NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of 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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

WHERE DO YOUR IDEAS COME FROM?


How many times have you heard this question? I think every time somebody hears the words "writer" or "author", it seems to be the first question that springs to peoples minds.

Most of us have vivid imaginations. Try thinking back to when you were a chid. As children we made up games to play with our friends. We'd go outside into the yard or onto the front porch and spend countless hours living and playing in our imaginary world. There were no limits and no boundaries to confine us. We sang songs to music only we could hear the words and melody to. We'd dance and twirl with abandon, seeing the movements and hearing the rhythms in our minds and our hearts. We even made up tall tales to tell all our friends about how we spent our summer vacation.

Stepping forward from the imaginings of childhood, our minds still form and shape the images and pictures of everyday life into cohesive (at least we hope) storytelling. We watch, we absorb, and we contemplate. We listen, we sniff, we taste. The people and places around us are an endless source of inspiration.

The lady in line at the grocery store in front of you, a toddler seated in her cart. Her phone rings and even before she answers, her expression fills with so much hope it nearly breaks your heart. Is it her husband or lover on the phone? Is it a call from the doctor's office calling to tell her the biopsy was benign? Maybe it's the employment office telling her she got the job she's been desperately seeking for months. The wheels in your mind can spin the tale in any direction you want, just from watching thirty seconds in the life of a stranger.

Maybe you're in your favorite coffee shop and you see a man and a woman seated across from each other. There are talking softly, the conversation animated with gestures on his part yet the more he talks, the further his companion seems to shrink back into her seat. What's their story?

Maybe you're watching television and the news comes on. There's a story about a major pharmaceutical company's new breakthrough weight loss miracle drug the FDA just approved. As the reporter drones on about all the wonderful attributes of this medication, they show pictures of overweight people. If you're a suspense writer (like me LOL) imagine where this story could go. What if the drug did help people lose weight but a side effect caused homicidal tendencies with people going on killing sprees. Where could this story take you?

Stories and ideas are everywhere around you if you just look for them. Let your inner child come out and play, free your imagination to frolic and dance and sing and you'll see where all my ideas come from.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Are you over 35?


           Are you over 35?  
            Yes, I am nosey. I also want to know if, like me, you are looking for books with heroines over 35. Women who have experienced life. If you are, you aren’t alone. There are at least  two of us.*grin*
CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on Nora Roberts CBS Sunday Morning
 Charles Osgood gave a prologue quoting some statistics. The average age of readers is 44. The majority of book buyers are over 50 and 58% percent of those buyers are women. The vast majority of what those women buy is romance. So, those gals who say “I don’t read those kinds of books” may be stretching the truth.  Anyway, during the interview Nora, 61, says she moved away from writing younger heroines. Nothing wrong with them. Writing about young helpless women wasn’t what she wanted. I agree with her decision. As the median age of our society shifts, I think those in that median age want to read about women like them. Women who have experienced life and have skills. Maybe even have a few lumps and bumps.
            Recently Fortune listed the 50 most powerful women in business and only 7 were under the age of 50.  Take a look here 50Most Powerful Women  Should you take the time to check it out you’ll find these gals have what I call the double B whammy. They are brilliant and beautiful.
            Many of my friends write great YA.  Not me, can’t do it. I write about extraordinary women and the men they love.  For me that means women with a high level of competency. I don’t think a gal in her early twenties can fill the bill.  My new book, Under Fire: The Admiral, has a heroine over 35. Way over 35.  Shopping this story I had some crazy ‘feedback’ like - “She’s old, wouldn’t she be tired all the time?” Nope. She has her Geritol and Boost and I’ll make sure I have her take a nap.  Grrr! And don’t worry I won’t let the hero use the glass she keeps her teeth in.
            I believe we are on the cusp of a change in what is considered old. One of the main reasons for the change is, the media is aging. Yes, I am being snarky here and jaded.  But the media controls what we see. How can they call some of our notables and celebrities old when they are the same age? Hmmm….   
            Are you over 35?  Can you see your life ending because you’ve reached a certain age? Do you think you will slip into a kind of narcolepsy of life when you reach a certain age? What about your writing? Will your characters age as you do?   

