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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When the writing bug first hit me, I was infected with a romance strain. Romance and romantic suspense plots flew from my fingers into my computer. Some even won awards and were eventually published. However, I found myself chafing at the confines of the genre because I was far more interested in plot driven stories than the heat between the hero and heroine.
This led me to try my hand at what was then called chick lit. Today that genre designation is the kiss of death in the publishing world, but authors are still writing it, and readers are still buying it. We just call it women’s fiction now, or in my case, humorous women’s fiction, because along the way, I discovered I have a knack for writing funny. Who knew? I’m the girl who can never remember the punch line to any joke!
Then one day seventeen years ago, my agent was talking to an editor who was looking for a new crafting mystery series. Way back before I ever started writing, I earned a living as a designer of crafts and needlework projects for magazines, book publishers, and kit manufacturers. My agent knew this. So she called one day and suggested I try my hand at writing a crafting-themed cozy mystery.
I have no idea why I never thought to write mysteries prior to that phone call. Not only am I a TV crime-show junkie, but crime solving is in my DNA. As the Captain of the largest county police force in New Jersey, my grandfather was responsible for bringing down many mobsters and other killers back in the twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties of the last century.
Not only that, but I grew up going to school with an assortment of Mafia princes and princesses. As a kid, I often lurked in dark corners or with my ear pressed up to a closed door, eavesdropping on family conversations when I was supposed to be outdoors. It wasn’t until years later that I was able to piece together snatches of those conversations and fully understand their import—like the fact that some of my classmates had relatives who were “made men” or my grandfather had a brother who was a bootlegger in Atlantic City.
I’m sure my great-uncle, whom I never met, posed a huge problem for my grandfather. He was a man so incredibly honest that he consistently refused to run for mayor of Newark when pressed. He said politics was too corrupting and he wanted no part of it.
My agent’s suggestion all those years ago sparked the birth of Anastasia Pollack, the amateur sleuth of my eponymous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. The tenth book in the series, Stitch, Bake, Die!, recently released. And it all began with a conversation between two publishing professionals and memories from an eavesdropping childhood.
Do you have ancestors who would make interesting characters in a mystery?
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 New Jersey 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 meet 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.