Guest Blogger ~ Lois Winston

Truth, Lies, and Fiction

My plots have always been influenced by real-life crimes and human-interest stories. However, with Guilty as Framed, my latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, the story is more than influenced by an actual crime; it incorporates that crime, one that has fascinated me for decades, into the story. This, of course, posed various challenges, especially since it involved a cold case that was rife with lies, misdirection, and botched investigations.

The crime in question was the 1990 burglary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, considered the largest art heist in history. The theft consisted of priceless masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and others. It involved such disparate characters as a pot-smoking security guard, the Irish mob, and even the Pope. It included the unsolved murders of some of the suspects and as the years passed, the deaths of most of the persons of interest.

There were sworn statements by mob relatives and associates claiming to have seen some of the missing paintings over the years, as well as speculation that the artworks are in Saudi Arabia. And in what must be one of the oddest law enforcement press conferences on record, thirteen years after the robbery, the head of the Boston FBI announced the crime had been solved, although he presented none of the missing artworks nor announced any arrests. He then ended with a plea to the public for help in solving the case.

True crime and cozy mystery are two distinct genres. One is fiction; the other is not. But in weaving a true crime into my fiction, I wanted to hone as closely as possible to the actual events of the case. To do so, I had to take some creative liberties. I decided to focus my story around one specific incident that involved a mob associate and his wife, weaving that aspect of the actual investigation into my plot.

Even though these people have since died, I changed their names and the names of other suspects and persons of interest who I incorporated into my story. (When dealing with members of organized crime, even ones long dead, it’s best to play it safe!) I also created additional characters, thus enabling me to weave a thirty-two-year-old Boston cold case into a series that takes place in present-day New Jersey.

Guilty as Framed is the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. In each book I’ve challenged myself to create stories unlike my previous ones. No reader wants to read a book where only the names and places (and possibly the murder weapon) differ from other books in the series. This current book was my greatest creative leap to date. I’m hoping readers find the book as enjoyable to read as I did to write.

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?

Buy Links

Paperback: https://amzn.to/3QLEYU5

Hardcover: https://amzn.to/3Ans5s6

Kindle: https://amzn.to/3tLnT3d

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/guilty-as-framed

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/guilty-as-framed/id6442846272

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guilty-as-framed-lois-winston/1141500980?ean=2940185728703

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.

Words are Power by Paty Jager

When I looked up the word “limbo” to make sure I was using it correctly, I found more than one meaning! That is what I love about words and using them to make stories. If you use a word one way it means one thing and the same word can mean something else when used in a different sentence.

The mystery of words has always fascinated me. When my, by one year, older than me brother started reading, I peered over his shoulder, capturing the words and discovering the sounds letters made if they were placed with this letter or a different letter.

Who came up with that? I mean over the centuries the various cultures and people came up with their own set of marks that made sense to them. But how did they distinguish the sounds each mark or letter made? How did they decide which letters together made which sounds?

For my Spotted Pony Casino mystery books, I’ve been incorporating Umatilla language words into the story. It helps to show the culture and bring a little more Indigenous feel to my characters who are Umatilla. I’ve listened to Youtube videos where they speak the language. It sounds so different from the words that are spelled out with unique characters.

The Indigenous languages were spoken long before the Anglo people arrived with their alphabet. How did they, the Indigenous people decide which of the Anglo alphabet worked for their words? I’ll have to ask a Umatilla linguist I know and see if he can help me with this, one of many question that stir around in my head at 2 AM the nights my brain won’t shut down.

Words are so useful and yet can also destroy a relationship, a person, even a country. Knowing the right words to string together is powerful. Or it can be destructive. Words are power!

Book three in the Spotted Pony Casino mysteries will be released in ebook and the following week in print.

Double Down

A donkey, a three-legged dog, and a war-scarred veteran outwit the killer.

Dela Alvaro is the main suspect in the stabbing death of a man she stopped from beating his wife to death.  The detective she abhors is ready to toss her in jail and not look for any other suspects. When FBI Special Agent Quinn Pierce is called in and Tribal Officer Heath Seaver is forbidden to work the case, Dela decides to find the killer.

