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, September 30, 2013


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ... Swag

I promised to do an I-SPY column on swag after the Romance Writer's of America (RWA) conference in July. The reason I volunteered is because this is the first year I actually invested in swag, other than bookmarks, to promote my books. I did as much research as I could before I decided what to purchase, including talking to other authors who had previously given out promo items.

After my research, I decided to purchase swag that was a bit different than most, but fit the theme of my current cyber sleuthing mystery series. I bought 250 quarter-size screen cleaners with the logo design depicted in the picture below. The screen cleaners have the logo on one side and a small microfiber cloth on the other, so you can clean your cell phone, tablet or computer. It also has a little string handle, so you can add it to your keychain or hang it near your desk. It's small enough to fit in a purse or a pocket (my teen son keeps one in his pocket to clean his cell phone).  However, because I wasn't certain how well they would perform, I opted out of the yellow color on the target to save money until I was certain how they would be received. My thought process in choosing this swag was that my heroine is a hacker and a geek and since the screen cleaners were tied to technology, it was a good fit. Besides, since just about everyone has a cell phone and computer, I thought it would be something useful, catchy and unique to offer readers and fans.

During the RWA conference, I haunted the "goodie" room where authors laid out swag promoting their books. I watched to see what items went first, and when people ooohed and aaahed. I interviewed other authors and attendees as to what kind of swag they liked best. I had authors tell me what swag they bought or created that generated the most buzz. Finally, I evaluated my own choices of items I scooped up and those I passed over.

One thing was clear in both observation and discussion, chocolate is a draw. Chocolate was attached to pens, bookmarks and calendars. It was presented in the form of chocolate coins for pirate historical romances, chocolate sauce packets for erotica, and chocolate kisses for contemporary romances.  There were chocolate bars, chocolate sprinkles and chocolate fans. Chocolate was an overwhelming theme and, not surprisingly, popular. Other types of candy were also popular, mostly a variety of hard candies, but not exclusively. People almost always took some chocolate, but since there were so many choices, it was hard to make one swag involving chocolate stand out from the other. I also witnessed a lot of people taking the chocolate and either throwing away or leaving the items to which the chocolate was attached.

Some of the swag was creative. There was cute swag containing a bookmark that had an old fashioned key attached to it referring to the "Key" in the title. But what could you do with it? Someone had made cute pink fishnet baggies with small pink pearl bracelets inside, tied to a bookmark. Adorable. Calendars with half-clad, able-bodied men in a variety of poses promised to keep you company for the months of 2014. There were toothbrushes, small vials of perfume, necklaces, and tons of bookmarks and postcards of all sizes, shapes and varieties. So, what went the fastest?

It appeared that pens are still a popular draw. There were a variety of pens available. Most people tended to pass over the cheap ones (think basic Bic-style) and chose the fatter more elaborate pens. This tends to be better for the author anyway because your name, title, website (etc.) is more easily read on a fatter, larger pen. Another popular pick were the chip clips, a personal favorite for me because I can never have enough chip clips in my kitchen. The jewelry, bracelets, necklaces and earrings also went quickly. Of course, free books were also popular as well.

Chip clips and pen swag

What didn't budge? Bookmarks, postcards, magnets and buttons. Stacks upon stacks of paper bookmarks were available and most people passed on them. However, the more creative the bookmark, the more likely it was to be scooped up. I took a cute ribbon bookmark flanked with two typewriter keys on either side. The authors name and title is written on the ribbon. It's my favorite bookmark now. I also saw a couple of other cute bookmarks made of cloth or lace, and those were more often chosen over the standard paper ones. Postcards, buttons and magnets were also slow to move.