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Challenge of Writing Mysteries

I recently finished the fifth book in my Kendra Clayton series and have realized that although I still love writing mysteries, it’s getting harder and harder to do. It might be because I’ve chosen to write a series and am feeling the pressure to keep my characters fresh. And it’s even more difficult since I write a series featuring an amateur sleuth. I have to constantly come up with reasons for her to get involved in the investigation. Or maybe it’s because writing mysteries is difficult, period. You see it’s not enough to have a murderer and a victim in a mystery novel.

You have to have motivation and suspects. The victim has to have a reason for being a victim. The suspects have to have plausible reasons why they are suspects. The motives and the deception of the suspects has to be revealed in increasingly inventive ways to not only keep the pace of the book moving forward, but to sustain the interest of the readers.

Then there are the red herrings. Red herrings are thrown in to throw the fictional sleuth—and the readers—off and lead them in the wrong direction. The red herrings have to be well placed, and if well done, should ultimately get the sleuth headed back in the right direction. Poorly handled red herrings can take the plot so far off track it can alienate the readers and ruin the book.

There’s are also subplots, the other storylines that are running parallel to the main plot. These storylines usually include some kind of romantic complication, or job/family/health issues, or all of the above, for the main character—or persons close to the main character. Sometimes the subplots can tie into the main plot, sometimes not. However they are handled, they are a necessary part of the book as a whole and can even be developed into main plots for the following book.

I think the biggest challenge of writing a mystery is laying out all the clues so in the end the reader will realize the answer was there in front of them all along. I never want readers to feel I’ve cheated them by pulling the culprit out of thin air in the last few pages of the book. I want them to be able to follow all the evidence and figure it out. So, in retrospect, I guess it’s not hard at all to see why it’s getting harder and harder to do with each book. But when I hold that new book in my hands, I almost forget all about the challenges. Until, I have to do it again.

 Angela ; )

Friday, September 21, 2012

Color me Red

I write erotic romantic suspense. Doesn't sound so bad when I say it like that. Now I'm all for promotion -- heck, how else am I going to peddle my books? But I had a most embarrassing experience on the print release day of my Ellora's Cave collection, Long and Hard.

Yeah, I know. With a title like that I'm asking for it. Except I never knew the three novellas in the series would go to print as a collection. What ties the books together is the three brothers who work for the Long Shot Security company, which caters to the security needs of the rich and famous. The brothers' last name is Long. The heroine in each story is difficult -- or hard. Hence, we get Long and Hard. Had I known the publisher was going to eventually turn the series into a collection I might have thought long and hard about another series title!

Now, release day comes along a couple weeks ago. That evening I was sitting in a large meeting room with a group of about 30 people, at least half of them strangers to me. Right before the meeting was about to start, one woman I know, who happens to be a Facebook friend, says congratulations to me.

I rack my brain to think of a reason she'd be saying this to me. But she supplies the answer. "She had a book release today," she says. Several people in the room applaud me.

"What's the title?" one asks from across the room.

Now here's where I turn beet red. I have two choices -- tell the truth or make something up that doesn't sound so, well, smutty. Except the lady who congratulated me knows the title because it was on Facebook.

"Long and Hard" I say as quietly as possible. But not quiet enough because the room erupts in laughter. At least the embarrassment warmed me up in the freezing cold room. And maybe I'll get a sale or two out of it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alpha Heroes and Heroines



