Guest Post: Karen McCullough

Welcome guest Karen McCullough, author of Hunters Quest!

What Writers Can Learn From Clickbait

Hunter_final2_200I fall for it all too often: those enticing little boxes at the bottom of news stories or in sidebars on many sites.  They always feature an intriguing image and promise to tell you about the best ten movies you’ve never seen, or the twenty worst celebrity plastic surgeries, or fifteen brilliant tips for paying off your debt. Those clickbait boxes are nearly irresistible.

In just a sentence or two and with a related image, they hook you into wanting to hear the rest of the story. Which is just what we authors are trying to do with our blurbs and book covers. Those clickbait boxes are very good at it. I know I’m not always so brilliant about hooks.

What can clickbait teach us about using covers and blurbs to hook readers?  I think I’ve identified four things. None of these are really new, but clickbait provides good illustrations for just how effective they can be.

  • Your story must have a strong hook and you have to be able to express it in just a sentence or two. That means your novel or short is built on a deep and significant issue or problem facing your protagonist, one he or she struggles to resolve. Novels, in particular, usually involve multiple layers of complications, so boiling down the main conflict two just one or two sentences isn’t easy. But easy or not, it’s essential that you be able to do it.
  • It has to be broadly relatable. Clickbait appeals to things that are intriguing to most people – curiosity, celebrity gossip, the fear we might miss out on something, and concerns about health and finances. Our stories have to be about what is most human in us – the need to satisfy our curiosity, the desire to understand ourselves and others better, our fears and insecurities. A story that doesn’t try to mine some aspect of the human condition or individual concern won’t be interesting to many people.
  • Don’t tip your hand all at once. Structure your story so that there are multiple questions to be answered, but be sure that answering one just leads to more questions and then more questions. I like to think of it as building a ladder of revelations that eventually lead to the overall solution to the main story problem. At the same time, you can start out with all the background.  You want your readers to care about the characters and events, so they need to meet them in action, in the depths of their issues and problems before you feed in how they got to that point.
  • Sound bites – You need a strong through-story-line to keep readers moving forward. In clickbait, the goal is to keep you clicking through slides so more ads can be served to you. That means that they release the full story in small pieces, ending each slide with a bit of a hook to make sure you want to look at the next one. Authors need to be building the story in a similar way, dropping hints and clues, setting up a larger story through smaller ones, and ending each chapter with a hook.
  • Keep the best for last – Don’t tip your hand too quickly. You want to wind the suspense so tightly, people can’t flip pages fast enough. And when you get to it, make it a doozy – a climactic fight, a hair-raising chase, the time bomb ticking down to the very last second. You want your readers to finish the story wrung out but satisfied.
  • Your cover is the equivalent of the little image that accompanies the clickbait tag. It conveys the obvious information of title and author, but the image itself should tell the reader something about the story too. Color, objects, people, fonts, etc. should all help build the mood and offer something to entice the reader. Whether it suggests mystery or terror or humor, it needs to show itself to the target audience in an appealing way that invites them to share an interesting ride.


Blurb for Hunter’s Quest

Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift” – she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.







Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.








Interview: Randy Rawls

Please welcome Randy Rawls, author of Jingle and His Magnificent Seven!

JMagSevenFinalWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Not something I give much thought to, but when forced to consider it, I suppose almost everyday is my perfect day. Being cancer free for three and one-half years after the diagnosis of Stage IV Head and Throat cancer has given me an appreciation for simply being alive. Every day I wake up is an extra day in my life and the beginning of a perfect day.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

Oh yes. I wear a western hat with a gambler’s block and have been doing so for many years now. I’m well know for it. And my second is Killian’s Irish Lager. It appears in all of my books and on my table whenever it’s available.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

