NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A. Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson

Friday, August 31, 2012

"Edit" is not a four-letter word


“The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile.”

~ Robert Cormier

I’d be willing to bet everyone who’s published a novel has been told once or a hundred or a thousand times, “I always wanted to write a book.”

My standard response? Go for it! You may enjoy telling stories, creating worlds, bringing characters to life.

I love crafting stories, even if it never turns into more than a fun short for my own pleasure. But if you’re writing for other people’s enjoyment, the expectation level should rise.
 
A lot.
 
Once that first draft is hammered out, the real work of writing begins. Some people groan about revisions and editing, but I enjoy it. Smoothing transitions, finding the rights words, building in layers of meaning, subtle foreshadowing, and (oh, so important!) killing our darlings – also known as cutting the boring parts, losing the overwritten, the purple prose.

To me, the most important question to ask as I revise is: Am I bored here? The wonderful teacher and writer Margot Livesey, put it like this: if you are bored, it’s not because you’ve read that section so many times. It’s because it’s boring.

My favorite editing technique is reading the manuscript aloud. Sometimes my fabulous hubby willingly listens while he’s driving. (We have a cabin in the mountains, a couple of hours away from our home). Speaking the dialogue tell me in a hurry if it’s flat or stilted. An awkward silence tells me he’s losing interest. Either one results in an immediate note in the margin – do I need this scene? Tighten? What’s the point? Is there a better way to convey what’s needed to move the story forward?

Authors, care to share an editing technique? Readers (which of course includes writers!), what’s your pet peeve for poor editing?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly

I’ve been writing for more years than I care to remember and, so far, I’ve only had one cover that has reduced me to tears. The story in question was a contemporary romance/saga set on the beautiful Shetland Islands and featured a romance between a doctor and a fisherman who spent days/weeks at a time on a trawler in some of the most dangerous seas in the world. Woven into this was the story of the Shetland Bus – where men risked their lives day after day taking small boats into occupied Norway during the second world war. The cover?


A bimbo holding a red rose? Why???

I’m not particularly pleased with one of the covers for my crime novels, Where Petals Fall. This story opens with the finding of a body in a disused quarry so I can see the logic behind the cover, but I can’t like it. (I loathe the title more – and yes, I chose the thing.)


So when I know that I’ll soon be seeing a new cover for the first time, I worry. Carina Press have given me the best covers ever but still I worry. My luck has to run out some time, yes? Well, it’s not running out just yet. Here’s the cover for my November release.


I asked readers of my blog to tell me what they thought. Everyone loved it and a few said it suggested “gothic horror” to them. I hadn’t thought of that but I can see exactly what they mean.

Me? It’s almost reduced me to tears – of the good sort! I may have said this about the last cover but I believe this is definitely the best cover I’ve ever had.
Here’s the blurb:

Portrait of a mystery

Dylan Scott vowed never to return to the dreary town of Dawson's Clough. But one visit from a beautiful ex-lover and he's back in Lancashire, investigating a possible murder. The police think Prue Murphy died during a burglary gone wrong, but her sister isn't so sure—and neither is Dylan. After all, the killer overlooked the only valuable thing in Prue's flat.

So who could have wanted the quirky young woman dead, and why? Dylan's search for answers takes him to France, where he discovers Prue's family didn't know her as well as they thought they did. And the more he digs, the more secrets he unearths—secrets someone would kill to keep buried…

So what do you think? Mystery? Horror? Gothic horror? 

Writers, have you had a cover that's reduced you to tears? Readers, does a good cover entice you to read? Does a bad cover put you off? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Counting my Blessings


This has little to do with writing, other than reminding me just how lucky I am to have the faculties to actually be an author.

We’ve just returned to Florida having spent several months back home in Europe. Our first stop was the Isle of Wight – home to my entire family, including my 87-year-old mother. I hadn’t seen her for some months – not that she was aware of that, but I’m acutely aware of the passage of time and the things I’ve never said to her.

Mothers traditionally hold families together, often at the expense of their own aspirations. Everyone’s mum is special, and mine’s no exception. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t active. She always had a duster in her hand, a pot simmering on the stove, a shopping list on the go – not to mention a demanding part time job looking after old people. My mum was the epitome of multi-tasking before it became fashionable.
She often came home from helping her old folks, saying how distressing it was to see them losing their marbles. Well, those weren’t her exact words, but you know what I mean. She SO didn’t want that to happen to her but none of us ever thought it would. She did everything right. Never touched alcohol, (not sure where I get it from – it certainly wasn’t through parental example!), never smoked, ate healthily and walked absolutely everywhere. Not a lot of choice about that since for most of my childhood we didn’t own a car.

