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

Friday, March 31, 2017

THE PEOPLE YOU MEET


THE PEOPLE YOU MEET

What would you say is the single thing that makes life most interesting?

Okay, I agree, this is a level one-oh-one question. The answer’s obvious: People, naturally. People you meet in real life and people you meet in fiction. And as a writer, you know they’re not the separate entities they seem at first mention. For isn’t it true that every created character has been inspired by an actual person?

The protagonist in my Listed and Lethal Series, for example, real estate agent Honey Ingersoll, is patterned after not one but several real life women: A gorgeous natural blonde I envied all through high school who, like Honey, never cracked a book but had so much going for her, it didn’t matter. Then there was the outstanding student I once taught who worked nights so she could go to class days. It was a tough slog, but “nevertheless, she persisted.” Honey doesn’t strive for a college degree; she doesn’t even have a library card. But she sure knows the meaning of persistence. And I remember an elderly lady who once said, “I wish I sounded smarter when I talked.” Like Honey, she was bright as a diamond but didn’t realize it. The list could go on, but I know you’ve had much the same experience each time you struggle to create a memorable person.

Anyway, taking all this stuff, the looks, the struggles, the regrets, the perseverance, the chutzpah of gals I once knew, I mixed them together, squeezed them like modeling clay and ended up with Honey Ingersoll:

After Momma died, I left my daddy’s double-wide and rode into Eureka Falls, Arkansas, on the back of Billy Tubbs’ Harley. After Billy gave me a black eye just because he could, I walked right out and took a job with Saxby Winthrop, the town’s biggest Realtor. I learned a lot under Saxby, including a lot about the real estate business. I even learned to lower my skirt hems and my big hair, and to ditch my tube tops and cherry-flavored gum.  According to Sheriff Matt Rameros, what I’m doing is reinventing myself and that while it’s fun to watch, he doesn’t think I should change a bit. Now isn’t that the sweetest thing y’all ever heard tell of? I mean, isn’t that simply lovely of him?

            While I never knew a Honey Ingersoll before I sat down to write, I know her well now, and she’s great company--witty, honest, full of common sense yet always ready to face a challenge. No doubt if I was ever marooned on a desert island with no people around, I’d go nuts. Unless a notepad and a pen washed up on shore. How about you? Do you also find people, both on paper and otherwise, endlessly fascinating?

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Conference Crash

Most of us go to a conference every now and then, if not regularly. We pack, sort what we need, anticipate seeing old (or making new) friends and in general hope we haven’t forgotten anything important once we’re there.

This past weekend I attended the Cal Dreamin’ Conference in Southern California. (Brea, to be exact. It’s worth noting that this conference is not every year, but every OTHER year.) I remember the first time I attended, which also happened to be its inaugural year. Truly, it was one of the best conferences I’d ever attended. Unfortunately, I missed its second year due to a scheduling conflict. I was happy to be back and not only give my new workshop on body language, but also participate in Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Event, California Readin’. There’s nothing like getting hundreds of readers together with some of their favorite authors. It makes for lots of laughing, story-telling and general fun. I’ll admit to enjoying another aspect of the event. My sister and good friend were able to come and it was fun to share a few hours with them while wearing my work shoes (so to speak). They’ve known me before I began writing, so it was a chance for them to see me in my author world. (Oops, I digressed.)

Back to the conference. I think this conference will always be one of my favorites, not only because it’s local (and I don’t have to deal with an airport/airplane), but because of the quality of the event. It might be relatively new and on the smaller side, but it’s definitely mighty. The workshops were plentiful and excellent with top-notch speakers and authors alike.

Here’s a shot of some of my favorite authors in my local chapter, and next is the table (at the reader event) I co-hosted with RITA nominated author, HelenKay Dimon.



Has anyone here participated in a Barbara Vey Reader event? They are something else. I've never seen so many voracious readers in one place. Although it's not hard to see why the event attracts so many people. The authors are very generous in their swag and appreciation of the readers. 

As usual, I arrived home wiped out and also invigorated, ready to tackle my WIP with new insight and high hopes for a miracle that I can actually finish this book. Haha.


