Wednesday, August 24, 2016

You're Among Friends Here

So, how many of you know when the Not Your Usual Suspects blog launched? You might be surprised to know it was on December 13, 2010. That means our blog is nearing our sixth anniversary! Wow! It seems nuts that it's been that long, but it has.

Oh, and guess who wrote the very FIRST post which started: "On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …a super cool, hip, new blog to share with fans, family and friends?"

Yep, that was me. Since then our blog has grown to encompass several more wonderful writers. While we've lost a few along the way for one reason or the other, surprisingly, our numbers have mostly grown. Most of the writers whose blogs you read here have gone on to become wonderful friends of mine. One of them is even my sister (Hi, Sandy Parks!).

I had no idea when I wrote those opening words to the very first Not Your Usual Suspects blog that several of the women and men of this blog would go on to become such cool friends who would share the many ups and downs of my publishing career. But they did and I'm ever grateful for it. Some I've yet to meet in person, but we still support each other virtually. I can't tell you how much I appreciate that!

For the past several years those of us who are able to make the Romance Writers of America annual conference make an effort to meet and talk about our past year's publishing experience. This year was no different. In July, five of us NYUS bloggers met over breakfast to share insights to the business and share our successes and frustrations. I look forward to it every year.

Below is a picture of us (left to right): Sandy Parks, Sharon Calvin, Anne Marie Becker, me and Dee Adams. Just ignore the glazed looks and dark circles under our eyes from a weekend of little to no sleep. We didn't mind a bit because we were among friends. And now that you're here -- so are you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life Experience! West Coast Trail.

Today I did something I've been wanting to do for years. I hiked out to Pachena Lighthouse on part of the West Coast Trail. The West Coast Trail is a 75 km hiking trail that runs along the western edge of Vancouver Island. It was originally called the Dominion Lifesaving Trail and was built in 1907 to help rescue shipwreck survivors from the treacherous waters of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Imagine surviving the shipwreck only to die of dehydration or starvation in a remote region.

Nowadays it forms part of the Pacific Rim National Park and is one of the most popular hiking trails in the world. It takes about 5-6 days to complete at a nice pace (DH and DS are contemplating doing it next year), but frankly my bones couldn't take it.  Today, I walked 10 km in, 10 km out, and was grateful we didn't encounter bears or cougars though we could hear the sea lions just off the coast. In fact, the most wildlife we saw were giant banana slugs on the path. We walked through temperate rainforest and negotiated a series of eight huge ladders that, for me, were the hardest part of the hike. 

I've set two books in the region, but the scenery and isolation is so inspiring I can't wait to set another story in this wonderful landscape. 

I hope you like my photos! 

What's on your bucket list?

Friday, August 19, 2016


I’ve been feeling my mortality lately. I suspect it has to do with reaching a certain milestone birthday (don’t ask).

As a result, I started thinking about all the people I know who have created bucket lists. These lists include everything from jumping out of airplanes (are you nuts?), to swimming with sharks (ain’t gonna happen) to taking on a younger lover (well, maybe).

Should I have a bucket list? What on Earth could I possibly put on it? I’ve kind of done the things I really wanted to do. Except for going to Ireland and I’ll be going in the spring. But there’s a whole lot I haven’t done in the writing department. Stories that would challenge me and definitely pull me out of my comfort zone. Before I die, I would love to write:

An amazing western. I grew up reading Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour. I loved the delineation between the good guys and the bad guys, the clear stakes, the sense of honour. I’d love to write a story that would make the reader feel the way I felt when I read westerns.

A great love story. Everyone knows I’m no romantic, but I think I’ve got one great romantic story in me. A cross between Wuthering Heights (Oh, Heathcliff…) and Casablanca (Play it, Sam). I don’t see how it can end well, but man will it make ‘em cry!

A thriller. This goes against my grain as a writer. I write quiet, character-driven stories. But just once, I’d love to write a story that keeps the reader up way too late, heart beating fast, nails bitten to the quick.

