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!


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

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Costumes Gone Wrong

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


Today I'm not talking about writing or books or promotion. I'm not talking about reviews or tweets or how to do research for your book. After all, it's Halloween!! So...let's play a game!

We are going to vote for the WORST Halloween costume! A word of warning, the costumes you are about to see are not just ANY Halloween costumes. These are costumes gone wrong. SERIOUSLY wrong....

Before you dare to read any further, make sure you are ready to view the following because once you see these costumes, you cannot UNSEE them. Okay, brave souls, GO!!

Costume Gone Wrong #1:

Costume Gone Wrong #2:

Costume Gone Wrong #3:

Costume Gone Wrong #4:

Costume Gone Wrong #5:



So, go ahead and vote! Which costume WINS the Costume Gone Wrong Award?!?!? Hahaha!

Wishing all of you a humorous and fun Halloween! :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sneak Peek - Jefferson Blythe, Esquire


I had three blogs due this week, so I’m fudging a bit with a sneak peek for my New Adult novel out November 16th from Carina Press. Jefferson Blythe, Esquire is a kooky mix of comedy, travelogue and romance. It’s a mystery of course, but it’s really not like anything I’ve done before. And I don’t want to say more than that.

 

Anyway, there will be a huge launch party over on myFacebook page on the 15th and tons of prizes and goodies will be given away, but I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway here as well.

 

So answer the questions below and one random commenter will win a hardcover copy of The Grand Tour: Around the World with the Queen of Mystery by Agatha Christie. I received this book as a gift a couple of Christmases ago and it’s a really fascinating glimpse both into Christie’s mind and a world of travel that no longer exists.

 

1 - Poirot or Marple?

2 - Professor Plum or Miss Scarlet?

3 - Marlowe or Spade?

 

The Blurb:

In this fast, fun and dead-sexy male/male new-adult caper from multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon, twentysomething Jefferson Blythe gets lost, gets found, falls in love and comes out...all in the span of one wild summer. 

After his first relationship goes disastrously awry, Jeff Blythe uses his savings to tour Europe—the old-fashioned way. Armed with his grandfather's1960 copy of Esquire's Europe in Style, Jeff sets off looking for adventure but finds much, much more than he bargained for... 

In London, dodging questions from shady criminals about a mysterious package he most certainly does not have is simple. Losing the gunmen who are convinced he's someone else is not. And when George, an old friend, offers him help—and a place to stay, and perhaps something more—things become complicated. 

Is George really who he seems? And is Jeff finally ready to act on his attraction? 

From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives. But trusting George at his word may leave Jeff vulnerable—in more ways than one.

 

A Romantic Times Top Pick!

 

 

The Peek:

The little café was situated right at the junction of rue Lepic and rue Cauchois, and when I came outside, I must have turned the wrong way because the next thing I knew I was on rue Cauchois. It was an old and quiet street, old buildings—mostly residential. It did not look even vaguely familiar.

Thinking it would be simple to cut through the web of narrow side streets and then intersect with rue Lepic, I didn’t turn back like I should have. Nope, I kept walking, turned down another small street, followed it for a ways, and then, deciding that I was traveling in the general right direction, turned down another narrow street. And then the next. And then the next.

And then I was lost.

But I knew I needed to keep heading downhill, away from the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, so that seemed simple enough. Keep winding my way downhill and hopefully I’d bump into rue Lepic again, find metro Blanche and get back to my hotel before dawn.

There were not as many people as before, and very few tourists. I wasn’t nervous, but I also wasn’t giddy with delight.

I kept walking, kept heading…west? West was right, wasn’t it?

Why did I not have a better brain for directions?

Why hadn’t I taken the Metro?

Why did all these fucking streets seem to lead deeper and deeper into the maze?

At that point the caffeine from the coffee and the sugar from the crème brûlée must have kicked in, dispelling the last fumes of alcohol. I stopped walking and got my phone out.

There were very few street lamps and light was very poor. Motorbikes and a couple of cars nearly blocked the narrow street in one direction. In the other there was a row of metal trash bins that looked like tin pepper pots. Ivy grew up the walls of the buildings, which were typical of French architecture in the 1800s: pastel stone and brick, iron cresting, and steep mansard roofs.

