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 27, 2017

Adventures in Research – The Humanitarian Village

When most people in the San Francisco Bay area hear the term Fleet Week, they probably think of boats and planes. Last year, I discovered a hidden gem of this annual event. When I saw that the activities included The Humanitarian Village set up by the US Marines and various humanitarian organizations, I knew I had to attend. Not simply out of curiosity, but for research purposes.

What is The Humanitarian Village? It’s a display of various elements that might come into play in the case of an emergency—whether a natural disaster such as we’re seeing now with the hurricanes and earthquakes, a chemical attack, etc. Some of the displays included military medical (and dental) tents, the protective gear and robots used when dealing with explosives, and a massive filtration system that allowed me to drink water pulled from San Francisco Bay. Very cool!

Since one of the secondary characters in my current series, WAR, is a former US military medic, and I’m always having my characters get injured, I spent the most time at the hospital tent. I asked a gazillion questions of the Navy corpsmen and women on duty. Yes, the tent was part of a Marine encampment, but the Navy supplies the Marines with their medical staff. 

I found everyone to be extremely friendly and willing to answer my questions. I even received a personal tour from the company commander, including a closer look at the generators. Points to him for not flinching when I asked about the consequences of having my bad guys blow up the generators!

Here’s the triage tent. 

Photo of the inside of a military triage tent from The Humanitarian Village

See those pouches hanging on the wall? Each item always goes into the exact same pocket so that the doctors can reach for the item without really have to look at it. When enough pockets go empty, the whole thing is removed and a full one takes its place.

Another secondary character in the WAR series is the team’s explosives expert. So of course I had to get a closer look at the protective gear he might use.

Photo of a protective suit used for handling explosives seen at The Humanitarian Village

I also talked to the soldiers staffing the mobile kitchen, climbed inside a military ambulance, and stared in fascination at the devices used to detect dangerous chemical or biological agents.

Lesson of the day? It pays to explore all offerings at an event even if you think you know everything that’s going on. You might come across an unexpected research opportunity.

How about you? What fascinating events have you stumbled upon recently?


Vanessa Kier writes action-packed romantic thrillers with an edge. She’s set her latest series, WAR, in West Africa, where she lived for a time. She’s also a Scrivener coach for writers.

You can find her at:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Small Reader Conferences

**Giveaway over***

Y'all know I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my readers. I used to attend a lot of writer conferences but I always made sure that I hosted a reader event in the area for my local readers. 
I would rent out a cupcake shop, coffee house, library room, restaurant, bar...many places. I would send the local readers a special invitation and it was so much fun!

I was getting a lot of reader mail asking when I was coming to their a mom of four boys in every sport imaginable, an amazing husband, a house to run and writing, I was spread thin. 

I'll never forget it. I was sitting in my office reading some emails and then it dawned on me:

Why don't I have my own reader event that no one else does? Why not every year in a different location? And what if it was on a train? One of the mystery dinner trains?

It was like I was plotting one of my mystery novels. I was playing the what if game and it all seemed to fit like a perfect puzzle in my head. I googled mystery dinner trains and found one about four hours from my home. I figured I'd have local readers who might travel for a girl's weekend. I called the train and rented it. I called the local hotel and blocked out some rooms....I was going crazy.
I posted a little something on my private Cozy Krew Facebook page and in thirty minutes all sixty seats on the train was booked and paid for. 
Then...I got scared.

OMG...60 readers looking at me? I can't do this alone....

So...I called my writing BFF, Duffy Brown!

(Last year's Two Dames on a Mystery Train event)

I told her what I'd done and asked her to join me. Of course she said yes! Little did we know how popular our little adventure was going to be. 
It's turned into a Two Dames on a Mystery Train Weekend and we've gotten to meet so many amazing readers across the United States. 

This year we invited a few more fun cozy mystery authors to join us in Lockport, NY at a winery!! There's a mystery train, we stop to eat and then go back to the winery for a book signing. 
The train is full, but you're more than welcome to join us for the book signing at 4 p.m. You can follow the link under the photos for more details. 

 (Please note that Kathi Daley is unable to make the event this year.)

Have you ever been to a reader only event? Leave a comment and I'll give away a fun Southern Mystery Y'all tote to one lucky comment!! 

Tonya Kappes is a USA Today Bestselling author who's married (to Eddy) and has four grown children, grown is an overstatement. According to the law they are grown, but they are all in different colleges in the United States.  She's known for her super charged characters that not only spill humor all over the pages, but end up tripping over a lot of dead bodies. Be sure to check out her Front Porch Sittin' tab on her website at for freebies and contests.

Have you checked out all my books? Here is a list and links! 

Olivia Bloom Paranormal Mystery Series

Magical Cures Mystery Series

Spies and Spells Mystery Series

Grandberry Falls Series

A Laurel London Mystery Series

A Divorced Diva Beading Mystery Series

Bluegrass Romance Series

A Ghostly Southern Mystery Series

Kenni Lowry Mystery Series
AX TO GRIND (9/2017)
SIX FEET UNDER  (4/2018)

Women’s Fiction

Young Adult

Be sure to join me everywhere!!