She spent years nursing my father through a long illness and when he died eight years ago we thought that, at last, that Mum would get to lead her own life. But the opposite happened and her mind started to go. It seemed like she’d lost her purpose and had given up.

She’s in residential care now. We had to sell her house to pay for it, (don’t get me started on that one!). She still doesn’t like to sit about but the staff understand that and are so patient with her. They let her help clear up the tea things, (which probably means the job takes twice as long!). She found a carpet sweeper and insisted it was her job to keep the carpets clean so the staff went to the trouble to provide her with her own special sweeper with the brushes removed. It brings a tear to my eye whenever I think about that. At what point do our parents become our children?

Anyway, she was delighted to see me, once she was reminded who I was, and what my name is. Several times, when I’ve arrived unexpectedly, she’s looked up at me with vacant eyes, smiled and asked me who I am.

It’s heart-breaking and she so doesn’t deserve this. I come away counting my blessings, and dreading the future. Is this disease hereditary? What should I do to take precautions? Like her, I dread the idea of losing mental control. It’s a sobering thought.

Wendy

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Audio Books, Tall Stools and the Glamour of Show Business, or my adventures as a recording artist


by Janis Patterson
On one of my writers’ eloops there has been a lively discussion about audio books. Some like them, some hate them, some are just glad to have another outlet to sell books and some want to know how to do them. Oh, has that brought back memories!
Having been an actress at one time (The Husband says I still am, even though I haven’t been near a stage or microphone for years…)  I’ve narrated a couple of audio books. Believe me, it is a discipline all in itself and one of the most difficult in the entire entertainment industry. There are no facial expressions, no body language, no costume or make-up, nothing to convey emotion or character – nothing save your voice. It is potentially the hardest form of acting ever devised, and yet in the eyes of the general public it is one of the least respected.
To make a decent audio book you need (1) a good book – duh – (2) a good voice actor, or, depending on the book, several of them and (3) a good studio with good technicians. Sometimes the last is the hardest to find.
When I did my first audio book it was many years ago and the industry was still in the toddler stage. I don’t even know if Audible.com and other suppliers existed. I certainly didn’t know about them. The producer of the audio book was also the author, and she had very definite ideas of how it should be done. Some were actually workable. Some were not.
We did our first recording all in one room – the author/producer, the male voice talent, the technician and I – all huddled around a commercial version of a cassette recorder. The studio was small and old and unhappily located under an elevated freeway. A very busy elevated freeway. The tech was the only one with earphones, and we’d have to stop and re-record every few minutes because of traffic noise. Needless to day, the quality was terrible – so bad that the author, who had been trying to save pennies by using the bargain service, decided to re-record the whole thing.
This time we moved into a more professional studio complex. There were three rooms in a row, each solid black and about the size of a small walk-in closet – one for the male talent, one in the center for the tech, the equipment and the author, and one for me. The only trouble was, all three rooms were sealed. Mine had one solid door and no windows at all. Our only contact with the outside world was through our headphones. I am somewhat claustrophobic, but made myself rise above it for the good of my art. (Big, sarcastic grin. It was more about the money.)
All well and good, but this was summer in Texas and the temperature was brutal. To make things worse, the noise of the air conditioner invariably picked up on the tape. Because of contractual and other complications, we couldn’t record at night, when the temperature was marginally cooler. No, not cooler. Less hot. So – we would take breaks and run the a/c, drink lots of water and in my case try not to freak out at being enclosed in a small room completely painted black. Then, when the temperature was bearable, we’d turn off the a/c and start recording. After a while we’d repeat the process. The book took about five days to record. Five very long days.
Well, that helped, but not enough. After about the first hour of recording, I stripped off my shorts and shirt and recorded in my bra, panties and headphones. I even stripped off my jewelry, and those of you who know me realize what a drastic step that was!
In each of the talent’s rooms there was a tall and very uncomfortable stool, an adjustable black (of course) metal music stand and a set of earphones on a long cord that snaked away to a plug in the wall. That was it. Our scripts were a stack of individual sheets and as one page was finished we would just drop it to the floor. White papers all over a black floor in a black room only added to the surreal quality of the session.
The funniest part was that the book concerned a very wealthy man who wanted to do nothing but pamper this beautiful woman, to the extent of building her a fabulous house in the mountains. Most of the actions took place during snow season, so there was lots of talk about fabulous jewels and mounds of furs and even a passionate rendezvous while on a skiing run. Yes, I performed all that, becoming that wealthy woman swathed in furs in a cold climate, all the while sitting on an uncomfortable stool in a sweltering room while sweat dripped from my nose and my chin and from almost every portion of my anatomy, including my toes.
The audio book sold rather well, even though now I feet the writing could have been stronger. I ran across my cassettes (yes, it was that long ago!) not too long ago and played a little. In one of the snow sequences there had been a wind background lightly laid in, and it was great – I could honestly feel the cold and shivery nature of the scene, even though I knew how miserably hot the taping session had been.
Another crisis of our miniscule budget was that it was one track – ie, recorded straight through, without doing separate tracks for each character even when two women or two men were speaking to each other. That made for some very sophisticated – and scary – vocal gymnastics.
I felt I earned my spurs as a voice actress from one scene alone, a scene where the heroine and the villainess and the wise old woman get into a rip-roaring fight, all screaming at each other. Each had their own voice, their own intonation and accent – and, of course, each was me. That scene gave ‘talking to yourself’ an entirely new dimension.
I listened to that sequence again too, and for its time and genesis, it wasn’t too bad. They used the second take, even though I think the first was better – at least what there was of it. In an effort to make my performance as energetic as possible, I was swinging my arms and putting a lot of physical energy into the fight scene – so much so that I tipped over the stool and went crash on the painted concrete floor. The noise – especially through headphones – must have been horrendous, for before I could raise my somewhat bewildered head everyone, including the male talent, the tech, the author and several employees of the studio, came charging in. Of course, I was sprawled full out, surrounded by a snowstorm of script pages, more than a little dazed and wearing nothing but sweat-saturated bra and panties.
Needless to say, that was the end of the day’s session. I regard it as a tribute to my professionalism (to say nothing of courage) that I actually came back and re-recorded the entire scene.
After that I recorded two more audio books, both in much better studios and there was absolutely nothing memorable about either session.
All three books are out of print now, and probably should be, as the industry has moved so far forward in the intervening years. Still, though, I cannot forget that first session, try though I might. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the glamour of show business!




