Guest Blogger: Lois Winston

Putting a Humorous Spin on Murder

By Lois Winston

I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries about a magazine crafts editor who is forced to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. However, I began my writing career penning dark romantic suspense. The first, after quite a few years and countless revisions, became the second book I ever sold. However, somewhere along the way I discovered my funny bone. Or maybe I should say funny bones because rather than being situated in my elbow, they reside in my ten fingers.

No one was more shocked than I. I’m one of those people who can never remember a joke’s punch line. When it comes to scintillating repartee, I always come up with a brilliant retort hours after the moment has passed. So years ago when my agent suggested I try to write a chick lit novel because Bridget Jones’s Diary had taken the publishing world by storm, and editors were clamoring for similar works, I laughed.

But she was serious. Apparently, she saw something buried deep inside me and knew it needed to be released. Turns out, she was right. On paper I’m quite funny, and the book I wrote, Talk Gertie to Me, became my debut novel.

Then one day my agent asked me to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery. She had been speaking with an editor who was looking for a series featuring a crafter. Since I designed needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft book publishers in my day job, my agent thought I was the perfect person to write such a series. She also requested I use the humorous writing voice I had developed in Talk Gertie to Me. The woman was obviously clairvoyant because even though I hadn’t read a mystery since I devoured the Cherry Ames books as a kid, the moment I sat down at the computer to attempt writing a cozy mystery, I found my true literary calling.

I had always enjoyed reading books that make me laugh. There really is something to that old adage about laughter being the best medicine. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain, and the more endorphins, the happier we are. Given all the problems in the world, not only do I need to laugh more, I also realized I’d much rather make people laugh than have them sleep with one eye open at night.

So when Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series was released in 2011, I was thrilled that critics embraced it. Publishers Weekly and Booklist both gave it starred reviews, comparing my writing to that of Tina Fey and Janet Evanovich. Kirkus described Anastasia as “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” With praise like that, why would I ever go back to writing gritty romantic suspense?

Of course, Anastasia doesn’t see anything funny about the dead bodies I leave lying around for her to discover, the trouble I get her into with gangsters and psychopaths, or the communist mother-in-law I gave her. Luckily, she has no say in the matter. Besides, I’m not a total sadist when it comes to my reluctant amateur sleuth. I have given her a Shakespeare-quoting parrot and a drop-dead hunk of a boyfriend. Although, on second thought, maybe I am a bit sadistic because when it comes to photojournalist Zack Barnes, he may or may not also be a spy.

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VG2QZXV/

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/handmade-ho-ho-homicide

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/handmade-ho-ho-homicide-lois-winston/1132607263

iTunes https://books.apple.com/us/book/handmade-ho-ho-homicide/id1473711082

Bio:

USA Today 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.

Website: www.loiswinston.com

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Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

My Favorite Part of Being a Writer by Paty Jager

I don’t know about all writers, but for me, the best part of writing a book is the “stewing and brewing” process. It’s the time between, “Bing!” I have an idea and when I start writing the actual story.

source: Depositphotos

What I call the “Stewing and Brewing” process is where I come up with the story idea or setting and then start researching and filling out my suspect chart.

I get to scan websites and look through baby name books to come up with character names and then give the attributes and reasons they are part of the story. Suspects, officials, friends, the whole bit.

And even better! Figuring out how the victim dies. I love putting a twist on the cause of murder. My newest Shandra Higheagle release, Toxic Trigger-point the death is caused by an acute allergic reaction to bees. The book I’m “stewing and brewing” right now I’m thinking the death appears accidental at first. Then… as things get investigated further it was murder.

There are times my devious mind astounds me! LOL However, coming up with the out-of-the-box scenarios is so much fun. Taking the reader on the trip of; this person did it, no, that person did it, is almost as much fun as coming up with the characters, motive, and cause of death.

I pinch myself all the time wondering how I can have so much fun writing when other writers are always complaining how hard it is. I do agree, the editing, revisions, and making the story shine are hard, but it’s like child birth. I forget about those things when I’m in the throes of “stewing and brewing”. 😉

Here is my latest Shandra Higheagle release:

Toxic Trigger-Point

Adultery… Jealousy… Murder

Shandra Higheagle Greer is minding her own business when she walks into a room for a massage and it is already occupied—by a dead body.