    I’m constantly asked about the heroes and heroines in Under Fire and Under Fire: The Admiral being alphas and how I make it work. Recently a friend and fellow author who’d read Under Fire asked me the same question. She said she rarely connected with an alpha heroine but she connected with my heroine immediately.  Yeah! Yippee! And a back flip. (if I could do one) 
   I had to think hard before I could answer.  Honestly, I don’t think of my  H&H as alphas.  My definition of alpha is kickass, take no prisoners, do what it takes to get the job done no matter how many people are used and abused. No matter how many bodies are stepped over and left behind, the protagonist doesn’t care a flying fig.  
   I prefer to say my H&H in the two Under Fire books are strong. They are certainly kickass. He, Rico, is a deep undercover DEA agent.  He’s been under cover so long the line between the job and who he pretends to be is blurring. She, Olivia, is a Coast Guard helicopter pilot. Her job is drug interdictions along the Florida coast.  Her flying skills are above average as are her hand-to-hand fighting skills.  They are both fiercely independent because they’ve suffered crushing hurts and don’t want to let anyone to close.
In Under Fire: The Admiral, the heroine is the Admiral. The hero is a heavy on the testosterone doctor. She saves him from drug traffickers and he saves her form herself.      
   When these Heroes and Heroines come together to get the job done they each have their own ideas and there is a lot of compromise.  Except in the bedroom.  Without hesitation, they leave some bodies behind. But, don’t worry,  they are all the bad guys.
   They stand shoulder to shoulder. Accepting of each other.  They fill in each other’s blanks. Never once asking the other to give up anything. 
   I perceive women though out history to have this independence and strength.  Their men went off to wars and didn’t come back for years. Those women ran the farms and businesses. Could weak women endure dangerous ocean crossings to come to the new world?  Think about the settling of America. Women were there, even if many historians want to ignore them. They crossed the county in wagon trains through heat and snow just like the men. They have been part of battles in every war this country has partaken in.  The first and only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, Mary Walker, was a surgeon during the Civil War. The medal was rescinded in 1916. The Army purged its files to reduce what they thought were "unwarranted" issues of medals.  But, it was said the real reason was CongressMEN were upset Mary wore pants while operating on wounded men. Really? She was asked several times to return the medal and refused wearing it every day until her death. Congress reinstated it to her in 1976.
Spring forward to WWII when women stepped into men’s jobs still maintaining homes. Women pilots ferried newly built planes (planes built by women) to the fronts. Many lost their lives to enemy fire. It wasn’t until 1977 these amazing women were afforded veterans status.
   Nancy grace Augusta wake also known as the "White Mouse" was one of the most decorated secret agents of the second world war. She saved hundreds of Allied lives, parachuted behind enemy lines, dodged bullets many times, rode a bicycle 250 miles to alert the French resistance to the Normandy invasion, was involved in ambushing German convoys, destroying bridges, and railway lines. All of the above earned her the number one spot on the Gestapo's most wanted list
   I look around me and see women who are wives and single mothers, maintaining homes, caring for children, working outside the home, being caregivers to aging or ill family members. On top of it all, they eek out time to write romance novels.  These are the real life strong heroines I model my story heroines after.  If some consider them alpha, kickass, strong, killers-chicks so be it.  
   So how do you define an alpha character? 
   Have you read Under Fire? Do you think my heroine is an alpha or an extraordinary woman?
     


Monday, September 17, 2012

I am a killer

It started innocently enough, all good intentions. I am, after all, a nice person. Some might say, too nice. 

I was imagining things. Paranoid. Maybe losing my tiny mind. But then little things started to make sense. The furtive glances. The feeling of being watched. When it came, the confirmation was a sharp and terrible blade, twisted in my gut. 

Mice.

We had bloody mice.

Again. 

*sigh*

I thought for a long time about how to deal with the problem. I'm allergic to cats. I had to act but I was nervous about the consequences. I tried lacing a humane trap with peanut butter but got nothing except a sticky mess. Then I used the spring-loaded killing machines that had me terrified of snapping my fingers in half. Nothing. 

Lights continued to flicker. Walls continued to rustle. 

Poison and tangle-foot pads were deployed.

It's interesting how setting out to kill something feels. Reluctance at first, followed by firm determination. As someone who is basically a wimp, I felt huge sympathy for the wee bastards. But they'd chosen the wrong place to make their lair. (Oh--how many of you read all THE RATS books all those years ago? *shudder*.) I digress. 

It's hard to kill but you get used to it. To the idea. To the act. I'm assuming this is how we learned to survive over the centuries.Or more likely it is an instinct we suppressed in so-called civilized society (some of us, not all). There was no joy in killing these mice although there was a fierce sense of triumph when we had success. 

