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

Monday, January 30, 2012

How Strong Are You?

Hi all! It’s my first time here at Not Your Usual Suspects and I’m thrilled to be part of the fun. Right now I’m gearing up for the release of my second book Danger Zone. I can’t tell you how excited I am for the book to come out because so much has happened since the release of Dangerous Race, the first book in the Adrenaline Highs Series.

I wasn’t sure what to talk about today, then I thought about how we live life and work at the things that help make our dreams come true. How often do we go outside our comfort zone to do the thing we love? Is it a downside or is it something that enriches our lives and makes us stronger humans? It’s probably a combination of all those things, but I’ll get right to the point.

I had the awesome opportunity to narrate Danger Zone for Audible. Although I’d been in a recording studio before (my background is in television, commercials and voice overs) it had been years and narrating a full book was definitely new territory for me. I came out of the experience definitely stronger, but I was sure nervous while I was in the middle of it.

So, my question is… have you done anything out of your comfort zone that made you a stronger person or gave you confidence that you didn’t feel you had previously?
Apologies to those who commented yesterday. We had to repost due to technical difficulties and lost those comments.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Smile - You're In A Romantic Suspense Book

Someone posted a comment in a blog that simply said, “There’s no smiling in romantic suspense.”
NOT a Romantic Suspense  cover!
The context of the comment was actually that there is no smiling on Romantic Suspense book covers, which is true. You're not usually seen fleeing from a psycopath with a big ole grin on your face.
Is there smiling in romantic suspense? The hero and heroine are chin deep in woes. They are battling a grandiose foe. They each carry emotional baggage, and are consumed with the reasons they shouldn't be together. There's pretty much nothing for them to smile about. And yet, in the midst of all this misery, there's that rare moment when they share an unexpected joke...that brief glimmer that a force greater than all these tribulations is at hand.
Definitely a Romantic Suspense cover!
I generally write what I would call dark romantic suspense. That doesn't mean that I write something with a paranormal twist to it. It’s dark because my books take place either in the middle of a squall, or most of the dramatic scenes are at night. Basically, there’s no sun. LOL! Even when I finally decided to write a book in the hot, humid jungle, you all thought…finally! Finally, Maureen is going to let us bask in the sunshine…alas, most of the story ended up taking place underground.  

So my poor characters don't have much to smile about either...until that kiss. Funny enough, no matter how desperate the situation, that kiss just makes the planets fall into alignment for one brief moment.
And heck, even the author smiles at that point. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Release Day Giveaway!

Release day is always exciting, but when it's your debut, nerves compete with anticipation. Your baby is going out into the big bad wide world.

Publishing can be a long drawn out adventure. The sale, edits, all the work to make the story happen; the thrill of your cover (isn't it great?) and finally a publication date; all of it led up to this day.

Carina posted the novel on NetGalley. Reviews start showing up and Yay! Some people 'got it' and loved it but others were disappointed by the lack of sex. I'll go ahead and state for the record, The Professor is a suspense with a romance sub-plot.

To all the people who've read it - I'm glad you enjoyed the story. It's my ultimate goal: to invite the reader into my world and carry them along for the ride.

And to all of you who haven't, I'm giving away a copy to a commenter!

THE PROFESSOR by Cathy Perkins

Someone is murdering women on South Carolina's college campuses: three women, three different schools. The Governor's order to State Law Enforcement Agent Mick O'Shaughnessy is simple: make it stop. More political maneuvering diverts Mick to nearby Douglass College. There, instead of another dead body, he finds Meg Connelly, grad student and faculty advisor for the latest victim.

Determined to finish her master's degree, Meg doesn't need anybody's help - including her estranged family - to succeed.

There's something irresistible about Mick, but the last time she let someone get close to her, she lost everything except her self-respect.

As the investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But Mick's interest in Meg doesn't just endanger her heart—it puts her in the sights of the killer.

Available now from Carina Press at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online e-bookstores.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Everyone Will Hate This Book

I don't know if other authors ever feel the same way, but I'm always convinced everyone is going to hate my book.

Sure, my critique partners, friends, and family don't hate it, but they know me. They like me (most of the time). They get me.

My agent loves my book, but that could be a fluke. My editor loves my book, but again, maybe that's just a piece of dumb luck. Even though the first few reviews I've seen all gave it five stars, I'm still worried. Despite the fact that those reviewers took the time to write to me to ask when the NEXT book will be out, I'm still hesitant to believe that others could love these characters as much as I do. (If you'd like to meet a few, the first chapter is available here.)

