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 this link for the WINNERS of our 2017 Grand Prize Draw**

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

It’s Hoaching with Kids

If I dropped “It’s hoaching with kids” into a manuscript without any context, would you be able to guess what it means? How about if I told you that the speaker was looking down a hill at a playground?

As a writer, before I include this bit of culturally unique dialogue I have to decide whether the scene is important enough for me to risk confusing the reader. And that depends on the story and the character.

Since I write romantic thrillers, there aren’t a lot of places where I’m willing to potentially slow down the pacing to show off a cool regional phrase that many of my readers might never have encountered before. I’m more likely to add linguistic color when my current cast of international special ops soldiers are hanging out or preparing for/debriefing from a mission. Having a Brit use “torch” for "flashlight" is probably less risky than having my Scot say “the area is hoaching with rebels.”

Swear words and endearments are particularly easy ways to show a character’s cultural background without adding too much confusion. The reader might not understand the exact meaning of querida, but the context should make it clear whether the character is swearing or being tender.

Where do I find appropriate idiomatic gems for cultures that I’ve no experience with? Research! I’ve received lists of swear words from writers in Sweden and South Africa. I’ve consulted with writers here in the US regarding insults my Cajun and Oklahoman characters can throw at one another. And since I lived in West Africa for a couple of years, I have a good sampling of phrases in their unique English.

I also like to listen to comedians from the home region of my characters. Not only do I get a good sense of slang from comedians, but their routines often pick on cultural stereotypes in a way that only a native would think of. A few comedians I’ve enjoyed listening to during my research are Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy and South African comedian Trever Noah.

My primary resource for unique American English words and phrases is the podcast A Way with Words. Followers phone or write in to ask questions about the origins and meanings of phrases or words. I’ve started a list in Evernote of cool phrases I’ve picked up from this show. For example, a caller from Virginia said that they call goat poop “nanny berries.” While there are plenty of goats wandering around in parts of West Africa, I don’t have a character from Virginia, so I won’t be using this phrase. However, I might have one of my Southern heroes “mash the brake” instead of “stomp on the brake.”

Other places I’ve picked up regionalisms are writer forums, expert forums such as the Crimescenewriters Yahoo! group, and podcasts. I came across the phrase “It’s hoaching with kids” while listening to the Scotland Outdoors podcast from BBC Radio Scotland. I added this podcast to my arsenal as part of my research into Scottish speech rhythms and phrases for help with the Scottish hero of the second book in my WAR series, WAR: Intrusion.

One surprising aspect of my research was how common American expressions have become around the globe. There’s so much international exposure to American movies and music that people from other countries often use Americanisms. So I have to be doubly careful that a character really would use a culturally specific phrase and not an equivalent American one.

When I need that small bit of cultural flavor in order to flesh out a character, I refer to my Evernote lists and pull out something I think my character would say and that’s also contextually appropriate. If my readers drop out of the story to check the dictionary, I haven’t done my job.

As a reader, do you appreciate having characters use culturally unique phrases? Do you have any favorites from your region that should be included in my cool phrases file?

[FYI, “hoaching with” is a Scottish phrase that means it’s crowded with or swarming with. Hoaching can also be used by itself to mean a place is very busy. Such as, “the toy store was hoaching the day before Christmas.”]
Vanessa Kier writes action-packed romantic thrillers with an edge. She’s set her latest series, WAR, in West Africa, where she lived for a time. She’s also coaches writers in Scrivener and other tech.

You can find her at:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Gratitude is the year's ATTITUDE! 2018 Murder Mystery Reader Event!

When I opened my email from Gabby Bernstein, a spirit junkie leader,  the word “gratitude”  was written in the subject, I knew it was something I was definitely going to be participating in.

I’m not surprised that it came at this time of the year since it is the gratitude season, but it seems to be the easiest time of year to say it.

If you think about gratitude, what comes to your mind? I’m sure it’s different than what comes to my mind. Most readers don’t realize that you are the center of my world.

Of course I love creating all sorts of stories in my head and writing them down, but I never dreamed that anyone other than my own mother would want to read them.

