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, December 30, 2016

Romantic Suspense Holiday Giveaway WINNERS!

Yes, SIX glorious years of NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS, and none of us look a day older *wink*.

The HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY is now complete, and the winners are below. If you see your name there, please use the contact email provided, and claim your prize!

THANKS to everyone who took part, we had a fabulous response. It's very heartening to welcome friends old and new to the blog. We all have such fun here, we like to share it with you! :D.

PRIZE + the contact email / the winner:

$40 Amazon voucher (US or UK): / Contact Clare London / SHELLEY PHILLIPS

Free ebooks - PLEASE let your author know what format you'd like:
Anne Marie Becker - YOUR CHOICE of author's backlist / GHEORGHE RADU
Clare London - 72 HOURS / LINDA RIMER-COMO
Maureen A Miller - MIST (kindle/nook) /  JACKIE DONADIC

Looking Back at 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017

I’m not going to dwell on any of the negatives of 2016, but I do want to reflect on what went right, and what I want to improve in planning out my goals for next year.

Generally, I don’t make new year resolutions but I am a big believer in setting goals. These goals can be simple ones like finishing a rough draft of a new book outline in thirty days, or more expansive goals that require several years to accomplish, like becoming proficient in Photoshop (of course every time Adobe upgrades their software I feel like I’m starting over!)

For me, it helps to begin my plans for the next year by reviewing my goals for 2016: Finish book three of Gulf Coast Rescue series (not quite—still several thousand words short of that one); outline book four in the series (check, got that one done); create a writing schedule (yep, while I missed writing every day as planned, I certainly put in more consistent writing than the year before, so I’ll count that in the plus column); update my web site (oh boy, missed that one!); and learn more about social media (attended RWA workshops and online courses so I’ll give myself a plus but deduct points for lack of implementation!); attend several writing conferences (check: RWA National in San Diego, CA, Writer’s Police Academy in Green Bay, WI, and new for me was the NINC conference in St. Pete, FL).

Okay, not bad, but I see things I want to improve in 2017. So here are my goals for next year:
  • Write every day (yes, a repeat, but I’m not giving up on this one—I’m also including writing longhand, not just on my computer since that helps me write past blocks or play the “what if” game with plot changes).
  • Publish book three of my Gulf Coast Rescue series.
  • Complete the first draft of book four of my Gulf Coast Rescue series (I’m hoping to actually finish it in 2017, but I’ll leave that for my mid-year update).
  • Learn something new every week (I consider myself a life-long learner, but I want to become more rigorous and actually schedule my online training courses. If you’re not familiar with you might want to check them out—things like Photoshop, creating web pages, using social media, formatting e-books, and marketing are all available in short video segments you can view anytime you want. Available with monthly or annual subscriptions too).

  • Hit the road more. Hubby and I bought a small toy-hauler (for our motorcycles) with living quarters (when we evacuated from hurricane Matthew) and I want to travel and experience new places and people next year!
  • Attend several writing conferences (RWA National Conference in Orlando, FL and probably NINC and the Police Academy in Green Bay, WI—new for 2017: attend regional conferences, not just national ones).
  • Break my goals into monthly, weekly, and daily goals for better results. And make them SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).
  • Revise and update throughout the year!
Okay, those are my goals for 2017. Not all inclusive, but it gets me started on the right foot for a productive year. So what goals or accomplishments do you want to achieve next year? What did you accomplish in 2016?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The History of the Passport

