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!

NOTE: the blog is currently dormant but please enjoy the posts we're keeping online.

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, September 30, 2011

A guilty reader

Monday saw the release of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first book, The Narrative of John Smith. This was the book Conan Doyle wrote and happily sent off to a publisher. He waited. And waited. There was no glorious acceptance to be had, however, and no crushing rejection either because the manuscript had been lost in the post. Lost in the post!

Writers are lucky these days. When we send our masterpieces to our editors, we have backup copies at our fingertips. We have at least two copies on our computer in case one file is damaged. We have a file on a memory stick hidden in a different room to foil burglars who might take a fancy to our computers. We have a copy stored with Dropbox in case our house burns to the ground and we need to access our work from the nearest hotel.

(I’ll pause for a moment while you all double check those backups…)

Conan Doyle didn’t have this luxury, however. He’d painstakingly written his masterpiece in longhand and he had to turn round and write it again from memory. I can’t even begin to imagine doing that. Conan Doyle was a young man, still in his twenties, so maybe he had more stamina than me, but, really, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

When he’d rewritten it, he wasn’t terribly pleased with the result. Perhaps he’d honed his craft in the interim. Perhaps the initial idea, once so bright in his mind, had faded. Perhaps he believed that anything with such a dull title wasn’t a great idea after all. I gather he drew on passages for later works but, other than that, he kept it safely hidden from the world.

He’s said to have joked: "My shock at its disappearance would be as nothing to my horror if it were suddenly to appear again - in print.” 

I can identify with this ‘horror’. Years ago, having had many short stories published, I decided it would be a really neat idea to write a novel. The result? Self-indulgent dross. Really, I would die from embarrassment if any of these old efforts saw the light of day. 

If someone found one of my old manuscripts and decided the world needed to see it, I’d want to commit murder. Writing is too private, too personal for that. I’d feel violated, as if someone had rifled through my underwear and found things they shouldn’t. They wouldn’t find the sexy, lacy, matching stuff bought for a hot date, or the neat, sensible stuff worn for doctor’s appointments or the possibility of getting hit by a truck. Oh, no. They’d find the underwear that’s been washed too many times, boasts more holes than lace, and forgot how to fit decades ago. In short, they’d find the stuff that should have been thrown out years ago, stuff I wouldn’t (willingly) be caught dead in.

I have no doubt that The Narrative of John Smith will sell well. Fans of Conan Doyle will be fascinated to see the early words from the genius that brought us Sherlock Holmes. And let’s face it, Conan Doyle is hardly in a position to complain or care one way or the other.

Me? Yes, of course I’ll be reading it. I will, however, feel as if I’m violating someone’s privacy. I’ll be a guilty reader. I’ll be waiting for Conan Doyle to creep up behind me, smack me over the head and say: “How dare you? Did I say you could read that? Did I?”

Is it me? Or is there something you’d hate people to see? Something you’d hate people to see even if you’d been dead for eighty years?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



Pssst! I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

Are you ready? It's a big one.

Writers—are also—readers!

Long before we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we read. And read. And read. At some point along the way, I'm sure most of us said . . . It can't be that hard, I think I'll write a book. (Or we read a book that didn't end the way we felt it should and decided we could do it better!)

No, this blog post isn't about writing. Today it's all about reading.

I've been trying to do more reading recently. For one thing, it stimulates the creative process. Plus there are just so many doggone good books out there right now; it's like a smorgasbord of reader goodness. Nirvana of the written word.

So I thought I'd tell you, my special Plotting Princesses blog aficionados what I've been reading recently.

GHOST STORY by JIM BUTCHER. I've read every single book in the Dresden Files series, including the anthologies. The stories center about a wizard in Chicago who helps solve crimes. They are urban fantasy at its best and these stories just keep getting better and better. If you haven't tried reading about Harry Dresden yet, I highly recommend this series.

MAGICAL LOVER by KARILYN BENTLEY. This is a terrific story by a wonderfully talented writer (she guest blogged here at Plotting Princesses just last month). The story is about a dragon shifter and the world-building and romance in this fantasy is wonderfully lyrical and was a joy to read.

TEMPT ME IF YOU CAN by JANET CHAPMAN. I love all Janet Chapman's Highlander time travel books so I thought I'd give this one a try. This is a contemporary romance by this well-known author, the second in a trilogy (although I didn’t realize that at the time). The story centers about a man who gets an anonymous letter informing him he has a teenage son he never knew about. He tracks down the woman who raised him and all sorts of complications ensue. Delightful and filled with just the right amount of laughter and tears. I went back and got the first in the series to read, too.

CANYONS IN THE NIGHT by JAYNE CASTLE. This was book three of the Looking Glass Trilogy and it didn't disappoint. Set on the fictional planet of Harmony (which if you’re a fan of Jayne Castle you are all too familiar with) this takes us in a new direction which I hope she continues for future books. The paranormal and romantic aspects of this book were all you would except of a Jayne Castle book.