I think it takes a certain degree of hubris to expose your writing to the world. You have to believe that the story you've written is good enough to keep the masses entertained. Otherwise you'd just keep it tucked away at the bottom of a drawer, or hidden in a folder on your computer.

So at some point, I believed that this story was good enough. Hell, I'll be honest, I thought it was fan-freaking-tastic. I still do.

But I'm also worried everyone will hate it.

As a reader, which characters do you absolutely love. If you're a writer, do you worry that everyone will hate your book?

My latest book CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN releases tomorrow in ebook form and next month as a paperback. Evidence that it's not hated can be found here, here, and here.

Maggie Lee is not your average hit woman. For one thing, she’s never killed anyone. For another, after hitting her head in the car accident that killed her sister, her new best friend is a talking lizard--a picky eater obsessed with Wheel of Fortune, who only Maggie can hear.
Maggie, who can barely take care of herself, is desperate to help her injured and orphaned niece get the best medical care possible, so she reluctantly accepts a mobster’s lucrative job offer: major cash to kill his monstrous son-in-law.
Paired with Patrick Mulligan, a charming murder mentor (who happens to moonlight as a police detective), Maggie stumbles down her new career path, contending with self-doubt, three meddling aunts, a semi-psychic friend predicting her doom, and a day job she hates. Oh, and let’s not forget about Paul Kowalski, the sexy beat cop who could throw her ass in jail if he finds out what she’s up to.
Training has never been this complicated! And, this time, Maggie has to get the job done. Because if she doesn’t – she’s the mob’s next target.

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine retailers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Just Shoot Me

Firearms and Other Mistakes in Books
or Why Watching Movies Is Not Research

Number 1
Revolvers don’t have safeties.

Number 2
And neither do the latest Glock semi-automatics.

Number 3
Revolvers cannot be silenced.

Number 4
A silenced gun still makes a sound.

Number 5
Revolvers don’t use clips.

Number 6
Clips and magazines are not interchangeable.

Number 7
Law enforcement officers do not actually rack the slide before going after a perp. If they have to rack the slide, that means the chamber is empty and they should be replaced with someone who knows how to be prepared.

Number 8
Shooting locks off of doors is a bad idea. One word: ricochet.

Number 9
Dead bodies don’t bleed.

Number 10
Chloroform does not knock people out, and especially not instantly and quietly. It’s more likely to cause brain damage or cardiac arrest before the victim loses consciousness.

Number 11
Chalk outlines are a thing of the past…and Hollywood.

Number 12
Police detectives do not investigate crimes where the victim is related to them. (You’d think this one would be obvious.)

Number 13
Law enforcement agencies do not allow private citizens to direct an investigation. (I really did come across a book where the CIA and FBI allowed a twenty-four-year-old artist to tell them how to run a criminal investigation. Naturally, it was a best-seller.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Color of Nostaglia: Favorite Mystery Films

I was watching a little indie film last night. It's called Cold Weather. It sounded vaguely mystery-like as I was scrolling for something to watch before bed, something that would put me to sleep or that I wouldn't mind clicking off when the witching hour arrived:

A guy who moves back to Portland, Oregon becomes involved in the mystery of his ex-girlfriend's disappearance.

Ah. Perfect.

So I began watching and before long I was utterly engrossed. In fact, they had me from the opening shot of a rainy apartment court in Portland. Something about this quirky, off-beat little film really got to me.

Before long it was way past the witching hour and I was quietly laughing to myself -- trying not to disturb anyone else who was sleeping comfortably -- and the movie ended. Is the mystery solved? Unsolved? Does it matter?

I'm still not entirely sure what I saw or what Cold Weather was about. Is it about family? Siblings? The point of life? The influence of detective novels? The effect of prolonged rain on the fragile human mind?

I don't know, but I loved it so much that I went online to buy it today. Although I've never lived in Portland and my life bears no resemblance to the characters, something about this movie made me homesick and nostalgic.

So what's your favorite mystery or crime film?