Where the hell was I?

I spotted a red-and-blue sign a few feet away and started toward it, using my phone as a flashlight.

Something whizzed past my hand, the sign seemed to crinkle in the center, and I heard a weird pop. I didn’t recognize the sound. It was more like a thunk than a bang, but either way, it was as though an invisible hand had reached past me to punch the sign.

As I stared at that ominous divot, like the bull’s-eye in a target, there was another pop. The side mirror on the car beside me shattered.

A shot. I was being shot at.

I ducked down beside the car, then realized I was probably still on the same side as the shooter. I half ran, half crawled around the front of the car. The tire next to me suddenly deflated, the hissing accompanied by two loud pops.

No. No. No. This could not be happening again. It just…couldn’t.


 

You can preorder at Amazon, B&N, Kobo and all the usual places--and don't forget to comment below!

 

 

 

 

  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Special Occasions

Since writing the final Dylan Scott mystery, Dead Simple, I’ve returned to my Jill Kennedy and Detective Chief Inspector Max Trentham series of crime novels and am writing what may or may not be the last in that particular series, The Final Echoes.

As a few years have passed since the last story was published, I’ve had to refresh my memory of the earlier books and one thing that’s struck me is the way I like ‘occasions’ to play their part. I find Christmas, for example, tends to anchor a story and add another element. The days are extremely short for one thing so much of the action has to take place in darkness. Ice makes journeys treacherous and a good snowfall will quickly hide evidence as well as the odd dead body. The innocence and frivolity of Christmas, with Santas ho-ho-hoing on every corner, Fairytale of New York drifting out of shops and bars, and trees laden with twinkling lights, provide a great contrast to the darker elements of life.

Perhaps my favourite time of year to set a book is Halloween. Along with the cold, dark weather, there are fireworks sounding like guns being fired and the undead walking the streets. Masks - well, I have a thing about masks - the sort of thing that induces nightmares. A group of innocent young children knocking on strangers’ doors can also heighten tension.

What about you? Writers, do you use occasions in your stories? Readers, do you like a story set around Christmas or Halloween or do you find it irritating if you happen to be sitting on a sunny beach with a long, cold drink to hand as you’re reading? I’m curious. I’d hate to think I’d been irritating readers for years. :)


The Final Echoes will be published when I actually get the thing written… ;)


Friday, October 23, 2015

Writer’s Conferences – Are They Worth It?

by Janis Patterson

It seems everywhere you look someone is advertising a writer’s conference and, truth be told, there used to be more than today. Some offer contests, some don’t. Almost every one offers one-on-one meetings with agents and editors. (At least, almost every one I’ve ever heard of.) Some are very good. Some aren’t.

There are three basic kinds of writer’s conference – first, what is basically a reader’s conference where readers can come and interact with writers. There is a bookstore and a book signing, lots of reader-oriented events, and maybe a few craft or market sessions for the writers themselves.

Second, there is a not-always-happy mixture conference, combining working professionals, newly published and aspiring authors. I almost said wanna-bes, but have been informed that in this oppressively and obnoxiously Politically Correct world such an appellation is condescending and prejudicial. Perhaps, but in too many cases it’s also true. Yes, some of these ‘aspiring authors’ will soar and sell many more books than I can ever hope to, but… most won’t, and some will never even sell one. Some come just to hang out with their favorite authors, even if it is from a distance, so they can tell their friends “Oh, when I was at such and such conference with – insert name of favorite author here – we did such and such…” never bothering to mention that there were several hundred people doing the same thing. For some writers, though, this is the best kind of conference to attend.

Third, there is a conference for professionals, where it is working writers only with a concentration on the business side of the writing game, including everything from foreign markets to designing a book cover for self-publishing authors.

Are conferences worth it? I say yes, providing you go to the right conference for what you want.

Reader’s conferences are great for authors who want to interact with their fans and hopefully meet new ones to increase their readership. I’ve never been to one of these, mainly (1) because my readership only goes to a select few of them and (2) so far I haven’t had the money. I do have hopes, though.