SWEET AS SIN by INEZ KELLEY. This is a contemporary romance by a fellow Carina Press author. I picked this one up because it was getting rave reviews and I'd read other stuff by Inez and had enjoyed them. Definitely have a box of tissues handy when you read this one. My heart broke for the characters as painful secrets from the hero's past come back to haunt him in this wonderful story. Definitely a book you won't be able to put down easily.

These are just a few of the books I've been reading recently. So tell me, what have YOU been reading?

NOTE: Please do not be mean or post negative or hurtful reviews here. This site/blog is not intended for reviews. I just want to know what you've read recently that you liked. (I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting authors I may not have heard about and I'm sure my fellow blog followers want to know, too.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Setting Chaos Right

Admittedly, there is something strange about those who spend a great deal of their time in thinking up ways to do away with another of their fellow beings. Someone once wrote that a person who repeatedly tries to devise a way of killing another is either a psychopath or a mystery writer, and that sometimes the line between them blurs. They even use a similar line over the opening credits of the TV show CASTLE.

I resent that. I spend a great deal of time finding ways to eradicate some poor soul, but I don’t feel like a psychopath. At least, not most of the time.

So why do I do it? Why do any of us do it?

Aside from the fact I’m much too afraid of getting caught to even think of trying anything for real, I believe we do it because as writers and as readers we fans of murder have a very strict sense of honor and decency and justice.

Whether we’re plotting the demise of a nosy next door neighbor or creating a scheme to eradicate the populace of a distant planet, we are creating mayhem and chaos. Murder is against the natural order of things – it is unnatural, and the unnatural is disturbing to us. However – if we create it ourselves as writers, we control it. We know from the beginning that however bad things get, we can set it right and good will triumph again.

Now I can hear some of you muttering that there are many books where the killer is not punished, that he walks away unscathed. Yes, of course there are, but in the traditional mystery framework (even if it is set on a distant planet many eons in the future or the past) we know that the bad will be punished and order restored. Even if the law is not served, justice will be, and the two are not always the same thing. Sometimes a murder is a good thing, and to punish the killer would be unfair. As was written in Texas law until not too many years ago, there are some folks who just need killing!

By contrast, real life is messy. People are murdered and the perpetrator is never caught, and sometimes even if he is he isn’t convicted. There is no guaranteed happy/good/righteous ending, and sometimes the uncertainty of that ambiguity is unbearable. I think people turn to mysteries both as readers and as writers because they need the framework of justice guaranteed to be triumphant. I know I do.

In the worlds we create horrible things happen, yes, but right and justice prevail. The murderer is going to be stopped some way. Our senses of balance and security and rightness are restored. All is well.

Would that it could be that way in real life.

Janis Susan May / Janis Patterson

Friday, September 23, 2011

Naming Your Characters--and Other Forms of Torture.

Names are funny things. Growing up as a ‘Toni’ in a conservative English county meant I got a lot of teasing. 

“That’s a boy’s name.”

Kids chanting “Boney Toni” and “Toni Chestnut” and then singing, “Hey, Mickey, you’re so fine” (because it was sung by Toni Basil). Ugh. As a shy little kid who disliked being the centre of attention, my name was a major embarrassment to me. 
I grew into it.

Sometimes people ask me about naming characters. And because of my own experience I always give character names a lot of consideration.

There’s the obvious stuff, don’t call your hero something laughable or ridiculous. Wally Wankerly is not going to inspire a reader’s love even if he’s got muscles the size of Pierre Spies’ (Rugby World Cup 2011 reference for those who don’t know). The hero’s name also has to work with the heroine’s name and, if they ever decided to take the walk down the matrimonial aisle, the names have to fit together.  

The hero in my WIP has been called Andy, Craig and currently Tyrone. Andy didn’t work because the heroine’s name is Axelle, and Andy and Axelle combined was too twee. Craig didn’t sit right. Even Tyrone is not set in cement. The name I really wanted him to have was Tadhg, pronounced ‘Tieg’. But Irish names are notorious for their mispronunciation and I don’t want to have to explain his name every time I say it and nor do I want readers to pause every time I mention Tadhg. See? 
I got away with an Irish name for Sorcha in STORM WARNING (I think—I hope) because it’s pretty straightforward.

BTW talking of name combos—Axelle comes from a little girl in my daughter’s class when we were in France last year. Her twin sister is called Rose

Another problem that sneaks up on me is having lots of names starting with the same letter. Writing a trilogy this summer, I was merrily working on a book when suddenly, for the first time, 3 secondary characters come together on the page: Marty, Markov and Mendez. *Bangs head on desk*

I changed Marty to Harry and the rest works.

Naming characters isn’t as easy as people think. Think of the great literary characters: Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Augusta Weidenmaier, Hannibal Lecter, Atticus Finch. The name and the character are intimately locked in your mind. Getting it right is an art form. But it doesn’t mean the name has to be whacky or weird: Elizabeth Bennett, Sam Spade, James Bond, George Smiley. Same response, different type of name.

