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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Sharon Calvin

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is SHARON CALVIN and her book A DANGEROUS LEAP.. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


Book one of Gulf Coast Rescue

Raised by navy parents, Kelly Bishop learned how to pack light and say goodbye at an early age. She's earned her Coast Guard rescue swimmer stripes in some of the toughest waters out there, outperforming men along the way. Now she's ready for a new start in Florida, eager to prove herself as the best of the best.

What she isn't ready for is the spark between her and fellow Coastie Ian Razzamenti.

Ian knows what he wants and he knows how to get it. And what he's always wanted is a stay-at-home wife—someone who can take care of their children while he's out on missions. The attraction he feels for Kelly is intense, but is it worth giving up his big-family dreams?

Life-or-death situations leave little time for distraction—or doubt. When a tropical storm becomes a hurricane and a dangerous enemy reveals himself, their air station springs into action, and Kelly and Ian may not have the chance to decide whether they want to take the leap…


Kelly brought up the last man from the RIB using the quick strop in a tandem hoist. She stayed on board to help Ian while the captain reeled the inflatable back to the sailboat for the last four survivors.


Joe’s shout spun Ian around in time to see Kelly launch herself out of the open doorway.

“Shit, shit, shit! Swimmer in the water, swimmer in the water!” Joe shouted to Caitlyn.

It took a moment for Ian to register that Kelly hadn’t been attached to the cable. She’d done a free fall at night? He scrambled to the doorway as Joe shouted directions to Cait over the headset.

“Back thirty. Over sixty. Shit, we’ve got a child in the water. Ryan, radio the boat’s captain. Get everyone below. Repeat, get them off that fucking deck!”

Ian squinted into the driving rain. He could barely make out the sailboat wallowing in the brutal waves. Nothing showed in the water except white-capped foam. Cold fear squeezed blood from his heart and kicked him in the gut. Kelly was in the belly of that black, frothing monster.

Instinct more than training took over when Kelly saw the wave’s backlash suck the child from the sailboat’s deck. One moment the four survivors had been holding on to the railing ready to board the RIB, in the next second only three clung to the listing deck.

As she leaped into the storm’s fury, she assumed a defensive position, anticipating a long drop to the water’s rock-hard surface. Thankfully, another monster wave came up to greet her, and she rode it down into the trough. The wind and waves should bring the child around the boat—if it didn’t crush her against the hull first.

Kelly banished all such negative thoughts from her mind. Instead, she concentrated on establishing a rhythm that matched the ocean’s. The first lesson of open water: don’t fight it, work with it. Become the water.

Breathe when the opportunity presented itself, otherwise hold, kick, glide. She moved at an angle she hoped would intercept the child’s path around the grounded boat. Whenever possible, she swam beneath the violent, churning surface.

And prayed.

Her lungs burned and she swallowed, stalling the urge to breathe a little longer. She kicked to the surface, sucked oxygen in along with more than a mouthful of saltwater, and searched for any sign of movement. Without divine intervention, finding an object as small as a bobbing child would be—

There, something reflective moved on top of the wave. Another precious “bite” of air and Kelly dove beneath the surface, kicking hard, willing the child to be near, to be alive. She forced her strokes to slow, to be more powerful, more definite, to not fight the waves, but to once again find their rhythm.

Unable to hold her breath any longer, she fought her way to the surface. Breathe, dive, kick. She repeated it over and over again, losing track of time and space, driven forward by teasing glimpses of that elusive something in the black distance.

  amazon author page

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Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Clare London

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is CLARE LONDON and her book 72 HOURS.. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


Tanner Mackay and Niall Sutherland were once far more than just fellow intelligence agents. But then a mission went horribly wrong and everything fell apart, sending Tanner into hiding and splitting the team and their affair wide apart. Now an unknown traitor is threatening the team, and their ex-boss is determined to reunite them before it’s too late. She finds Tanner in a run-down trailer park, bringing with her a most unwelcome refugee in need of temporary sanctuary: Niall, the man he thought he’d never have to face again. The man he’s sure feels exactly the same in return.