So I’m curious, what kind of conference do you prefer? Bigger ones like the RWA National and RT or the smaller regional ones that might be a little more low key? Any local conferences you can recommend for the rest of us? Let me know! 

Have a happy Monday!
(And P.S. Work has me out of cell phone range until tonight when I get home, but I will be responding to all comments as usual. Thank you!)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Festivals

Photo courtesy of Laura Orsini.

As a reader, the thought of spending a weekend surrounded by books and fellow lovers-of-books absolutely thrills me. As an author (and an introvert), it's not always thrilling to talk about my own books for hours on end. Still, interacting with readers can be a fabulous experience, if you're prepared.

On March 11-12th, I attended the Tucson Festival of Books at the University of Arizona to man a table. Well, half a table. This was my second year at this event, so I went in with a bit of experience, but I always learn something new. I thought I'd share my takeaways (note that these will be mostly from an author's perspective, rather than a reader's).


PROS:

I've attended many signings at conferences where readers can be numerous or few, but the experience in Tucson was different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

I definitely met people! Boy, did I meet people. The festival's website claims the attendance is somewhere around 130,000 book-lovers each year. Some just wanted to stop and ask directions to a booth or to food, but others wanted to talk about their writing projects and still others wanted books. I found some new readers, and gave away a ton of excerpt booklets and links to my free download.

The crowd consisted of a wider variety of ages and interests than the romance-genre crowd I'm used to at specialized conventions and conferences. Everyone from young children to older people, with interests from kids' books to nonfiction (especially history) to fiction, walked the UofA mall that weekend.

I met some new-to-me authors as well as got to catch up with friends I knew from previous events.

Because we shared a booth, the cost of the table for two days was minimal compared to some venues. Only about a couple hundred dollars.

The event held many draws for readers, and the lines to attend speaking events and workshops were very long, so the events were well-attended.


CONS:

LONG days! It was a two-day event, and we were at our tables from 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. each day.

While you never know what the weather will be like when you book the event several months in advance, this is an outdoor event and it turned out to be pretty darn hot. (Especially because I'm used to mountain weather and was coming from 40-degree temps to the high 80s.) It didn't help that my table was situated so that I had the afternoon sun from about 2:30 onward.

Our tent was a mixed bag of books. While all of our tent's authors were, of course, fabulous, we were a combination of many genres, from science fiction to paranormal to cozy mysteries to romance. And the label on our tent wasn't clear about who we were. Maybe because we didn't have a clear identity. We were the "Desert Dreams" group, which reflected our dreams of writing and being published but at least a handful of visitors wondered if we analyzed dreams and such. I had to wonder how many readers didn't approach, or didn't find us at all, because they didn't know who we were.

Parking was a challenge. Well, I should say that the long walk from the university's parking garage to the tent, while loaded down with a suitcase and additional bag of books, was a challenge. It helps to have an assistant. Several authors had hubbies or friends to help with the load, and to bring them refreshments. I highly recommend this. Unfortunately, my husband had to stay home with the kids, hundreds of miles away.

Sales stuff. I detest "selling myself." Promoting myself just isn't me. But I learned a lot by watching those around me and hearing their "hooks" and pitches. While I avoid any kind of high-pressure salesmanship, I can appreciate the way it worked for some. You have to do what you're comfortable with.


THINGS TO NOTE:

A rolling suitcase or other manner of toting books and promo items was immensely helpful. (Finding a husband or other willing family member or friend to help seemed to work best for many authors.)

Bring water! Stay hydrated. And if you're an introvert like me, water breaks had the added benefit of providing a few minutes of quiet time to stretch and get away from the crowds.

Having a bookseller on hand was useful in that I didn't need a license to sell (requirements may vary by state), but there was a commission deducted for this service, so be prepared to forward some of your royalties to the person managing the cash. (In this case, it was thirty percent.)

Finally, I can't stress enough the importance of going into something like this with a good attitude. For this introvert, the weekend was a marathon and mentally and physically exhausting. Plus, it's tempting to compare your sales to your fellow tent-mates' but I highly recommend you turn a blind eye to how other authors are doing. Instead, I tried to focus on making each person I met feel "heard" and responded with a bright smile to everyone who approached. This helped the introvert in me cope. ;)


How about you? Have you attended a book festival? If so, where, and what was your experience like? What tips did you learn, either as a reader/attendee or a signing author?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Keeping in Touch with Readers

As authors, we hope to connect with readers through our books, through the characters we create. Increasingly important, however, is to connect with readers on a more personal level. But how do we do this?

