Twenty-seven Years Later, Twenty Novels & Now an Audiobook

By Lois Winston

I’ve had a busy September. Guilty as Framed, the 11th book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, officially released on September 6th. My virtual promo tour for the book began before the release date and will extend into next month, but beginning October 1st, I plan to start writing the next book in the series. I’ve given Anastasia enough of a break from murder and mayhem. Now all I need is a plot, but hey, it’s only September 28th. I’ve got three days to figure this out!

And now Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, is an audiobook with the other books in the series to follow.

Guilty as Framed marks my twentieth published novel since my first book debuted in April of 2006. I’ve also published five novellas, a middle-grade book, a nonfiction book, and several short stories during that period. But that’s not the entire story. I began writing back in 1995. It took me nearly ten years to the day I first set fingers to keyboard to sell a book.

My first attempt at writing a novel was the result of a weird dream I had one night while on a business trip. Weird because I normally don’t remember my dreams and weirder still because it didn’t involve anyone I knew. Or even me! And the dream continued to grow every night for a few weeks, unfolding like the chapters in a book.

Eventually, I decided to commit the dream to paper, and by the time I’d finished, I’d written 50,000 words of a highly emotional romance that spanned thirty-five years. I gave it to a friend to read, and she was in tears by the time she’d finished it. From her reaction and encouragement, I thought I’d penned The Great American Novel and began the search for a literary agent.

However, I quickly learned I’d written The Great American Drivel. But I’d enjoyed the process of writing so much that I wasn’t discouraged. I set out to learn what I’d done wrong and how to do it right. I read books, joined writing organizations, and attended workshops and conferences. Eventually, I signed with an agent and sold my first book, Talk Gertie to Me, a humorous tale of a mother, a daughter, and a buttinsky imaginary friend. The second book I sold was the novel formerly known as The Great American Drivel. In the ten years since I’d first written it, I’d revised it into Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, a 90,000-word romantic suspense that spanned a few months instead of thirty-five years.

Then, encouraged by my agent, who loved the humorous voice I’d employed in Talk Gertie to Me, I began writing a humorous amateur sleuth mystery series, giving birth to Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth.

Looking back over the last twenty-seven years, I’m amazed at what I’ve accomplished. There have been major stumbling blocks and roadblocks along the way, some of my own making and some completely beyond my control. But with encouragement from fellow writers who have become lifelong friends, my late agent, and my own stubbornness, I persisted and persevered. One of those dear writing friends used to add a quote from Galaxy Quest to the bottom of all her emails: Never give up! Never surrender! I’m glad I didn’t.


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. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

A Spark that Inspires a Novel

A miniscule thought that crosses my mind or an article I’ve read in a newspaper can light up like a distant sparkling star and inspire a story. If the spark grows and gains momentum, the concept might become a novel.

The spark in Revenge in Barcelona (my Nikki Garcia Mystery #3), was the city itself, its unique architecture, colorful history, rich culture, physical beauty, and its independent-minded people. The spark grew in my mind until I knew that Nikki should experience action, mystery, and danger in Barcelona.

The process of following a spark of inspiration is similar for many writers. Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises, was inspired by a trip to Pamplona, Spain, to witness the running of the bulls and bullfights at the week-long San Fermín festival. He’d intended to write a non-fiction book about bullfighting, which had become a passion for him. Instead, the book became fiction based on Hemingway and his friends. In it, he explored the themes of love and death, a total reversal of what he’d originally intended.

This reversal of original intention happens to many authors of fiction, me included. The spark starts out with one concept, and it morphs into a totally different one. Yet the original spark, such as Hemingway’s bullfights, are often woven into the novel either as a theme or subplot, while the full storyline becomes much broader, richer, more scintillating.

Last week, I started my 5th Nikki Garcia mystery. The spark that lit up my imagination was a belt buckle that a man was wearing. It featured a mule.

I knew at that moment that I had to weave a mule or two into Nikki’s next novel. And where can I put a few mules? In a wilderness adventure, of course!


What sparks your imagination?


All photos are used in an editorial or educational manner.

Photo credits:

Sagrada Familia Steeples – Kathryn Lane

The Belt Buckle with a Mule – Pinterest