The mixture conference is a toss-up. Some swear by them and go as often as they can, hoping to combine craft, market information and interaction with newly or unpublished writers. Not my taste, but there are those who swear by this often contradictory mixture.

Writing is a business and I believe in a business conference being exactly that – all about business. Last month The Husband (who does work as my assistant) and I attended the NINC (Novelists, Inc.) conference in Florida. It was held at the TradeWinds resort in St. Pete Beach, which by itself was a great inducement to attend. It’s a beautiful resort with wonderful restaurants, entertainment opportunities and a lovely stretch of beach. Semi-sad thing is, though, that the conference was so dense and so overwhelmingly good that The Husband and I only got to walk on the beach once!

From the first moment of the welcome reception on Wednesday night to the last moment of Lou Aronica’s fabulous Unplugged speech (and this year he even sang!) at Sunday noon, there was never a spare moment. Workshops began at 8:30 am and the Night Owl sessions usually ended around 10:30 pm. In the middle was a fantastic mixture of knowledge and socializing and networking and fabulous food and at least half a dozen other things. The theme for this year’s conference was NINC World. Not all the workshops specialized in global publishing (both traditional and self) and there were many in all aspects and areas of the business of publishing.

There were no booksignings nor a bookstore, as much for the fact that there was no time for any such as that this is strictly a professional conference. There are no beginning or even intermediate craft workshops (and to be honest, I don’t remember a single craft workshop this year) but there were lots and lots of workshops about the business of writing, whether you are traditionally or self-published or both. To come you have to be a member of NINC (or the assistant to one), and that is a membership not easily won. There are both publishing and income standards that must be met, and only then can the applicant be voted on by the membership.

Most of us have limited conference dollars, and if you’re considering going to a conference, think long and hard about which kind of conference you wish to attend. What is your skill level? Where are you in the profession? What do you hope to accomplish at a conference? And lastly – what can you afford? The entry fee might sound very reasonable (or not) but that’s not the only expense; you have to factor in transportation, lodging, and food at the very least. Some conferences include all meals, some a few and some none. I’ve never heard of a conference fee encompassing lodging. And you have to get there. All of these expenses add up and must be considered.


Which conference is right for you is something only you can decide, and we are lucky in that there are all kinds of writer’s conferences out there from which we can choose.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Visual Marketing: Or why images matter so much


My critique partner, Larissa Emerald, and I presented a workshop at the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book conference this past weekend. One of the benefits of doing a workshop is the research you do while putting together the material. We concentrated on the power of images to market our books across a few of the social media sites.
Larissa Emerald
Too often we think of ourselves as writers, so when we make our marketing plans we begin by writing. But what we really are is storytellers. And stories existed long before written languages existed. Stories were told around campfires to entertain, educate, and engender a sense of belonging. Stories evoke emotions. When we hear a story we begin building mental images about the words we hear. When we turn to visual images to market, we build emotional connections with our audience.
Why are visuals so powerful? It has to do with survival. Remembering places you’ve been before, recognizing things that are safe or dangerous to eat, animals that can be more easily hunted versus the ones that may hunt you ensured our survival. Those skills all revolved around visual encoding. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) conducted an experiment to determine how well we remember images. They showed subjects 3000 images for 3 seconds each—that’s two and a half hours of viewing a series of pictures. When shown paired images, the subjects correctly selected the previously viewed images 92% of the time. Can you imagine how many numbers or words those same subjects would have remembered two hours later?
So now that we all believe in the power of images, how do we make them work for us?
By catching a viewer’s attention quickly. Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without. Images used in SlideShare decks from 2013 to 2014 increased by 53% and infographics on SlideShare get Liked five times more than standard presentations, according to CMO.com.
Humorous Steampunk?
To begin, create a style guide to use for your entire brand communications. Determine the mood you want your brand to reflect; do you write dark dystopian stories, laugh out loud humor, women’s fiction, suspense, or fantasy? Make sure your images and colors match your writing style.
Dystopian Steampunk?






Select two or three colors—know the color’s RGB, HEX, and CMYK (for print) numbers.