Was it the wife, the drug dealer, or the man wanting to take over the victim’s business? Dela and Heath ask questions and work to prove her innocence. If she is found guilty not only will she lose her life but she’ll never be able to solve the secret of her father.  

Universal Buy Link:

https://books2read.com/u/4D6Wa7

Guest Blogger ~ Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Writing PIP Inc. Mysteries is my way of keeping a friend who has moved to another state close and letting pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge live on as more than memories.

When I began writing mysteries in 2008, my protagonist was a realtor like I was. I used my experiences to enhance the story lines and told readers that as far-fetched as the real estate references were, they were all true and based on things that happened to me or my associates during my twenty-five-year career. It was easy to write authentically because I knew the business so well. But after seven books in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, it was time for a change.

I have a dear friend, also named Pat like my PIP Inc. protagonist, who is the most fascinating person I know. She gave me many ideas for murders and was especially helpful with bank robbery insider information she knew for my stand-alone novel, Mags and the AARP Gang, because she was on the board of the credit union where I set the robbery.

As I started formulating the PIP Inc. Mysteries series, I asked if I could use her and her background―like my Pat, she was the county law librarian and is a private investigator―as my protagonist and if she would be a consultant for the books because I knew nothing about being a private investigator and would need her help. She agreed under one condition: private investigator Pat had to have green eyes because she always wished her eyes were green.

 I made my Pat half her age, unmarried, and with an enviable figure, something the real Pat loved. When she saw the cover for the first book in the series she exclaimed that Pat had the hips she always wished she had.

I also gave Pat two pets, a Dalmatian named Dot and a ginger tabby named Lord Peter Wimsey. Dot is based on my beloved Freckles―whose real-life antics often find their way into the books―and my husband’s cat, Wimsey. 

Having Pat as a consultant has worked out better than I hoped. She advises me on how to conduct investigations so details ring true, and she comes to Santa Cruz at least twice a year for an in-person consult. You should have seen us spying on a neighbor when she was here recently. Pat suggested we climb his security fence to see if we were right about him and what was happening on his property. When I told her that could be dangerous, she said, “Don’t worry, I always carry my Magnum 357, just like private investigator Pat does.”

You can read about the adventures of Pat, Dot, and Wimsey in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series. Book 3, The Corpse’s Secret Life was released earlier this year. The series is intended to be read in order so you might want to start with The Glass House and then The Funeral Murder before you take on the sin-eaters and undercover agents of The Corpse’s Secret Life. (And if you want to find out what that neighbor was up to, there’s always the barely fictionalized A Neighborly Killing from the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series.)

Pat’s fledgling private investigation company, PIP Inc., has a promising new case.

Pat is still wearing a wrist cast after breaking her arm in a confrontation with a killer, so when she’s hired by the City of Watsonville to unearth the identity of an older woman who died in her bed, she’s delighted that her next job promises to be a simple computer-based research project.

Why is it that things are never as simple as she thinks they will be? Pat soon discovers nothing is as it seems, beginning with a corpse who had secret identities, murder, and a post-death ritual thought to have last been performed decades ago.

 “I love this series, and this particular mystery is very entertaining.”

        Janice J. Richardson author of The Spencer Funeral Home series

“Captivating from the start! The Corpse’s Secret Life transports you into a realm of page-turning mystery… a must read”

          Maryanne Porter, author of Haunted Santa Cruz, California.

You can find her all her books here: https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ

Nancy Lynn Jarvis left the real estate profession after she started having so much fun writing the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series that she let her license lapse. But after seven books, she was ready for a new adventure and is currently working on the fourth book in her PIP Inc. series which features protagonist not-quite-licensed private investigator, downsized law librarian Pat Pirard. She has also edited crowd pleasers Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes and Santa Cruz Weird. Read first chapters of her books at www.nancylynnjarvis.com

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2918242.Nancy_Lynn_Jarvis

On The Road

As you are reading this, I’m off on a research trip for the next Gabriel Hawke novel. This one is set in Montana. I have an place in the middle of the two areas I need to research.

