Cheaper Than a Therapist

I’m happy to welcome my friend, best-selling author LOIS WINSTON as my guest blogger today, and here’s why!

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.

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I’m not one of those authors who always knew they wanted to grow up to write novels. The urge to write came upon me much later in life during a time of great personal stress and upheaval. We all deal with stress in different ways. Some people run marathons, others run to therapy, and still others run to the mall for retail therapy. None of these were viable options at the time.

After years of a mandatory daily mile run around the high school track for gym class—which had to be accomplished in under ten minutes—I’ll only run to escape a killer hot on my heels. Otherwise, forget it!

As for therapy, retail or otherwise, one of the factors causing me stress at the time was financial. We were eating macaroni and cheese casseroles most nights to stretch the food budget. No way could I afford a new pair of socks, let alone a shrink.

So I began to write. It all started with a dream. I normally don’t remember my dreams, but I remembered this one in vivid detail. Each night the dream returned, unfolding like the chapters of a book. Eventually, I decided to write the dream down, and before I knew it, I’d written 50,000 words. That dream, after ten years, many rewrites, and an additional 50,000 words, became the romantic suspense, Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the second book I sold to a publisher.

I not only discovered that I enjoyed writing fiction, I realized that writing relieved my stress. Losing myself in my characters enabled me to escape my own problems, if only for a little while. I probably could have accomplished this by journaling, but many years ago I discovered my mother was reading my diary, and I hadn’t written anything truly personal since.

Writing fiction became very cathartic. I could instill various characters with bits and pieces of myself. Every book I’ve written has a little of me in at least one of the characters. But which characters and what traits remain my secret—with one exception. In my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law Lucille is patterned after my own communist mother-in-law. Anastasia’s reactions to her often mirror my own thoughts and actions from back when my mother-in-law was alive. Although I have to admit, Anastasia often handles these situations better than I did at the time. In my defense, though, I’m only human. She’s my better angel, personifying the woman I strive to be. That’s the beauty of fiction. We can recreate ourselves through our characters.

New Release!

Drop Dead Ornaments

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 7

Anastasia Pollack’s son Alex is dating Sophie Lambert, the new kid in town. For their community service project, the high school seniors have chosen to raise money for the county food bank. Anastasia taps her craft industry contacts to donate materials for the students to make Christmas ornaments they’ll sell at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair.

At the fair Anastasia meets Sophie’s father, Shane Lambert, who strikes her as a man with secrets. She also notices a woman eavesdropping on their conversation. Later that evening when the woman turns up dead, Sophie’s father is arrested for her murder.

Alex and Sophie beg Anastasia to find the real killer, but Anastasia has had her fill of dead bodies. She’s also not convinced of Shane’s innocence. Besides, she’s promised younger son Nick she’ll stop risking her life. But how can she say no to Alex?

Buy Links

Amazon https://amzn.to/2MBo1xS

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/drop-dead-ornaments

iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/drop-dead-ornaments/id1431548050?mt=11

Nook https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/drop-dead-ornaments-lois-winston/1129345148?ean=2940161937181

Website: www.loiswinston.com

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

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All Saints Day

All Saints — that means the roughly 10000 men and women who’ve been canonized over the centuries.

I’ve picked a few to celebrate All Saints Day, November 1.

Saints Christopher, Eustace, and Erasmus (Three Helper Saints) Artist: Tilman Riemenschneider (German, 1460–1531) Date: ca. 1500–1505 Geography: Made in Würzburg, Germany Culture: German Medium: Limewood Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1961

St. Christopher (left) — patron saint of travelers and of children. Legend has it that he was carrying an unknown child across a river when the child became heavier and heavier. Long story short, it was the Christ Child. His feast day is July 25, though he’s no longer recognized by the Catholic Church. I’ll bet you or someone you know had a St. Christopher medal or statue for safe travels. I wonder how many tossed the icon when we found out he wasn’t “real.” hmm.

St. Eustace (center)He was second abbot of the Irish monastery of Luxeuil in France. With his disciples did much to spread the Gospel over Central and Southern Europe.

St. Erasmus (right) — also known as St. Elmo, patron saint of sailors and abdominal pain. Strange combination? Maybe has to do with seasickness.

And two more:

Scenes from the life of Joan of Arc Manufactory: Hartmann et Fils Designer: Designed by Charles Abraham Chasselat (French, Paris 1782–1843 Paris) , Paris Date: 1817 Culture: French, Munster Medium: Cotton Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 191, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

St. Joan of Arc — Nicknamed “The Maid of Orléans,” considered a heroine of France for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.

