NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

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

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


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pets Build Character

When I was growing up, my parents allowed my sisters and me to get a cat when were old enough to care for it. I think they felt that the responsibility for a living creature would build character in each of us. And my husband and I did the same thing with our children. But in my books, I often give one of my characters a pet in order to further build their character, or paint a more complete portrait of who that person is. 

In my WIP, my heroine's father came and went while she was growing up. She never really attached well to him because she was protecting herself from the inevitable hurt when he left. So instead of giving her a dog or cat that she could grow too attached to, I gave her a goldfish!

My heroine in Burning Touch, an erotic romantic suspense novel, Devon, the heroine, rescues cats because her folks died in a car crash and she felt helpless to rescue them. 

In Tropic of Trouble, also an erotic romantic suspense, corrections Sergeant Jason Jones is a tough guy. And he has a tough guy dog - a German Sheppard. 

I often use a pet's name to convey something about their owner. A modern day witch in one of my works in progress has a cat (which isn't the cliche black), named Valiente. A reader might have to dig a little to figure that one out. Doreen Valiente was a British witch who lobbied to repeal the law that made witchcraft a crime in England. 

Our choices in pets are just one of the many facets that make characters and people who they are. I've posted a picture of my sweet kitty below. She's the best, most sensitive cat we've ever had and she is also my writing buddy. 

What about you? Is there a special pet in your life?

Monday, June 24, 2013

BICHOK – Getting in the Groove

Write a little every day and soon writing becomes a habit.

This is great advice, but it’s much easier to nod and agree than move forward and obey. I’ve been away a lot this year, and while I take my laptop with me, most times I end up doing a little plotting and catching up on my reading instead of actually adding words to my work in progress. On my return home I always find it hard to get into the swing of writing again. I tell myself I’m busy doing laundry and unpacking when really I have my feet firmly in Procrastination City.

I’ve developed several strategies to get my butt in a chair and my hands on the keyboard. (BICHOK)

1. Join in some speed sprints #1k1hr on Twitter. My competitive streak won’t let me report a low total.

2. Use Freedom http://macfreedom.com/  to block Internet access for a selected amount of time. This works well for me because when I’m procrastinating I do a lot of playing on the Internet. I tell myself I’ll just check out Facebook and get sucked down the black hole. Freedom stops me from doing this.

3. Take myself off to one of my favorite cafes and set up camp there. I call them my coffice. I try to pick one without Internet access and usually get a lot of work done because I can’t get up and wander around.

As well as getting me writing, I meet interesting people in my coffice. A few months ago a man at a neighboring table asked me how to spell a couple of words. Then he asked me about wording his letter. It turned out he was writing a letter to a judge and if the court session didn’t go well, he’d end up in jail. He’d done bad things, he told me. I wasn’t brave enough to ask for details.

After writing the letter to his satisfaction, he left to change for his court appearance. Weeks later, I was busy working in the café and he said hello. He happily told me the letter did the trick with the judge. I’m sure there’s fodder for a story there!


How do you get into the writing groove when every particle of you wants to do something else?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. Her next release is Past Regrets, an erotic contemporary romance from Samhain Publishing. If you would like to learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at www.shelleymunro.com

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Book In A Sentence

Authors get a lot of credit, and it is well-deserved. An author can carry a tale to its 100, 200, 300-page satisfying conclusion. Songwriters are like authors, but with a reduced-page count.  There are many famous book quotes that stick in our heads, spanning from, "It was a dark and stormy night..." to "May the odds be forever in your favor..."  

But what sticks in your head most, a quote from a book, or a song lyric? I respect the talents of songwriters. Some are capable of telling an entire tale in a single sentence. "They were sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it's better than drinking alone..."  In that one line from Billy Joel's Piano Man we know and identify with this couple at the bar.  We've all seen them before. The business man who wishes Happy Hour would never end because he has an empty house to go home to, and the recent divorcee who went out with her associates after work, but decided to stay when they all went home to their families. Billy Joel portrayed this despondent couple in one skillful sentence. 