Trapped in a situation that’s both claustrophobic and highly dangerous, Tanner and Niall will have to revisit their past and reconsider their perceptions, their loyalties—and their desires—in order to survive, let alone forge a future together.


Niall sat carefully on the edge of my bed, so I had to roll over further to give him space. He already held the bandages, and his movements were smooth and efficient. I watched his hands work, long fingers wrapping the cloth around me, palms brushing against my bare skin. “Very little leakage,” he said. “It’s healing well.”

It didn’t hurt very much at all now, but I didn’t reply. My tongue felt thick in my mouth. That, or someone had cauterized my vocal chords in the last two minutes.

“When you were hit,” he said, and then paused. “Shit.”

I grimaced in the dim light, trying to see his expression.

“It was shock, obviously,” he said, as if he talked to himself. “I don’t know why else I felt so bad.”


“Three months, Tanner. I’ve not seen you for three months. Now I see you for a couple of days, under protest, for God’s sake, both of us uncomfortable with it all, both of us really pissed….”

“Yeah,” I said, my tongue having returned to life. “Ditto.”

“But I didn’t expect to feel this way.” He was looking away from me now, the unused roll of white bandage forgotten on his lap. His head tilted back, and I saw the silhouette of his throat as he swallowed. “I never thought being here with you would be this hard.”

“Niall,” I said. Rather ironically for me, I was beginning to realize just how hard itwasn’t. “Did you do that? When I went down. Did you cover me with your body?”

He was silent for a moment. He pressed his hands on his thighs and the mattress shifted under him. “There could have been more than one shot. I didn’t know how badly you’d been hit. You were an open target there on the ground.”

Explanations. But not excuses.

“It was a fucking stupid thing to do,” I said. I don’t think I meant to say it aloud.

Astonishingly, he laughed. “Yes, it was. It was the shock, like I said. I couldn’t believe how I felt when I saw you go down—when I saw your body fold against the bullet.” He looked at me then, and even in the dark I could see his expression. His eyes spoke for him. I thought you were dead.

I pulled myself up to sitting. The clean, fresh binding felt good, and strength was returning to my limbs. He stayed where he was, so we were almost face to face, less than a foot apart. “Guess we’re quits then.” He’d laid his hand on the sheet now, a few inches from my own. I looked down at it, at the splayed fingers, at the tendons tight with tension across the back of his hand.

He turned toward me again, a strong muscular shape in the half dark room. His voice had softened. “You look better. There’s color in your face.”

“Soon back to normal,” I said too brightly. If some sniper doesn’t get me first.

“The fight,” he said. “I regret it. Bitterly.”

“Yeah.” So do I, my heart screamed at me, but the words were still in the mire of self-pity at the back of my throat. “But that’s all over now, isn’t it? We’re both agreed on that.” I stared again at the dapples of shadow running over the skin of his hand. I knew my own hand ached to reach out and touch him. What was happening here to me? To us? My head remembered the hurtful shit, yet my body ached from the sensual memory of him.

“It was just so painful, Tanner. Such confusion.” His voice had an unfamiliar break in it. “To see you withdrawing from me—to see your awkwardness with me.”

“Better we parted,” I said very quietly. I didn’t want to discuss this; I didn’t want to hear this. “Guess we could have chosen a slightly less public way to do it, though.”

“Yes,” he said. “Definitely would have been better without the audience.” He laughed, but with no real humor. Sighing, he shifted on the bed and the bandages fell to the floor with a soft thump, rolling over against the wall. His hand opened on top of the sheet beside me, then fisted up again.

“How did it get so bad, Niall?” I was surprised again to hear my words aloud.

“I can’t tell you.”

“No of course you damned well can’t—”

“No,” he interrupted. “Because you won’t let me. I can’t find the words like you can. Never could. I may have been too quick to judge you, but then you never gave me time to find out to the contrary. You’re so abrasive sometimes.”

I pursed my mouth. “You’re not exactly sweetness and light yourself.”

