Do You Wordle?

By Lois Winston

A few years ago, I got hooked on crossword puzzles. I attribute this addiction to my dear friend Janice. She passed away in 2019 after an eight-month battle with Stage 4 cancer. I spent much of that time taking her to doctor appointments and chemo treatments and visiting with her during several hospitalizations. Janice always carried around crossword puzzles. As a retired R.N., she knew the importance of keeping her mind sharp, and she did so by exercising her brain in two ways: She was a voracious reader of mysteries and romances and a diehard crossword puzzle fan.

Having sat with her during hours of chemo, I know how difficult it is to concentrate on a book during these sessions, given the constant chatter from fifteen other chemo patients, their accompanying friends or family members, the nursing staff, and a TV always blaring in the background. So Janice passed the time working crossword puzzles when she tired of conversation.

I worked my first crossword puzzle after returning from her memorial service. It had been an extremely emotional day, especially since, as her oldest friend, I was one of the speakers. Perhaps she was somehow sending me a subliminal message from Heaven that day. She had always believed in angels, ghosts, and premonitions. I’ve always pooh-poohed the supernatural. Was this her way of telling me she was right, and I was wrong? Maybe. Because ever since that day, I’ve worked the online crossword puzzle in my daily newspaper as a way of honoring her memory and our lifelong friendship.

A few months ago, that newspaper purchased Wordle. I’d heard about Wordle, but I’m not someone who spends time playing games on my phone or computer. I have books to write, and contrary to my reluctant amateur sleuth’s hopes, I have no intention of refraining from dumping dead bodies at her feet.

I also have a staggering number of unread books piling up on my bookshelves and in my Kindle. I’ll need to live well past the century mark before I get to them all. And yet, I keep buying more books! Then there’s life in general, including family responsibilities, and of course, the need to sleep at least several hours a night.

Yet, there it was—Wordle, the word game taking the world by storm. Wordle beckoned like a Siren. Of course, I got hooked. I even learned a secret for helping solve the puzzle in the allotted six attempts: always begin with “adieu.” The word contains all but one of the five vowels. My next word will always include a word using the green letters from “adieu,” plus an “o.”

My mornings now begin with a cup of coffee, the daily crossword puzzle, and the daily Wordle. How about you? Do you start your day with a word puzzle, work one while taking a break, or reward yourself with one at the end of the day?

~*~

USA Today and Amazon 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. Her latest book in the series is Guilty as Framed, currently available for pre-order. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Planning Inspiration

 By Lynn McPherson

Looking for inspiration these days can be tricky. Where do you go to find it? I am happy to report that I’m planning mine to come by way of my sister’s upcoming birthday. Weird, right? Let me explain. My sister has a milestone coming up this fall and has organized a trip to celebrate. Not a big surprise since she loves to travel. It’ll be her first time away for over two years, but she and her husband are finally ready to head out again to explore the world, one destination at a time. This time, her plans include me!

The destination is Paris. The trip will include my sister and her husband, my parents, and myself. I’d love to bring my husband, too, but that would mean bringing the kids. And that would be a different trip. 

Posing in front of Basilique de Sacre-Coeu

I love Paris. I haven’t been in many years(!) and I am already counting down the days. I used to visit more often, having lived two years in London and having much easier access to the City of Lights. I’ve included a few photos from back then…

The first question my sister had for me is what I want to do. She shared her list and wanted to know mine. I had no answer. It had been so long since I planned a vacation without the kids, I didn’t even know where to start. So, I decided I should start with a book (of course). I downloaded Paris, by Edward Rutherford on Audible, and picked up a copy of The Paris Apartment, by Lucy Foley.

I’m already thinking about the people and places I’ll see, the fun I’ll have, and the memories I’ll keep. I’m also thinking about how I can bring Paris into a mystery.

I’m excited and inspired. And I’m not even there yet!

Where do you find inspiration?

Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls’ Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.  



So You Want to Write a Book

By Sparkle Abbey

Part 2: Old School Research

Welcome back to So You Want to Write a Book!


