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 . 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, November 29, 2017

Finding Inspiration



Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you to succeed and exceed? 

Inspiration is described as a feeling of animation, arousal, or feeling infused with spirit and enthusiasm to do something. So, where do you find your inspiration? Here's where I find mine.

(1)  Exercise. It sounds corny, but a walk outside can clear the mind and refresh it. Yoga, Zumba, swimming, walking, lifting weights, and even meditation can inspire, too.

(2)  Take Photographs. I don’t have a fancy camera, every picture I take is with my phone. But I love taking all kinds of pictures. It helps me look at things through a different lens. Sometimes a new perspective is all you need to be inspired.

(3)  Be Creative. Draw, paint, play music, sing, dance or write. Artistic expression can be very freeing and often opens your mind to a variety of life’s possibilities.

(4)  Give It a Shot. Try something you always thought you couldn’t do, but always wished you could.

(5)  See the World Through the Eyes of a Child. Hang out with a kid for a day. Most children have a straightforward and honest view of the world. Without responsibilities weighing them down, their carefree attitude inspires fun. So, ride that rollercoaster, splash in the puddles, and smell every single flower on your walk.

(6)  Travel. See how other people live, eat and work. Experience the wonder of another world and culture. There is a lot of inspiration to be had there.

(7)  Let Go. Decide to leave behind those people, behaviors or things that don’t work for you anymore. Sometimes things are out of your hands and you have to make peace with that. Spend your energy on reflecting and enjoying your accomplishments and the relationships that are working.

(8)  Stop Being a Perfectionist. Celebrate your messiness, mistakes and flaws. Hooray! You are human. We love you just the way you are.

So, tell me, where do you find your inspiration?




NO REGRET, the 10th book in Julie's fun, geeky Lexi Carmichael series, releases on January 8, 2018 and is available for pre-order across all online platforms! Her new young adult spy/adventure WHITE KNIGHTS drops on December 14, 2017. Wohooo!

Check out the details on all of Julie's books at her website here.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Year Without Television: A New Year's Resolution Fulfilled!

I fulfilled a New Year's resolution in 2014 that I am considering for 2018. In 2014, I vowed to spend twelve months without television. Betting and joking immediately ensued among family and friends on how long I'd last. I was addicted to crime sitcoms ["Castle," "Major Crimes," "CSI," "Elementary," "NCIS," "Law & Order SVU"] and fantasy ["Once Upon a Time," "Warehouse 13," "The Librarians"] and political thrillers ["Person of Interest," "House of Cards," "Covert Affairs"], well, you get the idea.
hand pulls electrical plug from the wall
These twelve shows were not the only shows I watched. Add news. With a degree in journalism, being a news junkie is a given. Add movies. Add the occasional documentary and talent competition. I've watched absolute garbage after channel surfing because nothing else was on. Addiction and inertia held me captive.

"My wakeup call was reading a statistic from the Parents Television Council that children in America watch between four and eight hours of television a day." 

They spend more time staring at a blinking box than in school! No wonder America has an epidemic of overweight, undereducated children and teens. And what are they learning? Bad behavior from reality television shows and talk shows? Egad. Four to eight hours a day is enough time to master a second language or learn new hobbies and skills. Righteous indignation rose in me about this monumental waste of our most precious asset--time. I asked my daughter how much time my darling grandchildren spent in front of the television per day.

And then she asked me how much time I spent.

blink. blink. blink.

So 2015 was a test. A cure for my addiction. I wish I could tell you it was easy, that my iron willpower helped me stroll by the big-screen in the living room without temptation. I wish I could say with a straight face that hearing others talk about the shocking season finale of any of my favorite shows didn't knock the wind out of me. When book club pals asked if I was going to watch the new shows "Sherlock," "Bosch," or "Outlander" my resolve quavered dangerously on the edge of quitting this mad personal quest.

Spending a year without television allowed me to read 35 more books in 2015 than in the previous year. I traveled to: Charleston (SC), Jacksonville with my girl pals, San Juan, St. Kitts, St. Barts, Las Vegas, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, New York City, Naples (FL), and multiple trips to North Carolina.