So, how did my screen cleaners fare? All 250 of the screen savers were quickly scooped up at the literacy book signing. I didn't even have any to put in the goodie room. Obviously, I would consider that a success. The screen savers cost about 74 cents a cleaner. Does the swag correlate to larger sales or more recognition for me? Heck if I know. But if people keep and use the screen saver, I hope it will, at the very least, contribute to name recognition. Will I do it again? Probably. If nothing else, it was a great conversation starter with readers, fans and friends. That is the fun part of this business! Below is a picture with me at the RWA Literacy signing, along with the screen savers and some "Nerds" candy.

For those of you who comment, I'll do a drawing and send out 5 of my Lexi Carmichael "Get Your Geek On!" screen savers for your perusal! So, what are your thoughts on swag? Love it, or leave it? Use it, or discard it? Inquiring minds want to know.

FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Questing for Nuggets

Writing books is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail.

Time to go Quest. Nice hat.
You start off on your quest, not knowing where to go or what to do. You fumble, get lost, run into monsters, not to mention unholy amounts of distractions, until one day, you find yourself tiptoeing past the bones of other questors, holding your breath as the vultures circle overhead…and on the far side of the valley of bones, you finally! put your hands on the magic cup. 

(cue harp. chorus sings.) Ahhhhh! There it is!

Right at that moment, a blinding vision appears. The Vision says: “Great! I'll take that! Now do it again,” and vanishes with your prize.


Times like this, it helps if a questor has a few solid nuggets of advice on hand. I generally hoard nuggets in my saddlebags to nibble, or throw at vultures, as necessary. 

Today, in the interest of keeping us all out of the bone yard, I’m sharing.

One valuable nugget I came upon recently is “TheLittle Book of Talent” by Daniel Coyle. The book lists “52 Tips for Improving Your Skills.” Skills can be physical or mental. These tips apply to all kinds of talent. Coyle has broken the book into 3 sections: Getting Started, Improving Skills and Sustaining Progress. Here are a few of my favorites:

Tip #5 Be Willing To Be Stupid
“When it comes to developing talent, remember, mistakes aren't really mistakes—they are the guideposts to getting better.”

I love this tip! Mostly because it took me sooooo long to learn it. A knight wandering the forest runs into trouble—but somehow that test, prepares the knight for what comes next, right? Don't spend 100 years in the forest, like I did. Embrace your Stupid-ness!

Tip #30 Take a Nap.
Napping is common in talent hotbeds….(it’s) good for the learning brain.

See! Total validation for that weird habit I have of nodding off at 3 pm. Also, Knights are always falling asleep under trees and having adventures upon waking. I’m really seeking adventure when I nap.

Tip #52 Think like a gardener. Work like a carpenter.”
Talent grows slowly. You wouldn't criticize a seedling because it’s not yet a tall an oak tree…Think patiently, without judgment. Work patiently, strategically.

Knights setting off on a quest always seem to have this mindset, don’t they? "I swear, on my honor, it will get done!" That's the attitude. 

So later today, when I climb back on my rusty--I mean trusty--steed and journey into the forest, I'll ….

hmmm. Saddlebags feeling a bit light. Uh oh. Is that a vulture circling overhead?

Anyone else got a nugget to share?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Books I Want to Write

Today's belated blog topic is brought to you by Chris Brogan. I woke up this moment, stared blearily at the calendar and my eyes popped open. BLOG. DUE. TODAY.

So here we are today, friends, neighbors, countrymen. An impromptu blog on the topic of books not yet written. If you're a writer, what books would you like to write? Maybe they're already planned, or maybe you don't have the guts to write them yet? But go ahead, what would you like to write?

And readers, here's your chance to submit your literary grocery list. What books would you like to see? Maybe from a specific author, but maybe just in general. What are you in the mood for? What do you see a need for?

Go ahead and share.

You will notice I am totally fudging here and not offering my own book ideas. But I will. I'll put them in the comment section below as soon as I think of them. There's nothing like being startled before your coffee to freeze up that creative flow. ;-)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Puppy Love

You know how sometimes life gets so crazy and you forget things? Well, that was me with this blog post. With a couple of days to think of a topic, I really had no clue what to write about. The answer came with a little Yorkie Terrier named Chocolate, because she reminded me about love.

