Monday, December 31, 2012

Five DON'TS for Creating Characters

By Deborah Sharp

In a couple of months, I'll appear at a one-day conference that focuses on the mechanics of writing mysteries. At Sleuthfest on Saturday (Feb. 16 in Sarasota, Fla.), experienced authors will impart some nuts-and-bolts advice to those still studying the craft. 

These days, my preference is for panels where attendees bring cake and (spiked) punch. Then, the writers gripe about publishing, while skewering authors who've gotten too big for their britches. Still, I haven't forgotten my own eagerness as a writing-conference newbie 
to actually LEARN something. To that end, I've been noodling around with some ideas for a conference panel called What A Character! I'll be seated with some talented folks --  Patrick Kendrick, Diane Stuckart, Julie Compton, and Joanna Campbell Slan -- so I probably won't have to contribute much. Still, I can't spend the whole time stuffing my face with cake and nodding sagely when someone else makes an intelligent point. 

So . . . character. Nothing is more important. You can devise a fabulous plot, full of twists and turns. You can choose a fascinating setting. But if your characters are not interesting, no one will want to read it. No less a star than Michael Connelly says, "The best mysteries are about the mysteries of character.'' Motivation. Inner conflict. The quirks, tics, and failings that make a character human.

Think about some of the most popular characters in mystery fiction: Connelly's Harry Bosch. Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. Readers may not remember the clues and plots of each of these authors' many (many!) books. But the characters? Unforgettable. That's the highest praise an author can receive.

How do writers create characters readers will embrace? Plenty of advice exists in books and on writing sites about what to DO. Basically, it boils down to: Make them real human beings, and then throw a lot of trouble their way. My take is slightly different. What are some common stumbling blocks to building great characters? Here are Five Deadly Sins.

When creating a character, DON'T: 
1. Make her gorgeous, smart, and rich without a single flaw to balance out all that wonderfulness. 
2. Give him long, boring monologues instead of snappy, back-and-forth dialogue. 
3. Make her ''normal,'' as in dull. (In my Mace Bauer Mysteries, the Mama character is just your average, everyday 63-year-old -- except for her serial marriages, bingo addiction, and knack for finding bodies.)
4. Forget the passion. (Something has to get the character's blood boiling.)  
5. Detail the predictable. Yes, a character may get into a car to drive to the store, like we do. But wouldn't it be more interesting if she found a body when she opened the trunk to make room for the groceries? 

How about you? Authors, what tricks do you use to create great characters? Readers, what makes you love (or hate) a character? 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Online Writing Courses. Are they for you?

Inkspot would like to welcome Kate Willson today to give you more information about online writing courses. Take it away Kate...

Top University Writing Courses Now Open to Public through Massive Open Online Course System
by Kate Willson

Are you interested in becoming a better writer, but you don’t want to pay the high price for college writing and literature courses? You’re lucky day has arrived, because there’s a new option available to interested students all over the world. Thanks to this new online education method, you don’t have to worry about paying a dime to become a student at some of the top universities in the world. All you have to do is sign up and log on.

Known as massive open online courses (or MOOCs), these classes don’t require their students to apply or be accepted by any university. They are completely free, and they are designed to be taught at the same level of their on-campus equivalent. There are currently three major organizations offering quality massive open online courses;, and The courses offered on these sites are backed by top universities and taught by professors or industry professionals. Although MOOC students cannot earn college credit, it’s the opportunity to become educated for free that has everyone interested.
In terms of writing, there are a few course sessions that will be starting up soon on Coursera. There’s no obligation to finish the course once you’ve started it, so there’s nothing to lose by signing up.

The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color
This course will be taught by Scott Higgins, an associate professor of film studies at Wesleyan University. It is perfect for those interested in the history of film technology and how the method of storytelling evolved to fit the medium. Although it is not a strict writing course, anyone who is interested in scriptwriting will find it helpful. Class begins on February 4, 2013 and will take around five weeks to complete. Be prepared to spend four to six hours per week on the course. Students are not required to purchase a textbook, but the professor does provide a list of suggested readings.