"Have you come here to play Jesus to all the lepers in your head?" Whoa!  Someone step in and analyze Bono's statement from ONE for me. 

And of course, there is Gladys. :) "I'd rather live in his world, than live without him in mine."  In one simple line, we're packing our bags and heading on a midnight train to Georgia. Going to a place we've never been...a place where we have no relatives, no friends...and all for some guy. Yep, we all know that tale.  One of the most moving examples of this story-line comes from the actual life experiences of Romantic Suspense author, Shannon McKenna. If you get a chance, read her bio and you'll know what I mean.

Do you have any favorite song quotes?

Maureen (aka Gladys) A. Miller
Coming soon! HIGH TIDE

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Through the victim's eyes


As authors we have to use our imaginations—goes without saying, really. As romantic suspense authors, our imaginations often take us to some pretty dark places. And we live there for as long as it takes to feel the chill down our spines or the outright terror clawing at our guts and get it down on paper. We go back there, over and over, to those black corners, cobwebbed hidey-holes and damaged psyches, smoothing the contours, adding that final layer, the slightest hint of light or deepening darkness.

Most of the time I can find that frightening place in my own evil little mind (mwah ha ha) but when the dark place is a physical location—well, there's nothing like the real thing to get you in the zone.

I was inspired to write Betrayed by Trust by a terrible crime committed right here in the nation's capital. A young government intern disappeared amidst rumors (true, as it turned out) of her involvement with a congressman. Her body was found a year later in heavily wooded Rock Creek Park. Several years later we learned that her killer was an illegal immigrant who had attacked other women in the park.

In Betrayed by Trust, a beautiful young Capitol Hill aide named Blair disappears and her body is found several months later on Roosevelt Island, a tiny wooded island in the Potomac River with a giant statue of Teddy Roosevelt and trails that wind through marsh and swamp. I've been on the island many times with my husband and dogs and kids, finding a bit of nature in view of the Lincoln memorial and the famous Key Bridge.  In my book, the police have a suspect—a foreigner with alleged terrorist ties. But alas, it's not that simple…

 My story takes place in late June and July, so on the 4th of July I had the brilliant idea to watch the fireworks from Roosevelt Island. My husband suggested we stand on the bridge leading onto the island, but, like Blair's sister, my heroine in the story, I wanted to experience the woods at night at the spot where Blair had tumbled off the path and landed in her swampy grave.

Well.

It was very, very dark as we walked the trail in the woods that night. We had expected to have lots of
company, but apparently no one else was dumb enough to try to see the fireworks from the island. The air was thick with humidity and hordes of mosquitoes were out for blood. I began to have second thoughts. Then it started to rain.

My husband lugged his camera and tripod off the path, through thick, prickly bushes onto a tiny spot of muddy ground where he could see the sky through the trees. By this time I was practically hyperventilating. I don't like the woods at night. I'm not brave. And I hate mosquitoes. I wanted to get off that island in the worse way. But it was a couple of miles back to the bridge and the most stubborn man on the planet (who had forgotten the flashlight) informed me that he was not budging until he had some shots of the fireworks.

I lasted about five minutes.

I knew the way back, and I could still see the path even though it was super dark under the canopy of trees. I walked for about the first thirty seconds…and then I ran. Ran like I was being chased. And as I ran, I became Blair, fleeing from a villain she thought she could trust, slipping on the muddy trail, muscles aching, heart pounding, shadows turning sinister, breath coming in shallow, hysterical gasps…

After an endless amount of time I could make out the bridge ahead and the lights of Georgetown twinkling, and I slowed my pace. I closed my eyes and took a deep, grateful breath. For the duration of that two-mile run I had lived inside my story, and experienced some of the terror Blair had felt in the final moments of her life. 

I wouldn't want to go there again.

-Ana Barrons

Betrayed by Trust will be released on July 8th by Carina Press.



Monday, June 17, 2013

What is romantic suspense?



