NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

**Visit our 2017 Grand Prize Draw to win Eleven Exciting Ebooks in one go! closes Dec 25**


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spring Motivation


Back when I became interested in writing, few authors other than Stephen King or Danielle Steel actually earned a living writing. I worked a 9-5 job, so my aim was to accumulate jewelry. Seems my first writer's checks garnered me topaz and amethyst rings and earrings. Tires for the Radillac convertible, a good used washer and dryer, and the occasional writer's conference.

I've learned to gamble on what I can accomplish without the what-ifs connected to the business. In other words, I trust myself to an extent but not the biz per se. That said, I've met my writing goals the past two years, and I'm upping my game. In 2015 I'd like to start a new charm bracelet, as long as buying doesn't interfere with living expenses, those conferences, and seeing Lex.

Others frame their book covers. I collect jewelry. I'm too old to get tats and piercings where anyone would care to see, so Tiffany's, here I come!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Inspiration Needs A New Form

All writers need inspiration. Where do you find yours?

For me, inspiration comes from the “what if” scenario: What if your neighbor turns out to be a serial killer? What if the supermarket at the end of your street is a cover for an international drugs cartel? What if the pale-skinned old man who owns the second-hand bookshop is actually a ghost?

Most writers relish these observations and use them as a launching pad for stories. When my husband and I were battling through a dense thicket of bushes and small trees wedged between the Snake River and the cliff bank soaring above us, I remember telling him, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” 

That remark grew into So About The Money, a fun, amateur sleuth my agent currently has on submission.

Recently, I been crazy busy between the day job and packing (shredding, wrapping, tossing, gifting) everything we own in preparation for a move into a place 1/4th the size of our current digs, while we build a new house. Well, while assorted crews of craftsmen build the house, but I digress.

So… there’s no time to write, other than in snatched moments. Those snatched moments, however, can lend humor. I’ve discovered the voice recorder on my phone returns gibberish – or maybe it’s my Southern accent that turns reasonable statements into sentences that…well…aren’t remotely reasonable.

But the resulting text is enough that I can at least, sorta remember where I was going with the scene idea.  Then there are the scribbles on the backs of envelopes and sticky notes. Where would we be without sticky notes?

And I’m dreaming like mad. For some weird reason (I’m sure the mental health people can analyze, except I’d really hate it if they did), when I don’t have the creative outlet from writing (or painting or fusing glass or oops, another tangent), all those wild ideas invade my sleep.

What about you? How do you handle it when the rest of your life is overwhelming your writing time? 



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rebelliousness and Redemption

Okay, so I have a confession that probably won’t shock anyone who knows me: I’m a rule-follower. And a people-pleaser, to boot. I color within the lines, obey traffic laws (mostly), and pay my bills on time. 

Don't hate me. Life just runs much smoother when I'm organized, and I'm all about avoiding conflict whenever and wherever I can.

But in my writing, I tend to be the opposite, at least when it comes to plotting and character-building. Of course, writers have to have conflict in their stories, and there's a certain cadence and pattern to romantic suspense, but when I began creating my new series (Redemption Club), and compared it to my older one (The Mindhunters), I realized how much I loathe having to create characters who are bound by rules. 

Both series lack what I'd term the "classic" romantic suspense heroes and heroines—cops and detectives, FBI agents, SEALs, and so forth. From my very first book, I'd already realized I didn’t like the constraints of writing characters who have to obey the law to the letter because of their career choice. Sometimes, my characters have a background in military or law enforcement, but they've moved on, were hurt by their career in some way, or became disgruntled or even jaded. 

Time for another confession: I thought this choice was because I was lazy. I don't enjoy spending a lot of time researching rulebooks and procedural manuals.

I created a private agency in my Mindhunters series, and the Redemption Club series focuses more on the criminal side, where bending the law is acceptable if it gets you what you want. My heroes and heroines try to be upstanding people, but they may have a blight or two on their records that they need to overcome.