It wasn’t until my husband looked at one of my favorite author’s novel did he inform me that he knew I could write one of those.

With those few words of encouragement, I began writing that night on what turned out to be a novel that would never see the light of day. Through persistence and thick skin, I finally was able to get my first novel, Carpe Bead ‘em, published.

If only one person bought that novel, I had fulfilled my dream of publishing. This made me a real author! And not only did one person buy it, over ten-thousand copies have been sold in the five short months Carpe Bead ‘em has been out. Quickly it shot to the bestsellers list and beyond.

I was beyond filled up with gratitude. You see, it’s not about money to me. I have and education degree that I love and can always go back to teaching. It’s about connecting with readers and forming relationships with them. I have met my readers at conferences, for dinner, for dessert, and weekend retreats.

My gratitude is you, the reader.

You have a busy life just like me, I know~I have four  boys all in college now. And in today’s crazy world you take time out of your day to sit down and make time for my made up stories. This blows me away! And you make me a better writer! I write about family, love, and emotions. I take you on a journey that I hope fills you up with gratitude as much as I’m filled up by you.

I LOVE to connect with my readers!! Please send me your questions to where I answer reader’s questions via video! It’s so fun!! Also be sure to connect with me on my FREE Facebook page in our Cozy Krew Community.

Are you signed up for my newsletter? Don’t miss a thing or release day fun that’s ONLY on the newsletter. 

Enjoy your visit in Cottonwood!
Bless your heart! 


The two dames, cozy mystery authors Duffy Brown and Tonya Kappes Books, invite you for a weekend of murder and mystery...sorta....

Join us October 12-13 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The weekend will kick off with a fun pizza party and mystery right at the hotel. The next morning, we'll enjoy a coffee and breakfast at the complimentary hotel bar before we are off to the Star of Knoxville Riverboat.

Boarding the riverboat at 12:30 PM EST and cruise at 1:00 PM EST. On the cruise, you'll be served an amazing southern style dinner (or as nonsoutherners call it lunch), while participating in a murder mystery theater event where you might be the killer or worse...the victim!

Also while on the cruise, you'll be able to purchase books by Tonya and Duffy.

Sadly, the weekend will end after the cruise. BUT don't fear...Duffy and Tonya are working on another TRAIN for 2019, unless Tonya can find an airplane for cheap because she's been spouting Two Dames take it to the land, sea and air!

REGISTRATION OPENS JANUARY 1ST, 2018!! $50/person + hotel.

#books #booktag #cozymystery #southernauthor #mystery #mystery #reader #readerevent #knoxville #tennesse

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Writing to market - or not?!

Today I am shamelessly snatching text from Nathan Bransford's excellent blog, a post about writing to market (or not) that I bookmarked some time ago when I was considering exploring a new genre. I'm still considering where and what I write in 2018! and advice like this is always interesting and refreshing.  


You'll occasionally hear advice around the publishing-o-sphere that you should just write what you want, don't worry about the market one whit, and just let the chips fall where they may.

This is somewhat true, but not endlessly true.

On the one hand, yes. Definitely. You should absolutely write the book you want to write and consider whether what you want for your book is more consistent with self- or traditional publication. But if your goal is to be traditionally published, especially by one of the major publishers, it doesn't pay to just ignore the market entirely.

Here's what I mean (and don't mean) by this.

Don't chase trends

What people mean when they tell you to write what you want to write is that you shouldn't try to chase a trend. Because of how long it takes to write and publish a book, if you try to jump on a currently hot trend, you're already too late.

When it comes to trends, definitely ignore the market.

Do pay attention to genre conventions and word counts

Some genres are stricter than others, but you should be very familiar with the genre conventions (especially for romance) and the general word count ranges for your genre.

Word counts aren't a be-all-end-all and you should feel some flexibility there, but the farther you stray from your genre's word count sweet spot the harder the sell your book may be.

It's hard to break the mold with a debut

Every commercial art medium has megahit unicorns that defied genre conventions and were strikingly original.

But when you think back to many of these hits, they were often written/made after the artist was already established in their field with more conventional works.