None that I can specifically identify. I love good books and good writing. I like to think I learn a bit from each that I read.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Sometimes. I do best with sound in the background, so it might be music or it might be the TV. I don’t function well in silence.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Milk chocolate. My books are “clean,” no excess violence, foul language, or gratuitous sex. I trust my readers to have the imagination to read between the lines when required.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Jingle and His Magnificent Seven was inspired initially by the desire to write something for all ages (6 to 106). I had written several serious crime stories in a row and wanted to raise the humor level. However, I wasn’t far into J&HMS before it took a turn to the serious. While it kept some of its fun characteristics with Jingle popping in and out and Dot’s appetite, there is nothing frivolous about terrorist activities here in the USA.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

How biased the media can be. In my next book, Saving Dabba, the media takes a drubbing, deservedly so in my opinion. Also, homelessness. My Beth Bowman series features a homeless group who have befriended Beth—and vice versa. I emphasize the plight of those who are truly homeless.

Tell us about your main character.

Jingle Bell. Jingle is a Santa Elf, the Santa-Elf-in-Charge (SEIC) of the Southeastern Region of the Santa Bureau of Investigation (SBI). He has been assigned to track down Rime, a rogue Elf, who broke into Santa’s computer and stole the Naughty and Nice Lists. When he discovers that Rime is negotiating with the leader of a terrorist cell, he realizes he needs human assistance. He eventually recruits seven human PIs to his cause. The first is Nep Thomas, soon followed by Nep’s girlfriend, Cassie. After that, we meet several of the characters I’ve written about in the past—Ace Edwards and Kit Carsen (Ace Edwards series), Beth Bowman (Beth Bowman series) and Josh Hawkins and Chief (Justice Secured). Bringing in my old friends made the writing much more pleasurable. And, of course, Jingle is happy because they are the Magnificent Seven who can help him achieve success.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Not sure this one is appropriate. Jingle is a Santa Elf. That’s pretty basic (and imaginary).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

Ken Follett, Earnest Hemingway, Michael Connelly, Harper Lee, Lewis Carroll, John Hart

What’s next for you?

Saving Dabba is my next to be published. It is book 4 in the Beth Bowman series. In it we go behind the scenes of a fanatical group who vent their anger by preaching hatred, marching in the streets, and creating chaos. Beth’s homeless friends, specifically Dabba, are caught up in their hatred. Of course, that makes Beth take a close up and personal interest.


RandyRawls2017Randy Rawls was born and reared in Williamston, North Carolina, a small town in the northeastern part of the state. From there, he says he inherited a sense of responsibility, a belief in fair play, and a love of country. As a career US Army officer, he had the opportunity to learn, travel, teach, and hone talents inherited from his parents. Following retirement, he worked in other ventures for the US Government. Every job has in some way been fun. Even the dark days of Vietnam had their light moments, and he cherishes the camaraderie that was an integral part of survival in that hostile world.

Today, he has short stories in several anthologies, and a growing list of novels to his credit. As a prolific reader, the reads across several genres and takes that into his writing. He has written mysteries, thrillers, an historical, and two fantasy/mystery/thrillers featuring a Santa Elf. The count is now at fourteen and growing. He is a regular contributor to Happy Homicides, a twice annual anthology of cozy short stories. He also has a series of short stories featuring a cattle-herding burro. Wherever his imagination will take him, he follows.

Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk

Welcome back to Judy Penz Sheluk, author of Skeletons in the Attic and The Hanged Man’s Noose!

Finding the Right Title

ACX Cover NooseIf you read mysteries and find a book with the title H is for Homicide, you’re likely to make the connection: this is one of Sue Grafton’s alphabet series. Ditto for Winter Prey: has to be John’s Sandford’s Lucas Davenport “Prey” series. Then there are the pun-y titles: Prose and Cons (Amanda Flower), Scene of the Brine (Mary Ellen Hughes), Plantation Shudders (Ellen Byron) and so forth. See a pun-y title, and it’s a good bet it’s going to be a cozy.