However... I recently realized that it’s not laziness that kept me from going with the traditional types of heroes and heroines. (Okay, it might be a little laziness.) My choices are due, in part, to the restrictions in my normal life. Anne Becker doesn't get to break the rules. As a valedictorian, student role model, oldest sibling, doting wife, perfect mother (yeah, right!) to three children, and law-abiding citizen, I have to follow so many guidelines that it’s no wonder I don’t run off screaming into the woods and become a hermit.

In my books, however… There, "Anne Marie Becker, Author" gets to break any rule she wants—via her characters. As long as she makes her characters likeable and redeemable.

A little rebelliousness, a dash of redemption. That’s what my latest batch of characters are made of.


How about you? Do you like to read/write about characters who have to walk the line, work within boundaries, or do you like the rogues who have sins to make up for?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Amateur Sleuths are Fun


I just got home from a long weekend at the SOKY (Southern Kentucky) Book Fest where I had (so So SO much fun!!) the opportunity to meet, chat with and even be on a panel with amazing mystery writers like Duffy Brown, Anna Lee Huber, Tonya Kapes and more. Throughout the event, one question I heard again and again was, "Why cozy?" And the answer I kept coming back to is, "Because cozy is FUN!"

Dead serious. Pun intended. Mystery writing is a load of fun, especially where an amateur female sleuth is involved. Women are tenacious, curious and resilient, not to mention crafty. Let’s face it, once we get it in our minds to accomplish something, it’s going to happen. Period. Clean that stubborn grout? Done. Find Egyptian cotton sheets at a discount low enough to crumble the pyramids? Easy. Catch a killer? Well…why not?

Creating the perfect heroine? Also fun. She’s every woman. Creating the perfect crime was a little harder. If mystery writing taught me anything, it's that I'm no criminal mastermind. I do, however, know how to cause trouble. So, I outline the crime, put myself in my heroine’s super cute shoes and ask myself, “What would I do first?”

Right? If we have a problem, we need a plan to solve it. I am a dedicated planner. Normally, I start with the facts and resources already on hand or readily available. That part’s easy enough, but what happens when the resources run out? Well, that’s when a girl’s got to get resourceful.

My heroines are curious and motivated, just like her creator, but this isn’t a James Bond book. She has to get information in legal ways without a crack team of gun-toting, tech-savvy backup waiting in the wings. This is where I have the most fun. Thinking outside the box. I wonder: How can she get answers? Where should she look next? Better yet, how much trouble can she get into while looking? The short answer to my last question is SO MUCH TROUBLE.

In my Patience Price Mysteries, Patience is eager to find a killer and protect her beloved little island. She looks at evidence, talks to locals and tourists and really gets the ball rolling. Much like you or I would do. As it turns out, killers don’t like snooping. And then the real fun begins for me.

Hey, launching a private investigation is no easy task, especially for an amateur. Stakeouts and tailing suspects can ruin a girl’s sleep and worry her parents. It can also irritate her FBI boyfriend who insists she drop her investigation and stay out of his way. Not something a woman wants to hear, so she doesn’t listen. Obviously. Who does he think he is?

Then, there’s her real life. I love filtering in those mundane relentless obligations that don't seem to care if there's a murder to be solved. You know, like dinner at your Mom's or that dumb bunny boss who thinks you should come in once and a while. Obligations are something everyone understands and thy're extra funny when they aren't ours. I keep lots of things on my heroine's plate. Finding trouble for them is easy and kind of a hoot. My heroines are unfortunately like me in another way, too: quick to act and slow to worry. They're loved by their communities and have commitments to tend to when not being chased, threatened or abducted. 

Writing the antics and shenanigans of a small town girls turned investigators is a blast. The locals are quirky. Families are a riot and romance is in the air like napalm. Nevertheless, curiosity prevails. Crimes get solved and bad guys are thwarted. My heroines are everything I would be, if only I wasn’t afraid of my shadow, and writing the investigation of an amateur sleuth wasn’t such a blast. For now, I'll stay home where it's safe and write more fabulous shenanigans. 

What is your favorite thing about reading or writing mystery?

