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, January 31, 2018

Breakfast Birding

A while ago, I built a little bar so my wife and I can sit and have our breakfast at a back window. The view overlooks some oak trees, an olive tree and a madrone. Beyond these is a steep slope leading to a creek that runs through the neighborhood. This green area is a great reminder of how close nature is. And it is a haven for birds.

At first, I’d just find myself watching the birds, knowing what a few of them were. Scrub jays, crows, an occasional turkey vulture circling high. My curiosity grew and I picked up a book to help identify more. A pair of red-shouldered hawks frequently hunt through our neighborhood.

Bird behavior was the next stage of research. Scrub jays are incredibly intelligent. They’ll stash food in many hiding places, remembering them all and even knowing the rate of decay for the food, so they can return while it’s still fresh. We’ll frequently see them flying with acorns in their beaks, searching for just the right spot to bury it, wary of any other birds watching.

I bought a monocular so I could still sit at breakfast and observe the active birds. Yellow tanagers are remarkably small and fast. Their groups flash from tree to tree. If the flowers are in season, the hummingbirds come for them.

Then there are the wild turkeys. We have a group of nine that will periodically walk through the back yard on their careful dinosaur feet and dig up meals from the potted plants. We’ll often see their silhouettes in the neighbor’s tall pine tree as they prepare to roost for the night. It’s always a special occasion when these giant birds visit. I’d never known how iridescent and patterned their feathers are.

Sitting at breakfast, I started seeing more and more birds I didn’t recognize. There’s a great app called Merlin that helps identify using a few clues you enter. With that, I’ve logged even more species seen out the back window. Who knew a house finch had such a red face? And that gray bird I thought was a scrub jay was really a northern mockingbird.

There have been times where my food has gone cold as I’d tried to identify the bird I’m seeing, then learn some of its behavior. I hesitate to call it an obsession, but I have been checking out Craigslist and Ebay for high powered binoculars that will fit on my breakfast table.

So, do you have any casual obsessions?

Monday, January 29, 2018

All the Words Not on the Page

All the Words Not on the Page
By Julie Rowe

The words you read in a published book are just the end product of a process that can take weeks, months, or even years. Every writer has their own method of getting their story down, revising, editing, and finally giving the go to say it’s done. No matter the process, there are still a lot of words the reader never gets to see. Words that are, nevertheless, part of the story.

Some writers need a detailed outline, a plan, or map of the story before they flesh it out with setting, character, and conflict. Others want no advance planning at all, preferring to discover the story as they write. They may edit and revise as they write, or wait until after the first draft is done before revising to tuck all the story threads away neatly.

I tend to write my first draft without much revision or editing as I go. For me, creation is a very different mental process from editing and revision. My experience of the story changes when I go from the first draft into the second and following drafts. I tend to write action and dialogue first, then add description and emotional context in successive drafts. I also have to read through the manuscript front to back for continuity – how many days have passed, secondary character names, who did what. Through all of this, words are being added, removed, or changed.

Before I send the completed manuscript to my editor, I print it off and go at it with a red pen; striking out, questioning, and adding words. Here’s a photo of my table covered in pages from Smoke and Mirrors, releasing Feb 26, 2018. Every pile is a chapter, full of red pen notes and post-it-note reminders.

So many words my readers will never see, yet the story wouldn’t exist without them. Character interviews, a multi-page synopsis, and editorial notes from a collection of editors who work on the book – the reader doesn’t get to see those either.

I’m curious, as a reader, which hidden words would you like to see?

Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “Fiction has to be believable”. Julie writes romantic suspense and romantic thrillers. Her next release, Smoke and Mirrors book #2 of the Outbreak Taskforce series will be out Feb 26, 2018. You can find her at , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Faces (or Personalities) of Evil

I don't usually "cast" actors as characters when I'm writing a book, but lately while working on a particularly vile villain, I've been thinking of some of actor Garret Dillahunt's more creepy roles.


This guy:

Still don't know who he is? Check out his IMDB page. Chances are good you've seen him in something.

The first time I really remember him playing a bad guy who gave me goosebumps was in the series LIFE. He played Roman -- a bad, bad man.