I am a serial killer of mice and feel like I'm getting rather good at it (although I'll never be complacent again).I'm not sure if we've 'removed' every last mouse from the house but I've recently been rewarded with a most unpleasant odor that I can only assume is mouse decay. I feel like the journey is complete. I am a killer and I hide the bodies in the walls. 

Anyone for tea?


Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery SEX




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: Writing the Gay Mystery – SEX


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The traditional mystery reader is generally not a fan of mixing sex and clues. In fact, even mixing romance and mystery can be tricky, although the sub-sub genre of romantic suspense is alive and well. Maybe this general distaste for sexy sleuthing is because of the cerebral nature of mystery fiction. Maybe it’s because of a little built-in genre snobbery, but whatever the basis for this bias, it holds true for the traditional gay mystery reader as well. Graphic sex scenes do not win Edgars, Agathas, Shamuses, Lefties, or Lambdas.

But M/M is a sub-genre of romance and, as such, the M/M mystery is more closely aligned to romantic suspense than traditional mystery. In an M/M mystery, romance is always going to be half the story, and while it is true that M/M romance is not, by definition, erotic romance, the majority of M/M still does contain some erotic content.


Which is A-OK as far as the majority of fans of M/M mystery are concerned.

Sex sells. We all know that. But boosted sales are not the primary reason for including sex scenes in your M/M mystery or thriller. The two main reasons for including sex scenes in your M/M mystery are to show the developing intimacy – the changing relationship – of the characters, and to offer insight into a side of the characters we would not otherwise see.

However, because you’re also writing a mystery, you do have to balance the romantic aspects with the crime solving. If you short change either the romance or the mystery, readers are going to be disappointed. That means no stopping for sex while running from a serial killer. It also means the discussion will have to occasionally revolve around personal and relationship matters as well as clues and leads on the case.

There are only so many ways to describe the act of intercourse. Pretty much everyone in M/M is using the same terminology and phrases, and generally the same sequence of erotic milestones in any given work. The way you make your scenes different is through dialogue — internal and external — sensory details and emotional subtext. Fresh language, original metaphors are wonderful if you can think of them, but step cautiously. It’s alarmingly easy to skid from the sublime into the ridiculous when you’re writing about sex.

 Go easy on the adjectives and adverbs — some of these scenes read like the rape of a thesaurus. Your erotic tableaux should be written in the same style, the same voice you’ve used throughout the novel.

 Part of how you keep the sex scenes vivid and intense is that you make them true to the characters. We’ve all got our little quirks and preferences when it comes to the bedroom, and characterization in your sex scenes has to hold true with the rest of the story.

 Don’t be afraid to give your protagonists preferences. Tell us something about the characters by showing what they like and don’t like in the bedroom. Give them opinions, predilections, desires — give them fantasies — give them insecurities and hang ups. Make their sex as unique and individual as they are.

Use depictions of intimacy to show us something about the characters we wouldn’t — couldn’t — otherwise see. Give us insight into their characters and their relationship.

Strip your protagonists naked during sex — emotionally, spiritually, mentally naked.

 Pacing is just as critical for writing sex scenes as it is for the rest of the work — both in the number of scenes and the length of the scenes. Again, the heat of a gun battle is not the time to be thinking about someone’s cute freckles or tight ass.

When it comes to the number of scenes within a given work, think quality over quantity. We've all read way too many novels and novellas where the plot merely existed to string together a numbing sequence of nondistinct humping, grinding, and thrusting. Too many sex scenes dilute the impact and importance of what should be a big moment within the story. Don’t spoil the romantic tension by satisfying your lovers — let alone your reader — too quickly. Tease, tantalize. Make everybody work for it.

Don’t miss the opportunity to build sexual tension and satisfaction by including erotic scenes that don’t end with fucking. Showers, baths, hot tubs, moonlight swims, feeding each other, undressing each other, dancing, cuddling, massage — full body and otherwise — not to mention good old-fashioned kissing can all serve to build sexual tension between the characters.

The important thing to remember in all M/M fiction that the sex is not simply about sex. It’s about love. The important thing to remember in M/M Mystery is that as important as the love story is, it cannot be given more importance than the mystery plot.

Questions? Thoughts? Opinions?

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 A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist

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FUTURE POSTS will cover:

 Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.

