

 

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history. 

 

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes. 

 

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

 

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

 

Guilty as Framed is currently available for pre-order and will be released September 6th. Find links here.

 

~*~

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 under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. 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 www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Celebrating the Third Virtual Mystery in the Midlands with a Matching Game

by Paula
Gail Benson

Longing
to attend a writing conference? Here’s one that costs only $8!

On
Saturday, July 16, from 10:30 am to 3:15 pm ET, the Southeast Chapter of
Mystery Writers of America and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, are
proud to present their third virtual Mystery in the Midlands.

Our wonderful
participants include keynote David Heska Wanbli Weiden, who will be interviewed by Hank
Phillippi Ryan. In addition, three panels will be moderated by Dana Kaye. The
panelists are Alan Orloff, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and Joseph S. Walker, talking
about short stories; Daryl Wood Gerber, Raquel V. Reyes, and Abby L. Vandiver,
talking about cozies; and Hallie Ephron, John Hart, and Hank Phillippi Ryan,
talking about settings and suspense.

We would love for you to join us. You can register
through 
this
link
.

If you can’t attend the broadcast, by registering, you can watch the recording.

At $8, it’s a bargain!

Following is a little game to match our
participants with fun facts about them. See how much you know about our
distinguished authors and check your results with the answers at the end.

Hope to
see you on Saturday, July 16! Don’t forget to register:

https://www.crowdcast.io/e/mystery-in-the-midlands-3/register

AUTHORS

1.
Hallie Ephron

2.
Daryl Wood Gerber

3.
John Hart

4.
Alan Orloff

5.
Raquel V. Reyes

6. Hank Phillippi Ryan

7.
Shawn Reilly Simmons

 8.
Abby L. Vandiver

 9.
Joseph S. Walker

 10.
David Heska Wanbli Weiden

 

FUN
FACTS

A. Has been to baseball games in 21 different
major league parks

B.
Edited Midnight Hour anthology

C. Cheese-phobic

D.
Considered being a professional violinist

E.
Has 2 rescue Bichon Frise dogs

F.
Grew up among writers, but only reluctantly became one after age 40

G.
In addition to a writing passion, loves riding a tractor

H. Successfully sued the CIA for information on a
sunken Russian submarine

I.
Worked as a parrot wrangler at a pet store

J.
Has made over 30 fairy gardens



ANSWERS

1. F

2. J

3. G

4. C

5. I

6. H

7. D

8. B

9. A

10. E

How Do You Feel About Emojis?

by Gay Yellen

Once upon a time, I had a comfortably introverted life. That all changed in 2014, when my first book came out, and my publisher urged me to join the rest of the world on Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms.

Facebook

At first, it was tough to emerge from my cocoon, but little by little, I was posting like a pro. I came to feel pretty comfortable about it, too, until last year, when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about the generation gap in how people interpret what the little emoticons mean.

Take the smiley face, for example. People over the age of thirty generally use it to express happiness, or to indicate a positive response, like saying “good job!” Or perhaps, “I’m happy for you.” But you might be dismayed to know that twenty-somethings and teens find it patronizing, and if they use it at all, they deploy it sarcastically.


The skull and crossbones icon has also been reinterpreted by the younger set. Instead of pointing to danger, they use it to show that they are laughing so hard, they’re dying. And the frowny face? For most people, it’s a sign of disapproval or frustration. But for the younger set? They are more likely to be pining for the unobtainable object of their affection.

Since reading the WSJ article, I second-guess myself almost every time I reply to a post. Does my response feel genuine to the person receiving the message? Or does it come across as ironic when it’s meant to be sincere?

And what to make of the pile of Poop emoji, especially if it’s smiling? Even after consulting the internet for the answer, I’m not really sure, although I did learn that, in 2015, it was the most popular emoji in Canada, while the Eggplant reigned supreme in the States. Excrement and sexual innuendo. Lovely.


Thank goodness there’s one icon whose meaning we all seem to agree on. We still feel good when the universal symbol for love is delivered to us, although it may help to know that various heart configurations and colors connote different degrees and types of affection. These days, younger people prefer to use the word “fire” and its icon to indicate their strong positive feelings, especially when the response is to a “hot” person or idea. Heart-hands are gaining on in popularity, too.
If you’re concerned that people may misread your intentions when you use emojis, you could try consulting emojipedia.com or a few emoji bloggers for an answer. Be warned, however, that you might end up even more confused.

