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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Waltham Black Act

Writing historical mystery is a different kind of skill, I’ve found. You have to do the research, then transmit that research to the reader without being boring, and make it all work as if it’s the normal way of going on. In the brutal eighteenth century, when you could be hanged for stealing a penny loaf, it’s hard not to apply modern judgments to the crimes, and to add a purely twenty first century perspective.
In the Georgian era, the law worked very differently to the way it does now. That’s what you get for having an unwritten constitution. It evolves, and there are very few Acts of Parliament that signal a drastic change from what went before. Usually, they develop bit by bit.
However, in 1723 a law did change things up. It was called the Waltham Black Act.
The first Prime Minister (itself a term intended to be derogatory, but then got turned around to describe the position), Robert Walpole instituted it. It was primarily intended to counter one of the three scourges of the eighteenth century, poaching. When property was the basis of power and most wealth was made from crops and livestock, before the industrial revolution kicked in, poaching was a crime that hit right at the heart of society. If I called it “rustling,” you’d get a better idea of what the poaching gangs were doing. Not purloining a few rabbits from the squire’s land, but stealing flocks of sheep, prime beef herds and key breeding stock.
Land was protected by a complicated network of sometimes contradictory laws, and confusion led to key criminals escaping lightly. The Waltham Black Act was intended to do away with all those, and institute one clear law to replace them. But in the process, it added 50 crimes to the capital roster. 50 more crimes a person could be hanged for. And they were. Poaching, it turned out, was only the excuse used to tighten the law and make what came to be known as “The Bloody Code.”
It swung power decisively to the ruling class, and formed the basis of what came to be the eighteenth century oligarchy. Owners of large estates had massive powers that went well beyond their boundaries. The poor and smallholders, already crippled by Enclosures (the enclosing of common land) were forced down even more, a state that was to last for the next hundred years.
Why Black? We’ll not, as you might think, because it was a terrible idea, but because poachers blackened their faces in order to remain unseen at night when they did their work.
As a result, a child could be hanged for stealing goods worth more than a shilling. This also gave a magistrate certain power, because he (and it was always he) had the power to value the goods. It wasn’t what the shopkeeper or landowner priced the goods at, it was what the court considered they were worth. That led to corruption, but it also gave the courts a loophole for leniency.
People hanged or punished under this law were known as “blacks,” which can be confusing to the researcher!
The Black Act was finally taken off the law books by Robert Peel. But by then its philosophy was outdated. Power was rapidly moving to the newly enfranchised middle class, who didn’t own land to breed cattle, but to dig for coal. Towns were shooting up, and the rural poor were moving there to work in factories. For the first time in history, a police force was established. And the new age was beginning.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Wine, My Favorite Fruit Juice

When I was little I would follow my grandfather everywhere because he let me help him work around the house. He let me paint walls, doors, my clothes…he never lost his cool. He was, and still is, my hero. I remember how he bottled wine. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m from Italy. Some of the wine came from our own grapes, the rest he purchased from trusted friends. Then the wine would be poured into generic dark green glass bottles with handwritten labels carefully glued to each bottle. The labels only had the type of grape and the year it was produced and bottled. Then the bottles ended up in the cantina, a musty, dark basement where I would only set foot while holding on to nonno’s pant leg.
Supersized spiders lived down there. Enough said.
Nowadays wine is available just about anywhere food is served or sold. Some stores have more varieties than other. I love to look and read the labels. Yes, I also buy wine, but I’m predictable and usually come home with the same brand, vintage and variety. Unless some label really catches my fancy, I’ll buy the bottle, put it in my wine refrigerator and occasionally consider drinking the wine. Right now, the wine cooler is mostly filled with wine bottles with lovely, meaningful labels.
I have a bottle of Barolo from 1973. It was a gift. I often look at it, dust it and put it back. Another bottle is from 2002 signed by the winemaker, with a gold pen right on the glass bottle. Another of my favorites is from Jerome, Az, where every label is the story of a real town person, a limited edition. That one I drank and no, I'm not telling why.
So, why am I talking about wine? Take a look at this bottle of Pinot Grigio. California wine, 2016. What makes it special? 

If you look closely, you'll see a tiny gondola at the bottom of the label. The name of the producer is Moon Wine, this variety is labeled Venetian Moon. Why is that significant?

Well, if you check out my website here, you can get yourself a copy of my book, Venetian Moon, which can be enjoyed with a glass of wine…or not.

Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful  Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona—but stay tuned for weekly updates of Where in the World is Maria Grazia Swan?

Monday, September 11, 2017

LESLIE LANGTRY, TOOL.


A writer doesn’t have that many tools. There are computers, pens, paper, vodka, file folders, cake and productivity apps. But my very favorite thing is old school. Like, Jurassic Era old school if you ask my teenagers. Of course, they think yesterday’s banana is old…

I love pencils. Really, really adore pencils with a love that possibly borders on obsession. From the moment I strapped on that horse leg-sized pencil in kindergarten, I was hooked.