A scary book. It could be psychological suspense, I suppose, but I’m thinking full-blown horror, just because that stuff scares the bejeezus out of me. Imagine: being scared by a story you’ve written! I may chicken out on this one. I can’t help but think there are places in your subconscious you shouldn’t visit…

Maybe once I’ve taken those on, I’ll come up with another list, but these will keep me busy for a while. How about you? What’s on your writer’s bucket list?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Actions Speak Much, Much Louder Than Words

I picked up a new craft book (aren’t all authors addicted to improving their craft?) that has me excited about writing again. Part of my funk over the winter had been that writing seemed yet another job - with a long list of Must Do tasks - and like most of you, I had too many balls in the air already.

I wanted to buckle down and just write the damn book. I actually had people contact me and ask when the next in the Holly Price/ So About series would release—which should make me feel happy rather than pressured. Right?

Anyway, I stumbled over two books titled The 90-Day Novel

Okay then! 90-days! Score! (Is this where I admit it takes me a year to write a novel?)

The first craft book was a disappointment. It contained a very summarized rehash of things we’ve all heard a million times. Set your turning points, make the index cards, park your butt and go.


The other one, by Alan Watt, hit the note I needed to hear. Step back and consider the possibilities, he recommended. What if…? 

What are you afraid of? Your heroine probably has the same fears. Can you work with that? Lots (and lots) of 5 minute writing drills occurred during the first week, but none of it needed to appear directly in the book. I was encouraged to scribble images, scenes, scene-lets, ideas, whatever. No pressure, because nobody was going to read or critique it. It was playing with words, which I hadn’t done in ages. It was diving into what I was passionate about—and how that drives my story. 

And through the process, the dilemma, which is the root perception cause of the problem (which is what your protag thinks she’s trying to solve) evolves. I realized “trust” is the emotion I needed to tap into and now, everything else is falling into place. The conflicts between all my characters really come down to that one, very basic emotion. Trust is crucial for a relationship. All relationships. Relationships between friends, family, lovers.

Trust is what happens when actions speak much, much louder than words. You can’t make someone trust you. From Holly’s perspective, when others’ actions are undermining her trust in them, going with what she believes is the right thing to do will show others she’s trustworthy—and hopefully won’t get her killed. 

I started this craft book adventure in connection with my own 100x100 challenge (a friend who’s 300 days in inspired me). The 100x100 challenge is to write at least 100 words every day for 100 days. Three weeks into in, I’ve filled half a spiral notebook. And the scenes, plot, and subplots are coming into focus. 

How’s your writing going this summer? 

Cathy Perkins is currently working on Book Two in the Holly Price/So About series. So About the Money was blessed by readers and booksellers with the Award of Excellence – Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. 

A spin-off in that series, Malbec Mayhem features one of the secondary characters and is available now. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Villain, Villain, Who's Got the Villain?

by Janis Patterson

I like villains. I have to watch myself when writing and make sure the villain is not more attractive, intelligent and believable than the hero.
Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with the aspect of danger a villain exudes. I’ve always liked the bad boys. No – not the scruffy, unshaven, semi-clothed bad boy of some romance fiction; while I realize they are very popular I don’t care for them at all. They all look as if they don’t smell very well. My favored bad boys own tuxedoes, dance well, probably are very knowledgeable about wines and are capable of anything to get what they want.
And therein lies the essence of a villain – they will do just about anything to get (or protect) their desire without respect to laws, rules or morals. Whatever it is that they want depends on them, and it does not have to make sense to us. Some person will kill to ensure that the secret of their great-grandmother’s infidelity remains secret just as easily as another will commit all kinds of mayhem to gain ownership of great riches or yet another will kill to protect his freedom.
So – in order to create a believable villain you don’t have to worry so much about what is at stake, but what it means to them. It has to be more important to him than anything.
Another thing is to be sure that your villain is a well-rounded human being – unless you want the old straight from a melodrama mustache-twisting, blackhearted Snidely Whiplash. One dimensional characters are too obvious – they never work and they are unworthy opponents for your sleuth. The idea of any person committing crimes, especially if it involves considerable risk to themselves, for the abstract concept of Evil belongs in cartoons. It can and has been done, but to my mind works only when the villain is a certified loony-tune. In most mysteries the villain isn’t known until the solution, so you don’t want your bad guy being obvious from the beginning, which means he has to blend in with the rest of your characters. And therein lies danger… at least for me.

