Lois Winston-Guest with A Stitch To Die For

7-27 a_stitch_to_die_forI’m happy to intro­duce my guest, Lois Win­ston. Her new book is A Stitch To Die For. (I absolutely love the cover—and the excerpt.) She answered a few of my questions.

I know you write in more than one cat­e­gory. Do you have a pref­er­ence of one over the others?

I started out writ­ing roman­tic sus­pense, but I really found my voice when I switched over to writ­ing humor­ous first-person novels—initially in chick lit, then in ama­teur sleuth mys­ter­ies. I’m not a funny per­son by nature. I either for­get or mess up the punch line of any joke I’ve ever tried to tell, but I dis­cov­ered I have a tal­ent for writ­ing funny. Of course, humor is very sub­jec­tive, so not every­one “gets” my sense of humor, but that’s true of most things in life, isn’t it? Some peo­ple “get” you; oth­ers don’t.

What inspired you to begin your writ­ing career?

As cliché as it sounds, it was a dream. I usu­ally don’t remem­ber my dreams, but one night I expe­ri­enced a very vivid one that stayed with me. Every night for over a week the dream con­tin­ued, unfold­ing like the chap­ters of a book. I finally decided I needed to write down the story, mostly to get it out of my sys­tem. When I had fin­ished, I real­ized I wanted to keep writ­ing. By the way, that ini­tial story, after years of revi­sions, became Love, Lies and a Dou­ble Shot of Decep­tion, the sec­ond book I sold.

Char­ac­ters and plots—are any of yours based on real peo­ple or real sit­u­a­tions? Does real­ity ever spark a cre­ative leap?

Most of my plots are born from actual events I’ve read about in the news­pa­per or watched on the news. I’m a total news junkie. A Stitch to Die For, my lat­est Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack Craft­ing Mys­tery, incor­po­rates sev­eral news sto­ries that have appeared over the past year—swatting inci­dents that are occur­ring across the coun­try and a cou­ple of court cases where chil­dren died from salt poisoning.

In addi­tion, some of my char­ac­ters have been based on peo­ple I’ve known. Lucille, Anastasia’s com­mu­nist mother-in-law, is based on my own com­mu­nist mother-in-law. The woman put me through years of hell. I’m now get­ting even. Lucille has become the char­ac­ter read­ers love to hate.

Now let’s talk about your new book, A Stitch To Die For. I love the cover for your new Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack mys­tery. Will you reveal a bit of a teaser? Or more?

Thanks! I’m really thrilled with the cover, too!

The adven­tures of reluc­tant ama­teur sleuth Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack con­tinue in A Stitch to Die For, the 5th book in the Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack Craft­ing Mys­tery series.

Ever since her hus­band died and left her in debt equal to the gross national prod­uct of Uzbek­istan, mag­a­zine crafts edi­tor and reluc­tant ama­teur sleuth Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack has stum­bled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related set­tings. When a killer tar­gets the elderly nasty neigh­bor who lives across the street from her, mur­der strikes too close to home. Cou­ple that with a series of unset­tling events days before Hal­loween, and Anas­ta­sia begins to won­der if some­one is send­ing her a deadly message.

Excerpt:

Two weeks ago my mother, Flora Sud­berry Peri­win­kle Ramirez Scoffield Gold­berg O’Keefe, took her sixth trip down the aisle to become Flora Sud­berry Peri­win­kle Ramirez Scoffield Gold­berg O’Keefe Tut­tnauer. The groom’s daugh­ter was a no-show. At the time of the cer­e­mony her body was being fished out of the Delaware and Rar­i­tan Canal in Lam­bertville, New Jersey.

Ira Pol­lack, my stepbrother-in-law and the groom’s son-in-law, had just fin­ished a toast to Mama and Lawrence Tut­tnauer when two men in dark suits entered the back­yard cater­ing tent and headed straight toward him. Given all my deal­ings with the police over the last few months, I eas­ily made them for detec­tives, a sus­pi­cion con­firmed when I spot­ted them flash­ing their badges. Ira nod­ded and fol­lowed them out of the tent.

I fol­lowed Ira.

He and the two men made their way to the patio at the back of his house. I stopped at the entrance to the tent. The men stood with their backs to me, Ira fac­ing me. From my van­tage point I couldn’t hear their words over the con­ver­sa­tions and music going on behind me, but I saw the color drain from Ira’s face. He shook his head vio­lently and yelled, “No!” loud enough for me to hear.