And then he laughed again, genuinely, startling me afresh. “I don’t think I ever was, was I? You’re right. God knows how we ever got together in the first place.”

But we did.

His eyes met mine and held my gaze, demanding, perhaps, that I didn’t chicken out. There was a triangle of light in the center of each of his dark pupils, like someone had drawn him as a wide-eyed cartoon in the night. “It’s still not easy, is it? There’s too much—or not enough—between us. I’m sorry that all this is happening to you because of me. That I’m the target, not you. That you can’t continue on your search for your own space without my hindrance.”

The pained edge in his voice hurt me. And yet his eyes were still hungry. They drank me in, as if he’d been heavily dehydrated but now found relief. Things were shifting in my mind like a kaleidoscope. My memory of our relationship was taking on a new tone.

“Don’t be,” I said. “Don’t be sorry, that is. Whatever happens with this, I know I can trust you.”

“But you didn’t always before.”

“No,” I replied. Couldn’t trust myself at the moment, to know what was right.

“I… didn’t see that I had to justify myself to you, Tanner. About Joe, about anything. You should have known me better.”

Yeah. Maybe I should. Self-disgust crushed me, regret twisted its knife. “I was stupid. End of story.”

He shook his head very gently, and I felt the vibration in the air as we leaned in toward each other. I don’t know what happened next—or rather, I don’t know why we let it. It was as if something tugged at me against my will, as if both of us were lassoed and drawn in for capture, like hapless, dumb animals. The mattress creaked beneath us, and I felt a gentle crick in my neck as it stretched itself. Just a foot or so between us, didn’t I say? Our breath bridged it, combining in the cool night air. Our words were just whispered sound, our protests melted into raw emotion.

His hands never touched me, nor did I reach out those last few inches to hold him.

The only things that touched were our mouths.

  amazon author page

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Marcelle Dube

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is MARCELLE DUBE and her book GHOSTS OF MOROCCO. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


Fifteen years after a traumatic event in Morocco, Hope Adler has reinvented herself as a cautious, dependable businesswoman back home in Canada. No more impulsiveness. No more risks. No more Wild Child. But when Meddur, the young son of her Moroccan friend, lands on her doorstep, running from murderous Berber radicals, she must reach deep into her past and bring back the Wild Child, because that’s the only way she and Meddur will get out of this alive.

Just as she thinks she’s found a safe place to hide the boy, Sam Walker, the bane of her youth in Morocco, suddenly appears. Can she trust him to help her keep Meddur safe? Or is he working with the radicals?

In a departure from her Mendenhall Mysteries series, Marcelle Dubé’s Ghosts of Morocco is a standalone novel featuring Hope Adler, a woman tormented by her past and willing to do anything to make amends. Ghosts of Morocco is a wild, exotic ride from the sands of Morocco to the deep snows of the Yukon.


As soon as they got what they wanted, they would let her go. Especially as she couldn’t identify them. That was why they kept the hood over her head.

Dad would pay the ransom and they would let her go.

Hope sucked in a breath as she suddenly remembered Sam’s warning about Berber rebels. What if instead of money, they wanted her dad to do something in exchange for her freedom?

What if they wanted to kill her as an example of how far they were willing to go?

The car suddenly braked to a stop and she heard car doors opening and closing. Then the darkness lightened as the trunk catch was released and blessed oxygen diluted the dust.

She took a few deep breaths, then hard hands grabbed her by the shoulders and knees and hauled her out of the trunk. Instead of setting her on her feet, she was flung over a shoulder and carried for a little distance.

The shoulder pressed into her abdomen, compressing her lungs, forcing little grunts out of her with every step. That was when she remembered that her mouth was free.

“Help!” she shouted. “Help me!”

“You may shout all you wish, Miss Adler,” said a man’s voice. “No one will hear you here.” There was a faint accent in the man’s speech, and his voice was tinged with amusement.

Hope ignored him and shouted as loud as she could, only stopping when someone cuffed her on the back of the head.

