Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life’s Second Chapter

Hi all!  Please welcome author and friend Lois Winston to the Killer Hobbies blog today.  What to Lois's protagonists have in common with her?  Read and find out!

I spent most of my adult life working as a designer in the consumer crafts industry. Chances are, if you’ve enjoyed doing needlework any time over the last three and a half decades, you most likely stitched one of the designs I created for kit manufacturers, magazines, or craft book publishers.

Once upon a time the consumer crafts industry was so large that only a handful of convention centers across the country were able to host our annual trade show. I belonged to and served on the board of a professional design organization comprised of hundreds of craft designers. I worked for seven years as the head designer, design coordinator, and editor of a major craft company and freelanced for close to a hundred different companies and publishers throughout my career.

Then it all began to change. The personal home computer and the Internet became the death knell of the craft industry as I knew it. Suddenly people were spending more time on their computers and less time crafting. When they did craft, too many shied away from projects that took weeks or months to complete, instead opting for craft projects that could be finished in an evening or two. Designers couldn’t make a living designing such simple projects, and companies found they needed to sell far too many beads or skeins of floss to stay afloat. One by one companies were gobbled up by competitors or declared bankruptcy. Magazines folded. My career teetered on the edge of obsolete. Last year as a designer, I earned what I once made in a month. So far this year I’ve earned less than what I used to make in a week.

So like Gracie Elliott, the protagonist of my Empty Nest Mystery series, I know what it’s like to wake up one morning and find my comfortable existence threatened. And like Gracie, I turned to writing, hoping for a new career in which I could make the kind of money I once made as a designer. I was certainly in for a huge shock when I sold my first book and was offered an advance that was only slightly more than what I commanded for a single complex needlework design!

Because I have always found it easier and more comfortable to write protagonists in professions I’m familiar with, my heroines generally have some connection to the world of art and/or crafts. My romance novels have featured a doll-maker, a photographer, a kinder and gentler version of Martha Stewart, and an architectural artist, to name a few. Anastasia Pollack, the protagonist of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, is the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. Before her career was outsourced to a third-world nation, Gracie was a textile designer.

But with Gracie, I’ve taken things a step further and given her some of my own anxieties about being middle-aged, out of work, and hoping for a new career as a published author. Where I detour from my own experiences and plant Gracie firmly in the world of fiction is when I introduce dead bodies. I’ve attended many writing conferences over the last twenty years but have yet to stumble over a single dead body. And that’s definitely a good thing!

Literally Dead

An Empty Nest Mystery, Book 2

After her last disastrous episode as an amateur sleuth, Gracie Elliott is back. The budding romance writer has spent the past year crafting her first novel. Her hard work and determination pay off when her manuscript wins the Cream of the Crop award, a contest for unpublished writers, sponsored by the Society of American Romance Authors. First place entitles her to attend the organization’s annual conference, normally open only to published authors.

With husband Blake in tow, a starry-eyed Gracie experiences the ultimate fan-girl moment upon entering the hotel. Her favorite authors are everywhere. However, within minutes she learns Lovinia Darling, the Queen of Romance, is hardly the embodiment of the sweet heroines she creates. Gracie realizes she’s stepped into a romance vipers’ den of backstabbing, deceit, and plagiarism, but she finds a friend and mentor in bestselling author Paisley Prentiss.

Hours later, when Gracie discovers Lovinia’s body in the hotel stairwell, a victim of an apparent fall, Gracie is not convinced her death was an accident. Too many other authors had reason to want Lovinia dead. Ignoring husband Blake’s advice to “let the police handle it,” Gracie, aided by Paisley, begins her own investigation into the death. Romance has never been so deadly.

Buy Links


About the Author

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 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 and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, Follow everyone on Pinterest at and onTwitter at Sign up for her newsletter at



Carrie Dabb said...

Lois -I wonder how many of your designs grace my home??? LOL. Some of us refuse to give up the joy of creating something by hand and are passing it on. My 2 year old grandson loves to help me cross-stitch. He "sorts" my floss and can now pull the needle through fabric without un-threading it. He makes fabulous long stitches!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Lois! It can be fun to give our protagonists some of our own characteristics and concerns. I look forward to reading about Gracie!

Lois Winston said...

Carrie, I wonder, too! When my youngest son was eight years old, he designed and stitched his own Christmas ornaments for family members. He used graph paper to color the designs and stitched them on 11-ct. fabric. I helped him frame them in plastic ornament frames. We still display them each year.

Thanks for the welcome, Linda! I hope you enjoy Gracie. I've had fun writing about her.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


It's great to have talent in more than one area of the arts. With technology constantly changing, we need to adapt. You are obviously doing that.

Donnell Ann Bell said...

As someone who has already read Literally Dead, I had so much fun reading. It's a huge spoof on romance conferences, but anyone who has attended one will love it -- plus if you're a reader, it's a true -- welcome to our world. Plus, there's mystery, wit and charm, right up another alley of mine.

Lois, regarding these patterns. Is that the only way you can do needlepoint. What if I want to stich a quote for my granddaughter. Is that really hard to do. Wishing you the best with this book!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Jacqueline. This old dog is still learning new tricks in order to survive. ;-)

Donnell, sending you cyber-kisses! Lots of ways to stitch a quote. We should talk.

Diane Burton said...

I think I'm one of those who contributed to the demise of the craft industry. Yikes! I loved doing counted cross-stitch. But, you're right. I don't want to spend weeks stitching. I'd rather write. How wonderful you've found another career. Being flexible is the key these days. I love your Anastasia Pollack mysteries. Now I'm going to try the Gracie Elliot ones. Best wishes.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks so much, Diane! I hope you love Gracie and much as you love Anastasia. And I won't hold it against you that you no longer cross stitch. Dirty little secret--neither do I. Even though I still enjoy designing it, I've found that my eyesight just isn't what it used to be when it comes to close-up work. I can barely thread a needle lately. I've also switched entirely to ebooks from paper because I can make the print larger and don't need to squint.

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Hi Lois, Excellent post! I love reading and writing about second acts. So inspiring! BTW...I enjoyed reading and highly recommend Literally Dead.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks so much, Joanne! I'm glad you enjoyed Gracie's latest adventure.