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WHO TALKS LIKE THAT? by Kathy Ivan



Okay, I'll confess. I love to eavesdrop on other people's conversations. In line at the grocery store, lunch or dinner at a restaurant, it doesn't matter to me. I freely admit I'm a card-carrying snoop. Little snippets of conversation take place all around us and sometimes you can learn the most amazing things. But what I really love is listening to HOW people talk. Not just the accents but the way they construct their sentences, the whispered inflections of speech. You can tell a whole heck of a lot about people by listening.

Which got me thinking about how my characters talk. I love to immerse the reader deep into the story, suck them right in so they forget they are reading and become truly involved with the people and places that I've tried to bring to live on the page. How they people in your story talk speaks volumes about who they are.

Let's do a little test. Pretend you're at a friend's house and overhear a conversation between Lisa and Frank, the couple you're visiting.

EXAMPLE #1
Lisa: "I need to go to the market. Is there anything you need?"
Frank: "Let me think about it. We need things for Saturday night when the fellows are coming to the house."
Lisa: "Oh, of course, dear. I will pick up some things for your friends."

If you read that in a story, you'd be yawn, boring, put the book down and never pick it up again (although the stilted conversation above where never get past any editor, believe me.) Instead, you want Lisa and Frank to come across as real people having a real conversation.

EXAMPLE #2
Lisa: "Honey, I'm going to the store. Need anything?"
Frank: "Snacks. Yeah, get snacks for the game Saturday night. Chips, dip. Oh and don't forget the beer."
Lisa: I won't forget, it's on the list. Where you wrote it—and underlined it—and put a big star next to it. Anything else?"
Frank: Um, don't forget toilet paper.