These days, if you want to cross an international border, you need a passport. Possibly a visa, too, but most definitely a passport. Without that little book bearing a photo of you on your worst day, plus the details of your birth and so on, you can’t go anywhere outside your own country.
For a recent book, I wanted my hero to go from Britain to Italy in the eighteenth century. They didn’t have compulsory passports then, so how did the government know where to find people? How did a government track down a murderer if he fled his home country for another one?
The answer is, they didn’t.
However, passports are not a completely new option. While everyone didn’t have to have one, there were certain ways of ensuring safe passage. Passports were less a way of keeping tabs on a person, more of a way for the person to ensure their personal safety.
Letters of safe conduct could be obtained, and the higher the level, the better. There was no obligation to obey them, but if a King wrote a letter saying “This person is important,” then people usually took notice. And they would contact other people, to make sure the person bearing the letter was the right one, and the letter wasn’t forged. That was what seals were for.
In the middle ages, even traveling from city to city was a big undertaking. Most cities were surrounded by walls, and admittance was through designated gates. Without the right letters, or permissions, a person wouldn’t get in, or out again.
By the end of the sixteenth century, countries had gained pre-eminence over cities and city-states. But borders were still flexible, and countries like Italy and Germany were more a collection of states than bona fide countries. Passports were still not standardised. But they were understood, and a person with a letter of conduct was more likely to pass unhindered than an ordinary traveller. The word “passport” dates from the early sixteenth century, and more people were traveling and requiring safe conduct letters. From then until 1794, the Privy Council issued the letters. After that, it was the State Department.
They were still not compulsory, but by this time highly desirable.
People traveling would try to obtain a variety of letters, including letters of introduction. This would usually be from someone who the recipient knew personally. The system really began to come under strain with the advent of the railways. A person could race across a country in a day or two, and pass through to another before the credentials could be checked. More people took advantage of the travel system. During the last forty years of the nineteenth century, passports were abolished. Rather than keep up with modern technology, countries threw in the towel!
But when the First World War arrived, the need for passports emerged again. It was either that or let spies wander around whichever parts of the world they wanted to. The passport was back, and this time to stay.
In 1920, the first blue British passport arrived. It contained verbal descriptions as well as a photo, which must have been a bit traumatic! It only lasted for two years, unlike the present one that lasts for ten.
The passport has been continually updated, and at the time of writing, the current British passport is a red European one. I’m rushing to renew mine before it becomes a British blue one again! It does have stamps from the US, although many countries don’t bother with the stamp any more, which has taken even more of the glamour out of travel. Now, travel is a mundane, tedious experience if you’re lucky, and a traumatic one if you’re not! But the days of glamorous travel are long gone.
In the US, only a third of the populace owns a transport, which is exceedingly strange to this European, but there is a lot of the USA to see!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays from NYUS!

Happy Holidays!

We hope your season is merry and bright, and that 2017 brings you good health, great adventures,
and thrilling books.


Not Your Usual Suspects

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gingerbread Houses

This past weekend my husband and I held our annual holiday party.  To keep things interesting, each year we choose a theme for our party, usually a country or great city,  I'll cook up a vegetarian feast inspired by the theme while my husband constructs a gingerbread creation. In the spirit of the season,
I thought it'd be fun to share some of his gingerbread masterpieces.

One year we combined France and England. Here's Notre Dame with Big Ben from across the pond.

And I'm sure everyone recognizes this famous tower in the heart of Paris.

Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe

There's Whitehall Palace in London in the back, surrounded by a potpourri of traditional English desserts.

Here's the man himself, in a New York state of mind.

One year I was looking for a challenge and hit upon the bright idea of Colonial America. Here's the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg, compares pretty well with the original.
Gingerbread Governor's Palace
Here's the actual building. It's hard to tell then apart!

We've done several parties with Italy as the host country. Here's the Leaning Tower of Pisa, lean

Sometimes my husband opts for a more stylized interpretation, as in this map of the boot of Italy.

By now you might have noticed the cyclists. An avid bike rider and fan of all things cycling, my husband always tries to include a few bikes in the mix.

Our theme isn't always limited to one place. One year we based our party on the medieval pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago.

El Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of St. James, St. James's Path, or simply The Way, the route travels through several countries, which are represented in this gingerbread diorama.

On the right the origin countries of Italy and  France are represented by the Colosseum and the Arc de Triomphe. On the far left stands Belem Tower in Portugal while the great Cathedral of St. James is firmly grounded in the center.

