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, November 28, 2014

The wonders of technology

This wasn’t my original date to post here but I had an emergency and the lovely Anne Marie came to my aid and swapped. Thank you, Anne Marie!

My emergency? I’m in the midst of a renovation project and while the builders were knocking my sitting room about, my phone line vanished in a huge heap of rubble. All I was left with was a tiny black cable coming into the house from outside. No landline, and no broadband.

No internet connection other than on my trusty iPhone? I’m old, very old, so I should know better, but it was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. 

When the engineer finally arrived to sort out a new connection, he obviously noted my stress levels and remarked, somewhat sympathetically, that no one copes well without an internet connection. He went on to tell me how he’d tried to explain to his young son how we contacted friends in the days before we all carried phones around with us. He explained that if you needed to phone your friend in the evening, you had to make prior arrangements to ensure said friend was at home to take the call. Young son couldn’t grasp this concept. “But what if he’d gone out?” he asked. “Then you’d tramp the streets looking for him...”. It’s like the boy asking his dad how people emailed each other before the internet was around.

Here in the UK, a TV program called Tomorrow’s World was aired from the 60s for almost 40 years. It was all a bit space-age for me but I occasionally watched it. I remember one episode when the presenter confidently declared that, one day, we’d store our music on something the size of a thumbnail. I looked at my towering stack of vinyl, shook my head at such stupidity and switched off the TV. Hmm. Now I have thousands of songs stored on something much, much smaller. And backed up in the cloud, of course.

As old as I am, I still take all this wonderful technology for granted. Until it isn’t there.

Do you take it for granted? Do you long for a rest from the internet?  Does any of our modern-day technology astound or bother you?

I often think about my dogs as they walk around with my name, address and phone numbers recorded on small microchips beneath their skin. I’m never sure if this is wonderful or a step too far. I also wonder how long it will be before we’re all walking round with microchips beneath our skin…

And while we’re talking technology, here’s my new phone line, clinging precarious to stone that’s been there since 1875 - and will hopefully still be there when the builders have done their thing. :) 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Y’all are probably too busy slaving over your stoves to comment today.  If so, I understand, believe me, I really do.  Thanksgiving dinner is a big operation.  But that said, having to prepare too much food is a first world problem not a third world problem.  Besides, it’s not the bird that’s creating all the work, it’s those sides.  The creamed onions, the squash, the sweet potato casserole with the little marshmallows on top, the two kinds of cranberry, the three kinds of pie.


The Pilgrims with their scrawny wild turkeys wouldn’t recognize our feast though we celebrate in their honor.  We even put our ceramic Pilgrim salt and pepper shakers on the groaning table . . . and after dinner, maybe between the bird and the pie . . . when we’re groaning instead of the table, we go around and have each guest tell what he’s most thankful for.


Despite all the problems in this troubled world of ours, we do have many blessings to count.  Without being Pollyanna about it, tops on my personal list is this wonderful country of ours where I live with my beloved family and enjoy the freedom to write my tongue-in-cheek Murders by Design Mysteries.  (Notice how I snuck that in—like garlic in the mashed potatoes.)


Number five in the series, The Design Is Murder just came out a week ago.  And of course, I’m especially thankful for that.  And for the fact that Charlotte, a five pound Maltipoo puppy, helped Deva Dunne solve the murder.  I could go on about Charlotte, but I have to run.  The green beans are waiting to be topped off with the fried onion rings.


Seriously, for a taste of The Design is Murder take a peek at Jean’s website: www.  Or for the whole piece, here’s the link:

Monday, November 24, 2014

A little busy lately...

I’ve been a little busy lately. Okay, a lot busy, but in the best way. My latest Mendenhall Mystery, The Untethered Woman, is finally out, I’m happy to report. Here's the blurb:

A phone call sends Kate Williams, chief of police of the tiny Manitoba town of Mendenhall, rushing home to Quebec to deal with the hit-and-run accident that put her mother in the hospital.

The more questions she asks, however, the more she suspects that the accident wasn’t really an accident. Investigating outside her own jurisdiction, Kate faces resistance from the local police force and her own family. Just as her determined pursuit of the truth finally starts to bear fruit, however, the unthinkable happens. Now, a terrible crime that may have been intended for her forces her to return to Mendenhall.