As for me, I’m thinking the safest bet it to revert to an old standby that has worked to express our true feelings for centuries: words.
Readers, how do you feel about emojis?

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning

Samantha Newman Mysteries including
The Body Business,
The Body Next Door
(available on Amazon)


Coming soon,

The Body in the News

Request for a Time Management Intervention

by Donnell Ann Bell 

Well, it’s happened. I survived my sixth book release. I
wrote blogs, put out a newsletter, attended Facebook parties, attended a
fantastic Zoom presentation with the Corrales Community Library (near
Albuquerque), appeared on my local community radio program, worked on my own blog, and made some valuable and very sweet connections by doing so.

In between that, I went to the grocery store, paid bills, changed
my sheets, vacuumed, and mopped my tile floor. (I live in a desert. If dust builds
up, you may never see me again.) I also had agreed to judge The Colorado
Gold, part of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and my deadline came due during this
time.

I take contest judging very seriously as I’ve been a
contestant and I know what happens on the other side of the spectrum. There is so much hope
when aspiring authors submit their entry. Chances are, too, they’re not
wealthy, and I want them to get the most for their entry dollar. I finished
those entries, and can pretty much guarantee I gave them their money’s worth.

Last night, I joined my husband and watched a beautiful sunset,
then as he went off to bed, I snuck back into my office and typed out labels for marketing books to mail, and
wrote thank you notes to the very generous experts who advised me on Until
Dead, A Cold Case Suspense.

A glorious New Mexico sunsets 

This morning, I’ve thrown in another load of laundry. I’ve
still yet to make my bed. Will do so after I finish this blog after which I’ll
be out the door to ship them off at the post office. I hope to come home and
exercise (I pray last week’s housework counted for something because my formal exercise routine surely escaped me during all of the hustle and bustle). This afternoon I have a dentist
appointment and I swear between now and Wednesday I will get a pedicure! 

Some of you may wonder why a woman who no longer works
outside the home is trying to cram so much into her schedule. I’m leaving for
Colorado this Thursday for a month. This is a welcome respite to visit with my family, play with the grandkids, take my mom to her doctors’
appointments, and of course catch up with her. I’m actually looking forward to my road trip where I can listen
to books on audio and just breathe!  My
favorite alone time!

For the most part, I have a lovely life and recognize I am
so so blessed. I also know there are twenty-four-hours in a day but now the
experts are saying in addition to exercise, sleep is critical. My Fitbit now
tells me it’s time to go to bed! Sorry to tell you this, Fitbit; I’m a rebel and
often am forced to ignore you.

I know/pray my busy season is coming to an end so I can get
back to writing. I’m already planning my alone time in Colorado so I can return
to my work in progress. Which brings me to the point of this blog: How did I
ever work forty hours a week, raise a family, do volunteer activities, and
write books?

Finally, now that I look at my calendar, I realize this blog
isn’t due until next week. Can you believe it? Doesn’t matter. This baby’s
going in.

So I ask you. How are your time management skills? Are you
sometimes overwhelmed? Confused what day it is? Please tell me I’m not alone and how you fit everything in!

Donnell
Ann Bell is an award-winning author of four bestselling romantic suspense
novels and two mainstream taskforce suspense novels. Until Dead, a
Cold Case Suspense
, was released on May 31, 2022, and she is currently
working on Book Three. Readers can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, or
BookBub. For social media contact or to learn more, find her at
www.donnellannbell.com

 

 

Oh Where, Oh Where has my launch gone? by Debra H. Goldstein

Oh Where, Oh Where has my
launch gone? by Debra H. Goldstein

June 28 is the release date from Kensington of my fifth
Sarah Blair novel, Five Belles Too Many. As I write this blog, three days
before it will appear on the Stiletto Gang blog, I have yet to confirm a physical
launch location (which would be in mid-July). That’s unusual for me.

 

When One Taste Too Many, the first book in the series, was
published, there was a table at Barnes & Noble at the Summit in Birmingham
and not only did I have the initial signing there, but two nights later, I had
an indie signing at Little Professor. Both were successes and the events were repeated
when Two Bites Too Many was released. And then, a few weeks later, after I had additional
live signings in Alabama, as well as in California, Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee,
Texas, and Colorado, the world shut down because of Covid.

 

We weren’t sophisticated with virtual panels and signings
during the height of Two Bites Too Many’s

release, but we definitely were by
the time Three Treats Too Many and Four Cuts Too Many were published. I crisscrossed
the country doing zoom presentations. It wasn’t the same as being able to sign
books live for readers, but it did give me an opportunity to partner with
writers I adore from other parts of the country for the same presentation. I
was sure by the time, Five Belles was published, I’d be able to have a launch
similar to my first ones, but that isn’t the case.