When you write a novel, you’re always hearing about “conflict.” Although that doesn’t mean a knock-down fight, that’s what it often amounts to. Start your book with a bang, hook ‘em in.
But conflict doesn’t always mean fighting. It means the inner struggle and the outer. One of the biggest challenges is to balance all the conflicts, because too much and the reader will get breathless—not in a good way.
Although I haven’t written any “romantic suspense” recently, I do tend to write books where there are things that belong in romantic suspense. I really don’t know where the line is drawn, I mean, I won a major romantic suspense award for “Harley Street,” a historical story featuring Richard and Rose. True, there was a murder in chapter one, and the couple spend the book discovering the murderer, and thus, other things about Richard’s past, but it’s never to my knowledge been shelved in that section.
In "Brutally Beautiful," my hero is an ex-gang leader, and he has some serious things to accomplish before he can save his princess and have his happy ending. Definitely erotic, but the suspense element is high. The villain is fairly obvious, but will they catch him or her in time?
My newest release, coming next month, is “Sixth Sense,” and again, I’m not sure where it belongs. Romance, I guess. It’s part of the Symbiotics series, but can be read alone and it starts with a real life experience. Yes, I did lie in an isolation room in a hospital once, wondering if I was about to lose my leg. It seems strange to anyone who doesn’t write, but I can almost see the authors reading this saying, “Yep, it all goes in to the writing pot.”
I never forgot the experience, and the memories remained vivid. The emergency didn’t last long and I still have two legs, thanks to the doctors at my local hospital, whose prompt action and careful diagnosis made sure I got better. But for the two days of the emergency, I was scared, and then resigned. Because, after all, what could I do? If it happened, it happened, and I was in the best place.
In the room next to me was a sailor, in quarantine after suffering a tropical disease. He was perfectly well, but he had to stay there until they said he wasn’t infectious any more. I couldn’t talk to him, we just exchanged a couple of sympathetic smiles.
So I put my heroine, Poppy, in the same situation. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? Her conflict is an internal one—how does she cope with this unexpected and terrifying thing? It happened to her as suddenly as it happened to me. Not an accident, an unexplained swelling of the leg, so much that it threatened to burst. Blood clot? Septic arthritis? I had no idea and neither did she.
Instead of a middle-aged sailor, I gave her a hot, wealthy geek to play with. One who has inner tensions of his own. He’s in the hospital recovering from cholera, contracted during an exotic holiday.
Oh, yes, and by chapter two, the plot has thickened. The external conflict appears. Her condition isn’t, like mine was, an unexplained occurrence. She’s being poisoned.
So there you have it. Is it romantic suspense? Some of the story is certainly spent hunting the perpetrator, but the majority is the love story between two unlikely people who meet by chance. Both are sexually naïve, being too busy and too shy to explore. They have satisfactory sex lives, but finally, together, they can play with the basket of toys that have been lying in Jim’s closet since he left his job in England.
So which is it, romantic suspense or erotic romance?


Friday, June 14, 2013

HAVING THE LAST WORD/Jean Harrington

HAVING THE LAST WORD/Jean Harrington

                The last word.  The end of the argument, the witty come-back, the perfect retort.  Who doesn’t love having the final say?  I guess we all do from time to time, even the peace-makers among us, but for the writer, always getting the last word is part of his job description. 
You type “The End” with enormous satisfaction knowing in the line or two above you’ve written the last and final sentence of your book.  Those endings are tricky little devils to write too.  They should leave the reader with a sense of completion, the feeling that the story is well and truly over, that the book can be closed with a sense of fulfillment and perhaps just a tad of regret it came to an end.
We all have our favorite story endings, and in addition to “happily ever after” here are a few of mine:
“(he) felt utterly helpless; he could only hope that she would be given the very best care.  She was going to need it, or she would die.”  The Girl Who Played with Fire/Stieg Larson 
“Many had died.  But not she, not he; not yet.”  The Great Fire/Shirley Hazzard
“Capturing her mouth with his, he stepped onto the wide platform and tumbled her onto the bed.”
Betrayal in Death/ J. D. Robb
“Ming went out to dinner—the restaurants hadn’t closed—with her foreign lover, gushing over drinks and noodles with the extraordinary events of the day, then walked off to his apartment for a dessert of Japanese sausage.”  The Bear and the Dragon/Tom Clancy
“I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara.  I can stand it then.  Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way to get him back.  After all, tomorrow is another day.” Gone with the Wind/Margaret Mitchell
“You know something, Rossi, I could kill you.”
“Too late, Mrs. D.  You slayed me the first time we met.”  Designed for Death/Moi   
Examples like this could go on forever, of course.  But what I found interesting in this list of final passages is that each one is a hook that could lead to another book.  So who’s to say the last word really is the end?
BTW, do you have a favorite?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What’s So Funny About Murder???