The Fiction of Relationship
This course will be taught by Arnold Weinstein, who is the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University. Students will read ten works of narrative fiction from 18th to the 20th century in an effort to discover the nature of our relationship to others and the world. Class is scheduled to begin in June 2013 and should take ten weeks to complete. Students should expect to spend six to eight hours per week on course work, and they must supply themselves with the ten required readings.

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative
This course will be taught by Jay Clayton, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. This course will discuss what happens to works of fiction when they are reinvented into video games. It is perfect for literature aficionados who are also interested gaming. Class is scheduled to begin in July 2013 and is expected to take seven weeks to complete. Be ready to devote four to six hours per week to the class. As part of the course work, students will need to download the free version of the Lord of the Rings Online game.

As stated before, a massive open online course is not the same as attending a university as a registered student, because you cannot earn college credit. Additionally, because courses are free, you should not expect the quality of education to exactly match that of a class that charges tuition. However, MOOC professors do try to create lesson plans that are similar to the college courses they teach. If you are not satisfied with the quality of the course you signed up for, you are not obligated to complete the course.
Each MOOC system also allows its users to rate the courses they have taken. You can use these ratings to decide whether a course is worth signing up for or not. To learn more about the courses above, visit

Kate Willson is a researcher/writer for, a great online resource for all things related to higher learning and college life. Through her work, Kate hopes to share with readers the latest trends in education and the best advice for college preparation and career planning. Please leave any questions or comments for her below.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from all of the Midnight Ink mystery authors who post regularly--or irregularly--at Inkspot! No matter what winter holiday you celebrate, be it Christmas,


Kwanzaa or something else,

we hope you are spending it with people you love and who love you, and that you are happy and safe and at peace.

We Midnight Ink bloggers are taking the week off. We'll return on Monday, December 31st, New Year's Eve, with a post by the ever funny Deborah Sharp!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Opal goes live!

Except for the small matter of the world ending today, this is a pretty well-timed guest post.  And timing isn't my strong suit, let me tell you.  I send out a fair few New Year cards every Christmas - which is the mark of the truly disorganised.  My first ever published novel was going to be Ottakar's crime book of the month in September 2006.  Who?  You might well ask; Ottakar's went out of business in August 2006.  And then there's the fact that this is my third group blog in two days.  Chose the dates all by myself too.

But, as I say, it's perfect timing.  My new, MidnightInktastic, AsSheLeftaLicious, StandAlonaPalooza website went live at midnight.  Can you tell that I did it with caffeine helping? 

I still can't believe I did it at all.  The last time "we" - Neil, the undergardener, and me - attempted a home-made website 1. it was the bit of us that's not me who actually put it together 2. he had HTML for Dummies Wrapped in Morons beside him all the way and 3. it wasn't much cop.

Now, far be it from me to say that my new website is splendid; I'll leave it for others to tell me positive things today or negative things after the 6th of January when I'm back at work, but it was a skoosh to assemble.  I did way-hay more than half of it before handing it over to get the fiddly bits sorted.

And it got me thinking about how, although it's generally "This way hell; handcarts available", a few things are a bit better than they used to be.
  • Caller ID is better than ansaphone screening and then lying about being in the garden
  • Skype is better than flimsy blue airmail letters full of spidery handwriting
  • Fleece-lined gore-tex is better than 15lbs of waxed gabardine mackintosh 
And that got me thinking about nostalgia, missed chances and regrets  . . . it's a maudlin time of year for Celts . . . and about the fact that Opal Jones, the heroine of As She Left It is being pressed back into the past and its secrets, no matter how hard she tries not to go.

Funnily enough, my first ever stand-alone was about that too.  It had a very different tone from ASLI - it was a time-travel caper that I wanted to call Save Elvis! - and the heroine was literally sucked back into the past, waking up in the eighties at the age of fifteen with a bad perm and double German at nine.