So--Tyrone Dempsey. Does he sound like a hero to you? What's your favorite character name?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fall Where we Live

Friday is autumnal equinox. It's that time of year where we may see one of the most significant changes in season or weather, and the heralding of the end of another year.

But hey! I'm not looking to be maudlin LOL. We've all had a great year, how about you? And we're looking to celebrate the season with our NYUS fans and friends, posting pictures of Our Fall - from wherever we are.

Toni Anderson
My fall - Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Not much color yet--I could have sent the picture from the weekend of half a tree on the garage but didn't think it was as picturesque! My website.

Rita Henuber
Fall in Florida. Empty beaches
My website.

Marcelle Dube
I'm attaching a photo I took this morning from my office window. That is what Fall looked like this morning. Also, here's a LINK to a series of photos taken by a photographer from the local paper.
My website.

Maureen Miller
Waiting for the sun to come out, North Carolina.
My website.

Lynne Connolly
Lyme Park, where they filmed the BBC Colin Firth version of “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s just up the road from where I live and it looks lovely in the autumn!
My website.

Carol Stephenson
In 2003 a friend and I traveled to Vermont for the fall colors. We decided to go in search of the state's covered bridges and had the adventure of our lives exploring back roads and meeting locals. Given the recent floods resulting in either the loss of or damage to these precious bridges, I am grateful we saw so many. Every fall I think of that special time in Vermont.
My website.

J.B. Lynn
This is MY New Jersey. Not a reality show "star" in sight!
My website.

Wynter Daniels
A picture of what fall looks like in Central Florida. That's my dear husband, chillin' on a September afternoon. Since the temps usually stay well into the 80s through most of October, this is where we spend much of our free time, getting in those last hours of warmth before the (albeit mild) winter. My website.

Clare London
This is the Thames riverside near where I live in Surrey, not far from Richmond Park. Lovingly taken by my Hubby who was insulted I might use a stock photo!
My website.

Elise Warner
Everything is still green in NYC but we do have our favorite squirrels hoarding and crisp fall apples are here.
My website.

Shirley Wells
I set my books in Lancashire but sometimes venture over the border into Yorkshire. This was taken at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
My website.

Julie Wachowski
Black eyed susans in the back yard. Right outside my office window, and my Freaky Epic Zucchini. Grows zucchinis as big as my thigh. Seriously.
My website.

Julie Moffett
No color change in the leaves yet here in northern Virginia, but the lake near my house sure does look pretty!
My website.

Wendy Soliman
Autumn in Florida - not looking very autumnal, but authentic!
My website.

We hope you've enjoyed the pictures, we've certainly enjoyed seeing the same day from the viewpoint of many eyes, and many parts of the world.

Feel free to tell us what you love most about this season - what the view is like from your part of the world - and what you're looking forward to in the season to come.

Thanks for joining us!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chilling Villains

Now that my book, Only Fear, is out there, available to the whole wide world, I received some unexpected feedback. I was scaring people. My killer isn’t a nice guy—he’s actually pretty gruesome—but I thought I had toned down most of his scenes. I certainly didn’t expect people to say how shockingly scary I was, or that they had to read with the lights on. (That one makes me laugh… of course you’d read with the lights on!)

But moi, scaring people? Am I more unbalanced than I thought? Apparently, editing the story a zillion times took the edge off of the fright factor for me. Or maybe I’ve got a talent for connecting psychologically with the villain’s point of view (let’s not dig too deeply there, shall we?).

So, what makes a truly chilling villain?

I think the answer lies partly in their psychological makeup. When I read about or see a villain on the big screen, I want to understand how they became that way, and why they’re doing what they’re doing. If there’s no good reason, I lose interest.

I also like the villains to be a true challenge for the hero/heroine. They need to be just as smart and strong as the protagonists to give them a real run for their money.

Finally, for me, the most chilling villains are the ones you don’t see coming. The ones you thought were the sweet next door neighbor or the caring coworker. But everyone has a dark side. Apparently, mine was darker than I thought!

Who are some of your “favorite” villains? What qualities chill you the most?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Love Those Fight Scenes!

Not only do I love writing fight scenes as part of a book's action, but also after a stressful week, sometimes I like to watch a movie with a good fight scene. Talk about being therapeutic. One can let off steam by seeing the bad guy get his just desserts. Sword or gun fights, superpower fights, sibling rivalries, or hand-to-hand combat can all heighten action and move the plot forward. However, a great fight scene can also deliver the ultimate emotional punch.

Here are a few of my favorite movie fight scenes:

1) The opening scene in Casina Royale (2006) ushered in the Daniel Craig’s James Bond and a reminder why this secret agent had a license to kill.

2) Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone’s sword fight in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. A swashbuckling duel only the golden age of Hollywood could produce. Despite al l the acrobatics, Robin Hood managed to verbally one-up his opponent.

3) Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader’s light saber fight in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Darth not only showed how ruthless he could be, but Luke’s spectacular retreat by freefalling into the airshaft could have been a deadly choice not to go the dark side.

4) The airplane on the runway fight in “The Raiders of the Lost Ark” matched Indiana Jones with a Nazi mechanic overdosed on steroids. Down, dirty, grisly ending for bad guy. Perfection.

5) How can one not mention the final round in “The Karate Kid”? After all, an ordinary kid can fight back against bullies, and that crane kick. What a brilliantly sweet victory.

6) Have to list at least one Rocky movie and none better than the original “Rocky”. He took a beating from Apollo and in the end he proved he wasn’t just a bum.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. What are some of your favorite cinematic or literary fight scenes?

Carol Stephenson

The Legal Weapons Series: Courting Danger, Courting Disaster & Courting Death

Friday, September 16, 2011


Do you ever wonder what the heck is going on out THERE? Like, what are THEY thinking? While some of this stuff is fodder for our stories others are simply too much of a head smacker to ever write about. Like the couple on the beach in the middle of a summer Sunday afternoon in full view of everyone, copulating. Or, maybe it only irritates me???!!!
Here are some of the things that drive me to drink. Not really, I don’t need an excuse.
I’ll start with TV.
To begin with, I don’t watch a lot of TV because I HATE the way commercials are presented. Do these ad execs think we are all dumb as a box of rocks?
Saw a commercial for a drug-and since when does anyone take a med biased on a TV commercial? - any who-the narrator, in a serious voice, lists all the side effects you can have taking the drug if you are BREATHING.
I’ve never watched the show Toddlers and Tiaras, just seen the promos. Those alone are enough for me to ask why hasn’t Child Protective Services been called? And what about those animal hoarders? This I do watch. Looking for a clue that says this show isn’t for real, it’s a put on like those other reality shows. But no, it seems to be real. The physiologists go in all nice and help the hoarder understand why keeping 500 dogs or cats dogs in a house isn’t right. Head smack! What about the poor animals? I say go in there, push the hoarder out of the way and take the critters, no nice talk. And have someone check on them every day forever to make sure they never do it again. Geeze!
Why does an author think because I visited her web site ONCE I want her to email me her wacky weekly updates and newsletter to which they is no way to unsubscribe? And yes I have reported her as spam.
And businesses. I check a price on line and suddenly I get sales email from them DAILY. No matter how many times I unsubscribe I keep getting them. I was successful with one. But, they started sending me crap in the mail because they noticed I’d unsubscribed from email. Major head smack.
Does LT GEN So-In-So really get people to give out their bank accounts so he can send them money from Afghanistan?
And what’s up with emails selling dangly parts enhancers?
For my Canadian sisters. Why do people in Canada want to sell me their medication?
Why does Windows IE think it’s necessary to tell me it blocked a pop up with a pop up?
Why does someone think I’ll watch a 30 second ad to see a 20 second video on the net
If the caller ID is blocked I’m not going to answer no matter how many times you call. So STOP!
And people talking on the phone while driving. Holy Snockerdoodeles!!! I think the driving public should have paint ball guns with a different color for each day of the week. When we see someone on their phone and driving wonky we smack ‘em with one. An officer sees splats of three different colors or three of any one color, the driver goes to jail directly to jail with no get out of jail free card.
My final peeves are the people who tell you they don’t read THOSE kinds of books. Referring to romance of course. Truth be told I love giving them a good up and down look and saying with a big smile and knowing nod. “Oh honey, I can tell.” And the ones who say one day they’re going to write a book. They have NO idea. Smack THEIR head!
Whew! I feel better. I’m grinning and doing the happy chicken dance around my office. What about you? Wanna tell me what gets you to shake your head and mumble or want to reach out and touch someone?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I had a Safe House

If I had a safe house….

It would have only one key. And a lock on the inside of the door. There would be a window looking out on something big—an endless horizon of lake or a pasture without fences. At night I would be able to see the stars.

The window would have special glass: I could see out, but no one would be able to see in.

There would be a small kitchen, a bathroom with a tub that works, a soft bed.

There would be a desk, a good chair and an outlet for my computer.

No internet. No phone. (I will take my cell phone to call out—when I want to.)

One entire wall would be covered in books—all the books I’ve been meaning to read, or love to re-read, or that I think might inspire me. Maybe there’d be a stack of DVDs of all the movies and tv shows I’ve been wanting to watch too, for the stories. All the different ways of telling stories, at my fingertips.

I would spend 4 or 5 days at a time in my safety zone. Bring my food, like on a backpacking trip. I'd bring salad and potato chips, dark chocolate and black tea. A bag of nuts. One good bottle of wine.

I'd probably spend the whole first day sleeping. Set up my computer. Fiddle with my notes…after that, I would just sit in my chair until there was nothing to do but work. Nothing in my head but stories.

What would your safe house look like?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest Author: Betsy Horvath

Pantser or Plotter?