Like I said, I like bad boys and have to keep a tight rein on the story to keep them from taking over the story. No matter how hard one tries to keep the hero from turning into a Dudley Do-Right of perfection and yet still keep them both real and interesting, villains are automatically (for me at least) much more nuanced and believable. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Rehashing Old Archetypes and Plots into Fresh Stories

by Sandy Parks

On a recent trip to Thailand and Cambodia, I encountered some unusual things that reminded me that everything “old” could be reworked and made new again. That is exactly what we as writers strive to do…take a well-used, familiar plot (or archetype) and make it something fresh for the readers.

In the Iliad, Homer’s strong male heroes boasted of killing Amazons, brave warrior women capable of defeating the best of men. This archetype or legend of female warriors is portrayed again and again through history in tales told or written by authors of the time. Wonder Woman, created in 1941, is based on the Amazons, this time with a lasso, red bustier and Amazon bracelets capable of deflecting bullets. The same archetype is repeated again today with Princess Leia, perfectly capable of leading men out of trouble in her own rescue. Another unusual twist is the popular television show Vikings, where we step back in history to pick up the story of fierce women fighting and leading battles. In all these stories, Amazons are put into new genres and yet are a fresh twist on an old story.

You might be curious what made me think of old being twisted into something new and novel. Southeast Asia is an area known for its waterways. Canals were a common form of transportation before decent roads became popular in the last fifty years. Any visit to the countries there will likely include sometime on the water. The main mode of transportation for not only tourists, but anyone wanting a quick boat ride is the “long-tail” boat. Why are they called long-tail? Well, now we are getting into taking something old and using it in a new and unexpected way.

Long-tail boat, Thailand

 The boats are long and thin to easily fit into many of the small town canals. For years they were the taxis of Bangkok. Their “long tail” is an engine directly mounted on the driveshaft with a propeller at the end. The canal water can be shallow and often filled with debris or water hyacinth (propeller clogging plants), so innovation was required to develop a boat motor to fit the conditions and offered enough power.

Canal in Bangkok, Thailand

Expense is also a major factor, as few can afford a fancy new boat motor. Thus, used automotive engines are bought and modified to turn the boat propeller. What kind of motors you ask? We saw Isuzu, Mazda, and many more that had no recognizable markings. The quality of the engines also varied as the economic conditions changed, but people were no less innovative.


We also caught sight of these motors used for many more household tasks where a little horsepower could be a time saving device. While at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I was lucky enough to snap a quick (although a bit blurred) photo of another unique innovation using these engines. These very young monks were out for a ride.

Monks out for a ride at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

My husband and I looked at each other and said, “never thought I’d see that.” That’s exactly the kind of unique surprise a writer wants to give a reader. So, no matter how many times a story has been told, there will always be a perspective you as an author, with your unique life story, can bring to telling a tale. Don’t try to use an archetype or plot the way writers have before you. People change, society changes, and you as an author should change with it and tell an old tale in a new way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


 I've been blessed with the ability to sing, act, stage manage, and write; learned to balance a checkbook and as Hilly sings in "On the Town," I Can Cook too," but ... I admit to being a technical "dummie," and the green-eyed monster lands on my shoulder whenever a friend brags about their absolutely brilliant, nerdy son, daughter or grandchild. The one they call whenever their computer does something that ties them up in knots. 
     When a problem and solution is nowhere to be found in Windows 10 or Microsoft Word for Dummies or scattered over several different chapters--well it could drive a person crazy (sorry Stephen Sondheim.) I am driven to making a cheat sheet and I passionately miss my old XP--it was so easy to find what I needed. Microsoft discarded the program because of age--isn't that discrimination?
     I heard the new Office was much like the old XP--just prettier--but remember that old cliche, "pretty is as pretty does?" I suppose if this generation was my generation, I would love the games, the streaming, the music and the myriad choices of social networks but what is--is--and technology has opened a whole new world so each day I take a deep breath, open the "help" books, use the "Tell me what you want to know" feature, pick up a pad and pencil and adapt.
     Finally managed to begin a new article, transfer stories and sold pieces to my new "friend," and try to climb the next mountain--transferring photos. Received gobbledygook when I tried to transfer photos from a CD-RW and while I can scan a photo, I can't transfer photos from my camera although the photos show in the little window on the printer and it reads PRINT. On my monitor a message appears asking whether I'm connected (doesn't that sound a bit like an insult?)