The fourth in the Mendenhall Mysteries series, The Untethered Woman returns readers to the wonderful characters of Mendenhall and to Kate Williams, the town's stubborn chief of police. Other books in the series include The Shoeless Kid, The Tuxedoed Man, and The Weeping Woman.

The Untethered Woman: | | kobo | barnes and noble |smashwords | apple

And in honour of the release of The Untethered Woman, Falcon Ridge Publishing is offering The Tuxedoed Man for FREE for the next little while. I’m not sure how long, so if you’re interested, grab it while you can.


When a man wearing a tux—but no shoes—turns up dead at the scene of a train crash, Kate Williams, chief of police of the small northern town of Mendenhall, quickly realizes that his death wasn't accidental. During one of the most brutal winters in recent memory, Kate needs all her resources to discover how the dead man ended up in the snow. The deeper she digs, the deeper the mystery.

When her beautiful niece suddenly arrives on her doorstep, sowing distraction and rivalry among Kate's constables, Kate worries that she may have to ship the girl back home, if only to get everyone's attention back on the guy in the tux.

Then her niece goes missing.

FREE! The Tuxedoed Man: kobo | barnes and noble |apple | smashwords | and soon on Amazon

And finally, I have a Christmas short story out and believe it or not, it’s a romance. I know, I know… romance isn’t really my thing, but I must have some romantic impulses because this is the third Christmas in a row I’ve released a romantic short story. Must be the time of year.

 After her 20-year marriage collapses from inertia, Beatrice Talsma sets off on a year-long, cross-Canada journey to discover where she truly belongs. When she reaches the Yukon, however, her short pause turns into a decision to settle down in this strange new place.

In a complete break with the past, she rents a cabin in the Yukon wilderness. It’s a wonderful spot, except that her closest neighbor, Henry Pekarik, also her landlord, seems determined to help her out, whether she wants it or not. It’s becoming harder and harder to resist the man but the real test comes when he invites her to Christmas dinner with his family.

A Yukon | | kobo barnes and noble | apple | smashwords

Well, that's it for now. Think I'll go hibernate for a bit.

You can find Marcelle here: web | facebook | twitter

Friday, November 21, 2014

Let’s Talk About Book Covers

 I think most authors have a love—hate relationship with covers. We love it when we get a good one, but hate it when the cover goes wrong. Authors are hyperaware that bad cover can sink a book before it even gets opened and one word read. So, it's naturally a touchy subject for most of us.

Back in the day, authors got very little input into covers. We were truly at the mercy of our publishers. I’ve heard more horror stories than I could ever repeat in just this one column. There are many famous covers where there are issues with the hero having three arms, the costumes are completely wrong for the time period, or heroine has the wrong hair color or even the wrong ethnicity. Yikes! I have to admit, I was not that fond of my first covers (or titles, for that matter!). 

I published my first book waaaaay back in 1993. It was a historical romance set in the Scottish Highlands titled FLEETING SPLENDOR. What about this cover says Scotland? Nothing. Ugh! Plus it was a clinch pose, which were the rage at the time, but wasn't my first choice. The image is a bit fuzzy because this is a photo not a digital file. Authors weren't given digital files of our covers back then. 

Below is the cover for my second book, A TOUCH OF FIRE. It is probably the least favorite of all the covers I’ve ever had done. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the heroine (from the 1700’s) has buttons on her blouse and bright blue eye shadow. Plus it looks like she's wearing a wig. Ugh!

Luckily, things have changed. Given the advent of the digital age, publishers are more open to author input because it's a lot less costly to tweak and play with the design. Now as self-publishing has stormed the publishing landscape, authors have a LOT more input into their covers and can even design them down to the last pixel. 

So, what’s important about a book cover? Many things. But before you start to design one, decide on what kind of message you want to send out about the book. What’s your target audience? What kind of readers do you want to reach?

Your cover needs to immediately establish the genre and the mood. So first, think color. Many genres, especially horror or dark romantic suspense set the tone by having covers with dark colors. So, if you can mix it up a bit and yet still maintain the mood—using a brighter or contrasting color can really cause your book to stand out and get noticed. But don’t go overboard. Lots of pink on a cover signals “women only.” That’s okay if your target audience is women-only, but if it’s not, you don’t want to narrow your audience like that. Pink also signals lighter and brighter. Is that the right tone for your book? Color is critical.