 We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

REVENGE


Courtesy of Wikepedia     
     "Writing well is the best revenge," was one of Dorothy Parker's pithiest quotes. Parker, was a member of

the famous Algonquin Round Table where a group of contemporary wits and writers met, lunched, drank

and tried to outdo each other with quips and repartee.

     Remember? Way back in middle school? You know. The best friend who dumped you? You can use her now. Not as a friend. That’s long gone. But the way she tossed her long blonde hair and employed a laugh that tinkled and a honeyed voice whenever that special football player was near. And the teacher who lowered your grade when you told him you weren’t going to college—you were going to be a star. Your villain could use the grating sound of his voice, and his matted hair and you could add the stubble that once belonged to the visiting uncle whose unshaved cheek chafed your face. Think about the aunt you confided in, who laughed and said, “You’ll get over it, sweetie.” She’s returned and makes her entrance in Chapter Two of your latest. She won’t know, she never reads a book—besides she’s now a blue-eyed blonde and three inches taller.
     What about your first love? Whatever happened to him? He pops up now and then—sometimes a hero, sometimes a villain, sometimes a clown, sometimes the love of your heroines life. Then there’s the man you worked for and placed on an undeserved pedestal only to find that he’d stolen your idea and never gave you credit—what a strong and detestable character he is going to make. You will have to humanize him a bit.
     Looking back and using something that may have left an emotional scar can change that memory into something fit to print. A dramatic revelation not realized until you think about your characters and plot and discovered something in your past not fully forgotten. A buried memory that gives you—the writer—a poke. Then the denizens of your past move into their new setting, inhabit another time and place, and change the scene, improve the dialogue and bring their part in your new plot to a fitting conclusion. Perhaps we owe them a few words of thanks.
     We redo and edit our manuscripts—do you ever recreate and use memories you once thought best forgotten?
Bests,
Elise

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kindlegraph...


Kindlegraph
lets authors send personalized inscriptions and signatures ("kindlegraphs") directly to the electronic reading devices of their fans.

Readers - contact your favourite authors and collect e-autographs!

Authors - reach your readers in an even more personalised way!

There's a very useful mini-video on how it works on the site, but here is a brief, additional run-down.

I'm an Author, what do I do? 
* Sign up for Twitter, if you haven't already. You DON'T have to use Twitter after that, although you may learn to love it :). Either way, you only need a Twitter ID at the moment for Kindlegraph.
* Go to Kindlegraph and use your Twitter ID to register you as an author. You'll be asked to add a contact email address. Now readers can find you there!
* Add your book(s). All you need is the Amazon ASIN reference, it's listed on the Amazon book page. Copy or type that in, then the book will appear on your Author page with a "Request Kindlegraph" button underneath for a reader to use.



* When a reader requests a Kindlegraph, you'll get an email letting you know. You sign into Kindlegraph, find "Requests" at the top right of your screen, follow that link to the request and write something to them. Kindlegraph offers an automated signature for your message, but you can add your own. Press "Send Kindlegraph" and off it goes!

I'm a reader, what do I do?
You don't need to own or buy the book in order to receive a Kindlegraph, nor do you need to own a Kindle. The Kindlegraph is not inserted into the e-book. It arrives as a separate document. This allows a reader to create a "collection" on their reading device and keep all of their Kindlegraphs together.
* Sign on to Twitter as above.
* Go to Kindlegraph, search for your favourite author(s), click on any of their books and send a request. You can add a personal message to them if you want.
* When they've completed a Kindlegraph back to you, you'll get an email notification. You can then access it on your Kindle, on your iBooks, or directly from the Kindlegraph site. Log in, look for "My Collection" at the top right of the screen, and your Kindlegraphs are accessible as PDFs, attached to a copy of the cover art.

Authors, want to check how it works?
Request a Kindlegraph for yourself, from your own book! Or buddy up with another author and request from each other. Then you can follow through the process and see what it looks like.