Friday, April 17, 2015

SETTTINGS: A CLOSE BUT EXOTIC GEM





Looking for a gorgeous, exotic locale brimming with colorful history for your story? Consider Puerto Rico.

Recently I attended a professional retreat in San Juan and fell in love with the island.  Incredibly blue waters stirred by constant breezes; friendly locals who, if they don't speak English, are willing to communicate with enthusiastic gestures; rows of colorful buildings with ironwork befitting Charleston or New Orleans.


And the food. Oh my. Pastries that melt in your mouth and seafood artfully cooked.

Consider a chase scene across the fascinating bioluminescent bay where a kayak paddle can yield sparks of light in dark waters.

Into paranormal?

Consider the former convent El Convento. Now a hotel and restaurant, there be ghosts lurking on the premises.

 Need a powerful business mogul? You can model him/her on the Bacardi family who founded an enormous distillery off San Juan.









History abounds in this gateway to the Caribbean where the Spanish defended its stronghold against attacks by England and the Netherlands among other countries. Love a pirates' yarn or treasure? The seas teemed with the raiders.



 






Interested in a World War II setting? U.S. modified the mighty fortresses of old San Juan to serve as lookout posts against German subs.


Your hero/heroine can stay at a romantic hacienda at the edge of the rain forest...
 
 
 
 
Snorkel  the coral reefs or...
Lounge on a yacht by a beach with powdered sands.
 
 
 
Where have you traveled recently that served as inspiration for a book setting?
 
J Carol Stephenson











Monday, April 13, 2015

Birth of an Activist

by Janis Patterson

I can’t stand it any more. I have become an activist.

I cannot bear the unending mangling of our beautiful language, or the overwhelmingly blatant demonstrations of ignorance that surround us daily. Now I rarely go out without being armed with my trusty Marks-A-Lot™ with which I gleefully commit corrective acts of sabotage.

Nor am I alone. After starting a loosely knit organization called 5/A (also known as the American Association Against Apostrophe Abuse) I have discovered that there are others who dislike the grammatical ignorance that is so prevalent today. We are few in number, but growing.

My main target is usually the grocery store, because that’s where it all began. One day while I was shopping there was a spotty youth writing a sign for bananas. I remember it exactly – Banana’s – 49 cents. (Of course, he used the cents sign, which has sadly disappeared from all modern keyboards.) I asked him, which banana’s what did he mean?

He looked at me as if I were mad. “These bananas,” he said politely enough. I then explained that it wasn’t true – what he was writing was a singular possessive, which meant something (so far unstated) that belonged to one of the bananas present. After a few more moments of enlightening conversation he turned tail and ran for his manager.

The manager was kind, very soothing and thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention – employees are usually very kind to strong-minded older ladies with canes – then brought out a new card and, as a concession to customer relations, wrote Bananas’ – 49 cents. He couldn’t understand why I started laughing, albeit somewhat hysterically. Neither did he understand it when I patiently explained the difference between singular possessive, plural possessive and simple plural.

I still shopped there for several years afterward, though I swear when they saw me coming all the stock boys grabbed their sign-making materials and ran for the back. No one ever said a word when I corrected their signs with my trusty marker, either. I should drop back by, though, and see if they have improved any – I don’t shop there any more, as the store is in Dallas. Ever since the demagogues in the city council forced that idiotic and unwanted plastic bag ban down the citizens’ throats I try not to shop in Dallas at all, preferring not to let whatever sales tax I spend go to support such stupidity. For what it’s worth, judging from the increase in traffic in the stores of the satellite cities, I’m not alone in that, either!

Nor is my educational zeal limited to grocery stores. There was a lovely shop with a huge parking lot bearing a sign Customer’s Parking. I finally called them, asking if one needed to make an appointment in order to shop in their store. They answered of course not and gave me their open hours. I then asked where I could park close by, as their sign made it obvious their parking lot was restricted to one customer at a time. After I explained and again asked where I could park that would be within their stated limitations – and without relying on luck that I would be the sole customer at any given moment – they hung up on me. Apparently some people just do not care to learn what is correct. I never did shop there. There is justice, however, because they went out of business not long after. Apparently grammar does count!