“It is, however, annoying,” continued the same man conversationally.

At least two men, she decided. One to carry her, one to walk behind. There had been at least two men in the marketplace, where they had grabbed her. Surely she could escape from two men. All she had to do was bide her time and look for an opportunity.

A door opened and another man spoke in rapid Tamazight. Her heart sank. They had apparently arrived at their destination, where at least one more man waited for them.

The sound of her captors’ footsteps changed. They had crossed the threshold into the building. The man carrying her paused for a moment and she thought he would set her down, but at a sharp order from the man behind her, he carried her through a few more steps before finally stopping.

He set her down and then the bag was finally removed. She stood blinking in a large room with whitewashed walls, sucking in cold air. Narrow windows high on one wall allowed sunlight to cut through the cold shadows, illuminating a bed of Berber carpets twenty deep in one corner and a straight-back wooden chair in the other. Nothing else.

She tried to turn, but her bound ankles made her lose her balance. She would have fallen if not for the steadying hand on her elbow.

“You have a choice,” said the man, his breath hot against her ear. She shivered in sudden fear, brutally aware that she was alone with him. “I can free you if you promise to behave. If not, I will tie you to that chair until we no longer need you.”

She stiffened but he only laughed.

“No, Miss Adler,” he said. “We do not wish to harm you. As soon as we have the money we have asked in return for your release, we will set you free. Now,” he continued and she realized that the accent she was hearing was British. Whoever this man was, he had spent time in England. “Will you cooperate if I untie you?”

Without hesitating, she nodded, then regretted it when her head threatened to fall off. The man leaned down and cut the ropes around her ankles, then did the same at her wrists. Her arms swung free and she bit her lip to keep from crying at the sharp pain in her shoulders.

She managed to turn around without falling and looked at the man who had kidnapped her. He was no taller than her but his shoulders were wide and thick with muscles, as was his neck. Everything else was hidden under a striped djellaba.

His dark eyes glittered in the sharp sunlight that pierced the deep shadows in the room. Black, curly hair and high cheekbones, a fine mouth and strong nose. He would be handsome if not for the look in his eyes.

They stared at each other for long seconds, until his features were burned into her mind. Then he smiled, revealing strong, even, white teeth, and left, closing the door behind him.

Hope stared at the heavy wooden door as a bar slid shut on the other side, locking her in.

He had let her get a good look at him.

He wasn’t planning to let her go.

  amazon author page

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Prize Draw and Celebration at NYUS - Anne Marie Becker

The authors of Not Your Usual Suspects thank you for following the blog, and celebrate 250,000 hits!

This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books. A lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw below - and you can earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blogpost, too.

Today's featured author is ANNE MARIE BECKER and her book END GAME. Please enjoy the excerpt, pop the book on your wishlist if you're tempted, and don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter draw below.


Book six of The Mindhunters.
It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s whether you survive. Abby Rhodes learned early on that her gift could do more harm than good, so she stifled her psychic abilities for years. But in an unguarded moment, she touches an object connected to the murders of eleven girls and receives a message—one that could help capture a killer. When a twelfth victim goes missing, she must choose whether to trust her gift and risk everything, or stay silent and possibly jeopardize a young girl’s life. 

Tech genius and ex-SEAL Andrew “Einstein” MacKenzie doubts the sexy yoga instructor with the soft smile can help find a killer who has eluded authorities for decades, but he’ll do anything to catch a break in this case—until he learns Abby’s methods have no basis in science. He prefers verified data and reliable statistics that fit neatly into his crime-solving algorithms. This woman, both his polar opposite and his perfect match, threatens to upend his carefully controlled world in every way. 

Twenty years ago, the Charmer began his deadly game, killing beautiful young women to serve his needs. Now, the agents at SSAM are breathing down his neck. Determined to stay in control, he initiates a plan to destroy the agency—if they don’t find him first. It’s a race against the clock as Einstein and Abby hunt the ruthless serial killer, and the winner will take all.