     This week I will contact a member of the Geek Squad who will be--to me--this generation's answer to Sherlock Holmes. I will be relieved and my work will continue but I will also feel like a relic from a forgotten age. does anyone else ever get that feeling?

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Year of the Story

Last month, I sat in a ballroom and listened to Robyn Carr’s speech as she accepted the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at RWA. Her speech was incredible, but one small phrase resonated with me. “Let’s make this year the year of the story.”

As a still-new author at a tricky spot in my writing journey, this struck me because it’s a reminder of why I began writing, continue to read books on the craft of writing, and read fiction until my vision blurs. I love telling stories, and I enjoy the challenge of learning to tell them better.

I came home deeply convicted to follow Robyn’s advice. I also came home to a brewing tragedy.

As I write this, we’ve just returned from a family weekend that revolved around my mother-in-law’s funeral. She was alive and semi-well when I boarded a plane for San Diego. Now she’s ... not. It’s still shocking how quickly it all happened.  

Over this weekend, we spent a lot of time comforting each other and mourning our loss. However, we also spent an evening telling stories – not just about her, but about her family. A younger generation learning family histories from their aunts and uncles. (And probably one of the last times I will be considered a “younger generation.”)

My husband’s uncle is perhaps one of the best storytellers I’ve seen. He has this wonderful voice and a great southern drawl, and he knows just when to pause for effect. All evening he was peppered with requests, interrupted with questions, and coaxed to remember events – both good and bad.

As I sat on the porch, these people I’d never met came alive for me. Not their faces necessarily, but their histories and their personalities.  I sat in the humid Arkansas evening, let the mosquitoes bite at will, and never once thought about checking my email or updating my status on Facebook. I learned how to tell a good story, and I reconnected with why I love to do it.

While I love connecting with readers and with other authors, I didn’t start writing because I love the idea of having a website, an author page on Facebook, or a Twitter feed. I’m not nuts about learning Snapchat or Periscope or Tumblr, or whatever new social tool comes up. (Except Pinterest. You’ll have to pry my Pinterest feed from my cold, lifeless hands.) 

Marketing is necessary and it’s understandable. Sales are a must, of course. However, I can’t market what I don’t have written – and no one will buy it if it sucks.

I have my must-read “keeper” authors. They create amazing characters who populate stories that draw me in from page one. Those are the authors who inspired me to write.

I want to tell memorable stories. Every person deserves to be remembered, to have what happened to them remembered – even fictional people.

So, for me, this is the year of the story.   

What about you? Favorite social tools? Introverted author? Favorite stories? 


Find me at:

Friday, August 5, 2016

Collaborating for a Cause

I'm so thrilled to be a part of a multi-author paranormal anthology, which is now available for pre-order. Even more exciting to me is the fact that ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT is a collection of stories that will benefit a charity. And not just a portion. That's right -- a hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Epilepsy Foundation.

What makes that even more personal is that the organizer of the anthology chose that charity because her daughter suffered from frequent seizures before she had brain surgery in 2015.

Who has a story in this awesome collection? How about Dakota CassidyRenee GeorgeClaudy ConnKelly CozzoneA D JusticeGena D. LutzAubree LanePM BriedeAmanda WashingtonNicole Garcia, Stephanie RoweMelanie JamesToni AleoTracey Jane JacksonJulia MillsDiane RinellaA K MichaelsJami Brumfield, moi - Wynter Daniels, and Michele E. Gwynn.

My novella in the collection, SPIRITED SEDUCTION, has some mystery, some suspense, a ghost, a psychic and of course, a villain.