Of course, not all authors play by any particular rules. Consider Louise Penny. Her titles include Still Life, A Beautiful Mystery, and A Great Reckoning. No correlation there. Yet every author knows that a good title is important. Think In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and you know this is going to be a dark tale of grisly murder.

When I started writing The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first book in my Glass Dolphin mystery series, the working title was The Blue Dolphin, the original name of the antiques shop that features prominently in the book. I changed the store’s name to the Glass Dolphin when a Google search led me to an actual antiques shop called The Blue Dolphin. But I also knew that a book called The Glass Dolphin (or The Blue Dolphin) wasn’t about to stand out in the crowd.

ACX Cover SkeletonsA few chapters into the book, Arabella Carpenter, owner of the Glass Dolphin, goes into The Hanged Man’s Noose for a drink and a sympathetic ear.  A local pub named after Samuel Lount, a real life nineteenth century politician who was hanged for treason, as soon as I came up with the name of the pub, I knew I had the name of my book.

My latest mystery, Skeletons in the Attic, started life as Calamity Barnstable, the name of my protagonist. Once again, I knew that was never going to work in the long term. And once again, inspiration came from the story itself. Here’s an excerpt:

The attic was every bit as creepy as I expected, a windowless, claustrophobic space, the walls and ceiling filled with pink fiberglass insulation, the air smelling faintly of mothballs. Given the padlock, I had expected it to be stockpiled with valuables. It wasn’t. There was a large leather steamer trunk that looked like it might be vintage, a newer trunk, bright blue with brass trim, and what appeared to be a picture triple wrapped in bubble wrap.

There was also a coffin, full-sized from what I could gather. I took a deep breath, resisted the urge to bolt out the cubbyhole entry, and inched my way over.

Unlike the attic, there was no lock on the coffin. I almost wished there had been, if only to delay the inevitable. I took another deep breath, put on the yellow rubber kitchen gloves I’d brought with me—I’d watched enough episodes of CSI to know the importance of not leaving fingerprints—bent down, and gingerly lifted the lid. It was lighter than I expected, but that didn’t stop me from dropping it abruptly. The thump echoed in the room, scaring me more than I could have thought possible.

Because what I saw lying against the cream-colored satin wasn’t a dead, decaying body, but a skeleton. One that looked decidedly human.

I had been ready to uncover some skeletons in the closet. A skeleton in the attic was another matter entirely.

A skeleton in the attic. As soon as I wrote the words, I knew that would be the title. Because I wanted to differentiate this work from my Glass Dolphin mysteries, I decided to go with “A Marketville Mystery,” Marketville being the name of the town where the story takes place.

Book 2 in my Glass Dolphin series is scheduled for publication in April 2018. The premise: a man is found dead at “hole in one contest” at a charity golf tournament, cause of death, a single gunshot wound to the chest. The title—you have to know it’s going to be A Hole in One.

So, what do you think? How important is a title in your decision to read a book? And have you ever read a book you loved, but almost didn’t read because of the title?


Judy Penz ShelukJudy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015, and in audiobook in November 2017. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was first published in August 2016, and will be re-released in trade paperback and all e-book formats in December 2017. The audiobook version was released in November 2017.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors representing Toronto/Southern Ontario.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors, shares “New Release Mondays” and blogs about her writing journey.

Find Judy’s books at all the usual suspects, including Amazon

GIVEAWAY: Sign up for Judy’s newsletter before December 13th for a chance to win an audiobook copy of either The Hanged Man’s Noose OR Skeletons in the Attic (winner’s choice). Sign up link:


Interview: Sue Owens Wright

Please welcome Sue Owens Write, author of the Beanie and Cruiser mysteries!

Thank you for these great questions.  You really made me think!

EarsforMurderWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day is one spent with my basset hounds, preferably at Lake Tahoe.  They have always been my best friends and long-eared muses.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal? 