 

B&N in my area of the world has not returned to live signings.
Our indies are beginning to do events, but with certain health protocols still
being followed. I am in limbo. I’m ready to meet fans in person again, but I’m
not jumping through hoops to make the live signing happen. Instead, I’m taking
a step back and watching and waiting, figuring the official live launch may be
replaced by smaller bookstore gatherings in July and August.

 

In one way, it is a shame. Five Belles Too Many is my
second favorite book in the series. In it, Sarah is forced to chaperone her
mother when Maybelle is a finalist to win the perfect Southern wedding. When
the reality TV show’s producer is found dead with Sarah’s greatest nemesis
kneeling by the body, Sarah must find the true killer before any more of the
contestants or crew are permanently eliminated. 

Because of the humor and nature
of the book it would be fun to interact with a live audience, but that’s not to
be. In the meantime, I’m
going ahead with virtual plans, including a takeover of Joanna Slan’s Readers
on June 20 and an incredibly special Summer Blast/New Release Party with three
other cozy authors, Terry Ambrose, Maggie Toussaint/Volana Jones, and Nancy J.
Cohen, on June 28 from 7-8 EST. I’ll also be participating in a Great Escapes
Tour (June 17-30) and visiting other blogs including The Wickeds, Jungle Red
Writers, Chicks on the Case, Dru’s Book Musings, and Mystery Lovers Kitchen. The
fun part of the parties and blogs for readers is that there will be plenty of
prizes to be won. I’ll also be offering additional prizes if you are a newsletter
subscriber (you can sign up on my website – https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com ).

 

For more chances to read reviews, win prizes, and find out
how Five Belles is taking off, don’t forget to visit me on:

Twitter: @DebraHGoldstein,

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/debrahgoldstein/
, or

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein
.

 

Or, make my day by pre-ordering a copy of Five Belles Too
Many
from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite indie bookstore. We’ll
call it being part of the silent launch.

 

How do you feel about not having as many live signings? 

A Nod to Writers and Artists

By Kathryn Lane

In every novel of my Nikki Garcia mystery series, I’ve
mentioned a writer or a visual artist whose work I admire. Since my mysteries
are set in foreign countries, this detail adds a touch of that country’s culture.

Waking Up in Medellin takes place in Colombia and I
wove in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Laurette in Literature for One
Hundred Years of Solitude
,
and the sculptures of Fernando Botero into the
story.

Research on Fernando Botero’s sculpture

Danger in the Coyote Zone takes place in Mexico and I
mentioned Leonora Carrington, a British woman who lived and worked among the
surrealists in Paris and moved to Mexico to escape the ravishes of World War
II. She remained in Mexico, married the
Hungarian-born photographer Emerico Weisz
, and lived in Mexico City for
the rest of her life. Leonora infused her surrealist paintings and sculptures
with a feminine perspective, and she played an important role in the women’s
rights movement in Mexico. In my novel, I only mention that Nikki notices one
of her surreal sculptures on a street in San Miguel de Allende. To my amazement,
I received an email from Wendy Weisz, Leonora’s daughter-in-law. Wendy had read
my first novel in the series and had purchased the second one too. She was
pleasantly surprised to find the mention of her late mother-in-law’s sculpture.
Hearing from her was thrilling to me, especially since I’ve never met anyone in
the Weisz family though I’ve always admired Leonora’s art and sculpture.

Leonora Carrington’s Self-Portrait in New York’s Metropolitan Museum

Revenge in Barcelona includes action scenes that
occur at Gaudi’s architectural sites, such as the world famous Sagrada Familia
Basilica. Not only did I research Gaudi’s work, but also I made two trips to
Barcelona to make certain I had the facts right. (That Barcelona is my favorite
city in the world did not influence my decision to travel there to fact check!)

Author and her husband. She was researching Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. 

While writing Missing in Miami, I took a slightly
different approach. I’d read Klara and the Sun by Ishiguro. Josie,
Ishiguro’s character, suffers from an illness that is never fully defined. My
character Andrea, the missing girl in my novel, also has an illness. I mentioned
Ishiguro’s novel despite his lack of ties to Cuba to subliminally correlate his
Josie to my Andrea. I never mention Ishiguro’s character or her illness so I
don’t expect many readers to catch the comparison unless they’ve read both
novels.

