Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat

Novel Magic: From DIY to Mystery-Can Home Renovation Spark a Thrilling Tale

Women, Friendships, and Home Renovation

          I’m often asked where I get my story ideas from, and my answer is always the same: people. I meet someone intriguing, or observe someone behaving outside the norm, and a story starts to percolate.

          Corpse in the Craftsman Cottage was different, however. In this case, it was a question: What if a body were uncovered during a home renovation?

          The question comes from experience. As avid DIYers, my husband and I have taken on many projects in our own and our rental properties. We’ve painted a lot of walls, installed a lot of sinks, laid a lot of flooring, and explored a lot of old garage cabinets. So I’ve had plenty of time to think about the “what-ifs,” many of them when I’m elbow-deep in a toilet, scrubbing out a rust spot or retrieving a Lego from the drain.

Glamourous, I know.

Now that I had my question, I needed characters. I’d always wanted to write about female buddies. They’re an underrepresented duo in literature and film. For the most part, women are portrayed as pitted against one another, or one is relegated to sidekick status.

But I know a lot of women who are truly THERE for one another. We always answer each other’s texts, send flowers for celebrations and condolences, and are committed to being each other’s person forever…men, jobs, and distance never come between us.

So I decided to pair up two newly divorced women, both trying on their single parenting hats, and attempting to forge a new identity as home-flippers. They have some knowledge, having helped their husbands build a successful construction company, and they have most of the skills necessary to become financially independent. They’d need tools of their own, of course, but the seed money would come from their settlements.

Together, they buy a cute, two-bedroom Craftsman in need of some tender loving care. Unfortunately, quick profit potential disappears on the first day of demolition. What was once a faux cedar-lined closet becomes a hidden crypt containing a watery coffin. What happens next tests these BFFs in a hundred different ways, but together they’re determined to succeed.

The realism test, however, is always at the back of my mind. Could a body really be hidden indefinitely in a house?

As it turns out, yes. A new friend, Mindy, asked about my book. When I told her the story outline, she laughed. A law enforcement colleague of hers bought a house from a former drug dealer no one had heard from in several years. The house was a fixer-upper, and in trying to determine the source of a plumbing leak, her friend found a pair of Levi’s and a flannel shirt in the crawlspace. As it turned out, the clothing held the body of the drug dealer. He’d been killed and stuffed under the house, where he remained for several years.

And that, my friends, proves the old adage: truth is at least as strange as fiction.

Corpse in the Craftsman Cottage by Lori Pollard-Johnson

          Thirty-four, newly divorced and parenting two little girls, Jan Weatherly is determined to make it on her own doing what she knows best: do-it-yourself home flipping. With her BFF Pam Bacchus by her side, she purchases their first fixer-upper—a cute Craftsman cottage with quick profit potential in rainy Rainier, Washington. With the first swing of her claw hammer, however, Jan pries back faux cedar paneling and reveals a nude, snow-haired corpse floating in a makeshift aquarium. If that didn’t fully sour their dreams in a plume of formaldehyde-tinged air, Sergeant Daniels arrives and bans the women from the crime scene. Will they continue sleuthing, despite Daniels’s warnings, or simply wait for their dreams of financial independence to fall apart?

          Find Corpse in the Craftsman Cottage in eBook and print

Meet Lori Pollard-Johnson

Lori Pollard-Johnson writes from her homes in Washington and Arizona and has two new titles for 2024. Corpse in the Craftsman Cottage is an amateur sleuth cozy with a duo female buddy lead who happen to be BFFs, and Toxic Torte is a classic culinary cozy featuring a caustic restaurant critic’s demise and a sassy young journalist determined to find out whodunit.

Earlier titles include The Lie, a YA that profiles a young man’s journey to Iraq after lying about his age to join the military; The Truth Test, a mid-grade reader about a gifted student who convinces his buddies he’s developed a surefire method to tell if someone is lying; and Recipe for a Rebel, a mid-grade reader that chronicles the misadventures of a young boy dealing with his father’s rejection and his love of cooking.

Both of her children’s books were selected for inclusion in Accelerated Reader, a popular computerized program used in public and private schools.

Lori also has over 100 publishing credits in short fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in publications as diverse as Vegetarian Journal, Seattle, Black Belt, Bridal Connections, and The Binnacle.

She holds an MA in writing from Seton Hill University and spent her career in education, first as an elementary school teacher instilling the love of reading in children and later as a college professor. She’s also worked in business, warehousing, sales, and as a shoe model in college, which would have been a lot more fun if she’d been able to keep the shoes. Nowadays, when she’s not writing, she’s playing with her grandbabies, braiding rugs, perfecting her shavasana, swimming, hiking, practicing her relieves, renovating fixer-uppers, reading, or watching javelinas dance through her backyard. 

What do you Think? Leave a Comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

4 thoughts on “Novel Magic: From DIY to Mystery-Can Home Renovation Spark a Thrilling Tale”