I would have sworn he was in dozens of episodes, but I see that he was only in three. He was THAT good.

The only other actor I've used for inspiration is Alan Rickman.

I didn't cast him as bad guy.

I didn't even cast him as a human being.

He is, and always will be, Godzilla, the talking anole lizard in my CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN books.

Obviously I DID go for the physical similarities with that casting job.

If you're a reader I'd love to know who YOU cast as some of your favorite characters from books. 

And if you're a writer: Do you cast actors and actresses?

By JB Lynn

Friday, January 19, 2018

Confessions of an Omnivorous Reader

I love to read. My favorite genres include mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, science fiction, and adventure. I read memoirs and history, newspapers, magazines, and if nothing else is handy, the cereal box. This addiction began at age four when my five-year-old brother started reading to me. I saw blotches of black lines and squiggles under the pictures. He ran his finger along the blotches, transforming them into sounds, words, sentences, and stories. I wanted that magic, that superpower.

In time, my brothers and I discovered that most magical of places—the public library! Unleashed in the children’s section, we read and read until mother dragged us out with armloads of loaners. Such riches! We could travel in time and space on adventures and learn about places far from home. Though mother probably brought us to the library so she could study in peace for her eventual law degree, she did us a huge favor. She kept us away from late afternoons of mind-numbing television.

By high school, my brothers and I launched into a competition to read the set of 100 classics in paperback that Mom had purchased. Baby brother, not to be outdone, read the Encyclopedia Britannica set as well. We teased him that only a geek reads reference books, but truth be told, I kept a dictionary by my bed to scour it for new words like syzygy and conflagration to drop into conversation. With reading comes a love for words. In my family, Scrabble is a blood sport.

In college, I studied 300 plays in depth. I had planned to work for a newspaper by day and write plays at night. Fortunately, that didn’t work out. I ended up writing for business, then for magazines, followed by a stint teaching report writing at a police academy, and then publishing my first novel. Throughout the decades, the joy of reading continued.

A website called became the social media site for readers, so I set up a profile and started listing books I’d read. It would have been easier check off books from a list of classics and the most popular books in the last the thirty years than to name them from memory. Since joining the site, I have tried to rate and reviewing books as soon as I finish them. So many new authors, so many new books by my favorite authors, the to-be-read list is laughably long and considerably incomplete. May I live to read them all.

I read everything but erotica. The three erotica books I read were boring. Seriously, if Tom Clancy put a car chase in every scene, his stories would have been boring. If Stephen King put a killer clown in every story, well, forget suspense. Predictability turns me off.

I cannot imagine life without books. When someone says, “I don’t read” my first thought is “you poor thing.” No stirring of the imagination, no laughter, no seeing the world from a new perspective, no growth, no adventure, no new ideas, no passion…might as well take away color and music from the world. Do non-readers dream in gray?

When asked to name my favorite authors, I begin with Richard Adams, Aesop, Mitch Albom, Louisa May Alcott, Isabele Allende, Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, Aristotle, Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austin, David Baldacci, J. M. Barrie, Dave Barry, L. Frank Baum, Samuel Beckett, Peter Benchley, Steve Berry, Maeve Binchy, William Peter Blatty, Judy Blume, Ben Bova, Ray Bradbury, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Charlotte Bronte, Geraldine Brooks, Dan Brown, Sandra Brown, Edna Buchanan, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Meg Cabot, Erskine Caldwell, Taylor Caldwell, Truman Capote, Orson Scott Card, Lewis Carroll, Willa Cather, Raymond Chandler, Anton Chekhov, Lee Child, Agatha Christie, Winston Churchill, Tom Clancy, Mary Higgins Clark, Arthur C. Clarke, Beverly Cleary, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Harlan Coben, Jackie Collins, William Congreve, Joseph Conrad, Robin Cook, James Fenimore Cooper, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Crichton, E. E. Cummings, and Clive Cussler. People stop me long before I reach the D surnames.

My husband begs me to buy books on Kindle to prevent book hoarding. I call it collecting. The books aren’t stacked two rows per shelf everywhere…yet. If I ever lose my vision, then I’ll switch to audio books. Call me a book addict. Call me a bookworm. Call me when there’s a book sale.