Color Picker Numbers
And select two or three fonts for web and maybe two or three complementary typeface for printed collateral. Your goal is to create a look that resonates with your readers and can be recognized across multiple outlets.
Learn some basic design principles from books like Design Basics Index by Jim Krause and The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams. Or watch Lynda.com videos (anything by John McWade will help you see marketing materials in a totally new light!) Keep up with visual trends by watching free webinars from stock photo sources like Getty Images—they spot visual and color trends used in advertising and fashion before they hit the marketplace.
Webpage:
Start with your webpage. Unlike the ever-changing social media venues, you own your webpage and can control how and when it is changed. Invest the time to ensure your visual communication is as powerful or even more powerful than your text—just to get a viewer to stop and read what you have to say.
Remember to add Alt (alternate) Text wherever possible so visually impaired users can still get the benefit of your images. Screen readers pick up that text and read it to them, so use keywords that are descriptive as well.
Pinterest: Consider uploading images from events such as book signings or conferences and link back to relevant pages on your website. (Only do this for the images you own!) Make it easy to pin images from your website by adding a Pin it button. You can pin animated GIF images and short videos (from Vimeo and YouTube) as well. Pinterest Co-founder and CEO Ben Silverman in a Forbes article said “If Facebook is selling the past and Twitter the present, Pinterest is offering the future.” Use keywords wherever text is (board names, account and pin descriptions, even your account name).
Board Dedicated to Coast Guard Images
 Just like every other social media tool, you must have a plan with clearly defined goals. Use tall images (the width is controlled in the Pinterest feed, but height is not) to get noticed. Create or convert your personal account to a business account and verify your URL to improve indexing and to gain access to analytics. Analytics let you see what is being pinned from your website and which pins are driving traffic to your website.
Twitter Homepage
Twitter: Pin a tweet that showcases you and your brand—one with images or video. It will stay at the top of your feed until you change it. According to a study by Buddy Media, tweets with images double the engagement. Make sure the image or video is relevant to your post and brand. Create a schedule of posts and topics to post at specific day and times and measure your success by checking your analytics.
 
Jayhawk Down Infographic
Once you begin thinking with images, plan how to use them to gain the most interactions and think creatively. Can you tell your story with a video, an infographic, or an image that grabs the viewer emotionally? What kinds of images make you stop and read what the author has to say?
 

 
 


Monday, October 19, 2015

Show Me the Cover!

One of the most fun—and most nerve-wracking, hair-pulling—parts of publishing is designing the book’s cover. In one glance, the cover must convey the essence of the story, attract a reader and offer a hint of the story’s genre and nature.

Asking much?

My latest book releases next month, so today I decided to share the process from the first ideas all the way through to a cover reveal.

So About the Money is a fun, amateur sleuth, more traditional mystery than cozy. The cover needs to be light rather than dark and suspenseful—although, of course, there’s an element of suspense in Holly and JC’s story—and it must focus on Holly, the heroine, rather than a clenched couple, since the romance is an element, a subplot rather than the central story.

No pressure.

I started scrolling through online retailers, studying other people’s covers. I liked a few of the newer amateur sleuth and light women’s fiction books. They had a muted background, a featured story element rather than a more typical “scene” or couple.  Hmm, something new, I considered. 

I searched the image sites, looking for stock photos that could bring the story elements to life. Hundreds, thousands, of photo images later, I found possibilities: a business woman (Holly) and a cash-filled briefcase (remember my tag line? Mystery with a Financial Twist; Trust Issues, Family Bonds). I included assorted hands reaching out to “lift’ some of that cash and then went to town with possible combinations of those elements.

Let me be the first to admit my Photoshop skills are very, very limited.

After arranging my chosen elements into a mock-up, I turned to the fonts.
So About the Money
So About the Money
So About the Money

Too heavy, too thin, too frivolous, too hard to read…

Finally I had some ideas. I imposed on a few trusted friends and sent them this:




They didn’t say they hated it, but they politely suggested that I keep thinking about the cover.

I took another hard look. The cover was cluttered and simply didn’t “work.” 