Definitely nothing. Nothing is funny about murder, but I enjoy humor so much I need it in my stories. Especially my cozies because I need a break from the tension. I’m not a girl who listens to sad music or watches those Lifetime/Hallmark movies eager to tear up at the emotional trauma they drag you through. Not me. I prefer to laugh. I like romance and action also. This is how I ended up penning a cozy mystery. Cozies have all my favorite elements and none of the heart wrenching moments I so deftly avoid.
Another thing I love about cozy mysteries is the fact the murder is secondary to the story. Yes, it’s the catalyst, but it’s not really about the murder. It’s about the aftermath and the unraveling of a great mystery. For example: If someone from military intelligence stepped in and solved the crime, I imagine there’d be lots of blank stares and grunting, possibly even a confession. I know, I’d rather confess than face an angry soldier. This is not funny.
But what if the person digging around looking for clues is clueless? What if they don’t know what to ask or where to look? What if the only thing on their side is their lovability and desperate curiosity? I like that story much better any day. I really like it when women surprise the soldiers of the world with their audacity and persistence in the face of danger. Huzzah! Hear me *roar*

The process can be quite funny in a good cozy and I hope I’m in the right zip code on this with my story. I enjoy getting to know the sleuth as much as learning whodunit. I put myself and my girlfriends into the book, imagining us bumbling along and learning as we go. A steep learning curve is also funny to me. I am on this curve in most situations. I’m unarguably a jump in first and find out how deep and cold the water is next kind of lady. Makes life interesting. I hope my heroine makes this interesting too. More than interesting. If you join my heroine on her first adventure as an amateur sleuth, I hope you’ll laugh out loud and maybe until your cheeks hurt. 
What's your favorite aspect of a cozy mystery?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Lazy Hazy Days of Summer Travel Are Upon Us.