I raced across the lawn as fast as I could in three-inch heels. Once at the patio, I placed my hand on Ira’s arm. In a voice that trem­bled as much as his body, he said, “Cyn­thia. They found her float­ing in the canal.”

I gasped, then led Ira over to one of the patio lounge chairs. He col­lapsed onto the cush­ion and buried his head in his hands as he choked out huge sobs.

I turned to the detec­tives, wait­ing for more of an expla­na­tion, but both ignored Ira’s grief to fix­ate on the party across the lawn. “What’s going on here?” one of them asked.

A wed­ding,” I said.

Whose?”

Ira’s father-in-law mar­ried my mother.”

Both detec­tives knit their brows together and glared at Ira. “Your wife doesn’t show for her father’s wed­ding, and you’re not wor­ried?” asked the older and taller of the two men.

Ira tried speak­ing between sobs. His mouth opened and closed sev­eral times, but no words came out. I answered for him. “Cyn­thia didn’t approve of her father mar­ry­ing my mother.”

And you are?” asked the sec­ond detec­tive, whip­ping out a notepad and pencil.

Anas­ta­sia Pol­lack. I’m also Ira’s stepsister-in-law.”

Both detec­tives repeated the twin eye­brow knit, but nei­ther said any­thing. Also, up to this point I had no idea how Cyn­thia had died, so I asked, “What hap­pened to Cynthia?”

The med­ical exam­iner will have to deter­mine cause of death,” said the older detec­tive. “We’re wait­ing on an autopsy.”

Do you sus­pect foul play?”

Why would you sug­gest that?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I can’t imag­ine how Cyn­thia would land in the canal on her own. She isn’t…wasn’t the canal-strolling type.” Dirt and extremely expen­sive designer duds don’t mix.

What type was she?” asked the younger detective.

Cyn­thia the Tro­phy Wife was more the spend-all-day-spending-Ira’s-money type. I thought for a moment, not want­ing to say any­thing that might be mis­con­strued. If Cyn­thia hadn’t died of nat­ural causes, Ira would wind up at the top of the sus­pect list. “I only met her once,” I said, “but I’d describe her as some­one more inter­ested in indoor activ­i­ties than com­muning with nature.”

The spouse is always the prime sus­pect, but Ira was no killer. The man didn’t even have the back­bone to dis­ci­pline his bratty kids. If Cyn­thia had met with foul play, my money was on the pool boy she’d run off with weeks ear­lier. “Ira, you have to tell the detec­tives what hap­pened with Cynthia.”

Buy Links  Paper­back     Kin­dle     Nook     iTunes     Kobo     Google Play

(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 three mini-mysteries: Crewel Inten­tions, Mosaic May­hem, and Patch­work Peril.)

7-27 lois-winstonBio: USA Today best­selling and award-winning author Lois Win­ston writes mys­tery, romance, roman­tic sus­pense, chick lit, women’s fic­tion, children’s chap­ter books, and non-fiction 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. Visit Lois/Emma at her web­site and Anas­ta­sia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog. Fol­low every­one on Tsu, on Pin­ter­est, and on Twit­ter @anasleuth. Sign up for her newslet­ter here.

Dressed for Summer Fun

7-23 PicnicThere’s noth­ing bet­ter than a sum­mer pic­nic, along with a few sum­mer games. It’s time to look in my “many years ago” file. I found a pic­ture from a Sun­day School pic­nic with chil­dren dressed to enjoy a lot of fun.

Umm, really? The year was 1908. The chil­dren gath­ered at the church, then marched to the pic­nic grounds, accom­pa­nied by a band. A dec­o­rated wagon car­ried those too young to walk. The activ­i­ties included a pro­gram with drills, music, and addresses by promi­nent speak­ers. Finally, a free sup­per wrapped up the event. But not before the accom­pa­ny­ing photo was taken.

Where were the children’s games, the splash­ing in water, Where7-23 sack race
were the races? I remem­ber those— three-legged race, wheel­bar­row race, all num­ber of ways to give the lit­tle ones a fun time. And, don’t for­get the gunny sack race. (Gotta be dressed just right for that one.)

7-23-Goat race 2Speak­ing of being dressed just right, and races as well—how about a goat race? Twenty-five years ago, that was on the sum­mer pic­nic agenda. And of course, the goat had to be dressed for the occa­sion. (Don’t know if this was the win­ner, the loser, or just the most photogenic.)

Do you remem­ber school pic­nics in your past? Maybe there are some in your present and future. (Or, do they still have them?)