One of the best and worst creations for authors is social media. Why do I say that? Because it is a fantastic platform to reach out to new and existing readers. BUT it is also an ever-changing landscape, a minefield of new updates and tools, an almost impossible challenge to conquer.


As well as social media, there are a few other platforms we can use to keep in touch with readers, such as book signings.

How do we know what works best? What do our readers prefer?


Recently, I undertook a small survey to understand how my readers like to keep in touch with their favourite authors. I thought it might be useful to share the results with you.

I must qualify the outcome of this survey by telling you it was a small poll, run through my Facebook reader group. As such, it is likely to favour Facebook over other social media outlets. However, the reason for me running the poll in my Facebook reader group is that I get more interaction from that group than via other platforms.

So, here are my findings…



The question I put to my reader group was: How do you stay connected with your favourite authors? (Please tick all that apply)

The options provided were:

Facebook author page (Rank 1)
Facebook reader group (Rank 1)
Instagram (Rank 2)
Goodreads (Rank 3)
BookBub (Rank 4)
Other (e.g. book stores) (Rank 4)
Twitter (Rank 5)
Book signings (Rank 6)
Snapchat (Rank 7)
Author blog/website (Rank 7)

The results:

An overwhelming majority of readers preferred to connect with authors via Facebook. There was no difference between the number of readers who preferred a Facebook author page or a Facebook reader group. Although, I will note that visibility within reader groups tends to be higher than the visibility of posts placed on professional pages (this is due to Facebook’s settings).

The second most popular way to connect was Instagram. This was around half as popular as Facebook.

The third preferred method was Goodreads, with 25% of readers saying they use the tool to keep abreast of author updates.

Tied, in fourth position were BookBub and Other. Those who selected 'other' preferred book stores and recommendations (options which are less tailored to specific authors).

Fifth position was taken by Twitter. I found this a surprising but useful insight, as Twitter is a forum I have always tried to work with but have never found much success.

Sixth position was taken by book signings.

Hanging in the bottom were Snapchat and Author’s own blog/website.

My take away from this is to concentrate more on Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads, and relax a little when it comes to the other forums. (Both for reason of sanity and efficiency. We can’t do it all!)

I don’t profess to be a scientist but I hope this is helpful for some of you.

Laura x

If you are considering setting up a Facebook reader group, or would be interested in joining one, please feel free to check out my group, Laura Carter’s Chic Cats (www.facebook.com/groups/carterschiccats). I do give readers insight into my WIP, as well as sneak peeks and giveaways, but more often we discuss other books that we are reading.



Find me on social media:

Monday, March 20, 2017

It's Not Easy Being Green: Motivation 101 for Writers

Remember when you were a kid and your mom warned you that you wouldn’t always get what you wanted? You were determined to prove her wrong. And she ended up being right anyway.



Not one of my favorite life lessons. But over the years, and maybe especially because I am a writer, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to wait for things you really, really want. Sometimes you have to work a lot harder to earn them. And sometimes you have to stop thinking like a spoiled brat (which of course you aren’t) and edit your expectations—or even completely rewrite them.  

Two years ago, I attended my first Left Coast Crime writers conference in Portland, OR. I loved every minute of it—especially being introduced to so many amazing authors and their books. I swore to my new BFFs that I’d be back for the 2017 conference. Destination: Hawaii! (cue Tiny Bubbles)



Well, to make a long story short, that didn’t happen. I spent the conference weekend not in balmy Paradise, but home in freezing New Hampshire, working on a manuscript that’s due in 15 days—not that I’m counting or anything—and trying very hard not to be jealous.