The phrase, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” has been a driving force in my life.  You never know what you can accomplish until you try.  Ignore the naysayers and shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

The Brontë novels, Anne LaMott’s “Bird by Bird, and works by Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.  King’s nonfiction book, On Writing is one of the best I’ve read about the subject, humorous and candid.  Last but not least, Margaret Sutton’s Judy Bolton Mysteries, which I avidly read as a child and made me want to write a mystery of my own.

Do you listen to music when you write?

Yes.  I prefer hearing classical music most of the time, but I wrote my historical thriller, The Secret of Bramble Hill, while listening to music by the Irish group, Clannad.  I also listened to the edgy soundtrack from “Basic Instinct” and music by composer Bernard Hermann (of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” fame) while writing suspenseful passages in my mysteries.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Yum.  Chocolate!  It would have be dark chocolate, my favorite and also the color of my dogs’ eyes.  My naughtiest basset hound, Daisy, who inspired Calamity, Cruiser’s mischievous new canine sidekick in the latest Beanie and Cruiser books, once devoured an entire pound of fudge one Christmas that was left under the tree by accident. When I missed my gift, I found the little culprit hiding in her bed, fudge smeared on her muzzle and all over the bed.  Mystery solved.  Miraculously, Daisy suffered no ill effects from it, but I always thought her eyes were a little darker brown afterward.  A similar incident is included in the fourth book in my Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries, Braced for Murder, when Calamity discovers Beanie’s secret stash of chocolate.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

The Beanie and Cruiser mysteries are inspired by my experiences at Lake Tahoe, and this book arose from the distress I felt over clear-cutting activity near our family’s cabin and also the Angora firestorm, which was caused by a runaway campfire on June 24, 2007.  I was visiting Tahoe with my two basset hounds, Daisy and Bubba Gump, and we had to evacuate.  It was a terrifying experience I’ll never forget.  I’ve been going to Tahoe since childhood, but that was the first time I realized, “Oh, yeah.  I’m in a forest, and forests can catch fire.”  Too bad those careless campers didn’t realize it, too.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

Recurrent themes in the Beanie and Cruiser Mysteries are the environmental issues that impact the Tahoe Basin, animal welfare, and dogs, dogs, dogs; basset hounds, in particular.  My books also tend to have a paranormal aspect to them.  Ghosts may materialize now and then.

Tell us about your main character. Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Elsie MacBean is as astute as Sherlock Holmes (she even wears a deerstalker cap in the cold Tahoe winters).  She’s very observant and especially good at reading people, assessing a crime scene, and solving a puzzle when no one else can.  She loves nature and animals and lives a solitary life at Lake Tahoe with her canine companions, Cruiser and Calamity, much like Emily Brontë did with her faithful Staffordshire terrier, Keeper, at the isolated Brontë parsonage on the bleak Yorkshire moors in Haworth, England.  Like Emily, she’s a romantic and loves the solemnity of her woodland retreat and all the wild, free flora and fauna that inhabit it. Beanie’s also a strong Native American woman like Pocohantas, whose ancestor also was a tribal chief. Like her, Beanie is torn between the worlds of the indigenous Washoe Indians and Whites and would risk her own life to save another’s (especially that of a dog).

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include? 

Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Maeve Binchy, Mary Shelley, Emily Brontë, and P.D. James.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on the sixth Beanie and Cruiser mystery, my memoir, and a collection of essays about pets.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novels are The Secret of Bramble Hill and Ears for Murder.

Buy Ears for Murder on Amazon


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Interview: Carl Brookins

Please welcome Carl Brookins, author of Grand Lac!

Grand LacWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Early rise, coffee, orange juice, cereal,(hot or cold) daily newspapers 4 hours of work on one or two works in process, lunch with my wife, Internet mail, political discussions, a drink before dinner, research, TV news and more discussion and a good wine with dinner. thence to bed.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?


Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Shakespeare, John Sandford, William Krueger

Do you listen to music when you write? 


If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?


What made you interested in writing this particular story?

A tale from my niece which is the foremost action of the novel.

 What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

People relating to and helping others

Tell us about your main character.