I removed the cash-filled case and added few “currency” rectangles fluttering from her briefcase and packed the result off to my cover designer.


She hated it.

She found the background “dated” and the cover “flat.”

She suggested this:
I hated it. 

It didn’t pop to my uneducated eyes and the “cash” was distracting. The title was too hard to read. 

We went back and forth, adding and subtracting.

What if we change the briefcase? Make it red? I suggested.

What if I take out the bank note under your name, she said?  Make the font black?

Collaboration is the name of the game. :)

So without further ado (that is, without boring you with the intervening versions),  I give you the cover reveal: 


What do you think? 

So About the Money releases in November. Additional vendors are "to come", but the book is currently available for preorder from Amazon.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Something’s Fishy



I've been enjoying the 5th Wave series recently and I noticed one suspense device that I haven't employed much but may need to start using more.

Basically, the character ticks off the current amount of knowledge and then wonders what they are missing. The pieces don't fit right. What additional puzzle pieces need to be added to make the other puzzle pieces work?

To be clear, this isn’t a matter of knowing that you are out two or three puzzle pieces. It seems like you have all the information, and, to a lesser mind, all the information might fit together fine. People could accept it.

But the character still taps his or lip and thinks, something is seriously off here.

I think this tool can have two effects, and it worked with me in both ways while reading the series.

1.      It can allow the reader to have faith in the author when that faith may be wavering. There were times when I thought, well, why didn’t the aliens just do X instead of Z? That would be so much simpler? This is silly and doesn’t make sense! …But when a character thinks the same thing, it clues me in to the fact that there is more to the story. The reader is right, it doesn’t quite make sense as is…keep reading and you’ll find out what you’re missing.
2.      Alternatively, there were a few times when I thought, okay, I understand this….I figured it out! When the characters still had those “hmmm, something’s missing” moments, then I doubted myself. Wait, something’s missing? I’m not right? Better keep reading to find out what I missed!

Obviously, this technique can work well in any suspense or mystery. Have a plot that is kind of crazy at first but most characters accept it? Have one character wonder what’s off and you clue the reader into the fact that the crazy conclusions everyone seems to draw aren’t quite right. Have a plot that has an obvious red herring, perhaps so obvious the reader will think he/she is obviously the killer so why keep reading? Make sure to have a character think, hmmm, there’s something fishy with this.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Postcards from Paris

The Eiffel Tower puts on a show!

What makes a city great?

I'm not sure what makes a city great, but I know a great city when I meet one. I've been fortunate to have visited some of the famed cities of the world: New York, London, Chicago, Dublin and Paris. Each is unique, but all have claimed a place in my heart. I've often wondered what it is about these cities that intrigues me so. What are the elements of a truly superior city?

Last April my husband and I visited Paris. While he ran the Paris marathon, I ran around Paris. These are some of my stops. Join me and maybe together we can decide what makes Paris great.

The architecture of Paris is justly admired, and none more so than the Eiffel Tower, Paris's most iconic symbol. I love it because it does not overlook the city, but
rather defines it. Standing tall and proud, it is the brightest beacon in the city of light.

The magnificent and monumental Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1807 after Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz, when the Emperor rode the crest of fortune's wheel. 
As I viewed the massive structure, I thought of War and Peace, Ozymandias and the Russian winter that would soon destroy Napoleon's Grande Armée.
 

 These somber thoughts vanished when I climbed to the top of the Arc and saw the Champs Elysees below, glistening in the twilight like a magic carpet. Somehow, the impossible seems possible in Paris. 


 Versailles is one of the must-see tourist destinations. I like to look for the human side of history and it was
Doing the Versailles Shuffle in the Hall of Mirrors
difficult to find at that cold palace. (Clothes of gold offer little comfort--give me soft cotton and calico.) I'm sure having to dance the  "Versailles shuffle" detracted from my enjoyment--the crowds were horrendous--but there was one human connection.


When we passed through Marie Antoinette's bedchamber, I recalled that this was where she and Louis cowered when the crowd of angry peasants arrived from Paris. The mob had marched from Paris carrying pitchforks and sticks and now they demanded their king's surrender. In those final desperate moments of freedom, Louis and Marie Antoinette clung together.