Here's a closeup of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
This year our theme was the lovely city of Quebec, the most European city of North America. For his gingerbread creation, there was only one choice: the beautiful Château Frontenac! 

The Château Frontenac in twilight

The Château Frontenac in gingerbread.
Though unique and uniquely beautiful, gingerbread was made for eating. Soon after the party, the demolition begins, with the neighborhood kids getting their fair share of the feast.

I enjoyed sharing one of our holiday traditions and would love to hear about some of yours!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Romantic Suspense/Mystery Holiday GIVEAWAY!

This month we celebrate SIX glorious years of NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS! Join in the celebrations with us, with a HUGE Giveaway!

We're offering 14 free ebooks from our fabulous authors PLUS a Grand Prize of a $40 Amazon voucher. That's FIFTEEN PRIZES in all!

And you can enter more than once through the Rafflecopter BELOW.

FOLLOW our blog - and our series of fun, fascinating and entertaining posts. =3 entries=

FOLLOW our authors through their mailing list =1 entry each=

or on Facebook =1 entry each=

Many thanks to all our followers over the last 6 years, and welcome to our new ones!
We'll announce the winners on the blog on 30 December.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 9, 2016

Best laid plans...

Well, by now I should have completed the fourth and final book in my BEYOND series, FOUR
WORLDS. Granted, this series is science fiction, but never fear, I am a romantic suspense author through and through. There is romance. There is suspense. It just happens to be on another planet. Of course, the main character is from North Carolina so that kind of brings it down to earth. :)

Anyway, I digress. As I said, I should be completing that book about now, but instead I have been sidelined by this monster.

Her name is Tink, but I simply call her, "The Mouth." She came home two weeks ago, and fortunately there have been great strides in that time. 

The first few nights I averaged about two hours of sleep. Music, TV, talk radio, stuffed animals...nothing worked to stem the nighttime crying. I was exhausted, and as soon as I tried to get some work done while she was napping...this is what would happen.

Then out of sheer desperation my husband downloaded an app that plays a music box lullaby on repeat. As soon as it came on her cries turned to little whimpers and then faded away completely. In less than two minutes she was asleep. Now, every night we listen to the music box and there is peace had by all.

I'm still working on the nipping/barking/whining during the day that sidelines me from getting my work done, but gosh, look at her. It's so hard not to just melt. 

Christmas will be a crazy one this year. I hope the family is patient. I hope my business associates are patient. I hope "The Mouth" is patient. And I hope you all have as awesome a holiday as I'm going to have!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Great Expectations: A Romance for Christmas

Okay, so let’s get the disclaimer out of the way right up front. I write cozy mysteries, with almost zero romance, so I can’t promise you’ll wake up to the love of your life on December twenty-fifth after a whirlwind courtship and a candlelit Christmas Eve wedding, performed (or at least arranged) by Santa.

Sorry about that. I can’t even guarantee you a decent date for New Year’s Eve.

Of course, you may already have that perfect holiday someone. But maybe you haven’t had a chance to appreciate each other enough lately, with those dual glamorous, high-powered careers or heartbreaking childhood memories or impossible family complications that leave you too exhausted or frazzled or disillusioned for love. So sad.

Decadent chocolates, long bubble baths and wine on IV drip fail to cheer as you ponder the dismal shortage of available soulmates? Hopefully you have a fulfilling hobby to take your mind off that hidden heartbreak. For instance...

You love to bake Christmas cookies. Millions and zillions, worthy of five Martha stars. Or maybe you sketch wedding gowns or plan other brides’ weddings or rescue adorably fuzzy kittens and puppies or collect glittering crystal ornaments or angel music boxes.

No? Okay, let's try this: The minute those Turkey Day dishes are done, you spend every waking moment after work for weeks scouring your super-clean, festively bustling city for the perfect Christmas tree—but once discovered, you immediately turn it over to the handsome stranger with the adorable kids who finds it at the exact same time. (Niece and nephew, as it turns out. Phew!)