In the last couple of months I've been hearing the term “Pantser” floating around writing circles. If you're like me, when you hear this for the first time you immediately think that writers are going around pantsing random people on the street. "Hi, I'm Betsy Horvath, romance author. WHEEE! Hey, nice boxers." But that doesn't happen as often as you might believe.
After I dashed out of the hotel at the RWA conference in New York and pantsed a couple of strangers wandering Times Square, some friends pulled me aside and told that I had misunderstood.  To be a Pantser does not mean to pants people.  It means to write by the seat of your pants. It's also called "discovery writing" or "organic writing". Imagine my chagrin.
It's been said that art often imitates life, and I think that's the case here as well. I have some friends who are complete Pantsers. They just fling themselves over the cliff and trust that everything will work out while they’re on the way down. I have some friends who are complete Plotters. They plot and plan and strategize every single solitary aspect of a thing before they move forward.
I think of myself as a Pantser with trust issues. I'm a Pantser, but I have Plotter overtones. I have an overall plan because I like to know there's something soft at the bottom before I throw myself over the cliff. On the other hand, I don't take the time to worry about all of the pesky details before I jump.
That's the way I write too. I usually have an overall plan for the story or book. For my romantic suspense novel, Hold Me, I started with a situation. A woman is driving home from work. An FBI agent in trouble jumps into the car. Car chase ensues. From there I created a general outline of how I envisioned them getting to where they needed to be (the Happy Ever After).  A true Pantser would have forgotten the outline and just gone ahead with the writing.  A true Plotter would have had everything planned out before they began. So I'm a combo. I'm a Pantster-Plotter. I am a P.P.
Hmmm...that doesn’t quite sound right.
How about you? Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?  Or are you both?

Hold Me is available NOW from:

and anywhere fine ebooks are sold.
Katie McCabe's life is going nowhere fast when FBI Special Agent Lucas Vasco jumps into her car at an intersection. Luc, his undercover guise blown, is on the run from the Mafia and expects to be killed at any moment. What he doesn't plan on is finding himself attracted to the firecracker beside him. He feels compelled to protect her when her life is threatened, and insists she stay with him for her own safety.

After learning she has become the target of a psychotic hit man, Katie is whisked off to Luc's house to hide. Once there, she's shocked to discover that she and Luc have an unexpected connection; a connection Luc already knew existed, but withheld. Will their intense attraction reach flashpoint despite their misunderstandings and the pain of the past?

Betsy Horvath was raised on MGM musicals, old skool Harlequins, and Nancy Drew, so it should not have come as a shock that one day she'd be writing romance.  The biggest surprise was that it took her so long to actually buckle down and do it.  Hold Me is her debut romantic suspense novel.
You can usually find her at her website:, on Twitter or hanging around Facebook

THANKS for dropping in and our WINNER this week...

We'd like to thank all the visitors and contributors who made Romantic Suspense week such a blast!
And we'd like to announce our grand prize winner as Jane - congratulations!

Jane, please email Toni at tonianderson at to claim your prize. Also, please let Toni know what format you'd like for the e-books, as our authors will contact you direct. And in the case of print book(s), we'll need your snail mail address. Toni's your first point of contact on all this :).

Congratulations again, and many thanks to every else who chatted. So here's a browse through all our featured books - and also the links where they can be found if you're tempted to go and buy (more than) a few :).

She Can Run - Melinda Leigh
No One to Trust - Julie Moffett
Endless Night - Maureen A. Miller
Under Fire - Rita Henuber
Only Fear - Anne Marie Becker
Storm Warning - Toni Anderson
Blinded by Our Eyes - Clare London
Scene Stealer - Elise Warner
Desperate Choices - Kathy Ivan
Courting Death - Carol Stephenson
The First Victim - J. B. Lynn
On her Trail - Marcelle Dube
Presumed Dead - Shirley Wells
Harley Street - Lynne Connolly

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dead Silent by Shirley Wells

*The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects are posting blurbs and excerpts of our books throughout the week. At the end of the week, we're giving away a stack of ebooks (possibly a couple of print books, too) to one lucky commentator. The more times you comment, the more times you'll go into the 'hat'. We'll post the winner on the blog next Monday. See this post for details.

*   *   *

I’ve written romances and I’ve written mysteries and suspense. One of these days, I really must combine them and write romantic suspense. Meanwhile, I’m sharing an excerpt from my most recent Carina Press mystery, DEAD SILENT, and while most of this week’s excerpts have featured a super capable heroine and a tough hunk of a hero, my excerpt concentrates on goody versus baddie.

