Guest Blogger: Lois Winston

Putting a Humorous Spin on Murder

By Lois Winston

I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries about a magazine crafts editor who is forced to become a reluctant amateur sleuth. However, I began my writing career penning dark romantic suspense. The first, after quite a few years and countless revisions, became the second book I ever sold. However, somewhere along the way I discovered my funny bone. Or maybe I should say funny bones because rather than being situated in my elbow, they reside in my ten fingers.

No one was more shocked than I. I’m one of those people who can never remember a joke’s punch line. When it comes to scintillating repartee, I always come up with a brilliant retort hours after the moment has passed. So years ago when my agent suggested I try to write a chick lit novel because Bridget Jones’s Diary had taken the publishing world by storm, and editors were clamoring for similar works, I laughed.

But she was serious. Apparently, she saw something buried deep inside me and knew it needed to be released. Turns out, she was right. On paper I’m quite funny, and the book I wrote, Talk Gertie to Me, became my debut novel.

Then one day my agent asked me to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery. She had been speaking with an editor who was looking for a series featuring a crafter. Since I designed needlework for craft kit manufacturers and craft book publishers in my day job, my agent thought I was the perfect person to write such a series. She also requested I use the humorous writing voice I had developed in Talk Gertie to Me. The woman was obviously clairvoyant because even though I hadn’t read a mystery since I devoured the Cherry Ames books as a kid, the moment I sat down at the computer to attempt writing a cozy mystery, I found my true literary calling.

I had always enjoyed reading books that make me laugh. There really is something to that old adage about laughter being the best medicine. Laughing releases endorphins in the brain, and the more endorphins, the happier we are. Given all the problems in the world, not only do I need to laugh more, I also realized I’d much rather make people laugh than have them sleep with one eye open at night.

So when Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series was released in 2011, I was thrilled that critics embraced it. Publishers Weekly and Booklist both gave it starred reviews, comparing my writing to that of Tina Fey and Janet Evanovich. Kirkus described Anastasia as “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” With praise like that, why would I ever go back to writing gritty romantic suspense?

Of course, Anastasia doesn’t see anything funny about the dead bodies I leave lying around for her to discover, the trouble I get her into with gangsters and psychopaths, or the communist mother-in-law I gave her. Luckily, she has no say in the matter. Besides, I’m not a total sadist when it comes to my reluctant amateur sleuth. I have given her a Shakespeare-quoting parrot and a drop-dead hunk of a boyfriend. Although, on second thought, maybe I am a bit sadistic because when it comes to photojournalist Zack Barnes, he may or may not also be a spy.

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?

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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 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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15 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Lois Winston

    1. That’s the story of my life! The perfect comeback will pop into my head hours, days, or even weeks later. But it’s probably kept me out of a lot of trouble because I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to bite your tongue in certain situations, even though you’re itching to get in the last word. 😉


  1. A great post, Lois. As writers, we often find ourselves stymied in one direction and active in another. Sometimes this happens because of editorial decisions or a suggestion from an agent (such as you had), or sometimes our muse shifts gears. It’s great knowing what works, but also being able to go where you’re being led. Congratulations on another fine entry in your entertaining series.


  2. Fun post! I took a workshop on how to write humor and failed at it. But I do add bits of humor to my stories. I enjoy the humor and fun in your books. I tend to be more serious but love reading books that make me chuckle and laugh. This looks like another great read! Congrats!


    1. Thanks, Paty! I, too, am a very serious person in person. I have no idea where this literary humor streak comes from. Thinking back, I can’t even remember any family members with much of a sense of humor! If it weren’t for the fact that I look so much like my maternal grandmother, I’d wonder if I maybe I was really adopted.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Like you, Lois, I would never make it as a standup comedian, but people seem to enjoy the comedy that finds a way into some of my writing, and I have to admit I enjoy writing funny stuff. Did I tell you the one about the dyslexic man who walked unto a bra? Write on, my friend, and make ’em laugh.


    1. Okay, Earl, you nearly had me falling off my chair with that one! Decades ago a co-worker told me a very funny holiday joke. Even though I never remember punchlines, this one has stuck with me: “There’s no plates like chrome for the hollandaise.” Trouble is, I don’t remember the set-up!


    1. I don’t like being scared, either, Everydaychick1. Have you ever come across humorous horror? Howard Odentz writes humorous YA horror, and I love his books. You might want to check out his Dead a Lot series and Little Killers A to Z, a collection of 24 short, connected stories.


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