                The days when we can relax. Plan vacations with family and for authors, hit up a few writer’s conferences. The rub is, how do we get to our personal paradise, our mountaintop, or a delightful hotel where we can learn more about our craft and meet our adoring fans?
Unless you live in the Northeast corridor where you can travel by train, most of us are restricted to either car or plane. In the past, the plane was always my choice. Hands down. Now, not so much. In fact National Lampoon’s Griswold vacations would be preferable to flying these days.
I live an hour and a half from the airport. Yes, there is a closer airport (45 min.) but all of the flights out of there use those teeny tiny planes. I don't know about you but, I really don't care for flying on a plane you can lean out the window to smoke a cigarette.  Anyhow, the airlines are recommending you arrive at the airport an hour and a half before flight time. Say I have a 10 o'clock flight. I have to leave the house by 7 AM. That means I need to get up by 5 AM. Ugg.  I carefully weigh my luggage to make sure it isn't over the limit and I'm on my way. Airports no longer have curbside check-in so I trudge inside, stand in line and listen to airline personnel tell irate fliers, a) they cannot carry on a piece of luggage the size of the lazy boy recliner. Which by the way I suspect contained two small children. b)  Their luggage has exceeded the weight limit by 45 pounds. Oh my! The language.
I finally make it to TSA and place my electronics in the plastic bin, remove my shoes and go through an x-ray kind of machine that I am sure in 20 years we will hear is the cause of some kind of cancer and hope I’m singled out to be groped.  I do love a good groping.
BTW does anyone else find it odd the TSA allows small knives on flights? They really are convinced 4 ounces of shampoo is more dangerous than a knife with a 3 inch blade.
At the gate I’m told the departure gate has been changed to one, you got it, on the other side of the airport. It’s boarding time so I rush to the new gate to discover the flight has been delayed an hour.  Finally it’s time to board and no many how many times the gate attendant says they are boarding by zones people try to cut. I also realize the contingent of Sumo wrestlers are on my flight and I’m wedged between them. In flight I watch fascinated as several of these large men get up to use the lavatory. Fascinated you ask? Um yeah. How the bloody hell do they fit in there? And… where did they…?  All I knew for sure is I’m holding it until we land.
The guy in front of me reclines the seat all the way back and I can see the lice in his greasy hair.  Why do they allow that?  The seats to recline, not the lice. I mean the seats are closer than hormonal teenagers parked on a dark street. Geeze. And what about the guy who unwraps his smoked goat meat and onion sandwich, snarfs it down and belches the rest of the flight so you get to keep smelling it?
BUT… all that said there is a way to avoid a lot of that mess. Rent a private jet or, upgrade to first class. I know some of you prolific writes can afford the twenty-five grand for a jet rental but I can’t. So, I have an airline credit card and use it to earn frequent flyer miles. What does it do for me? I avoid long lines, no limit on luggage, board first and have a drink in my hand while the cattle car passengers file to the back of the plane. The airline card also offers me passes to the airline’s airport club where I can sit in comfortable chairs, have a drink, and on one occasion rub shoulders with the secret service. Still have to go through TSA but, then why miss the possibility of a good groping?      

How do you manage your travels?

Friday, June 7, 2013

STORM WARNING



 
For Floridians we’re only week one into the hurricane season, and Tropical Storm Andrea made landfall yesterday.  As a trivia buff [I play on a trivia team every week], I did a search of the use of hurricanes/tropical storms in fiction, film and TV, and not surprisingly there are a fair number.

Think about it. A powerful storm that can be forecasted with an increasing sense of tension, dread and even doom.  The slow but inevitable pace as it approaches the shore where it can impact on thousands of people.  Actions taken, crises met, lives changed: such rich fodder for a writer.  

William Shakespeare certainly makes use of one as a plot element in The Tempest, said to be based on a real hurricane.  Joseph Conrad in Typhoon employs a cyclone for characterization with the ship captain insisting on sailing into the storm.  A hurricane kills key characters in Porgy & Bess, changing the direction of the story.  Another storm leads to a rescue mission in Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger.  Clive Cussler frequently uses storms in his books; in Cyclops, a storm strands the protagonists on an island used by Soviets as an electronic surveillance post. Oh my, can we say tension?

Not only can the storm can even be personalized by the name the author gives it, the name can also play to the venue.  The comic name ‘Flozell’ is given to a storm appearing in the show ’Family Guy’.  Of course, there is “The Perfect Storm”, the nameless horror that took the crew of the Andrea Gail.

A hurricane can be used to stage a crime, impede the hunt for a criminal, cover an alien invasion or be the black moment when all appears lost for the courageous heroine.  

What are some of your favorite books or shows featuring a storm? [and I do believe some should be by NYUS authors... :)]

Carol Stephenson
Escape to Compelling, Heart-Racing Stories
HER DARK PROTECTOR, 2013 EPIC finalist
Website; Facebook; Twitter

P.S.  On a serious, pragmatic note, here are a few tips for hurricane season.

1) Backup your work, whether using Dropbox or some other alternative storage.  When Hurricane Wilma struck, I sent a flash drive with my works-in-progress to my sister.

