Out of Options:
A Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries
by Dianne Ascroft
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About the Book
Out of Options: A Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries
Independently Published (April 28, 2019)
Paperback: 126 pages
Digital ASIN: B07R4GQWQN
Out of Options is a prequel novella to the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series, and introduces Lois Stone and her companions, Raggs and Ribbons, a pair of perceptive calico cats.
A dry district, a shocking secret, a missing person. When Lois Stone’s friend, Beth Darrow, arranges to meet her to reveal an astonishing discovery, Lois’s curiosity is piqued. Then Beth doesn’t keep their lunch date and Lois becomes worried. What has happened to her friend?
Middle-aged widow Lois is settling into life on her own in her neighbourhood and in the library where she works, and she is just about coping with her fear of strangers after her husband was mugged and died in the park at the end of their street. But her quiet existence is rocked when her friend and fellow local historical society researcher, Beth, arranges to meet her to reveal an exciting and shocking discovery she has made about the history of prohibition in West Toronto Junction, the last dry area in Toronto, and then goes missing before she can share her secret with Lois. There isn’t any proof that Beth is missing so the police won’t actively search for her. Only Lois and Beth’s niece Amy are convinced that Beth’s disappearance is very out of character, and they are worried about her. Where has Beth gone? Is she in danger? And, if she is, who might want to harm her and why? Lois knows she must find the answers to these questions fast if she wants to help and protect her friend.
And so begins a weekend of skulking in the park, apple and cinnamon pancakes, familiar faces staring out of old newspapers, calico cats, shadows on the windowpane, and more than one person who might want Beth to disappear from the quiet, leafy streets of the historic and staunchly dry West Toronto Junction neighbourhood.
About the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I’ve loved to read since I was a very young child. I also have an active imagination so I always have ideas and stories bouncing around in my mind. When I turned forty I decided to put my imagination and love of stories to use and try a new hobby: writing. Almost two decades later I’m still at it – and, who knows? Maybe I’ve even improved a bit over the years.
What genres do you write in?
I wrote historical fiction, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War, for several years before I ventured into cozy mystery. To date, there are seven novellas in my World War II series, The Yankee Years, and I’m currently working on the second novel in my cozy mystery series, Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries. I’ve also released a contemporary short story collection as well as a couple other historical fiction stories and novellas.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
Five or six years ago I reviewed several cozy mysteries for author blog tours. That was my introduction to the cozy genre and I found that I enjoyed the heartwarming, often humorous stories, and I loved to escape to the charming places where they were set. So I started reading them for my own pleasure. At the time, I was writing Second World War fiction, and a couple years later, when I wanted a change of pace, I decided to have a go at writing cozy mysteries.
My interest in a place was what drew me to write historical fiction. The county where I live in Northern Ireland has a rich and varied wartime history and, after I moved to the area more than a decade ago and learned about this history, I became fascinated by it. During the Second World War army camps and flying boat bases sprung up throughout the county, and approximately a quarter of the population were military personnel. It must have been so different from the quiet rural area that I know and I just had to write about it. My interest in a place also played a part in my decision to write cozy mysteries. There is a small town in rural Canada that I love and I wanted to set a series in it so I fictionalized the town and the series grew from there.
How did you break into the field?
I’ve indie published all my cozy mysteries and historical fiction. I’ve never submitted any of my books to a traditional publisher for consideration so I haven’t had to break into the publishing world. The decision to indie publish happened by chance as I won a publishing package for my first novel from a service provider for indie writers and this started me on the path to indie publishing. I may submit a future novel to a traditional publisher because they have the contacts to introduce the book to a wider audience than I can reach. But, if I didn’t find a publisher that thinks the book fits their market, I would be happy to continue to indie publish. I really enjoy being involved in the whole process and watching a project come together.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
When life gets me stressed out or down in the dumps, one of the great ways I’ve found to recapture my energy and zest for life is to lose myself in a heartwarming, uplifting book. It entertains me and gives me respite from the pressures of life, and I come back from my time reading refreshed. Maybe the positive effect that reading heartwarming books has on me is the reason I enjoy writing such stories. I hope readers get the same lift reading my books as I get from writing them.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love conjuring up ideas and scribbling down the stories that flow from them. When a story is finally completed, it’s exciting to see the finished work. It can be a slog in the middle of the process when you must revise your original draft so that it conforms to the wonderful idea you started with and turns into the book you imagined when you started writing but it’s worth it.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Probably the most difficult aspect of the process for me is deciding what the theme of the story is and how the plot has to develop to reflect this. I spend time thinking about a new story and jot down my ideas before I begin to construct the plot. Once I have a list of ideas and information about the characters and the events in the story, I try to pull them together into a coherent plot that fits my original theme.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Learn the basics of the writing craft and keep learning throughout your career.
Don’t be afraid to put words down on paper or screen – you will edit and improve them later.
Know that a second pair of eyes is a necessity – always have your work edited by someone who has the skills to do so.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
I read a wide variety of fiction, contemporary women’s fiction and historical fiction as well as mystery and romance. I look for stories that feature vivid, memorable characters, and settings that nearly jump off the page. And the plot has to grip me too, of course.
In the cozy mystery and traditional mystery genres Leighann Dobbs and Deborah Garner are two authors I really enjoy. In historical fiction I’m a fan of Diana Gabaldon and Manda (M.C.) Scott. When an author has the ability to breathe life into characters, unveil complex stories and create vivid settings, I’m hooked. I love stories that come alive in my mind.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
My husband and I live on a small farm and I enjoy the outdoors so when the household chores are completed (my least favourite part of life) and I’m not writing, I go for long walks. On one of these walks we explored a derelict cottage where local folklore says a poltergeist terrorised a family in 1913. I found the cottage so intriguing that it inspired me to write an historical story that imagines what life might have been like for the family. I also spend my spare time with our pets. For many years, we had a pair of goats as companions until the last one died a couple years ago. Now we only have a pair of cats. There’s not much difference really: stubbornness and determination in a smaller package.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
Readers can visit my website and blog at www.dianneascroft.com or visit my Facebook page www.facebook.com/DianneAscroftwriter
To hear my latest news, readers can also sign up for my newsletter at: Mailerlite Newsletter signup: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y1k5c3
Dianne Ascroft is a Torontonian who has settled in rural Northern Ireland. She and her husband live on a small farm with an assortment of strong-willed animals.
She is currently writing the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. Out of Options is a prequel to the series.
Her previous fiction works include The Yankee Years series of novels and short reads, set in Northern Ireland during the Second World War; An Unbidden Visitor (a tale inspired by Fermanagh’s famous Coonian ghost); Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves: A Collection of Short Stories (contemporary tales), and an historical novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, which explores Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross humanitarian endeavour.
Dianne writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her articles and short stories have been printed in Canadian and Irish magazines and newspapers. When she’s not writing, she enjoys walks in the countryside, evenings in front of her open fireplace and folk and traditional music.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DianneAscroftwriter
Newsletter Sign up: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y1k5c3
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