Chocolate lives a block away from me and most every day when I take my pooches for a walk we see her. She is the sweetest little morsel you'll ever meet. For the longest time I called her Muffin Top because she is so sweet and of course muffin tops are the best thing about a muffin. I finally met her owner and learned her name is Chocolate. Very apropos, let me tell you.

This little puppy probably weighs about 5 lbs. She is about the size of my Pitbull's head.  I snapped a couple of shots so you could see the size difference.

Zachary adores this little piece of fluff. He waits by the gate when we walk by, his tail wagging in anticipation, his sad eyes looking from me to the yard, in hopes she'll run around from the backyard and say hi. She wiggles and squirms and can't get close enough and he kisses her through the fence. They are quite the pair. (My Border Collie, Liz, puts up with it only because she's smart enough to know that Chocolate won't be going home with us and she gets Zach to herself once we leave.) Chocolate is actually a bit of a hussy...she puts her butt to the fence so Zachary can get his sniffs in. I've tried to tell her a lady doesn't do that sort of thing, but she just squirms more and wags harder. (Hey...I tried.) Here's a shot of Zach giving her a big wet one through the fence.

My point of all this is that love knows no bounds. Though Zachary and Chocolate are not compatible at all, it doesn't keep them from wanting to be together. They cry for each other and Zachary pulls to get to her house every day. It's love at its purest.

I guess that's why I love writing romance. I get such joy watching these two fawn all over each other that it makes me want to go home and write a good romance. I want people to get that same feeling while reading one of my books. I think I also want to incorporate a puppy romance in an upcoming book. I wrote a dog in Dangerously Close and got great feedback so I'm thinking the next time I write a dog, I need to give him/her a love interest.

What about you? Any furry romances you can share?

Friday, September 20, 2013

What's Happening At Harlequin

This past weekend Malle Vallik, Director of Editorial Digital Initiatives at Harlequin, put on a presentation at the Florida Romance Writers. Whether you're a reader or a writer, I thought I would post a few highlights of what's coming up at Harlequin.

First Malle mentioned that ebooks sales were up 110% vs. 2011 and ebooks now comprise 41% of romance sales. If you're looking for an entry to sell to them, series currently hungry are Love Inspired Suspense, Heartwarming, Heartsong, Cosmo Red-Hot Reads, and Harlequin E.

She expressed excitement on the new imprint that launched in August: Cosmo Red-Hot Reads. This line is in conjunction with Cosmo Magazine and features fun, fearless females in their 20's to early 30's. The women have careers, friends and a complete life but a man is icing on the cake.  Stories are in first and third person.

While Malle described Carina Press as their single title digital, Harlequin E is their digital series. You name it--horror, sci fi, intrique noir, space opera, mysteries, time travel, fantasy, contemporary romance, teen romance, new adult--this imprint will have it.  Specific series include 'Shivers', the contemporary gothics, 'Grand', the big melodramas, and 'Pop!', the culture romance. 'Reckonings' will feature alternate history.

Other than the Grands, word count is 15,000 plus.

On the contest front, "What's Your Story" features a mock book cover and entrants submit a first sentence or paragraph based on the mock book cover. Winning entries will be published in the Harlequin E-Trend Report. Rules at

Also underway this week is 'So You Think You Can Write' with the lucky winner being offered a publishing contract. Details at Not a writer? You can vote and help find the next new author.

If any of my fellow NYUS authors have upcoming books with the new imprints Cosmos Red-Hot Reads or Harlequin E, let us know.

Carol Stephenson
Justice At All Costs


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Writing Companion

Writing is a solitary occupation. I do most of my writing sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair or if I want a change of scenery, I head out to a café.

When I write at home, I have an assistant. Here she is…meet Bella.