So if you're in the mood for a really awesome deal, think about pre-ordering ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT today. You'll get a taste of 20 terrific authors in one book. This collection is only available for a limited time. For only $.99, you can't go wrong!
Amazon :

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What the Heck is a Bouchercon Anyway?

The wiki answer is: Bouchercon is the World Mystery Convention.

To get more specific, I’ll quote the website: “The World Mystery Convention is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization which holds an annual convention in honor of Anthony Boucher, the distinguished mystery fiction critic, editor and author. It is the world's premier event bringing together all parts of the mystery and crime fiction community, and is commonly referred to as Bouchercon. [bough'·chur·con]”

For me personally, as a crime fiction author and voracious reader of the genre, Bouchercon is like coming home. Uhm. To a traveling home. Bouchercon visits another city every year. I’ve attended once in Cleveland and this year I’m headed to the Big Easy. New Orleans, baby!

I’m excruciatingly thrilled by this because 1. I LOVE New Orleans and 2. My new cozy mystery series is set in the city’s famed Garden District. Better still? The convention is just weeks before the release of book 1 in that series, Cat Got Your Diamonds. So, I’m over-the-top giddy right now. If the title isn’t cute enough, it’s part of the Kitty Couture series. Ha! I smile every time I say it. It’s adorable and fantastic.

But back to Bouchercon. The 2016 convention is lovingly titled Blood on the Bayou and is being attended by a number of immensely talented authors including Heather Graham and Harlan Coban. You’ll find me at Kids Day fangirling all over the infamous R.L. Stine. My family and I are bananas over his Goosebumps books. I love him. *winks* *whispers* Call me.

When I’m not signing my own books and buying enough new tomes to fill a second suitcase, I’ll be joinng in a second line parade (part of Bouchercon) to a historic theatre for the coveted Anthony Awards. I’ve also got tickets for the 8th Annual Queen of Burlesque show. (not part of Bouchercon) But I mean…while I’m in New Orleans, right?

I plan to see all my favorite sites again. Take my husband on this awesome Segway tour. And do lots of fresh research for the books in my new series. 

Are any of you planning to attend Bouchercon? I hope I’ll see some of you there. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

I SPY: Business Plans for Writers

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...

Business Plans for Writers

Most writers long to spend their time writing, not thinking about the business side of, well, the business. But in this day and age, spending all of our time dreaming up worlds and characters isn’t an option. There are a plethora of other things to wrangle, manage, and deal with, from marketing to social media to creating an indie book to finding agents or editors to shop in a traditional market. And everything in between.

At the RWA conference last month, the first workshop I attended was one I had hoped would get my head back in the business of writing. It was entitled “Plan for Success: Create a Motivational Business Plan for Your Writing Career” and was presented by author Stephanie Bond. Sitting in that workshop brought back memories of a chapter workshop I attended a couple years ago with a similar topic: "Dream, Dare, Do!" presented by Shelley Coriell. And it reminded me that I never sat down to finish that business plan that was begun that day. And I certainly hadn't updated my scrawled notes in the intervening years.

Since I've been looking for focus lately, I made creating a business plan my priority when I returned home from conference a couple weeks ago. I started by exploring more about business plans online, and integrated a lot of that fabulous information here.

First, Jami Gold says, “no one will ever care about our success as much as we do.” And therefore, we must have a business mindset. If we have clear goals and a personal definition of success, we can make better business decisions. Amy Atwell says it’s important to think of writing as a “career,” which is why a business plan is helpful. On her "Author E.M.S." website, she refers to other sources, where one can use worksheets to come up with her business plan. She also reminds us the plan isn’t set in stone, and should be revised or updated regularly.

Second, before creating your document, Angela Ackerman recommends brainstorming what you want to accomplish, identifying themes, and then grouping together areas of focus. Then, try to step back and see the big picture, assigning importance to what you need to accomplish.

When you've done some big picture and small picture thinking, put them together into one handy document that summarizes your career plans and goals for the coming year:


OBJECTIVES (a.k.a., Dreams!)

