Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving and the Christmas Crazies

by Janis Patterson

It’s half a week past Thanksgiving, and I can just about fit back into my clothes. The Husband and I joined his family at my mother-in-law’s for the holiday again. I will forever say I am so blessed to have The Husband’s family; mine is pretty much gone or far away, and his is both lovely and loving. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law cooked the holiday lunch, and they are absolutely superb cooks. Early on they learned never to let me bring anything – I am a decent plain cook and have never poisoned anyone (other than in print), but my skills are nothing compared to their culinary artistry. I do, however, excel at eating. And when you’re good at something, you should do a lot of it, right?

This year The Husband and I brought roses to his mother and aunt, for no reason other than they were so pretty. (They were on sale, too, but that really didn’t enter in to it – we found out they were on sale only after going into the shop to buy flowers!) As always, we brought home enough leftovers for three or four meals.

So what does all that have to do with mystery? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

We’re twenty-five days away from Christmas, the most blessed holiday of the year. The next twenty-five days will be full of shopping and parties and gift wrapping and family and friends… all the good things of the earth. And faith. We mustn’t forget faith.

Which means that Thanksgiving, for all of its overindulgence in food and family and laughter, is a watershed of reasonable quiet and reflection before the madness of Christmas begins. I, for one, enjoyed it thoroughly.

All year long I spend my days creating a group of people where murder could be a believable alternative, figuring out how to kill someone, how my character can justify killing someone, and how my sleuth solves the case. As we all know, this is not the most tranquil or restful way to spend your time. Now add in the inevitable Christmas crazies – which seem to start earlier each year – and a bountiful meal with family on Thanksgiving can seem like a respite even for those who do the cooking.

So – as deadlines, uncooperative characters, sudden plot holes, research and the Christmas crazies fill our days, let us take joy in our lives. We get to create wonderful stories. We – at least most of us – have families and friends and traditions. Thanksgiving was last week, but let us never forget to be thankful.

One thing for which I am not thankful, and one which I believe needs to be mentioned so that people will not think I am ignoring them. This begins the sixth week we have been without internet at home, and the only time I can log on is when I can make it down to our local internet café. Sigh. Just – sigh.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Comfort Foods, Traditions & Celebration

So much of our holidays and celebrations center around food, family and friends, and tradition. Yesterday, the United States celebrated Thanksgiving, which usually involves a gathering of family and friends around a table, where the star is typically turkey. Everything else is flexible. :) Let's see how some of our NYUS family members celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving...

RITA HENUBER shared many lovely photos of past Thanksgivings, and I have to say, I want to have Thanksgiving at Rita's house!

Traditionally, the guys cook the turkey. Also, a place is set for those who have died, so they are a part of the celebration. 

Lately, however, she's been celebrating with a mimosa at sunrise on the beach to greet the day. 

And then a dip in the pool, followed by a poolside feast.

"Don't you be eyeing my sweet potatoes!"

MAUREEN A. MILLER shares a picture of last year's Thanksgiving. Beautiful table setting! My mouth is watering.

JEAN HARRINGTON shares some of her beautiful decorations that help set the mood.

ELISE WARNER shares one of her favorite holiday recipes:

Date and Nut Loaf

1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Cream well & add 1 cup chopped walnuts
10 oz. package of dates cut up
1 & 3/4 cups of flour

Slowly add 1 cup of boiling water

Butter a loaf tin. Pour in batter. Bake in slow oven (350 degrees) 1 hour.

As for me, I've made my share of holiday meals, and cooking feels like I’m giving thanks to my loved ones, showing how much I appreciate them.

One of my husband's favorites is the sweet potato casserole (recipe compliments of Ruth’s Chris steakhouse) Warning: It's more like a dessert than a side.

Here's the link to the recipe for that one. You're welcome. :D

What dishes and traditions are special parts of your family gatherings? 

I’m thankful for all of you, dear NYUS readers/visitors, and wish you a fabulous weekend, no matter where you live or how you celebrate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015



By Cathy Perkins

I’m taking a detour from our usual discussions about writing and books with a more personal note. I had a spot removed yesterday.

Perhaps I should back up a bit. I was the blue-eyed blonde in a family full of dark-eyed, dark-haired people. We spent a lot of time outside as a family. They got lovely suntans. I got burned.

Fast-forward many years and that sun-damaged skin has a nasty habit of turning into skin cancer. Of course, all skin types can get cancer. And sunscreen—if you put it on—is your best prevention friend.

Most skin cancers fall into the “no big deal” category. Many can be zapped with liquid nitrogen. But as you work your way up (down?) the scale on the various cancers, things can get sketchier. A bit more on that later.