And it should – language is perhaps the highest development of humankind. It is what allows us to communicate not only with each other, but with generations yet to come. It should be exact, for it conveys information that can and should be understood forever. Perhaps a misplaced apostrophe or wandering comma in itself is no great solecism, but the greatest rents start with the tiniest of holes and before long the entire fabric can become shredded and useless. As writers we are the guardians of not only of language, but of the concept and execution of language, and both deserve our best.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

OUTLANDER

Yeah OUTLANDER.

I had another post written and ready to go but after all the stramash over episode 9 I’m sharing my thoughts and there will be spoilers.
The day after the show aired I was surprised by facebook comments of several readers/watchers trashing the story line. I was even more surprised by several author’s comments trashing Diana Gabaldon’s writing. I know she doesn’t give a flying fig about F and G list authors bashing her because of a spanking scene as she cashes her gallizion dollar royalty checks, but Holy Macaroni.  
First of all, GET OVER IT! It’s a freaking book/tv series. Second, and read the following carefully, it represents what went on in the 18th century and there were NO PC police in 1743 Scotland. Corporal punishment for wrong doing was accepted. The norm. Would a time-out be better? HA! Wrong doers in 1743 would love to spend time sitting in a corner, getting a rest from the back breaking jobs they did to survive.  
Perhaps critics would like it if Herself wrote a story sending some PC police through the stones. Would love to see how long they lasted with Dougal, Murtagh, Angas and Rupert.   
Consider this. No one complained when Clare hit and punched Jamie. Not a peep has been heard about Black Jack Randel (here after referred to as BJR) punching Clare and having his corporal kick her. WTH?
And….BTW didn’t spanking occur in 50 Shades? Can’t be sure ‘cause I didn’t read the books or see the movie. Couldn’t get past the writing in the free sample. As for the movie I was a leery of encountering a Peewee Herman moment.  
And the moaning and groaning about the scene when Laoghaire comes on to Jamie. Sweet Mother Malone.   
Anywho.  For me episode 9 is huge. I admit I watch shows/movies more than once. (Dexter, Homeland, Call The Midwife) First and second times are for sheer joy and entertainment. Then I go into writer mode. I pay attention to the settings, sounds, body language, expressions and foreshadowing. And most of all, character development. Episode 9 is a major pivotal point in Jamie and Clare’s character arc.  He realizes Clare is different. Special. To hang onto her he will have to change and grow. And Clare? As she will tell Jamie, “I never expected to love you.” How much does that change her resolve to get back to Frank?
People, don’t grump about a scene or dialogue. Sit back and enjoy the process. Remember nothing in a good book or movie is there on a whim. Every word, every scene, moves the story forward. It has a purpose. And believe me the Outlander books/series is good.
In episode 9 there was a huge foreshadowing moment for BJR. In a single sentence of dialogue he revealed a world of information about himself.  Did you get it?
Consider what sells. Other than sex. Conflict! Conflict, conflict, and conflict on every level. It’s why we turn the page. Watch the next episode. It isn’t to see if everyone likes what Mrs. Fitz fixed for dinner. It’s to see if Clare clocks Laoghaire.

Books are like life. It doesn’t always go how you want it too. There are twists and turns.  Missteps. You and the characters adapt, overcome and work towards a happy ever after. You turn the page and keep reading and living. Or, you don’t. Your choice.  

My apologies to those who are not following Outlander.      


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Location, Location! and an audio trailer



LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION by Clare London

“Look,” says Hubby with a wry smile. We’re snuggled on the sofa together, watching a movie last night. “It’s set in London.”

Is he psychic, you ask? A close friend of the producer? A devout follower of IMDB and/or the celebrity movie news websites? No. He’s just seen the double-decker red bus trundle past in the background LOL (and it *was* a James Bomd movie!).



So many movies and pictures rely on triggers like that, don’t they? For London, we have the buses, the black taxis, the phone boxes (vanishing fast), the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge … to be honest, we’re spoiled for choice of iconic scenes.