Graduating to regular Ticonderogas in 1st grade was huge. And the Pink Pet eraser. I loved that eraser. Teachers are psychic! How did they know I’d wear my pencil eraser down so quickly? I don’t like those little pointy erasers you stick on the end of the pencil. That’s just madness.

Eventually I graduated to mechanical pencils. But the attraction didn’t last long because the lead would break and was impossible to reload (I believe a conspiracy is responsible). And those erasers are microscopically tiny. Mechanical pencils didn’t hold the same allure.

These days, I use plain old wood no. 2’s. Holding it, chewing on it, making the rubber pencil illusion, being able to erase mistakes, all of those things add to the pencil’s irresistible charm. It’s the only thing I use in my planner (yes, I’m old school and still use a paper planner – how very 19th Century, you say), my password notebook, knitting patterns and of course, crossword puzzles. I do not possess the confidence it takes to do a crossword puzzle in pen.

Is there anything more satisfying than sharpening a dull pencil? I even have an old timey mounted wall sharpener in the basement. When I turn the handle, it sounds like the house is being swallowed by a garbage disposal.

The pencil still my favorite tool – sitting on my nightstand with a pad of paper, in my purse with a notepad – always ready when I need it. Yes, I know there are functions on my iPhone that will do the same thing, but that’s blasphemy if you ask me.

Because there’s nothing like a pencil.



Leslie Langtry is the USA Today Bestselling Author of 3 cozy comedy series and lives in Illinois with her husband, two kids, and an assortment of pets and many, many pencils. Find out more at www.LeslieLangtry.com

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Smallest Denominator

The Smallest Denominator
By Julie Rowe

Villains come in all sizes and use many methods to reach their goals. Human nature is, most of the time, predictable. We all have basic needs: Food, shelter, safety, happiness. We have many more wants: Wealth, knowledge, control, health.

We understand that there are people who will do anything to achieve these wants and needs. But, not all villains are as banal, predicable, or even visible.

My favorite villains are microscopic. Invisible. Capricious.

Pathogenic bacteria and viruses are the most prolific serial killers on our planet. They are responsible for millions of deaths around the world ever year, right up to and including 2017.

They’ve been killing us for a very long time.

·       In 430 B.C., smallpox killed more than 30,000 people in Athens, Greece, reducing the city’s population by at least 20%.

·       The Black Death killed 50 million people in the 14th century, or 60 % of Europe’s entire population.

·       In the 1500 and 1600’s smallpox killed millions of native peoples in Mexico and North America.

·       In 1793 Yellow Fever killed 45,000 people in Philadelphia.

·       The great flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919 is estimated to have killed at least 30 to 50 million people worldwide. 

·       In 2009, the global H1N1 flu pandemic may have killed as many as 575,000 people, though only 18,500 deaths were confirmed.

·       In 2010 an epidemic of cholera killed at least 10,000 people in Haiti following a deadly earthquake. 

·       In 2012, approximately 122,000 people worldwide died from the measles. Typhoid fever killed around 216,000 people that year. Tuberculosis also killed an estimated 1.3 million in 2012. 

·       The 2014 epidemic of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in West Africa killed more than 11,300 people.

New strains of bacteria and viruses continue to appear around the world. Some are more virulent forms of organisms that have plagued us on and off for hundreds or even thousands of years. Others, like Zika, seem to come out of nowhere.


The anti-vaccine movement has brought all these serial killers back into our midst, allowing outbreaks of highly contagious viruses (measles scares the crap out of me) to occur in first world countries for the first time in decades.

During 2015 and 2016, the CDC conducted more than 750 field investigations in 49 states, 5 U.S. territories, and in at least 35 different countries.

With the population of the world now over 7 billion people, infectious disease specialists predict that we’re due for another catastrophic disease to sweep across the world.

A villain we can’t see, predict, or prevent with any guarantee of success.


Learn more about current outbreaks at the CDC’s website: CDC Current Outbreak List


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Full-time author, freelance writer and workshop facilitator, Julie Rowe’s debut novel, Icebound, was released by Carina Press on Nov 14, 2011. Ten novels and eight anthologies have followed. Her most recent titles are the MEN OF ACTION boxed set and VIRAL JUSTICE book #3 of the Biological Response Team series. Julie’s articles and short stories have appeared in numerous magazines, such as Romantic Times Magazine, Today's Parent magazine and Canadian Living. Julie facilitates business writing and communication workshops at Keyano College in her home city, and has presented writing workshops at conferences in the United States and Canada. She’s also a strong supporter of life long learning and moderates a free announcement loop for the promotion of online classes, workshops and webinars. You can find her at www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor.

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