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, May 31, 2017

READ ANYTHING GOOD LATELY?

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and I thought I’d share some of the gems I’ve come across:

Racing the Devil, an Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd

No Shred of Evidence, an Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd

An Unmarked Grave, a Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

Yes, I’m on a Charles Todd kick. Charles Todd is the nom de plume [well, sort of] of an American mother-and-son writing team, Caroline and Charles Todd. The two series are set during and just after World War One.

Bess Crawford is a nurse who works on the front lines in France during the war, and who stumbles across mysteries and murders. I love the layered background of her life, with a childhood in India, a mysterious father and his aide, and her willingness to get grubby to bring justice to bear. 

After the war, Inspector Ian Rutledge returned to Scotland Yard a changed man. Suffering from PTSD, he now lives with a voice in his head of a soldier he executed for refusing a direct order. This damaged man clings to his work as his only salvation.

I’ve also been reading some excellent science fiction and fantasy, all with a mystery bent:

Company Town, by Madeline Ashby, was shortlisted for the most recent Canada Reads contest, in which five famous Canadians champion a different Canadian book. This is how the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which organizes the contest every year, describes it:

Canada Reads is a "literary Survivor," with celebrities championing books. Books are voted "off the bookshelf," one each day, until one book is chosen as the title the whole country should read this year.

Set off the Canadian east coast, Company Town tells the story of the fearless Hwa, a young woman who works as a bodyguard on the city-sized oil rig they all call home. There are death threats, alternate timelines and a series of interconnected murders, and Hwa must choose between protecting herself and protecting those in her charge.

Loved, loved, loved the story. I gobbled it up.

And finally, I’ll finish off with a novella, Death by Effigy, by my friend, Karen L. Abrahamson.

I know I could be biased, but I’m not. This is a lovely, lovely story featuring a murder mystery set in exotic 19th century Burma. It features an old singer and a magical Burmese puppet, the impish, ancient Yamin, who so desperately wants to be taken seriously by the humans and the members of his puppet troupe. Fascinating culture and unusual, endearing characters.

The one thing all these books have in common are strong, engaging characters, characters that the reader wants to follow on their adventures. It’s something I strive to achieve in my own writing.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What stories have you read lately that you would recommend? Any non-fiction?



Monday, May 29, 2017

Escapism as a trend?


With everything going on in the world right now, I can honestly say, I have never been more grateful to live on an island in the middle of nowhere. I can’t fully escape seeing and feeling what is happening everywhere else, but I do get to walk on the beach and pretend I’m removed from it all for a few moments each day.



Home. The British Virgin Islands. 

Increasingly, people need an escape. This is reflected, in my view, in new trends in the world of romance books. We seem to be moving away from dark, angst-filled books, towards lighter romances, still with conflicts and tension but not as heavy as the sub-genres that have soared in recent years.

Another trend I have noticed is for shorts and novellas. Not necessarily as a replacement to novels but as alternative options. A fast escape from reality, whether they be enjoyed by readers lying in bed at night, during their lunch hour, or on a commuter train. See Carina Press’s call for erotic shorts and multiple anthologies, for example: http://carinapress.com/blog/submission-guidelines/ 

In terms of reading and writing, my own tastes are also reflective of the market. I am writing lighter books and dabbling in shorter books that are a little more removed from ‘real-life’ scenarios. My reading tastes are heading in the same direction. In fact, in the virtual book club I run through Facebook, my readers are choosing more fun reads and loving them. I am also listening to brighter music and watching rom-coms more often (together with eating copious amounts of chocolate but I’m not sure that’s relevant to the trend towards escapism J).

I want to make this blog interactive. So, tell me what you do to escape the realities of life, whether it be reading, writing, listening to music or something else.

I want to know whether you have noticed a shift towards less intense reads, and what you are reading of late.

Finally, I would love your suggestions for lighter books that I should read this summer and perhaps recommend in my book club.