Mohs surgery is the preferred technique for dealing with the cancer. Basically, the surgeon takes a scoop of tissue, then examines it as a series of slices. If the lowest slice still shows cancer cells, the process is repeated until the margins are clear. With a simple procedure, you’re done in one. Hearing the surgeon say, “We’re scraping this sample off your skull” can be a game changer. (It was clear. Thanks for asking.)

I won’t make you look at sobering pictures of tumors or disfigurements. You can Google those. In fact, go here for lots of technical, understandable information.

Bottom line? Ignoring “that weird spot” won’t make it go away. Instead it can give an aggressive tumor too much time to spread. While the surgeons are great at hiding scars and replacing bits and pieces of features, consider this National Check Yourself Out day. Here’s how.

Basal and squamous are the most common types of cancer, but the nastiest form is melanoma. With all of them, early detection is the key. With melanoma, it’s as simple as A-B-C. With a D-E occasionally thrown in.

A – Asymmetry. One half isn’t like the other.

B – Border. The edges aren’t smooth.

C – Color. There can be a variety of colors in the spot, tan, brown, black or maybe a little blue or red thrown in.

D – Diameter. Anything larger than a pencil eraser should be looked at.

E – Evolving. A mole or lesion that changes over time.

But you’re going to look for ALL the spots that weren’t there before, right? 

Oh, and on the writing front, my latest mystery just released. So About the Money 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 & a local detective and Holly Price better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers.

Last day of the special new release pricing!


Monday, November 23, 2015



There have been a lot of changes going on in my life through 2015 and since we are quickly closing in on Thanksgiving, I thought I'd share some things with the readers of NYUS.

In December of 2014, I made a decision which has pretty much changed everything I've done in 2015. I decided to walk away from my day job and write full time. Now, that may not seem like a big thing. After all, lots of people do it all the time, right? Well, I had a steady, pretty decent paying job that I actually liked for the most part. I was a medical transcriptionist and I've been doing that almost since I got out of high school. (I'm so not telling you how many years ago that was—suffice it to say it was a very lont time ago.)
Walking away didn't make a lot of logical sense, but emotionally—it was time. I love writing and wanted to spend as much of my time as possible doing it. So after talking things over with my family, we agreed that I would take the plunge and go for it full time.

So in December, I walked away. Started writing full time. By the end of 2015, I will have released 10 books and/or novellas. Ten! The previous year I put out one. The year before that—one. In 2015—ten.

I'm very thankful that I can make a living doing what I love. Is it stressful? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.

My goal for next year is to pretty much replicate 2015 as far as releases. I'm splitting my time between the romantic suspense (which I love) and contemporary romance. So expect to see more of the New Orleans Connection Series in 2016 (Carpenter's book is next, about ¾ of the way done now) and who knows what else might come about.

I'm thankful for so many things—my health, my family, my friends, and being able to do what I love. I'm also thankful that we have a place like Not Your Usual Suspects and its readers, that I can share with. Wishing each and every one of you a blessed Thanksgiving holiday. May you have a wonderful time with family and friends and lots of good food.

Until next time,


Friday, November 20, 2015

Confusing Times...

Traditional publishers and agents have been advising writers to specialize in one genre only for decades. Forever, really. The reasons are many, some maybe even valid:

1.    If publishers spend time and money marketing your science fiction book, they want to build on that, rather than start all over with your historical romance.
2.    You’ll confuse (and probably tick off) the reader who goes looking for your noir mystery only to find herself reading your latest slasher horror.
3.    You’ll spend longer trying to develop your writer “brand” if you split yourself among genres.

Indie publishing has placed all kinds of decisions in writers’ hands, including this one. Now that they don’t have to bow to a publisher’s will, they have to decide: Should they? Shouldn’t they?

As with any creative or business decision, you have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

For me, it boils down to the reason you write. Is it to make money? (A very valid reason.) Is it because you love writing so much you would do it whether or not it made money for you? (Also very valid.)

There’s another question you need to ask yourself: what’s the cost (creatively, emotionally, even physically) of NOT writing the story that’s in you to write?

I think you should write whatever damned book you want to write. While you owe your readers something, you also owe yourself. You have the right to challenge yourself, to experiment, to fill every little bit of your writer’s soul. After all, what’s the point of spending all that time and effort if you’re not having fun?

One caveat: Don’t mislead your reader. If you don’t use a pen name, be up front about your different genres (have different tabs on your web site for science fiction, romantic suspense, horror, etc.). Even an “open” pen name lets the reader know that these stories aren’t the same as the ones under your own name. Some readers will follow you across all your genres, while others will only read you in one genre. And that’s okay.