My suspense thriller FREEMAN is set in London. When I first drafted it, I deliberately set it in AnyCity rather than a specific place. It was to add to the mystery of the story, the “Everyman” nature of Freeman himself. But when I re-released it in 2013 at Wilde City Press, I made it clearer that the city I used as its setting was London.

Excuse my bias towards London, but I’m living and working there, it’s the city I know best, and it fascinates me. But I’ve also written stories set elsewhere in the UK: in Brighton, Totnes in the south-west, Exeter, Scotland and various “alternative, no-name” cities around the British Isles.

And of course, other cities - as they say - are available! I’ve read and enjoyed many stories set in the United Kingdom that evoke marvellously the spirit of the place, its scenery, its history and the unique characteristics of its inhabitants.

Of course, Hubby and I also joke about movies set in the US, how it sometimes seems there are only 5 cities in existence - New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco – and they’ve been devastated by enough giant monsters / aliens / natural disasters / Decepticons to make us wonder how there’s anything left for any future features LOL. But again, in fiction, there’s the option of so many more places that can come alive in the reader’s imagination.

How do you feel about physical setting in the books you read? Do you skip over the scene-setting as background wallpaper, or does your reading act as a travel pass to exciting new places? Do you admire the author’s love for the place, or wonder just how much research they’ve done to get authenticity? How do you feel if a book features *your* place, or somewhere you know well – does it thrill or creep you out?

Let us know! As they say, it’s all about Location, Location, Location.



And do you like an English accent?!
EXCLUSIVE : this link to an extract from FREEMAN, read aloud for your entertainment!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1Kk9uDPrmE

*************************

Clare London
Writing … Man to Man


 







Monday, April 6, 2015

THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF WRITING SERIES - By Kathy Ivan

I've been doing a ton of writing recently.  In fact, I released three books in March, all at the same time.  (Insanity – trust me, doing marking and promotion for three releases at the same time is the definition of insanity.)  But through it all I figured out I really like writing series.

There's a lot to be said for staying in the same world you've created.  Then again, there are also a lot of headaches at the same time.  I thought I'd share just a few of the things I've noticed about writing series.

THE PERILS
1.  Keeping the world you've created straight.  For example, I've set my series (New Orleans Connection Series) in and around New Orleans.  A lot of the places are real actual places and tourist destinations which are familiar to the readers as well as the people who actually live there.  But it's also my world in that I've created certain things which are unique to it.  Theresa's New Age shot.  Max's PI office.  The police department division/station where Remy works.  The DEA office where Branson, Macie and Carlo do their jobs.  These places that I've created have to be the same from book to book.  I cannot change the street where they're located.  I can't say at one point something is in the French Quarter and the next book say it is in Downtown New Orleans – because they aren't the same place. 

2.  Keeping your characters appearances consistent from book to book.  You can't have somebody start out with brown hair and brown eyes and suddenly two books later they've got brown hair and blue eyes.  Readers are sharp and they catch things like that—especially if it happens to be one of their favorite characters. 

3.  Timelines.  This can be tricky especially if your characters carry over from one book to the next.  For example, Remy Lamoreaux has been in all of the books in this series.  I needed to make sure that he wasn't engaged or married before we got to his actual story (Relentless Pursuit).  I've learned to keep a chart on the computer that I can easily access with each main character and their characteristics like hair color, eye color, body type, profession, which books they show up in, and who they are with/dating/seeing in each book until they get their own story.   It's also good to keep track of secondary characters, because you never know when they're going to turn up in another story or demand a book of their own. 