A dozen bodies were sprawled on yoga mats, unrolled like little plots of land across the gleaming wood floor. Trying to ignore her wayward thoughts, Abby directed her students through a series of positions. Half Moon, Downward-facing Dog, Tree Pose. While the endless summer heat was driving most Chicagoans crazy, her class had found a cool midmorning oasis at Inner Beauty Dance and Yoga Studio.

Nearly an hour of Zen-inducing stretches later, she rose and surveyed the group. “Remember to stay hydrated out there—and stay centered, too.” She’d found peace, even if only for a few precious minutes. But turmoil awaited her just outside the door.

The women rolled up their mats and dispersed to the locker room before hurrying back to offices and homes. Abby slugged water from her bottle, in no hurry to rush back to her life. One of her students approached, waddling gracefully as her third-trimester belly preceded her. Dr. Maggie Levine-Townsend was a radio psychologist and a professor at Chicago Great Lakes University. She was about to add mother to her impressive resume. Her dark red hair was pulled back into a ponytail, but several stray wisps were stuck in the perspiration around her heart-shaped face.

“Great class,” Maggie said.

“The modifications have been working for you?” Abby had shown her less strenuous versions of the yoga poses.

“They’re fantastic. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to quit. I need this outlet.”

“I know what you mean.” Abby was missing her kids. While teaching yoga gave her a second income and something to fill her summers, she looked forward to seeing the smiling faces of a new crop of kindergartners at South Loop Elementary in a few weeks.

If they didn’t fire her before then.

Lines creased Maggie’s forehead. “Everything okay? You seemed distracted during the session.”

“I’m sorry—”

Maggie interrupted her apology with a shake of her head. “No need to apologize. I don’t think most people noticed. It’s my job to pick up on subtle nonverbal cues. Something’s wrong.”

“I’ll survive.” Abby swallowed her anger and fear and summoned a smile. “But thank you for checking on me.”

“Anytime you need to talk, give me a call.” Maggie fished a business card out of her bag and handed it over.

“Thanks. That means a lot.”

“Hell, you’ve saved my sanity this summer. Unbearable heat and eight months pregnant? Not a good combination. Come to think of it, you probably saved my husband’s sanity, too.”

Abby laughed. “Just a few more weeks. Soon you’ll have a little one to cuddle.”

“And even more danger to my sanity.” But Maggie’s laugh indicated she was looking forward to the challenge. After a quick farewell, Maggie left with a friend, laughing over some shared comment. A pang of loneliness hit Abby square in the chest and she set about ignoring it. Feeling maudlin was counterproductive. Keeping busy was the cure.

As the last of the students said their good-byes, Abby moved about the room with a push broom and cleaning wipes. A glint of sun on metal on the floor near one of the windows caught her eye. She moved closer to inspect its source. A charm bracelet. She hurried to the door and poked her head out to look up and down the sidewalk, but saw none of her students. She returned to the bracelet and scooped it up, holding it to the light to study the dozen or so nickel-sized silver medallions dangling from the links, each etched with a different symbol.

Her breath caught as her eyelids closed. The dam broke and images flooded her mind like a series of snapshots.

No. Not now. Not here.

Even as she struggled to slam that mental door shut, her throat squeezed and her exhalation came out as a strangled moan. Her skin grew moist and her mouth went dry. Her pulse pounded in her head.

Too late. The message wanted—needed—to come through.

  amazon author page

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Not Your Usual Suspects - a thankyou GIVEAWAY for 250k hits!

The Not Your Usual Suspects blog is proud - excited? stunned? - to see we've had 250,000 hits since we started up! We're so pleased our readers enjoy visiting our blog posts. We like to share writing craft, news, comment and pride in both our own books and our beloved Romantic Suspense genre.


This week we'll be featuring a selection of delicious and delightful excerpts from our books.

Enjoy the reads and hopefully you'll discover new and exciting authors for your To Read list.

Also, a lucky commenter at the end of the week will win a set of books from ALL the authors in e-format.