Not great examples, I know, but can you see the differences? Example #1 is very formal, stiff. No contractions, no emotion. It's blah, boring. Most real people don't talk like that. Example #2 covers the same basic conversation but hopefully these people seem more realistic. It feels more like a real conversation between two people who know each other well.

Make the people and conversations in your books feel more alive, more realistic by using contractions, accents, even foreign words when they're appropriate to the scene. Adding in dialog tags, emotions, inflections in tone and volume can all play an important part in making characters words flow and come alive.


Eavesdropping on conversations between your characters is a great way to hear the dialog, the conversational flow. Does it feel real? If you were sitting at the table next to your hero and heroine, would they sound like real people or the stilted formal Lisa and Frank from example #1?

The next time you're writing dialog, read it out loud, perk your ears up and eavesdrop. If it sounds like real people talking, having a real conversation, you'll never have the reader say, "Who talks like that?"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Writers lead such a lonely life.


“Writers lead such a lonely life.”
  The lady sitting next to me at a women’s luncheon delivered those words with a sigh, a ‘you poor dear’ look, and a condescending tone. I glanced around the table to see more ‘poor dear’ looks and in my best terminal foot in mouth disease tone replied. “Exsqueeze me?  I don’t think so! I have so many people living in my head I can’t take a shower alone. They wake me up in the middle of a nap and at night to talk. Lonely? Nope.”   
   “What do you mean?” Another lady asked with genuine interest. “People in your head?
   Then I remembered people who are not writers don’t have friends and enemies living in their heads to talk with at any given time. Poor dears.  
   Needless to say, the topic for the rest of the luncheon was the rich life of the present day author. I explained between facebook and twitter I was in touch instantly with over fifteen hundred people around the world. Every day I could chat with almost the same number of my writer friends on private loops. People in the UK, Nova Scotia, Canada, every state in the US, South America, New Zealand and Australia. I heard about wild fires, earthquakes and many other events before it was announced on the news.  I blog and go to conferences.  I am not alone.
   They all nodded and asked questions but alas, it was like being at an air show. Everything flew over their heads.  Why?  Only one was on facebook. Two had heard of twitter. The others didn’t have a clue. All went blank over blogs and no one understood Yahoo loops.  Then came the question, “when do you find time to write?”
   Busted!  I’d been telling them about my old life. In uncharacteristic meekness I said, “I manage.”
  Here’s the rest of the story.
   Attempting to do all the required social media, promo blogs and write a book an agent, editor, publishing house could sell, my head felt like a melon at a Gallagher show. I honestly can tell you I like social media. That said, for me it's a mind drain drug. I'm looking at what other people are writing about, saying, doing, responding, being a chatty-cathy and lose my stories, myself.  I decided enough was enough and retreated.
   Don’t misunderstand what I said about editors and publishers. I get publishers wanting a commercial book. I’m just not one of those smart, savvy authors you can hand a topic and in three months hands back a book. The stories I write really do come from the people in my head. If I changed them for the sake of selling, instead of waking me up at three in the morning to talk, my H&H’s would bludgeon me to death. 
    A quick side bar here. If you hear I died in that manner please report to the authorities that it was one of my heroes or heroines so they won't be wasting their time looking for some poor sucker.
   The more I backed off from social media and other influences the happier I was with my writing. An injury, that forced me to take pain meds and muscle relaxants had me more loopy then normal and forced me to further reduced my contact with social media. That side effect was nothing compared to the side effect of enjoying my writing again.
   Soon I had adopted the Dog Whisperer's mantra for my Internet usage. No touch, no talk, no eye contact, until I was calm. I embarked on a wonderful summer vacation only doing the thing I wanted to do. Write!       Finally, I'm calm.
   I'm only now beginning to reconnect with the social media. This is my first blog in ages.
   I feel confident if I get too excited again the no touch, no talk, no eye contact, will bring be back in line.
   I have a suspicion there are more of us suffering from too much of something in their lives. If so, how do you deal?    

Friday, August 17, 2012

Do or Die


The 2012 Summer Olympics are over and our Olympic fevers have broken. We’re well on our way to leading normal lives…but the amazing displays of physical stamina, as well as the difficult heartbreaks, live on as inspiration.

Why do I find the Olympics inspiring? I love the people. The stories. It’s not the events I enjoy—well, okay, I like most of the events—but it’s the personal stories that clutch at my heart. It’s the mental and emotional feats…the real-life hurdles that these athletes faced and overcame through inner strength and persistence. And the reminder that the sky’s the limit if you try hard and focus your energy.

