Tag Archive for: women sleuths

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.

Anastasia is Back, and This Time the Crime is Real!

 

By Lois Winston

Most mystery writers and readers are fascinated by true crimes. Even if our reading doesn’t branch out beyond cozy mysteries, many of us watch everything from Murder, She Wrote reruns to each iteration of the Law & Order franchise. Some of us have even become hooked on true crime podcasts. 

 

Me? I’m a news junkie. All my books have been inspired in some way by actual events, or human-interest stories. Inspired is the key word, though. For instance, in A Stitch to Die for, the fifth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I wove in a thread about Munchausen by Proxy Disorder after reading about several high-profile cases.

 

However, I’ve never incorporated an actual crime into one of my plots—until now. For Guilty as Framed, the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I’ve centered the plot around a yet unsolved crime that took place in 1990. 

 

For years I’ve been fascinated with the burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It’s still considered the largest art heist in history, and to this day, not only haven’t the perpetrators been caught, but none of the artworks have ever been recovered. Worst of all, many of the suspects have since died.

 

But how do you incorporate a true crime cold case into a cozy mystery, especially when that crime might one day be solved, no matter how the likelihood diminishes with each passing year? I certainly couldn’t have my sleuth find the paintings or unmask the actual perpetrators. I don’t write alternate-reality fiction. In addition, the crime was committed in Boston, and my amateur sleuth resides in New Jersey. Besides, Anastasia is in her mid-forties. She would have been an adolescent at the time of the theft.

 

This was the puzzle I set for myself. Like my sleuth, I can be extremely stubborn when I set my mind to something. I may fail at a task, but I rarely give up and walk away. It helps that I’m a pantser and not a plotter. So I started out by reading everything I could get my hands on about the theft, watched a few documentaries, then just started writing, allowing my brain free rein. After writing myself into a few corners, backtracking, and beginning again…and again…and again, I came up with a story that uses various events from the actual crime, making them plausible within the pages of my story. Of course, I had to take authorial liberties along the way, but hey, I’m writing fiction. I can do that. 

 

I invented several characters for the purpose of advancing my plot. I’ve also changed the names of suspects and their relatives, whether they’re still alive or not, to protect the innocent, the not-so-innocent, and yours truly. But in the end, I stayed true to the major events of the crime but found a way to involve my sleuth.

 

It’s just too bad that Anastasia couldn’t solve the mystery of what happened to all those missing artworks. There’s still a huge reward outstanding for any information leading to their recovery, and anyone who knows anything about Anastasia knows she could really use the money.

 

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history. 

 

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes. 

 

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

 

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

 

Guilty as Framed is currently available for pre-order and will be released September 6th. Find links here.

 

~*~

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 www.loiswinston.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.

Writing as Catharsis

Who would think this cute baby would grow up to be the inspiration
for the woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm?

By Lois Winston 

During an interview recently, the interviewer told me she loves Anastasia Pollack, my reluctant amateur sleuth, but the character she really, really loves is Anastasia’s communist mother-in-law. “You write the best antagonists!” she said, then asked me where I came up with the idea of giving my protagonist a communist mother-in-law.

 

This is a conversation I’ve had many times since Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, debuted in 2011. Lucille Pollack is the character my readers love to hate. Is it because so many of my readers have mother-in-law issues? Perhaps. 


Or maybe it’s because Lucille is such an over-the-top unbelievable character. I’m sure many readers think so, but here’s a little secret: Unlike all my other characters, Lucille didn’t spring from my imagination. The woman who makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is based almost entirely on my own communist mother-in-law.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. My mother-in-law was a card-carrying commie. Beyond that, though, she was nasty, really nasty, especially if you dared to have an opinion that differed from hers. This was a woman who always knew everything, an expert on every subject. And she was always right—according to her. No one else’s opinions mattered because everyone else was always wrong. You didn’t have conversations with my mother-in-law; you were subjected to lectures—on every subject under the sun. She wasn’t perfect, though. She did fail at things, but when she did, it was always someone or something else’s fault. Never hers.

 

A couple I knew and whom my father-in-law had befriended, once called me the day after they had dinner with my in-laws. They wanted to know how I put up with “that woman.” This was a pattern throughout the years I knew my mother-in-law. Friends never lasted long because she was so insufferable.

 

Even my father-in-law, who had always seen his wife through rose-colored glasses, eventually woke up to her true nature. When he needed her most, she was too selfish and self-centered to be bothered.