 From that point onward, it was a slow march to Monsieur Guillotine for Louis and his queen.
A recreation of Marie Antoinette's cell, prior to her appointment with the guillotine
Paris is most alive in its streets and cafes. Unlike my fellow Americans who are protective of their personal space, Parisians happily sit elbow to elbow in crowded cafes.


Sacre Coeur

I'm going to wind up this little tour with a visit to the exquisite basilica of Sacre Coeur, which stands on a hill in Montmarte. When I first saw Sacre Coeur in the early nineties, I wasn't familiar with its history. At that time I saw a gleaming edifice in white stone that was both elegant and imposing, a product of  La Belle Epoque.


Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris

First a little history: During the final decades of the nineteenth century Paris experienced an explosion of art and literature. Renoir painted, Gide brooded, and Stravinsky wrote music so revolutionary it provoked listeners to riot. Yet this golden age was rooted in blood, which brings me back to Sacre Coeur.

The Franco-Prussian War was an unmitigated disaster for France. After the surrender of Napoleon III in 1871, a revolutionary uprising called the Paris Commune seized power in Paris. They held on for two brutal months before being obliterated by the regular French army and were buried on a hilltop in Montmarte.

In the humiliating aftermath of defeat, the people of Paris erected a grand basilica where the martyrs lay buried. After all, the Communards were secular and had no love of priests.  So this was a way of doing penance and erasing the past that had caused such pain.

The history of Sacre Coeur reads like a metaphor, but I'm not sure what it means. I only know that there is something eternal in that white stone and something horrible as well. There are many places like Sacre Coeur in Paris, places where the past and present collide.

So what makes Paris great? 

The answer is everything. Architecture, art, open spaces, history, culture--all conspire to form the city of light. I don't think I'd want to live in a world without Paris, and even though it may be years before I see her again, I keep her in my heart.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
 Ernest Hemingway 

Monday, October 12, 2015

EXPLORERS, NAVIGATORS, COLONIZERS and AUTHORS





“In fourteen hundred and ninety two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue
He had three ships and left from Spain:
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain...”

      Born between 1450 and 51 in the Republic of Genoa, a young boy named Christopher Columbus longed to sail the sea. In one of his writings he claimed he achieved that desire at the age of ten. In 1470, he served on a ship in the service of Rene of Anjou to support Rene’s attempt to conquer the Kingdom of Naples.
     Columbus, a determined and ruthless man, learned Latin, Portuguese and Castilian, read the writings of Ptolemy, Pliny, and made marginal notes in books on geography, history, astronomy and The Travels of Marco Polo and had an intense interest in the Bible and in the predictions he gleaned from its pages. 
     The explorer, navigator and colonizer also wrote. He penned letters, journals and books about his travels. A Book of Privileges in 1502 which specified and documented the rewards from the Spanish Crown to which he declared he was entitled and a Book of Prophesies in 1505 where he wrote his feats as an explorer were a realization of Biblical prophesy.
     Columbus tried to discover a westward route to India and until he departed this life believed he had succeeded in his mission and never accepted as fact he had reached a different continent. Columbus sailed across the uncharted sea and navigating by the stars and blown by the winds from the east he reached the New World landing on an island in the Bahamas he named “San Salvador.” After this first voyage, Columbus was named Viceroy and Governor of the Indies that made him largely responsible for the supervision of the colonies.
     He made three additional voyages to the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Central America and claimed them for the Crown of Castile. A controversial man he is believed by many historians to be responsible for organizing the transatlantic buying and selling of slaves and the torture and genocide of Hispaniola natives.
     The end of his third voyage found him fatigued in body and mind. Allegations of cruelty and ineptitude had reached the ear of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand and he was replaced Francisco de Bobadilla. Columbus gave the conversion of unbelievers as one of the reasons for his explorations and as he aged and became ill, he became progressively more devout. 