Remember: If you use a secret pen name, it can exacerbate the issue. You’ll be working to build two names (or three, or four), rather than just yours.

Here’s a mini-list of well-known writers who write in two or more genres:

Walter Mosley: Literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, YA, mystery
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb: Romance, romantic suspense, science fiction/police procedural
Joyce Carol Oates: Gothic, horror, suspense, mystery/crime, romance, historical, fantasy, realism, surrealism…
Ian Fleming: Spy novels (James Bond) and children’s (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
Stephen King: What doesn’t he write?
Elmore Leonard: westerns, crime, suspense, screenplays
Nicola Griffith: science fiction, thrillers, historical
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: science fiction, romance, fantasy, mystery

Can you think of any others?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's a series...but it's not.


As a reader I sometimes break into a cold sweat, and my hands start to shake when I see the word, "series". Am I in for a lifetime commitment? Is it going to go all “24” on me, where each book ends on a cliffhanger? Will I have to go out and buy life-sized cardboard cutouts of the characters because they’ve become family? (Oh, come on, admit that you do that! LOL)

Don’t get me wrong. I do love series books. Heck, I’ve written them as well. It’s just that split-second of panic I feel when I first look at the word, series, and think…should I go there?

This week I have released MIST, book two in the BLUE-LINK series. I’m reluctant to use the s-word in this case. Basically SHADOW, MIST, and coming soon, DUSK, are three books with separate characters who all work for the same company, BLUE-LINK. They are all unique plots with HEAs, and the books could be read in any order you want. There is only one character who can be seen in all three books. Maybe I’ll get a cardboard cutout of her. 

So, is that a series? Not exactly.

It would be like saying Nancy Drew was a series. I don’t think any of us read those books in sequence. You read whatever you could get your hands on.

What the heck is BLUE-LINK anyway? BLUE-LINK is a fictional global company run by the enigmatic, Amanda Newton−a woman whose signature accessory is a blue diamond ring. This company assesses the risk factor of starting a business abroad. It takes into consideration civil unrest, health epidemics, and even weather patterns before offering a client its opinion. You will learn in DUSK, the final book in the trilogy, that the owner, Amanda Newton lost her parents in a foreign country because they didn’t do their due diligence. Hence her inspiration.

A mysterious footlocker washes up on Livvy McKay's shore. Minutes after recovering it she is assaulted by an intruder. Wounded and unable to give chase, she is startled by a knock at the front door. A stranger is looking to rent a boat from her business, McKAY'S CHARTERS. Livvy doesn't believe in coincidences. Especially when the stranger is wearing black−just like her assailant.
Jack Morell is a desperate man. After receiving a cryptic phone call from his uncle−a call spiked with the sound of gunfire in the background, he is frantic to locate his uncle's ship. Warned to use discretion, Jack opts to rent a boat from McKAY'S CHARTERS for his search.

 A defiant Livvy grills Jack, but deems that he is not her assailant. In fact, she learns that the trunk belongs to his uncle. Together, they uncover its contents, and now they are being hunted.

Someone doesn't want the world to know what is in that trunk. Someone who is well-connected.

Find Maureen at
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Monday, November 16, 2015

The Art of Not Cooking

My name is Lisa Q. Mathews and I’d like to kick off my very first post here on Not Your Usual Suspects by saying hello. I write about sunny Florida but live in soon-to-be-snowy New Hampshire. I used to be an editor of Nancy Drew mysteries, among other things. And I’m thrilled to be not only the newest member of this amazing group, but—a brand new author!

My debut mystery, CARDIAC ARREST—Book One in an odd-couple female sleuth series called The Ladies Smythe & Westin—was published by Carina Press earlier this month. I am, of course, still on Cloud One Hundred-Nine.

The series features a semi-reformed, twenty-something party girl, Summer Smythe, and a feisty, seventy-something widow, Dorothy Westin, who team up to solve murders in glitzy SW Florida. Base of operations: The Hibiscus Pointe Senior Living Community. (Summer is camping out there in her late grandma’s condo.)

Technically, the Ladies’ adventures can be classified as “cozy” (not to be confused with “cuddly”) —traditional puzzle mysteries à la Christie, with an off-screen murder (often involving a victim who was not particularly beloved), amateur sleuths, no graphic violence or onscreen sex, a community of recurring characters, and a satisfying ending where the villain is unmasked, justice is served, and order is restored to the characters’ world.