There are many other important factors to consider when creating a cover. Even if you are a debut author, people want to know who is the author. Where is your name placed on the cover? Is this is a book in a series? If so, is that information readily available on the cover? Have you branded your series by making all the books in the series similar enough to be easily recognizable as part of a series? Is there a tag line? For example, in my case, all my books say,  “A Lexi Carmichael Mystery.”

Several months ago my publisher let me know they were going to re-design my entire Lexi Carmichael series with new covers. The intent is to make them more contemporary, hipper and edgier. The goal is to reach a wider, and perhaps, a bit more modern audience. It is all about marketing, baby. It’s important your covers are current, eye-catching and can instantly parlay the book’s genre and mood. A picture is worth a thousand words…so create a great cover to get the reader inside the book to read all of your wonderful words!

Here is the new cover for my latest Lexi Carmichael geeky mystery, NO TEST FOR THE WICKED, which is out December 1. So, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thankful for Words

For Americans, next week is Thanksgiving, a day when we express our gratitude for the people and comforts in our lives, typically celebrated with a feast, a symbol of bounty and sharing what we have with others.

But what other bounties do we celebrate? Beyond food, I'm grateful for shelter and clothing. Health and wealth (or at least enough to survive comfortably). These are the concrete or physical, measurable things that often spring to mind when I consider what I'm thankful for. There are also less tangible things that impact my happiness like friendship, family, and freedom. Like love and opportunities for laughter. Even tears and the sad times that remind me to appreciate the good times.

Reading Nook (from

Today, I’m going to pick a few things to be thankful for that might be a little less obvious.


The ability to express thoughts and emotions, to communicate and connect.

Literacy, which some people take for granted, and the gift of receiving other people's messages through the written word.

As a writer and a reader, there is a bounty of words upon which I feast daily. And there's plenty for everyone. (Calorie-free!) I'm always happy to share.

When it comes to words, what better way to celebrate our gratitude than to read? What are you reading this week?

Monday, November 17, 2014

New Release, and Interview with Cover Model, Jason Baca

I thought I'd try something a little different today--first up, I'd be remiss not to say my newest book, COLD LIGHT OF DAY released yesterday and this afternoon I'm having a fabulous Facebook Party with lots of stunning guests (Catherine ByBee, Leah Braemel, Allison Brennan, Lori Ryan, Maureen Miller, Julie Moffett, Rachel Grant, Melinda Leigh, Kendra Elliot, Kathy Altman, and M.A. Comley) and prizes! Come join us HERE.

Physicist Scarlett Stone is the daughter of the man considered to be the most notorious Russian agent in FBI history. With her father dying in prison she’s determined to prove he’s innocent, but time is running out. Using a false identity, she gains access to the Russian ambassador’s Christmas party, searching for evidence of a set-up. 

Former Navy SEAL, now FBI Special Agent, Matt Lazlo, is instantly attracted to Scarlett but life is too complicated to pursue a politician’s daughter. When he discovers she lied to him about her identity, he hunts her down with the ruthless efficiency he usually reserves for serial killers. 

Not only does Scarlett’s scheme fail, it puts her in the sights of powerful people who reward unwanted curiosity with brutality. The FBI—and Matt—aren’t thrilled with her, either. But as agents involved in her father’s investigation start dying, and the attempts to stop Scarlett intensify, Matt and his colleagues begin to wonder. Could they have a traitor in their midst? 

As Scarlett and Matt dig for the truth they begin to fall passionately for one another. But the real spy isn’t about to let anyone uncover their secrets, and resolves to remain firmly in the shadows—and for that to happen, Matt and Scarlett have to die.

iBooks | Kobo | Amazon

Interview with Romance Cover Model, Jason Baca

Enough about me. I recently got the opportunity to interview cover model Jason Baca, and I thought I'd share it with you.
Jason Baca

Jason began his short film career in Nash Bridges (1996) in 1996. He continued acting and residing in the Bay Area before moving on to modeling. He was discovered by a photographer on location for I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) where he had been doubling for Freddie Prinze Jr.. Jason went on to pose for some of today's top magazines including Industry , Men's Workout, Men's Fitness, FitnessRX, YMLA Magazine, Hong Kong Silk, Joe Boxer Int., For Women UK, InStyle Magazine, Playgirl, Natural Muscle Magazine and many others. He has been linked to actress Jennifer Love Hewitt as well as a former Miss Florida.

In 2005, Baca began modeling for romance novel covers. As of October 2014, he has graced the covers of over 280 romance and fantasy novels. Jason is known best for his candid interviews with numerous author blogs expressing his concern for smooth skin and maintaining good health.

