This has been a tough year, and one that we were all glad to see end.
In my holiday blog post (https://wp.me/p6m4z7-2W6) I spoke about some challenges and triumphs I’ve encountered this past year. For New Year’s, I’d like to share my goals for 2021 and would love to hear yours. Goals are hopes and dreams put into action and are more important than resolutions because they’re within our control. Here are my top 3:
Goal 1: Diet and Exercise:
I’ve been on the Jenny Craig diet for several years now and have been exercising daily with Leslie Sansone’s Walk-at-Home videos; and, although I’m over 70 pounds lower than when I started, I’d still like to lose at least 15 pounds more. The holidays are a tough time to diet, and I’m a big snacker. I enjoy sweets especially chocolates. While I don’t expect to lose much over the winter, I’ve signed up for a virtual fitness challenge from a company called Run the Edge. My challenge, Run the Year 2021, is a year-long exercise challenge beginning January 1st where participants can run, walk, or step their way to a goal they set from 1,000 to 2021 “miles.” In December I’d also participated in the Run from 2020–Zoom into 2021 Challenge to run/walk 100 miles until January 1st. I came in 4th place out of 156 virtual participants with 131.01 miles walked. It’s a great motivation to keep fit.
Goal 2: Writing Projects
I have a ton of writing projects in various stages of development. I’ve recently resurrected a time-travel novel that I would like to edit and publish. I’m also considering a sequel to Sea Scopewhich was so well received and won a silver medal from Reader’s Favorite and placed as a finalist in TopShelf Magazine’s 2020 Awards contest (the eBook is on sale for 99 cents until January 3). Of course, I have plans for a 6th Cobble Cove cozy mystery, although I may publish a spring Sneaky the Library Cat story first. I may also try my hand at another non-fiction book after Pet Posts: The Cat Chats. I have an idea for this but will keep it to myself for now, although I can say that it will involve cats.
Goal 3: Continuing Education
As a librarian and an author, I know the value of lifetime learning. I’m hoping to take more online writing courses and attend virtual and, if available, in-person conferences. In addition, I’ll be leading a Zoom writing group for my library called First Draft Writer’s Club that kicks off this January and a virtual book club called Fun with Fiction that will feature monthly reading themes. I plan to share information from those groups in upcoming posts. In February, Long Island University’s Alumni Association, has asked me to host a one-hour zoom writing workshop, From Blogs to Books: Publishing for Pleasure or Profit, where I’ll be discussing various types of writing and publishing. The writing group, book club, and workshop will be open to all but will require registration. I’ll post details about them in a future blog and share on my Facebook author page.
Thank you all for your support this year. I wish you a happy, safe, and healthy New Year, and best wishes for accomplishing all your goals for 2021.
This has been a tough year. As some of you know, I lost a long-time friend and a sweet, elderly homebound patron to COVID. I know some of you have also lost friends, relatives, and co-workers. We’ve all also lost many other things — group gatherings, family events, businesses that have closed, etc. Hope is on the horizon in the form of a vaccine, but it may take a while before the effects are evident. In the meantime, we hope and pray that 2021 is better.
Although we’ve lost a lot, we have gained some things. We’ve gained knowledge of how to connect online through programs such as Zoom, we’ve found ways to occupy ourselves during lockdown and make the most of a bad situation. Personally, I’ve been lucky that my husband, daughter, and I have stayed safe. I’ve published 3 books this year, Memory Makers, No Gravestone Unturned (Cobble Cove #5), and Pet Posts: The Cat Chats.
My short science fiction stories, “The Felindae Mission” and “Mirror Image” appeared in the Red Penguin Collection, What Lies Below.
One thing that has kept me sane through these difficult times has been my family, pets, and the support of fellow authors and readers. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday and much brighter days in the New Year.
This has been a tough year and one that’s hard to find things to be thankful for, but if you reflect on the people in your life, I’m sure you’ll find many. I’m thankful for my husband, daughter, and cats, my relatives, friends, and co-workers at the library, my church, neighbors, and community, my readers, social media followers, my publishers, and fellow authors, my doctors, dentist, and veterinarian. The authors whose books I enjoy reading, the actors whose shows I like watching, the sunrise and sunset, nature, God, and all the animals and wildlife that inhabit the Earth.
While I’m thankful for the things I have and the people I know, I’m also thankful for the things I had and the people I knew. I’m thankful for my parents who are gone but who loved, raised, and taught me how to treat and care for others and for all the pets I lost through the years who brought me so much joy while they were part of my life. I’m thankful for a friend I lost from COVID this year who inspired me by her faith.
Thanksgiving isn’t about Pilgrims and Indians dining together or stuffing yourself on turkey and sides. It’s about giving thanks for those people and things you take for granted every day or don’t realize the value of. It’s also about being the person others are thankful for knowing and doing the things that people are thankful you do.
I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving. While this may not be the year you travel to relatives or have a large family gathering, it can still be a year full of giving thanks.
The characters from my Cobble Cove cozy mysteries gather in the Cobble Cove library to celebrate the holidays. Each character receives a gift from the author, and Alicia, the main character, reads some excerpts from the first and second book of the series.
Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…
Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.
Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…
Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burglarized, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.
John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…
When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.
Alicia faces her worst nightmare…
The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?
The holidays can be a beautiful time of year where we gather with family and friends over good food and exchange gifts. But it can also be a sad time as we remember those who are no longer with us. This is the second Christmas without my mother and my cat Oliver. While I know that both of them had poor qualities of life toward the end, it didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye. I still think of them, not only during the holidays but whenever something reminds me of them. The memories are sweet but also sad.
I was blessed to have two kittens come into my life after I lost Mom and Oliver. I know my mother, a cat lover, would’ve loved Harry and Hermione. Since I believe in signs, I also think she may have had something to do with my finding them and maybe Oliver did, too. I lost two and gained two. They will never replace Mom or Oliver, but Harry and Hermione have helped my heart heal.
Here are some photos of Oliver and my mother from years past and also some pictures of Harry and Hermione from their first Christmas with us last year. I wish you all the same joy that takes away some of the sadness of your losses. Remember the good times and cherish those you hold dear today. Every minute with our loved ones is precious and can’t be replaced.
The holidays are a busy time. Between shopping, decorating, and socializing, it’s hard to find the time to read. That’s why short holiday stories are so popular. They can put you in the spirit of the season without taking too much time away from your day. I hope you will consider stuffing your stocking (or your Kindle) with one of my new short mysteries.
Another death has occurred in Cobble Cove near the holidays. This time, it’s the owner of the new pet store in town who was felled by a case of cat food that crushed his skull. Was it an accident, or murder? While the townspeople including the sheriff are divided in their opinions, Sneaky and Kittykai, the library and inn cats, sniff out the truth.
Sneaky endured the humiliation of the Santa Claus costume as Laura read Christmas books to the children. It was worth it because when the stories were over, he was released to the delight of the kids who clamored over him. There were no sticky hands, and no one pulled his tail. They all took turns petting him gently following Laura’s instructions. As he purred and reveled in the words and touches of the kids, he overheard Alicia speaking with Gilly, her best friend, who worked at the library part-time and operated an inn. Gilly had recently married the town’s sheriff and brought home a calico kitten named Kittykai from her honeymoon in Hawaii.
“It’s a shame about what happened at the pet shop, and it was only open a few weeks.”
“I don’t think we should discuss this here, Gilly.”
“But it’s all over the papers. John published it in yesterday’s Courier.” John, who had taken Carol and Johnny up to pet Sneaky, wasn’t aware of what Gilly was saying.
Sneaky needn’t strain his hypersensitive ears to hear the two women’s whispered words. One thing he loved about being a cat was how he could hear conversations and noises that humans couldn’t. He knew all about the murders that had happened in Cobble Cove and even helped Alicia on some of them.