Five Stars for A Hostage To Heritage

7-20 Adair coverI can’t believe I haven’t already pro­filed this book on my Mon­day book blog. It’s one of my very favorites—not only mys­tery, but his­tory as well! My com­ments from Ama­zon and Goodreads follow.

Suzanne Adair has pre­sented the read­ing pub­lic with another excel­lent his­toric mys­tery adven­ture. This book is Michael Stoddard’s story. He’s a British offi­cer in Amer­ica at the time of our Rev­o­lu­tion. The ear­lier books in this series tell the sto­ries of Amer­i­cans dur­ing that time, and a few of the char­ac­ters appear in all of the books. They, and this one as well, show the con­flict­ing loy­al­ties of peo­ple in our past, includ­ing the Eng­lish Michael. Besides that, there’s the main story of a miss­ing young boy and how Michael and his sec­ond in com­mand worked toward find­ing the boy while also fol­low­ing their com­mand­ing officer’s orders. I won’t say more, don’t want to ruin the story for anyone.

Highly rec­om­mended to lovers of his­tory, and mys­tery. This book sat­is­fies on every level! It’s a mys­tery with great char­ac­ters, solid his­tory, sus­pense, and emo­tion. It’s his­tor­i­cal fic­tion with reveal­ing atti­tudes and war-time dan­ger. It’s a char­ac­ter study with “real” fic­tional peo­ple who had a past and will have a future. It’s roman­tic sus­pense with antic­i­pa­tion. And finally, it’s emo­tion trans­ferred from words on paper (or, in my case, on Kin­dle) to the reader.

I’ll send you to Suzanne’s Ama­zon page where all her books are listed (mys­ter­ies of our Rev­o­lu­tion in the South­ern states) and Suzanne’s web­site and blog. Her blog hosts guest authors with a wide vari­ety of books, often includ­ing give­aways. (Always interesting.) 

That Final Edit

Every day when I sit at my com­puter, I see a clip­ping I cut out years ago. It’s a pic­ture of a dog and a cat. In these days of viral videos show­ing ani­mals of all kinds play­ing with each other, this one typ­i­fies the usual belief of dogs and cats as wary ene­mies. The dog’s head seen from the rear tips ever so slightly toward the cat. The cat gin­gerly passes the dog while watch­ing for any way­ward move­ments. It’s an illus­tra­tion from a book for writ­ers, The Pocket Muse. It illus­trates the sen­tence, “Most good sto­ries are about trou­ble,” and includes a list of troubles.

When I look at that page, even more than trou­ble, I think, sus­pense, sus­pi­cion, what if…

Today I’m pay­ing spe­cial atten­tion to that illus­tra­tion, since I’m deep into a final edit of a mys­tery, I know my reader must have that same sense—that some­thing will surely hap­pen, but not in a good way. Will the reader be slightly dis­ori­ented, pos­si­bly leery of ques­tion­able actions, even fear­ful of what might hap­pen to a char­ac­ter on the next page? Will the reader turn the next page?

Ah, that is the eter­nal question.

So, even after my man­u­script has under­gone peer review with a cri­tique group, a full pro­fes­sional edit, and a perusal by a beta reader, I’m going over it again. I’ve noted arti­cles in the recent Writ­ers’ Digest issue on revi­sion, I’m check­ing my pages for vio­la­tions of the 24 prob­lems explained in Chris Roerden’s Don’t Mur­der Your Mys­tery. (Okay, that one is my Bible.) And, espe­cially, I want to make sure each chap­ter, each scene, each page entices the reader to eagerly turn the page.

And, if I’m suc­cess­ful, my reader will have a mys­tery that pro­vides exactly what the reader wants—a good book—a story that sat­is­fies and pos­si­bly edu­cates in some small way.

A Scottish Connection

US Womens Golf Leaders

US Wom­ens Golf Leaders

Our local news is all about the US Women’s Open golf tour­na­ment at the Lan­caster Coun­try Club—just a hop, skip, and jump away from my home. I really should honor that by pro­fil­ing a golf­ing mys­tery that I’ve read. Except—I haven’t read any golf­ing mys­ter­ies. So, what’s my next best idea? Hmmm.

Golf, an ancient game, orig­i­nated in Scot­land, right? And—I do have a book in my favorites file called, ta, da…What Hap­pens In Scot­land. No golf any­where. Not even a mys­tery. An his­toric romance, almost a bodice rip­per. So not what I usu­ally like. But, I read this book with great pleasure.