In 2011, he appeared in Men's Fitness Australia, Exercise & Health Magazine, Men's Workout, Optimyz Fitness and Scene Bay Area doing various interviews on how to stay fit and younger looking.

Toni: Can you tell us where you grew up?

Jason - Absolutely Toni, I grew up in Los Gatos, California. It is a wealthy town though my family was not. 

Toni: When you were a little boy, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did being a model ever cross your mind?

Jason - Well growing up, it was pretty much set in my mind as a little boy that I was destined to become a professional baseball player. My entire family was on board about it to. Modeling for romance books wasn't even a thought until way later in life. But that all ended in my 3rd year in college. 

Toni: Being a cover model sounds very glamorous—can you describe the average day of a photo shoot?

Jason - It can be very exciting. There is so much build up on approaching the day of the shoot. There is a bunch of anticipation because you are heading in the gym, working your body off to no end imagining how it's all going to turn out. 

   The night before the shoot I take things down a notch, maybe put on a "anti-stress" masque that night. Then after rinsing apply an anti-wrinkle night cream (currently the one I'm using is put out by Peter Thomas Roth and contains peptides which help diminish fine lines around the eyes.)

   The day of the shoot, I get up and shower and use only my absolute best products that I have in the shower caddy. So for a shoot coming up, I use a pomegranate & lime deep pore body wash and then for the face I use a Tea Tree Skin Clearing facial wash put out by The Body Shop. After the shower I apply an anti aging eye balm then anti-wrinkle protective cream then a nourishing moisturizer.  

  Once I walk into the studio for the shoot, I'm usually feeling very confident in myself, I feel in a bubble almost. This vibe is what is needed for these shoots. And when it comes to shooting romance covers... There are no ordinary moments. 

Toni: When I see these covers the people in them are often so compelling—do you consider cover shoots to be a form of acting?

Jason - Yes, it all is a lot of acting.  There is a lot of vanity and also a lot of thought into it. You have to put yourself in a moment in your life. Maybe it was a time in your life that you felt broken. You have to tell yourself "I've lost my mind and fallen back into my heart." 

 Toni: What’s people’s biggest misconception about your job?

Jason - That it was all handed to me. Or that God came up to me one night and said "Hey Jason, you're a nice guy, I'm going to give you a good body and nice skin and get you on a bunch of book covers" No... It didn't work like that, esp. in the beginning...  

   You see, I've learned that with anything in life that opportunity is not going to come to you, you're going to have to come to it! Some out there make a wish on their birthday of something they'd really want..  Then they go wait for it to come true but do nothing towards making it happen. Or they try one thing and if it doesn't work... They simply give up and the dream is lost..  They put too much into how the result will look like..

  While some of us act without thinking, many of us think without acting. 

   They could have that wish come true if they continue on until they get the result they want. 

ToniEver get the desire to just let it all go?

Jason - I consider myself a soldier of romance covers. A soldier does not give up what he loves, he finds the love in what he does. This is my desire. I consider myself a man of focus. I am very patient and will not make a judgement based on how I'm feeling emotionally at the time. I have a goal with this, until it is reached, I continue to strive and push myself even harder then before. 

Toni: If you weren’t a male model what would you be?

Jason - I've never thought about it since this all began. And I more than likely won't until I'm satisfied. I'm enjoying all of this way too much to be thinking about other things..  I've learned that it's the journey that brings us happiness.. not the destination. 

Toni: Where can a publisher or cover artist find photos to purchase for the romance books of you?

Jason - Sure, they go to -  if they see an image they'd like to use they just visit the journal section of the page. All the instructions are right on there. 

Check out Jason's Pinterest page: 

One lucky commenter will get a signed model card from Jason :)


Don't forget to come to the Facebook Party, seriously, it's going to be fun :)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mama Rita’s Holiday Advice.