None of these scenarios ring a Christmas bell? Hmm. Maybe you haven’t found the partner of your dreams because you’re an uber-focused career gal slaving for an overly demanding (but undeniably charming) CEO in that same fabulous, but oh-so-lonely-at-the-holidays city. 

Or you’re the sweet girl next door in an adorably-themed town that makes Mayberry look downright sketchy, and you’ve got your hands full with a mysterious newcomer who keeps shaking up your snow globe world (literally, it’s a snow globe). If you’re super lucky, he’ll turn out to be Mr. Right. Worst case, he’s some kind of twinkly-eyed, interfering Secret Santa.

Of course, there is one more, perfectly likely reason you have no romantic prospects in sight this Christmas. You’re a princess! You know what that means, right? You can’t tell anyone you know. Maybe you just found out you have royal blood, so you’re still getting used to the idea, as well as the tiny, festively decorated castle designed for Grace Kelly. Or maybe you were casually dating a clean-cut, impeccably-mannered guy with a vague British accent—and he’s bringing you home to meet his disapproving parents.

Gosh, I hope all you romantic hopefuls out there won’t think I’m trying to crumble your Christmas cookies here.  I’m just being super cautious, because it’d be a shame to trash that whole poinsettia bouquet deal too soon. And maybe--just maybe—your holiday love story will work out.

Why? Because Christmas is magic, that one special time of year when all your dreams can come true. You’ve got seventeen days left til December twenty-fifth--and remember, Santa always comes through.

Maybe I'll add a little romance to my next mystery. Definitely after the holidays, though, because there's no way I'm tearing myself away from this TV and Costco-sized pallet of Kleenex. 


Monday, December 5, 2016

Telling 2016 To Hit The Road

December is doing its usual “Where did the year go?” acceleration and for once, I’m happy to see the calendar page turn and close out the month and year.

Let me race back to January for a moment.

Ah January, where everything is fresh and sparkly and full of great resolutions.

Every January, a fantastic group of authors lets me hang out with them for our MLK weekend writing retreat. We get tons written, plot, and do yoga to counteract all that hunching over keyboards—and state our goals for the upcoming year. Buoyed by the thousands of words hitting the page that weekend—or maybe it was the residual effects of Rachel’s chocolate martinis—I optimistically vowed to finish the book and do a couple of other random acts of intrepid marketing.

Anyone else hear the universe laughing?

Thankfully I can’t find the actual list of goals, but I suspect in January, my retreat-mates will laugh with me over the abysmal results for the year. I did stumble over the following list sent to my online goals group:

1) survive day job transition, which has mutated into an overwhelming 10-12 hour/day beast
2) survive the snowy snowy cold winter by reminding herself it’s next summer’s water
3) survive building the house without killing the builder or doing something equally stupid and dramatic
4) you’ll notice so far writing has not appeared on this list.
5) grow a pair and do all the marketing to put Tree Farm out there
6) write the sequel to So About the Money
7) rediscover the joy of writing 

I shared this list with my retreat group (as a more realistic assessment of how the year shaped up). Kris, the philosopher in our midst, said, “That’s part of what we retreat for—to pull back, regroup, and start anew.  If it was a good year, it can be a look-back & a reminder to keep on the same trajectory. If it was a spectacular failure in some way, it’s a reset button.” 

Maybe we need those failure and frustrations to refocus. 2016 was tough for many people. But ya know, stepping back from last spring’s frustration, I still have a job (that pays me twice a month!) and we finally (finally!) finished the house and moved in a couple of weeks ago. And if I didn’t get as much written as I planned, the creative urge is still lurking inside, just waiting for a chance to bust out.

What about you? 2016 – boost or bust?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I SPY Publicity Photos!

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 ... Publicity Photos

Ah, the publicity photo. One of author-life's most necessary evils. Much as we'd all love to stay behind our computers and work, we do on occasion have to venture out into the wild. Sometimes that means the literal outside and other times it means a blog tour. Either way, it helps your branding to have a face readers can connect with your name.