Joni M. Fisher is a journalist, an instrument-rated private pilot, and an active member of the Florida Writers Association, the Kiss of Death Chapter and the Tampa Area Romance Authors Chapter of RWA, and the Women's Fiction Writers Association. Books in her Compass Crimes Series have garnered attention in Publisher's Weekly and earned recognition in the 2017 National Indie Excellence Awards, the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, the Sheila Contest, and earned a Reader's Favorite 5-Star Review. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

It’s Hoaching with Kids

If I dropped “It’s hoaching with kids” into a manuscript without any context, would you be able to guess what it means? How about if I told you that the speaker was looking down a hill at a playground?

As a writer, before I include this bit of culturally unique dialogue I have to decide whether the scene is important enough for me to risk confusing the reader. And that depends on the story and the character.

Since I write romantic thrillers, there aren’t a lot of places where I’m willing to potentially slow down the pacing to show off a cool regional phrase that many of my readers might never have encountered before. I’m more likely to add linguistic color when my current cast of international special ops soldiers are hanging out or preparing for/debriefing from a mission. Having a Brit use “torch” for "flashlight" is probably less risky than having my Scot say “the area is hoaching with rebels.”

Swear words and endearments are particularly easy ways to show a character’s cultural background without adding too much confusion. The reader might not understand the exact meaning of querida, but the context should make it clear whether the character is swearing or being tender.

Where do I find appropriate idiomatic gems for cultures that I’ve no experience with? Research! I’ve received lists of swear words from writers in Sweden and South Africa. I’ve consulted with writers here in the US regarding insults my Cajun and Oklahoman characters can throw at one another. And since I lived in West Africa for a couple of years, I have a good sampling of phrases in their unique English.

I also like to listen to comedians from the home region of my characters. Not only do I get a good sense of slang from comedians, but their routines often pick on cultural stereotypes in a way that only a native would think of. A few comedians I’ve enjoyed listening to during my research are Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy and South African comedian Trever Noah.

My primary resource for unique American English words and phrases is the podcast A Way with Words. Followers phone or write in to ask questions about the origins and meanings of phrases or words. I’ve started a list in Evernote of cool phrases I’ve picked up from this show. For example, a caller from Virginia said that they call goat poop “nanny berries.” While there are plenty of goats wandering around in parts of West Africa, I don’t have a character from Virginia, so I won’t be using this phrase. However, I might have one of my Southern heroes “mash the brake” instead of “stomp on the brake.”

Other places I’ve picked up regionalisms are writer forums, expert forums such as the Crimescenewriters Yahoo! group, and podcasts. I came across the phrase “It’s hoaching with kids” while listening to the Scotland Outdoors podcast from BBC Radio Scotland. I added this podcast to my arsenal as part of my research into Scottish speech rhythms and phrases for help with the Scottish hero of the second book in my WAR series, WAR: Intrusion.

One surprising aspect of my research was how common American expressions have become around the globe. There’s so much international exposure to American movies and music that people from other countries often use Americanisms. So I have to be doubly careful that a character really would use a culturally specific phrase and not an equivalent American one.

When I need that small bit of cultural flavor in order to flesh out a character, I refer to my Evernote lists and pull out something I think my character would say and that’s also contextually appropriate. If my readers drop out of the story to check the dictionary, I haven’t done my job.

As a reader, do you appreciate having characters use culturally unique phrases? Do you have any favorites from your region that should be included in my cool phrases file?

[FYI, “hoaching with” is a Scottish phrase that means it’s crowded with or swarming with. Hoaching can also be used by itself to mean a place is very busy. Such as, “the toy store was hoaching the day before Christmas.”]
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 coaches writers in Scrivener and other tech.

You can find her at:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Gratitude is the year's ATTITUDE! 2018 Murder Mystery Reader Event!

When I opened my email from Gabby Bernstein, a spirit junkie leader,  the word “gratitude”  was written in the subject, I knew it was something I was definitely going to be participating in.