**There's a teeny bit of strong language.

Dylan felt every bone in his back crunch as he landed on the ground below. He’d had the good sense to pull the thug with him, though, and the even better sense to roll slightly so he didn’t have two hundred pounds of muscle landing on top of him.
     Dylan was quicker and more agile. He managed to get astride him and pin him down. It took every ounce of his strength so it needed to be a very quick chat.
     “Right, let’s hear it.” He could barely speak and was struggling to force air into his lungs. “Why do you want me to stay away from this place?”
     “Dunno what you’re on about.”
     Dylan managed to knee him in the privates, which had him moaning in pain.
     “You fucking bastard!”
     “Angry fucking bastard,” Dylan corrected him. “Right, the cops should be here any minute. Talk to me or talk to them. Your choice.”
     Muscle Man had an inner debate with himself.
     “Okay.” Thanks to the orange glow from the streetlights, Dylan saw saliva dribbling down his chin. “A bloke asked me to do a job for him. I don’t know any more than that. He told me about your car, said you’d be coming into the Clough on Monday morning, and offered me a grand to send you back to London.”
     So it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. “Which bloke?”
     “Not a fucking clue.”
     There was a surprise. Not. “Has this man paid you for services rendered?”
     “So—if you don’t know the bloke, how is he going to pay you?” 
     “He’s coming to the club. Next week.” 
     “Day and time?” 
     “Wednesday. A week tomorrow. I don’t know the time.” 
     Despite being convinced he’d broken a couple of bones in his spine, Dylan managed to knee Muscle Man in the balls again. Bad move. The bloke had benefited from his rest and struggled out of Dylan’s grip. Dylan staggered to his feet, ready to charge into the muscle when, joy of joys, he heard the welcome if totally unexpected sound of a police siren…

Ten months ago, Samantha Hunt set off for work...and was never seen again.

Despite the statistics of cold cases, Dylan Scott wants to believe the young woman's alive—and not just because her father, his client, is desperate to find his missing daughter before he dies of cancer. By all accounts Sam was a lovely girl, devoted to her younger stepsisters, well-liked at her work, in love with her boyfriend.

But as usual not everything is as it seems in sleepy Dawson's Clough. Sam's boyfriend has a violent past. She may have been having an affair with her boss. And Dylan can't shake the feeling that her stepfather is hiding something. Meanwhile, someone is trying to scare Dylan off the case.

Who wanted to silence Sam, and why? The truth turns out to be worse than anyone expected...
*     *     *

If you’d like more, you can read another excerpt on the Carina Press website.

For more information, please visit my website or find me gallivanting around the web on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s excerpts as much as I have!

Trouble in the Fourth Estate

Finally! It's the end of the week. You know we're giving away a stack of ebooks (possibly a couple of print books too) to one lucky commentator? Well, today's the last day to comment for your chance to win. See this post for details.

Check back on Monday and see if you start your week as a winner!
(A BOOK winner. You're already clearly a winner--because you follow Not Your Usual Suspects.)

So. I used to work in TV-land. Plenty of characters to study. Tons of stories to tell. But just between you & me, that place made me crazy. I invented Maddy O'Hara as therapy. She helped me work through my unresolved issues.

And Sheriff Curzon was the reward for all my hard work.

Read more about me at

a little excerpt from In Plain View:

At first, all I saw was her face and her fear. The white of the young woman’s skin reflected light where her dark clothes disappeared into the shadow. Bits of contrast jumped out at me. She was wearing a hat, an Amish bonnet to be exact, but she had a cell phone pressed to her ear.

“What the hell?” a man’s voice rose behind me.

I admit, I jumped. The branches I’d been holding snapped back into place. Ainsley jumped too, but he kept the camera up and running.

“I thought I said no cameras.”

“The officer told us to stay back, but no one said anything about cameras.” I smiled. Behind me, there was absolute silence in the bush. “I’m Maddy O’Hara, WWST.”

Had to be the boss. He was the only guy on scene in a suit. Dark hair with a thread or two of silver. Good sharp bones. He’d be a dream to photograph monochrome, except you’d lose the eye color—the pale green of a cloudy agate.

“Gimme that camera,” he said to Ainsley, ignoring me in the extreme.

“Sorry,” I pressed. “I didn’t get your name.”

“Curzon. Sheriff Curzon.”

Boy, I hadn’t cheesed-off a local public servant this fast in years. Good to know I hadn’t lost my touch.

Ainsley shot me a panicked look.

I soothed the kid with a snicker. “You don’t have to give the man anything.”

While I was busy being amused at the sheriff’s bravado, Curzon grabbed Ainsley’s camera, scanned the side and plucked the memory card right out of its slot.

“I said, no cameras.” Curzon looked at the 35mm hanging from my neck.

I wrapped a hand around my Nikon and dared him to try.

He jabbed the black rectangle of digital recording at me like a pointed finger. “Give me that memory card or I will arrest you. You’ll tell your story to the judge—tomorrow morning.”

It felt like being clocked upside the head. Six months ago, I’d have gone to jail for my card with no hesitation. Couldn't do that now, with a little girl waiting at home for me. My fingers opened the camera and handed him the memory card. The fact that I had a roll of exposed 35mm tucked in my pocket made it slightly easier. “Heard there might be a story here, Sheriff.”

"I don’t think so, Ms. O’Hara. Suicide is sad, but nothing important enough to rate television news.”

“Just doing my job here, Sheriff. Fourth estate. Performing a public service, you know?”

