Friday, October 21, 2016

Donut Day

It started with a donut. One donut. On Fridays, the place we have one of our offices brings in donuts. I ignored them for a while as I’ve been off donuts for years. I simply didn’t like them anymore. But then one Friday, I tried one of the office donuts. I expected the same response I’d gotten from the last ones I’d had. They were too sweet, too greasy and hit my stomach like a bowling ball. The donut at the office was different on all fronts. It was absolutely delicious. I checked the box they were in and saw that it came from a local independent donut shop.

After that I started to look forward to having a donut in the office on Friday. I tried all different kinds and they were all great. I’d just have one donut and that was enough.

I mentioned how much l liked the office donuts to my husband and I’m sure he had the best of intentions when he brought me two donuts from a local donut shop. They were delicious, but there was a certain pressure to eat them. The next time he brought home three donuts. I spread eating them over a number of days and began to notice something. I had truly looked forward to the one donut at the office, but now having them more often had changed things. I wasn’t enjoying them as much. The last of the three donuts dragged on for days. I’d eat part of it and then leave the rest for later. Then I noticed it had become a chore to eat what I had so looked forward to. Half of it is still sitting there.

It’s such a paradox really. You take something that is special and turn it into an everyday event and it changes everything. I saw for myself what happened with me and the donuts. It is so odd to think that more of something that you like is really not better. My mother used to always say it was good to want something instead of having everything. I think she was right.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life’s Second Chapter

Hi all!  Please welcome author and friend Lois Winston to the Killer Hobbies blog today.  What to Lois's protagonists have in common with her?  Read and find out!

I spent most of my adult life working as a designer in the consumer crafts industry. Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed doing needlework any time over the last three and a half decades, you most likely stitched one of the designs I created for kit manufacturers, magazines, or craft book publishers.

Once upon a time the consumer crafts industry was so large that only a handful of convention centers across the country were able to host our annual trade show. I belonged to and served on the board of a professional design organization comprised of hundreds of craft designers. I worked for seven years as the head designer, design coordinator, and editor of a major craft company and freelanced for close to a hundred different companies and publishers throughout my career.

Then it all began to change. The personal home computer and the Internet became the death knell of the craft industry as I knew it. Suddenly people were spending more time on their computers and less time crafting. When they did craft, too many shied away from projects that took weeks or months to complete, instead opting for craft projects that could be finished in an evening or two. Designers couldn’t make a living designing such simple projects, and companies found they needed to sell far too many beads or skeins of floss to stay afloat. One by one companies were gobbled up by competitors or declared bankruptcy. Magazines folded. My career teetered on the edge of obsolete. Last year as a designer, I earned what I once made in a month. So far this year I’ve earned less than what I used to make in a week.

So like Gracie Elliott, the protagonist of my Empty Nest Mystery series, I know what it’s like to wake up one morning and find my comfortable existence threatened. And like Gracie, I turned to writing, hoping for a new career in which I could make the kind of money I once made as a designer. I was certainly in for a huge shock when I sold my first book and was offered an advance that was only slightly more than what I commanded for a single complex needlework design!

Because I have always found it easier and more comfortable to write protagonists in professions I’m familiar with, my heroines generally have some connection to the world of art and/or crafts. My romance novels have featured a doll-maker, a photographer, a kinder and gentler version of Martha Stewart, and an architectural artist, to name a few. Anastasia Pollack, the protagonist of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, is the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Before her career was outsourced to a third-world nation, Gracie was a textile designer.

But with Gracie, I’ve taken things a step further and given her some of my own anxieties about being middle-aged, out of work, and hoping for a new career as a published author. Where I detour from my own experiences and plant Gracie firmly in the world of fiction is when I introduce dead bodies. I’ve attended many writing conferences over the last twenty years but have yet to stumble over a single dead body. And that’s definitely a good thing!

Literally Dead

An Empty Nest Mystery, Book 2

After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.

With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.

Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring husband Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.