To request a personalized signature go to http://kindlegraph.com/books or click on the authors link:

Participating Carina Press Suspense and Not Your Usual Suspects authors:
Toni Anderson             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/toniannanderson
Wynter Daniels             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/WynterDaniels
Marcelle Dubé              http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MarcelleDube
Rita Henuber                http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/ritahenuber
Kathy Ivan                   http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/KathyIvan
Cynthia Justlin             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/CynthiaJustlin
Clare London               http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/clare_london
Maureen Miller             http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MaureenAMiller
Julie Moffett                 http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JMoffettAuthor
Wendy Soliman            http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/wendyswriter
Carol Stephenson         http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/CStephensonFL
Shirley Wells                http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/Shirley_Wells
Julie Wachowski          http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JulieWachowski
Josh Lanyon                 http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/JoshLanyon

Shelley Munro              http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/ShelleyMunro
Angela Henry               http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/MystNoir

Come and support these great authors. It's a chance to say "HI", and enjoy a personalised souvenir for books you've enjoyed - or are looking forward to!

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What Lies Around the Corner?

I’m a huge fan of English TV mysteries and watch them whenever I want to relax. My favorite is Midsummer Murders, and it never ceases to amaze me how the pretty English villages hide a multitude of secrets and simmering undercurrents. They build and build and suddenly there are bodies popping out of the woodwork.

I thought I’d do a fun post on villages today and put you all to work.
Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds
Lower Slaughter, Cotswolds

Dartmoor Village, England
Dartmoor village
Now imagine you live in one of these villages and you’re going for an early morning walk. You turn the corner and discover a…
Personally, I think there could be zombies around the corner in Dartmoor, and I think the local postie is lying on the ground in the Cotswolds with an arrow in his back and his letters and parcels strewn all around him.

Go wild! What do you think lies around the corner and how did they die?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand and writes sexy romances, usually with a body strewn here or there, for Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave and Samhain Publishing. You can learn more about Shelley and her books at www.shelleymunro.com





Monday, September 3, 2012

Richard and Rose and Romantic Suspense.

 A few years ago, I won the EPPIE for Romantic Suspense. I was proud and thrilled and shocked as all get-out.
Why? Because it was for a historical romance. That year I’d had a few releases, and when it came to the awards, I didn’t want to put my books in contention with each other and split the vote. So I decided to put the fourth Richard and Rose book, “Harley Street,” in the Romantic Suspense category. After all, it did have a murder and a mystery in it. But it was the fourth in an ongoing series and the focus of the series was firmly on romance.
I didn’t think I had a chance, especially considering the quality of the entries that year. And I had what I thought was a sitter in another category. After all, who would want part four?
It turned out that they did.
“Harley Street” starts with the central characters, Richard and Rose, Lord and Lady Strang, returning to London after their honeymoon in Venice. Rose makes a courtesy visit to her godmother who lives in Harley Street, which was then a new street of houses for the middling and well-to-do. But her visit is interrupted when they find a body of a maid in the attic. She’s been stabbed. Rose sends for Richard, who recognizes the dead maid as someone he had an affair with when he was fourteen.
In those days, the 1750’s, it was often a maid who introduced a man to the joys of sex, although we might consider the man a mere child. That was what happened here, and the act has consequences that will reach to the end of the series.
When I first thought up Richard and Rose, Richard was a mild-mannered minor aristocrat who solved mysteries in country houses. Then, you had to have the entrée to polite society to know what was going on there. An outsider, even a Bow Street Runner, would most likely be cold-shouldered. Only outcasts like Lord Ferrers, hanged for murdering his valet, would be given up to justice, but Ferrers had exhausted all his favors and all his friends by the time that happened.
But then, when I wrote the first book, “Yorkshire,” Richard appeared out of nowhere, right in the first chapter. I just wrote and wrote and there he was. He was blond, a pink of the ton, a leader of society, and he wasn’t a minor aristocrat, he was the son of a powerful earl, and held the courtesy title of viscount. Rich, arrogant and far from the shrinking violet I wanted to write.
I decided to let it ride, and Richard took over. He just worked in the book. The heroine and narrator, Rose, is a child of the gentry, the county, rather than the country. Although they were often related, county and country had their set places in society and they tended to have their own social circles that rarely mixed. Only at Christmas and other celebrations, and the men might meet in Parliament.
Into this society, the mismatched, but deeply in love Richard and Rose grow, develop and at the end of the series, have a mature, loving relationship. I wanted to show that first.
So the fact that every book has a violent death and Richard and Rose are usually involved in solving the mysteries is incidental! Or maybe not.
The series came to an end last June, with the release of “Lisbon,” the place I always wanted to end the series. I knew how it started, and I knew how it ended, and I knew the main antagonists. The rest just happened. There is a half written Richard and Rose book that I fear will never see the light of day now, but one day, I might be able to slot it in somewhere!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