RELAX. STOP STRESSING. STOP listening to the media telling you everything has to be perfect. It doesn’t!
I just used an exclamation point and I never use them.
My mother was the East Coast distributor of guilt and I grew up thinking everything had to be perfect.  Of course, for her, it never was. And more important it doesn’t have to be. Honest.
I eventually (yes, I am a slow learner) learned it wasn’t about the decorations, table settings, and the right gifts. It was the fun of being with family and friends. Okay, the gifts are sorta important.
I want you to sit back and think about your most memorable holidays. Can you remember the things you just had to have from Santa? What about the family gatherings?
I will bet you your favorite bippy that what you remember about the fabulous brussel sprouts casserole your mom made isn’t how it tasted. You’ll remember how your older cousin Vinny fed his to Aunt Tilly’s yappy dog causing it to fart so bad the house had to be evacuated.  You remember the Christmas the ancient furnace blew, spewing soot on everything and everybody. Aunt Tilly’s yappy dog looked like a Tasmanian devil.
Which Thanksgiving would you remember?  The year it was Uncle Fritz’s turn to bring the thanksgiving turkey? He promised it would be fresh. It was, ’cause he’d just shot it an hour before. It still sported all its feathers and, obviously, hadn’t been cleaned. The kids were agog and grandma took the broom to him.  Or, do you remember the year your prissy Aunt Minny had dinner catered and everything was perfect?
True story. My mid-west family always went to grandma’s for Christmas. As she got up in years the temperature in the house also rose. In the 90s. No joke. Cousins couldn’t take any more. They came, changed into shorts, Hawaiian shirts, and flip flops. Opened up the beach chairs (her furniture was covered in plastic) and had their tropical drinks. It developed into quite an event, tarps spread with sand, a baby pool, neighbors coming by. I had pics but they are long lost. Sigh.
Point is everyone was happy and by gosh we all remember.     
Make some memories and be happy yourself. If you don’t want to cook, get takeout. Or get someone else to do it, like hubs and kids. If you don’t want to go to someone’s house, don’t go. They’ll get over it in a few years.  
Holidays are for sharing love with family and friends. We women deserve to enjoy them also.
Anyone want to share a bizzaro holiday story? I have plenty more but plan to use them in a Christmas book.

FOR ELISE My kinda Thanksgiving - someone else doing the cookin.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homophones, Typos and Spellcheck Oh My!

This post is geared to anyone who's ever had to write something that someone else is going to read. How many times do you reread something before you turn it in, or hit send? Do you give it a cursory glance or do you scour it for mistakes?

I can only vouch for myself when I say that I obsess over anything I write. Does that mean my manuscripts and emails and texts go error free. HA! Hardly. It just means I'm a Virgo and perfectionist and I hate when I let mistakes get by me.

Take for instance the dreaded homophone.
 They are my downfall because spellcheck won't catch them. If a word is spelled correctly, then it must be right. Wright? (See what I did there?) Wrong. (So I've learned over and over again.) Yes, homophones are only one of my downfalls. I'm guilty of the misplaced modifier or the occasional dangling participle although I like to think I'm getting better at catching them. And what about your average typo. You wouldn't believe the mistake I found in my last book. And this after reading the thing aloud three times before I published it. But it's still better than all the other mistakes that made it through other books. (And those went through critique partners, editors and me - multiple times.) I'm still amazed at the amount of things that can get past several sets of eyes, but it only goes to show that we're all human. We all make mistakes. I'm trying not to beat myself up over it too much. I've been saying the phrase, "Let it go" a lot lately and it has nothing to do with Frozen!

For what it's worth, I will say that reading my manuscripts aloud has definitely helped me catch most of my typos. But still... I agonize over the ones that get by me. (I know, I hear the music gearing up now... "Let it go, let it go...")

Sometimes I blame my homophone problem on my dyslexia. I'm easily confused when it comes to letters (and numbers for that matter). I have tricks to help me remember which meaning goes to which word for certain words, but on occasion when I'm tired, I still blow it and get it wrong because I don't take the time to think it through.

Then there are the typos where you've got two words next to each other and because one of them is spelled with one extra letter, spellcheck won't catch it. Grrr... But I rely on you spellcheck! How can you let me down that way? Then again, I only have myself to blame. (I certainly can't blame other people for missing mistakes if I miss them too. At least I think I can't. Let me know if I'm wrong about that!)

What about you? Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to mistakes or grammar? Let me know so I'm not so alone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Adding Flavor to your Romantic Suspense

By Sandy Parks

Romantic suspense promises the reader adventure, suspense, and frequently exotic locales. How does an author add the flavor of a location unfamiliar to the reader and carry them along on your great adventure?

Whatever your tools (guidebook, camera, interviews, photos, internet), think about researching as going to a place for the first time. How will you react to the sights, smells, and sounds? Use all your senses. Seems easy, right, but where do you start?