Bella’s job—as she sees it:

1. To make sure I don’t suffer from bottom spread. She nags me with loud barks when it’s time for me to do some exercise.

2. To take regular meal breaks. Again, her barking gets my attention, but she also comes to me chair and makes sure I haven’t missed the message that it’s food time.

3. To collect the mail. She likes to know that we can afford to pay for her food during the coming month and likes checks almost as much as I do.

4. To discourage door-to-door salesmen. No one should distract her partner when she’s in writing mode.

5. To suggest plotting breaks. She signals this by appearing with a tennis ball or her favorite toy.

6. To dispense cuddles when the writing isn’t going well. She edges her way onto my chair, nudging the laptop out of the way.

We have a pretty good partnership, Bella and I, and her excellent understanding of what makes a happy author brings fun to my writing process.

Do you have someone who helps you during the writing process or keeps you company when you’re reading?

Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy called Bella. Her latest release is Past Regrets, a contemporary romance from Samhain Publishing. To learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Waiting for Dexter (and a giveaway)

Writers are always conscious of their readers. I want mine to be transported to a different world, one where the bleak, brooding hills of east Lancashire dominate the landscape, one where good overcomes evil, where the good guy wins and the baddie gets his comeuppance. 

But do you know what I really want? I want them to feel the same way about my books as I do about Dexter. Imagine that. Wow! I want them to count the days until the next book in my series hits the shelves. I want them unable to wait until they get their hands on it. 

That’s how I feel about Dexter. I’ve been hooked from the moment I saw those wonderful opening credits welcoming me to Series 1, Episode 1. I admit that, while watching, I mutter things like “How ridiculous is that?” and “There’s no way that could happen” but I am still utterly, totally hooked. Addicted even. 

Lucky, lucky, lucky people in the States see Dexter episodes before us poor souls here in the UK. (No spoilers from you US viewers, please.) I gather there’s a dodgy online site where, a few hours after an episode has aired in the US, it’s possible to download the episode and save yourself a week’s wait for it to appear on TV here in the UK. I also gather that a lot of viewers in the UK have made use of this dodgy website simply because they can’t wait.* 

Now, just in case there’s anyone out there counting the minutes until the next Dylan Scott mystery is available and can’t possibly wait until 7 October (anyone? :o)), I have a treat for you. I’m giving away a digital copy of Deadly Shadows (either EPUB or PDF format). Yes, you could be the first person to get your hands on the sixth Dylan Scott story. 

Here’s the blurb:

Before his disgraceful dismissal from the police force, Dylan Scott worked undercover to get close to notorious drug dealer Joe Child. Now, Dylan works as a P.I.—and Child heads up a religious commune near Dawson's Clough. But after two girls go missing from the refuge, the cops need Dylan's help to find out if Child is saving souls as a cover for something more sinister.

The investigation means going back undercover as a petty crook—a tough gig for a detective who has recently worked some high-profile cases in Lancashire. Even on a remote farm, Dylan's in constant danger of being recognized. Not to mention the strain his long absences have put on his family life.

Still, Dylan won't rest until he finds the missing girls. But the longer he looks, the harder it is to tell the sinners from the saints. And the truth may be more than this bleak northern town can handle.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of being the first person to read Deadly Shadows just say so in the comments and I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday. :)

* I admit nothing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is it still a man's world?

Those of you who still think the world is biased against women, take a trip back in time with me two hundred years, to the Regency period where I spend an awful lot of my fictional time.

Readers of regency romance can’t help being aware that the gentlemen’s clubs were enthusiastically patronised by the elite in society. The represented a female-free haven from the stresses and strains of the social season, an environment in which a little male bonding went a long way. Each club epitomised common interests – political, artistic, sporting and military, for example. They were exclusive, sophisticated and steeped in tradition. Most were a collection of several rooms that afforded their members elegant dining, plenty of space to relax and, most importantly of all, gambling—the scourge of the Regency age and beyond.