Just leave your email in the RAFFLECOPTER draw on each day, You can also earn extra entries by leaving a comment on the blog post.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Making the most of your opportunities

I have been thinking a lot about the opportunities we have as writers.  We get the chance to share something special with others that a lot of people don't have.  I, for one, absolutely love being able to tell stories.  Start with the bare bones of characters and make them come alive.  Give them good traits and flaws.  Personalities and traits that are cohesive and identifiable.  Nobody is perfect, and having them be imperfect beings makes them all the more realistic.  Then I get to drop them into fantastical situations most of us in our mundane, day-to-day lives, would never encounter. 

As writers, we get opportunities to research our stories.  Sometimes that might mean a trip to the local fire station, to question the firefighters and paramedics.  (Oh, poor me, that is such a hardship, right?)  Maybe it's talking to an FBI agent or police officer, running scenarios by them to see if it will work. 

In our modern world, we also have the ability to interact with people via the internet that we'd otherwise never have a chance of meeting in person.  Experts in their fields who help us weave concrete facts into our stories to make them all the more realistic.  Because part of storytelling is making the listener or reader enter into the world we create, immerse themselves into the adventure, and feel like they are a part of what's going on around them. 

We sometimes have the opportunity to travel.  We can go to reader and writer's conferences and meet fellow authors, the ones who write in the same genres we do.  Heck, we even get to be fans ourselves of authors that we breathless await their next big book.  We get to interact with readers at reader conferences, and meet face-to-face the people who've sent e-mails, and tweeted and wrote Facebook posts about our books.  Honestly, where else would you get that kind of opportunity? 

Then there's the opportunity to collaborate with other authors/writers in anthologies and boxed sets, bringing new life to series or creating brand new worlds to be explored.  The possibilities are endless, limited only by time and our own imaginations.

But do we make the most of these opportunities?  How many times do we say, I really need to research untraceable poisons and actually speak to experts on the subject?  Or find out about whether guns can fire underwater?  Or learn about the finer details about identifying and/or taking fingerprints. 

Writers have limitless opportunities.  Sometimes we don't take advantage of them, and it inhibits the stories running around inside our heads.  Don't let your opportunities pass you by.  Seize the day, the moment, because they can slip away from you in a heartbeat, and may never come around again. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


So at 9.50 PM last night, after a thirteen hour day, after a long hard summer with no break beyond one long weekend, and only seconds after finishing the second draft of my latest book, I receive an email.

Couldn't finish book-----editing was so terrible couldn't even understand some of the words.

Presumably from a reader. Presumably about one of my books (and she/he has since confirmed this BTW). Now, we authors of the social media era encourage readers to reach out to us, but what exactly is the point of this email? Do I write back with snark and say my CP and two editors disagree? Do I point out that not all authorial styles, voice, or even grammar, suit all readers? Do I suggest a dictionary to enable the reader to decipher the meaning of all those poorly edited words? Frankly, it's a little disheartening to receive this kind of email, especially at the end of a long day, at the end of another book that made blood-red sweat ooze from my writer pores. Is that what the reader hopes to do by sending me this email--to dishearten me? To make me feel small and worthless? To diminish my work? To maybe make me want to throw my current book in the garbage pile of failure? 

In an odd coincidence I also received an email pointing to a news article that I might find interesting. It was from another reader who once reached out to me--but she reached out about how much she loved and admired my books. This reader has since become a dear friend whose intelligence and drive I admire immensely. 

So--the fact is, as a writer, we can choose how accessible we are. And being accessible means we open the door to criticism and hurt (what human being hasn't experienced that sting in some shape or form?) when someone doesn't like our book (for whatever reason and that is their prerogative). But we also open the door to friendship--truly, amazing friendship. I do appreciate reader email. I even appreciate the negative stuff--just enough to make me human. 

*Apologies for my unedited post. Hope you can understand all the difficult words. (Yes, that was snark).