His gaze dropped, taking in my leather pants. “Same thing they used to say about prostitution.”

I had to smile. Maybe I was overdressed for fieldwork. Compared to the girl in the bushes, I was definitely Saturday night on Rush Street. But no way did Sheriff Curzon, in his fine suit, hold to an Amish dress code standard.

He was trying to annoy me.

Oh, yes. There was definitely a story here.

Scene Stealer

"At the end of the week we're giving away a stack of ebooks (possibly a couple of print books too) to one lucky commentator. The more times you comment, the more times you'll go into the 'hat'. We'll post the winner on the blog next Monday."

Scene Stealer by Elise Warner

A cozy mystery (Not your usual romantic suspense.)

After a chance encounter on the subway, Miss Augusta Weidenmaier, a retired schoolteacher living in New York’s Greenwich Village, is determined to help the police in the search for missing nine-year-old child actor Kevin Corcoran. Never mind that she has no training in law enforcement—she spent decades teaching. She knows when someone is lying.

In Chap. 15, Kevin’s father, a suspect, sneaks into the hospital to see Jean, his estranged wife, and Kevin’s mother.

Excerpt from Chap. 15
The dream fades. Someone is sitting on a hard, plastic chair next to the hospital bed. Charles wasn’t a hallucination brought on by a combination of tranquilizers and fear. Her hand gripped the sheet.
“It’s all right, Jean.” He tried to pat her hand with his. Charles wasn’t used to small tender gestures.
“Kevin’s with you, isn’t he?”
“I wouldn’t take Kevin without telling you, Jean.” He groped for his next words. “I couldn’t hurt you or Kevin. You believe me, don’t you?”
She did. Charles Corcoran was not a liar.
“He could be sick or hurt or dead.”
“Kevin’s not dead. I’m going to find him. I swear it.”
“What will we do?” Her hand reached for his. The hand was cold. She studied his face; he looked emaciated. The penetrating blue eyes lost in shadowed cavities.
A quiver of fear made her hand tremble. Charles was different. Was he telling her the truth? She needed to trust him.
“Tell me everything, Jean. Does anyone have a reason to dislike you or the boy? Think. Someone, anyone, you might have forgotten to tell the police about?”
The photo in the gossip column. “Lawrence Dunn. He’s in a one man show at an off-Broadway theatre called Saint Genesis. He and Kevin auditioned for the “Cowboy Bob’s Big, Bad Burger” commercial.”
Jean hesitated. “At first, Dunn was charming and then they read together. Kevin was asked to wait; Lawrence Dunn dismissed. Actors are rejected more often than not, Kevin is just a little boy; it wasn’t his fault Dunn didn’t get the job.”
“Stage mother!” Dunn had hurled the words at her making them sound obscene.
“It’s my fault. I wanted Kevin to be an actor. I wanted everyone to know his name.”
“Jean, I’m going to find Kevin.”
Charles kissed her forehead. She buried her face in his chest but the scent of bay rum mixed with the acrid odor of sweat. An odor foreign to the man she had married. Jean slipped out of the embrace, rested her head against the pillows. She closed her eyes—wanting to tell him to go away—afraid to say the words out loud.

Steal Stealer is available at Amazon and wherever eBooks are sold An audio version has been produced by

To learn more about me:

A Romantic Suspense Moment?

Do I write romantic suspense or am I here under false pretenses? Probably the latter but I never could resist a good party. It’s difficult to put a label on the sorts of books I write - well, that's my excuse. A Scandalous Proposition, released on Monday by Carina Press, is a regency romance; that much isn’t in question. But it’s so much more than that. There’s murder, deceit, blackmail, broken promises, traitors - and we've not even touched on the romance yet. So what does that make it? Take a peek at this excerpt and you'll see what I mean. 

Florentina has gone to a masquerade hosted by a known cad in order to try and extract information from him but gets a lot more than she bargained for.

Lord King crushed her mouth harshly beneath his own. Florentina bit his lip and kicked wildly at his shin. He cursed and slapped her face, grinning as he did so.
“Ah, so you enjoy playing games. Well, my dear, you’ve chosen the right partner if it’s a fight you’re spoiling for.”
His arms were holding her so tightly that any effort she made to escape only crushed her body closer to his. One hand drifted toward her bottom but he was still easily able to pin her against him with just one arm. But she now had enough room to be able to move her right arm, inching it toward the hat pin she’d hidden inside the lining of her domino. Quite without warning he ripped the bodice of her gown. She screamed, curled her fingers ’round the pin and sank it into his thigh. He grunted, more in surprise than pain, and fell to one knee.
With nowhere to run except toward the bed, and no one to hear her screams, it quickly became apparent that he would soon recover and overpower her. But she wouldn’t go down without a fight and reached for the champagne bottle, ready to use it as a weapon.
But at that moment the door flew open and a dominoed man stood in the aperture, filling the space with the width of his shoulders, scowling directly at her.

