January 7, 2013

Guest Post: Lois Winston

Filed under: The Writing Life — jenny @ 11:59 pm

Revenge of the Crafty Corpse

Having just been lucky enough to get to see the revival of Annie on Broadway (Christmas gift; thanks, mom!) I have a third figure from history in my head. If you’re wondering who the first and second figures are, well, you’ll meet them in a moment in Lois Winston’s returning guest post.

But first let me give you FDR’s quote: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Lois has faced some huge writing and publishing mountains. And if she feared them…well, she got over it, with wonderful results for her readers. Lois, as we enter this new year, I wish you everything good in it.

Lois Winston

Leo Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

I totally disagree. My life has been a series of changes, some precipitated by me, some thrust upon me. Circumstances change, situations change, we change to adapt to these changes. The only thing that is certain in our lives is uncertainty. As Old Blue Eyes said, you can be riding high in April, shot down in May. (And when was the last time you read a blog post that mentioned both Leo Tolstoy and Frank Sinatra?)

When Jenny invited me to guest once again on Suspense Your Disbelief, she suggested I write about “walking both publishing paths.” And that got me thinking about the changes that have occurred in my life since I first decided to write a book.

Like Jenny, my path to publication was anything but instantaneous. It took me a decade –  almost to the day that I first sat down to write – to sell my first novel, Talk Gertie To Me, a humorous take on the relationship between a mother and daughter. Along the way I learned quite a bit about both writing and the world of publishing, so much so that shortly after I sold Talk Gertie To Me, the agency that reps me invited me to join them as an associate. Within the span of a few months I went from being an unpublished writer to a published author and a literary agent. Huge changes.

As any published author will tell you, selling a book is no guarantee of sales of future books. After the publication of my first book and my option book, the romantic suspense Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, I made the decision not to publish any more books with that publisher. This was one of those take-a-deep-breath-and-do-what-you-know-you-need-to-do changes.

Unfortunately, the publishing industry was also changing at this time, and publishers were hot for books in genres other than the ones I wrote. “Hot” being the operative word here as erotica and erotic romance were becoming all the rage.

At the suggestion of my agent, I began to write a crafting mystery. Another change for me. The result was Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in what was to become my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Today is the official release date of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in the series.

But this wasn’t the end of the changes, either for me or the publishing industry. Many authors were beginning to have success with independent publishing, both with their backlists and never-before-published works. Once upon a time the thought of self-publishing would never have occurred to me. However, I was sitting on two out-of-print backlist books and several manuscripts that had received rejections, not due to the writing but for being the wrong manuscripts at the wrong time.

So this past summer I took the indie plunge. I brought out the unpublished works under a pen name, Emma Carlyle, because I didn’t want to confuse the fan base I’d built for my mysteries. Mystery readers read to solve whodunit; romance readers read for the relationship between the hero and heroine. I also published my two backlist books, two novellas, and a non-fiction book.

One of the novellas, Elementary, My Dear Gertie, is both a sequel to Talk Gertie To Me, and a cross-over, plunging the characters from my humorous women’s fiction novel into a mystery. Crewel Intentions is a short story featuring the protagonist from my mystery series.

And finally, there’s Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected. This is a book that came about from teaching workshops and continuing education courses. After years of students telling me I should write a book on the subject, I finally did. The book contains much of what I’ve learned from my years as both a literary agent and a published author.

As I write this, I’m in the midst of more changes, having once again made a difficult take-a-deep-breath-and-do-what-you-know-you-need-to-do decision. I’m hoping for a positive outcome, but whatever happens, the one thing that’s certain is I’m changing once again. Tolstoy was so wrong.

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Death By Killer Mop Doll was released this past January. Crewel Intentions, an Anastasia Pollack Mini-Mystery is now available as an ebook, and Revenge of the Crafty Corpse is a January 2013 release.

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romance, romantic suspense, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. In addition, she’s an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She’s also the author of the recently released Top Ten Reasons Your Novel is Rejected.


  1. I love these titles. Good for you, Lois, for having the courage to re-invent yourself. Best of luck, but I don’t think you need that!

    Comment by Pamela DuMond — January 8, 2013 @ 12:13 am

  2. I would pick them up just for the titles! Awesome story, and good luck in whatever direction life is taking you, Lois.

    Comment by Connie — January 8, 2013 @ 12:41 am

  3. Hi Lois and Jenny. You both have fascinating stories about your journey. Lois, it seems like you’ve experienced every aspect of publishing from traditional to indie, as an author and an agent. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with all of us and continued success with all of your ventures. I can’t wait to read about this “crafty corpse.”