Friday, January 13, 2012


Sub-text, not just when we write but in daily life. A limp handshake when we greet someone we don’t like, the turn of a cheek to avoid a kiss or the lowering of a voice to avoid being overheard.
According to the Russian teacher and theatre director, Konstantin Stanislavsky, who revolutionized acting technique, defines sub-text as the thoughts and problems behind the dialogue. In both theatre and writing, the power of words in our text is enhanced by words left unspoken. The unwritten past, and the drive toward the future influence the character that brings a novel to life. A reaction that shows in a facial expression—a mouth that twists, a tear unshed, an unexpected smile, the tap of a finger. A cry ignored, a pale complexion, laughter or screams when unexplained phenomena “go bump in the night.”
Subtext is a story within a story that illustrates the underlying personality of the character. In theatre, the actor contributes to the sub-text with his interpretation, in a book, a reader’s imagination will add to the author’s and, the writer’s knowledge of the character she works with, thinks and dreams about, adds the sub-text that makes the human beings that inhabit the pages of her book surprise, delight, and sometimes change the plot and/or premise of the story.
The body language—the way each character walks, their background, their attitude toward someone they love or hate or ignore. It may be a facial tic, a hand over a mouth, a constant smile—that provides an unspoken thought and motive that’s understood by the observer and reader.
We—as writers—make mental notes when we people watch or eavesdrop on a private conversation and—perhaps—there is another writer watching and listening to us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to Succeed at Writing Romantic Suspense ... Maybe

How to Succeed at Writing Romantic Suspense

(....or maybe not...)

Clare London: This article is from eHow and How to Succeed in Writing Romantic Suspense... but the frivolous scarlet commentary is mine own :).

Step 1: Successful romantic suspense author Lisa Gardner's article "The Seven Secrets of Romantic Success" suggests starting in the library. Research your subject matter. You must understand the kind of background that goes into criminal suspense novels and mystery thrillers. You need to demonstrate that you understand the way firearms are fired and that you know how medical procedures and postmortem examinations are handled. You should have a solid knowledge of how the organizations and institutions that appear in your fiction operate in order to write about them convincingly. Some of this research can be academic, some of it you may want to experience first hand. You also need to understand what makes a compelling villain. You may want to research the criminal mind and how people are murdered.

-Mum, did you make my sandwiches for lunch?
-Mum, why are you making that weird noise in the back of your throat?
-Mum, why are you clutching the bread knife so tightly?

Step 2: Create compelling characters. In order for your readers to care about (and buy) your writing, you need to craft heroes and villains that are more than just interesting: they need to compel your readers to pick the book up again and again until they finish it.

As for the bad guys, writes successful author Deidre Savoy in her article "Writing Romantic Suspense," "Gone are the days where a writer could describe her villain as just plain crazy." Your antagonist has to have compelling and understandable motives, needs a connection to one or the other of your romantic leads, and has to represent a significant challenge for them to overcome.

Your protagonists, on the other hand, need more than just some sparkling chemistry. Both romantic leads need a stake in the events of the plot, and should learn something about themselves through the course of the story and their interactions with one another.

-Until we faced this terrible danger together, I never realised...
-The irritation I always felt for you was really a manifestation of something far more tender...
-It was marvellous, the way you dealt with my murderous great-uncle by returning the puppy that had been stolen from him as a child...
-And I just hope that one day in the future, working together, maybe, just maybe...
-We'll beat this awful dependency you have on monosyllables.

Step 3: Craft a tense and suspenseful tone. Focus on more than just the scary abandoned buildings or creepy old mansions. Characters reflect tone by how they react to events are they unfold: if the characters are convincingly tense and uncertain of what's around the next corner, chances are your readers will be as well. Throw some twists and turns into your story, surprises that your readers will not see coming.

-You first.
-You go first. You've got the torch.
-No way. You've got the golf club. You go first. Just in case...
-In case...?
-Oh my God! Look, there! It's coming right for us!
-Can you hear me? Where are you? My God, are you okay? Everything's so dark. I can hear a terrible, pained whimpering...
-You're standing on my foot. Turn the torch back on and give me that golf club.
-For the ravening ghostly beast...?
-Oh no, I need it for something much closer to home. Now you're standing on my other foot.

Step 4: Connect the growing sexual tension between your romantic leads with the evolving suspense storyline. As your characters discover new hints and clues that unravel the mystery behind the story, your characters should be feeling the tension between them rise accordingly. As things get more dangerous for your heroes, it should get steamier for them as well. Gardner writes that this practice "ratchets up the tension, keeping the reader flipping pages until the late hours of the night."

-You know, now we're facing such terrible danger with no way of calling for help, it gives me the chance to ...
-All these years. You and me...
-Hurry up, you've chosen a hell of a time to start declaring ... what?
-Don't rush me.
-With seconds of air left in the room? With wolves baying in the woods outside? With the scythe on a flimsy thread, straining above our heads? You think there's time for this?
-Why are you being so defensive?
-Why are you being so obtuse?
-You must know how I feel about you...
-Well, no I don't. And you know why?
-No need to get tetchy...
-Because you never damn well said.
-Pass me the mobile phone, I'll call your mother to come and get us.

