Guest Spotlight: Lois Winston

As a member of Sisters in Crime, I get to rub shoulders with some amazing writers. One that I’ve really enjoyed getting to know is Lois Winston, and I can hardly wait to read her new book. It has Scrapbook in the title – I know, right?! Mystery + Scrapbook = AWESOME! So, I asked Lois if she’d be willing to answer a few questions for me. Welcome, Lois!

In what genre did you begin writing?
LW: I started out writing romantic suspense. Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, was the first book I ever wrote. It became the second book I sold. Before I sold that book, though, chick lit became popular, and since I wasn’t getting offers on any of my romantic suspense books, I decided to try my hand at chick lit. Talk Gertie To Me, a fish-out-of-water story about a mother and daughter, became my debut novel.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time?
I’m not a funny person in person. I’ve been known to flub the punch line of every joke I’ve ever tried to tell. However, in writing Talk Gertie To Me, I discovered I had a talent for writing funny. Who knew? So when my agent told me of an editor looking for crafting mysteries and suggested I try writing one, I decided on a humorous amateur sleuth series. I created Anastasia Pollack, a crafts magazine editor and widow who, along with her two teenage sons, lives with her communist mother-in-law, her self-proclaimed descendant of Russian nobility mother, and a zany menagerie of pets, including a Shakespeare-quoting parrot.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published?
Ten years, almost to the day.

What prompted you to write for publication?
I didn’t grow up yearning to be an author. I’ve worked most of my adult life as a designer in the consumer crafts industry, creating craft projects and needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft magazine and book publishers. One day a story popped into my head and took up residence. Eventually I decided to write it down. Before I knew it, I had written a book. The next logical step was to see if anyone thought it was worthy of publication.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.”
That would have to be the day I received the phone call from my agent, telling me she had an offer of publication for Talk Gertie To Me.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you?
I’d have to say Talk Gertie To Me, the first book I sold, because it proved to me that I could write a book people would want to read, showed me I had a hidden talent for writing humor, and paved the way for all the other books I’ve written.

What book are you the most proud of, and why?
That would have to be Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun because it received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist and was dubbed, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum” by Kirkus Reviews. Being compared so favorably to Janet Evanovich is an incredible honor!

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go?
I hope my husband doesn’t read this because I’d definitely choose Zack Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. The guy’s genes cavorted in the same primordial pool as Pierce Bronson, George Clooney, and Antonio Banderas. Aside from that, Zack would make a great tour guide. He’s been just about everywhere. So I’d suggest a yearlong world tour. Nothing wrong with dreaming big, is there?

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do?
If I won the lottery or the day came with tickets to see Hamilton, I’d go to the theater. I’m a huge Broadway fan. I just wish I could afford to feed my addiction more often. I’d have to mortgage my home to afford tickets to Hamilton!

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing?
Scrapbook of Murder is the sixth novel in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Other books in the series include: Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and A Stitch To Die For. In addition, there are three mini-mysteries: Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Lois. Readers, read on for a bit about the newest book on my TBR list!

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 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 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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Diamond in the Rough: Easter Eggs

Renegade Jeep eggDo you know what Easter Eggs are? They’re fun little hidden things left by designers for people to find. They can be found in video games, movies, books, etc.

I just bought a new vehicle recently – a Jeep Renegade. I absolutely LOVE this Jeep! When I went in, I had a list of wants: power MySky sunroof, automatic, 4WD, bright color, tow package. But as I started researching the vehicle, the thing that intrigued me the most was the Easter eggs. There are little goodies hidden all over the little SUV. One of my favorites is a little Jeep crawling up the windshield on the passenger side, which looks really cool as a shadow on the interior pillar. There’s also a bigfoot and a spider hidden on the vehicle.

Diamond in the Rough was born during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to those of us who participate in the madness), so I hid a couple of Easter eggs in the story. One of them was cut in the final edit (the Traveling Shovel of Death), but one did make it into the story. If you’re a NaNo’er, let me know if you find it! I’ll give you a hint – it appears during the BBQ scene at the Diamond J.

If you like cozy, crafty mysteries, why not give a cozy, crafty romance a shot? Pick up a copy of Diamond in the Rough for yourself, or buy it for your favorite crafter. It makes a great beach read for vacation season!

Comment below and let me know if you’ve found a fun Easter egg anywhere.


First Draft DONE: The Ecstacy of The End

Just realized I forgot to update you – I wrote those two magic words on The Danger Within earlier this month. This is the second in the Widow’s Web series, after Fatal Impulse, and takes place in Colorado.

Those of you who have read Fatal Impulse got a sneak peek at the new book. You may have noticed a trend – each of the books in this series begins the same way: with a woman who has been pushed too far by her husband. I wrote each of these books for those women who find themselves in unhealthy, unsatisfying relationships. My first marriage fell in that category. When we’re in bad situations, we sometimes think about doing horrible things . . . that we would never actually do in real life. But my characters do . . .

So, if you’ve ever thought about wanting a second chance, a chance to get out . . . these books were written for you.

Review: Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy met Julie Hyzy at the Midwest Writers Workshop last summer in Indiana. She impressed me enough that I purchased several of her books. I just finished Grace Under Pressure, the first in the Manor House Mystery series, so I thought I’d share my review with you.

Grace takes a job at Marshfield Manor. Her boss is killed and suddenly she is running the elegant mansion. The small town police department isn’t well equipped to investigate a murder, and they think she might be a suspect. The employees of the Manor are suspicious of her also. Grace takes it on herself to figure out who killed Abe. In doing so, she learns more about the Manor’s employees and her own family’s connection to the Manor, while juggling home repairs and a couple of roommates (the roommates get scammed by the same woman who scammed Grace at Marshfield – a nice subplot). Grace is also struggling personally – her flighty sister and her ex are peripherally mentioned, and there is groundwork laid for a potential romantic interest in Jack, who works at the Manor.

The plot was interesting, though a bit unwieldy at times (I’m still not sure why the inept private detective was mentioned so much) – but perhaps that will all become more clear later in the series. The characters were interesting, particularly the annoying Frances (who I hope gets hers at some point). The setting was delightful.

I look forward to reading more by this author.

Fatal Impulse

Fatal Impulse (a Widow’s Web novel)

by Lori L. Robinett

Chad and Andi Adams are the perfect couple. He is a successful dentist with a winning smile and a penchant for perfection. She is the perfect suburban wife who supports him totally and completely.

Until the night she kills him.

Sneak Peek at Fatal Impulse

The two celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary the previous May, and she was determined to make her marriage work. Her parents raised her to believe marriage is forever, ‘til death do you part, so she would not leave him. No matter what.

A sharp bang interrupted his tirade.

The SUV swerved on the wet pavement, throwing her sideways into the door. The seatbelt grabbed and held her in place, and she braced herself against the dash with her hands. Her head jerked from side to side as the vehicle fishtailed back and forth until Chad slowed the Grand Cherokee. He held the steering wheel with an iron grip and guided the vehicle to the side of the road, the blown tire thumping. He set the emergency brake with a sharp yank, then turned to look at her, his dark eyes narrowed. He looked evil in the amber glow of the instrument panel.

The interior light blinked on when he opened his door, bathing the inside of the vehicle with harsh light. He started to get out, then paused, one foot in, one foot out, and turned to stare at her.

“I had control. There is no need to grab the dash like that. As you may recall, this vehicle is equipped with airbags. Had they deployed, your arms would have been broken.” That low, smooth voice that had once impressed her now gave her chills. “Snap.”

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