So, since it's the giving season, and since As She Left It doesn't physically exist yet, I'm giving away a copy of the time-travel book - it came to be called Growing Up Again.  Just let me know in the comments if you'd like your name in the hat (US only, with apologies) and I'll draw one at the end of today.

And whatever you're reading on the days off next week, have a cosy or thrilling or procedural or noir holiday and all the best for next year.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Motivation, Hitchcock and Why Cheaters Never Win

I was watching The Girl the other night and something Hitchcock said to Tippi Hedren has stuck with me. I can’t stop thinking about, even days later, and how it plays to the vanity of Hitchcock (specifically) and writers (in general).
In the scene where Tippi (played by Sienna Miller) and Hitchcock (played by Toby Jones) discuss her character’s motivation for going into the attic alone, knowing there would be birds there, (they were filming The Birds at the time). Tippi asked, “Why would Melanie go into that attic all alone?”
Hitchcock replied, “Because I want her to.”
Because I want her to.
While a cinematic genius like Hitchcock might be able to get away with that, for a lowly novelist like me, writing takes a bit more work. Just because I want my characters to do something, doesn’t mean I should make them do it. There has to be a reason my characters do and say the things they do and it's my job to give them that reason.
It's called motivation.
Motivation is what a writer weaves throughout a plot to bind it tight. Motivation is what makes even the implausible seem possible. Even the most unlikely seem inevitable. But what is it? A traumatic past? Money? Love? Revenge?
I can’t simply decide I want my protagonist to rob a bank or rescue a bunch of kids from a burning orphanage. There has to be a trigger that sets them on the course. Are they days away from losing their home to foreclosure? Is their child in need of a lifesaving operation and the insurance company refuses to pay. Did they lose a loved one to a fire? Did they grow up in an orphanage themselves?
These are seeds from which future action grow and if you want your novel to feel real, they must be planted. From these seeds should sprout a chain of events, fed on emotion and tended by circumstance, that will inevitably lead your protagonist to a place where the life-altering decisions they make are the only ones that make sense.
Look at it this way...
If a novel is a vehicle, then motivation is the fuel in the tank. It makes us move and takes us places. Maybe even places we never had any intention of going. Places we don't want to be... places we have a hard time visiting. If there's no gas in the tank, that vehicle isn't moving. But if you put the wrong kind of fuel in the tank then your vehicle breaks down completely. It becomes an undriveable hunk of crap that noboby wants to drive. Or read.
When Hitchcock sent his character into that attic full of live, pissed off birds, he wasn’t sending the character—he was  sending Hedren. He allowed his personal motivation to color the actions of his character… and in doing so, changed the movie completely.  
It was no longer about the story itself at all. It was about Hitchcock’s desire to punish Hedren for finding him repulsive. In punishing Hedren, Hitchcock gave us a peek behind the curtain. Even though we may not have known it at the time, we saw a writer at work and that is something your reader should never see.
The stories we write should be seamless.  Our characters should be fully formed, with their own set of experiences that give their choices weight and purpose and the conclusion those choices lead them to should seem inevitable.  
Anything less would be a cheat—to myself as a writer and to people I write for.
Maegan Beaumont is a native Phoenician,currently stuck in suburbia with her high school sweetheart and husband, Joe, along with their four children. She writes take-you-to-the-edge-of-your-seat thrillers, loves action movies and spending time with her family. When she isn’t busy fulfilling her duties as Domestic Goddess, she is locked in her office with her computer, her coffee pot and her Rhodesian Ridgeback and one true love, Jade.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Torrid Tales From the Book Tour

My debut novel, THE BIG BANG, is out and I've been out too--on a small book tour. I've imagined, dreamt, and fantasized about doing this for years, eleven to be exact, and honestly, despite some nerves, it's been pretty awesome. Great crowds of supportive friends and family. People coming out of the woodwork to buy books. New fans. Lots of fun!

I've also learned a few things. Quickly.