Dragon breathing fire atop Grigott's bank

view of San Juan from the fort

group of women shopping in St. Augustine

In April, I worked as a stringer/reporter for General Aviation News at the SUN 'N FUN Fly-In. You can read my articles by clicking on GA News. It was a joy to combine my journalism training with my aviation hobby and get paid for it! What rewarding joy!

Two jets flying in formation one upside down over the other

Handsome and I also learned gun safety and enjoyed target practice under the watchful eye of a friend from church who had served in the Marines. Getting off the sofa has been rewarding after all.
Perhaps many of you will also opt out of television viewing for a year.

Imagine all those mean political ads you'll miss...and the books you will have time to read. Ahem. My third book will be coming out in late spring. So expect to hear more about the book in the coming months. And, yes, it will be available in print for those readers who refuse to read on a tablet, like my mother and mother-in-law.

Joni and Maury

So let the bets be covered. I survived a year without television! Woot Woot. Okay, so I didn't learn another language or discover a cure for cancer, but I wrote more, played more, and spent more hours each day toward my lifelong goal of publishing novels.

Remember time is your most precious asset. Tell me, what would you do with four extra hours a day?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Judge this book by its cover!

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” We’ve all heard this, right? But let’s face it, we all do it. Heck, according to this article from the Normal Rockwell Museum’s Illustration History Project website, even when the purpose of a cover was simply to protect a book’s pages, it was likely to be decorated with gold and jewels. As cover materials changed and mechanical book-binding came into play, it became possible to print onto the covers. This led to the cover serving as a type of advertisement for what was inside.

Not all “modern” books follow this trend of having an illustrated cover, however. Growing up, my parents gave me the Children’s Classics series of books, which had no cover art. The book pictured with its front toward the camera is the action-packed Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, but you’d never know it from the cover. Yes, I still have the books! :D



Unfortunately, in today’s crowded book market readers make judgments about our books based on a digital thumbnail. So it’s crucial that the cover conveys what type of reader experience the story provides. Which is why, even though I loved my old covers, I just finished rebranding all of my books with new covers.

Here are the primary considerations that went into the decision to redo the covers:
  1. With my old covers, I felt as if I was promising a more sensual read than I was delivering. There’s a lot of action and explicit violence in my books. By switching to covers with a more thriller-like vibe, I hope readers will understand that the focus of the book is on the action.
  2. I’d grown increasingly unhappy about the disparity in tone between the first two books in the SSU series. The original cover of the first book was dark and brooding, while the second book cover was lighter and playful. I hope the new covers even out the expectations, because while the first book is darker than the second, the second book also has some dark moments.
  3. My books frequently show up in the Mystery and Suspense/Thriller categories on Amazon. My naked man chest covers stood out like a sore thumb among all the thriller-y covers. I wanted my covers to appeal to the Thriller audience as well as the Romantic Suspense audience.
What was I looking for in the new covers?
  1. The covers had to look good in thumbnail size. To me, it’s more important to have my name be readable than the title. I hope to eventually have enough name recognition that books will sell on my name alone. Until then, as long as my name is clear in the smaller size, any reader viewing that thumbnail on a non-retailer site will be able to go to a retailer and type in my name to find my books. Whereas, if they only saw the title, there are dozens of books titled Vengeance they’d have to wade through to find me.
  2. The covers had to convey the overall tone of the story. I don’t care if the scene on the cover isn’t present in the book. I’m more concerned that the reader sees the cover and knows the type of emotional experience they’ll get from the book.
  3. The colors had to be in line with my brand as an author. One of the cover concepts I received was pink. Nope. I nixed that. Pink doesn’t fit with my brand of dark action-adventure. I even told my designer to make a note in my file never again to include pink on one of my covers unless it’s part of a sunset. ;) 
  4. There had to be some indication that there are two protagonists in each story. So I asked my cover designer to include figures of both a man and a woman.
  5. The new covers had to match the overall look I wanted. This took a couple of rounds to get right. I'm glad I persisted, though, because I love my new covers!
So how did it all turn out?

Here’s the original cover for Vengeance, Book 1 in the SSU Series on the left. The new cover is on the right.




Here’s the original cover for Betrayal, Book 2 in the SSU Series on the left. The new cover is on the right.




To see all of my new covers, go to my website, www.vanessakier.com/books/

Will the new covers be popular with readers? It’s too soon to tell.

What do you think? What’s your favorite from the new covers? My favorite is the cover for the next book in the WAR series, which I’m not revealing until I have the book finished.

----


Vanessa Kier writes action-packed romantic thrillers with an edge. She’s set her latest series, WAR, in West Africa, where she lived for a time. She’s also coaches writers in Scrivener and other tech.

You can find her at: www.vanessakier.com

Monday, November 20, 2017

Plot twist!!!





Yay! This is my first post as a group member of Not Your Usual Suspects. I'm happy to be here! This invitation came at a great time! I'm a member of another blog group, Killer Characters, where my characters blog...not me! So now it's my turn to spill what's going on in my head.
This is perfect timing! I'm currently under three deadlines. The fifth Kenni Lowry Mystery Series book for Henery Press, the first Southern Baker Mystery Series book for Crooked Lane, and the third Killer Coffee Mystery series book I self publish...and boy is there a lot in my head!!!







https://murdermysterydinnercincinnati.blogspot.com/

*changing the killer at the end of the first draft that's been plotted out.

Tonya Kappes is a USA Today Bestselling author who's married (to Eddy) and has four grown children, grown is an overstatement. According to the law they are grown, but they are all in different colleges in the United States.  She's known for her super charged characters that not only spill humor all over the pages, but end up tripping over a lot of dead bodies. Be sure to check out her Front Porch Sittin' tab on her website at Tonyakappes.com for freebies and contests.


Have you checked out all my books? Here is a list and links! 

Olivia Bloom Paranormal Mystery Series

Magical Cures Mystery Series

Spies and Spells Mystery Series
GET WITCH OR DIE TRYING

Grandberry Falls Series

A Laurel London Mystery Series

A Divorced Diva Beading Mystery Series

Bluegrass Romance Series

A Ghostly Southern Mystery Series
A GHOSTLY SECRET

Kenni Lowry Mystery Series
SOUTHERN FRIED
AX TO GRIND (9/2017)
SIX FEET UNDER  (4/2018)

Women’s Fiction

Young Adult

Be sure to join me everywhere!!

I want to invite everyone to join the Cozy Krew group page. If you are not already a group member you can join at  facebook.com/groups/208579765929709

Join the Mailbox Love where I send snail mail and birthday cards! Click here or tonyakappes.com/kappes-krew-birthday-club

If you like to cook and have recipes that you'd like to share, please share them here or tonyakappes.com/recipes

Be sure to check out my web page for up to date information on all my books as well as a complete list of books in order at tonyakappes.com

Follow me on Twitter twitter.com/tonyakappes11


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Embracing Change

I don’t particularly enjoy characters that don’t change. 

I don’t understand the appeal of say, James Bond. There’s not much character growth with that guy and frankly, I find him kind of boring. (Obviously, considering the success of the movie franchise, this opinion of mine is in the minority.)



I like characters that develop along the way. Those are the ones I can’t stop thinking about. Characters who have an internal, emotional journey that is just as compelling as whatever external adventure they’re having.

I suspect that the reason I, and so many others, love change so much in fictional characters is that it can be such a challenge to achieve in real life.

Professionally, there’s nothing more rewarding for me than hearing from readers about how much they love how the characters in my CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN series have developed. It’s something I’m always working on and I just love that their character arcs resonate with fans.

Personally, I’m easily bored when I find myself being stagnant. I’m always working on ways to stretch myself.  I’ll give you two examples of how I’ve changed in the past year:

1) I’ve become a beach person.


I was so NOT a beach person that even when I moved to the city with the Best Beach in the U.S. I didn’t go there for the first ten months.

But after listening to a local friend rhapsodize about their love of the sand and sea, I decided that maybe my long-held prejudices should be reexamined.  I took myself to the beach a couple of times and fell in love. Now if I don’t get to dip my toes in the surf at least three times a week, I feel deprived.


2) Twice a week I have appointments outside my comfort zone.

I’m a quiet, shy, extremely reserved introvert who thrives on constant worry and has a compulsive need to plan ahead. To combat these natural tendencies (not that there’s anything wrong with any of them) I’ve been taking improvisational comedy classes.

Not surprisingly, I’m not a good performer. But surprisingly, I’ve made more progress than I would have thought I was capable of. I’m still quiet and shy and reserved, but the lessons I’ve learned on stage about worrying less and being in the moment more have served me well in other areas of my life.

What about you? What kinds of character change do you love? Have you made any changes in your life recently?

Written by JB Lynn www.jblynn.com
-- 
"If you love series such as Evanovich's Plum and Bond's Body Movers, you'll love Confessions of A Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman."


Monday, November 13, 2017

Three Martinis Make For Weird Book Titles...


I think the question I get asked the most is, "How did you come up with the title, 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY?

It's a fair question (I'd ask it). When I pitched my first book to my first publisher, this dark comedy about a family of assassins was called DEATH IN THE FAMILY.  My publisher hated that title, because it said nothing about the fact that this was a comic mystery. I thought I was so clever (which should've been a red flag) to come up with DITF. 

So, I sat down with a few martinis and came up with a list of possible new titles. Somewhere around the third martini (which should've been another red flag) - I mangled Jimi Hendrix's lyrics as a joke (actually, I have a long history of mangling song lyrics - much to my husband's endless amusement). Of course my editor would hate it, but it might get her attention long enough to realize I was an idiot and she'd have to come up with a title for me. 

Imagine my surprise when my publisher loved it. Which was good and bad - because then I had to come up with more appropriate mangled lyrics. And I did with GUNS WILL KEEP US TOGETHER (btw - millennials have no appreciation for the genius of the Captain and Tenille), STAND BY YOUR HITMAN, I SHOT YOU BABE, and more. It was not easy. I won't even show you the list of rejects I've brainstormed, because that would be considered torture in most cultures. 

So, I got to wondering about unusual mystery titles. Was I the only weirdo out there (don't answer that)? Turns out I was not.

Harlequin - now known for romance, used to publish mystery. And they had a strange way of naming books. A novel's title is supposed to reflect what the book is about, and grab the interest of your target readers. It's an important step in the marketing process. 

Which makes me wonder what exactly Harlequin and its authors were thinking with these:


In my experience, sandwiches only 'dance' when they've been left out in the sun way too long. And then the 'dancing' is what your insides do to you as you 'dance' off to the bathroom. But I might be missing something here. Maybe back in the 1940's, sandwiches were quite terrifying...


Considering that the corpse is a dead stripper, it seems a little mean to give her applause when she's dead and can't enjoy it. Although, this does explain what kind of book this is with the word, 'corpse' and with 'a great big hand' that it has something to do with the entertainment business. So they score some points there.


Basically - this is true, except that I thought at first this was a book about a sad ghost who has no friends. Turns out, it wasn't. 



Why are there seven sneezes? Is this a case of lethal allergies? Did the murderer give himself away by sneezing or did the victim sneeze herself to death? Okay - this just proves that I really want to read the book, even though I'm a little worried though that it has nothing to do with sneezing. Which would be disappointing.


This is just plain old, sensible advice. Santa does have a 'naughty' list, you know. 


I have absolutely no idea what 'kiss your elbow' means. Must be some kinky, 1950's metaphor for something murdery.


How can you look at your own skull? Was this guy surprised to find his own skull in a desk drawer? And is he a killer who finds out the lady he's supposed to kill is a killer? I'm not sure I can wrap my skull around this one, but maybe after a few martinis I could figure it out.


My personal favorite - I love the look on the man's face as he stares in horror, and the smug look on the woman's face as she casually holds the bloody knife. I'm convinced that the victim must be a man. And that he definitely had it coming.

If I had to guess, I'd be willing to bet that these titles came from those famous, three martini lunches that authors and their publishers had back in the '50's and '60's. From my experience with three martinis (that I consumed alone, in my kitchen - which seems sad) and writing titles, I'd say it's a safe bet.

Leslie "3 Martini" Langtry

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