Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have USA best-selling and award-winning author Lois Winston sharing her three-act life and her latest release, Scrapbook of Murder.
My Second Act is actually a Third Act. I have a degree in graphic design and illustration. After graduating college I spent a short period of time working at two different advertising agencies run by misogynistic male chauvinists before landing a position as a layout artist for John Wanamaker, the premier department store in Philadelphia.
Then I got pregnant.
Childcare back then wasn’t what it is today. I quickly learned that if I wanted to continue working, I’d have to hand over most of my weekly paycheck to KinderCare, the only available option at the time. I had a very sweet, albeit chauvinistic boss who believed mothers should stay home with their babies, but he did realize I needed to continue working, both for the salary and my own sanity. We worked out a freelancing arrangement that enabled me to work from home. The situation was ideal until the family-run department store was sold to a conglomerate and eventually went the way of the dodo.
Luckily for me, I enjoyed crafts and needlework. While in a needlework shop one day, I overheard a conversation between the shop owner and another customer and learned that a needlework kit manufacturer located not too far from my home bought freelance designs. As someone with an art degree, I designed my own pieces rather than stitching others’ designs. I went home and placed a call to the company. A few days later I walked out of the interview with six assignments.
Working for that company led to a new design career for me, one that lasted for decades. I freelanced for various companies and publishers and spent time as an editor for McCall’s craft book division, head designer and editor for a kit manufacturer, and one of DMC’s go-to designers (a position I still hold.) For those of you unfamiliar with DMC, it’s the world’s leading manufacturer of embroidery floss and has been in business about twice as long as the United States has been a country.
Life was good, even during those times the economy wasn’t. When people are counting their pennies, they don’t spend money on entertainment. They stay home—and spend their leisure time doing crafts. Or at least they did until the advent of the home computer. Suddenly, instead of crafting, people were spending their free time online. Craft companies went out of business; magazines folded. I had less and less work at a time when I needed more and more income, thanks to my kids’ tuition bills.
One day the idea for a story popped into my head. I hadn’t written any fiction since Freshman Comp in college, but I started writing, and before I knew it, I had completed a novel. Thus began a decade-long journey toward publication. My first book debuted ten years, almost to the day, that I first began writing.
I still design, but I now earn in a year what I used to bill out in a good month because there’s so little design work available. Most of my time is spent writing. My first books were romances, but I eventually took my experiences in the craft industry and used them to create my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series. Many of Anastasia’s experiences are my own—minus the dead bodies.
Scrapbook of Murder is the sixth full-length mystery in the series. The others are Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Death By Killer Mop Doll, Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, Decoupage Can Be Deadly, and A Stitch To Die For. There are also three novellas connected to the series—Crewel Intentions, Mosaic Mayhem, and Patchwork Peril.
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.
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.
Where to find Lois…
Lois, you are a crafty and clever lady! Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with Scrapbook of Murder.