Buy Links


About the Author

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. Visit Lois/Emma at and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Pinterest at and onTwitter at Sign up for her newsletter at


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Tribute To My Lexie

I have to talk about my little Lexie and losing her, and Killer Hobbies feels like the best place to do it--partly because she was such an inspiration to my writing, one of the main reasons so much of my work now includes dogs.

You see, I've been owned by Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for a long time.  They're all special to me, including my remaining, adorable nut-case Mystie, who will never grow up. 

But among them all, Lexie was the most special.

She became part of my family thirteen years ago.  I began writing my first cozy mystery series, the Kendra Ballantyne Pet-Sitter Mysteries, not long afterward.  Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Lexie.  And yes, you may be aware that I was then a practicing lawyer, I live in the Hollywood Hills... and then there was Lexie.  The first Kendra book, SIT, STAY, SLAY, has a cover depicting a cartoon Cavalier resembling Lexie.

Lexie taught me a lot about how dogs can communicate and love like humans.  She could tell time and always let me know, starting about an hour before her dinner time, that mealtime was approaching.  Recently, when she needed a pill around noon, she'd tell me that time, too--since she got her pills in food she liked.

She liked to walk.  She liked to run.  And we have a nice, large backyard that she liked to explore and exercise in.  Since she got treats when she used that yard as doggies do, she would look up at me when she was done to make sure I saw her.   Plus she would wag her tail.  She wagged her tail often, especially while looking me in the eyes.

She constantly gave me orders.  As she aged, she liked sleeping in front of a particular air conditioner vent near the floor and would stand near it and look at me till I turned the air on for her.  Her mobility began to decrease recently, and she let me know that she no longer wanted to walk down the two tile steps from our entryway into our living room by standing there barking one day till I figured it out.  Mostly, though, she wasn't bothered by her dwindling mobility.

In fact, with all her problems, she was always happy, looking into my eyes despite her increasing vision issues, cocking her head (partly because of her vestibular disease), and giving little air-licks of happiness to show she appreciated how close we were.

But Lexie was a Cavalier.  And despite current breeders often being better about breeding parents whose health is acceptable, Cavaliers still get mitral valve heart disease.  Till Lexie, mine were all diagnosed with it at around age five.  She didn't get it till around age ten... and she went into heart failure a year ago, at age twelve.

I stayed home from a recent family trip my husband took since I was too worried about Lexie's health to go, though I was concerned she'd leave us before his return.  She didn't.  She started declining more a couple of days before he was expected back... and when we took her to her cardiologist and she didn't respond well to the additional medication, it was time. 

She crossed the Rainbow Bridge exactly a week ago, on Wednesday, October 12.

We all miss her, including her sort-of sister Mystie, who is getting more attention, of course, but is clearly depressed.  We will most likely get her another Cavalier companion--for us, too.

But not as a replacement for our Lexie.  That would be impossible.

Bye, Lex.  We love you.

P.S.  I'm aware that my photo when I answer comments shows Lexie with me.  I'll keep it that way, at least for now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This has been such a screwy week I can't keep track of the days.  Today is Tuesday and I am supposed to post an entry here. 

My brother-in-law is dying in Intensive Care.  He went in for cancer surgery and a series of complications ensued and now he is in a coma and all that's left is a decision on when to stop the efforts to keep him alive.  Steve was an active sportsman, funny and decisive, and it's weird to think of him near death.  We're going to pay him a last visit a little later today.

I went to see my rheumatologist yesterday and complained that my bad knee was still stiff and hurting.  As I had a low-grade fever, he decided to pull some fluid from the joint and the result was about half a cup of cloudy, yellowish liquid which is going for a laboratory analysis.  So it seems that the long haul is not over yet.

My niece Regina ("Reggie") is on her way up here from Naples, Florida, should arrive late tonight or early tomorrow.  I've been making a list of places to take her which is now longer than her visit.  So she'll get to pick and choose.

My Ford should be finished being repaired later today if a needed part arrives.

See what I mean?  Life is all up in the air and complicated.