7-13 What Happens coverHere is my five star review of What Hap­pens In Scot­land: “I absolutely had to get this book after I read a page or two. What’s not to pull a reader in? Lady Geor­gette find­ing her­self, a respectable young widow, in bed with a stranger. Although this is his­toric romance, there is def­i­nitely an air of mys­tery. Who is the bounder? How did the lady find her­self in the sit­u­a­tion, where were her clothes, and why was there bro­ken glass all over the floor?

You’ve got to admit, with a begin­ning like that, where can the story go? I tell you, it improves! Not only is the action rol­lick­ing and filled with peril, the unex­pected twists and turns keeps a reader up until the wee hours. I fin­ished this in record time, and wished it had been longer.

Okay, my review doesn’t tell you much. I’ll include the offi­cial blurb.

Jen­nifer McQuiston’s debut his­tor­i­cal romance, What Hap­pens in Scot­land, is a lively, roman­tic adven­ture about a wed­ding that nei­ther the bride or the groom remembers.

Lady Geor­gette Thorold has always been wary of mar­riage, so when she wakes up next to an attrac­tive Scots­man with a wed­ding ring on her fin­ger, it’s easy to under­stand why she pan­ics and flees. Con­vinced that Geor­gette is a thief, her maybe hus­band, James McKen­zie, searches for her. As both try to recall what hap­pened that fate­ful night, they begin to real­ize that their attrac­tion and desire for each other is unde­ni­able. But is it enough?
There are hid­den caves and mid­night horse rides, if I remem­ber cor­rectly, but nary a golf club in sight.

Terror on the Chesapeake-1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn

Rear Admi­ral Cockburn

The War of 1812 did not start in earnest for those on Chesa­peake Bay until 1813. Rear Admi­ral Sir George Cock­burn was given the task: ruin coastal trade, destroy sup­plies of grain and live­stock, and ter­ror­ize the pop­u­la­tion in gen­eral. In late April he reached Kent County, Mary­land. His force con­sisted of one 74 (a gun ship), three frigates, two brigs, two schooners, and a num­ber of ten­ders and barges. The British raided How­ell Point and bom­barded the land throw­ing shot as far as a mile from shore. At one farm they robbed a smoke­house, hen­house and sheep pen, and killed cat­tle. The mili­tia arrived in time to pre­vent the enemy from car­ry­ing off the cat­tle and to fire at the retreat­ing boats.

The British con­tin­ued up the bay, lsy­ing waste by plun­der­ing French­town, and raid­ing and burn­ing Havre de Grace.

Cock­burn next turned to George­town, but he was frus­trated by the intri­cacy of the Sas­safrass River. He kid­napped a local res­i­dent to act as his pilot and sent word that if the res­i­dents didn’t resist, George­town would be spared and pro­vi­sions they took paid for. How­ever the mili­tia, 400 strong, opened fire. When the British advanced, the mili­tia aban­doned the fight and melted away. The British torched thir­teen dwellings and out­build­ings, cobbler’s shop, tav­ern, a gra­nary and store­house. How­ever, some homes were saved. (Local leg­end has it that the British spared sev­eral homes due to the actions of  Miss Kitty Knight, a local lady of esteem, who stood up to the British when they were about to burn the home of one of her elderly neigh­bors. The Kitty Knight house still stands.)

Kitty Knight House today

Kitty Knight House today

As Cock­burn and his forces returned to the Chesa­peake the news of burn­ing and loot­ing had its effects. Resis­tance had died. The Brits paid for sup­plies and returned the pilot to his home. How­ever, they came back in August with a dif­fer­ent intent.

This is another blog of my “His­tory of The War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay” series. Since my next mys­tery will take place dur­ing a reen­act­ment of that war, I’ve dis­cov­ered many inter­est­ing facts I like to share, also, a few facts I thought I knew that weren’t exactly true.

 

 

The Monday Book Blog

Hidden Body 4I’m not here—I wrote this last week. (Hey, a gal has to take time off once in a while.) Actu­ally, other than a few days over the 4th of July, oh, and fam­ily vis­it­ing the end of July, I’ll be at Camp NaNoW­riMo. (That’s a fic­tional camp, quite proper for one who writes fic­tion.) I hope to fin­ish writ­ing a short story (that may become a novella if I don’t watch out). I call it Hid­den Body, and my big plans are to include it in a book of short sto­ries called—ta da— Hid­den Body and Other Short Sto­ries. I even made up a cover. This may not be the cover I even­tu­ally use. But, would you buy a book that looked like that? Let’s say, would you down­load a free book that looked like that? (I hope to make it free.)