I’m not surprised that it came at this time of the year since it is the gratitude season, but it seems to be the easiest time of year to say it.

If you think about gratitude, what comes to your mind? I’m sure it’s different than what comes to my mind. Most readers don’t realize that you are the center of my world.

Of course I love creating all sorts of stories in my head and writing them down, but I never dreamed that anyone other than my own mother would want to read them.

It wasn’t until my husband looked at one of my favorite author’s novel did he inform me that he knew I could write one of those.

With those few words of encouragement, I began writing that night on what turned out to be a novel that would never see the light of day. Through persistence and thick skin, I finally was able to get my first novel, Carpe Bead ‘em, published.

If only one person bought that novel, I had fulfilled my dream of publishing. This made me a real author! And not only did one person buy it, over ten-thousand copies have been sold in the five short months Carpe Bead ‘em has been out. Quickly it shot to the bestsellers list and beyond.

I was beyond filled up with gratitude. You see, it’s not about money to me. I have and education degree that I love and can always go back to teaching. It’s about connecting with readers and forming relationships with them. I have met my readers at conferences, for dinner, for dessert, and weekend retreats.

My gratitude is you, the reader.

You have a busy life just like me, I know~I have four  boys all in college now. And in today’s crazy world you take time out of your day to sit down and make time for my made up stories. This blows me away! And you make me a better writer! I write about family, love, and emotions. I take you on a journey that I hope fills you up with gratitude as much as I’m filled up by you.

I LOVE to connect with my readers!! Please send me your questions to where I answer reader’s questions via video! It’s so fun!! Also be sure to connect with me on my FREE Facebook page in our Cozy Krew Community.

Are you signed up for my newsletter? Don’t miss a thing or release day fun that’s ONLY on the newsletter. 

Enjoy your visit in Cottonwood!
Bless your heart! 


The two dames, cozy mystery authors Duffy Brown and Tonya Kappes Books, invite you for a weekend of murder and mystery...sorta....

Join us October 12-13 in Knoxville, Tennessee. The weekend will kick off with a fun pizza party and mystery right at the hotel. The next morning, we'll enjoy a coffee and breakfast at the complimentary hotel bar before we are off to the Star of Knoxville Riverboat.

Boarding the riverboat at 12:30 PM EST and cruise at 1:00 PM EST. On the cruise, you'll be served an amazing southern style dinner (or as nonsoutherners call it lunch), while participating in a murder mystery theater event where you might be the killer or worse...the victim!

Also while on the cruise, you'll be able to purchase books by Tonya and Duffy.

Sadly, the weekend will end after the cruise. BUT don't fear...Duffy and Tonya are working on another TRAIN for 2019, unless Tonya can find an airplane for cheap because she's been spouting Two Dames take it to the land, sea and air!

REGISTRATION OPENS JANUARY 1ST, 2018!! $50/person + hotel.

#books #booktag #cozymystery #southernauthor #mystery #mystery #reader #readerevent #knoxville #tennesse

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Writing to market - or not?!

Today I am shamelessly snatching text from Nathan Bransford's excellent blog, a post about writing to market (or not) that I bookmarked some time ago when I was considering exploring a new genre. I'm still considering where and what I write in 2018! and advice like this is always interesting and refreshing.  


You'll occasionally hear advice around the publishing-o-sphere that you should just write what you want, don't worry about the market one whit, and just let the chips fall where they may.

This is somewhat true, but not endlessly true.

On the one hand, yes. Definitely. You should absolutely write the book you want to write and consider whether what you want for your book is more consistent with self- or traditional publication. But if your goal is to be traditionally published, especially by one of the major publishers, it doesn't pay to just ignore the market entirely.

Here's what I mean (and don't mean) by this.

Don't chase trends

What people mean when they tell you to write what you want to write is that you shouldn't try to chase a trend. Because of how long it takes to write and publish a book, if you try to jump on a currently hot trend, you're already too late.

When it comes to trends, definitely ignore the market.

Do pay attention to genre conventions and word counts

Some genres are stricter than others, but you should be very familiar with the genre conventions (especially for romance) and the general word count ranges for your genre.