THE PLEASURES:
1.  I love having characters I've written about in one book show up in other books in the series.  It's like visiting with old friends, because I've already told their story and we get to see how life is changing around them.  Although each one of my books can be read as a standalone story, characters do show up from book to book, which I think makes for an interesting mix.  For example:  Relentless Pursuit introduced the readers to our heroine, Jennifer "Jinx" Marucci and her brother, Giancarlo "Carlo" Marucci.  This was Remy and Jinx's story, but Carlo plays a part.  So the next book (Ultimate Betrayal) became his story.  And in his book, you'll see appearances by Remy and other characters mentioned in previous books.  I think the readers enjoy having a feeling of knowing these people already, and it grounds them into the book in a way they wouldn't normally get from a standalone, where they're being introduced to characters they've never met before. 


2.  In a series you have the freedom of familiarity.  A reader can plunge right into the book, especially when they've read the preceding one, and pick up pretty much where that left off.  It's like watching your favorite television series – a new book is like a new episode with the people you've come to know and love having that episode focus on them.  Let's take Castle for an example.  One week the story might focus on Castle and Beckett.  The next week it might focus on Esposito and Lanie.  The next week about Ryan and his wife.  (I'm not talking serials here which are continuing sagas usually with the same people, but rather series where in every book I do has a different hero and heroine and they find their happily ever after, but the crossover characters keep the readers reading and happy.) 

3.  With a series you can bring the reader closer to the characters they love.  I wrote a short novella (Keeping Secrets) where I sprang a surprise wedding on the heroine (of a previous book) and had the heroes and heroines from previous books all there and taking part in the surprise.  Readers loved, loved, loved finding out what happened because this short book let them know the couples they've rooted for and agonized over got their HEA and are still together after the end of their respective books. 

There are lots more reasons, too numerous to mention in this post alone.  So, for all of you who read or write series, tell me what you like and/or don't like about writing them. 


Kathy Ivan is currently hard at work on her next romantic suspense in the New Orleans Connection Series.  You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kathyivanauthor and on twitter at www.twitter.com/kathyivan 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Never Been to Morocco...

You know that Three Dog Night song, “Never Been to Spain”? From their 1971 album, Harmony? While I was working on my latest novel, Ghosts of Morocco, that’s the song that floated through my mind constantly.

I’ve never been to Morocco, but I set Ghosts of Morocco there. Or big chunks of it, anyway. Was I being presumptuous? Maybe. But that’s where the story had to be: partly in Morocco, in the past, and partly in the Yukon, a little more recently.

I didn’t want to insult anyone, or make a fool of myself, so I read travel books and history of Morocco books, read travellers’ blogs, looked at thousands of pictures on line, grilled my well-travelled friend… anything I could think of to add depth and realism to the Morocco scenes. I even asked a writer who was housesitting in Morocco to describe olive trees for me. I was especially interested in the sensory details of the country – what did it smell like? How was the quality of the light? How was the humidity level?

It’s not as good as if I’d been there myself to experience the country, but I think I did okay. (And now, of course, I really want to go.)

I’m a lot more nervous about the Yukon setting – home. I took liberties. Outrageous liberties, sometimes. I can defend that, but Lord help me if I got anything flat out wrong. You can be sure I’ll hear about it...

Ghosts of Morocco was released this week. Here’s the cover blurb:

Fifteen years after a traumatic event in Morocco, Hope Adler has reinvented herself as a cautious, dependable businesswoman back home in Canada. No more impulsiveness. No more risks. No more Wild Child. But when Meddur, the young son of her Moroccan friend, lands on her doorstep, running from murderous Berber radicals, she must reach deep into her past and bring back the Wild Child, because that’s the only way she and Meddur will get out of this alive.

Just as she thinks she’s found a safe place to hide the boy, Sam Walker, the bane of her youth in Morocco, suddenly appears. Can she trust him to help her keep Meddur safe? Or is he working with the radicals?

In a departure from her Mendenhall Mysteries series, Marcelle Dubé’s Ghosts of Morocco is a standalone novel featuring Hope Adler, a woman tormented by her past and willing to do anything to make amends. Ghosts of Morocco is a wild, exotic ride from the sands of Morocco to the deep snows of the Yukon.

It’s available everywhere e-books are sold and is also available in print.

And now, because I know you’ve been humming it, here’s a link to “Never Been to Spain.”


You can find Marcelle here: web | facebook | twitter

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