Lucille, the Communist Mother-in-Law from Hell
By Lois Winston
And now for something completely different…
I’ve started off with the above phrase because this guest post isn’t about Western or Native American romance or mysteries. I’m a city girl whose only experience on a horse has been limited to the painted wooden ones on carousels.
Writers generally write what they know (unless they absolutely love to spend hours, days, weeks, months, or even years researching subjects they know nothing about before putting pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard.) I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, a mystery series with a protagonist whose life mirrors my own—to some extent.
Except I don’t have a husband who dropped dead in a casino in Las Vegas, leaving my two teenage sons and me dead broke. Thank goodness for that, right?
And I haven’t discovered even a single dead body, let alone as many as Anastasia does on what seems like an almost daily basis. For that, too, I am extremely grateful.
And luckier still, no one has ever tried to kill me.
Those exceptions aside, Anastasia and I have a good deal in common, from our careers to our communist mothers-in-law. Yes, you read that right. My mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, she was someone who valued no opinion other than her own. No one knew as much as she did—on any subject. People didn’t have conversations with her. It was impossible because conversation quickly segued into a lecture. And she always had to get in the last word.
When my agent suggested I write a crafting cozy, I knew I wanted to write a humorous one. I’d started out writing dark romantic suspense, but after September 11th I found I could no longer write dark. Living mere miles from Ground Zero, I was witnessing too much dark all around me. I found myself gravitating toward books that made me laugh because I so needed something that would lift the darkness. I figured others probably felt the same way.
So I created Anastasia Pollack, a woman who is suddenly dealt a really crappy hand but manages to persevere with spunk and humor. Her husband has gambled away all their money and not only left her deeply in debt, he’s also left her with Lucille, his semi-invalid commie mother as a permanent houseguest. I gave her my mother-in-law’s personality. But I didn’t stop there. I also gave Anastasia a mother who claims to descend from Russian nobility, and Mama, too, is now living with Anastasia and her sons. Worse yet, she and Lucille must share a bedroom. Conflict, anyone?
I’ve also populated the household with a dog named Manifesto (for the communist treatise), a cat named Catherine the Great, and a Shakespeare-quoting parrot named Ralph.
Oh, and did I mention the Mafia? Something else Anastasia and I have in common. Growing up in New Jersey, I went to school with quite a few Mafia princes and princesses. For all I know, they’ve whacked a few people themselves since I last saw them. For obvious reasons, we haven’t kept in touch.
All of this becomes the backdrop for Anastasia becoming an extremely reluctant amateur sleuth who keeps getting drawn into murder investigations. I’m not totally mean to her, though. With everything I’ve dumped on Anastasia, I had to give her something to put a smile on her face. Enter photojournalist Zack Barnes, except Anastasia suspects he may also be a government operative. Hey, I couldn’t make it too easy for her, right?
There are now six books in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, along with three novellas. Scrapbook of Mystery is the latest release.
Scrapbook of Murder
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6
Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.
When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.
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 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.
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
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