Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mystery Talk at Lancaster Library

We had a great day for a class in mystery writing at the Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster, MA.
This was sponsored by the Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative, a group that helps area writers.
Thanks to all for making this a fun and informative day.

Over a dozen interested people gathered on a sunny Saturday to hear what goes into making a good mystery novel.

Here's Ann as she introduces me and makes announcements

Our class

Hey, I'm on TV! 
(Will send the link when it's available)

Even sold a couple of books to new fans.

The follow-up is this coming Saturday, when we check out writing samples and study what works and what might be improved. Participants are getting an in-depth critique on their work!

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Interview With Mystery Author Lois Winston

Hello Readers- today we're checking out mystery Author Lois Winston, who writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, which, according to Kirkus Reviews, is “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum."

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. 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.

And she has a new book out today: Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide

Let's find out more...

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide is the eighth full-length novel in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. (There are also three novellas.) The premise of the series began with the first book, which opens with my protagonist learning that her recently deceased husband had hidden a serious gambling addiction from her. As a result, she’s suddenly thrust from a comfortable middle-class existence into visions of having to move her family into a cardboard box on a street corner, all the while fending off bill collectors, some of whom break kneecaps when they’re not paid on time.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. I begin each book with the germ of an idea—a character, a conversation, a situation, a title, even a great opening line. Then I begin writing and see where the story takes me. I usually figure out early on who my victim or victims will be and who my killer is, but that can change as the story progresses. Sometimes a different character presents as having a better motivation for murder. I never outline. I find that if I know too much about the story ahead of time, I become bored with the actual writing of it.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. Since I write a cozy mystery series, the main theme is how my amateur sleuth keeps finding herself in the middle of murder investigations and how she’s forced to figure out whodunit before the killer strikes again. It’s the same theme of all cozy mystery/amateur sleuth novels, which always feature a non-law enforcement protagonist involved in more murder cases than most local cops see in a lifetime on the force.

However, my books are about more than a character solving a murder. The underlying arc of the series centers round family and coping with the unexpected and unwanted. Anastasia is a member of the sandwich generation. Living under her small suburban roof are her two teenage sons, her semi-invalid communist mother-in-law, and in-between husbands, her much-married mother. Anastasia has two choices: she can give up, or she can persevere. She perseveres—with a sense of humor and a Jersey Girl attitude that helps her get through all that life has dumped on her.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. My goal is twofold: I want to give my readers a mystery that will keep them guessing and a story that will keep them laughing. With everything that’s going on in the world, we all need to laugh more to see us through the tough times. Anastasia understands that as much as I do.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Characters who come alive on the page and a story that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages well beyond bedtime.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and other review sites have compared Anastasia to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum and Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon. High praise, indeed! I love the Stephanie Plum books, and I enjoyed 30 Rock. But I think the one major difference between my series and the others is that I take a deeper emotional dive into my characters’ lives.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. I think it depends on the story you’re telling. Fiction can also be educational. I’ve read books centered round subjects I had little or no knowledge of prior to reading the books. However, even when books are mostly for entertainment, they can serve a deeper purpose. I’ve had readers write to tell me that my books offered them a much-needed escape from coping with illness, divorce, or the death of a loved one.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. I have lots of goals, but the older I get, the more I realize—unfortunately—that I’ll never achieve most of them. That old adage about being able to accomplish whatever you set your mind to if you just work hard enough is a pile of poppycock. You only have control over what you do, not the myriad of outside factors that impact your goals. Too much in life is entirely out of our control.

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. I tend to revise as I write. I start each writing day by reading what I wrote the day before and making changes before I start a new scene. I’m my harshest critic. When I finish a book, I walk away with a sense of accomplishment. I’m happy it’s finally finished, but I’m not tired of it. I can’t be. I’m writing a series. I have to return to those characters and pick up where we left off with the next book.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?
A. I work with two editors whose opinions I value immensely. One is primarily a content editor, the other a line/copy editor.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. It would depend on the person and the help requested. I’ve had total strangers tell me they have an idea that’s sure to be a bestseller, and if I write the book for them, they’ll split the royalties with me. Really? Not gonna happen! On the other end of the spectrum I’ve helped several friends polish their proposals, and they went on to sell their books.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. My books would definitely translate well into movies or TV series. I’ve had some interest over the years, but unfortunately, to date nothing has come from any of them. Since my novels rely heavily on dialogue and action, rather than long descriptive passages and pages of internalization, I don’t think they’d have to be tweaked much to move from the page to the screen.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. Anastasia’s next adventure.

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. I hate peanut butter!

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I’d love for your readers to sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Bookbub and my other social media sites (listed below.)

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

Buy Links
Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VG2QZXV/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=Handmade+Ho-Ho+Homicide&qid=1563673299&s=gateway&sr=8-1&linkCode=sl1&tag=loiswins-20&linkId=cbd92af3c45b1134cb5408cc8450e3b4&language=en_US

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/handmade-ho-ho-homicide

Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/handmade-ho-ho-homicide-lois-winston/1132607263?ean=2940163093748

iTunes https://books.apple.com/us/book/handmade-ho-ho-homicide/id1473711082

Website: www.loiswinston.com
Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/anasleuth
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Anasleuth
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/722763.Lois_Winston
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/lois-winston