Sunday, September 20, 2015


            Lately, in writers groups, there has been some discussion about keeping the joy in our writing. There are a bazillion answers. I think one is by indulging our other creative talents.  Yeaph. OTHER creative talents. Authors are very creative people. Think about all the other talents you have and how those creative outlets can nourish your writing.  
Here are a few.
Sewing. BTW I hear it’s coming back as a thing.
Knitting and crocheting.
Setting a proper table is now considered an art. Ha! I giggled when I saw a Facebook post about setting a table and there was no place for the cell phone.
Family wrangling. 
Cooking. Look at all the TV cooking shows.
Painting as in, on a canvas and the walls.  
Giving Parties.
Yeah. I hear you asking what these creative endeavors have to do with writing.  When you begin writing a new book you write a synopsis. Make a plan. Develop a structure or a pattern.  Look at the talents I mentioned above. How many need a plan, a pattern?
When sketching a face you start with the basic features everyone has, head shape, jaw, ears, nose eyes. But, it is how we shape those features that makes the face unique. Take sewing a dress. You begin with a pattern. Each one has an opening for the head and sleeves, but think of the creative possibilities in achieving the finished product. Same with a book. Plot, setting, characters, conflict, goals motivation, and so on.  
When you begin to write every word inside you doesn’t rush out like a water fall onto the page at once. It’s like knitting and crocheting. One stitch/word at a time culminating in this great design/book.
I believe spending a few hours, minutes, a week with your other talents can help feed the writing beast. As for me, I’m sketching again. Drawing my characters. Although I have to admit I sometimes use the Flash Face app to get the basics. I color in the big girl books. I click the knitting needles and crochet with basic stitches. Garden. My chain saw skill is getting better. A new design, other than out of control jungle, is emerging in the back yard. New skeeter repellant recipes are being tested and I write.    
What are your other creative talents? Take one of yours and examine it for similarities with writing.
Do you think enjoying all your creative venues can help keep the joy in your writing?

What are yours?

Friday, September 18, 2015


How often do you cry over a book?  For me, the answer is not very often. It's not that the subject matter or wistful intensity of the book is lacking. It's just much harder to evoke tears when there is time to process the words you are reading. The impact isn't as jarring as the visual assault of a movie. Also, crying makes it very difficult to read. :) At least if you're watching a movie you can still listen and carry on with your bawling. I wonder if audio books have more of that effect.

That's not to say I've never cried while reading a book. Most recently, Loreth Ann White brought me to tears in her A DARK LURE novel. It wasn't even the romance that did me was the emotional subplot.

Movies - well, movies are a different story. I'm a basket case when it comes to movies. It started early, when I was too young to even understand why I was crying. I came running into the kitchen with tears running down my face and threw myself into my dad's arms. Naturally, he asked, "What did you hurt?"

I startled to babble, "There was this dog, and he ran away...but, but, then he came BAAACK!" whahhhhhh! At which point my father learned that women, no matter what age, are very emotional. LOL

Flash forward to adulthood as I'm boarding a plane from Newark airport for a business trip. What airline in their right mind shows THE NOTEBOOK on a cross-country flight?!?!  I, like the 200 people around me, wiggled my nose, tipped my head back, took a sip of my soda...all useless ploys to stop myself from crying in front of strangers. Eventually the whole damn plane gave up and we were all bawling.

What are some of the movies that do you in? Even after you've watched them once, twice, or sixteen hundred times before? I think if I even see a commercial for A WALK TO REMEMBER I'll start sobbing uncontrollably. :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Popcorn kittens

Have you ever heard of popcorn kittens?

It’s an expression that’s become more and more relevant to writers, especially those who indie publish or hybrid publish (you know: part-indie, part-traditional). I first became aware of the term from Kris Rusch, who wrote a post about it back in 2013. The link to the video no longer seems to work, but you can see it here. Go watch it (it has kittens!) and come back.

Cute, aren’t they? They’ve become a metaphor for this new world of publishing. As Kris says in her post, writers are no longer limited by what traditional publishing dictates. We can write what we want, when we want, and publish it when we want. Which can lead to an interesting problem: which story do we pick to write?