Step 5: Give your readers a conclusive and satisfying ending that will leave them feeling good about what they've just read. Provide a satisfying ending for the love story: "happily ever after" is considered the standard. And put the bad guys away; whether you put them in the ground or behind bars, you need to leave your readers with the impression that the heroes defeated them.

-So when did you suspect the man in the dark suit?
-Don't worry your pretty little head about it. You're safe now.
-No, actually, I'd like to know.
-Um... that's for me to know...
-You mean, it was just a guess, wasn't it?
-Please. I'm a professional.
-You're a man 8 years older than me, 6 inches taller, and with brooding good looks. Your qualifications are for a romantic suspense trope, not police work.
-Where are you going?
-To fill in the paperwork. See justice done. Tie up the loose ends in the plot.
-But wait!
-Will you still marry me?
-Read the last chapter. I'll get back to you on that.

Thanks to eHow and How to Succeed in Writing Romantic Suspense...

but I think I need a little more more work :).

picture credits: Gone With the Wind, On the Run in NYC photo by Norman Parkinson.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What do you mean there's no magic?

SEX, LIES & SURVEILLANCE is my first Carina Press release and it's also my first straight contemporary romantic suspense.

For me, that meant no shapeshifters, no witches, no MAGIC!!

I was writing in the "real" world and that meant I had to follow normal laws of reality. But who says normal can't mean extraordinary?

Janey DeMarco is the youngest child of Frank and Grace DeMarco, decorated spies now living a quiet life running a private investigation business with their three children.

While Janey longs for an exciting life outside the office, she's also worried that her brother Nic will forget to eat if she's not around and her brother Jimmy will blow up the office from his underground lab. She's terrified her father will work himself into an early grave and her mother...well, her mother might just drive Janey to drink with her matchmaking.

Of course Janey has her eye on the new guy in the office. Brainy Mal Laughlin is everything a smart girl dreams about. He can hack a firewall in five seconds and and still manage to have a conversation about hockey. He's perfect, so of course there has to be something wrong with him.

Janey is about to find out how extraordinarily right she is...

SEX, LIES & SURVEILLANCE releases Monday, January 16.

Janey DeMarco would love to have a sex life—and she has a serious crush on the new guy in her office. As manager for her family's P.I. firm, she knows an office romance would end in disaster. Not only are her parents former spies, but her older brothers are tall, dark and overly protective. Still, a little sex would go a long way to reducing her stress levels, and the man is hot...

NSA operative Mal Laughlin has been sent undercover to find a link between the DeMarcos and the gun smugglers who killed his partner. Unfortunately, the only evidence points to the woman who's making him hot, hard and ready—Janey.

Convinced Mal is hiding something, Janey's determined to find out what. Can she do that while keeping her own secrets? Janey and Mal plot a course of seduction to uncover the truth about each other but when they're thrown together on a dangerous assignment, sensual meltdown is imminent and secrets are about to be revealed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is romantic suspense different?

Although I’m officially new to the romantic suspense genre with “Learning To Trust,” all my books seem to have an element of suspense or thriller. I just don’t seem to be able to help myself. I find the element of danger heightens and intensifies the romance.
When I started to write my historical “Richard and Rose” series, I originally meant to write a series of books set in a pre-police era (the police force in the UK was set up in 1832 in London). I wanted my hero to be a quiet, self effacing minor aristocrat, perhaps a baron, and the heroine equally self effacing. What I ended up with was a rip-roaring tour through mid eighteenth century English high society, with a hero who wouldn’t know self-effacing if it slapped him in the face, and a heroine who had to learn how to keep up with him, because he needed her more than life, and it frightened her to death. I still have hopes of writing the other series.
Then I started to write Pure Wildfire, about a rock band who happen to be shape-shifting firebirds. And a villain popped up who I couldn’t resist, a man who wanted it all, and would give the world to get it.
I can’t get away from it. I even won a major romantic suspense award for a Richard and Rose book.
But the first romantic suspense I set out to write, “Learning to Trust,” slipped under my radar. I had no idea it would turn out like that, but as I did more research, it became obvious to me where the book had to go. I just completed the second book, and now I have to wait and see. Keeping tabs on the plot proved a major challenge, and as a result, I’ve changed the way I write.
I’ve always written a plan for my books, but usually, they are one or two pages long, and outline the main events, internal (the emotional journey) and the external (all the stuff that happens to the hero and heroine along the way). Now I’m starting to do a more detailed plan, so that everything that happens works in order, and I don’t leave myself with plot holes I have to go back later to fill.
But what I really want to write is romance. Everything I write is about a developing relationship, how it starts, goes along and finishes, and since I write romances, the happy ending is guaranteed. It’s the journey that counts. And the romance is the centre of the story, always. It took me a few attempts to realise that the romance of the thing. So many delicious variations to write about, it’s so easy to let the setting and the situation overwhelm the romance. And I did, until I learned that when you write romance, it’s the romance the readers want, and not some rush around a wonderful city or a mysterious dungeon with a bit of sex thrown in for good measure.