 

The thing about antagonistic people, though, is that although they’re insufferable in real life, they make for great antagonists on the page. My mother-in-law grew increasingly nastier the older she got. However, instead of letting her get to me, I brought her doppelganger to life in the form of Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille Pollack. Whether it’s a matter of “don’t get mad, get even” or turning lemons into lemonade, all those years of putting up with my mother-in-law paid off in the end when I created the characters my readers love to hate. 

 

My one regret? My mother-in-law didn’t live to see my literary revenge, but it wouldn’t have mattered. She was too highbrow to waste her time reading fiction and certainly wouldn’t have read anything written by her stupid (her word) daughter-in-law. Twenty novels, five novellas, and a children’s book later, revenge is sweet.


Meanwhile, Anastasia’s mother-in-law Lucille winds up wreaking havoc yet again in Guilty as Framed, the 11th book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, now available for preorder.

~*~

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.

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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The Story Behind the Story – Part 3


By Lois Winston

The Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries take place in Westfield, NJ, the town where I lived for twenty-three years until my recent relocation to Tennessee. Westfield is famous for being the home of cartoonist Charles Addams of The Addams Family fame, as well as the infamous John List, who murdered his entire family in 1971, then disappeared. The hunt for List made international headlines, but it took eighteen years and an episode of America’s Most Wanted before he was finally apprehended.

 

In 2014 Westfield once again made headlines when both the national and international press descended on a stately, historic street a few blocks from where I lived. The mystery that drew this unwanted attention centered around a Dutch Colonial built in 1905. The house had recently sold for 1.35 million dollars.

 

However, shortly after the new owners took possession of the house, they received a very disturbing anonymous letter from someone who called himself The Watcher. Subsequent letters followed, threatening the new owners’ children. The Watcher knew the children’ nicknames and mentioned having seen their young daughter painting at an easel, asking, “Is she the artist in the family?” Fearful for their safety, the family never moved into the house, although they continued to make extensive renovations to the property. 

 

Since the family received that first letter, they’ve sued the former owners, claiming they knew of The Watcher prior to the sale of the house. The former owners counter sued. Home disclosure laws vary from state to state. In NJ, even if the former owners had previously received letters from The Watcher, they wouldn’t have had to disclose that information.

 

The new owners tried to sell the house several times, each time reducing the price, but the home’s notoriety kept buyers away. They tried to have the house demolished but failed to get zoning approval to divide the property into two lots to build two smaller houses to recoup their losses. 

 

In a bizarre twist, at one point the husband admitted to sending nasty anonymous letters to some of the neighbors.

 

In 2016 the house became the inspiration behind a Lifetime movie and toppled the Jersey Devil from the top New Jersey’s creepiest horror myths. 

 

Extensive investigations over the years have failed to unmask the identity of The Watcher. Suspects have included the schizophrenic son of a neighbor as well as the owners of the house. 

 

In 2018 the family sold the rights to their story to Netflix in a 7-figure deal after a bidding war that included Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Amazon, and Fox. This gives credence to those who believe that the family concocted the entire story, and there never was a Watcher.

 

BuzzFeed’s Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej of “Unsolved” profiled the Watcher House in the first episode of their fifth season. You can watch it here.

 

The Watcher House eventually sold in 2019 at a $400,000 loss.

 

With this real-life mystery unfolding in my own backyard, how could I not incorporate it into one of my books? In a subplot in Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, The Watcher becomes The Sentinel, and his first letter arrives shortly after food editor Cloris McWerther and her husband sell their house. Although the police haven’t been able to solve the mystery of The Watch after eight years, Anastasia solves the mystery of The Sentinel.

 

Scrapbook of Murder

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

 

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

 

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

 

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~*~

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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No One Ever Promised Life Would Be Fair

By Lois Winston

I graduated college (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, if you believe my kids) with a degree in graphic design and illustration and went to work as an art director at a small ad agency. Big title. Tiny paycheck. I was the one and only artist on staff, so I really didn’t direct anyone.

 

One day I was complaining about the unfairness of something to our office manager, and she said, “Lois, no one ever promised life would be fair.”

 

That conversation took place so long ago that I don’t even remember the names of all my coworkers, but her words have stuck with me. Over the years I’ve had some hard times while others around me have had great success. I have a relative who I’ve often said could step in caca and have it turn into gold. Some people have that kind of luck. Me? Well, let’s just say I’ve never won more than $7 on a lottery ticket. Get the picture?

