Category : Personal Favorites

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

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston

Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston

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.

When Art Does Not Imitate Life

A print of one my favorite paintings hangs in my office: “Wheat Field,” by Monet.

It’s representative of countless other landscape paintings, like those of Millet, Corot, Church, Cezanne, and Pissarro, all of which I love. I could sit in front of any of them for hours.

What’s so blog-worthy about that? Most of us relish the moments of meditation and pleasure we get from works of art.

But what I can’t figure out is this—if I were actually standing in one of these landscapes, I’d be freaking out. A wheat field? Eeuuw, I’d be scratching and itching, as well as asking “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” So why do I have prints like this all over my house?

The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak, 1863

Bierstadt’s “The Rocky Mountains,” (The Met Collection, Roger’s Fund, 1907) is even worse. The sun is strong. I don’t like sun, in general. Or bugs. Or plants. And there are animals. Eeek! I’m afraid of the wild half of the animal kingdom and allergic to the tame half. Besides, they tend to add organic matter and odors to an open area like this meadow (valley? grassy knoll?), both of which I would find unpleasant if I were to stand at the focal point of this painting. I’m cringing at the thought of what would be on the soles of my shoes. And still no Starbucks or even a family-owned bistro. Nor a convenience store to buy bathroom tissue—oh, right, there’s no bathroom in sight. No sign pointing to the nearest hospital. No cell tower. Just thinking about it being there, I’m hyperventilating.

My idea of roughing it on vacation: a couple of galleries at MOMA are closed, darn; my theater seats are in the balcony, darn; and late night room service takes more than fifteen minutes, darn.

Thinking about this phenomenon—why I love paintings that depict scenes I go out of my way to avoid—it’s a lot like my relationship with fiction.

I write crime fiction; I love reading and watching movies about crime. The ensemble heist, the perfect murder, the “lovable” serial killer; a juicy kidnapping. But I don’t want any of it to touch me in real life.

There must be a name for this syndrome?

2017 Puzzle Review

Many of you know of the puzzle mania that characterizes our home.

Here’s the latest one we’re working on (well, mostly the Rufer part of the family). It’s a collage of foods from yesteryear, some of which are still around, some not.

"Things I Ate As a Kid"

If you want to see the complete inventory of puzzles from 2017 and years past, here’s the link:

http://rrufer.com/wordpress_1284833715/

Note: The Rufer puzzle blog does not accept comments, but The Real Me does, so feel free to comment here! And, above all,

Happy New Year!

Multitasking

Topic of the week: Who doesn’t multitask?

There are a few ways to do it.

1. How to multitask a movie.

For example, say you think you’ve earned a couple of hours for a movie. Before you sit down with a cup of coffee, you

• put in a load of clothes

• start a soup in the crock pot

• set the timer for a pan of hard boiled eggs

• make sure a pad of paper and pen are handy for notes for:

– to do list

– critique of movie for:

— blog

— writing class

• set timers for laundry, soup, eggs

• have pile of magazines handy for sorting

and during the movie

• watch for useful tips for:

– writing class or

– your next short story

• grab a dust cloth and clean up the small table next to you, including:

• pull the odds and ends container onto your lap and

– sort out the nailclippers from the vitamins, etc.

• whisk off the cloth and arrange a clean one on the table

then

relax with cold coffee during the last 10 minutes of the movie

Not an uplifting news segment

2. Watching the news.

It’s harder to multitask on your own while watching the news, because they do it for you. Here’s a typical screen from CNN.

In the one second that this frame is showing, I’m getting 15 pieces of information:

• the voice of the anchor woman

• an image of the guest

• audio from the guest

• the name and affiliation of the guest

• the time zone the guest is in

• the time zone the anchor is in

• separate image of the content of the interview, which includes:

– a video connected to the content

— ID of video provider

• a video and captions of separate news item (Irma in FL)

• a thick banner with a summary statement from the AMB

• a scroll along the bottom with information on donations

• a small box with Dow Jones info toggling with time

A few seconds later I saw

• a pop up with COMING SOON (documentary on Reagan)

• news of a royal pregnancy

3. Computer Multitasking

I have 2 monitors in front of me.