George Lucas made American Graffiti before Star Wars. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote In the Heights before Hamilton. Herman Melville wrote the more conventional travel book Typee before he wrote Moby-Dick and, more recently, John Grisham established himself writing legal thrillers before he veered off to write about high school football coaches and football players living in Italy and baseball players just to mix it up.

Success gives you artistic license and credibility to get a little wild. It's harder to do this right off the bat.

There are always exceptions

Sure. You can think of a million exceptions to the above rules. There are always going to be books that are just so magical they make everyone ignore all those supposed "rules."

But if you are going to break the rules you should do so consciously and with care.

So while you should absolutely write the book you want to write and figure out what's most important to you, if you care about commercial success at all it pays to have the market at least somewhat in mind.


Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fueled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.
She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Janus, the Two-faced God

Happy New Year, everyone!

 I'm delighted to be starting off the New Year blogging here at NYUS. Here's hoping you didn't overdo the celebration last night, but if you did overindulge, take heart: hangovers don't last forever, they only seem as if they do. Drink coffee and eat some spicy food (I recommend huevos rancheros) and you'll be back in the saddle in no time.

However, if you were foolish enough to make a New Year's resolution or two, I can't help you. Resolutions made on New Year's Eve rarely make it to Three Kings Day so either avoid them altogether, or make sure resolution is user friendly. A few years earlier, I resolved to drink my way through every local brewery in Gainesville, tasting every IPA, imperial stout or lager I could get my hands on. As it happens, our little town currently had three excellent craft breweries so I haven't yet hit my goal, but I intend to keep trying.

Apart from questionable resolutions or excessive partying, the New Year is a time to look where we've been and where we're going. Which is probably why the ancient Romans dedicated January to the two-headed god Janus, who simultaneously looks to the future and the past. So I'd like to kick off 2018 with a story from my own past.

Well, not a story, more like a memory.

It was Christmas Eve in Baltimore and I must have been five or six. Along with my other siblings, I was tucked into bed, no doubt dreaming of the loot Santa would bring. Deep in sleep, my mother's hands lifted me from the bed, quietly so as not to waken my little sister. Heavy with sleep, I clutched my mother like a monkey as as she carried me down the stairs where our empty stocking hung. At the front door, my mother set me down and threw open the door.

"Look," she whispered.

A burst of cold air and a swirl of white--snow!

It must have been snowing for hours as a blanket of glossy white had transformed our neighborhood of row houses into something strange and wondrous. Trees, cars, and houses covered in marshmallow fluff. And everything  so quiet, as if I were inside one of those snow globes--my very own silent night. And then my mother hefted me up like a sack of potatoes and returned me to my bed, where visions of snowflakes, not sugar plums, now danced in my head.

I don't recall any of the presents I received for Christmas that year, but I've treasured that memory for decades, and it was only much later that I fully appreciated my mother's gift. None of the other neighborhood mothers would have woken a sleeping child on Christmas Eve, just so she could see a snowfall. And my mother might have chosen one of my other siblings instead of me. But she didn't--she chose me.

 Oddly, I've never spoken of that night to anyone, not even my mother. Some things don't need words. And when Mom's heart stopped on a cold day in January, I thought of that faroff Christmas Eve and her gift to me.

Is there a moral to any of this? Well, I'll leave that to you. Right now, I have some black eyed peas to cook. Here in the South, we consider them good luck for the coming year.

The world could use a little luck.

 At this time of the rolling year, it's customary to extend wishes for a better year. The faithful offer prayers for better times and the secular their hopes. In the spirit of the season, I offer both, with the gentle reminder that thoughts, prayers and hopes don't amount to a hill of beans without action.

Now that's a resolution I could get behind--a resolution to work together to make the world a more just and kinder place.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Merry Post Christmas!

Another Christmas over: Church services, presents, family visits. Done. But before you head out to the mall to begin the Great Exchange, go ahead and admit it. There’s something you wanted for Christmas – and you didn’t get it. 

Lean in close and whisper your secret desire.

I’ll go first – I wanted a tractor.