Consider the big visual cues like landscape and then work to the smaller ones like people. A camera is a good tool for recording impressions of an onsite visit and bringing them home as a reminder of the setting, people, and events. 
I take my camera everywhere. In this case, I took a few photos of our guide,
 who would make a great romantic hero!
Think how your characters might feel when they see a massive city ahead, or towering mountains, lifeless glaciers, or stand at the bottom of giant ancient columns of a former civilization like in the photo below. 
What would the immortal warriors in my sci-fi novels
have seen during the Pharaohs reigns?

Don’t focus only on the big things like the oceans, sand dunes, cityscape, mountains, architecture, or geology. Dig deeper. What type of trees line the streets or the oasis? What animals are common? What season are you visiting? What jobs and occupations do the people have? What do they wear? This young family in Egypt pictured below, wore a mix of traditional and western garb. The little boy had a Curious George sweatshirt, but when I asked his parents if he was anything like George, they admitted to having no idea what the logo meant. I got to tell the story behind Curious George and they decided it fit their son well.
A cat finding the perfect place for a nap
at the ancient Roman city of Ephesus.

Luxor, Egypt   
Imagine how a location might fit into one of your novels. My characters in the Hawker, Incorporated series search for airplanes around the world. My immortals, in my upcoming science fiction, cover regions of the globe and watch for signs of off-world interference. Where would my characters live, work, or eat in the place I am visiting? Would they live in a lovely riad in an exotic place?
A quiet riad courtyard in Marrakech.
What are the streets like they would roam? I photographed the ancient Fes medina in Morocco and noted little things that would help enrich descriptions. The lanes were too small for automobiles, and barely fit mules, scooters, or cycles. The passages, paved with dark uneven tiles, were narrow and closed in, and wandered in a serpentine path. Overhead the passages were shaded by straw, corrugated plastic or metal, wood, or perhaps nothing. Old, pentagonal lamps hung from wires stretched between walls. 
Fes medina street covering and lights

The Fes medina
Don’t forget to notice the little things, like flower boxes, fountains, mosaics, doors, and carved friezes. Remember color. How is it used? Are the flowers white or are they white against verdant green foliage? Do the spice vendors display bags of spices, candies, or olives, or do they display them in a well-planned blend of colors that equal an artist’s palette? Do the local fishing boats display old polished woods, shiny metals, or when docked, create a row of vivid primary colors? Do the balloons filling the sky dab pastel colors against the background of ivory volcanic tufts?
Olives in the market at Rabat
Balloons over Cappadocia, Turkey

Let’s not forget sounds. Stop and listen. In Fes, discover the buzz of bees that cover sticky treats on display, the clatter of hooves on pavers from mules carrying goods, the mule drivers yelling “Balek, balek” to warn of the mule’s approach, or the cut of a motorcycle engine echoing off walls. But what if your story takes place in a quiet countryside? Do the cicadas sing, a tractor engine echo against the hills, a horse whinny, doves coo, leaves rustle, or an annoying fly drive you nuts buzzing around?

Bees in the souk on a piece of sweet
Of course, we can’t forget smell and taste. I lump these together because they often go together, as with food. Our characters do eat. Are women on the beach frying fresh caught fish in pungent spices and onions? Is there an old woman in the shadow of a Roman aqueduct offering a glass of fresh squeezed pomegranate juice? It’s tart sweet taste is refreshing on a hot day.
Pomegranate on the tree
 But not every smell comes with dinner or baking cookies or bread. Does your character step over a stream of liquid only to be accosted by the stench of a sewer? Did your comic sidekick eat beans for dinner? Does your character climb into a taxi that reeks of body odor or open a window to salty sea air or the tang of damp earth?

The last thing to consider is texture or feel, because it can be used in so many ways to express the mood of your characters as well as add description to the setting. Leather or vinyl can be cold (or warm if just sat upon), smooth, soft, sticky, slick, or cracked. The carpet under foot can be thick and hand woven wool, or luxurious and expensive woven silk or a durable Turkish carpet with a hundred years of service. The last photo is a blend of senses from the rough scales of an iguana, to the orange, brown, and red jumble of colors against the reddish sand, to the quiet scrape of its long claws as it positioned its body in a showdown with another iguana.
I took this photo of a Land Iguana in the Galapagos Islands.
Enjoy your research and remember to employ your senses and look at the little things at your locations as well as the more obvious landmarks. For information about Sandy's books check out her websites at and

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