Two, in this case, both retirement age, a man and woman with experience, good heart,

And honest attitudes. They have  both seen the best and worst of people.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Alan has elements of Travis McGee, Marjorie has some reflections of my Niece, Theresa and V.I. Warshawski

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

WK Krueger,  John Sandford, Wm. Shakespeare, Ellen Hart, Monica Ferris, John D.McDonald

What’s next for you?

My current WIP is a political thriller,  about the formation of a new political party, named the Progressive Conservative Party (PCP), a mysterious highly protected government enterprise and strange goings on in North Minneapolis, and murder most foul. This book will engage my detective, Sean NMI Sean, in a deep plunge into tangled and illegal political shenanigans.


Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Buy Grand Lac on Amazon 

Buy Reunion on Amazon 

Interview: Hank Early

Please welcome Hank Early, author of the Earl Marcus Mysteries!

Heavens Crooked FingerWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

Early morning writing with good coffee and a good muffin while the family sleeps. Then a morning with the  family doing something fun like a movie and breakfast. Then I’d like to take a nap with my wife and wake up to do some more writing. The afternoon would be spent with the family at a park somewhere. If it’s a truly perfect day, we’d be able to bring our two dogs and they would behave (never going to happen, ha!). That night we’d all go to dinner at our favorite pizza place. I’d have a couple of my favorite beers and then we’d return home. I’d finish the day by watching some basketball on tv and reading before falling asleep.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

Definitely no to the first three. As for the expression, maybe I look sort of dour a lot? I don’t know. Sometimes people think I’m in a bad mood and I’m not, so yeah, I must look sort of dour. Ha!

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

I’m going to stick with authors. The big three would probably be Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and James Lee Burke. As a kid I read Agatha Christie and Louis L’amour, and these days I really dig Megan Abbott, Tom Franklin, William Gay, and Paul Tremblay.

Do you listen to music when you write?

It varies. Sometimes I do, but sometimes it distracts me, and I prefer silence. Other times, I don’t want music, but instead crave the background noise of a coffee shop.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Uhhhh…. milk chocolate? After all that’s the best kind.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

See my writing influences. Add those to some pretty vivid childhood memories and my long-standing desire to write a detective series, and there you have it.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

You didn’t tell me these were going to be tough questions! I think that’s probably something better left to my readers. I will say I tend to write stories about people in rural settings where the natural world sometimes gets mixed up with the supernatural. Or maybe it doesn’t. Heh.

Tell us about your main character.

Earl Marcus is what his father would call a backslider. He grew up in a fundamentalist, snake-handling church, and after being bitten by a poisonous cottonmouth, he decided to reject his father’s faith. Thirty years later, he’s drawn back home and into the mystery of his father’s life and possible death.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

  1. The Sheriff from Stranger Things
  2. Robert Duvall
  3. My great Uncle Earl (whom I never really knew, but nevertheless became a legend in my mind)

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

  1. Stephen King
  2. James Lee Burke
  3. Agatha Christie
  4. Elmore Leonard
  5. Louis L’amour (not a mystery writer, but come on, I bet he would be a blast)
  6. William Gay

What’s next for you?

I’m putting the finishing touches on the second Earl Marcus book, In the Valley of the Devil. It’s coming out in July of 2018. After that, I’ll start the third Earl Marcus book.


Hank EarlyHank Early spent much of his youth in the mountains of North Georgia, but he never held a snake or got struck by lightning.  Heaven’s Crooked Finger (Nov. 7, 2017; Crooked Lane Books) is his first novel.

Although the author did not begin writing until later in life, his fascination with storytelling was sparked early on when he discovered his father’s bookshelf.. “He had Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and Stephen King, among others.” says Early. “I like to think that everything I write now is something my dad would enjoy and put on that same bookshelf.”

Early holds a Masters in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and has been a middle school teacher in central Alabama for nearly 20 years. Early finds at least one hour each day during the school year for writing, and dedicates his summers and holidays to getting his stories on paper.