My sec­ond project for the month is to com­plete edit­ing For­got­ten Body.

Camp NaNo

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-Banner big

I’m busy at Camp NaNo. Pic­ture me sit­ting around the camp­fire with my tent bud­dies, snarf­ing down S’Mores. Okay, not really. That short story is wait­ing, as well as edit­ing the new mys­tery. I’ll let you know how I’m doing next week. (Just started yesterday.)

Camp-s-mores-2Those S’Mores are look­ing good! Maybe just one.

Yum.

Okay, maybe two.

Oh, heck. Can’t leave just one!

Five Stars For Mr. Monk

I loved the TV show—now long gone. It ran from 2002 through 2009. The books with orig­i­nal sto­ries by Lee Gold­berg kept on going after the Monk show ran its course. Then Lee Gold­berg stopped writ­ing them after quite a few, and Hy Con­rad took over. I may have just read the final book of the series, since Mr. Conrad’s fourth book, Mr. Monk and The New Lieu­tenant, is his last one. He hopes some­one else will con­tinue, but when that one was pub­lished this year (2015) no one had yet stepped up.

So, here are my reviews of two of my favorite books—Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Gold­berg, and Mr. Monk and The New Lieu­tenant by Hy Conrad.

6-29 Mr Monk 1

6-29 Mr Monk 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My five-star review of the first was short: “I was a big fan of the Monk TV series, and I’m a big fan of Lee Goldberg’s Monk mys­tery series. This book is a neat com­bi­na­tion of Monk, his pho­bias, and up-to-the-minute cur­rent events! And you can just guess Monk’s thoughts about that dog with those irreg­u­lar markings.”

I’ve just fin­ished read­ing the sec­ond book, and it deserves five stars as well. “Mr. Monk does not like Cap­tain Stottlemeyer’s new lieu­tenant. He’s new, for one thing. (Of course, the feel­ing is mutual.) How­ever, he and Natalie try their best. They now have their own detec­tive agency with lit­tle busi­ness. Natalie takes on a divorce case (with­out Mr. Monk’s knowl­edge, and def­i­nitely against his approval). Then there’s the mur­der case that wasn’t—until Monk declared at a man’s funeral that he had been mur­dered. Now they are try­ing to save the Cap­tain with the same symp­toms while track­ing down a miss­ing client. Monk con­vinces Randy Disher to return. With all this going on, it isn’t only Monk’s OCD that con­fuses every­one. This time Stottlemeyer’s life depends on Monk’s success.”

Both authors worked on the Monk TV show. Lee Gold­berg con­tributed to some shows and worked on dif­fer­ent series as well. Hy Con­rad was with the Monk show the whole time. Both authors give the reader the authen­tic “Monk” voice. Gold­berg tends to give him more prob­lems with his mul­ti­ple pho­bias and per­son­al­ity dis­or­ders. Con­rad, writ­ing the sto­ries as Monk begins to improve (slightly) still shows them, but they are pos­si­bly a bit more muted. (One reader’s opin­ion here.) Both authors present a humor­ous as well as nicely con­vo­luted sus­pense­ful story.

I do hope this isn’t the last Monk story.

Dinner In White

Say you want to have a party. Impromptu. Decide on a venue. Give it a name (Blanc Plate sounds nice.) Send out e-mails.

6-24 dinner in whiteBlanc Plate is tomor­row at the base­ball sta­dium, folks. RSVP

Your invi­tees know what to expect. Bring your own meal. Wear white cloth­ing. After all, they may have been one of the 100 who joined the cel­e­bra­tion in 2012, or one of the increas­ing num­bers from 2013 & 2014.

This event actu­ally hap­pened a week or so ago in my home town. It’s based on a sim­i­lar, secre­tive ban­quet on the bridges of Paris called Diner en Blanc. How­ever, invi­ta­tions to the local even are avail­able to any­one who asks. (Of course, you have to know whom to ask. I found out about it the next day from the news­pa­per.) When the 1,000 (free) tick­ets were snatched up, 200 more were added.

Yep, that’s right. Over a thou­sand peo­ple descended on the base­ball field with exactly 29 hours of warn­ing. And—they all wore white. Two young women even donned white wigs. The news­pa­per has many more pho­tos on line. There’s also a one-minute video of the event.

Umm. Let’s see. Next year this time. Maybe a month before the end of June. Yes, they do have the name of the orga­nizer in the paper. What do you think? Should I?