But the truth is, I wasn't. (I mean, okay, maybe just a little.) That’s because two of my West Coast cozy mystery writer BFFs, Ellen Byron and Marla Cooper, were nominated for Lefty Awards—Ellen for Best Humorous Mystery and Marla for Best Debut Mystery—and I was over the blue Hawaiian moon for them. Here are their books, by the way:


Plus, I got to attend in spirit, thanks to the miracle of social media. I heard about the awesome panels, the food, the exotic cocktails, the broken Starbucks machine, the welcome luau on the beach (with fireworks!), the whale watches, the convos at the bar. It was the next best thing to being there.


(photos courtesy of author Eleanor Cawood Jones)

Marla even brought along her ukulele and wowed everyone at the Reader Connections:



On Saturday night, I tried to stay up for the Lefty Awards live. Honolulu is 6 hours behind EST, so I didn’t quite make it. At 2 am, though, I rallied, stalking the Twitterverse and waiting for texts with the results:



Due to an unusually long salad course at the awards dinner, I unfortunately dozed off again--but woke up Sunday to the news that Ellen had won for Best Humorous Mystery. Yay!



As I type this, the Left Coast Crime 2017 attendees are packing their bags for home. Have to admit, I’m feeling a bit of post-conference letdown. But I’ll see many of these very same writers in Bethesda, MD next month for Malice Domestic.  By then, of course, this ms. will have been completed for 26 days (again, not that I’m counting). No way am I missing another chance to hang out with my favorite writer and reader peeps.



And next year, Mom, I will be at Left Coast Crime 2018, because I’m feeling lucky. That’s right, folks:  It may not be quite as exotic as Hawaii, but Reno, here I come!


So what's especially motivating YOU right now, writers? And have you ever felt a tiny bit green? 'Fess up in the comments below!






Friday, March 17, 2017

ST. PATRICK'S DAY









     It’s St. Patrick’s Day in my home town of New York City and on-lookers crowd 5th Avenue in celebration. You don’t have to be of Irish extraction—the parade in honor of St. Patrick is enjoyed by all of us. Shamrock green berets, coats, sweaters and ties are worn and snacks of cupcakes decorated with green icing, scones, Irish Soda Bread, and green bagels are devoured. Dinner, of course, is corned beef and cabbage. (It’s also the day of my mother’s birth and its always been a special day in my family—I’m sure the Saint would not mind sharing.)
     In honor of the day, I thought we might talk about all the authors Ireland has gifted to the world. St. Patrick, himself, led a life that reads like a tale of adventure. Born in Britain—ruled by Rome in the late 4th century A.D., he was seized by pirates as a fourteen-year old and brought to Ireland where he was enslaved and given the task of shepherding sheep. During the six years, he spent as a slave, he dedicated himself to spiritual development and, after hearing a voice telling him a ship was waiting, he fled and made his way to a port 200 miles away. After many quests, he returned to his home and family. He later went back to Ireland as a Christian missionary.
     Legends claim St. Patrick explained the Holy Trinity with the aid of a three-leafed plant—the shamrock—a symbol of his day. He is also said to have banished all the snakes of Ireland--banished when they attacked him during a 40-day fast and driven into the sea.
     Many folk tales of ancient Ireland were written by the Irish author Lady Gregory in two books—her forward was by W.B. Yeats. Then there are James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and four men who won the Noble Prize for Literature. W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and George Bernard Shaw.

     Today we have a cavalcade of fine authors. Romance—there’s Colm Toiben the author of Brooklyn. A book with people who stepped from the page bringing me hours of enjoyment. I was sorry when I reached the last page. The solution—read more of his work.
     Small town life in Ireland with its romance, emotions, pleasures and troubles was introduced to me by Maeve Binchy. Think of Circle of Friends and Firefly Summit.
     Into Gothic thrillers? Bram Stoker’s Dracula—scary and a must-read for generation after generation. In Gaelic, I learned, the phrase “Droch Ola” means bad blood.
     Mysteries—Tana French who won the Anthony, Barry and Macavity awards for best first novel and gives us many hours of engrossing, psychological spell-binders. Then there’s William John Granville who wrote the literary book The Sea and, as Benjamin Black, the best-selling Christine Falls and The Silver Swan, and P.D. James who features the poet Adam Dalgliesh in her crime novels. No wonder our bookcases are crammed, our night tables over-flowing and our eBooks everywhere.
     Which books by Irish authors fill your shelves?

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