First, If invited to do a signing at a Jewish Book Festival, try not to be the author slated to give her five minute spiel after the guy who wrote the non-fiction account of the Holocaust. Particularly if, like me, you've written book a suburban satire/pregnancy whodunnit. Awkward. Luckily, the crowd seemed to appreciate the diversion, laughed and even bought my book!

Second: Have Laryngitis and the bookstore podium isn't miked? Talk about your book, but think twice before you read from it. One page into the section I'd practiced and had almost committed to memory and I realized I'd made something of a mistake. Not only couldn't I project my voice, nor alter it enough to delineate dialogue between characters, but my accompanying chest cold made my breathing/speaking patterns wonky. Better to talk about the book, take questions, sign copies and get back into bed.

Third: Sometimes, the four people you invite to a multi-author signing in a city like, say, Chicago, are the only four people that show up. At all. It happens.

Last: Everyone's a critic. Really, that's not true at all. I've had overwhelming praise and support from friends, family and reviewers alike. I've even received my first fan mail. The problem is, one side remark, Amazon review, or, in my case, lecture from a well-meaning attendee can overshadow all the positives. After speaking to a standing room only crowd, a family friend who'd missed my talk about the book and walked in halfway through the reading asked me if I had a little cold. After telling her that I had the equivalent of the plague and no voice as a result, she proceeded to tell me she was an international speaker and she was going to give me some tips and she did, for fifteen minutes. Among them, "you need to learn to project your voice."

In repeating the conversation, warts and all, to an author friend of mine, he told me to get used to the unexpected. Along with the wonderful experience of sharing your work with readers, friends and potential fans, there will always be those strange moments and niggles that keep you awake all night wondering what you could have done better. His--at one of his first signings, the bookstore owner came up to greet him just before the signing. The man informed my friend that he'd read his book, that it was clear this was a first novel, and went on to explain every weakness he'd found in the plot. Then, he sent  one very distressed author up to the podium.

Perhaps all that thick skin from trying to get an agent and then an editor grows for a reason...

Despite it all, I can't wait for my next signing!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Virginia and I Believe

by Shannon Baker

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do believe in Santa Claus. I apologize to all my Jewish friends who are sick of Christmas stories and all the miracles and tales as sweet as my grandmother’s fudge. (I just made a batch of that to celebrate the season.) 

A long time ago in a country far, far away, I was a young mother in western Nebraska. To say our area was rural would be like calling M&Ms Christmas candy. (See, reference to Grandma Baker’s fudge for real Christmas candy.) We lived in the land where towns with the population of 2-300 people sat 30 miles apart on a long, straight highway, because that’s how long a coal train could run before it needed more water.

 It so happened that this particular Christmas was a cusp year. That means my oldest daughter was nearing the age of suspicion. This might be her last time believing in Santa. Ever. Once you stopped accepting the existence of the Man in Red, cynicism and the drudgery of a normal life followed. Back then we didn't know the term for people who didn't believe in Santa anymore, now we know they are Muggles.

My daughter decided this year, Santa must bring her the girl gift of the season, the P.J. Sparkles doll. My daughters never played with dolls and I knew a hard plastic doll with shiny blonde hair whose scratchy pink dress lit up with flashing lights wouldn’t change her mind. (Not playing with dolls might be because they learned mothering skills from me. Being a mother probably didn’t sound like all that much fun to them. It’s past your bedtime. Go to sleep.)

But if Santa must bring P.J. Sparkles, then that’s what he’d do. I started shopping early, visiting the K-Marts and Alcos in the “bigger” towns within a two-hour drive of us. No go. I got on the phone (remember, this was way before Cyber Monday and stores didn’t offer on-line shopping even if my dial up connection would tolerate it.) I called Cheyenne, Rapid City, Omaha. Toys-R-Us, Target, Wal-Mart. Everywhere. No P.J. Sparkles. 

Christmas eve dawned and I knew that in 24 hours my daughter would be scarred by the realization there was no Santa. It was too soon for her to grow up and join the rest of us, letting go of belief.