There is a very popular sub-genre of cozy mysteries, often called “culinary cozies,” which contain delicious recipes in the back, and food adds to the ambiance of the book. Well, I can assure you that the Ladies do plenty of eating and, yes, a bit of drinking. They frequently dine out in fancy restaurants, and Dorothy also takes advantage of the formal 5 pm dinners included in her hefty monthly residents fee. Both love sweets and neither is above sneaking a snack from the free welcome buffets Hibiscus Pointe offers to lure prospective residents.

The Ladies can do a lot of things. But one thing neither of them does is...cook. And they’re not terribly apologetic about that. But you can blame me, and I’ll blame Peg Bracken, because I grew up with her I Hate to Cook Book. (Ms. Bracken was apparently quite a mystery fan herself. Her recipe for Stayabed Stew, she claimed, was ideal “for those days when you are en négligée, en bed, with a murder story and box of bonbons…”).

I hope you enjoy the crime-solving capers of the Ladies Smythe & Westin. And really, you’re much better off without their (or my) recipe suggestions. Trust me.

When a man falls at your feet, you'd better hope he's not dead.

Twenty-something party girl Summer Smythe is starting over in the unlikeliest of places: Hibiscus Pointe, a kitschy retirement community in upscale Milano, Florida. Her new gig? Working for Dr. A, Milano’s much-loved cardiologist. But being in over her head is the least of Summer’s worries when her new boss drops dead…right in front of her.

Long-time resident Dorothy Westin prefers to mind her own business. But when the young blonde already causing ripples throughout Hibiscus Pointe becomes a person of interest in Dr. A’s murder, Dorothy springs into action. Not only because the real killer is still on the loose, but because there’s simply no way her clueless-but-kind new friend could have poisoned someone.

Dorothy and Summer soon discover that despite his chosen specialty, Dr. A had quite a reputation for breaking hearts. And if the Ladies Smythe and Westin don’t identify the guilty party fast, Summer will end up in handcuffs…and Dorothy in a body bag.

Join The Ladies Smythe & Westin on their next case, PERMANENTLY BOOKED, coming April 2016!

Available from Amazon, Nook, iBooks, kobo, and GooglePlay.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Story Ideas Galore!

So in my last post, I talked about my upcoming vacation to New Orleans, how I was hoping the trip might generate a few story ideas. And I promised to follow up. Well let me tell you -- the Big Easy is rife with fodder for this author!

Where do I begin? The vacation was amazing. We rented a house built in 1850 that was a block off Bourbon Street. I swear the place was haunted. Pictures can't do it justice, but it had twenty-foot ceilings and period antiques. Here's a glimpse of the living room:

Just walking through the place, touching the mardi gras masks and beads, looking at the family portraits on the walls, sparked ideas for story settings.

Our tour of the French Quarter led us past famed restaurants and bars, past street bands and through a cemetery where we glimpsed the tomb of famed voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

Walking along Bourbon Street, I took in the loud, rowdy bars, the tipsy women wobbling in too-high stilettos and the drunk men weaving through the crowds. It was all great for setting, but where were my characters?

On the third day we wandered along a side street in search of a store that had been recommended to us called Esoterica, a place that was supposedly full of authentic witchcraft supplies. The hours posted on the door said the shop should have been open for another hour, yet it was locked.

Another group stopped and tried the handle. One of the women tipped her chin at the Harley parked out front. "Mimi's still inside. That's her bike," she said.

Another lady shook her head. "She makes her own hours. You don't screw with the voodoo queen of New Orleans." With that, the group walked on.

My curiosity was piqued, and I was bound and determined to meet this new Harley-riding voodoo queen who inspired such fear. So we returned the following day. And I found my character.

The shop was like nothing I'd ever seen.
There were spell kits and shrunken heads and powders and potions of every kind.

But Lady Mimi was the most interesting thing in there. With hair as black as a raven and violet eyes that put me in mind of Elizabeth Taylor, she was stunning, but frightening at the same time. Standing about five-feet-two, she had a powerful voice that could raise the hair on the back of my neck. She spoke so fast that I had to really pay attention and tune out everything else lest I miss something, because I had the feeling that anything she said could be a pearl of magical wisdom.

She practically floated through the store, moving at breakneck speed, showing us this and that. When my husband asked for a tarot reading, she asked my friend and me to, "watch the store and make sure no one carried the place off."

More than a little surprised, we agreed to mind the store while she did the reading, which ended up taking about an hour. After she was finished, she gave us all advice on how to start every day with positive energy using what she called the Star Exercise. And it actually works. When I've had stressful moments since the trip (and there have been many), I resort to that exercise and I get instant relief.