There’s a book in everyone, right? If you’ve decided that there’s a book in you and you’re ready to embark on that journey, we’re excited for you!

Last month we talked about where to start when writing a
book for the first time. We asked you a lot of questions, such as:

  • Are you passionate about a particular
    storyline?
  • What type of book are you interested in writing?
  • What idea is constantly on your mind?

You may remember there was also an assignment. We hope you
took our suggestion to write down ALL your ideas. If so, pull out that notebook
where you jotted down them down, and let’s talk about what you wrote. (If you
didn’t take that step, there’s still time. Just take that step today.)

By now you should have decided what you’re passionate about
and what type of book you’re going to write. You should know if you’re writing
fiction or non-fiction. A thriller or a memoir. Romance or a self-help book.  

Okay, are you ready for step two? Step two is what we call Old
School Research.
And we’re the first to admit, that not everyone agrees on this.
We believe to write well in any genre or subject, you need to be well-read in
that area. What is currently being written? What type of plot resonates with you?
What characters speak to you? How do the best-selling stories unfold? What can
you LEARN from books you love as well as books you put down after a few pages?



Back when we first started writing we read over 100 books in
our genre. While we aren’t telling 
you to read 100 books before you start
writing, we are telling you to read extensively in the genre or subject in
which you’re going to write. There are some who disagree with this approach for
various reasons. They may worry about copying another author’s work. Probably
not. After 100 books, one thing you’ll notice is there’s really no new plot. And
how you write your story is all about what you uniquely bring to the table.
However, by reading deeply in your selected subject, you’ll have a better
understanding of how to make your book stand out from the crowd. You’ll also
begin to understand the importance of reader expectations. (More on that down
the road!)

Well, what do you think? Are you onboard to read, read,
read for the next few weeks while you’re thinking about your book? As you read,
keep your notebook handy. Take notes on what you learn, how you’ll be
different, what works, and what doesn’t.

If you’d like, share in the comments what you’ve decided to
write and what you’ve learned from reading extensively in your subject, and how
you’ll use that to write a book that stands out from the crowd. And as always,
if you have questions, feel free to ask us.

Next month we’ll talk about knowing where you’re headed.
Sound intriguing? 


Sparkle Abbey’s latest story (written in first person) is a short but fun one. If you’ve not yet
checked out PROJECT DOGWAY, this is a great time to do that. 

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series. They are friends as well as neighbors so they often get together and plot ways to commit murder. (But don’t tell the other neighbors.) 

They love to hear from readers and can be found on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, their favorite social media sites. Also, if you want to make sure you get updates, sign up for their newsletter via the SparkleAbbey.com website


My Tweaking Obsession

By Lois Winston


No, that title does not have a typo. I’m neither obsessed with Twitter nor with twerking. However, I am a compulsive tweaker.

 

Every author has her own process for writing a novel. The two most talked about are whether you’re a pantser or a plotter. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. They sit down at their computers and start typing. Maybe they have an idea for the beginning of a novel or a main character. They may know how they want to start a book and how it will end. But they fly by the seat of their pants between “Once upon a time” and “The End.”

 

Plotters painstakingly outline their books. Some write copious synopses. Others use an outlining method that spells out what will happen in each chapter or even in each scene in the book.

 

When it comes to the actual writing of the book, some authors write numerous drafts before they’re satisfied with the end result. Sometimes the finished product bears little resemblance to the first draft, especially if you’re a pantser but rarely if you’re a plotter. 

 

I have a friend who’s a New York Times bestselling author. Between the typos, grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors, not to mention the run-on sentences that would make even William Faulkner cringe, if you read her first drafts, you’d think she never made it past third grade. She doesn’t worry about any of it. Her process is to get her thoughts down on paper, to keep typing, unfiltered words flying onto the page without fear of sabotage by her inner editor.

 

With each subsequent draft, she concentrates on refining a different aspect of her work. The final version she turns into her editor, more often than not, lands her on that coveted NYT list.