What do you want out of this business? Do you simply want to see your name on a book? Do you want to hit a bestseller list? Win a RITA award? An Edgar? Do you want to make enough money to quit your day job or put your kids through college?

This is where you put anything you want out of your writing career. Dream big!


A mission statement is often brief, and for writers it can be as lofty as “to encourage people to grow through my writing,” or as generic as “to entertain.”

PRODUCTS (or Product Plan) & BRAND

Here’s where you think about what you are creating, which of course, includes your books. Also think about what makes them different/unique, and what formats they’ll be available in, and whether you plan to publish via traditional publishers, indie, or both. Don't forget about audio, film, and even nonfiction items such as series-related coloring books.

Kimberley Grabas also suggests delineating your “ideal reader” as you create your business plan, as well as your “brand personality and culture.” This includes the vibe you want to give off when people land on your website or other social media pages, or when you speak at events. How do you want to be perceived by the public/readers?

Think about what makes you different, and what makes you the same. Everything from business cards to website design to the font and your name placement on your covers should reflect what/how you write.

GOALS (a.k.a., the things I can control!)

This is where we get down to the nitty gritty.

Keeping your dreams and objectives in mind, what can you actively and reasonably DO to make those dreams come true in the short term? This can include such things as attending a signing or conference, submitting to agents, finding a critique partner, researching your next series, etc.

For instance, one of my dreams is to win a RITA. I obviously need to enter the contest to even have a chance of making that goal happen, so entering the contest is listed under my goals and has been added to my calendar. Similarly, to hit a bestseller list, I’ll need to write books and increase my audience, which led to my current annual goals of building my newsletter list and increasing advertising and amount of time spent on social media. 


What do you need to do/change to achieve your dreams? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, and energy? What is the state of the market in your genre/subgenre? How crowded is it?

This includes looking at your “competitors’” or fellow authors’ bodies of work and how they’re advertising them. What are their price points? What things are they doing well, in your opinion? Is it something that should be added to your goal list?

For me, one of the items in this category is to read several top-selling romantic suspense novellas, as I have not written one before but hope to this year. I want to study how the character arcs and plots differ from full-length books, so that I know what novella readers expect.


This includes setting up your calendar. Will the amount of writing you do this year be increasing/decreasing from the previous year? What publishers or agents do you want to target and how are you most likely to get your work in front of them? Do you need to register for some conferences or enter contests?

The first item on this list, for me, was writing a business plan. J The second item was transferring my task list to my planner/calendar.


How do you plan to support yourself while you implement these other plans? When would it be a good time to incorporate? To meet with an estate planner or tax consultant?

For me, I plan to create a “Body of Work” document that contains all of my books and information my husband would need to access them, should something happen to me. I also have a note to consider drawing on savings to create audio versions of my new series, but have yet to make a decision on whether that’s a wise investment. But it’s something I can revisit next July, when I update my business plan.

Have you written a business plan? Do you update it regularly? What things do you make sure to include on your plan? 


See the left sidebar for previous I SPY posts and watch for future I SPYs for more discussion of the craft and business of writing...

We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

Friday, July 29, 2016



Hi all,

As this is my first blog on Not Your Usual Suspects, let me introduce myself. I’m Laura Carter (*waves*) and I write sexy romantic suspense novels. My debut series, Vengeful Love, follows Scarlett Heath, a high-flying London lawyer, as she pitches to work for devastatingly attractive billionaire, Gregory Ryans. She wins the work, only to find out that the takeover Gregory is about to embark on is hostile. Cue a dark and twisted thriller, underpinning a passionate romance that sees Scarlett and Gregory mingling with high society in the glossy skyscrapers of London and Dubai.

I started writing Vengeful Love as a business lawyer living and working in the heart of London. It seemed like the perfect setting for an erotic, white-collar thriller. I had the backdrop of glitz and glamour—champagne, cocktails, sky views, limousines and black tie dinners—mixed with the ominous streets of the city. My hangouts looked something like this…

(View from the Shard, London)

Here’s the thing, six weeks ago, I changed my life by moving to a small island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. And as I sat down to my laptop in my new surroundings for the first time, I thought, Oh Crap! What have I done?

