A Massive Dose of Inspiration

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

It’s the middle of the week, mid-way through the NaNoWriMo challenge. The hump of the hump or the hump squared. Definitely a time for a massive dose of inspiration. And who better than the late David Bowie to deliver that dose.


Starting #NaNoWriMo

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

One year ago, I began my first NaNoWriMo journey. At first apprehensive, I slowly built up confidence and achieved a final goal of 50,940 words. During the winter and spring months, I edited and polished the manuscript that was later accepted for publication. In the spring of 2018, The Wild Rose Press will release A Different Kind of Reunion.

Today, I’m starting my second NaNoWriMo journey. Still apprehensive but much more confident. Here are five tips that helped me survive and thrive during NaNoWriMo 2016.

1. Announce your plans. At first, I wanted to keep my involvement secret, but after reading about the positive reinforcement that a support group can provide, I decided to share the news with everyone in my circle. In addition to other writers—online and offline—I also told the non-writers. I was looking for encouragement, not advice. Simply asking: “How’s that novel coming along?” will help keep me on track.

2.Write at peak times. To find a routine that works consistently, I need to write when the muse strikes. I have discovered that the following times yield the most creative results: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

3. Work ahead. Sneaking in an extra 300 words (or more) early in the month can build up word counts and compensate for missed days when illness and other commitments affect the quality and quantity of the writing.

4. Turn off the television and all electronic gadgets during peak creative times to ensure there are no distractions.

5. Embrace both linear and non-linear paths. While I prefer to write linearly—one chapter at a time—skipping over to a more interesting scene can help stimulate right-brain thinking.

Third Time’s the Charm

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.

Here’s Lois!

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.

Buy Links

Kindle | Kobo | iTunes | Nook | Paperback


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…

Website | Blog | Pinterest | Twitter | Newsletter Sign-Up

Joanne here!

Lois, you are a crafty and clever lady! Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with Scrapbook of Murder.

An Inspiring Commencement Address

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Six years have passed since the death of Steve Jobs, one of the most innovative leaders of our time. His legacy has been a far-reaching one, inspiring young and old alike to follow their dreams. In addition to changing our lives with innovative products, he has left us many memorable words. His commencement address to the class of 2005 at Sanford University has been watched by millions worldwide.

My favorite quotes…

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

An Unlikely Source of Inspiration

Once I get the initial spark of an idea, I like to play around with a What-If scenario and after much deliberation come up with a title for the novel. Only then can I start writing the first draft.

That MO worked well for Book 1 of the Gilda Greco Mystery Series:

Spark: Dead blondes turn up in dumpsters throughout the city.

What if… A woman wins a $19 million lottery and returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes. Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

Title: A Season for Killing Blondes

Book 2 presented a challenge. I toyed with several storylines about a Greek restaurant, a charismatic chef, two murders, and a group of women who didn’t always get along. Frustrated with these disjoint elements, I turned my attention to shorter pieces and hoped that inspiration would soon arrive.

It came from an unlikely source.

Continue reading on the Just Romantic Suspense blog.

At the DIY Festival in Kitchener

Yesterday, I attended the DIY Festival at Kitchener Public Library. Already in its third year of operation, this annual event showcases the passions and businesses of local creatives.

Here’s what captured my interest…

In operation for 42 years, Kitchener Kicks offers martial arts–Kung Fu, Karate, Kickboxing, Aikido–to fit everyone’s lifestyle. I’m considering taking advantage of their “Two Weeks Free” program.

Musicians Elsa Jayne and Jesse Maranger of Evergreen Arts believe the future of music is DIY. It is now easier than ever to create beautiful records at home.

Cabin + Cove offers modern knitting workshops, monthly socials, cozy knitwear, and instant downloading patterns. They are also the home of the CozyRiot Project, a group of knitters and crocheters who make items for those in need.

In operation since 2008, Tri-City Roller Derby is Waterloo Region’s premier not-for-profit contact roller derby organization. While visiting the booth, I met with the coach and one of the young athletes. Their goal: “We teach girls aged 9 to 17 to roller skate and play the sport of roller derby in a safe and nurturing environment.”

I could feel Alayne Kleser’s passion and commitment as she chatted about her hens and her business, Kitchener Urban Hens. She hopes to foster a feeling of community among current and future barnyard hen owners.

At the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre booth, I chatted with an enthusiastic Sarah Spry, who demonstrated the following compact drone. Priced at $1500, it can fold and easily fit into a backpack. You can learn all about the do’s and don’ts of drones in their four-hour course ($49 + HST).