     Amerigo Vespucci born in 1454 in Florence, Italy was another young man who read widely, and collected books and maps. He began his working career with bankers and was sent to Spain where soon he found employment on ships. Vespucci went on his first voyage as a navigator in 1499. The ship reached the mouth of the Amazon and explored the coast of South America. He calculated the specific distance west he had traveled by studying the concurrence of Mars and the Moon. In 1501, Vespucci sailed under the Portuguese flag following the South American coast to within 400 miles of the southern tip. His two letters to a friend narrated his travels and became the first to recognize the new world of North and South America. His observations of the Indigenous People in the letters told of their diet, religion, marriage and sexual habits. The last made the letters a best seller published in many languages across Europe.
     A German clergyman-scholar read of Vespucci’s voyages and knew that the new world consisted of two continents. He was working on a map based on the geography of Ptolemy and printed a wood block map with the name “America,” across the southern continent of the New World. He printed and sold a thousand copies of the book. The name stuck and today we celebrate Columbus Day but the name of Americus Vespucci lives on.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

WINNER of the NYUS Celebration Prize Draw




Thanks again to everyone who visited / supported / cheered / entered our week-long 250k-HITS celebration and Prize Draw!

The winner of our fabulous bundle of books is... JAN FEE.

Jan, I'll email you shortly to discuss sending you all your prize books over the next few days.

CONGRATULATIONS!

And we look forward to keeping in touch with you all :).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Who was Jack the Ripper, and does it matter?

I was a bit stuck for a blog post, and then I thought - what about the greatest historical mystery of them all? Have they really discovered the true identity of Jack the Ripper?
I think they have, and to be honest, it wasn’t my favourite candidate. But it works, and it’s convincing enough for me. But I think a lot of folks have got it wrong. It wasn’t the identity of the killer, it wasn’t even the horrible nature of them. The reason the case became so notorious was because of something else.
People have gone nuts looking for the identity of the first documented serial killer, the first one to be classified as such, but if you start looking around the case, at the history behind it, the picture gets a lot clearer.
The Ripper murders took place in the 1880’s, a decade of change for the police force. The new-fangled idea of a civilian police force had come into society after Peel’s Act of Parliament in 1832, but the demands for one had started long before that. However, by the 1880’s, two pressures were starting to demand changes. The legal system had gone through huge changes. People were now locked away in large prisons as punishment, a new way of looking at correction procedures. The decade of reform in the 1870’s had changed the way society looked, and the way people viewed things. It was becoming obvious that the large, industrial conurbations required more vigorous policing than they had before.
Before the Ripper stalked the East End, other murder cases had seized the public imagination, but these were generally not of the gruesome kind. The Bartlett case, the Maybrick case (James Maybrick was another candidate for Jack the Ripper until his “diaries” confessing the crime were shown to be fakes) and the mystery of the Red House were domestic cases involving characters and social concerns. They had a story.
The Ripper case had nothing. Even the perpetrator was a mystery, and in all likelihood, if he was exposed, his name would have been unknown to most. The women who were savagely murdered were the lowest in society, the ones who barely survived by selling their bodies, and having sordid encounters in the streets.
But the extensive reporting, especially in the Police Gazette drew public attention to a series of murders that might have been swept under the carpet before. That’s the real mystery, and one I don’t have an answer to. Why those? Why not the other women who were found murdered in London, especially prostitutes?
I think it was probably an accumulation of events. The prominence the papers gave to the case was certainly one. Then there was the other novel element. Photography. The Ripper case was the first in which photography was an official part of the case, used to record the appearance of the women in the morgue. There was no thought to recording the scene that way, or the body as it was found--all that came later--but this was a real start to what would become a police science.
Although the photographs weren’t officially released at the time, they were known about, and it became obvious to the officials in the case that the camera was a vital tool in investigations.
Shortly after the Ripper case, fingerprints were collated and began to be used officially. It was a science in its infancy, but by the end of the nineteenth century, was becoming well incorporated into the investigative procedure.
One aspect of the Ripper case also pointed up a weakness in the policing of London. For one of the murders, another force was involved. The police connected with the case came from two areas, and they didn’t work together too well. After the case, a huge reform of the Metropolitan Police took place, paving the way for the modern policing era.
The Ripper case was probably the last one in which the only way to prove the perpetrator did the deed was to catch him red-handed. After that, the collection of evidence was improved until it became possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt who did the deed.
That’s why the case is important. It’s what it set in train, not the events themselves.
Oh, the identity? For me, the DNA evidence on the shawl owned by one of the victims tends to put the final touch on the murderer’s identity. Kosminski, a Polish immigrant, was in the right place at the right time, had the right kind of background, ie he fitted many of the profiling points associated with serial killers, and he had a certain skill at butchery, which would have enabled him to remove the kidney from one victim and the uterus from another in clean, straight sweeps of the knife.
But in truth, it doesn’t matter. Because the man who did it (most agree that it was a man) is long dead. It’s almost certain that he wasn’t anyone important, nobody famous or wealthy, and someone whose name means nothing to us, except when he was associated with the murders.
What happened afterwards is more interesting.