This story started about 5 years ago, before I had even started writing the Gabriel Hawke series. My husband and I were driving from the south to the north of Montana headed to visit my cousin in near Flathead Lake. As we followed this lake, I looked out and spotted a resort on an island in the lake. My first thought was “what a great place to have a writers retreat!”

A photo from when I was in Montana before. This is south of the lake.

That island and building kept coming back to me and when I decided on the premise of book 10 in the series, I knew that resort would be in the story.

I didn’t know the name of it and hubby and I were of a different opinion of which road we’d been on. One of my oldest daughter’s friends lives and works in Helena, MT. I contacted her and asked if she’d seen the place on her weekend drives. She knew the place and sent me a link to their website. I had been right! It was off the road I had said we’d driven up to my cousin, not the road, hubby had thought. Score one for me! That doesn’t happen often when it comes to driving and roads since hubby was a truck driver for 30 years.

With the website I looked up the island and the resort. I had hoped to stay there one night and get a feel for the place. Not at $2000 a night! So then I emailed and asked if I could just come hang out for a couple of hours (you have to get there by boats that are run by the resort). I explained I was a writer and wanted to use the resort for a couple of scenes in my book.

The person who wrote back to me asked if I was the author who had requested the same a while back. I said no. When I told her when I’d be in the area, she said there would be guest at the resort and no one else was allowed. But she would be happy to answer my questions and send me any photos I might need. You can bet after I go scope it out from the side of the lake, I’ll have more questions for her. Luckily it is only being used as the place where Hawke’s sister is attending a corporate retreat and it is more of a starting point for the story than a main setting.

The other place I’ll be visiting is the Flathead Indian Reservation. I’m debating on where the sister will run to, the reservation or the wilderness. That will depend on what I find out on my trip.

Right now, I’m pleased to say that book 9, Owl’s Silent Strike, is now available in ebook and print. My narrator is working on the audiobook.

Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident…

And a body…

What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge.

Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.

Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line.

universal buy link: https://books2read.com/u/bw19DG

Back to Normal for Mystery Writers—Mostly.

The big mystery cons are ready and waiting for writers and fans to enjoy mingling, meeting authors and readers, and enjoying being together.

I have wonderful memories of the Bouchercons and Left Coast Crimes I attended over the years. Sometimes going to one of these events was like attending a family reunion. Often I was greeted with a big hug by someone I’d met the year before, and we’d have a wonderful time chatting.

There were also several smaller mystery conferences I attended that are no longer happening. My favorite was Mayhem in the Midlands, which happened in Omaha. I met so many wonderful people there, fans and authors. It’s where I first met Wm. Kent Krueger and his wife. And it’s where my husband and Kent vied for the best actor at the mystery dinner and play. Sometimes Kent won, and other times it was my hubby.

Once Kent’s wife and my husband were on a panel with Jan Burke’s husband and another spouse I don’t recall right now. The moderator asked great questions, and it was a hilarious panel.

My husband and I had a wonderful time hanging out with the most interesting people, and also traveling to many places in the U.S. we’d have never visited if it had been for these mystery events.

Now, hubby and I no longer fly, and I am only planning on attending one writing conference, the one put on by the Public Safety Writers Association in Las Vegas. (My daughter will drive me there.) This conference is small, attended by many still active and retired persons in all different types of law enforcement and other fields of public safety who are writing or aspiring to write, and mystery writers. The speakers and panels are a mixture of writing and publishing, and law enforcement information. Four publishers are expected to attend. https://policewriter.com/

What was once my normal, attending many mystery cons during the year, is no longer possible for several reasons, but I encourage those of you who can. And my advice to those of you who attend one or more event, don’t merely hang out with those you know, reach out and talk to everyone. Yes, I always did and shared some wonderful conversations and meals with interesting people for all parts of the country. You might become friends with a reader who will become one of your biggest fans.

Marilyn who also writes as F. M. Meredith

The latest and last book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series if Reversal of Fortune. And I’ve received lots of help for this series from folks I’ve met through the Public Safety Writers of America.