Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LIFE IN THE CRAFTS LANE

Please welcome guest blogger, Lois Winston! Be sure to comment as Lois is giving away prizes.



When my agent suggested to me several years ago that I try my hand at a crafting mystery (she’d heard editors were looking for them), it seemed like a perfect fit. Here I was, a crafts designer by profession. I wouldn’t even have to do any research. I could draw on plenty of my own experiences in the industry. I’ve worked consumer and trade shows; designed for magazines, book publishers, and kit manufacturers; even spent several years as an editor of craft books for two different publishers. Anything I didn’t know, the answers were a mere phone call or email away to my many professional associates.

The big question was: What sort of crafting mystery should I write? My specialty is counted cross stitch, but I knew that Monica Ferris already had that crafting branch covered. She’d even mentioned me in A MURDEROUS YARN. (How cool is that?)

Other writers were already penning mysteries about the rest of the needle arts and soft crafts. Same with the hard crafts. I didn’t want my books to be derivative of another author’s work, so what could I do that hadn’t already been done?

Inspiration struck when I realized the common thread that linked all of the other crafting mysteries I came across. They all featured women (or the occasional man) who owned or worked in crafts shops or sold their own handmade crafts. No one had written about an amateur sleuth who was a crafts editor. In addition, no one had written about general crafts. Every book I came across was craft-specific -- stained glass, crochet, scrapbooking, miniatures, knitting, quilting, etc.

So I came up with Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at what she fondly refers to as a “second-rate general women’s magazine sold at supermarket check-out lines.” And of course, I gave her a personal life filled with conflicts and crazy relatives just because I could. Besides, who wants to read about a protagonist with a perfect life? We’d all want to kill her, and I couldn’t exactly see any editor buying a series where readers were rooting for the amateur sleuth protagonist to become the next dead body.

I faced a bigger challenge in coming up with crafts projects to incorporate into my book. I’m used to writing directions, but I’m also used to relying on charts, patterns, and diagrams. I can’t simple say, “Cast on 42 stitches. Work in stockinette stitch for 3-inches.” That works great for knitting but wasn’t going to work for me. However, graphics adds expense to a book’s production costs, and as an author trying to break into a new genre, I didn’t want to give a potential editor an excuse for rejecting my series.

I think I rose to the challenge, but the real proof will be come from the readers who buy my books, decide to make the crafts projects scattered throughout the pages, and find them simple and easy to execute. At least, I hope they’ll find them simple and easy to execute.

Writing directions is a lot like writing a mystery. As an author, I have to know whodunit from the beginning, but I want to surprise my readers at the climax of the story. Did I leave enough clues to keep them guessing or too many that they figured out whodunit by chapter three?

When writing directions, I have to make sure that each step makes sense to the crafter. Even if it makes perfect sense to me, it might not to someone else. Can the crafter move easily from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3? Are my directions concise and easy to follow or confusing and frustrating? Simple enough to understand or overly complex and complicated?

I hope I succeeded. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series was just released. Throughout January, I’m on a blog tour, and in celebration of the book’s release, I’m giving away 5 copies of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. Everyone who posts a comment to any of the blogs where I’m guesting (you can find the schedule at my website -- http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia’s blog -- http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com) will be entered into a drawing. If your email isn’t included in your comment, email me privately at lois@loiswinston.com to let me know you’ve entered. In addition, I’m also giving away an assortment of crafts books to one lucky person who posts a comment to KillerHobbies today.





AUTHOR BIO: Lois Winston is an award-winning author and designer as well as an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Her latest book, ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series, was recently released from Midnight Ink. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.

27 comments:

Dru said...

I'm looking forward to reading your book.

Kaye said...

I love the title of your book! I first saw it at Goodreads. Good luck with it and I wish you much success.

florida982002[at]yahoo.com

Terri said...

I look forward to reading this book also!

Good luck!

tpatterson2@indy.rr.com

Lois Winston said...

Thank you, Dru and Kaye!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome, Lois. Your book sounds delightful, and so do its crafts. Looking forward to it!

Monica Ferris said...

I liked your description of the new author trying to figure out how to fit into the increasingly-crowded field of crafting mysteries. I think your solution was clever -- and it may be informative, too!

Monica Ferris said...

I liked your description of the new author trying to figure out how to fit into the increasingly-crowded field of crafting mysteries. I think your solution was clever -- and it may be informative, too!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Terri and Linda!

Monica, you've cornered the market on cross stitch. I had to come up with something different! ;-)

Fran Stewart said...

I'm not the craftiest person around, so I'll be interested to try your directions and see if I can follow them. And I'll let you know one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

I must admit I haven't been reading the other stops on your blog tour, as glue guns aren't part of my crafting life. But a crafts editor (especially when written by someone who likes counted cross stitch): that sounds more interesting to me!
Sandra

Lois Winston said...

I'll look forward to hearing from you, Fran!

Sandra, not only do I like counted cross stitch, I've spent the better part of my adult life designing it. Counted cross stitch put my kids through college!

signlady217 said...

Can't wait to get my hands on this one! Sounds absolutely fantastic. (And I adore my glue gun!) :)

Jennifer Fischetto said...

I've always looked at the authors of craft mysteries with awe. I adore mysteries but know nothing along the lines of these type of series, whether they be crafts, cooking, etc.
Good luck on your book, Lois. It sounds like crazy fun. :)

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Welcome to the world of murderous crafters, Lois. We hope you'll stop by often! Your book cover is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Love craft cozies! Sy

Lois Winston said...

I'm excited you're excited, signlady217! Hope you enjoy the book.

Thanks for the good wishes, Jennifer!

Thanks, Joanna! I'd love to come back anytime. And you and the rest of the Killer Hobbies gang are welcome at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers whenever you'd like.

char's place said...

Use my glue gun all the time. cant wait to read your book. Sounds real interesting.

lvscrafts said...

Your book sounds scrumptious!!! I'm sure I will be "glued" to it until the end!! Can't wait to get it!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, char's place and Ivscraft!

Barb L. in Florida said...

Looking forward to the new book! I've read a lot of crafting novels and am interested to see the difference in your book. Best of luck!

mrs.ken.frett(at)gmail.com

Betty Hechtman said...

Welcome to Killerhobbies. I love the title of your book!

jeff7salter said...

My wife should love this series, Lois. She's done macrame, candles, cross-stitch, knitting, crocheting, plus scrapbooking, and card-making. And that's just the ones I can remember off-hand.
Enter me in the drawing, please.
Jeff
salter8jeff@yahoo.com

Jill McCullough said...

This was one of my favorite blogs of yours yet. Loved the title and the details of how you came up with Anastasia.

Terri Thayer said...

Great to see everyone here! Comment away. Lois will pick a winner early tomorrow morning.

Lois Winston said...

Thank you, Barb L. Please let me know what you think after reading the book.

Betty, thanks for the welcome!

Jeff, you are now my Official Groupie! Thanks for stopping by.

Jill, thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Terri, thanks so much for inviting me to guest at Killer Hobbies! I'm going to pop all the names of people who commented into a hat and will post the winner of the craft books in a few minutes.

Lois Winston said...

OK, virtual drumroll, please...
The winner of the collection of crafts books is signlady217. Please email your mailing address to me at lois@loiswinston.com, and I'll send your books to you.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by on this leg of my month-long blog tour!

signlady217 said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! So excited that I was chosen! Can't wait to get this package in the mail, and to tell my friends! :)