Dejected, I went about my busy day at our feed store.

Then a friend called. “What was the name of that doll you couldn’t find?”

“P.J. fricking Sparkles.” Only maybe I didn’t use such nice vocabulary.

“You’re never going to believe this but I found one.”

I nearly dropped the Christmas fudge I’d made from Grandma Baker’s recipe. “What? Where? No way!”

But she had found her. The little dickens sat in Lucy’s Jumble Shop, the next town over. Thirty miles away, tucked on the top shelf in the dark southwest corner of the dusty shop that carried everything from needles, shirts, Tupperware, pans, sheets, winter boots, ropes, spurs, and heaven only knows what, the last P.J. Sparkles in the civilized world waited for me to claim her.

Why would Lucy stock the hottest toy of the season and hide her in the back, when Lucy hadn’t added any new inventory since Jimmy Carter’s administration?

Because Santa put her there for me. 

Turns out, my daughter had already given up on Santa but didn’t want me to know. She looked at P.J. Sparkles for about five minutes and that’s all the attention P.J. got until I gave her to the rummage sale two years later, still looking sharp in her pink, scratchy dress.

But me? I believe. 

I will always believe.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Author Visits to Book Clubs

by Beth Groundwater

When I suggested to my book club that we invite a local women's fiction author to discuss one of her books and her writing career, the other members went all a-twitter.

“She'll think we're so unsophisticated.”

“What if we don't like her book?”

“What if she hates what we have to say about the book.”

“Goodness, a real author, I won't know how to act around her.”

Confused by their reaction, I said, “Wait a minute, I’m a real author, too, and you aren't self-conscious around me.” Also, I could vouch that this author was a person just like us, was very friendly, and would not judge their literary astuteness. I knew my book club would enjoy her book because it was set in a nearby town and was the type of book we had enjoyed reading in the past.

The group finally agreed, but when the evening of the author visit came, the nervous sweat was apparent. I got the discussion going after introductions by asking the author to talk about her writing career and her other books. Gradually everyone's shyness wore off, and we had a wide-ranging discussion about the book we'd read and the typical questions that we authors are used to answering.

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“What's your writing schedule?”

“How did you sell your first manuscript?”

Later, the author said my friends were delightful and thanked me for encouraging the group to invite her. The book club members said the experience was less intimidating than they thought it would be, and they'd like to invite other authors to visit. They talked about that author's visit and how exciting and entertaining it was for months afterward!

I have visited many book clubs, both in-person if the group meets within an hour's drive from my home or on a speakerphone or via Skype if the group meets farther away. I discuss with them whichever book of mine they've chosen to read for that meeting, and I answer whatever questions they have for me. These are my favorite kind of promotional events, because I spend an hour or two with book lovers and avid readers like myself. I invariably come away with titles of recommended books to add to my personal reading list and to suggest to my book club.

If you're a member of a book club, I encourage you, too, to invite authors to visit your book club. And if you are a member of a mystery reading book club, there are a whole slew of authors who contribute to this blog who would probably be willing to visit. Here are a few tips that hopefully will make an author visit less intimidating.

1. If you haven't already read books by local authors, ask your librarian or favorite bookseller to recommend some. Local authors and those who are not New York Times bestsellers are the most likely to have the time and desire to visit book clubs.

2. Once you've selected a few authors to invite, go to the first author's website (which you can find by searching for the name on the Internet) and click on the “Contact Me” or equivalent link. Send an email saying how much you admire his or her writing and name the book you hope to discuss, then request an in-person or speakerphone or Skype visit and list suggested dates and times. The worst that can happen is the author won't reply or will politely refuse and you can move on to your second choice. The best outcome is that the author will agree and arrange a visit.