Before we left the shop, Mimi asked where we were staying. Turned out there was going to be a parade that night that went right past our house, and Mimi was going to be on one of the floats as a dignitary.

Sure enough, it did go right down our street. Mimi threw all sorts of beads and candy out for us.

But that was the least of what she gave me. Mimi will turn up in a future book, or perhaps even a series of books. Yeah, there's that much to her. She definitely cast her spell on this writer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015




On this day of remembrance, one thought overwhelms me—how young most of our war heroes were when they died.  Maybe that’s the reason, though far from the only one, why visiting military cemeteries is so poignant, whether it be Arlington, Vicksburg, Normandy or a host of others.

 They all harbor the remains of what in a spilt second before death struck, were vital young men, some no more than boys, and who now have only a white cross or a Star of David or a little flag to mark what they once were.

 Everyone lying in these precise white lines that sometimes go on to the horizon never had a chance to return to their homes and take up their lives.  They sacrificed everything--careers, children, love.  Everything.  Perhaps because I’m a romantic at heart, I do view the loss to them of love and all that it leads to, a wife, children, home, family, as the greatest sacrifice of all.

Though those of us who contribute here are writers of mysteries, suspense and thrillers, all of our books contain elements of love in larger or smaller degree.  As does the novel South on Broad by the great American novelist, Pat Conroy.  The passage quoted below is a scene from the book.  I quote it as a reminder to all of us of what so many gave up so we wouldn’t have to.  There’s more to the scene, a lot more, but here’s a taste:

“Words pour out of me that I had thought for twenty years but had never believed I would whisper in the ears of this woman, and she accepts them with forbidden words of her own.  With a cry, I fall off her.  Then, she kisses me a final time.  In darkness she gathers garments that are feathery, and in nakedness she leaves me.  What began in mere sin ended in sacrament, and as I lie (t)here alone, I know that she was right: my world will never be the same.”

Note: Jean Harrington is the author of the award-winning Murders by Design Series.  Her tongue-in-check Naples-set mysteries are available through

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Beginnings

Today is a release day for my latest book, STACKING THE DECK, and I'm nervous. It's my seventh published book, so you'd think this would be old hat by now, but it’s a lot like my very first release day because it’s the start of a brand new series (Redemption Club). 

Something Old, Something New

I feel as nervous and excited as a new bride, committing to this new series. Writing these books was certainly a labor of love. It's a new start, a new commitment to bring the romance and the suspense into my readers' lives. I'm remaining true to my romantic suspense audience and bringing the creepy thrills and psychological twists I’ve promised them, but in a new way. My previous series (The Mindhunters) was centered on an agency that hunted serial killers. In this series, I wanted to get away from that premise and bring something new to the table. So I created a secret, underground club that barters in dark deeds and evil thrills.

Something Borrowed

In this club, bad guys can borrow favors (illegal ones) and must repay in kind at a later date, for someone else who would like an alibi and a despicable favor. There is an old, obscure TV show from the eighties called Stingray, and it involved a man (who called himself Ray) who claimed favors from people he'd helped in the past, in order to help other people. It was the first instance I can remember where I came across the "pay it forward" concept. I loved the idea, except I put an evil twist on it.

Something Blue

Okay, I got nothing here. But did you see the cover? It’s kind of blue-purple. *grin*

How do you feel about new beginnings? Nervous? Excited? Got any tips for dealing with the fear?

(Redemption Club, Book 1)

In a city built for sin, the Redemption Club is a secret society that exists to fulfill a person’s darkest desires—including murder games—for a price.
Raised off the grid by an anti-government group, Skye Hamilton puts her resourcefulness and survival training to good use taking the dangerous tasks nobody else wants. When a job searching for a runaway teen brings Redemption Club members gunning for her, putting those she cares about in danger, she’ll risk everything to fight the enemy. Including her heart.
Jared Bennigan, Las Vegas bodyguard to the elite, accepted his latest job hoping it would lead to his missing sister. All evidence points to his client as the last person to have seen her, but he’s not the only one looking for a woman who disappeared. Skye’s enticing blue eyes contradict her tough, distrusting exterior, revealing an intriguing combination of vulnerability and intelligence. But those eyes are watching his client—through her rifle’s scope.
To find both missing women, Jared will need to convince Skye—who plays a wicked game of hard-to-get—to be his partner. And with the Redemption Club intent on making Skye the prey in a human hunting expedition, her skills, and her trust in Jared, will be put to the test. It’s the ultimate game of survival of the fittest. But who will win?

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Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at There, sign up for her newsletter to receive the latest information regarding books, appearances, and giveaways.