 

I’m constantly reminded of that coworker’s words when I look down the long and winding road of my life as a published author. No one ever promised life would be fair. The outside world (those millions and millions of people who know nothing about publishing) thinks every published author is pulling in the kind of big bucks that James Patterson, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling make. Friends and relatives expect you to give them free books because after all, you’re a published author and can afford it. (I can hear the laughter coming from all the published authors reading this blog post.)

 

The hard truth is that most published authors can’t afford to quit their day jobs. And that includes many authors I know who have hit the NY Times bestseller list. Factoring in the hours most of us devote to crafting each novel, then promoting it, we’d make more money per hour asking, “Do you want fries with that?” 

 

So why do we do it?

 

We write because we can’t not write. (Pardon the double-negative.) Yes, it’s hard work, often filled with disappointment: You can’t sell what you consider your break-out book. Your last royalty check was less than three figures. Your publisher drops you. Your foray into indie publishing has resulted in sales that might sustain your Starbucks habit—if you’re lucky. 

 

And still, we continue to write. Because you we can’t not write.

 

No one ever said life would be fair–or easy, but the struggle makes us stronger. And better. We keep writing. Keep honing our craft. Maybe someday luck will be on our side, and we’ll reap the rewards of all that hard work. One thing is for certain, though, if we give up, we’ll never succeed.


As a gift to my readers, for a limited time the 2-ebook set of Christmas-themed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, featuring Drop Dead Ornaments and Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, is available for only .99 cents. Click here for Buy Links.

~*~

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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How a “Perfect” Marriage Led to a Writing Career

By Lois Winston

Many authors mention in their bios that they always wanted to be a writer. Not me. I wanted to be an astronaut. Thanks to a right brain that quakes at the sight of anything requiring math skills, not to mention a body prone to motion sickness, that dream never came true.

My urge to write came as a result of a dream I had while on a business trip. Eventually, that dream became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, a story about secrets and revenge and the steps some people will go to in order to protect the former and achieve the latter. 

 

I’ve always been fascinated by both secrets and revenge. Who among us doesn’t have secrets? Who among us hasn’t harbored revenge fantasies? Is it possible to get through junior high school without a hefty dose of both? I doubt it. 

 

Years ago, I knew a woman who went to great lengths to project the ideal marriage. She constantly bragged about how much her husband loved her and what a perfect marriage they had. Then I learned the secrets behind the lies. She was carrying on an affair that he discovered by tapping his own phone. Mr. and Mrs. Perfect Marriage were anything but. Although Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception isn’t about that marriage, it got me thinking about public persona versus private reality.

 

I’m also fascinated by the way the “common” folk act around celebrities. In Six Degrees of Separation, the playwright John Guare called it “star f****ing,” that annoying, name-dropping habit of those who need to brag about their connection to someone famous, no matter how tenuous the link: They once shared a plane with George Clooney, or they went to the same high school as Brad Pitt, or they played tennis with Pierce Brosnan’s third cousin’s wife’s uncle’s accountant. Of course, they fail to mention that George was sitting in First Class while they were stuck in Coach or Brad graduated a decade after they attended the school. And let’s just forget about Pierce and the accountant. That’s really taking six degrees of separation a bit too far. However, for many people being able to show some connection between themselves and a celebrity makes them more important, if only in their own eyes.

 

So there I was on this business trip, and I suppose I was subconsciously thinking about Mr. and Mrs. Perfect Marriage when I had this dream. Normally, I don’t remember my dreams, but I remembered this one. And what was even spookier was that each night for the next couple of weeks I dreamed another “chapter” of the dream. Eventually, I was dreaming up chapters during the day as well as at night. Finally, I decided that to get the story out of my head, I should write it down. Fast forward a few weeks and I’m the proud author of a 50,000-word romance that spanned 35 years. 

 

Talk about clueless!

 

Of course, I didn’t know I was clueless. I thought I’d just written the greatest romance of all time. But when I pushed my baby out of the nest into the world of publishing, she flew right back with her beak stuffed full of rejection letters. 

 

However, I wasn’t about to be deterred by rejection letters or lack of knowledge. Undaunted, I handed over my VISA card to a friendly salesperson at Barnes & Noble and walked out with an armload of how-to-write-a-novel books. Between the books, joining some writing organizations, and attending writing conferences, I eventually got a clue, and nearly ten years to the day I had that dream, I had my first publishing contract.