Comment on this post and come to chat with me here:



If you are interested in joining a virtual romance book club, click here: www.facebook.com/groups/carterschiccats




Friday, May 26, 2017

Bug Out Bag

In romantic suspense, danger can show up any moment. Whether or not your characters are prepared can be a key part of building tension and driving the plot. I’m currently developing a new idea that puts the hero and heroine on the run and cuts them off from their normal support systems. So how do they survive the conflict? Imagine having to run out of your house without your wallet or phone.

Many people with a mind for planning create a bug out bag that contains essentials for survival in different situations. This bag is usually placed in an easy to access spot so it can be grabbed quickly if the need arises. I won’t tell you if my characters have one, or what might be in it - that’s part of the excitement of discovery - but we can look at what common items are put in bug out bags.

The first consideration is the bag itself. It needs to be small enough that it isn’t too intrusive to your normal life, but big enough to hold what you need. Ease of carry is very important, especially if you’re on the run. A briefcase design would occupy your hands, so something with a strap would be better. Duffle bags are usually cavernous enough to contain gear, but organization can be difficult. A backpack seems to be an ideal bug out bag, especially if it is durable or even waterproof.

With the bag settled on, think about what day to day needs you have. Prescriptions? Contact lenses? A spare pair of glasses are good to have, as well as small supply of meds. Think about it like airline traveling. If your checked bags were lost, what items couldn’t you live without? People usually put these items in their carry on, which is a good analog for the bug out bag.

After the daily necessities, a stash of cash can be very helpful. That way, anything that isn’t packed can be obtained. A spare credit card is good to have as well, but if we’re thinking romantic suspense, cash is better because it can’t be tracked.

But you might not be able to get to a store, so extra gear should be in the bag. A first aid kit is a must. A lighter, or other fire-making supplies can help, even in urban settings - think defrosting a lock or creating a small signal. Duct tape has a ton of uses, from clothing repair to shelter building. If the situation includes things like temporary shelters, then a flashlight is essential. There are flashlights with crank generators or solar panels to store energy, so you don’t have to worry about batteries running out. Rope or cordage are other items that give a lot of use for the space they take up.

Ultra-thin mylar blankets or sleeping tubes pack small and can keep you alive overnight. This might not seem too important in an urban environment, but your characters might not be able to find safe haven in any house, and might need to spend significant time in the elements. Unfortunately, under a mylar blanket isn’t the sexiest place for the hero and heroine to express their physical attraction. That might have to wait until they use their cash to get a hotel room.

If the danger situation spans a few days, a change of clothes - at least socks and underwear - can help avoid morale robbing discomfort. Depending on the kind of person packing the go bag, as well as the kind of person chasing them, a simple disguise could be helpful as well. Hair dye, even a hat, can go a long way to creating visual camouflage.

Sometimes a life or death situation can depend on the battery level of a phone. Portable battery packs are cheap and easy to come by, and have a place in the go bag. Some of them even have built in flashlights or radios to extend their usefulness.

One of the largest considerations in a go bag is a weapon. If we’re talking fiction, it’s easier to place a gun in the bag for the characters. But in the real world, the consequences of a firearm are very different, and might cause more problems than they solve. In a matter of surviving within nature, a good, solid knife is a tool that can serve in many ways. The knife also doubles as a silent, discreet weapon as well.

A go bag is as personal as the person carrying it, and the contents can reveal a lot about the characters in your story. So what’s in your go bag?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Anatomy of a Cover


The Anatomy of a Cover

 

Guess who said, “There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”?

            Charles Dickens

 It’s probably safe to assume Charlie wasn’t referring to his own novels. A shakier assumption is that he never heard the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Maybe not, but as long as book buyers do, covers matter.

 So I was delighted when my publisher asked me for cover advice for the soon-to-be-released Listed and Lethal Series. To increase reader recognition, we wanted a theme--a recognizable thread--to span the series. 

 Since the books deal with real estate as well as murder, each cover will feature a house typical of the one where a killing takes place. In the foreground, the silhouette of a young woman, armed and ready to shoot, ups the menace. Though the image of the house and the woman’s pose change from story to story, a version of both appears on each cover. Also the font remains the same, and is set in the same position: Listed and Lethal Series on top, title in the middle and author’s name at the bottom.