Word counts aren't a be-all-end-all and you should feel some flexibility there, but the farther you stray from your genre's word count sweet spot the harder the sell your book may be.

It's hard to break the mold with a debut

Every commercial art medium has megahit unicorns that defied genre conventions and were strikingly original.

But when you think back to many of these hits, they were often written/made after the artist was already established in their field with more conventional works.

George Lucas made American Graffiti before Star Wars. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote In the Heights before Hamilton. Herman Melville wrote the more conventional travel book Typee before he wrote Moby-Dick and, more recently, John Grisham established himself writing legal thrillers before he veered off to write about high school football coaches and football players living in Italy and baseball players just to mix it up.

Success gives you artistic license and credibility to get a little wild. It's harder to do this right off the bat.

There are always exceptions

Sure. You can think of a million exceptions to the above rules. There are always going to be books that are just so magical they make everyone ignore all those supposed "rules."

But if you are going to break the rules you should do so consciously and with care.

So while you should absolutely write the book you want to write and figure out what's most important to you, if you care about commercial success at all it pays to have the market at least somewhat in mind.


Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fueled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.
She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Janus, the Two-faced God

Happy New Year, everyone!

 I'm delighted to be starting off the New Year blogging here at NYUS. Here's hoping you didn't overdo the celebration last night, but if you did overindulge, take heart: hangovers don't last forever, they only seem as if they do. Drink coffee and eat some spicy food (I recommend huevos rancheros) and you'll be back in the saddle in no time.

However, if you were foolish enough to make a New Year's resolution or two, I can't help you. Resolutions made on New Year's Eve rarely make it to Three Kings Day so either avoid them altogether, or make sure resolution is user friendly. A few years earlier, I resolved to drink my way through every local brewery in Gainesville, tasting every IPA, imperial stout or lager I could get my hands on. As it happens, our little town currently had three excellent craft breweries so I haven't yet hit my goal, but I intend to keep trying.

Apart from questionable resolutions or excessive partying, the New Year is a time to look where we've been and where we're going. Which is probably why the ancient Romans dedicated January to the two-headed god Janus, who simultaneously looks to the future and the past. So I'd like to kick off 2018 with a story from my own past.

Well, not a story, more like a memory.

It was Christmas Eve in Baltimore and I must have been five or six. Along with my other siblings, I was tucked into bed, no doubt dreaming of the loot Santa would bring. Deep in sleep, my mother's hands lifted me from the bed, quietly so as not to waken my little sister. Heavy with sleep, I clutched my mother like a monkey as as she carried me down the stairs where our empty stocking hung. At the front door, my mother set me down and threw open the door.

"Look," she whispered.

A burst of cold air and a swirl of white--snow!

It must have been snowing for hours as a blanket of glossy white had transformed our neighborhood of row houses into something strange and wondrous. Trees, cars, and houses covered in marshmallow fluff. And everything  so quiet, as if I were inside one of those snow globes--my very own silent night. And then my mother hefted me up like a sack of potatoes and returned me to my bed, where visions of snowflakes, not sugar plums, now danced in my head.

I don't recall any of the presents I received for Christmas that year, but I've treasured that memory for decades, and it was only much later that I fully appreciated my mother's gift. None of the other neighborhood mothers would have woken a sleeping child on Christmas Eve, just so she could see a snowfall. And my mother might have chosen one of my other siblings instead of me. But she didn't--she chose me.

 Oddly, I've never spoken of that night to anyone, not even my mother. Some things don't need words. And when Mom's heart stopped on a cold day in January, I thought of that faroff Christmas Eve and her gift to me.

Is there a moral to any of this? Well, I'll leave that to you. Right now, I have some black eyed peas to cook. Here in the South, we consider them good luck for the coming year.

The world could use a little luck.

 At this time of the rolling year, it's customary to extend wishes for a better year. The faithful offer prayers for better times and the secular their hopes. In the spirit of the season, I offer both, with the gentle reminder that thoughts, prayers and hopes don't amount to a hill of beans without action.

Now that's a resolution I could get behind--a resolution to work together to make the world a more just and kinder place.

Happy New Year!

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