The author loves Ishiguro’s novels!
I’m currently writing a novel about a math prodigy. In it I’ve
mentioned Miguel de Cervantes and his picaresque novel,
Don Quixote de la
Mancha
. It’s prompted me to reread the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho
Panza, a novel I love despite the fact it was written in the early 1700s.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on their steeds.

***

Do you incorporate allusions, a nod, or direct references in
your novels to either writers or their work?

***

Kathryn’s Nikki Garcia Thriller Series – on Amazon

About Kathryn

Kathryn Lane started out painting in oils and quickly became a
starving artist. To earn a living, she became a certified public accountant and
embarked on a career in international finance with a major multinational
corporation. After two decades, she left the corporate world to plunge into
writing mystery and suspense thrillers. In her stories, Kathryn draws deeply
from her Mexican background as well as her travels in over ninety
countries.

Visit my website
at 
https://www.Kathryn-Lane.com

Photo credits:

All photographs are used
in an editorial and/or educational manner

Botero Sculpture – by Kathryn Lane

Leonora Carrington’s Self-Portrait – Pinterest

Sagrada Familia – by Kathryn Lane

Klara and the Sun – Amazon

Don Quijote de la Mancha – Amazon

Sleuthing In Stilettos Has A Cover

 


Happy June! Can you believe we’re six months into 2022? It feels like I blinked and the year was half over. Honestly, I hope the same happens for the next three months because I really dislike the hot, humid weather. I’m much more a fall kinda gal. 🙂 But, the month I’m really looking forward to this year is December! That’s when SLEUTHING IN STILETTOS releases!!! And I got the cover for the book the other day. I absolutely love it. It fits the story so well.



Writing this story was so much fun for me for so many reasons but I can’t go into those reasons because they’ll be spoilers. Let’s just say, Kelly Quinn finds herself up to her false lashes in hot water and big trouble. So, you see why I loved writing the story so much. Here’s a little bit about SLEUTHING IN STILETTOS.

 

Kelly
Quinn, owner of a high-end consignment shop, is a booster for her Long
Island town’s small businesses—but now a store owner’s murder has
brought big trouble . . .

Locals in Lucky Cove seem
to harbor hostility toward Miranda Farrell, proprietor of a new shoe
store. Nevertheless, Kelly invites her along to a Chamber of Commerce
meeting. But soon afterward, Miranda’s body is found in her shop, with
Kelly’s uncle—who’s had multiple public arguments with her—standing
nearby. Could her uncle really have committed murder over a business
dispute? Or is Miranda’s death related to her late husband’s long-ago
embezzlement case?
 
Kelly feels compelled to investigate,
despite her detective boyfriend’s objections—not to mention her
commitment to promoting Small Business Saturday. But her effort to pump
up sales may fall flat. After her presentation to the committee is
sabotaged, the Chamber gives her the boot—and tongues start wagging. Now
she has to do some fancy footwork to find the killer . . .

The book releases on 12/6/22 and is available for pre-order at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

When I received this cover from my publicist, it truly made my day. I’ve had crushing back-to-back deadlines, so having this bright spot pop into my day was amazing. BTW, I did meet both those deadlines. Yay! And I’ve managed to do some reading. Over on my personal blog, I shared what I’ve read so far this year and three books I’d like to read next. My current read is The Art of the Decoy by Trish Esden. Set in New England and centered around antiques. I love it! 

What are you reading? I’d love to know. Because, you know, the TBR pile can never be too big. 

 


 

 

Debra Sennefelder is the
author of the Food Blogger Mystery series and the Resale Boutique Mystery series.
She lives and writes in Connecticut. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking,
exercising and taking long walks with her Shih-Tzu, Connie. You can keep in touch
with Debra through her website, on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled Post

 

Writer, humanist,

          dog-mom, horse servant and cat-slave,

       Lover of solitude

          and the company of good friends,

        new places, new ideas

           and old wisdom.








 


Today, I delve into the decade I was born into but have only a vague recollection of—the 1950s. The vehicle for time travel was Lynn McPherson’s delightful The Girls Dressed for Murder. So far, there are three books with Izzy: The Girls’ Weekend Murder, The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed for Murder.


I really want to go shopping in Twin Oaks, y’all, and that is saying something since I don’t have a shopping gene. But in lieu of that, I am chatting with Lynn.



TK: So, Lynn, what made you pick the 50s decade?