It reminds me of why I write, as well as why I read…and it’s probably the same reason most of us do. I like to write/read about characters overcoming the odds and surviving, even thriving. And the Olympics add that time crunch that surely we suspense aficionados can appreciate—it’s do or die within a couple of weeks’ span, even if the athlete has been preparing a couple of years or an entire lifetime for this moment of triumph. And yet, for every athlete who succeeds, there are many who didn’t reach that gold medal.

But they're all winners because they were all brave enough to risk failure. Knowing only a few can be in the spotlight, they are willing to dedicate hours and weeks and months to their passion. What a fantastic message of persistence and shooting for our dreams.

What were some of my favorite stories from this Olympics?


This pair has dominated the beach volleyball circuit for over a decade, but what inspired me most was how they communicate, both on court and off. Their interviews show a deep and abiding friendship and mutual respect.


Fastest man ever – holy moly! He’s got reason to be confident. The story they presented on his home country showed his father joking that it was eating the homegrown yams that made Bolt so fast.


Double-amputee runner. Simply amazing. Not only has he overcome odds most of us will never face, but he does everything with a beautiful smile. He's moved on from the Olympics to the Paralympics.


He's won 22 medals in 4 Olympics, 18 of them are gold medals. He's become the standard by which many swimmers judge themselves. Chad de Clos from South Africa beat him in the 200-meter butterfly, and said he was honored to swim against his hero.


He lost dozens of members of his family, including six siblings, in 1994 to genocide. Cycling saved his sanity. He told reporters that he knew he didn't have a shot at a medal. His goal was simply to finish the race, and to represent his country. 


What are some real-life stories (Olympic or non-Olympic) you’ve found inspiring? What do you do/watch/read to get inspired to either tackle or shake up your daily routine?




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I-Spy: Writing the Gay Mystery - Dialog


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 – Dialog


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Dialogue serves several purposes, but each purpose is designed to one end: to advance the story.

 Aside from specific topics of conversation, there’s nothing about writing dialog for the gay or m/m mystery intrinsically different from writing any other kind of mystery or suspense dialog. Or writing dialog for general fiction, for that matter.


Since there’s no shortage of excellent general writing advice, I thought I’d focus today on a particular brand of dialog known as pillow talk. Pillow talk is, of course, the dialog that occurs between your protagonists during lovemaking.  Pillow talk gives you a chance to offer insight into the characters and their complicated relationship – so it has to be both  meaningful and sexy.


Discussing crime and murder is generally not an ideal topic for pillow talk – unless you are trying to make a point about your characters and their relationship. Two guys in law enforcement who have sex on a regular basis but kid themselves that they are not in a relationship, might discuss their case rather than anything intimate or personal, but in the ordinary way your reader is going to be hoping for more in these scenes.


When human beings have sex with someone they love, they’re vulnerable. Which means it’s a great time to insert romantic and heart-felt dialogue. I’m not planning to discuss sex until later in the series, but it seems like the right moment to observe that every sex scene should have a point — beyond the obvious one. It should signal some change, some development in the romantic relationship between our two protags. This is why the dialog in these pivotal scenes is so crucial.


Now there are some readers who are content with a few moans and groans and “Oooohs,” but I think they’re the minority. And I’m guessing they are not mystery readers. Mystery readers, by definition, like mysteries. They like puzzles, riddles, enigmas...they like to deduce and deduct and work things out. And that extends to the emotional content of the story as well as the primary crime plot.


Your characters will — should — say things when they’re in bed together that they wouldn’t say anywhere else. They’ll reveal things about themselves through dialogue and action in those particular scenes that could only happen in those particular scenes. Bedroom dialogue isn’t interchangeable with other dialogue. It is sexier — earthy and emotional and naked — but it still needs to be coherent.


I think the test of solid bedroom dialog is whether your story still makes make sense if you remove that particular conversation. It shouldn’t be easy to strip it out because, again, that dialogue is often going to be a turning point. At the very least it should be an emotional turning point. Certainly even if you took all the physical action out, the dialogue should still make sense. Mostly.


You don’t need a ton of bedroom dialog, let me hasten to add. Think quality over quantity.