Lynne Connolly
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It's a Wrap!

This week marks the release of the final installment of the Adrenaline Highs! I'm so excited to get Always Dangerous out into the world.


 But ending this book brought up a few questions.

Are you one of those people who like seeing everyone (from all or most of the previous books) show up at the end of the final book? Or have you read a book that did that and because you hadn't read every book in the series, you didn't know who some of the characters were so you ended up feeling a little out of the loop?

One of the things I liked about the Adrenaline Highs is that each book ended with two happy main characters (sometimes more). At the end of every book, I wondered if I should toss in a person or two from a past story or stories, but ultimately I wanted all of the books to stand alone, so I refrained from going overboard.

Honestly, I actually considered having some kind of party at the end of Always Dangerous... Something that would bring in all the characters from the previous books, but then I read a book deep into a series by a favorite author and she'd done something similar. In the end, I thought it didn't feel right. Not because she'd already done it, but I didn't want to leave any reader (who hadn't read all of the books) feeling left out.

Who knows...maybe I'll save the "party" for a free read down the line.

An excerpt was already posted a few dys ago, but I thought it might be fun to post a different (quick!) one today since it is release week.


Damn, he’d forgotten how much he liked her. Their two-month separation had been good, because he’d been able to focus on other things besides how much he wanted to be with her. Touching her set his blood on fire. She blinked a few times, fast, as if their contact was another shock to her system. And standing there, with his legs between hers, with their mouths so close together, the only thought in his brain was kiss her. Now.
“Leo,” she whispered. Her lips seemed to move in slow motion as he slowly bridged the gap between them.
“What?” he growled.
“I don’t think this is a—”
He kissed her before she finished the sentence, because she was right. It wasn’t a good idea. But damn if he could stop himself. She was his Achilles heel. His weak spot. The more distance she put between them, the more he wanted her. He started slow, worked his way into the kiss, waiting for her to push him away or move back. She did neither, so he took it farther and tasted her lower lip with a gentle brush of his tongue. A little moan vibrated from her throat as their lips stayed connected. She tasted different…she tasted like a luscious cinnamon stick, all hot and spicy. “You found my cinnamon gum in the shorts pocket, didn’t you?” he breathed against her mouth. The gum was her fault. Whatever perfume she wore smelled like cinnamon and he’d started to chew the gum. Whether to remind himself of her or not was something he purposely hadn’t analyzed.
She barely nodded, her wet lips brushing against his in an erotic glide. “I had nap breath,” she murmured.
He smiled against her lips before going in for more. Still slow, still sexy as hell, still doing his best to inhale her without scaring her off. They had history, yes, but her unpredictability always threw him off. He missed the softness of her hair under his fingertips. The way her pulse beat rapidly right before contact.
“Leo,” she murmured, her mouth still moving against his as his hands moved down her thighs.
“Mmm,” he managed.
“We should stop. This isn’t going to get either one of us anywhere.”
Just like last time, she was relying on his will power to stay away. Hadn’t he failed that test already? In a colossal way?


So, tell me… How do you like saying goodbye to a series? With a full cast of characters or mainly the ones in the book you read? 

Always Dangerous is at Amazon | Nook | iTunes | Kobo | ARe
 
You can find Dee J. at her website
 

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