    Comment by Cindy Sample — January 8, 2013 @ 12:46 am

  4. Thanks for sharing you story. It seems you know both sides of the coin and that is great. It gives you an upper edge. Keep on writing.

    Comment by Kellie — January 8, 2013 @ 12:59 am

  5. Lois, how fascinating that you’ve been on “two” sides of the publishing world at the same time, as a writer and an agent. I loved reading about the trajectory of your career, and seeing how you’ve rolled with the punches to stay successful as “hot” genres changed and made some of your books less appealing to publishers at that time. It puts me in mind of some of the most prolific and long-lived musicians, who learned to change their sound and appearance as the public’s tastes changed. (Plus, a good crafting mystery is always fun! My mom and I enjoy cozies, so I’ll be sure to pick up your Anastasia series, since it sounds like something we’d both love.) I really appreciate hearing about these kinds of stories, and how you never gave up, even when you’ve had to make a tough decision that you felt was right, but involved significant risk, too. Thanks for sharing your moments with us!

    Comment by Becca — January 8, 2013 @ 2:05 am

  6. What a fascinating journey you’ve had! And kudos to you for being willing to make the changes to keep moving forward – that’s a very difficult thing to do. I love your wit and style. You go girl!

    Comment by mountainmama — January 8, 2013 @ 6:25 am

  7. Great moment!

    Comment by Judy — January 8, 2013 @ 7:20 am

  8. Change can be difficult, for sure, but it looks as if you’ve made all the right ones. Best wishes for continued success.

    Comment by Earl Staggs — January 8, 2013 @ 7:36 am

  9. Lois, good luck with another Metamorphosis and your continued writing. Variety over one’s lifetime is the spice of life. (I’m a chamelion myself!).

    Comment by Doctor Barbara — January 8, 2013 @ 10:05 am

  10. What a fascinating journey! Thanks for telling us all about it. And I’m with the crowd – Talk Gertie To Me is one of the best titles EVAH.

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — January 8, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  11. That was fascinating. I had no idea about your past history. Anxious to here what you next stop will be.

    Comment by Marilyn Meredtih — January 8, 2013 @ 10:56 am

  12. Thanks for hosting me today, Jenny. I’ve been debating about getting tix for Annie. So many shows, so little discretionary income… :-(

    Thanks, Pamela. I think we all need all the good luck we can get, though.

    Thanks, Connie. If you do read the books, please let me know. I love hearing from readers.

    Hi Cindy! Nice to see you here. Hope you enjoy Crafty Corpse.

    Thanks for stopping by, Kellie.

    Becca, you’d be surprised at how many editors and agents are also published authors. Many of them write under closely guarded pen names, though. Hope you and your mom enjoy the books. One bit of warning, though: My series is more amateur sleuth than cozy. I do use an occasional 4-letter word when the character and scene warrant them. Some readers object to this, but I feel I have to remain true to my characters. After all, a Mafia loan shark isn’t going to say, “Gosh darn it!” ;-)

    Mountainmama, it has been difficult at times, but you know what they say, that which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. Thanks for stopping by.

    Thanks, Judy. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Earl, I can only hope I’ve made the right choices. There’s no turning back once they’re made. I’m biting my nails over this last decision, but I felt I had no choice in the matter. Now I can only wait to see if it was indeed the right choice.

    Thank you, Doctor Barbara. Metamorphosis can be good as long as we don’t turn into cockroaches! ;-)

    Alison, thanks so much. I can’t take credit for the Talk Gertie to Me title, though. When my publisher requested a title change, I ran a contest on my website. Talk Gertie to Me was the hands-down winner.

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 8, 2013 @ 11:13 am

  13. Lois,

    Thanks for sharing your story with all of us. Are you agenting your own work now?

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — January 8, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

  14. Hi Jacqueline. No, I don’t agent my own work. One of the other agents in our agency handles my submissions. It’s sort of like that saying about the lawyer who represents himself having a fool for a client. ;-)

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 8, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

  15. Gee, and they told me this publishing thing would be easy. Congrats on hanging in there and succeeding.

    Comment by GM Malliet — January 9, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  16. Resiliency thy name is author.

    Comment by Shelley — January 9, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  17. Hmm…must’ve been the same “they” who told me that, Gin. Boy, were we gullible!

    Ah, yes, Shelley. Resiliency and a few other names I probably shouldn’t mention! ;-)

    Comment by Lois Winston — January 9, 2013 @ 11:50 am

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