 For the first book, Murder on Pea Pike, the killer strikes in a rural log cabin. The season is summer, and yellow diamonds play a role in the plot. Hence a color scheme of green, yellow, and brown with pops of white.

 The next step was to choose an appropriate background house. That proved challenging. Most available cabin shots didn’t fit the book’s description or were more horizontal than vertical.  Then we found the following image, and a clever cropping—at the roofline on the left and at the porch edge on the right—gave us the needed shape. And luckily, the cabin had been photographed in high summer.

 

 
 
         So far, so good.

 Now for the girl. Poised in front of the cabin, gun in hand, she’s big and imposing, ready to strike at anybody who gets in her way.

 So we’ve nailed the setting, the season, the danger, the colors, the series tag line, the title and the author. And here’s the finished product. Ta da!

 

 

           
        On September 1, 2017, Murder on Pea Pike will be available in trade paperback and in multiple eBook formats at Amazon.com and BN.com. Also on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Overdrive. In fact, even as we speak, it can be preordered on Amazon. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Is Your Reading Palate Biased?

I spent last weekend in California wine country and must admit to imbibing a few select years. Although, not a connoisseur of the fermented grape product, I’ve always considered myself more of a rose/red wine type gal, and have been known to steer away from anything but sweet white wines. That left me surprised, when at one tasting, I relished all the samples, including the whites.
Glasses lined up in front of each person, waiting for the wine to be adding for sampling.
Honestly, I shouldn’t have been surprised, because our hostess did her homework. She had checked the rankings of California wines from the area, learned where the leading brands’ grapes were grown, who used them in their products, and which wineries had the best reputations. Ultimately, she chose a winery for the tasting she believed would be perfect for her wine loving friends. Thus, even those wines I considered my least favorite, turned out to be excellent.

Before you quit reading, thinking I’m on a spoiled girl rant, this wine tasting set my writing and reading mind on alert. Several times before the tasting, people declared they only drank reds, didn’t care for blends, or preferred whites. Yet, at the end of the tasting, they had been pleasantly surprised and enjoyed a wine they had been convinced their palate disliked.

So why am I bringing to light this fermented topic? Because I’ve recently heard similar things from readers about books. Readers find a niche they feel comfortable reading. They like a romance with a happy ending, or a cozy mystery with a humorous heroine. When a friend suggests they might enjoy something slightly different, they respond with “I don’t read that genre. Tried it once and it wasn’t for me.”

Perhaps their reading palate is biased. Sure, they may have tried those genres in the past, but did they do their homework? Did the reader simply snatch up what “everyone else” was reading and discover, while popular, the characters didn’t pull them into the story, and the plotting was next to non-existent. I suggest to readers (and that includes me), do your homework. If you love strong heroines, ask other readers for authors who create them. Read about the author on Amazon or Goodreads. See if any of the reviews resonate with you. If you hate cliffhangers and that is the author’s specialty, move on, but broaden your horizons. There are so many great stories, don’t limit yourself and miss out on an incredible novel, character, or series.
So many wines, so many types. Surely there are more than one that will suit your taste...just like books.
Also, don’t discount authors because they are self-published or Indie. There are a lot of bad books out there in all publishing forums. Again, do your homework. What have other readers said about them? Do they have reviews? Have they won recognized national contests (not the kind their friends voted for)? Remember, many self-published authors today were previously published with “big” publishing houses and have since gone out on their own. One reason this is frequently done is because the publisher may have canned a series the readers love and the author decides to continue it on their own.


So, expand your reading palate. Take a chance or two on sampling new books outside your comfort zone. At the special wine tasting my friend set-up, we sampled seven wines, and even combined them with foods known to enhance the taste. I quickly became a fan. So I toast to you, hoping you do a little sampling on your own, and discover a few new authors and genres.
While chips and dip enhanced one of the wines, I have it on good authority (wink) that chocolate goes well with most books.

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