Always the champion for someone she knows, when her favorite masseuse looks like the murderer, Shandra listens to her gut and dreams choreographed by her deceased grandmother.

Detective Ryan Greer can’t believe his wife has walked into another homicide. He’s learned no matter how he tries to keep her out of the investigation he can’t. But this time the consequences could be deadly for Shandra—she heard the murder happen.

https://books2read.com/u/4Ex9De

The Aging Protagonist by Paty Jager

I get an online ezine called the Crimereads. It has great articles about mystery books, authors, and the genre. The latest one had a topic on what makes a good protagonist and in the article the writer talked about how some protagonists age through the lifetime of their series and others don’t.

Because I am a writer who likes to keep my stories as real as possible, I tend to age my characters and keep track of the time/years for each book. If I write three books in one year, they are set in that year. So the next year, my characters are a year older and things, like secondary characters getting pregnant are part of my secondary plots. I remember reading books with characters that didn’t seem to age. Like Kinsey Milhone (the character who was the impetus for me to try my hand at writing mysteries), Miss Marple, Stephanie Plum, Mrs. Pollifax, and even James Qwilleran, and his two Siamese cats, Koko and Yum Yum

It will be interesting to see how long I can keep my character Gabriel Hawke traipsing about the Eagle Cap Wilderness solving murders when I started him out at 53 years old. But I have a feeling he will be going strong for a good long time. People around him will age, as will he, but we’ll see if his aging makes him think harder about family, his own presumably.

As for Shandra Higheagle, she has married since becoming a mystery character and while her friends are all becoming pregnant, I haven’t decided if she’s going to become pregnant, if she and Ryan will be a childless family, or if they will bring an older child into their family. It’s all up in the air at this time. It all winds around in my head as I ponder the future for these two.

One thing I know for certain. My characters will age, their lives will have ups and downs, and I hope they continue to be characters readers want to read about.

What are some of your favorite characters and have they aged over the course of their series or stayed the same?

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The Mystery of Finding Time by Paty Jager

hauling hay

I have always been a very time structured writer. I make time to write and I stick with it whether my brain is mush or not.

This summer has pulled me out of writing so much, I’m struggling to get back into the work in progress and finding time to get some solid time in. I wouldn’t have given up anything I did this summer, but it’s starting to weigh on my conscience that I am behind on my releases and dragging words out when I’m in front of the computer.

This past week, was supposed to be the last time I’d be kept from my writing, but I have a cousin coming for a week and then hubby and I have an anniversary trip planned in October, though that will be a trip to do research for a book as well as enjoy.

Tomorrow, I’ll sit down and write four days (have to take my mother-in-law home today) Which is an unexpected turn of events. Then next weekend we have company and I get another week before company for a week. So I need to really hunker down and write when I have time, which will mean little social media time and hubby will have simple meals.

When you have a lot interrupting your writing, how do you deal with it? Does it take you longer to get back into the story when you have tiny bits of time with beg gaps in between?

Readers, do you ever wonder why some authors have gaps in their releases? This is why. Life interrupts the writing process.

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Guest Blogger: N. M. Cedeño

Bad Vibes Removal Services: A Genre-Confused Mystery Series

Many of my stories are genre-confused. As the author, obviously this is my fault. If I would stay in one category, then I could easily describe my work by genre: Mystery or Science Fiction or Fantasy. But my brain doesn’t work that way, which is why my first published murder mystery was in a hard science fiction magazine. When I write, my brain sometimes jumps into the future, or throws in ghosts, or creates impossible technological inventions. Doing all of those things at once resulted in the Bad Vibes Removal Services series.

The Bad Vibes series began with a short story set in the near-future, featuring Montgomery, a genius inventor, entrepreneur, lawyer, and private detective. He’d invented scanners to find sound wave patterns left in walls at the atomic level. His invention could detect and identify a record of conversations and noises left in walls. While he was working on this, Montgomery found another set of patterns, absorbed emotional imprints from pain, anger, depression, joy, and a host of other emotions.

Montgomery can uncover conversations between criminals and detect deceit where things are hidden. But, he can’t sell his equipment to law enforcement if courts won’t accept his findings as evidence. Since he could both read and obliterate the patterns left in walls, Montgomery created a side business to make his inventions a household name and speed acceptance by law enforcement. Bad Vibes Removal Services was born.