Lynn: Several years ago, I ran my own business. After five years, things went downhill, and we were forced to close. During that time, I became pregnant with my first child. My life changed overnight, and I went from a small business owner to a stay-at-home mom. I felt like I’d transported back in time, to the 1950s. It was a huge adjustment, and I began to watch a lot of I Love Lucy reruns. I thought about what a fun protagonist a homemaker from that era would make. From there, ideas began to percolate, resulting in the Izzy Walsh series.


TK: I love the interplay between your characters, “The Girls.” My favorite line was “Sometimes there was no other cure for a sad heart than a best friend.” How important are relationships to your stories?


Lynn: They are the core of the Izzy Walsh series. The love between Ethel and Lucy inspired me to show how important and amazing good friends can be (nevermind when you have a murder to solve)!


TK: Do you write the Izzy Walsh stories with a character arc or does Izzy get to just dig into the mysteries in the cozy coastal town of Twin Oaks? 


Lynn: Thanks TK. I always start out with a character arc and an idea of where the story is going to go and how it will get there. However, Izzy and her friends often get in the way. Sometimes they have a mind of their own and I have to fight to keep them in line. Usually by the end, we make up and a compromise is reached.

 

TK: What about the Brenna Flynn mysteries?  How are they similar or not?

Lynn: Brenna Flynn, the protagonist in Death On The Set, by Rose Kerr, definitely has some similarities to Izzy. Both characters are smart, inquisitive, and have a knack for trouble. I’d certainly recommend it as a fun read. The series is set in the current day, and Brenna Flynn is widowed, like Izzy, but she has no kids. Brenna is a former guidance counselor who lands a position as a production assistant on a cooking reality show.


TK: I see from your website that you have jumped out of an airplane. What, pray tell, drove that and how was the landing?


Lynn: Well, that was an adventure. I guess you could say I have a knack for finding trouble, too. I’ve gone skydiving three times and it was a blast. My best jump was in Australia. It was a tandem jump (I was attached to my instructor) and we jumped from 14,000 feet over the Great Barrier Reef. I saw turtles! We landed on the beach, and I couldn’t shake the smile off my face for days.


TK: What did you do at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police? This sounds like fertile writing ground! Can we expect to see a plot thicken there at some point? I was a civilian employee and worked on transcripts for court prep. I read some pretty spicy stuff (too spicy for the cozy genre!). It certainly gave me some insight into character building, and I have a few ideas I might dive into at some point. But my true writing love is cozies so for now, I’m going to stick to small towns and amateur sleuths. 


Thanks Lynn, it was great to get to know you a bit, SG Sister!  


Lynn’s website:  https://lynnmcpherson.net

Purchase all her books on Amazon

T.K.Thorne is a retired police captain who writes Books, which, like this blog, go wherever her curiosity and imagination take her.  More at TKThorne.com

 

Writing as Catharsis

Who would think this cute baby would grow up to be the inspiration
for the woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

By Lois Winston 

During an interview recently, the interviewer told me she loves Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth, but the character she really, really loves is Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law. “You write the best antagonists!” she said, then asked me where I came up with the idea of giving my protagonist a communist mother-in-law.

 

This is a conversation I’ve had many times since Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011. Lucille Pollack is the character my readers love to hate. Is it because so many of my readers have mother-in-law issues? Perhaps. 


Or maybe it’s because Lucille is such an over-the-top unbelievable character. I’m sure many readers think so, but here’s a little secret: Unlike all my other characters, Lucille didn’t spring from my imagination. The woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is based almost entirely on my own communist mother-in-law.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. My mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, though, she was nasty, really nasty, especially if you dared to have an opinion that differed from hers. This was a woman who always knew everything, an expert on every subject. And she was always right—according to her. No one else’s opinions mattered because everyone else was always wrong. You didn’t have conversations with my mother-in-law; you were subjected to lectures—on every subject under the sun. She wasn’t perfect, though. She did fail at things, but when she did, it was always someone or something else’s fault. Never hers.

 

A couple I knew and whom my father-in-law had befriended, once called me the day after they had dinner with my in-laws. They wanted to know how I put up with “that woman.” This was a pattern throughout the years I knew my mother-in-law. Friends never lasted long because she was so insufferable.

 

Even my father-in-law, who had always seen his wife through rose-colored glasses, eventually woke up to her true nature. When he needed her most, she was too selfish and self-centered to be bothered.