Enjoy the remaining bit of Romance Suspense week everyone and thanks for stopping by.

Courting Death by Carol Stephenson

~I hope you’ve enjoyed reading all the wonderful excerpts as part of Carina Press’s Romantic Suspense Week. We're giving away a stack of ebooks (possibly a couple of print books too) to one lucky commentator. Today is the last day to comment in order to go into the 'hat'. We'll post the winner on the blog next Monday.~
As for myself, I love writing heart-racing stories and hope you enjoy this excerpt of criminal defense attorney Nicole Sterling’s story in COURTING DEATH, the third book in the Legal Weapons series. Carol Stephenson

~Stirring up trouble can be the best defense~

Twitter: @CStephensonFL

Oh God. I could see traffic on the road ahead of me and nothing but the truck’s grill and headlights in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t stop.

Praying, I gunned the gas and spun the steering wheel. Horns clamored, metal screamed. The rear of the Beemer fishtailed as I fought to control the turn. My heart stopped as for a moment when one side of the car lifted due to the over-correction, then righted and shot down Gun Club Road.

Sweat plastered my blouse to my back and rolled down my face. My eyes burned from the salty drips. I hunched my shoulder and swiped my forehead, checking the mirror. Although the last turn had gained me some distance, the truck was still behind me.

There. The large complex loomed ahead on the right. I waited until the last minute and yanked on the wheel. The Beemer shuddered but I sped along the drive to the back of the building. Spotting a ramp by a bank of doors, I pulled up, slammed the car into park, opened the door and bailed out.

I stumbled but a strong hand grabbed my elbow and steadied me. I barely had time to register that my savior was Sam before he propelled me to the side of the ramp. I looked over my shoulder just in time to watch the truck plow into the side of the BMW. Metal collapsed with a sickening sound. Glass crackled, exploded. Rubber burned as my car flipped.

Courting Disaster and Courting Death are available at and also in audio at The entire series is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online bookstores.

Courting Danger, Courting Disaster, and Courting Death

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Confessions of a Sneak

Okay, I’ll ‘fess up. I don’t write Romantic Suspense, at least, not yet. I do write things with lots of suspense, and I have written romance, but I haven’t gotten around to combining them yet.

So why am I here?

Because I snuck in when they weren’t looking, that’s why. You aren’t going to turn me in, are you? I do write good books, exciting books that can get your heart pounding in another way… Let me show you.

THE HOLLOW HOUSE is a cozy murder mystery set in Denver in 1919. Don’t ask me why. I knew nothing about either one – though now I know lots! – but the story wouldn’t let itself be written in any other place or time. The teaser is, “When a murder is committed in her employer’s home, Geraldine Brunton knows she must solve the crime to hide the fact she herself is a killer.” THE HOLLOW HOUSE will be released by Carina on 14 November.

Out now is a tasty little horror novella called LURE OF THE MUMMY. It’s the first horror ever published by Carina Press or, if I have heard it correctly, by Harlequin. Set in my beloved Cairo, LURE is about a down-on-his-luck translator named Bert who acquires an ancient votive cat mummy dedicated to the lion-headed destroyer goddess Sekhmet. It’s just a mummy… or is it? As Bert’s circumstances begin to change, he begins to wonder. Then he looks at the dried-out husk, its wrappings so old and desiccated they are crumbling, and something looks back at him from the bony eye sockets…

LURE OF THE MUMMY had its genesis in two incidents on my latest trip to Egypt last year. In a little town I was exploring while the rest of our group was happily arguing over the hieroglyphs in a small temple, and a strange man appeared from nowhere then tried to sell me a cat mummy. Ick! Then, later, in the Cairo Museum, we saw a number of votive mummies, including the ferocious looking one my dear friend Dr. Salima Ikram likes to call ‘Bad Kitty,’ and the story was born.

Right now I’m working on the revisions of another horror novella, this one entitled TIMELESS INNOCENT. It’s about a not-too-skillful lawyer who has to handle the strange will of some old friends and must deal with a lot of things she can’t really handle, including a crowd of demons.

Awaiting its turn at revision is perhaps the closest thing I have to a Romantic Suspense. It is a Traditional Gothic currently entitled DARK SUN, though I am told that will change. It concerns the daughter of an author of high fantasy novels; she never knew her father, believing that he committed suicide when she was a toddler and might have intended to sacrifice her. His books live on, though, and finally she attends one of the conventions held to honor her father and his works. This particular gathering is at the small college where he once taught, and sponsored by men who knew her father. What she does not expect is the appearance of an old love nor the threat of danger, and especially the fact she must face the possibility that the fantastical world her father created might not be totally fictional.

Both TIMELESS INNOCENT and DARK SUN (under whatever title) will be out sometime in the spring of 2012.

So, not a single real Romantic Suspense in sight, but a lot of pulse-pounding, heart-stopping action and suspense. And a little romance as well.

Ooops! I better go. I think someone just noticed I’m here. Thanks for reading Carina books!

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