Monday, January 2, 2012

And the Winner is ....

The WINNER of the huge pile of Christmas book goodies is... 

Congratulations, and please email me as soon as possible on to claim your prize.

Then the authors will contact you directly,
though please give us a few days to get organised after the festivities :)

MANY THANKS to all the authors who took part in our December Celebrations, and especial thanks to everyone who joined in. We're glad you enjoyed the posts and look forward to sharing 2012 with you all.

The Book That Started Me on the Path to Murder & Mayhem

When I was about eight or nine years old I remember getting up early on Christmas morning to check out the contents of my Christmas pillow case. That would be stocking to everyone else. As usual, Santa had left a book, a bag of salted peanuts and a few other things I don’t recall—no doubt a pair of socks or undies. The book Santa left this particular year was one called Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton.

Since it was still early I went back to bed, taking my book and my bag of peanuts with me. I opened my new book and started reading, thus beginning my love of mysteries and suspense.

Five on a Treasure Island 1942 Enid Blyton was a prolific English author who wrote hundreds of children’s books, although most Americans won’t recognize her work. Five on a Treasure Island, written way back in 1942 was the first of 21 Famous Five books. In 2010 Hodder Children’s Books released updated versions of these books, modifying language so the books resonated better with children of the 21st century. Audio and e-versions are now available too. When I saw Five on a Treasure Island on Kindle, nostalgia struck and I had to purchase a copy.

Here is my review:


Siblings Julian, Dick and Anne go to Kirrin Bay to stay with their Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin and cousin Georgina. They’re looking forward to their holiday at the beach and to meeting their cousin. But they’re in for a surprise. Georgina is rude and refuses to speak with them until they call her George. Gradually the children settle in and get to know each other. The days pass, and they go swimming and explore the small private island in the bay, which belongs to the family. One day there’s a huge storm and that’s where the real adventure begins…

The first thing I noticed when I started reading was the large amount of telling and the head hopping. Cripes! The writer in me drew up with horror. Most stories these days are heavy on dialogue, while this story didn’t have much in the way of dialogue at all. And on top of that, the characters seemed to eat all the time.

That said, you’re probably wondering if I liked anything about this book. Why, yes I did!

Five on a Treasure Island was very easy to read. Despite all the telling and the constantly hungry characters, I didn’t suffer any reluctance to continue reading. Ms. Blyton has written enduring characters that rang true for me. There’s Julian, the oldest, who is the voice of reason and the peacemaker. There’s George, the lonely tomboy, Dick, the brave one who is always hungry, and Anne, the youngest who blurts out secrets when she gets nervous.

A fun trip down memory lane. I enjoyed reacquainting myself with Five on Treasure Island, and I think young readers will enjoy reading this book too.

Purchase Five on a Treasure Island

Can you remember reading your first mystery? What books have influenced you and put you on the trail of murder and mayhem?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a naughty puppy. She writes romance for Carina Press, Ellora's Cave and Samhain Publishing and just can't help adding dead bodies to her stories. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year
from everyone at Not Your Usual Suspects, and we wish you all the very best for 2012.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (1849 --> 50)

Wise Words to Start the New Year
* The early worm gets eaten!
* There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it.
* Never argue with a fool, people may not know the difference.
* Lead me not into temptation (I can find the way myself).
* You can't skip and be unhappy at the same time.
* I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.

Update on the BOOK GIVEAWAY:
Follow this on each post during Dec as the books mount up. Comment on any post to to be entered in the draw. Final prize giveaway on Jan 2!


Blinded by Our Eyes by Clare London
Dead Silent - Shirley Wells
Sea of Suspicion by Toni Anderson
Under Fire by Rita Henuber
The Shoeless Kid - Marcelle Dube
No One to Trust - Julie Moffett
Icescapade - Josh Lanyon
Choice of backlist - Shelley Munro
Desperate Choices - Kathy Ivan
Protective Custody by Wynter Daniels
Her Dark Knight - Sharon Cullen
Only Fear - Anne Marie Becker
Scene Stealer - Elise Warner

More Popular Posts