Monitor #1 has

• list of writing students and status of submissions

• record and schedule of blogs

• handy addresses/phone #s

• Word doc for science students needing attention

Monitor #2 has

• docs being worked on

• folders with open projects

• email open

• FB open (in case of emergency)

I’m exhausted just writing this. I’m going to relax and fold a pile of clothes while I stir the soup and finish a chapter for tomorrow’s book club.

Not Again!

But it has been at least 6 weeks since I’ve posted NYC photos!

This time it’s legit — a trip report, you might say. I’ve just returned from ThrillerFest, an annual conference in Manhattan.

In between panels, I managed a trip or two to museums. Here are just two of the old favorites I visited at MOMA on 53rd between 5th and 6th.

1. A Monet that got me through grad school at Fordham. I could always find a seat in front of this mural, captured here only in part.

2. Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. This one moves around the museum. Last week I found it right outside the Terrace Cafe. In case you’re curious, here are 11 things you might not know about the painting.

View from an asylum

Finally, something completely different. The restroom signs. I hope you can read the newest footnote: SELF-IDENTIFIED. New York never disappoints.

On the wall, outside the restroom; similar sign outside Men's

Top Scenic Views

Recently, on TheLadyKillers, we were asked to post about SCENIC VIEWS.

No problem for me. I know that some people love mountains for themselves, but I think of them as raw material for buildings.

What is scenic for me has to involve human creativity — using the stuff of the universe to create something beautiful. A few examples:

The New York Public Library, home to 53.1 million items.

Grand Central Terminal.

From a room with a view: 42nd St.

As you see, like Woody Allen, I am 2 with nature.

Who doesn’t love a Yogi quote?

I love to celebrate birthdays, even when I’ve never met the person.

YOGI BERRA’S birthday is this week (May 12, 1925- September 22, 2015). I’m not a baseball fan, but I used to be. In case I haven’t mentioned it often enough: one of my first publications was in a baseball magazine, the story of my devastation when the Braves left Boston in the early 1950’s, the first major league team to leave its hometown.

I have a soft spot in my heart for all the old Braves — remember “Spahn, Sain, and pray for rain” — but also for the Yankees, just because they’re New York. And who has more brilliant quotes than that famous Yankee, Yogi Berra:

• You can observe a lot just by watching.

• When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

• You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.

• It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.

• A nickel isn’t worth a dime today.

• Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.

• Do you mean now? (When asked for the time.)

• You give 100 % in the first half of the game, and if that isn’t enough, in the second half you give what’s left.

• I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”

• If the fans don’t come out to the ball park, you can’t stop them.

I know I should have shortened this list, but, to quote Yogi:

I didn’t really say everything I said.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Never mind what the retail scene tells you — The Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on Christmas Day, December 25th. The twelfth day ends at midnight on January 5th of each year, followed by the feast of the Epiphany, January 6.

Here’s the symbolism of the 12 days.

The first day of Christmas - My True Love, the Partridge in a Pear Tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as symbol of a divine and sacred king (“my true love”).

The second day of Christmas – Two turtle doves are the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The doves symbolize peace.

The third day of Christmas – The three French Hens are Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The fourth day of Christmas – The four calling birds are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The fifth day of Christmas – The five golden rings represent the first five books of the Old Testament.

The sixth day of Christmas - The six geese a-laying stand for the first six days of creation.

The seventh day of Christmas - The seven swans a-swimming represent the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

The eighth day of Christmas – The eight maids a-milking are the eight Beatitudes.

The ninth day of Christmas – Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The tenth day of Christmas – The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.

The eleventh day of Christmas – The eleven pipers piping represent the eleven faithful apostles.

The twelfth day of Christmas - The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of belief in The Apostles’ Creed.

The good news: you’re to leave your ornaments up until after January 6!