 

The thing about antagonistic people, though, is that although they’re insufferable in real life, they make for great antagonists on the page. My mother-in-law grew increasingly nastier the older she got. However, instead of letting her get to me, I brought her doppelganger to life in the form of Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille Pollack. Whether it’s a matter of “don’t get mad, get even” or turning lemons into lemonade, all those years of putting up with my mother-in-law paid off in the end when I created the characters my readers love to hate. 

 

My one regret? My mother-in-law didn’t live to see my literary revenge, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She was too highbrow to waste her time reading fiction and certainly wouldn’t have read anything written by her stupid (her word) daughter-in-law. Twenty novels, five novellas, and a children’s book later, revenge is sweet.


Meanwhile, Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille winds up wreaking havoc yet again in Guilty as Framed, the 11th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, now available for preorder.

~*~

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 under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. 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 you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Interview with Cozy Author, Rose Kerr

By Lynn McPherson

I met Rose Kerr earlier this year at Malice Domestic. We had a few good chats over some delicious cake and I’m delighted to have her here today to talk about her great new book, Death on the Set. It’s the first book in the Brenna Flynn Mystery Series, recently published by Touchpoint Press.

Rose, can you tell us about your debut novel, Death on the Set?

Brenna Flynn is my protagonist in Death on the Set. Brenna’s had some bad luck. Her husband was killed in a highway accident, and then she loses her job as a high school guidance counselor due to budget cuts.

She returns home to Bayview City and works with a temp agency to find work until she can get work as a high school guidance counselor. 

Brenna interviews for the job of a production assistant for a cooking reality show and aces the interview. On the second day at work, she finds a body. The police think she may have something to do with the murder and she’s their prime suspect.

Determined to prove her innocence, Brenna uses the skills she’s honed as a high school guidance counselor to learn about the victim and members of the cast and crew. The stakes are raised with threatening notes, poisonings, and blackmail.

Can Brenna uncover who the killer is before someone else dies?

The story is so much fun. Where do you get your book ideas?

I had a lot of fun writing this book! For Death on the Set, my son and I were watching a cooking reality show and the head chef (who shall remain nameless) was especially nasty to the contestants. I looked at my son and said, one day someone is going to kill him. My son said, Mom, there’s your story. It took a while to get that story out, but it was fun writing it. The other two books in the series came from ideas that had been in my mind for some time.

Why did you choose a former guidance counselor as your protagonist?

I’ve worked with guidance counselors in the past. Some skills they have seemed natural for my amateur sleuth to have. The skills Brenna uses include research, understanding how people think, observant, active listening, drawing people out, critical thinking, problem solving, gathering information, making informed decisions, Brenna genuinely likes people and wants to help them where possible.

How important is setting in your books?

Bayview City is a fictional town on the shores of Lake Superior. My husband and I raised our family in a small town in Northern Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. We had beautiful parks close to our town and took advantage of Lake Superior’s coastline. The lake was a factor in our lives because of how often the weather changed. We had some storms that came up quickly. The lake is vast, majestic, and constantly changing. I’ve used some parts of the town we lived in and parts of larger towns and cities in my books. It’s a setting I’m familiar and very comfortable with.

What’s your writing process? Do you have an extensive outline? Are you a pantser?

I do a lot of preparation for my books; I outline thoroughly. In my series, my main character, Brenna Flynn, takes on temp jobs. It’s important for me to understand the responsibilities  she has for each position. The recurring characters each support Brenna differently. New to the series characters need to be developed. I like to know who is the victim, who the killer is, and why they’re the victim and the killer. I’ve tried pantsing and it just didn’t work for me. I admire anyone who is a pantser! One thing I’ve started doing with book three is ending my writing session with a brief note reminding me of the next scene. It’s been helpful to keep me on track.

Did you always want to be a writer? Why crime?

I wanted to write, but wasn’t sure what to write. I tried my hand at writing romance, but it didn’t stick. I found writing murder mysteries much more fun!

Who are your favorite cozy authors?

I have several authors that I reach for frequently: Connie Berry, Lynn Cahoon, Kate Carlisle, and Vicki Delany. I’m always looking for new cozy authors to read.

What’s next for Brenna Flynn?

Book two, tentatively title Death in Academia, is with my editor. I’m writing book three, working title, Death at the Festival. I don’t think Brenna is going to find work as a guidance counselor for some time!

Rose Kerr lived most of her adult life in small towns. She and her husband raised their family in a small town in Northern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior. Rose is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppy Online Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Canada. For more info visit www.rosekerr.com

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