3. Encourage your book club members to purchase the author's book and to bring the books to the meeting so they can be autographed by the author, if it's to be an in-person visit. If it will be a speakerphone or Skype visit, the author may be willing to mail autographed bookplates or bookmarks to you. Buying the author's books is the polite thing to do. Since authors usually are not paid by book groups for their time (though gas money is always appreciated for in-person visits), the least you can do is for the majority of the members to buy the book.

4. If one is available, print and bring a list of discussion questions for the book. Many authors, like me, provide discussion questions for their books on their websites. Another place to find discussion questions is at Reading Group Guides. Also, encourage your members to come prepared with one or two other questions for the author.

5. For in-person visits, I like to arrive 10-15 minutes early and set up a small display of my books, bookmarks, and a sign-up list for my email newsletter. Other authors may want to do the same thing. Also, we appreciate the opportunity to sell books to members, who may not have had a chance to buy one before the meeting or who may want to gift the books to others. We're also willing to sign and personalize any books that members bought before the meeting.

6. Someone should introduce the author and thank him or her for coming, then have the members of the book club introduce themselves. Especially if this is a speakerphone or Skype visit, it’s helpful for the author to know something about each member to distinguish them. And, if it’s a speakerphone or Skype visit, members should re-state their name each time they ask a question. Depending on the quality of the microphone used, a member near the phone or computer may need to restate questions from members who are sitting farther away.

7. Relax and enjoy the interaction. If you normally serve food during your meeting, continue to do so. Just let the author know beforehand. Most authors won’t turn down a meal, snack and/or a glass of wine! Make sure someone watches the time so you don’t keep the author longer than the agreed upon period, and plan for time at the end to autograph books, if it’s an in-person visit.

Having an author visit your book club can be a fun and rewarding experience, as you can see from the photo above of a visit I made to a nearby book club. I encourage you to conquer any qualms you have and go for it! If you have any questions about author visits, ask away. And, if you’d like me to discuss any of my books with your book club, please contact me at my website.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Comprehension 101

“I have a hard job. As a writer my tools are 26 letters. These letters are formed into words that must be arranged into original sentences in such a way to entice someone to buy what has been written.” This was the opening statement in a talk I gave many years ago. The audience responded with, “What’s hard about that?”  

One might smirk, nod with agreement, disagree, ponder, or reconsider. There are many ways to comprehend both statement and response.    

In the preface of his book, The Story of Ain’t, David Skinner writes, “Language is the ultimate committee product. The committee is always in session and, for good and bad, every speaker is a member of the committee.” After reading these words and, later the whole book, I was struck by profound loss. Why would I have such an emotional response about the creation of the dictionary, Webster’s Third? Because I realized that when my debut novel, Burden of Truth, is released in January it will no longer belong to me.    

The page is the final resting place of an author’s vision for those 26 letters. Once there, it belongs to the readers. To society at large. Each one will shape the meaning of the words. Starting in elementary school, American children are continually tested on this concept as their education progresses. It’s called comprehension. How well do you understand what has been written?

A character of mine has been called a pedophile. Not true by definition or action. And it forced me to dwell on how complicated comprehension actually is. How does one person see tragic love and another see a menace? They are reading the same words in the same order. What is inferred between the lines? What history influences the reading?

Authors should make no apologies for their characters. Nor should they be forced to. They are who they are: imperfect, heroes, compromised, traitors, morally suspect, difficult, talented, naughty, evil, murderous, and everything in between. In the end, that’s what drives compelling fiction. It sparks the imagination.       

But how should an author feel when a reader misses the comprehension mark? Should we care? After all, it no longer belongs to us. RIP. But what if the reader makes a public statement about the work that is misleading? Or false? Or has the potential to damage sales or turn off other readers? Will the comment be regarded as judgmental opinion or literary criticism? At one time, the borders weren’t smudged. Nowadays, a love of reading seems sufficient enough qualification to post in any format. Lots of questions, no tidy answers.

The way writers and readers approach a work and, more broadly, language, is unique to each of us. Personal experiences, prejudices, literacy, gender, mood, temperament, even haste, all effect how a work is perceived. That’s the magic of this business. It’s what makes writing and reading so enjoyable, so engage-able. And yes, frustrating, too.