Saint Anthony of Padua Artist: Maso di Banco (Italian, Florence, active 1320–46) Date: ca. 1340 Medium: Tempera on wood, gold ground Credit Line: Maitland F. Griggs Collection, Bequest of Maitland F. Griggs, 1943, Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

St. Anthony of Padua — born Fernando Martins de Bulhões, was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order. He was born and raised by a wealthy family in Lisbon, Portugal, and died in Padua, Italy. He is known as the patron saint of lost articles and of the church where I grew up in Revere, Massachusetts (so how could I leave him off this list?).

Who’s your favorite saint?

A Triple Halloween

Full disclosure: I’ve preyed upon author JO MELE before to visit The Real Me. This one is a repeat from a couple of years ago, but is my favorite Halloween story. Thanks, Jo!

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My little brother Joey is the most determined; some call it stubborn, person I know. He loved Halloween and couldn’t wait to get home and sort his candy into piles eating all his favorites first.

When he was eight he missed trick or treating because he had a high fever. My mother’s decision to keep him in nearly drove Joey and her crazy. The pleading went on for hours until he gave my mother a headache and was sent to his room in tears.

I went around the neighborhood with two bags asking for a treat for my brother who was home sick. The neighbors were sorry to hear he was missing his favorite Holiday. They were very generous to his sack. He didn’t even feel well enough to do his sorting and eating routine until the following weekend.

The next year Joey had two costumes ready, the pirate from the previous year and the new cowboy costume, (complete with boots and pearl handled Lone Ranger six-shooters) he got for his birthday. He was counting the days to trick or treating.

Unfortunately, he came down with the flu that day and couldn’t even stand.  My mother wouldn’t allow him to go out into the frigid New York afternoon.

I went around the neighborhood with his sack and mine and everyone said, “Oh no, poor guy, not again!” They poured goodies and change into his bag saying he could buy what he liked when he felt better. He made two dollars but wasn’t happy.

When October came around again Joey was ready. He was ten years old, full of energy, had three costumes waiting to be worn. He was determined, and on a mission. My parents had already decided they’d let him go trick or treating – no matter what.

Halloween fell on a Saturday that year, so Joey could rest before his long-awaited adventure and stay out late since it wasn’t a school night. It was a beautiful warm fall day and after whining “Can’t I start yet,” for the hundredth time, my mother gave in and let him start.

He was the first kid out and the last one home. When his bag got heavy he came home, changed his costume and got another one. He started over again, and again, determined to make up for lost time. He had the Halloween of his life.

When Joey finally dragged in and saw his three bags full of goodies waiting for the sorting, he hugged them and burst into tears of joy. He’d won his battle with Halloween. I admired his determination. He never gave up and wouldn’t settle for one round of trick-or-treating when he deserved three. I’m sure I would’ve quit after the first trip out into the cold.

Joey was no quitter, he needed to even the score, two traits he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

Jo and Patience at the NYPL

JOSEPHINE E. MELE is a tour director who lives in California and loves to travel.

Her former job as Director of the Emeritus College, a Life-long learning program at the local community college, enabled Jo to lead groups of travelers interested in education and history to: Cuba, Italy, China, Amsterdam and Egypt.

On her return she schedules a travelogue for those who couldn’t make the trip. Groups of one hundred or more people turn out for these lectures.

An art background enables Jo to draw people into cartoon strips to help remember their names and idiosyncrasies; and provides comic relief.

Several of her travel and non-fiction articles have been published in Parent’s Magazine, Reminisce, The Contra Costa Times Newspaper and the Lamorinda Press.

Jo is an adventurous traveler and opts for the less traveled itineraries. A recent trip to Monaco led her to write Mystery in Monte Carlo. Last year she traveled by herself to Bulgaria and Eastern Europe where she found a few good locations to drop a body or two.

Lighting the way

This week, on October 21, we celebrate the light bulb.

Legend has it that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, and that the first one started brightening the night on October 21, 1879.

It’s a little more complicated, what with Humphrey Davy creating an arc lamp years earlier, and other scientists creating sparks here and there along the way. One thing that is certain is that Edison created the first marketable bulb.

This is as official as anything: the DOE’s The History of the Light Bulb page, with a great timeline, starting with the first arc lamp in 1803. Another exciting history is from the Edison Tech Center.

Perhaps the most famous light bulb burns in Livermore, California: It is maintained by the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department. The fire department claims that the bulb is at least 116 years old (installed 1901) and has only been turned off a handful of times.

Need an update? Here’s a more modern floor lamp, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art open access collection:

“Toio” Floor Lamp Designer: Achille Castiglioni (Italian, 1918–2002)
 Designer: Pier Giacomo Castiglioni (Italian, 1913–1968)
 Manufacturer: Flos S.p.A.
 Date: designed 1962 Medium: Automobile headlight bulb, steel, enamel, transformer, rubber, duct tape, plastic Dimensions: 65 x 8 1/4 x 7 3/4 in. (165.1 x 21 x 19.7 cm) Classification: Lighting Credit Line: Gift of Dr. Michael Sze, 2002

Do you feel enlightened? <groan>

Never mind the roses

I’m deep into my class, dealing with science and technology, and the cultural changes they bring about. As usual, questions of technology and lifestyle come up among my students. Here are some common memes, complaints, observations. Depending on where you stand on the spectrum — how much technology is too much?