And after you’ve written the dialog between your characters, ask yourself the following questions: Does the dialogue still make sense (for the most part) without the physical action: meaning, are these two characters actually communicating with each other? Even without knowing the backstory or the characters, is this dialogue interchangeable? Will the reader concur that she/he is watching a turning
point in this relationship — learning something about the characters and their feelings for each other? Could this dialog happen at another time in the story?


Dialogue in your sex scenes? Dialog is what brings your characters to life. Without dialog they are simply descriptions of rippling muscles and piercing gazes and great hair. Dialog is what makes your sex scenes hot and personal and memorable. Yes, you do need pillow talk, and yes, you need to take as much time and trouble with it as you do with the rest of your dialogue.

 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!

Monday, August 13, 2012

To Boldly Go...

Today my kids came home with a snake. Isn't it cute?
Then later in the day my son and I took a walk along a quiet wilderness trail (we're in Vancouver Island for a month with DH's work). It was muddy and dark, the path knotted with roots and fallen trees, full of shadows and cold spots that made the hair on my body stand on end.
I have no idea why a snake doesn't bother me, but an empty trail scares the crap out of me. I took my air-horn, two whistles, the phone (even though we don't get a signal), and picked up a stout stick to bang noisily against things. My son and I chatted loudly about the tracks and markings we saw in the mud (he's looking for a banana slug for some unknown reason) and after ten minutes we got to our destination... which was absolutely beautiful. The whole return trip went without incident.
I guess I'm anal about some stuff like bears, cougars, wolves... :). 

My husband laughs at me but I listen to my instincts. So what if I have to carry a couple of extra things? So what if people mock my over anxious ways? I don't care. I walked down a trail today on the edge of nowhere and made it out alive. To me it is all part of the adventure.

Is anyone else like me or do you all wonder fiercely through life taking no prisoners?

Friday, August 10, 2012

THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

I hate to be a spoil sport here.  Pun definitely intended, but I’m relieved the Olympics are nearly over.  While I admire the dedication, the energy, the physical and mental talent athletes expend on their games, for me organized sports are like garlic, a little goes a long way.  Including, Superbowl Sunday, The World Serious (my pet name for them), and boxing’s Heavyweight Championship of the World.       
The origin of my antipathy may have something to do with the fact that I’m myopic.   Like Mr. MacGoo, without glasses I walk into walls.  Even with contacts my eye-hand-foot-knee-thigh coordination stinks.
In high school, enforced gym class was torture.  All that running up and down the slippery gym floor trying to nail the volley ball was hell—sheer hell. The only sport I ever remotely liked was tennis, more for the cute little outfits than for the challenge of the game.  Whack!  Whack!  Whaaaack!  Trouble was, without glasses I couldn’t see the ball coming—no contacts in high school.
Granted, the aesthetics of PGA golf are great.  I’ll give the sport that much.  Grass, trees, and only a few, very few, maddeningly little holes.  And I love Tiger’s shoulders.
I’ll also concede that in winter Olympics ice dancing has glorious moments.  But outside of that, sports are downhill all the way.  Including the luge.  Heck I used to luge with the neighborhood kids.  We called it sledding.  And as far as summer Olympics go, what’s that playing volley ball in a bikini all about?  Boing.  Boing.  Boiiing.
Okay, enough.  Actually, I have the entire London Olympics schedule taped to my fridge, and enough bottled beer and frozen pizza to keep John and me happy throughout August 12. I’ve hardly missed a single event, and have actually devoted two full weeks to the 1012 Games.
So if you believed all that stuff above about hating sports, no coordination, gym class horrors, etc, all I can say is that my writing must have improved.  Either that or I play a heck of a game of snooker ball.  Sorry.  The devil made me do this.
Jean Harrington lives in Florida and writes the Naples set Murders by Design Mystery Series for Carina Press.  The first book in the series, Designed for Death, was released in January and the second, The Monet Murders, came out in June.  For an excerpt of both, Jean invites you to visit her web site: www.jeanharrington.com.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why I write.

Why I write.