Branding is the way you want to be seen. It's the vibe you want associated with your books and You, as an author anyway. Branding incorporates the online personality you share with readers. The colors you choose, the background, wording and general "feel" of your blog and/or social media are all part of your brand. Branding helps readers find and connect with you, and it begins the moment you hang out the virtual sign announcing you want to be an author.

Never think that you aren't being watched. You are. Well before that first contract is signed, agents, editors, publishing houses, fellow writers, librarians, etc will know you've thrown your hat in the ring, so make it a hat worthy of representing you. So decide early what that means to you and go for it.

One way you can get the recognition / branding ball rolling is to have a headshot available online. (Headshot in this post will be interchangeable for publicity photo). You can hire a friend, family member or a professional. Doesn't matter. Heck, you can use a selfie, just make sure it's one you won't mind being associate with because it will end up all over the interwebs. Use the photo as your social media avatar or on your About page. Share it. Put it out there. And keep it handy in your author's toolkit.

If you're like me, you'll put off the inevitable. Headshots should evolve as you do. They need updated. They should change as you find your place in the industry. For me, they changed as my dress size grew from the long hours stuck to my chair. *shrugs* It happens. Embrace it. Whatever the change. It is real, and it is you, and You are beautiful.


Old headshot: This is me in 2012. I was adorable, but thought I was old and fat. I would kill to look like this again.

New headshot: This is me like 5 minutes ago
Change is good. So, if it's time to update your pic, Go for it. The minute your shots aren't working for you anymore  - when readers can't identify you from your headshot - you need an update.

Now, you need to choose a location for the shoot. This can literally be anywhere and still be effective, as long as the location supports your brand. Try to capture your personality with your background the way you make a scene's setting part of the story when you write. What screams YOU? Your quirky or professional office? Take the photos there. Do you write kitchen cozies? Don an apron and pose with a wooden spoon at the stove. Write sexy thrillers? Grab a leather jacket and look dangerously into the camera while leaning against a brick building in a local alleyway. The possibilities are as endless as your story ideas. Personally, I love the fall in Ohio, so I went outside. Hey, whatever else I am, I am Ohio.

Plus, I write Happy. It's my thing. I write cozies about awkward, geeky girls and a woman who makes pet couture in New Orleans. I write fun. I am fun. So, I headed into the woods to take some super smiley shots in the sunshine.

I've also signed on to write romantic suspense for Harlequin's Intrigue line, so I needed something more romantic suspensy - but something that was still me. So, I changed clothes. No big deal, but I was still in the woods, so that was different, and strangely liberating. I'm not sure my photographer agreed, but we all survived and the pics are great. So - Win!

I don't mean to make this seem easy. It wasn't. I was terrified. Before I headed out on my adventure, I nearly barfed ten times. I am a strictly BEHIND the scenes girl, but my current headshots were five years old and I didn't look like that anymore. They weren't working for me, so new shots had to be done. And I did it. That's how we writers are. Don't wanna, but we gotta, so we do. We're kind of cool like that.

Good news: I didn't fall down. Not even once. And I made it home without having to go to the bathroom in the forest. Also, I didn't cry. Based on this, I feel qualified to give you advice on your own headshots. Here it goes:

  1. Prepare for options: Take four or five tops to change into. Take a few necklaces and scarves or headbands. Mix and match. 
  2. Talk to your photographer about what works and what doesn't. Trust their experience on that side of the camera. 
  3. Don't be afraid to be silly or serious or whatever you want to try. It don't cost extra or take any longer to click the button a few extra times. And if you hate the off the cuff shots, delete them. Keep only what you love. Voila! The magic of technology. 
  4. Use the bathroom before entering the woods.
  5. Bring tissues in case you cry.
  6. Don't worry if you fall down. They're called headshots for a reason. No one will know if you're in your PJ bottoms or if there's mud covering your Levis. 
  7. Have fun. Five years from now you'll look back on these photos and recall longingly how young and beautiful you were. :) 

And this will be the new face of my alter ego, Julie Chase


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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