Not a toy, the real deal. The kind that until this past year I figured existed only in Kenny Chesney songs (She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy) and square states in the middle of the country. 

Maybe I should explain - we bought land in the mountains (You might've seen a few of my pictures of the deer. And the snow). All around us, guys grow hay to feed their horses or for export to Japan. The former owner of our land’s failure to take care of his property… well, let’s just say it was a sore point in the valley. 

Summer rolled around and the grass started growing, as grass does, but the weeds were getting there faster. So I fired up the Forrest Gump machine. Y’all have seen Forrest Gump one of the nine million times it’s been on TV, right? 

In case you missed it, this is the mower Forrest used: 

It took hours to cut that field. 

And I’m sure you noticed there’s no padding on that seat. 

Fast forward a few weeks and the grass – and the weeds – had done their thing. I looked at Forrest Gump, sighed, and fired it up. I’d made about two laps when my neighbor drove into the field on his enormous John Deere. “Cathy, let me teach you how to drive a tractor.”

That sucker had lots of bells and whistles, buttons, knobs and levers, but it also had a huge mowing deck and the field looked pristine in no time flat. 

And so it went all summer. I’d fire up Forrest Gump, clear the edges and cut around the irrigation heads and my neighbor would show up with his tractor. 

Granted this wasn’t like borrowing a cup of sugar and I lived in fear of somehow breaking it, but I loved that tractor. 

So when the holiday season rolled around, I asked Santa for a tractor. 

Left homemade cookies and everything. 

Our family celebrated Christmas at the new house (yeah, yeah, another story) and when all the packages were open, there wasn’t one with a set of keys. I checked the barn, the garage, the shed. 

No tractor. 

Kinda like the pony when I was a kid. 

Hmmm … I wonder if the dealer puts tractors on sale after Christmas? 

So what did you wish for – either this year or when you were a kid – that Santa didn’t tuck under your tree?

In the spirit of Things You Didn't Get For Christmas, I've put So About the Money on sale – just in time to load up that new e-reader you got for Christmas!

Book one in the Holly Price series, the story romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and a local detective and Holly better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers. 

Amazon       Nook        Kobo        iBooks    

If you enjoy the story, send a copy of the review (any retail outlet) and I'll send you a gift copy of either Malbec Mayhem or Double Down. 

Send it to or use the contact form on my website - You can sign up for my (infrequent) newsletter at the same time!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Winner of the Prize Draw

I hope everyone's having a good holiday, however they celebrate :D.

I'm briefly dropping in between turkey sandwiches and too many chocolates to announce the winners of our Prize Draw. As you can see from the picture, my new calendar Christmas gift has been very useful as a Random Number generator - I used the cubes as dice! - and our main winner is No. 8 commenter.

Congratulations TINA H! Please let me know your preferred ebook format, and I'll arrange to have the books sent to you.

And the other winners are:

Laura's Reading - $10 Amazon voucher
Joan Verner - $5 Amazon voucher
Please let me know your Amazon account email address and I'll get the gift cards arranged.

Thanks to everyone who visited our blog and entered the draw. It's wonderful to hear from so many of you!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Does your Christmas Tree Reflect your Reading Choices?

by Sandy Parks

Hardly a week goes past when someone, somewhere asks why people read “that” kind of book. It might be a romance reader wondering why anyone wants to read about how a killer dismembers a corpse, or a non-fiction reader commenting on space opera, or a thriller or literary fiction reader wondering why someone likes romance when they know there will be a happily-ever-after ending. For me, it’s reading or watching horror, which scares the heebee geebees out of me and gives me nightmares.
By Thomas Wolf (Der Wolf im Wald) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0
 (], via Wikimedia Commons
What does this have to do with Christmas trees, you ask? At the start of the holiday season, I noticed the wide variety of decorated trees in stores, at friends' homes, and pictured on the covers of magazines. Tons of ornaments in every shape, color, material, and size hung for sale in stores or lined the shelves. I found myself wondering, who would want particular decorations on their tree. It reminded me of similar comments I'd heard about books. Decorating your tree is as personal as selecting your reading material. So, before you put your tree away after the holidays, reflect for a moment on how your choices of things on your tree fits your taste in reading.