Who needs Bad Vibes Removal Service? Everyone who ever moved into a pre-owned house or apartment. Does your new-to-you home feel creepy? Sad? Anxious? Maybe the previous occupant was going through a divorce or serious illness.

One of Montgomery’s employees at Bad Vibes Removal Services is a history graduate student named Lea who grew up seeing ghosts. She could always sense the history of buildings as a lingering emotional imprint or via sudden visions, echoes from the past. So, she enjoys making homes more livable for people who are sensitive to emotional atmosphere. By infusing static into the walls, Lea can reset the atmosphere in a room, erasing the lingering history, making the space comfortable again… most of the time.

Resets fail when a ghost, the source of the emotions, is present. Then, Lea communicates with the ghost while she and her coworker Kamika help Montgomery investigate. Crimes are uncovered and villains are revealed. Sometimes spirits are helpful. Sometimes, they’re malevolent.

From one short story, this genre-confused series bloomed to include (so far) eight short stories and two novels. The first novel, The Walls Can Talk, is set in an Irish castle that’s been moved to central Texas, resident ghost included. The second novel, Degrees of Deceit, was just released and is set mainly in a haunted dorm on a University of Texas campus.

When people ask me what I write, I tell them ‘mysteries’ to keep it simple. If they ask for more, I get to explain my genre-mashing tendencies. Generally, I call the Bad Vibes series ‘paranormal mysteries’ and I enjoy writing them. If you like a spooky chill along with a mystery, maybe you’ll enjoy reading them too.

Degrees of Deceit

The Bad Vibes Removal Services crew is back in a sequel to The Walls Can Talk!

A college prankster is making life hellish for the freshmen residents of Dellonmarsh Dorm on a University of Texas campus. The sleep-deprived students are spooked by the time Montgomery Investigations arrives on the scene to track down the prank-playing vandal who comes and goes like a ghost. Rumors say a benevolent ghost haunts the residence hall, but these treacherous tricks are anything but benevolent. As the pranks escalate from obnoxious noises in the night to poisons and more dangerous threats, investigators Lea, Kamika, and their boss, Montgomery, work to identify a perpetrator who lurks in the shadows.

Buy Links:

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.

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N. M. Cedeño currently lives near Austin, Texas. She writes mystery short stories and novels that vary from traditional to romantic suspense, and from paranormal to science fiction. She is active in Sisters in Crime, Heart of Texas Chapter, having served as chapter vice president and president. Ms. Cedeño has written several standalone short stories and novels as well as the Bad Vibes Removal Services paranormal mystery series.

Author Central:   amazon.com/author/nmcedeno

Website: nmcedeno.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/N-M-Cedeno-1303414606459806/

Landing page for the book: http://nmcedeno.com/degrees-of-deceit/

Publisher’s announcement: https://www.luckybatbooks.com/2019/08/lucky-bat-releases-n-m-cedenos-newest-paranormal-mystery/

A Bee in my Bonnet by Paty Jager

depositphoto

While figuring out the means of death in my latest Shandra Higheagle mystery, Toxic Trigger-point, I had to come up with something quiet, easy, and could be done while a woman was face down on a massage table.

I wanted the scene when the body is found to look as if the woman is on the table waiting for a massage, but then they realize she is dead.

The scene had to look serene-normal.

I came up with an allergy to bees. After reading up on it, I discovered people who are deathly allergic to bees can die within minutes of contact with bee venom. Further research, I discovered there are some facial creams that have bee venom in them. Enough to cause anaphylaxis shock and death.

To tell you any more about how it all happened would give the story away. ;)_

However, each time I tried to come up with a way for Shandra and Ryan to get a confirmation it was from a bee sting or venom from forensics, I was shot down by Judy Melinek, MD and forensic pathologist.

Each time I’d come up with something, like, how about finding the enzymes for bee venom in stomach contents, she’d shut me down. Bee venom can not be tested for because of it’s chemical break down. Hmmm….

She told me the discovery would have to come from the investigation. Discovering the woman’s allergy and working from there. So that’s what I did. With the help of information from the victim’s family and, of course, Shandra’s dreams, she and Ryan solve the murder.

This is what I enjoy about writing mysteries. While I might have a great idea in mind for a murder, I have to dig and research to discover the best, and sometimes the only way, to disclose or discover how the victim was killed.

Have you read any mystery books with an unusual way the victim was killed?

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