That’s the quandary I’m in right now. I should be working on the fifth Mendenhall Mystery but I didn’t get far before the second A’lle Chronicles Mystery started singing its siren song. Then, as I was flipping back and forth, I got not one but TWO great story ideas that Just. Won’t. Shut. Up. In the meantime, I’ve been writing short stories and sending them out into wide world.

I feel flushed with possibility and yet paralyzed by indecision. What’s a girl to do?

Anybody else experience that? How do you deal with it?

Photo by Karen Abrahamson

You can find Marcelle here: web | facebook | twitter

Friday, September 11, 2015

There Could be a Story There...

My husband and I are planning our first vacation in a long time -- a five-day trip to New Orleans. I've attempted to visit there twice before, but something happened both times to stymie my plans. Once it was a hurricane, then I got mononucleosis! I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed this time.

New Orleans seems like such a fascinating place, the sort of city where anything could happen, a great place to set a suspense story.

All the right elements are there -- the mystique of old southern charm, all those creepy cemeteries with their above-ground graves, and of course, the lure of voodoo and other types of magic.

New Orleans Magic Store

New Orleans Voodoo Store

Hey, I think I might be able to find a tax write-off for part of this vacation! because while I'm searching through all those wonderful magic shops and antebellum homes, I'll bet I can come up with some new ideas to get my muse excited.

I mean, what writer couldn't conjure up the bones of a good story in a setting like that? So what am I planning to see while I'm there?

Well, of course I'll go see out the tomb of local voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

She was quite famous from what I read. The sort of fodder one could base a story upon.

I'll have to stop by Cafe du Monde for some authentic New Orleans beignets. Maybe all that powdered sugar will give me some ideas, or the strong coffee will at least keep me up all night for the partying.

Speaking of which, I'll also be sure to check out the famous nightlife. (The live kind outside of the graveyards.)

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar is on top of the list, along with The Spotted Cat Music Club. Give a girl enough Hurricanes to drink and she's bound to get into trouble worthy of a story. Maybe even a whole series!

So wish me luck in The Big Easy. I'll tell you what happens...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

So I went to Vienna...

…and ever since, I’ve been wondering how to use the experience in a story. We writers are like squirrels in that we store life's little moments for future use.

I’d never had a deep longing to visit Vienna but I’d always wanted to see the famous Lipizzan horses so, as they wouldn’t come to me, I had to go to them. I booked tickets for a performance and, at the end of June, flew out to Vienna.

Worried we’d get lost and be late for the horses’ performance, I was at the Spanish Riding School early. So early in fact that I saw the horses being moved from their stables to be prepared for the big show. I couldn’t believe I was up close to these famous animals. In fact, I’d watched in open-mouthed amazement for a few minutes before I realised that the shiny black thing hanging around my neck ought to be used to record this momentous occasion. 

Lippizan heading straight for me!
Inside the Imperial Palace waiting for the horses to strut their stuff

(No photography was allowed during the performance, sadly.)

The rest of our brief stay in the City was spent exploring and I fell in love. All the while, however, I was wondering how to use the experience in fiction. A murder committed while a spellbound audience watches the beautiful stallions perform beneath the huge chandeliers?

Maybe a body discovered in the Palm House? Decomposing nicely among the rare plants in the hot house?

The Palm House 

The Palm House

Or perhaps the body has been cunningly hidden in a piece of artwork?

Monumental Break by French artist Julien Berthier

Weapons disguised as accordions?  Killers wearing animal masks?


A power struggle ends in murder in the grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace?

The Gloriette in the Schönbrunn Palace Garden

Um, killer hare takes over a city?

As it stands, I'm still trying to finish The Final Echoes (aka The Book that Refuses to be Written), a story in my Jill Kennedy & DCI Max Trentham series, and that is firmly set amid the brooding hills of my hometown, but you can rest assured that Vienna will one day be the setting for some murder and mayhem. Whether that story involves killer hares or horses playing accordions remains to be seen. Watch this space!

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