Hank Early is the pen name for horror author John Mantooth, whose novel The Year of the Storm was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award.  The author enjoys a good beer, strong coffee and wild storms. He’s married and has two kids who are constantly giving him ideas for his next novel.

Guest Post: Lois Winston

Please give a big Mysterista welcome to Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollock Crafting Mysteries!

Scrapbook of Murder 200x300How a Dysfunctional Family Gave Rise to a Mystery Series

Scrapbook of Murder, the sixth book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, released on Oct. 2nd. Since then, I’ve been making the blog rounds, doing interviews and writing posts to promote the book.

Any author who’s being honest will tell you writing is hard. Promoting the book once it comes out is even harder. It’s never a good idea to try to drum up sales with pleas of “buy my book.” It turns readers off, and no author wants to give readers a reason not to buy her books. So we try to come up with interesting things to say to bond with readers without sounding like used car salesmen. (Apologies to any used car salesmen out there, but I’m sure you know what I mean!)

However, after penning nearly two months’ worth of guest posts about Scrapbook of Murder, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with something fresh to say. Then I noticed that Mysteristas’ November theme is Family. Problem solved.

I grew up in a family that was the polar opposite of all the families portrayed on television when I was a kid. Nowadays TV families are more realistic. Back then TV families were totally unrealistic, idealized versions of family dreamed up by scriptwriters. However, as a kid, I didn’t know that. I wanted parents like the Cleavers, the Andersons, or the Stones.

My parents never should have had one child, let alone four. They only cared about themselves. Many a night my mother would serve us a dinner of banana sliced in a bowl of milk and sprinkled with sugar. After we went to bed hungry, she’d cook steak for herself and my father. That’s just one example of the type of parents they were.

More than anything I wanted to be part of a loving family. I swore I’d never get involved with anyone whose family didn’t measure up to my ideals. When I met my future husband, I not only fell in love with him, I fell in love with his family.

But sometimes people hide their true selves, and such was the case with my future in-laws, especially my mother-in-law. Within a short time after my marriage, our relationship began to deteriorate. It’s not easy dealing with a bully who believes she’s always right, and you’re always wrong—about everything! As she grew older, the nastiness and bullying grew exponentially. And did I mention she was a card-carrying communist?

I think the only thing that saved my marriage and my sanity was my husband accepting a promotion that moved us ninety miles away from his parents—that and the catharsis of getting my revenge by writing about his mother. You see, Lucille, Anastasia’s mother-in-law, is a thinly veiled representation of my own mother-in-law. The situations I create for Lucille may be totally fictitious, but the personality is true to the woman who inspired her.

My mother-in-law died a few years ago, but the psychological wounds she inflicted on me, my husband, and our children live on. Mine joined the ones I sustained from my own parents. But that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right? More importantly, my parents and mother-in-law taught me two important lessons. From my parents I learned how NOT to be a parent, and from my mother-in-law I learned how NOT to be a mother-in-law.

I have a friend who really wants me to kill off Lucille. I could never do that. For one thing, she’s the character many of my readers love to hate. But more importantly, she’s my therapy.


Scrapbook of Murder

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 6

Crafts and murder don’t normally go hand-in-hand, but normal deserted craft editor Anastasia Pollack’s world nearly a year ago. Now, tripping over dead bodies seems to be the “new normal” for this reluctant amateur sleuth.

When the daughter of a murdered neighbor asks Anastasia to create a family scrapbook from old photographs and memorabilia discovered in a battered suitcase, she agrees—not only out of friendship but also from a sense of guilt over the older woman’s death. However, as Anastasia begins sorting through the contents of the suitcase, she discovers a letter revealing a fifty-year-old secret, one that unearths a long-buried scandal and unleashes a killer. Suddenly Anastasia is back in sleuthing mode as she races to prevent a suitcase full of trouble from leading to more deaths.

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lois-winston-med-res-fileUSA 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.


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