Let's Talk with Lois Winston

September 29, 2022

Victims are Everywhere

This is not my car!

As a mystery writer, I always need at least one crime in every book, and to have a crime, I need a victim of that crime. Some victims are sympathetic; others deserve their fate. Since I write humorous cozy mysteries, I find it’s more fun to make the victim as unsympathetic as possible. If no one liked the victim, everyone becomes a suspect.

Those of you who are regular readers of Booklover’s Bench probably remember that I moved from New Jersey to Tennessee last year. Life here in Tennessee is quite different from my old life in New Jersey, and it’s taking some adjustment. For one thing, I’ve never lived in an HOA community and had to deal with an HOA board. They have rules up the wazoo, most of which don’t seem to be spelled out in much detail in any documents.

For example, residents are not allowed to park on the streets. You park in your garage or driveway. There are also curb cutouts for short-term parking. Nowhere is it spelled out who can park in these short-term spaces or for how long. A few months after we moved in, we were having some work done in the house. Because the workmen would need to park their trucks in our driveway, and I had a doctor’s appointment that morning, I moved my car to one of the cutout spaces before they arrived. My car was parked in the cutout for no more than half an hour before I left for my appointment.

A few days later, I received a nasty letter from the HOA, warning me that the cutouts were not for residents, only guests. I was told this was my first warning, and if it happened again, I’d be fined. Apparently, part of our HOA fee goes toward paying someone to drive around the community taking pictures of offending vehicles. Don’t ask me how they knew it was my car. They must have access to the county DMV computer system because we never registered our cars’ makes, models, and license plates with anyone else.

Fast forward to a year later, and I receive another nastygram in the mail stating I was being fined $100 for parking in a cutout. Nowhere did it give any indication of the day and time of my supposed offense. I hadn’t parked in a cutout since receiving the first nastygram. There also was no photo included.

I called the board president and demanded to see proof of the cardinal sin I supposedly had committed and when it had occurred. She sent a photo, which it turns out, she had taken. Inquiring minds want to know if our HOA fees are paying her to drive around the neighborhood in search of parking felons.

But here’s the kicker: not only was the photo taken while my husband and I were visiting family in California, but the offending vehicle was a white Toyota. I drive a white SUBARU!

It’s too bad Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth, lives in a non-HOA community in New Jersey. However, that’s not going to stop me. Somehow, I’ll figure out a way to kill off an HOA board president in a future book. This experience is too good not to use. Every community, whether an HOA or not, has at least one resident that should serve as inspiration for a bit of authorly revenge. As they used to say in the old Dragnet TV show, “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” In this case, only the name will be changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

What about you? If you’re an author, is there someone in your community you’ve killed off vicariously? If you’re a reader, is there someone you wish an author would kill off in a book for you?

Posted in Let's Talk, with Lois Winston • Tags: , , |  17 Comments


17 thoughts on “Victims are Everywhere

  1. We don’t live in an HOA community, but when it comes to neighbors who shoot off illegal fireworks for holidays, family parties, or no reason to celebrate at all, I’d love to make them a victim. You can even borrow them for yours.

  2. Mine wasn’t in an HOA, but actually was the reason I started writing mysteries. I was angry enough that I wanted to commit murder, but was too chicken. Instead, I started tapping away on the keyboard. What I discovered was that I’d somehow forgotten that writing was a cathartic process for me. By the way, every HOA is required to have their Rules and Regulations. And, you (should) have received a copy of those from the escrow company at the time of purchase. I’d ask for a copy of the R&Rs. Maybe start with the escrow officer or your realtor. Who knows, maybe more victims will follow.

    1. Terry, we did receive the rules. Nothing in them states that the cutouts are only for guests. All it says is that on-street parking is not permitted. Besides, the car in the cutout wasn’t even mine! Not even the same brand, only the same color–white, like thousands of other cars!

  3. The hubster and I are not HOA people. When we moved to Florida, the first thing we told the real estate agent working with us that we would not even consider a home in an HOA-controlled neighborhood (which is why we ended up in the boonies). But because of the horror stories I’d heard from other people living with HOA’s I had plenty of material to use to create a particularly obnoxious HOA president in one of my Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries. Yep, nasty neighbors make the best fictional victims. 🙂

    1. Diane, we’d never lived in an HOA community before. There aren’t very many of them in northern NJ. However, that’s not the case in the area where we now live, and it’s one of the many reasons I’m not a happy camper. I doubt the HOA murder will take place in the next book because it really doesn’t fit into the plot I’m thinking about, but there’s always the book after that. 😉

  4. I think your HOA president deserves a *place of honor* in an upcoming book. I do not have any HOA nightmares like that, but I did live next door to a mother-daughter duo from Hell once. They are most certainly going into a book one of these days.

  5. Maybe the HOA lady sending out made up fines for people has expenses she can’t pay. Pocketing the fees from her phony charges & hoping no one notices may be how she pays her own mortgage or supports her addiction to drugs/cosmetic surgeries/first edition signed mystery novels.

  6. Our version of a HOA is POA, a property owners association since the neighborhood isn’t built out yet. Our community website has those rules and regs, along with other guidelines, but here’s the kicker. The people that flout the rules would never go to the website to look at the rules first. They just don’t care. It’s a tricky thing to live in a HOA or a POA. You want the high community standards for property value reasons, but there always seems to be one (at least) bad apple in every bunch. I totally get your frustration.

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