I SPY ....A Writer's Library


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 The Writer's Library


A library is as intimate as an underwear drawer. It reveals personality, history and what you’re like on the inside.

Peek into your library. Do you see hardbacks? Paperbacks? Well-loved copies or things that appear pristine? Fiction or non-fiction? I’ll bet you have plenty of both.

Estimate the percentage of each category. I hate word problems, but I’ll give it a try. In my office library, I have a 63-39 spilt of non-fiction to fiction. (Told you I hated word problems. But seriously, is poetry fiction or non-fiction?) 

If you’re like me, most of that non-fiction consists of books for writing.

I was a librarian just long enough to brush up on my Dewey categories. Oddly enough, I enjoyed shelving books, finding the spot they belonged and tucking each one back in place was a chance to discover a book I’d never seen. Working the shelves taught me to keep my eyes open for surprises. My favorite thriller author had written a Young Adult book? Someone wrote a manual on how to paint Egyptian murals? Every discovery made me happy.

It also made me realize that having a system for sorting was the key to finding those treasures again when I needed them.

That’s when I decided to sort my own library more carefully.

Over time, I’ve worked out a system. My system may not work for you, but maybe it will get you thinking about how to organize your own library. 

My system only works in my office library. (The family collection is located in another part of the house, where everyone can get at it—husband, kids, cats and nephews.)

Things get jumbled when I’m working on a project, but when I’m tidy, there are seven sections in my catalog (apologies to, Mr. Dewey):
  • ·        Manuals
  • ·        Technique
  • ·        Ancestors
  • ·        Inspiration
  • ·        Industry/Business
  • ·        Subject Matter References
  • ·        and the Unpredictable.

Right next to my computer, I keep my favorite manuals--books with technical, unchanging information like dictionaries, and books on technique--which advise on style and form. Think: “Eats, Shoots & Leaves.” 

Why bother with a real dictionary when you can have dictionary.com on your start up menu?

No argument. Online dictionaries and thesaurus’ work great for quick questions, but what if you are working with historical language? There is nothing like having the Crown Jewel of Dictionaries at your fingertips: the OED (2 volume edition.) With etymology going back to the dawn of English, every possible use referenced with examples, this dictionary is dangerously fun to read.

Another manual I prefer in print form is the baby naming book. (I have three.) Naming characters is serious business. I like to consider meanings, variations from different languages and connections to characters in other works. (Remember “Lost?” There’s a reason the guy is named John Locke, right?)  

Here’s another advantage of using a real book. I don’t know about you, but my eyeballs get tired of all the visual distractions online. Those little ads and flashes. Columns and paragraphs breaks interrupting what I’m reading. My brain gets tired faster when it has to constantly choose to ignore information. The clarity of a sitting quietly with a source helps me stay focused.

Technique books are another thing I prefer to set in front of me while I’m working. Everything from “The Deluxe Transitive Vampire” to “Strunk & White” can be stacked on my desk when I’m on the job. Again the internet is a great source for simple questions, but unless you have a photographic memory, or three monitors on your desk, flipping between windows can be a pain. And you have to be careful of who’s advice you are taking on the internet. Can tell you how many times I’ve corrected a kids’ paper and heard, “But I saw it just like that on the internet!”

Well, I‘ve rambled on for a while here. I’ll save the details on other sections and my favorite books in each. But I’ll give you a title or two to think about:

“The Gift”
“The Creative Habit”
“The Forest for the Trees”
“Making Love”
“Writing Alone and with Others”

Sound good? Come visit next time. 
Shhh. It'll be fun.


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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

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