Is your tree color specific? Is it decorated in blues, silvers, and whites, or reds and golds to match your house d├ęcor? Blues in different shades indicate you are poised, complex, and passionate, like stability and things clean and tidy. If you’d risk putting glass or crystal on your tree, it's because you are in control (your cat might disagree). Does that fit with what you like to read? A mystery or detective crime story where the bad guy is caught in the end and mystery solved? Or any type book with a satisfying ending achieved by a strong protagonist.
What if you prefer a mishmash of colors or even atypical holiday colors like oranges and yellows? Those are fun-loving and intellectual colors. Lavenders and purples represent something creative and unconventional. Are your lights twinkling or changing colors or even multicolored? Or, are you like me, just thankful they light up at all. That could mean you are a risk taker who likes something out of the ordinary like science fiction, paranormal, urban fantasy, or romantic bad boys. Any motorcycles, planes, spaceships, or fast cars on your tree? You might be an adventurer and eclectic reader willing to try many types of books, or even a story with an ending that is left unresolved until the next book in the series. You might be okay with an unhappy or all too realistic ending.
An F-16 is fast.
Are you a traditionalist, with plaids, old fashion ribbons, and holiday greens that give off a fresh, living smell? These historical touches might aim you towards historical romance, historical fiction, or biographies about historical figures. Greens also are a peaceful color, often associated with those who are affectionate, loyal, and frank. You might prefer cozy mysteries, romance, or women’s fiction. You likely are a fan of a happy ending.
The drummer drums out traditional carols.

A dozen of these little socks were originally made
for gift decorations years ago.
A book with characters and plots is layered just like a tree. Some people like them simple and others crave complexity. For example, you start with the tree (live or artificial). Then the lights of many shapes as well as colors are added. Are your lights steady and white or a LED spectacular light show? Next, garlands like ribbons, beads, or popcorn are added. Lastly are the ornaments. Are yours large and a color statement, or small with their own story to tell?

How do ornaments tell stories? Some are picked out of a store because the giver believes they fit a particular person (rather like how we follow characters in a series) or have music and lights that will delight their children (or themselves). What would your favorite character have on his or her tree? Any ornaments on your tree handmade for you by someone special or for a special occasion? Are your favorite characters down-to-earth or people who work with their hands?
Hand crafted by a friend to celebrate graduation from a special flight school.
Perhaps your tree and its ornaments come from someplace you or a loved one travelled. Do you like to read about adventure and travel?
My sister sent this from Paris.

A son sent one from the island of Palau.
Or maybe your ornaments represent an achievement like a university, or an award, or even a given profession. You likely would enjoy stories that combine history, mystery, science, and thrills like Dan Brown or John Grisham.
Many will find their tree is decked with something they are passionate about, like a sport, a team, or hobby. We have a special ornament celebrating the Cubs World Series win (understandable as it took over a hundred years). Are your favorite book characters passionate about something?
My hubby is passionate about his morning trip to Starbucks
for coffee and to read the news.
Or is your tree full of memories and things personal to your family, like kids ornaments or patriotic and religious sentiments? That might indicate you prefer stories about characters more than plot driven books.
Take some time to study your tree before you take it down and see if it really does reflect your reading choices. Mine, no doubt, shows an eclectic family and we call ours a memory/family tree. It has a little of everything from family to fun to good or poignant memories. Our lights shine steady. There are some breakables, many that have survived animals, kids, and the years. Our household reading habits are eclectic as well. We like true stories, non-fiction, and history, but like our fiction to have satisfying endings or a promise of a good ending with a series. We like science fiction, which is reflected by the aviation and space ornaments hanging on our tree. Crime thrillers and adventure novels are also big in our house, but we like our heroes and heroines intelligent and honorable even if a bit flawed.

Hope you are having a great holiday and find time to settle down with a good book. Let me know what you discover about you and your tree.

Sandy writes adventure thrillers and will soon be releasing the first three in a science fiction adventure thriller series called the Infinity Solution. Her website is

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