2) Check on your stockpiles. Now’s the time to make a list and start buying over a period of time.  Batteries, flashlights, water, food staples, waterproofed matches, butane lighters.  I maintain tubs of supplies in my hurricane closet. In the event part of the house is damaged, by spreading my supplies throughout the house, I hope some will be undamaged.   Once hurricane season ends in November, if there’s something I can’t use, I donate it to the food drives.

3) Construction garbage bags. Even the lower category hurricanes will make a mess of the yard. It’s amazing how your neighbor’s messy tree ends up dumping its branches on your yard.

4) Have an emergency plan with your family. If separated, where should you go or send a message? Power lines will go down; cell phone towers will become inoperable.  How are you going to find each other or send word that you’re safe?

5) On my ‘to acquire list’ this year from my tornado alley friends, a helmet. While I plan to place a mattress in my safe closet, I think wearing a helmet is one smart idea.

6) If you have a generator, test drive it ahead of time. It’s a machine. It can decide not to work at the worst time. Speaking of generators, please don’t use it in the garage and/or inside the house.  They make extension cords. The risk of someone stealing the generator isn’t worth you’re losing your life due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

7) My most cherished hurricane supply: a battery-operated TV. Being able to watch the storm bands and knowing they would soon pass kept my sanity during Hurricanes Francis, Jeanne, and Wilma as I listened to the wind howl and things go creak and bump.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Reading


Happy June, everyone! Though Mother Nature hasn’t officially proclaimed it Summer, it feels that way as the kids escape school and routines shift to lazier days. (If keeping up my writing routine while entertaining the kids can be called lazy...but there is at least the illusion of lazy time in the hammock.)

For someone like me, whose main leisurely endeavor is reading, my thoughts drift to books. I have a pile of books on my nightstand (which has toppled over and now includes stacks of books under my bed) and the long list on my Kindle. But I also have the occasional impulse buy and favorite author’s new release to consider. So what's on my summer reading list?

I recently discovered this book in the US Airways magazine while traveling to the RT Booklovers Convention. Though nonfiction isn't my typical "go-to" when I want a light, fun read, the idea of hidden history fascinates me. HERE IS WHERE by Andrew Carroll takes a look at hidden-away or forgotten historical sites around the United States. Carroll gives the example of traveling to the subway platform where John Wilkes Booth's brother saved Abraham Lincoln's son. That certainly caught my interest, especially since I'll be on a cross-country road trip soon. Will have to check some of these places out...

Also, for researching my books, I’m going to be reading research on the Arthurian Sword in the Stone legend as well as anything I can find about human trafficking. (Scary combo, I know, but it’s for two different books I’m working on.)

For true relaxation, though, I always head toward fiction. I’m currently hooked on Jill Shalvis (hot, contemporary reads, perfect for the beach) and am reading the last book (HEAD OVER HEELS) in one of her Lucky Harbor trilogies; I'm also on book three of Darynda Jones's quirky paranormal romantic suspense series (THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD). Her lead character, Charley Davidson, has such a fun cast of supporting characters as they solve mysteries – both earthly and beyond. And I'm looking forward to Addison Fox's WARRIOR ENCHANTED. And I just picked up (impulsively) Christy Reece’s CHANCES ARE when I found it on sale. Can't wait to dive in!

So many of our NYUS gang have books coming out this summer (including the third book in my Mindhunters series: DEADLY BONDS). I hope my fellow NYUS members will speak up in the comments section to share what will be released in the coming weeks.

So, yeah, I doubt my to-be-read pile will get any smaller this summer. Even at my current pace (reading 1-2 books a week), it’ll probably stay status quo as I discover more books that I want to read. But hey, I figure if I reach the bottom of my to-be-read pile, I must be dead, and nobody wants that.

Besides, that’s the fun of summer…it feels like you have endless time to indulge and that it’s OKAY to take time in the hammock to get lost in someone else’s story.

Your turn… Do you find yourself picking up different types of books during the summer? What kind? What’s on the top of your to-be-read pile? What releases are coming out that you're excited about? (Or do you have an upcoming release to share?)

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