I went from dry martinis and the hustle and bustle of the city, to bottled beer and a sleepy, small-town beach life. My new style…

(Sunset British Virgin Islands)

Don’t get me wrong, the serenity of the island is wonderful. Being able to read and write in a hammock is pretty great. But I write CITY suspense novels. How am I supposed to make a beautiful sandy beach grave and threatening? I thought.

I worried about this for a couple of weeks, no kidding! Then I had that ‘lightbulb’ moment we all know so well. It came one day as I was driving past the island’s prison. It’s kind of idyllic for a prisoner—a low security compound with a garden and, from what I hear, pretty relaxed rules, with an outstanding view out to sea. I mean, this place would make the Count of Monte Cristo giddy!

So, I started wondering, what could a person possibly do to wind up in prison on this peaceful rock? And a few things dawned on me…we’re in the middle of the sea, accessible from all angles by boats and private planes…in other words, perfect for trafficking people and drugs—erm, hello gang crime and cartels! Then I thought, if you’re on the run, this is actually the PERFECT place to hide. It’s so small it barely gets a spot on the world map! And, given the fine waters for sailing, the low taxes and little regulation compared to, say, London or Manhattan, this is a billionaire’s paradise! Put all of that together and you get dark and (potentially) glamorous with no rules (*excited dance*).

It took some time and it was unexpected, but I started to see the small-town, island setting as having endless possibilities for crime and suspense novels. As an author, I think it is incredibly important to be able to draw inspiration from just about anything, to conjure a story from nothing. It’s what makes us a quirky (?) breed of species and, in my opinion, what makes our job one of the best in the world.

So, I ask you, authors, what is the most unexpected source of inspiration you have had? And to you, readers, do you prefer the backdrop of the dark and dangerous city, or the unsuspecting, kind of eerie, sleepy town?

If you’re interested in the Amazon bestselling Vengeful Love series you can check it out here:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:
Barnes & Noble:

Come hang out with me:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How (Not) to Interview a Black Ops Soldier

I recently sat down with "Bolt Action" Mary, the heroine of my latest romantic suspense, ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT Black Ops: Automatik #2, to talk to her about such things as her journey through the military and her plans now that she's back in the civilian world. The conversation was very interesting, as was sitting across from such a skilled covert soldier as Mary. I'd love to show you what we talked about, but I'd agreed to let her get first approval of the interview and the following are her notes:

As you can see, Mary can be quite private and the last thing I'd want to do is go against her wishes. Luckily, the hero of ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT, former SEAL and current Automatik teammate Ben Jackson agreed to answer these same questions for her, and with her consent:

Q: What was your path into the military like?
A: Mary ran out of asses to kick while still in high school, so she had to join the Army in order to show those boys how it was really done. I’d advise you not to dig much deeper than that, unless you want a long ride in a dark van to a remote location.

Q: Was it difficult being a woman in the special forces?
A: It was probably more difficult for the cowboys in special forces to be outshot by a woman. I’m sure she had to prove herself, but there’s nothing I haven’t seen her excel at. Hotwire a car? Bang. Shadow ops? She’ll create a scenario so good you’ll believe you grew up in the same small town as her.

Q: Do you have a fitness routine now that you’ve retired from the military?
A: The woman makes yoga look deadly.

Q: Did you find that being a soldier made you choose between your emotions and your skills on the battlefield?
A: She’s one of the best shadow operators I’ve ever worked with, and she’s brave enough to bare her soul, too. That’s how I fell in love with her.

Q: What’s the one thing people don’t know about you?
A: If people don’t know it, she wants it that way.

Q: What are your plans to keep busy in civilian life? Any chance you’ll get bored?
A: We’re working in private security. Mostly pro bono. And there’s never a dull moment.

Q: Who are you wearing?
A: She has a five inch blackened dagger in her boot and at least three other weapons you’ll never know about.

Many thanks to Ben for answering these questions and giving us insight into Mary. You can learn more about both of them and how they went from teammates to lovers in ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT.