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

Friday, March 30, 2018

YOU GOTTA HAVE FRIENDS

There are two kinds of artists in the world.

Those who choose to support their artist friends and those who don’t.
It’s uncomfortable for most of us to ask for support. We don’t want you to think it’s expected just because we’re friends. We don’t want to impose, but that doesn’t mean we won’t appreciate the support when it’s offered. 

There are many ways for artists to support one another. 

It doesn’t cost a thing (except time and caring) to provide needed encouragement, criticism or emotional cheerleading to an artist at any point in their journey. (Trust me when I say that even those you deem as having “made it” could use this kind of help on a regular basis. They’re still wracked by the same insecurities as newbies.)

If an artist is just starting out or trying to break in, you don’t have to spend a dime to look at or listen to their work. What they desperately need is an audience….even if it’s an audience of just one.

When the artist is a bit further along, word-of-mouth is another free way to provide support. “Have you read/seen/heard my friend’s latest masterpiece?  I really enjoyed it.”  

If you’d buy cookies, or wrapping paper, or the widget-of-the-week from a co-worker’s kids, and if you can afford it, consider monetarily supporting your artist friends when they put something out into the world.  Buy the book. Purchase a painting. Spring for a ticket to the show.  Back their Kickstarter. Become a Patreon. 
  
Are you obligated to support your artist friends? Of course not. But why wouldn’t you?!

And if you're an artist, learn how to allow your friends to support you. We WANT to contribute to your success.



POSTED BY JB LYNN
Author of the Hitwoman Series



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

MY EDITOR INTERVIEWS ME!




Writers know how important it is to have a good editor. When you get an excellent editor, you consider yourself EXTREMELY lucky! 

I've worked with Carina Press editor extraordinaire, Alissa Davis, on 12 books now, and I am beyond fortunate for her incredible insight, wisdom and intuitive sense of story. A few years ago she interviewed me for my publisher. I thought it would be fun to share our interview. It's just a little peek into what goes in to the editor-author relationship!

Alissa: Julie, you were already a published author when we started working together. Did you have any expectations or concerns when we started edits on Book 1?

Julie: I really didn’t have any expectations or concerns at the start. I knew you liked the books and the characters (a lot!), based on how quickly you acquired it, so I felt comfortable with the idea that we could work out any needed edits together. You were actually like my fourth or fifth editor at that point in my career, so I’d been around the block starting fresh with an editor. Nothing scared me by then. Ha! Luckily, we were very compatible. In fact, I can honestly say you are my favorite editor ever. It is an honor to work with you!

Alissa: What aspects of editing have gotten easier the longer we’ve worked together? Harder?

Julie: A lot has gotten easier. First, I trust you implicitly. We’ve been together since the inception of Lexi and the gang. You know her and the supporting characters almost as well as I do. Sometimes better! It’s scary. J  So, when you say something isn’t working, I don’t even think twice. I trust your gut. It gets a rewrite. Also, I think that after eight books together, you don’t have to explain in as much detail what you want me to do. I get you and you get me. It’s pretty simple and totally wonderful! That’s not to say there aren’t times when you need to boink me over the head about something—there are. However, usually one comment will suffice to help me get things back on track. I call it a quiet confidence in our ability to work together to get the book pulled together exactly right. Now, I’m going to clarify and say none of this applies to the start of the book. I think I’ve had to totally rewrite the intro to each book in the series at least once. It’s just a killer for me each time. Hahaha! But after I rewrite the start based on your suggestions or comments, I always like it ten times better—so you are spot on. I appreciate the pushback and the fact that you won’t let me sneak by when you know I can do better. Ha!

Alissa: Although we’ve worked together for many books, edits do vary from book to book, right?

Julie: Absolutely true! Interestingly enough, some books require more attention to the plot and others a greater need a focus on the character arcs. Sometimes things are working and sometimes they aren’t. In my particular case that typically happens when the characters do things I didn’t expect or the story shifts in a way that is logical when I’m writing, but that I didn’t see coming in advance. Flexibility is key and taking a step back to decide what’s working and what isn’t. Occasionally things like copyright infringement (No, Julie, you can’t use Star Trek quotes even as a cultural reference) can cause a major rewrite. J


Alissa: Do you have a specific routine for attacking edits? Does it vary each time?

Julie: I have no routine when editing, probably because I squeeze in edits when I can. Luckily I work from home, and my day job is writing as well. I usually tackle one writing assignment at a time so I don’t get things mixed up in my head. When it’s time to edit a book, I turn my full focus on it. But it’s hard to predict when I’ll find time for edits, so there is no special routine I fall into. I’m definitely aware of my deadline and I try to make sure it gets done before then. Depending on the day job, that time may come in the wee hours of the night or morning. I wish I could give a glamorous answer and say I pour myself a glass of wine, listen to a relaxing soundtrack and wear a special nightie while feeling the breeze off the ocean from my open balcony, but that’s all fantasy. The reality is I’m wearing no make up and have on yoga pants and a sweatshirt, my hair is in a ponytail, I’m eating a power bar because I missed lunch, and (in the summer) my soundtrack is “Mom, he touched my stuff,” followed by “That’s because he breathed on my arm,” ending up with “Help! I think there’s a bee in my shorts. MOM!”  J

Alissa: Any advice on building a good working relationship with your editor?

Julie: Absolutely. I have a few cardinal rules:

1.)  Be Professional. That doesn’t mean your relationship can’t blossom into a friendship because when two people work really well together, that’s often what usually happens. But you both have a job to do and you are required to do it together. You must get the novel into shape so it sells oodles of copies. You need each other to do that, so build on your strengths to do it. Manners and positive interaction are always key. I always think humor helps a lot, too, especially in those critical days before a deadline.
2.)  Communicate. I know several authors who live in terror of their editor. That’s not the way it works. You are a team working together to whip a manuscript into the next blockbuster. Believe that for each and every book. If you have questions about your editor’s comments, ask. If you don’t agree, say so. Miscommunication, or no communication, is counterproductive and serves no one. Don’t be timid or scared, but don’t be overbearing or insufferable either. Go back to tip #1 and be professional. This is a business pairing and like any relationship, you need to communicate for it to work properly. The book is your product, so treat it as such.
3.)   Do Your Best Work Every Time. It’s not your editor’s job to write the book. That’s yours. Send in your finest, polished effort each time. Editing is a darn hard job. Even with what you think is a totally polished effort, there will be a lot of editing required to take it to the next level. Someone once told me that if you compare your manuscript to a car and you give your editor a two-door Fiat then you’d better understand that you are NOT coming home in a Mercedes. You’ll come home in a polished up two-door Fiat. If you want a Mercedes, then you’d better turn one in.
4.)  Learn From Your Editor. Writers should be constantly learning and working on their craft. Your editor can help enormously with that. Stay open to suggestions and challenges. I almost never start edits right away, especially developmental edits. I carefully read everything my editor says and then I think about it. Usually for a day or so. I cannot stress the importance of perspective and reflection during edits. Don’t be hasty or defensive. Make it a rule to take at least one full day to reflect.
5.)  Thank Your Editor. Their job is to make you look good. Appreciate them for that! Since their work is done behind the scenes, they do not often get the recognition they deserve. Remember that behind every successful book is a fantastic editor. If you find a good one, make sure they know it!

      Julie Moffett is the best-selling author of the Lexi Carmichael mystery series, the YA mystery/spy series, White Knights, and other books. For more information on Julie or her books, check out her website at www.juliemoffett.com.





Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Farley and Me: A Writer and her Anti-Muse


Newsflash! There’s an extra-special bond between writers and their pets. But you probably knew that already. Just click on practically any author’s Facebook page, and there’s a good-to-excellent chance you’ll see plenty of pics featuring their loyal keyboard companions.

Hemingway had his polydactal cats (you can visit more than 60 of their descendants roaming his Key West home). Emily Brontë tromped the moors with her formidable mastiff, Keeper. Sartre and Twain often wrote with cats in their arms.  And Agatha Christie was a confirmed dog lover.


I love the fantasy of a snoozing pet curled on my lap as I write the Great American Mystery. Maybe with a toasty fire going in the background, and a cup of cocoa—or, in warmer weather, gently whirring ceiling fans overhead and a giant glass of iced tea with lemonade. Even better, what if my pet wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill muse, but actually wrote those gripping tales as I slept?


Sadly, none of those things are ever going to happen. My dog Farley hasn’t shown much interest in penning books—only in eating them. And his co-pet, a devious black cat named Lucy, isn’t much help, either. In fact, the two of them work in tandem to make sure I have zero words on the page by the end of each writing session. They’re a great team.


I always get the same question when people meet Farley. Did I name him after the dog in that cute movie with Jennifer Aniston? The naughty dog with the fur and heart of gold? Sorry, no. My dog is Marley with an “F.”  He was actually named after Chris Farley, the late comedian. The two have quite a few similarities, it turns out. They’re both on the larger side, blond, extremely talented, and always in motion.

We chose Farley from a litter of four adorable brothers. He seemed the most enthusiastic on the days   we visited and we had this crazy idea about letting a puppy choose us. 

We ignored that he was also the one circling the perimeter, over and over—kind of like me in the writing process. And he always had something in his mouth. That was cute when it was a mini Lamp Chop toy. Now it’s shoes and toilet paper off the roll or my feet when I’m trying to talk on the phone. And once it was an entire folder of handwritten notes for my manuscript in progress.

He’s been to nonstop obedience classes—I have the bank statement to prove it. In puppy class he literally chomped on his fancy completion ribbon as they took the group picture. In the more advanced classes he was a champ in the ring—and a crazy hellion the minute we got home. We tried agility for a while, until I won five months in PT. When I have a serious deadline, I’ll admit that I dump him off at doggy day care, and pay extra for the dogbone-shaped pool.


 Am I terrible dog mom? I hope not. I know my fiendish Farley loves me—and I love him back, crazy as he may be. Maybe we’re both crazy. But sometimes I need a time out from furry muses. Anyone up for a pet play date? The kind where the mommies drink wine, except maybe we could get some actual writing done?

Do you have a helpful muse, of the pet (or any other) variety? Let us know in the comments--and include a pic if you'd like!



LISA Q. MATHEWS is a former lifeguard, competitive figure skater, and Nancy Drew editor. Like her co-sleuths in The Ladies Smythe and Westin, her first series for adults, she enjoys rich desserts, Nora Ephron movies, and above all a good mystery. Visit Lisa at lisaqmathews.com  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Following the Trail of Crumbs


The first bread I remember baking was a pizza, fresh out of the oven of my junior year college apartment. It wasn’t right. Something about the dough tasted raw, underdeveloped. We ate it anyway.

I kept making pizzas after this, with similar results. But the desire to get it right persisted. The experience with the dough led me to attempt loaves of bread. I would follow each recipe to the letter, and still that incomplete flavor would not go away. It didn’t matter if it was a whole wheat loaf or regular white bread.

Should I have quit? Bread is easy enough to get, even the good, crusty loaves that go well with the kind of cooking I mostly do. But every time I’d look at the ingredients for something that should be fundamentally simple, I’d get all fired up to do it myself again.

To find the first successful dough I can recall making, we have to return to the pizza. This time, though, it was a deep dish. Finally, the underdeveloped flavor wasn’t there. The crust was nicely browned on top, crispy with olive oil on the bottom. And here’s one of the mysteries of this journey. I have no idea what I did differently.

If I’d been approaching this scientifically, there would’ve been notes on the past successes and failures. Perhaps I was using different ingredients, or paying attention to different aspects of the process. I will never know, and that’s okay. This is a journey that plays out with each piece of bread, living in the moment.

Once the deep dish pizza was working, I started to push the envelope. How about a large hamburger, but the buns are individual deep dish pizzas? Yes, I made it. But only once, on a New Year’s Eve.

Hawaiian Style Rolls (made in a deep dish pizza pan)

With this confidence in hand, I turned my attention back to individual breads. Focaccia. Rustic Tuscan loaves. Pan de mie. It was starting to work.

Japanese Milk Bread

But it’s never a guarantee. Even with this experience, every time I mix the wet into the dry, I’m not sure how it’s going to come out. In that way, it’s a lot like writing. Sure, I’ve done it before, but this time might be different because each dive into the process is unique.

Lately, I’ve had success with the no knead method bread devised by Jim Lahey. The recipe is online, as well as in his book, My Bread. If you have a dutch oven and a desire for a crusty round of bread, this is the way to go. The biggest challenge with this method is the timing (the first rise is 12-18 hours). I’ve found that if I can get it started by around nine at night, the fully cooked loaf will be ready for dinner the next day.

No Knead Bread

I keep a challenge list of recipes I want to try. I think the next up will be English muffins. But what’s really looming over me is sourdough. It’s been on the list for years, untouched. The idea of keeping a starter alive, then developing part of it into something usable for a loaf is intimidating. Which is exactly why I should do it.

So do you bake bread? Is there a recipe you’ve always wanted to try? Or is there a recipe you want to challenge me with?



Nico Rosso writes the award nominated romantic suspense series Black Ops: Automatik for Carina Press and can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and his Website.





Wednesday, March 14, 2018

When the Story Just Doesn't Work

There are few things I find more painful as a writer than discovering a story I’ve been writing doesn’t work. If I’m lucky, this happens before I’ve written too much of the book.

In truth? I’m usually not that lucky. My deleted scenes files tend to end up being an average of 100,000 words.

Sometimes it’s the characters that I can’t get a handle on.

Sometimes it’s the plot.

Many years ago, I came up with an idea for what I thought would be the first book in a new series to be set in West Africa. I really loved the hero, Rico, and the heroine, Jane. I came up with a bunch of dangerous situations Jane and Rico had to escape from. I had fascinating secondary characters who had interesting interactions with Jane and Rico. But I couldn’t get the overall story to gel. No matter how much constructive feedback I received and no matter how many times I tried to fix it, the character arcs and plot just wouldn’t meld together into a powerful story.

I think I have at least two or three completed rough drafts of that book, all with different plots. On top of those, I probably have several dozen openings and first acts. I tried so hard to do those characters justice, but in the end I had to admit defeat and put the book aside.



Years later, I had another idea for a book set in Africa. This one involved a heroine who was a primate researcher, a hero who was a reporter, and some extraordinarily intelligent gorillas.

I had a lot of fun writing an opening sequence where the gorillas helped the heroine and hero fight off some poachers. Unfortunately, after reading it over, I realized that the gorillas were acting too human, putting the story closer to science fiction than romantic suspense.

Now, I’m not afraid of bending reality. After all, I’ve created an alternate history and geopolitical structure of West Africa for my WAR series. And in the SSU series I pushed the mad-scientist-creates-superhuman-soldier envelope to the edge of science fiction.

But there was something about those gorillas that just felt as if I’d be crossing a genre line I wasn’t ready to cross. So I threw out that plot.




Now, why didn’t I just downgrade the intelligence of the gorillas? Because in my mind those human-like aspects of the gorillas were set in stone. Once certain aspects of the story become “real” to me, I can’t change them. That’s just the way my creativity works.

At least this time, I’d only written about a third of the book before I set it aside.

After a lot of brainstorming, I eventually came up with new characters: Emily is a former prima ballerina and Max is a rogue black ops agent. But yeah, it took a while to find the correct story for these two, as well. Their story is WAR: Disruption, the first book in the WAR series.

To my surprise, while I was writing the second book in the WAR series, one of my characters made a comment and I finally realized why I’d had such trouble with Rico and Jane’s story. I hadn’t understood that Rico was undercover.

I renamed Rico to Rio, because I didn’t want him rhyming with Niko, the hero of Vengeance. Rio then became a point of view character in the third book in the WAR series. Not only that, but Rio and Jane will finally get their story in book six in the series. I’ve written snippets of their new book and there’s almost nothing left of the original idea.

Funny how my subconscious was able to work all that out.



You’ve probably guessed by now that I frequently struggle to find the right characters and plot for each book. It doesn’t matter if I outline ahead of time and do extensive character development sheets, or if I just jump in and write with little to no preparation. Either way, I still end up sending a ton of writing to my deleted scenes file. I’m not happy with the time this takes, but I’m grudgingly beginning to accept that it’s just part of my process.

Still, is it any wonder that after struggling so much to get my story right my muse makes things go terribly wrong for my characters? You know what they say about payback.

****************

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 also coaches writers in Scrivener and other tech.

You can find her at: www.vanessakier.com and thewriterstechstop.com.


Monday, March 12, 2018

The Message in a Bottle: The Need to Write

You won't find the need to write specifically listed on Psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Need, but it's there. Maslow's theory is that humans are driven to satisfy needs, urgent survival-based physiological ones first, such as the need for air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing. After these needs are met, we seek safety, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.

Sometimes, the need to write transcends all other needs. The Diary of Anne Frank wasn't written for publication. Anne wrote to understand and to escape from the horror of hiding from Nazis. She documented evil as well as the kindness of her protectors and she left a legacy for generations of readers to understand her brief life.

Why do we write?

We need to. Whether we write to entertain, to enlighten, or to inform, we write because stories matter. Wilke Collins wrote The Woman in White to expose how English law deprived women of basic rights. The injustices he presented through compelling fiction led to changes in English law.



People write out of need. When we write what matters most to us, we often sacrifice other needs. We give up time with family and friends to research and compose stories. In the heat of first drafts, we skimp on food and sleep. Investigative journalists sacrifice personal safety to get the truth and report it, because they value the sharing of the truth higher than their comfort and safety. Authors also become so vested in creating their stories, they forgo time with friends and family.

My dear friend named Terri's story took decades to write. Like Anne Frank, my friend wrote because she had to. Her son committed suicide. At first, she wrote because people didn't talk with her when she needed to cope. Some didn't know what to say. Some didn't want to know more than the newspaper account of the tragedy. Terri was burdened with grief, doubts, questions, and the stigma of being the parent of a troubled teen who committed a social taboo.

Terri privately expressed her feelings in poetry and journaling while struggling to find a new normal life for her other two sons and herself. Her journey took decades because at different stages her perspective grew clearer, broader, and easier to grasp.

At first, she wrote because no one listened, no one spoke with her. She wrote to make sense of her loss, to document a life that might have been, to leave a record for her other sons. Now, from her decades-later perspective, she views her writings as a way to help others who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The courage to share her story comes from a source greater than self. She will soon publish the story in her life that matters most--The Write Way to Grieve: Journaling Through the Aftermath of a Suicide by Terri Johnson. She wants her story to be a light for others in the darkest time of their lives.



We write because we must. Even if we never meet our readers, we write. Like Robin Williams needed to make others laugh to stave off his personal pain, like a shipwrecked sailor tossing a message in a bottle into the tide, writing gives us hope and connects us to others.

We write because that hope, that connection matters.



After working decades in journalism, Joni M. Fisher turned to crime. Her Compass Crimes series has garnered attention in Publisher's Weekly and earned recognition in the 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards, the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, and the Sheila Contest. She serves on the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board for Southeastern University and is a member of the Florida Writers Association, the Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA, and the Women's Fiction Writers Association. She's also an instrument-rated private pilot. For more information, see www.jonimfisher.com.

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