Guest Blogger – Lois Winston

Killing Two Birds with One Stone

By Lois Winston

When I began writing A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I set myself two separate tasks. First, I thought it was high time I gave readers some additional background about Zachary Barnes, Anastasia’s love interest. Zack is introduced in Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, as Anastasia’s new tenant. A photojournalist, he’s looking to move from Manhattan to a quieter location in the suburbs where he can work in his darkroom without crazy neighbors suspecting he’s running a meth lab out of his apartment. The apartment above Anastasia’s garage provides the perfect location for him.

Almost immediately Anastasia suspects Zack’s career as a photojournalist is cover for a more covert government gig with one of the alphabet agencies. After all, when he’s not traveling back and forth to Washington, D.C., he’s flying off to questionable locations full of political and social unrest. Not to mention, he’s got a badass gun! Was he really photographing lemurs and pochards in Madagascar, or is he there for other reasons?

Of course, Zack denies he’s a spy, but wouldn’t any spy deny he’s a spy? So, is he, or isn’t he? Neither Anastasia nor my readers know at this point. Other than mentioning Zack’s brief marriage twenty years earlier, I’ve never delved further into his background. This all changes in A Sew Deadly Cruise when I finally reveal more about Zack’s history—or at least a substantial part of it.

In addition, for some time now I’ve been itching to write a locked-room mystery. A year ago, while on a cruise up to Canada with my husband—pre-pandemic—I began plotting a murder on a cruise ship, an ideal location for a locked-room mystery. However, to write a truly locked-room mystery, I needed to find a reason to keep the ship’s passengers from disembarking at any scheduled ports of call. Covid-19 hit as I was writing the book, but I certainly wasn’t going to use a pandemic or even an outbreak of norovirus, no matter how common they are on cruise ships.

How would Anastasia investigate a murder if passengers were all confined to their rooms due to illness? And really, who wants to read a humorous cozy mystery with characters suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Where’s the humor in that? Any reader with a weak stomach would be running for the porcelain throne!

I was at a point in my plot where I had to make a major decision about the story. Since I really, really wanted to keep my passengers stuck on the ship, I started hunting around the Internet for stories about stranded cruise liners, searching for a plausible excuse to keep the ship from being allowed to dock at any of its scheduled ports. Of course, I’m going to keep you in suspense, but I did find the perfect solution for keeping everyone onboard the ship but not confined to their cabins due to illness.

A Sew Deadly Cruise

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9

Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.

Craft projects included.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3fwHR7X

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-sew-deadly-cruise

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-sew-deadly-cruise-lois-winston/1137427499?ean=2940162697930

Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-sew-deadly-cruise/id1526052822

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.

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

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?

Buy Links

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VG2QZXV/

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

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

Bio:

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.

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