 

I never forgot about my first clueless effort, though. I liked the characters I’d created, even if the story needed major surgery. I didn’t think Emma and Logan deserved to spend eternity under the bed with nobody but the dust bunnies and me ever getting to know them. I went back and rewrote that first book, and it became Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception

 

In the book, Logan Crawford is initially attracted to Emma Wadsworth because she doesn’t care who he is. At first, he’s not even sure she recognizes him, and he can’t imagine how that’s possible. After all, he was recently named Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine. Everyone recognizes Logan Crawford, whether he wants them to or not. He’s used to a fawning public, but Emma doesn’t fawn. And that makes her both intriguing and irresistible in Logan’s eyes. 


However, Emma’s the one with all the secrets. And she’s also the target of someone’s revenge. Make that two someones. In the blink of an eye, she goes from being Philadelphia’s most beloved citizen to the city’s most notorious criminal. Think scandal. Think long buried secrets. Think murder. 

There are many paths to publication. Some people are lucky enough to find the straightest, most direct route. For most of us, it takes years of honing our craft before we’re offered the golden ticket, but it’s worth the journey. This month marks the release of Stitch, Bake, Die!, the tenth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series and my nineteenth published novel.










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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Author Lois Winston Interviews Author T.K. Thorne


By Lois Winston

Today I sit down for a chat with author T.K. Thorne. Learn more about T.K. and her books at her website.

LW: I recently read your historical novel, Noah’s Wife, and found it fascinating. Most authors start out in other careers, and those who have been in law enforcement, like you, often gravitate toward writing mysteries, suspense, or thrillers. What drew you to write the untold story of a character from the Bible? 

TKT: Hi Lois!  I’m so happy you picked Noah’s Wife because it is my first born and special to me. When I finished writing, the characters felt so real, I truly missed them being in my head saying unexpected things. It’s a joyful and magical thing to know when readers open the book because they all come alive again! 

 

I have never been drawn to the mystery/crime genre, perhaps because it felt too much like everyday work for me! My early reading love was science fiction and then epic fantasy. I wrote four books in those genres, but my dream of an agent and traditional publishing didn’t happen for those books. So, I went looking for a topic that would enthrall me and hopefully snag an agent. 

One day, I was at a poetry reading and a friend remarked that her pastor had dropped the fact that Noah’s wife was unnamed and had gotten only one line in the Bible in one of his sermons. I immediately envisioned the vast, white emptiness that was the life of a woman who played such an important role in the history/mythology of the three of the world’s major religions. Captivated by the idea that I could be the person to fill in that tabula rasa, I began researching what her world might have been like. Learning a historic flood had actually occurred around the year 5500 BCE that gave me a time frame for archeological research. (Did you know scientists can now determine what a person was eating thousands of years ago?) Then the character of Na’amah began to assert herself in my mind, where she lived for the four years it took to write the story.

 

LW: You’ve also written a novel about Lot’s wife, but your current book, House of Rose, is the first in a planned trilogy that incorporates murder, mayhem, and magic. Do you see yourself ever going back to writing more historical novels?

 

TKT: I wrote House of Rose as a gift to myself, something fun that didn’t require the research I had been doing for the historical novels and my nonfiction. I sat down at the computer with three little words buzzing around in my head (“You’re a hero.”) Those little words became three books about Rose Brighton, a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama who discovers she’s a witch. So much fun!

 

LW: I see you’ve also written a nonfiction book, Last Chance for Justice, about the 1963 church bombing in Atlanta. Do you have plans to continue crime-related nonfiction as well?

 

TKT: Actually, I now have two nonfiction books—Last Chance for Justice and just recently, Behind the Magic Curtain: Secrets, Spies, and Unsung White Allies of Birmingham’s Civil Rights Days. I had to get over my retreat from research for that one! It was an ongoing project for eight years while the Rose books were also being hatched. Both of those books were unplanned. I never intended to write nonfiction, much less about the civil rights era. Living and working in a historical civil rights city like Birmingham, Alabama gave rise to the circumstances that led me to write them. I’m proud that I did and hope they have contributed to our understanding of history and ourselves. 

 

As to what plans I have, they are ping-pong balls right now. I’ve started rewriting one of those early epic fantasy novels I loved in younger days, playing with the idea of another biblical era historical fiction, and a (non-magical) crime/mystery. But to be honest, the pandemic has sucked my writing energy, and I haven’t filled my well back up yet, or perhaps the right story hasn’t emerged. Until that happens, I’m staying busy with garden projects, painting, and taking care of my rescue horses. I’ve been writing for a long time and who knows. We shall see what arises!