The most famous club of all is White’s. It started life in 1693 as a public coffee house but after being burned down in 1753, it moved to St. James Street, where it still exists today. Beau Brummel immortalised the place when he sat in the famous bow-windows and passed judgement on the fashion sense of the passing gentry. 

Boodles established itself as a political club but Brooks was far more popular during the Regency years since it was best known for its gambling. Charles Fox is reputed to have played for twenty-two hours straight, losing 11,000 guineas – a fortune. Overcome by debt, he was apparently so popular that his fellow members helped him out.

It’s a testament to the bond between members that even as recently as 1973, when Lord Lucan allegedly killed his children’s nanny in mistake for his wife, the members of his elite gaming club closed ranks to shield him from the full force of the law. Perhaps they succeeded because he’d never been seen since. Well, not officially anyway.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Courtesy of State_Department_Images WTC_9-11-Twin_Towers

     September 11, 2001 is seared into our memories, our hearts and our souls—the horrendous sight of two jet airliners hijacked and flown by terrorists into The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. A third jet striking the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, a fourth—the cockpit taken over by terrorists who turned the plane southeast toward our nation’s Capital. Before it could hit its destination—forty passengers and crew members devised a plan to fight back and began a disruption. The plane plunged—at 563-miles per hour—into a field near Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Seven thousand gallons of fuel exploded—the conflagration soared killing everyone on board.
     Vivid pictures of that day return when we remember where we were and what we were doing when we learned about that fatal attack. My husband and I had begun breakfast, turned on New York City’s classical music station and heard that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. At first, we thought it an accident much like the one that had happened at the Empire State Building many years before—then a frantic call came from a friend telling us to turn on the television. We watched as fellow workers held hands and jumped from the top floors—I later learned that one was a cousin—newly married—who had just begun working for the firm who occupied one of the peak offices.
     Since 2001, many of our best writers have explored that day. Think of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and 102 Minutes by Kevin Flynn and Jim Dyer. Portraits of Grief written by reporters for The New York Times was miniature 200-words pieces that showed an aspect of each lost individual’s life. Some family members thought more traditional obituaries should have been written but most felt it helped in the healing process.
     Three thousand people lost their lives during and after that suicide mission. Families and friends and responders made bereft with the loss of those they loved and cherished. Ideals were shaken but those who believe in a better world will continue to believe in democracy and a better way of life.
     At the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia no guided tours are offered. Every   visitor is free to wander the grounds, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day to personally meditate and reflect on a day that will never be forgotten.
     The Flight 93 National Memorial now includes a learning center and a wall of remembrance.
“Timeless in simplicity and beauty, like its landscape both solemn and uplifting, the Memorial should be quiet in reverence, yet powerful in form, a place both solemn and uplifting.” Paul Murdoch, Architect
       Next spring the National September 11 Memorial and Museum will be open in New York and include two 80’steel columns that will act as markers to a staircase that lead to the mezzanine where visitors will see the undersides of the memorial pool which indicates the site of the twin towers. The lives of people lost on September 11 will be highlighted in the memorial area. In years to come when no one is left who bore witness to that day—descendents, fellow citizens, travelers, historians and writers will visit the museum and see, hear and continue telling the story.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

Let's talk about sex

To the writers out there, how do you deal with sex in your stories? I don’t mean actually writing sex scenes. I mean having people read your sex scenes. Specifically, having people you know read your sex scenes.

Does it embarrass you? Do you worry about it? Does it affect your writing?

I have a friend, a well-published author, who writes sex scenes into most of her romance novels. She lives in a small town and has a fairly high-profile day job. It can lead to squirmy situations, like when her (male) colleagues tell her they’ve read her books. Her husband, by the way, doesn’t mind at all. He claims he helps with all her research.