1. I believe in unicorns.

2. Sometimes when I’m out walking, fish follow me.


3. Sometimes, music follows me too. Really.


4. It helps me figure out how I fit into the picture.


5. When I don’t, bad things happen to my head.


6. Writing makes priceless magic.



With thanks to the beautiful city of San Francisco.
So...Why do you write?
Point us to a picture on your website or Facebook page.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Reading



One of the reasons I've always loved summer is because it gave me a little more time than usual for my favorite pastime, reading. When I got my first job and had to work through the summer, I didn't have that extra time to read, but at least it before kids. I could usually find a way to squeeze in my reading. After the kids came along, just opening a book would be considered a small miracle. A novel I once might have finished in a day, took me a year to read. Still, when I could make an escape from a hectic day, I made it into the pages of a book.

Now that the kids are older, this summer I decided that as soon as I had some free time, I would make it a priority to read a few of the books that had been on my wish list or sitting on my Kindle for ages. I've made a slow but steady dent in my list. Just this past week, I've read three books and I'm confident I'll read at least another three or four before the summer is over. I'll try to sneak in some others during the busy school year, but it won't have the same secret, delicious joy of reading a book by the pool, at the beach, or on a lawn chair on the deck while the sun warms my hair and shoulders.

Here's a few of the books I've read (and others I hope to read) this summer:

The Witness by Nora Roberts
Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey
Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden
Taken by Robert Crais
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Lethal by Sandra Brown
Smash Cut by Sandra Brown
Jungle of Deceit by Maureen A. Miller
Touch by Jus Accardo
Celebrity in Death by J.D. Robb

What are you reading or have read this summer? Hey, it's never too early to plan my list for next summer!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


YA Mysteries & Thrillers 


I always tell people that I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. Those two brave, intrepid, and often-foolish teen girls sparked my love of mysteries. These days I mostly read adult mysteries and thrillers. But I still love teen sleuths and highly enjoy reading about their crime solving adventures all while juggling friends, family and homework! Here are some great YA mystery/thrillers that I’ve enjoyed recently and highly recommend.

Dark Eyes By William Richter-Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets. Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko - her darkeyed father - finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood

The Butterfly Clues By Kate Ellison-Penelope “Lo” Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. But in the year since her brother’s death, Lo’s hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. When she discovers a beautiful antique butterfly figurine and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as Sapphire, Lo becomes fixated. As she attempts to piece together the mysterious “butterfly clues,” with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld — a world much closer to home than she ever imagined.

My Own Worst Frenemy By Kimberly Reid-Chanti Evans is an undercover cop's daughter and an exclusive private school's newest student. But Chanti is learning fast that when it comes to con games, the streets have nothing on Langdon Prep. With barely a foot in the door, fifteen-year-old Chanti gets on the bad side of school queen bee Lissa and snobbish Headmistress Smythe. They've made it their mission to take Chanti down and she needs to find out why, especially when stuff begins disappearing around campus, making her the most wanted girl in school, and not in a good way. But the last straw comes when she and her Langdon crush, the seriously hot Marco Ruiz, are set up to take the heat for a series of home burglaries--and worse. . . .

The Liar Society By Laura and Lisa Roecker-Kate Lowry's best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate's more than a little confused. Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder...

The Ruby in the Smoke By Phillip Pullman-In search of clues to the mystery of her father's death, 16-year-old Sally Lockhart ventures into the shadowy underworld of Victorian London. Pursued by villains at every turn, the intrepid Sally finally uncovers two dark mysteries--and realizes that she herself is the key to both.

Conspiracy 365: January By Gabrielle Lord-On New Year's Eve, Cal is chased down the street by a staggering, sick man with a deadly warning..."They killed your father. They'll kill you. You must survive the next 365 days. Hurled into a life on the run the 15-year-old fugitive is isolated and alone. Hunted by the law and ruthless criminals, Cal must somehow uncover the truth about his father's mysterious death and a history-changing secret. Who can he turn to, who can he trust, when the whole world seems to want him dead? The clock is ticking. Any second could be his last.

Who are you’re favorite teen sleuths?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Audible: The Journey, Part 2



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: Audible: The Journey, Part 2

I left you with a cliff-hanger so I’ll get right to the answer. The apple is for clicking. If you speak for long periods, your mouth gets sticky and little sounds come out that you don’t want to be there. I was told the granny smith apple helps with that but I’ll tell you another secret: When I clicked, and yes, I clicked, I just drank some water. I never sliced open my apple. It seemed like too much trouble. <G>


I felt more confident on day two, but for some reason on day three, I was nervous again. Probably because my voice still hurt from day two. I was worried it would show on the recording. (It didn’t.)