 

LW: The bio on your website states that as an eight-year-old, you won a ribbon for being stubborn. I think stubbornness is a trait that serves many authors well. So many of us need that stubbornness to persevere through years of rejections before we sell our first book. Tell us more about that award. How did you feel at the time when you received it?

 

TKT: It was a very hot summer day in Montgomery, Alabama. I was riding in a horse show at Little Lake Farms in Montgomery, Alabama on a bay named Duchess. I was so small, they had to tie my stirrups to get them short enough. The jumps were all barely off the ground. I could have jumped over them myself, but Duchess was not in the mood. The rule was after three refusals, you are disqualified, and we already had about ten or more (I lost count) at one jump, so there was no point in continuing. But I just wouldn’t give up. I kept circling back and aiming her, my little legs flailing against the saddle leather and finally, Duchess gave up, hopped over the crossed beams of the jump and finished the course. The crowd gave me a standing ovation, and the judge gave me an unexpected third place ribbon. 

 

At the time, I was shocked, knowing I should have been disqualified and felt guilty about it. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood the judge had bent the rules because he admired my spirit and determination. I have had other awards over the course of several years, but none of them, even the ones for my books, meant as much to me as that faded yellow ribbon I still have, because you are absolutely right. Determination and not quitting makes all the difference. I wrote six books before my first one was published and received countless rejections. It’s taken me almost fifty years of stubbornness to get here.

 

LW: You mention that you have a black belt in Aikido and Jujitsu and dove the Great Blue Hole in Belize. You sound like a woman who loves adventure. What are some of the other off-the-beaten path places you’ve explored and adventures you’ve had?

 

TKT: Well, you are right again! I love adventure and new vistas. I think that is part of what I enjoyed about police work—not knowing what was going to happen next. And a martial arts is an “art” and hence, a process of constant discovery. Travel, of course, also presents those kinds of opportunities. Visits to Israel and Turkey were part of research for Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate (Lot’s wife). Martial arts took me to Japan years ago. In addition to Belize, I’ve been with friends and hubby to New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Croatia, southern England, Thailand, and Cambodia. Machu Picchu and Galapagos in South America were on the menu before the pandemic, but that will have to wait. Right now, I am trying to find adventure in my backyard battling renegade wisteria and getting to know the two rescue horses I recently acquired.

 

LW: Finally, is there something I haven’t asked that you’re dying to tell our readers, either about yourself or your books…or both?

 

TKT: Lois, having just read Assault with a Glue Gun, when you say the word “dying,” I just sit up and take note of what’s in your hands!”  😂

 

Thanks for the questions. It’s been fun!


LW: As it was for me.


~*~

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.

 


Website: www.loiswinston.com

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The Art of Letter Writing

 

Kathleen Kaska

 

When was the last time you wrote a letter or received one?

With texting, tweeting, emailing, and Facebook messaging available as
popular (and expedient) forms of communication, people rarely write letters
nowadays. Why bother, you might ask? I just order the book, Chickens, Gin, and a Maine Friendship: The
Correspondence of E. B. White and Edmund Ware Smith
.
When I saw E. B. White
on the cover, I ordered it immediately. I love his writing. I didn’t pay
attention to the subtitle, so I was surprised to see that it was a collection
of letters between two friends. I haven’t read the book yet; I’m savoring it
for a vacation when I don’t have to focus on a bazillion other things. But it
got me thinking.

I’m fortunate to have a friend who still prefers to communicate this
old-fashioned way. We met several years ago when I interviewed her for a book I
was writing about her father. Although she uses email, she does so mainly for
business. She and I chat on the phone, but we also write letters to one
another. I have kept every letter she has written me, as well as copies of those
I’ve written to her.

Beyond my correspondence with my letter-writing friend, I write a Christmas
letter to my family, though not every year. I write letters to my young great-niece
and nephews, since they live in Texas and I’m in Washington State. I don’t want
them to forget about me.

I think the reason letter writing is rare is that it takes time and effort.
Getting started is especially hard. I could begin with a comment on the
weather, how I’m feeling, or what I’ve been up to, but those topics seem humdrum.
What helps me get past “Dear Stephanie,” is a reminder to start with a quirky
thought that’s been brewing in my brain—something like why
I choose to have two
olives with my martini on one night and three on another. After that first
paragraph is written, I’m off and running with three or four pages pounded out
in a few minutes.