We all know that we have to shoo the editors out of our writing spaces (or in my case, off both my shoulders) before we sit down to write. You have to write the story that’s in you to write, with no regard to the outside world, and if that story contains sex, well, so be it. It’s afterward, when the book is published and everyone who knows you reads it—that’s when things can get a little weird.

Have you ever received comments about the sex scenes in your stories? Do people studiously avoid mentioning them? Do you care?

Have you ever NOT written a sex scene—or anything else, for that matter—for fear of what “they” (parents, siblings, friends, colleagues…) would think or say?

And if we’re being honest—we are being honest, aren’t we?—we could ask the same question about other types of scenes, or even characters. What if you’ve written a gory scene? Or an exceptionally violent one? What if your character is racist, or bigoted, or misogynistic?

Now let’s flip it around. To the readers out there, do you feel that what the writer has written reflects on her? I mean, those ideas—nasty or sweet—came out of her head. They must reflect what she thinks or believes.


Or maybe the writing reflects what she sees around her, or what makes her mad, or what delights her.

That’s what I’m going with.

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Friday, September 6, 2013


That's what we've always heard, right? Yet we, the author, need to use those thousand words to paint a vivid, complete picture in the mind of the reader. We don't include photos or paintings or even stick figure drawings in our books. Instead we pull together words and weave nouns and adjectives, adverbs and pronouns to embellish the blank canvas of a reader's mind with brilliant colors and textures so they "see" the story clearly.

In the writer's mind we see the hero's shaggy dark hair in need of a haircut. His sapphire blue eyes should sparkle with laughter or pain or lust. We develop the imagery, provide definition to his muscular physique. We want the reader to know whether he's average height or taller than everyone around him. We can do this by showing him interacting with the people, places and things surrounding him, everyday ordinary items which make the hero realistic in real world situations. Sometimes we even have pictures of our hero on our computer or printed out to look at as we tell our tale.

But have we done our job?

Through descriptive prose, using only our words, does the reader see the same person we see? Can they see the single lock of hair that falls across his forehead when he's running across the frozen tundra, pelted by sleet, freezing rain, and roaring winds determined to get to the heroine? Or visualize the rivulet of sweat rolling across his naked chest, mingling with the dark mat of hair trailing downward to disappear into the waistband of his jeans as he's leading his lady fair through the rain forest, whisking her away to safety?

Have we used the right words and phrases to paint our villain as more than a black and white caricature from old Hollywood movies? We need to wield our words as the paintbrush, layering in the varying shades of gray, giving depth and dimension to him (or her). Shadows and light—make them become a living, breathing person with good and bad qualities just like every other person on the planet.

So, remember, choose your words wisely. After all, we are the artist with the paintbrush and blank canvas, the photographer pointing the camera lens ready to click the next shot. Let's hope our thousand words are worthy of the picture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


BEST FOOT FORWARD  with Clare London

This week was my 30th wedding anniversary. Leaving aside the fact I obviously married at 12, judging by my ever-youthful looks *cough*, it's put me in a thoughtful and retrospective mood.

Not all people mark anniversaries with celebration - and some may actually find them occasions for grief or regret. But I personally think it's good to take stock every now and then, to evaluate where I am today, where I've been, and where on earth I think I want to go! Life is a continuing stream to me rather than a muddy pool I was once stuck in up to my ankles, or a dangerous waterfall I'm heading towards if I don't watch out carefully enough.

Poetic, eh? Must be all the champagne I'm drinking! :)

As an author, it's also a poignant time. This summer is the 5th anniversary of my first published novel. So much has happened in such a short time! I now have 6 novels out, plus a large clutch of novellas and shorts. I'm affiliated to 8 publishers, I'm in a self-publishing co-op, I'm on the organising team for the annual UK Meet for GLBTQ authors and fans, I've travelled overseas to meet fellow authors. I've even won a few modest awards for my fiction *blush*.

TEN years ago, I couldn't even have imagined this would happen.