We started a little later in the day and ended up going later in the evening. The director could tell when I got tired because my “Texas” came out. I tended to drop the ed or ing at the end of words.  We also had a ton of stops and starts because it was trash day and the vibration from the garbage trucks was loud enough to hear even in my sound proof booth.

Oh, and day three marked the beginning of all the sex. Up until now (as far as sex went), I’d only had to read a couple of kissing scenes. Honestly, I didn’t really think about it or get embarrassed until I made a mistake at a particular point and had to go back and re-read it. Yes, I felt myself blush bright red when Paul (the director) told me, “Take it back to where she’s wet and wanting him.” OMG. I think I just flushed again. Anyway, he liked that I didn’t have gratuitous sex. (Uh… not me specifically, but in the book. LOL.) Trust me, after that, most of it was a cake-walk.

Occasionally during the day I’d hear Paul laugh and my heart would thump faster at having written something he thought was funny. It would distract me for a few words, but I just kept plowing forward. Of course the thoughts in my head would be something akin to, “Wait! Which part was funny?” But I never asked.

By the end of day three, my throat really hurt. I was sucking down tea all day and having soup for dinner. In general, I stayed away from foods that might affect my speech. Like dairy. That was tough since I’m a cheese fiend.

The last day in the studio was the shortest of all at five and a half hours. I felt as if I had a more difficult time starting. The more mistakes I made, the more I thought about the poor editor who had to piece it all together. I thought that this far into the book, I wanted it to really sparkle. Not that I didn’t want the top to sparkle, but I was more aware of certain things and therefore got more anal as the process wore on. And, because I knew I had extra time since I was reading fewer pages, I took advantage of it.

I asked Paul to rate my performance on a scale of 1 – 10. He gave me a 7. I was okay with that since this was my first book. I can only get better. He gave me some pointers on what to look out for in the future. (Mainly my Texas accent when I got tired or not careful.)

The closer I got to the end the more melancholy I felt. I couldn’t believe it was all over so fast. I had let my baby out in the world once more, be it good, bad or ugly. And, now I’m faced the tough issue of having not only my story critiqued, but my performance as well. But like everything else in my life, I’ve gone into a business that is extremely subjective and I can handle the critics. I won’t please everybody all the time and I know that. I can only please myself with the material I put forth into the world.

I am happy to say that so far my Danger Zone ratings have been very good and since I try to learn from my mistakes, I gave myself a note before narrating Dangerously Close: SLOW DOWN.

Which leads me to my second session and my second narrated book.

I finished Dangerously Close in three days. The book was smaller than Danger Zone (coming in at 106K), but I had more characters with points of view, which meant I had more voices to mark in my head.  I was lucky enough to have Paul back to direct so I wasn’t nearly as nervous when I started on day one. I read slower which led to less error. I dropped my page average by about a minute.  The toughest hurdle for me on this book was singing two songs I wrote. I’m a shower/car singer so when the recorder goes on, I tend to get nervous and hit every note except the one I’m supposed to. God bless, Paul. At the end of the last day he let me record (at my request/begging) the two songs again so the editor could stick them in the book where they belong. I was having a tough time so he told me practice for a few minutes. When I was ready and told him to record, he smiled at me said, “I got it already.” The sly dog recorded on my rehearsal. Love that man. (I also had to record “talking” the songs and I won’t know until I listen which version they used.) In the end, he told me I’d improved 100% since the last time. Yes, that made me smile.

In conclusion, I can tell you that I worked my butt off for both books. Not only in the studio but in preparation for the studio. If you think narrating a book is an easy job, think again. Committing to each character is a ton of work. But it’s been some of the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. I know I’m lucky to be able to bring my books to life and hope people enjoy them as much as I enjoyed writing/narrating them.

So that's the story. I know I asked your thoughts yesterday, but after hearing about both sessions, do you have any other thoughts or comments about the process? Ask away... I'm all ears. 

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Dee J. Adams has been writing romantic suspense for over a decade. Her Adrenaline Highs series is published through Carina Press and her debut novel, Dangerous Race was a finalist for Best First Book in the 2012 Golden Quill Awards. The third book in the series, Dangerously Close, was released 7/23/12. She's been married to the love of her life for 23 years and has one remarkable daughter.



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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.
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