I want to invite everyone to join the Cozy Krew group page. If you are not already a group member you can join at

Join the Mailbox Love where I send snail mail and birthday cards! Click here or

If you like to cook and have recipes that you'd like to share, please share them here or

Be sure to check out my web page for up to date information on all my books as well as a complete list of books in order at

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Waltham Black Act

Writing historical mystery is a different kind of skill, I’ve found. You have to do the research, then transmit that research to the reader without being boring, and make it all work as if it’s the normal way of going on. In the brutal eighteenth century, when you could be hanged for stealing a penny loaf, it’s hard not to apply modern judgments to the crimes, and to add a purely twenty first century perspective.
In the Georgian era, the law worked very differently to the way it does now. That’s what you get for having an unwritten constitution. It evolves, and there are very few Acts of Parliament that signal a drastic change from what went before. Usually, they develop bit by bit.
However, in 1723 a law did change things up. It was called the Waltham Black Act.
The first Prime Minister (itself a term intended to be derogatory, but then got turned around to describe the position), Robert Walpole instituted it. It was primarily intended to counter one of the three scourges of the eighteenth century, poaching. When property was the basis of power and most wealth was made from crops and livestock, before the industrial revolution kicked in, poaching was a crime that hit right at the heart of society. If I called it “rustling,” you’d get a better idea of what the poaching gangs were doing. Not purloining a few rabbits from the squire’s land, but stealing flocks of sheep, prime beef herds and key breeding stock.
Land was protected by a complicated network of sometimes contradictory laws, and confusion led to key criminals escaping lightly. The Waltham Black Act was intended to do away with all those, and institute one clear law to replace them. But in the process, it added 50 crimes to the capital roster. 50 more crimes a person could be hanged for. And they were. Poaching, it turned out, was only the excuse used to tighten the law and make what came to be known as “The Bloody Code.”
It swung power decisively to the ruling class, and formed the basis of what came to be the eighteenth century oligarchy. Owners of large estates had massive powers that went well beyond their boundaries. The poor and smallholders, already crippled by Enclosures (the enclosing of common land) were forced down even more, a state that was to last for the next hundred years.
Why Black? We’ll not, as you might think, because it was a terrible idea, but because poachers blackened their faces in order to remain unseen at night when they did their work.
As a result, a child could be hanged for stealing goods worth more than a shilling. This also gave a magistrate certain power, because he (and it was always he) had the power to value the goods. It wasn’t what the shopkeeper or landowner priced the goods at, it was what the court considered they were worth. That led to corruption, but it also gave the courts a loophole for leniency.
People hanged or punished under this law were known as “blacks,” which can be confusing to the researcher!
The Black Act was finally taken off the law books by Robert Peel. But by then its philosophy was outdated. Power was rapidly moving to the newly enfranchised middle class, who didn’t own land to breed cattle, but to dig for coal. Towns were shooting up, and the rural poor were moving there to work in factories. For the first time in history, a police force was established. And the new age was beginning.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wine, My Favorite Fruit Juice

When I was little I would follow my grandfather everywhere because he let me help him work around the house. He let me paint walls, doors, my clothes…he never lost his cool. He was, and still is, my hero. I remember how he bottled wine. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m from Italy. Some of the wine came from our own grapes, the rest he purchased from trusted friends. Then the wine would be poured into generic dark green glass bottles with handwritten labels carefully glued to each bottle. The labels only had the type of grape and the year it was produced and bottled. Then the bottles ended up in the cantina, a musty, dark basement where I would only set foot while holding on to nonno’s pant leg.
Supersized spiders lived down there. Enough said.
Nowadays wine is available just about anywhere food is served or sold. Some stores have more varieties than other. I love to look and read the labels. Yes, I also buy wine, but I’m predictable and usually come home with the same brand, vintage and variety. Unless some label really catches my fancy, I’ll buy the bottle, put it in my wine refrigerator and occasionally consider drinking the wine. Right now, the wine cooler is mostly filled with wine bottles with lovely, meaningful labels.
I have a bottle of Barolo from 1973. It was a gift. I often look at it, dust it and put it back. Another bottle is from 2002 signed by the winemaker, with a gold pen right on the glass bottle. Another of my favorites is from Jerome, Az, where every label is the story of a real town person, a limited edition. That one I drank and no, I'm not telling why.
So, why am I talking about wine? Take a look at this bottle of Pinot Grigio. California wine, 2016. What makes it special? 

If you look closely, you'll see a tiny gondola at the bottom of the label. The name of the producer is Moon Wine, this variety is labeled Venetian Moon. Why is that significant?

Well, if you check out my website here, you can get yourself a copy of my book, Venetian Moon, which can be enjoyed with a glass of wine…or not.

Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful  Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona—but stay tuned for weekly updates of Where in the World is Maria Grazia Swan?

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