My job is done. The work has been laid to rest. Comprehend away.  

P.S. The audience in the first paragraph was a classroom of kids.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


by Lois Winston

Talk Gertie To Me was my first published novel. It combined chick lit, hen lit, and romance. The novel featured Connie Stedworth, a menopausal Martha Stewart clone; her rebellious daughter Nori; and Nori’s imaginary friend Gertie. The book received critical acclaim and was the recipient of a few awards. And then it went out of print. However, it’s now available for the first time as an ebook.

Two years ago Nori fled the conservative mentality of both her parents and Ten Commandments, Iowa, for Manhattan. She loves her new life -- until one devastating afternoon that culminates with the arrival of her mother. Mom is suffering from middle-age meltdown. Her only identity is as a wife and mother, but her husband is a workaholic, and her daughter is halfway across the country. Grandchildren would give her life new purpose. If only Nori would come to her senses and marry town mortician and most eligible bachelor Eugene Draymore.

To that end, Mom sets off to bring Nori home. But when she meets Nori’s neighbor, her plans take an unexpected twist, and she’s thrust headfirst into a career as the next Martha Stewart. Suddenly, she’s a somebody in her own right and reconsiders returning to her old life.

As a coping mechanism, Nori resurrects Gertie, her adolescent imaginary friend. A laptop mix-up lands her musings in the hands of Mackenzie Randolph, a talk-radio station manager on deadline to boost sagging ratings or lose his job. He knows he’s found the answer to his prayers when he reads Nori’s make-believe correspondence.
And maybe he’s found much more.

Meanwhile Dad, with Eugene in tow, comes in search of his AWOL wife. Tempers flare when Mom refuses to return home. However, when she and Dad hear Nori on the radio, they unite to “save” her from the corruption of both Mac and Manhattan.

And that’s when things really get interesting.

I honed my humor chops with Talk Gertie To Me. The book definitely prepared me to write the humorous Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

A few years ago I was approached by a publisher to contribute a novella to an anthology. This seemed like the perfect vehicle for a sequel to Talk Gertie To Me. Readers had been asking for one for quite some time. However, as I mulled over plot ideas, everything I came up with involved a mystery. I finally gave in to my inner muse and wrote Elementary, My Dear Gertie, which is one part chick lit, one part hen lit, one part romance and all parts mystery.

Unfortunately, circumstances were such that the anthology was never published.

Then about a year ago, I began to see how indie publishing was taking off. Whereas once the thought of self-publishing was something I’d never consider, I started seeing authors having great success self-publishing their out-of-print books and even some never before published works. I had received the rights back to Talk Gertie To Me and decided to publish it and Elementary, My Dear Gertie as ebooks.

In Elementary, My Dear Gertie I’ve sent Nori, Mac, and Gertie back to Ten Commandments, Iowa. However, I needed a compelling reason for their visit because the last thing Nori wants to do is return to Ten Commandments. What better reason than Christmas? The sequel takes place two years after the original book. Nori has agreed to head home for the holidays, but she does so with all sorts of trepidations. It turns out to be anything but an ordinary Christmas.

Connie’s Christmas gift to Nori is a needlepoint pillow with a none-too-subtle message about marriage and children. Mac is all for exchanging I do’s. He’s even bought the ring, but before he can pop the question, an explosion (the literal kind) hurls him and Nori right into the middle of a murder investigation. Of course, Gertie can’t help but lend her acerbic wit to the twists and turns as yet another scandal envelopes the not-so-pious residents of Ten Commandments.

Both Talk Gertie To Me and Elementary, My Dear Gertie are available for Kindle, Nook, and iPad. Buy links can be found on my website.

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, a 2011 release, was the first book in the series and 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 in 2012. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse will be a January 2013 release. Lois also writes romance, romantic suspense, humorous women's fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and as Emma Carlyle. Visit Lois at, visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog,