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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Universal stories readers love—well almost

Travel is one way to discover stories that touch the heart, ignite adventure, and carry us along for a riveting tale. One such tale, the Forty-seven Ronin, I discovered in Japan. The story touches on the universal concepts of warriors’ honor, righting a wrong, and promising to protect even if it cost their life. It’s a true story from 1701, has had more than seven movies from 1941 to a Keanu Reeves fantasy version of it made it 2013, and a slew of books written on the event. What is it about this tale that makes it legendary to the Japanese and resounds relatively well around the world?
Samurai armor at Tokyo National Museum
First, there is a tragic event that deals with a strong, honored daimyo (lord) and his samurai, the famous warriors known to protect their lord, and who were trained military men. Samurai are famous for being deadly proficient with swords, but also for tending to their gentler side and writing poetry or gardening. They had a code of ethics known in all Japan and lived by it at all times. The samurai in this tale were protectors and soldiers for Lord Asano, who had been called away to Edo (Tokyo) to assist with duties at the Shogun’s palace. While there, Asano had difficulties with a supposedly arrogant official, Kira, who detested him. After numerous occasions of being insulted by Kira, Asano drew his sword and attacked. Kira lived, but it was against the law to strike another in anger, particularly in the Shogun’s palace. Judges ordered Asano to commit suicide for the dishonor. What makes the tale particularly poignant, is Asano is claimed to have said to the judges that he did do the deed and only wished he had killed Kira. That is the classic strength of heroes readers love.

The rest of the story encompasses the samurai for Asano that were unable to prevent his death, which is later rumored to have been a plan initiated by Kira in the first place. Such a wrongful lord’s death is supposed to be revenged by his samurai, who are no longer considered samurai without a lord, but lowly ronin. However, Kira fully expected Asano’s samurai might try to assassinate him and protected himself with extra men. All seems lost for the ronin, but great heroes find a way to fight back, even when the odds are against them.

The samurai created a plan to make it appear they had no interest in revenge, so played the role of ronin and dispersed. Tales claim some left their families, made a display of public drunkenness, and other things to show they were no longer a formidable enemy. In nearby towns over the next two years, though, they secretly plotted and maintained their skills. As time passed, Kira lowered his guard and that’s when the ronin struck. Of course, there was a fight as Kira had protective samurai who valiantly died. He fled the scene, to be discovered hiding in the outhouse (toilet). A rather fitting end for a man who caused so much grief. The ronin took Kira’s head and placed it at their lord’s grave. 

Wow. What a story. Now you can see why so many movies were made and books written about this tale. However, here is where cultural differences might make the story less palatable for some, and completely heroic to others. The ronin knew that the attack on Kira would also be perceived as an attack against the ruling shogun, and to go against their ruler as a samurai was against their code. If they were successful in killing Kira, they would likely be forced to commit suicide. The authorities of the time supposedly deliberated on the situation after his death, because these men were sworn by their code to avenge Asano. Yet, because they had intruded on the shogun’s authority, they had to die. They were buried with Asano and today the cemetery is a popular place to visit. In the years following this event, numerous scholars have debated whether the ronin could have been pardoned or whether by the nature of their code they had to commit suicide.

As a reader, this amazing story of heroic characters living up to their principles and ethics, ended in tragedy, but to others, the story had the right conclusion. What about you? When you read a book or watch a movie, what expectations do you have for a story, and what kind of endings do you prefer?

*Sandy Parks writes adventure thrillers with strong heroes and heroines. Stop by her website at and get a free ebook when you sign up for her newsletter.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An Intelligent Mess?

by Janis Patterson

Someone once said that a messy desk was the sign of superior intelligence. If that is indeed true, I must be sublimely smart. If the theorem extends to the entire house, I am indubitably a freaking genius.

The good housekeeping gene is said to skip generations, and I believe that. While my mother was a nacky-poo housekeeper who even dusted the ivy leaves and off whose floor you could eat if you were ever so inclined to do such a peculiar thing (a saying I have never really understood), her mother was a certifiable disaster. Given that she had a houseful of daughters to raise, a huge garden (which sometimes fed not only the extended family but some of the neighbors as well) to tend, canning and preserving to do, sewing to clothe the family and all the other duties of a poor farmer's wife, some can charitably believe that she would have done better with more time and energy and maybe some help. Nope. I don't believe it. She was like me, someone who regards housework as pretty much a waste of time, as it is unappreciated and gives no permanent reward, besides taking precious resources away from more pleasurable, lasting and permanent things.

Those things are, in my case, my books and doing things with my husband. (Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that I would end up as the neater half of a couple. Neither did anyone else.) We don't have to deal with the preparations for or cleanup from a party, because there's no way we'll let anyone see the state of our house. We don't have to worry about overnight guests, because we don't have a guest room. Titularly our house has three bedrooms - but in name only! One is ours, the middle one was turned into the new library (we have three and are discussing another), with shelves on every wall and over every door and window, and the smallest morphed into my office.  (The Husband's office is the small room off the sunroom where the heating unit lived until we remodeled.) I would love to add a large room over the garage to house our tsunami of as-yet-unshelved books, but as that would cost approximately three times what the house cost to build originally, we've decided that we're at the wrong end of our lives to take on such an expense.

So what does this shameful confession have to do with writing? Not much, save that it is a constant source of wonderment to my friends (and utter astonishment to me!) that in the middle of such chaos I am meticulous and as nacky-poo as my mother ever was about my books. I know every character, every motivation, every red herring and misdirection, and very, very rarely put a foot wrong in my stories.

Some unwise persons have ventured reasons for this, such as writing can be done sitting down, which pampers my long-injured and toucheous back and surgery-facing foot, or - according to the braver/more foolish ones - I am bone-lazy. I don't see how they can say that anyone who has written five novels so far this year is lazy, but then I don't see the necessity for moving your refrigerator two or more times a year to wash under it either.

As with so many things in this sound-bite world, I think I found the answer to my situation on a refrigerator magnet. Mine is pillowed beige calico, surrounded by a beige eyelet ruffle, and on it is written in a delicate script, "Dull women have immaculate homes." It was given to me by my sister-by-choice, a wonderful woman who has known me (foibles and all) for over 40 years. Like me, she regards dullness as the eighth deadly sin, but if the refrigerator magnet is right, I don't have to worry.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Accidental Typewriter Collector

I had no idea that an innocent trip to a thrift store in college would affect my life twenty five years later. On that trip in the early nineties, I spotted and purchased an old Royal typewriter. The black finish and heavy weight of the solid, analog build contrasted against the beige plastic housing of the early Mac desktop I was using for my college papers. The only thing the typewriter and computer had in common were that neither had a hard drive.

After hauling the typewriter back to my dorm room, I set about cleaning it and figuring out what all the chromed levers and knobs were for. I’d worked on typewriters before, but they were electric, with much of their mechanics hidden. Part of the pleasure I had with the Royal was actually feeling the connection between the key and the swinging striker.

And then there was the noise. The words were literally being smashed into the paper, giving a great sense of permanence. Yes, there were misspellings and typos, but they were all part of the art I was creating on the page. Poetry became immediate, like a jazz solo being recorded as it was played, or a fresco soaking into the plaster. Writing on the Royal, I had to capture inspiration in the moment, type it, and live with the results.

My roommate was less pleased with the creative din I reveled in. We negotiated the best times for me to work to save his sanity. It was clear that the typewriter was a pleasure for me, but not most others. Surprisingly, my New German Cinema professor was not inspired by the hectic patterns of strikeouts and irregular margins writing a paper on the machine created.

After about a year of writing for myself on the Royal, I spotted a green portable typewriter at another sale and snatched it up. I figured that was it. One hulk of a typewriter for home, and a portable so I can hammer out my inspiration no matter where I roamed.

But now that I had two, to the outside world, it looked as if I was a typewriter collector. A few years after college my dad gifted me a beautiful Royal with glass panels on the side, even older than the first I’d found. And heavier. Not long after that, he found me a black portable typewriter, sleek like an Italian sportscar.

Four typewriters. They’d found a comfortable display area in the apartment Zoe and I shared, but when we moved into our house, there was no clear plan for what to do with them. And they’re not easy to move in the first place. For two years they remained in boxes, taking up space and blocking our path to other elements of the house that needed unpacking.

Finally, inspiration struck. There was an open space, perfect for a rack to display the typewriters. I got in the shop, built it, painted it, and installed it in our house.

As I loaded it with the beautiful machines, I was taken back to the first moments writing on that original Royal. Words ringing out like a gunfight. Immediate. Permanent. And I was reminded to keep that visceral pleasure no matter how I’m writing. And that Royal will come down from the shelf soon to pound more poetry into the paper.

What are your thoughts on writing on a typewriter? And are you an accidental collector of anything?

Nico Rosso writes the award nominated romantic suspense series Black Ops: Automatik for Carina Press and can be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and his Website.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Solar Eclipse '17

The writer in me thinks I missed out on a great plot opportunity. How many romances sprang up in the crowds that gathered to watch the solar eclipse in August? Strangers were hugging. Barbecues. Champagne. The mystery and anonymity of hiding behind eclipse glasses. It was the perfect blend for a romance, or even a little romantic suspense.

The enthusiast in me, however, was too busy prepping for and enjoying the event. I live in North Carolina so we were at about 95% coverage here. It was a beautiful, sunny day, without a cloud to worry about. My viewing partner was ready long before me. Rather than watch the eclipse unfold, however, she was watching her mommy make a fool of herself with a tripod and camera. 

I had several lenses stacked atop each other. UV filters and polarizers. Of course, I was one of those who had procrastinated in getting the glasses, and ended up scrambling two days before, purchasing "Official Solar Eclipse Glasses" from the back of a van parked in the Walmart parking lot. Hey, he showed me an ISO certificate! I guess you can call them a shady pair of glasses (cue the groan).

Well, for all my prep. I couldn't see a darn thing through the lens. Fortunately, I did not sear my eyeball. In the end the only magic trick was to put the solar eclipse glasses over the camera and manage a few cryptic shots. But, all in all, it was a fun event. And one that I'd consider using in a future book. I mean, heck, my day had all the necessary elements.

  • Villainous character in a minivan
  • Stunning heroine - the four-legged fox in sunglasses
  • HEA - a few legible photos of the eclipse

How about you? Were you able to view the eclipse this summer?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Some Scary Reads!

In a couple of weeks the ghost and goblins will be flying so it's the perfect time for a scary read.

 In the spirit of the season, here are three of my favorite mystery series with a supernatural twist.

First on the list are the Charlie Parker novels by John Connolly. 

The latest Charlie Parker novel

Connolly's debut novel, Every Dead Thing, introduced the character of Charlie Parker. Haunted by the brutal murders of his wife and daughter, former detective Parker hunts for their killer. On the surface, this sounds like boilerplate crime fiction, but as the events of the novel play out, the reader begins to suspect that there there is a lot more going beneath the surface. By the end of the novel, this suspicion becomes a certainty. Thus, Connolly gives us our first glimpse of the honeycomb world, a shadowland that exists beneath our own.

In the 14 novels that follow, Connolly builds a rich mythology that is mysterious and compelling. In the latest book in the series A Game of Ghosts Parker continues on his dark journey.

Another series I enjoy are the AXL Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. 

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast first appeared as a supporting character in their first novel, Relic, and in its sequel Reliquary, before taking charge as protagonist in The Cabinet of Curiosities.

Pendergast is a man of rare ability, learning, and taste. He might come off as a snob save for his commitment to fighting evil. Unlike the supernatural world of Charlie Parker, Pendergast exists in a place neared to our own. As a consequence, fully enjoying these novels  requires a total suspension of disbelief--and I mean total!

For example, one of Pendergast's more outlandish talents is his Chongg Ran practice, which he learned from the monks of the Gsalrig Chongg monastery. Basically, this involves building a memory palace which enables Pendergast to visualize a memory or a historical event in his mind as if he were actually there. The resourceful FBI agent has used this technique for solving several mysteries.

I know it all sounds cockamamie, but I go along with the game. Chongg Ran is just a modern incarnation of the ancient Greek deus ex machina, in which the god in the machine (usually a crane) arrives to move the plot along. Bottom line, the Pendergast  novels are so much fun that I don't sweat the details--or the Chongg Ran.

Two of the creepiest AXL Pendergast novels are Cemetary Dance (zombies) and Cabinet of Curiosities (mad scientist), either of which would serve as a fine introduction to the series.

My final pick is the Bill Hodges Trilogy by America's foremost author Stephen King.

The real drive of the series is the cat-and-mouse game between retired detective Bill Hodges and mass murderer Brady Hartsfield, who's known as Mr. Mercedes after driving a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of hopeful job-seekers at a job fair.

Mr. Mercedes starts out firmly in crime fiction territory, but as the series progresses, moves into the speculative. This is driving suspense with memorable characters as well as a startling amount of sweetness.

But because this is Stephen King, there is also horror, and for my money, Brady Hartsfield is one of King's most memorable monsters, partly because he is so frighteningly human. If you haven't read this trilogy, what are you waiting for?

So if you're looking for a fright or two this Halloween, treat yourself to one of these books!

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