Guest Blogger: Lois Winston – The Non-conforming Tropist

I’ve hit double-digits! October 4th will see the release of Stitch, Bake Die!, #10 in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, currently available for pre-order from all the usual suspects. Given that when I started writing {{cough! cough!}} years ago, I expected a career in the romance genre and did briefly have one, this is a remarkable milestone. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision killing people for a living (only on paper, of course!) Now, that’s my happy place.

However, here’s what’s even more interesting: When I was asked to try my hand at writing a series with an amateur sleuth who was a crafter, I had no idea there were certain tropes I was expected to follow. Apparently, neither did my publisher, which in retrospect is quite odd for a publisher of cozy mysteries. For instance, they didn’t bat an eye when my Mafia bad guys used language appropriate to Mafia bad guys.

I’ve never used 4-letter words simply for shock value, and I really dislike when other writers do so. However, I’ve known some Mafia guys (another blog for another time), and I can assure you, they don’t go around saying, “Gosh darn it” and “Golly, gee whiz.”

Since I was never asked to omit the expletives during the editing process, I was shocked at some of the reader blowback I received for even the mildest of 4-letter words, like the H-E-double-hockey-sticks one or the word that’s a homophone for a structure that holds back water on a river.

I’ve learned many lessons as I’ve gotten older, one of which is that it’s best to choose your battles. When people write to you saying, “I loved your book, but I won’t read another unless you promise you’ll never again use curse words,” it gives you pause. Did I really want to lose readers for the sake of authenticity in certain dialog scenes? 

The answer was no. At the end of my 3-book contract, the publisher and I couldn’t come to terms on further titles in the series or a second series they wanted. When I received my rights back, I revised the books to remove the objectionable words, making them conform more to cozy reader expectations. Ten books and three novellas into the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, I’m now well-versed in cozy tropes and the fine art of euphemisms.


USA Today and Amazon 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 a former literary agent and 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. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website: 

Stitch, Bake, Die!
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 10

With massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, a Shakespeare-quoting parrot, and a photojournalist boyfriend who may or may not be a spy, crafts editor Anastasia Pollack already juggles too much in her life. So she’s not thrilled when her magazine volunteers her to present workshops and judge a needlework contest at the inaugural conference of the NJ chapter of the Stitch and Bake Society, a national organization of retired professional women. At least her best friend and cooking editor Cloris McWerther has also been roped into similar duties for the culinary side of the 3-day event taking place on the grounds of the exclusive Beckwith Chateau Country Club.

The sweet little old ladies Anastasia is expecting to find are definitely old, and some of them are little, but all are anything but sweet. She’s stepped into a vipers’ den that starts with bribery and ends with murder. When an ice storm forces Anastasia and Cloris to spend the night at the Chateau, Anastasia discovers evidence of insurance scams, medical fraud, an opioid ring, long-buried family secrets, and a bevy of suspects.

Can she piece together the various clues before she becomes the killer’s next target?

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5 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Lois Winston – The Non-conforming Tropist”

  1. Lois, the tropes for genres are important and expected by readers! Like understanding that written language is different from spoken language, I have to be careful not to interject my own sometimes non-PG syntax into my characters.
    Great post!

  2. So true, Michele! In many ways I was tossed into the water without knowing how to swim. When I was asked to write the series, I read lots of cozy mysteries to familiarize myself with the genre, but I wasn’t aware there were tropes I needed to follow. So I wrote the way I’d write a romance or romantic suspense. Then I learned that reader expectations for the two genres are quite different. Having some editorial guidance would have been helpful in keeping me from making those mistakes.

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