Richard Bright is a man with a plan. He’s an inventor who he wants to kill his wife with one of his inventions. He hopes to put his plan into effect on Christmas, but his invention isn’t quite perfected. Dealing with his wife isn’t an option, nor her two rambunctious kittens, Harry and Hermione. What sweetens the pot is her large inheritance and a pretty young woman who is now working at his shop. Will Richard’s plan to have his special gift ready in time pan out, or will it fizzle with some of his other unfinished projects?
Ben was smart. He never married. “Richard,” he’d say. “Women are trouble. They want fancy clothes, big houses, and babies. That’s not my scene, and I don’t think it’s yours either.” He worked with Ben for ten years. They never made much money, but they were happy drinking beer in Ben’s basement and watching “Let’s Make a Deal” and other game shows on TV. He and Ben sold their inventions at local fairs and through the Internet. It was a good life until that fateful day Ben had a heart attack. Richard took the remainder of the money his mother left him and all the projects he and Ben had completed and opened a shop on Main Street.
It was through the dusty doors of Creative Inventions that Jane Carter walked two years ago wearing a fur coat and diamond jewelry. She’d seen the displays in the window and was interested in the Jack-in-the-box which was actually a cat-in-the-box, a stuffed toy that meowed when it “popped.” When he demonstrated it for her, she giggled. She told him it was cute and that she had to buy it. Her cat would enjoy watching it. Eager to make a sale, Richard sold it for the asking price which was double what it cost him to make. She didn’t haggle, but when she reached into her purse and he saw all the hundred-dollar bills, he nearly fainted. He wanted to make this lady a regular customer. Even better, he wanted to make her his wife.
Last, but not least, my third Cobble Cove Mystery, Written in Stone, is free for Cyber Monday, December 2, only.
Was the strange email her husband received from the fictional detective in their mystery series a threat? Did the killer mistake the woman shot in the library for Alicia or the victim’s twin sister?
Cat vs. Dog . . .
After Sneaky goes missing from the library, will he turn up before a young girl becomes ill with worry over his disappearance? And will he return in time to outsmart Fido by being first to find the perpetrator’s smoking gun?
Alicia is worried . . .
While waiting for the killer’s next move, Alicia has other concerns. An old flame of John’s is in town and her friend, Gilly, has adopted the role of Miss Marple to aid her sheriff boyfriend in his investigation.
When all clues point to one of her co-workers, Alicia joins Gilly in searching for the answers to the mystery.
Will they survive . . . .
or is their ending written in stone?
Check out this video of the other great holiday stories just released from Solstice Publishing.
A Communist Dog, a Russian Empress Cat, and a Shakespeare-quoting Parrot Walked into a Cozy Mystery
By Lois Winston
I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, a cozy series featuring a cast of rather unique characters, including Lucille Pollack, my sleuth’s communist mother-in-law and leader of the thirteen octogenarian Daughters of the October Revolution. However, along with the humans that populate the series, there are three non-humans, each with their own unique personalities.
Manifesto is the commie’s French bulldog, named for The Communist Manifesto, a political treatise written in 1848 by German philosophers Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. Given Lucille’s political leanings, you’d expect her to own a Russian Wolfhound, wouldn’t you? Anastasia really doesn’t know why her mother-in-law chose a French bulldog. The two women converse only when absolutely necessary. However, Anastasia suspects size was the main factor. Russian Wolfhounds are quite large, and prior to moving in with Anastasia and her family, Lucille lived in an extremely small apartment.
You know how pets often take on the personalities of their owners? This is definitely the case with Manifesto. As such, Anastasia and her sons have given the dog a few nicknames, alternating between Mephisto and Devil Dog. Recently, though, Manifesto has begun to mellow and prefer the company of Anastasia’s sons to his mistress. Whether this is due to age or objecting to Lucille’s smothering is uncertain, but Anastasia and the boys see it as a welcome change in disposition. Too bad his mistress doesn’t take her cues from her dog.
Manifesto continues to have one nemesis, though. Catherine the Great is an overweight, pampered white Persian owned by Anastasia’s much-married mother Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer.
Flora is the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution and claims to trace her lineage back to Russian nobility on her mother’s side. When she’s between husbands, she moves in with Anastasia. Due to the size of Anastasia’s home, Flora and Lucille are then forced to share a bedroom. The two women get along as well as their pets—which is to say they fight like cats and dogs.