When I look back, I remember my original - and sole - ambition was to have a book on Amazon. My book, my name as author, there on the biggest internet bookshop around! I don't think anything will ever beat the feeling of seeing it happen  LOL.

I think it's easy to forget what *has* been achieved, in the light of current struggles. Many of us battle with rejections, writer's block, choice of career direction, family juggling, publisher relationship troubles, challenging editing schedules, up-n-down reviewers' feedback.... etc etc.

I'm not a great fan of looking back, and certainly not with any regret. Sometimes I'll wonder if I published the right thing at the right time, with the right people. Often I'll wish I wrote more, whether I'm held back by lack of time, ideas or talent. But I think all we can ever do is make the best decision at the time.

How good are you all? to sit through my mental musings! :) I have to say, the online correspondence has been one of the best things I've discovered in this time, and the very genuine friendships that have sprung up.

So next time you feel demotivated or disappointed in yourself - look back on your successes. There WILL be many! I only have to meet one person who says, with wide eyes, "You've got a book on Amazon?" to feel better :).

And 30 years with hubby? Yes, it's a fabulous achievement, I still love him to bits, and we've seen and shared plenty of drama over the years. Can't wait to experience the NEXT 30 years together!

But I still wink at him and say - you get less time for murder LOL.

Clare London
Writing ... Man to Man
Website  |  Blog  |  Goodreads  |  Twitter  |  Amazon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I SPY: Danger

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ... Danger

Using the Five Senses in Danger Scenes

It's a running joke at my house that I write suspense and mystery. The humor behind this fact is that I am basically afraid of my shadow. I'm a timid, timid lady. That said, my incredible fear of absolutely everything keeps me in touch with what terror feels like. When I begin a danger scene, my heart knows and it races in solidarity with my poor heroine.

As writers, we're told repeatedly, "show, don't tell." Don't say she's frightened, show us she's frightened. The best way to show fear is to describe those sensations. They are intense, trust me. If you're like most people and not a big chicken like me, then this could be tougher for you. I realize not all my readers understand what it's like to see a monkey pop up unexpectedly on television or at carnival on a little leash, and need a valium. *puffs air into paper bag* I HATE monkeys. *icky shiver* They all want to kill you, you know that, right?

For the braver souls in this world, I need to add more details than hot necks, and cheeks. More than a pounding heart and thickening throat. They might not identify with the steady rush of blood between your ears or the shimmer in periphery that accompanies the too familiar I'm-gonna-DIE feeling I live with daily. Some readers might not connect with that moment when I realize I'm going down in a dead faint in 3, 2, ...

So, I explore the other things involved in my scene. You know, a little something for everyone :) How do I do this? Well....Have you ever wondered why, in hostage scenes, when the heroine has a sock stuck in her mouth...why doesn't she just spit it out already!? I did. Or...What kind of wrist ties are the easiest to bust out of? On that note: How much can your heroine-in-distress really accomplish with both hands behind her back? Can she get up? Nose-dial a cell phone? Walk with a chair tied to her legs? I can answer all those questions and more because I've tried them all. My family doesn't even blink if I ask them to lock me in the basement, attic or garage these days. True story. But, how else will I understand? I want to know if it smells like dry heat and campfire remnants in attics or faint motor oil and dirt in a garage like I imagine. It doesn't always, by the way. My in laws garage smells like bleach and Pine Sol. Not very scary.

The more details we add to danger scenes the better. It gives the reader more opportunity to connect and engage with the stress and fear your character is experiencing. Try thinking in terms of the five senses and ask your MC what they can see. If they're blindfolded, what can they hear? Traffic in the distance? Perhaps a rescue team that doesn't know she's there and may not find her? What do things feel like? The walls, if it's dark, the temperature, extra details add to the tension and that's what makes a danger scene so terrifying.

If that doesn't work, feel free to throw in a bird or an oompa loompa or something else that might scare them to death. What? You aren't afraid of those things either? Just me again. Figures.


FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

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