Electronic communication fosters little forethought as to what to say, or
how to say it. “I have a question; here it is.” Or, “I have some information
you need; read this quickly.” I also find that if I send an email with too many
questions, most of them go unanswered. Sadly no one seems to read lengthy
emails. I even had a publisher who consistently ignored most of what I asked. I
soon learned to ask just one question per email.

Letter writing, on the other hand, takes thought, creativity, and
consideration for the recipients of the letters. You don’t want to bore them to
death with mundane information. You want to make them laugh and understand
what’s really going on in your head and your life.

I look back on the first letters I wrote to my friend; most contained
questions about her father’s activities. But after my book was published The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story University Press of Florida, 2012) we began
communicating on a more personal level, and a true friendship developed. I
enjoy reading her letters, being able to hold them, stick them in my purse, and
reread them. I know she’s put time and effort into her letters to me—and that
makes me feel special. I hope she feels the same way when she receives one of
mine.

I’m not sure what I will eventually do with all our correspondence, but I’m
glad to have it. My friend lives across the country, so I rarely see her. Our
letters keep us close. 

Do you know of other similar books that are collections of letters? 

Kathleen Kaska is the author of The
Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book
(Rowman & Littlefield Publishing
Group). She is the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime: Holmes Society of Anacortes,
Washington, a scion of The Baker Street Irregulars. Kathleen writes the
awarding-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Kate Caraway Mystery
Series. Her passion for birds led to the publication The
Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story
.
Kathleen’s collection of blog posts, Do You Have a Catharsis Handy?
Five-Minute Writing Tips
 won the Chanticleer International
Book Award in the non-fiction Instruction and Insights category.

 

Go to her website and sign up for her newsletter. Look for
her bi-monthly blog: “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town” because
sometimes you just have to laugh.

 

http://www.kathleenkaska.com

http://www.blackopalbooks.com

https://twitter.com/KKaskaAuthor

http://www.facebook.com/kathleenkaska

 

 

Hitting Double Digits


By Lois Winston

My agent called me one day back in 2004. She’d had a conversation with an editor looking for a cozy mystery series with a crafting theme and told the editor she had the perfect author to write such a series. Of course, she meant me with my background as a designer of craft projects for manufacturers, craft book publishers, and magazines. 

 

However, at the time I’d only written romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit. I had never even heard of cozy mysteries that featured crafters. My idea of a cozy mystery was Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher. However, always up for any challenge, I agreed. Then I rushed over to the library and filled my arms with every crafting cozy they had on the shelves. Who knew there were so many?

 

Thus, was born my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Unfortunately, the sale to that editor never went through. In the middle of contract negotiations, the publishing house was sold, and the new publisher immediately canceled the cozy mystery line. However, shortly after that setback, my agent sold my chick lit book and a romantic suspense. I really couldn’t complain, except that I’d fallen in love with writing that crafting cozy. I’d found my true author voice and really didn’t want to continue writing romance and romantic suspense.

 

Publishing is all about the right book landing on the right editor’s desk on the right day. It took nearly five years from the time I’d finished Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, for the series to sell to another publisher. Now, seventeen years after first carrying all those crafting cozies to the library check-out desk, Stitch, Bake, Die!, the tenth book in the series is up for pre-order.

 

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.

 

Marlene Beckwith, wife of the multi-millionaire pharmaceutical magnate and country club owner, is both the chapter president and conference chairperson. The only thing greater than her ego is her sense of entitlement. She hates to lose at anything and fully expects to win both the needlework and baking competitions.

 

When Anastasia and Cloris arrive at the conference, they discover cash bribes in their registration packets. The Society members, few of whom are fans of Marlene, stick up for the accused and instead suggest that Marlene orchestrated the bribes to eliminate her stiffest competition. 

 

The next morning when Marlene is found dead, Anastasia questions whether she really died peacefully in her sleep. After Marlene’s husband immediately has her cremated, Anastasia once again finds herself back in reluctant amateur sleuth mode. 

 

With the help of Cloris, Marlene’s personal assistant Rhetta, and a laptop someone will stop at nothing to find, Anastasia soon unravels evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and too many possible suspects. And that’s before she stumbles over the body of yet another member of the Stitch and Bake Society. 

 

Can Anastasia piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?

 

Crafting tips included.

 

Pre-order (available 10/4)

Kindle 

Kobo 

Nook 

Apple Books 

~*~

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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