The Casa Pollack menagerie is rounded out by Ralph, an African Grey Parrot with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare. Anastasia inherited Ralph from her great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle, a college professor and Shakespearean scholar who brought Ralph to all her lectures. Ralph doesn’t just quote the standard famous lines from the Bard of Avon, though. No “alas poor Yorick” or “friends, Romans, countrymen” for this bird. He has an uncanny knack for squawking situation-appropriate lines from any play or sonnet.
Because he’s potty-trained, Ralph has free rein of the house, much to the annoyance of both Lucille and Flora. Manifesto and Catherine the Great don’t think very highly of him, either, but Ralph could care less. He looks down his beak at any species that can’t converse in English. And much to Anastasia’s amusement, Ralph has developed a “bromance” with her boyfriend, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes.
Can you tell I write humorous cozy mysteries?
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?
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.
Today is the day we celebrate those mysterious, funny, lovable creatures called cats who come into our lives and bring so much joy but also sadness when they go. National Cat Day was created to help the public recognize the need to rescue cats. It also encourages cat lovers to recognize the companionship and unconditional love that pet cats give us. This isn’t the only cat-related “holiday” celebrated in October which is known as Black Cat Appreciation Month. I wrote about other special October cat days on another blog. You can read my post On Pens, Paws, and Claws here and my cat Harry’s post about Black Cat Day here.
Cat lovers are encouraged today to share photos and stories of their cats on social media with #NationalCatDay.
Here are a few photos of my special cats, Harry, Hermione, and Stripey:
We celebrate International Cozy Mystery day on September 15, the birthday of Agatha Christie. For those who don’t know what a cozy mystery is, it’s the type of writing that Ms. Christie was famous for. It involves murder of the less gory kind and an absence of explicit sex and violence. It usually takes place in a small town. There can be recipes or pets as central themes in the mystery along with an off-scene murder to solve and a cast of quirky characters with interesting professions.
I write a cozy mystery series called. Cobble Cove mysteries, for the name of the fictional town in which they are set. It includes a librarian and a library cat. A reviewer of the first book of the series, A Stone’s Throw, termed the story, “Agatha Christie meets a small town librarian.”
My recent standalone mystery, Sea Scope, was reviewed as “Imagine Agatha Christie Writing a Psychological Thriller.”
People enjoy reading cozy mysteries because they become familiar with the characters and like the settings. Some of my favorite cozies feature cats, as do mine. I’ve enjoyed fellow Cat Writer’s Association members books such as Carole Nelson Douglas‘ Midnight Louis series, Shirley Rousseau’s Joe Grey tales, and, Mollie Hunt’s Crazy Cat Lady series. For food-related mysteries, I like Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swenson mysteries. Mary Feliz, who provided some of the graphics included in this post, is a fellow Sisters-in-Crime member, and also a cozy mystery author who writes the Maggie McDonald series that features a Golden Retriever. Another SINC member, Marilyn Levinson who writes as Allison Brook writes a cozy that features a librarian and a ghost. Her latest in the Haunted Library series, Buried in the Stacks, was just released. A fellow author from Next Chapter, James J. Cudney IV, writes mysteries taking place on college campuses. The fifth book in his Braxton Campus mysteries, Haunted House Ghost, was also just released.
Do you have a favorite cozy mystery author or series, or haven’t you read a cozy mystery yet? Have you read any of mine? I’d love to hear your comments.
I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season and would like to share some offers with you that I hope will make it a bit brighter.
My holiday story, Celebrating Christmas with my Characters, is free until Monday, December 17. Even if you haven’t read any of my Cobble Cove cozy mysteries, you will enjoy this story that introduces the characters of the first two books and the gifts they give me, their author, as they gather in the library along with Sneaky the Library Cat and Fido, the golden retriever.
My current Cobble Cove mystery, Love on the Rocks, is on blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours until Wednesday, December 19. This tour includes a giveaway of a free eBook and a $10 Amazon gift card.