1. I don’t have time anymore to smell the roses, says one student.

My question: how much time does it take to smell roses to get the full benefit of the scent? One good long inhalation should do it. And the rest of the time, we can be doing something useful, something that might even benefit our fellows/sisters next door.

Lovely decoration; not worth more than one smell

2. Math skills are going away — a clerk doesn’t even have to “make change” anymore!

My response: So what? Is that what we aspire to for our kids, to be whizzes at arithmetic? Or do we want them to dream up new software or perhaps new medical devices, or write brilliant novels? Horse riding skills are going away also, now that we have planes, trains, and automobiles. Do we lament that as well?

3. Penmanship, too, has suffered – no more cursive!

Another so what? Hasn’t it always been easier to print? Isn’t that why forms usually state PLEASE PRINT? Because it’s hard to read a cursive? Isn’t there something more creative to do than write a beautiful letter A? Monks did this, but they didn’t have much else to do.

The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux, Queen of France, ca. 1324–28, Grisaille, tempera, and ink on vellum, the Cloisters

Maybe we leave it to today’s artists to create more fonts or illustrate manuscripts.

We’re not necessarily dumber because we don’t need certain outdated skills. Neither are we more stressed if we don’t “stop to appreciate the beauty of life,” as so many memes remind us.

Some of us, in fact, become very stressed when we don’t have enough to do. For me, panic sets in when I have fewer than 7 projects underway.

Finally, it’s not the Internet’s fault that we’re distracted (from what? the roses?) We use cars instead of horses; therefore we can go more places, educate ourselves on the way. Yes, FB and other Internet attractions can grab us and  “waste” time, but that’s our choice, and I feel — for me — if I didn’t have the Internet to distract me, something else would!

It’s my personality/temperament that’s to blame, not the technology in front of me.

You?

A Work in Progress

Full Disclosure: part of this blog appeared on Lois Winston’s Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers blog earlier this month. Nothing wring with repurposing, right?

original release from Berkley Prime Crime, 2/2008

Who hasn’t thought of time travel? Reliving glory days, redoing a life-changing decision, or simply hanging around with your favorite historical figure. I might make a date with Abraham Lincoln, find out if he really did wear size 14 shoe.

Recently, I was offered the chance to go back in time – to 2008. Not as dramatic a trip as one requiring a whole new wardrobe, maybe even a bustle and a parasol. Its claim to fame: My first Miniature Mystery, cover shown here, was released in 2008. Murder in Miniature introduced miniaturist Gerry Porter and her precocious 10-year-old granddaughter Maddie. The book also includes a section of Tips for Miniatures, with ideas such as using rounded buttons as the feet on an upholstered chair; or the fluted metal top of a soda bottle as a mini pie plate.

I’m now cleared (long story) to reissue that book and 4 others in the series. The new cover will include a photo of my latest dollhouse project, shown here as a work in progress, with interior and exterior views. Once completely cleaned up and furnished, the house will be donated to a local school for its holiday raffle. Giving crafts projects away serves a dual purpose: raising money for a worthy cause, and making room for another project. Not to mention an excuse to shop for more supplies.

A little more about furnishing the house shown, which arrived as a fixer-upper from a writer friend. I rummaged through my many drawers, shelves, and messy boxes of stuff, as usual before I buy or make anything new. I found one of those pieces of fabric that come with an easy chair, the intended use being to protect the arm or the head rest of the chair from wear. Since I’m not that fussy about my life-size furniture, but I do always keep scraps, this meant-to-be carpet was a perfect fit for the living room (lower right). The paint brushes are there for scale, lest you think this is where I live.

I’ve also scattered other items: a folding chair and a coaster-cum-scatter rug in the bedroom (middle right); cans of food, barely distinguishable on the kitchen floor (lower left); and a mini slinky and kid’s chair in the attic.

This method of positioning pieces—here a stool, there a stool—is similar to the way I write a novel. Test out a word, a phrase, a plot twist and live with it for a while before committing.

Which is to say, I like crafts with moveable pieces and room for correctible errors!

Sister Miniaturist

It’s always great to meet someone who shares your hobby, right? Right.

But it’s a little disconcerting when she’s SO much more talented than you. Okay, me.

This week I’m featuring the wonderful miniaturist, Toni Vanterpool. I have her permission to post photos here of her amazing little ATRIUM.

Toni Vanterpool's Atrium

Now how did that book get there?