 

Then there’s me…uhm, I. (You’ll understand that grammatical correction momentarily.) I’m an obsessive tweaker. I will spend half an hour staring at a blinking cursor, searching for the exact word or phrase. I’m incapable of moving on to the next sentence, let alone the next scene, until I’m happy with the results. But if that weren’t enough, I constantly go back and reread what I’ve written previously and continue to tweak. In other words, I edit as I write. I can’t help it. 

 

Then my critique partner reads what I’ve written, offers some suggestions, and I go back and tweak some more. The end result being that by the time I type The End, I’ve really only written one draft, one thoroughly edited first draft, but a first draft, nonetheless. Of course, the book will then go through beta reads and proofreading that will result in additional tweaking because there’s always a missed typo or some other finetuning that’s needed. Essentially, though, from the first word on the page to the last, I’ve written only one complete draft. That’s my process—and my compulsion. I wouldn’t know any other way.


What’s yours?

 

Stitch, Bake, Die!

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 10

 

With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. At least her best friend and cooking editor Cloris McWerther has also been roped into similar duties for the culinary side of the 3-day event taking place on the grounds of the exclusive Beckwith Chateau Country Club.

 

The sweet little old ladies Anastasia is expecting to find are definitely old, and some of them are little, but all are anything but sweet. She’s stepped into a vipers’ den that starts with bribery and ends with murder. When an ice storm forces Anastasia and Cloris to spend the night at the Chateau, Anastasia discovers evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and a bevy of suspects. Can she piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?

 

Crafting tips included.

 

~*~

USA Today and Amazon 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.

 

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On The Road Again…

By Lynn McPherson
As another summer comes to an end, it’s time to grab hold of the remaining time and run with it. It’s been a challenging stretch and we’ve decided to do something special this year. That’s why, after much talk and contemplation, we’ve decided to hit the road. Yes folks, we’re heading out on an adventure, to see where the wind (and Google Maps) takes us.
It’s time for a family vacation!
Since we are not good at packing light, we decided to go big, try something new, with more space and more comfort. We are renting an RV. A shiny 28-foot vehicle will be waiting for us, complete with a kitchen, a bathroom and beds for four. We are driving north, completing a 1,500-mile circle. I said adventure, right?
Our first stop is The Canadian Polar Bear Habitat, whose mission it is to promote polar bear sustainability through research and educational tourism. There are four polar bears currently living in the 24-acre enclosure. It sounds fantastic. The kids are stoked. We are confident this will be a smashing success.
Next on our tour is Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes of North America. The facts surrounding the massive body of water are impressive. The shoreline, for example measures 2,726 miles (4,385 km), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are hundreds of shipwrecks and loads of interesting history, worthy of research and reading. The beaches look beautiful, if cold, and it will provide endless opportunities to explore and enjoy its natural beauty and its one-of-a kind fun.
Finally, we will head to Manitoulin Island, the largest fresh water island in the world. Rich in history, beauty, and community, it is the perfect place for a final stop. Our plans include going to the beach and star-gazing, exploring and relaxing.
So, what are my final thoughts on hitting the road? What do I hope to accomplish? There are three things I want to do. The first is to have fun with the family. Second, explore new places while meeting new people. Finally, take time to appreciate the joys of a new experience.
While images of Chevy Chase and Wally World invade my dreams, I remind myself of all the fun things that are out there to see and enjoy. If anyone has suggestions for not-to-miss places along the way, please let me know.
How are you spending the last weeks of summer?
Lynn McPherson has worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, ran a small business, and taught English across the globe. She has travelled the world solo where her daring spirit has led her to jump out of airplanes, dive with sharks, and learn she would never master a surfboard. She now channels her lifelong love of adventure and history into her writing, where she is free to go anywhere, anytime. Her cozy series has three books out: The Girls’ Weekend Murder and The Girls Whispered Murder, and The Girls Dressed For Murder.