Characters Who Get Older--Or Not, by Lois Winston
When I began writing my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I failed to take the passage of time into account. Back then, I hadn’t yet sold the series. I wasn’t thinking long term when I gave Anastasia two teenage sons. Once I signed a contract for the first three books, I realized I’d boxed myself into a tight corner. I should have made Nick and Alex four and six, not fourteen and sixteen. I’d opened Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, in January and set Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book, in May and June. If I continued to devote several months to each story, Anastasia would be an empty nester in no time at all. I didn’t want that to happen.
In Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Stephanie hasn’t aged over the course of twenty-five novels, each written approximately a year apart. The reader is really never quite sure how much time has passed between books, but it’s certainly not a year. Stephanie’s adventures definitely haven’t spanned twenty-five years; it’s more like twenty-five months.
The way those books are written Stephanie’s life doesn’t have to conform to a realistic timeline, but I didn’t feel such a loose framework would work for my stories. For one thing, I wanted a romance to develop between Anastasia and Zachary Barnes, the photojournalist (or is he a spy?) who rents the apartment above her garage. However, since Anastasia is recently widowed in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, I needed this relationship to progress slowly, which is why I had drawn out the timeline of the first two books in the series.
I also wanted Anastasia to deal with the financial realities of being a suddenly impoverished single parent at a time when Alex is about to get his driver’s license and is getting ready to apply to colleges. Whittling down Anastasia’s debt with various moonlighting jobs would take time. I also wanted her much-married mother to continue to remarry.
I finally decided to condense my timeline as much as possible, beginning with Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in the series, but still maintain a realistic passage of time. This book opens the beginning of July and spans seven weeks. Decoupage Can Be Deadly employs an even shorter timeframe, taking place over two weeks the end of September and beginning of October. A Stitch to Die For spans ten days at the end of October. A Scrapbook of Murder opens less than three weeks later and takes place over two weeks. Finally, Drop Dead Ornaments, the latest book in the series, begins later the day A Scrapbook of Murder ends and unfolds over the course of two-and-a-half weeks in early December.
In-between I’ve shoehorned in three mini-mystery novellas (Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril), each only a few days long. Much has transpired in Anastasia’s life over the course of not quite a year, but I think I’ve solved my problem, at least for the time being. And I still have six months before Alex graduates from high school.
A lot can happen in six months when you’re a reluctant amateur sleuth.
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?
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.
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
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