Monday, January 23, 2017





            A friend of mine has always joked that when he dies, he wants his ashes sprinkled over a girls’ dormitory. If that’s not doable, when his end is near, he’ll row out to sea with a jug of wine, drink it, and then all happy, he’ll pull the plug out of the bottom of the boat. Next day, the papers will read: Man Lost At Sea.

 Those two examples of someone trying to face up to his own demise are one way to approach the inevitable. But some people can face the end seriously enough to write their own obituary. Have you considered doing so? I mean, who better? You know yourself the best of anyone, and after all, you are a writer. Chances are, you’ll do a more in-depth job of it than a grief-stricken (hopefully) relative who’s dealing with all the last-minute details of your funeral. The flowers, the music, the eulogy, the after-service repast.

 Wanting to practice what I’m preaching, I’ve taken a stab at composing my own obit:

 Jean Harrington was a beautiful woman, a gifted novelist with a brilliant wit. She loved a party (true) and a good tale (whether true or not) and her entire extended family, with some notable exceptions (you know who you are), adored her. Jean was proud of her accomplishments, especially her children, grandchildren and her published novels (not including the ones under her bed). Etc., etc., etc.

 As you can see, my obit is a work in progress, but I’m determined to stick with the job to the bitter end. So I ask again, how do you feel about all this? Will you write your own farewell? Or leave the job up to Digger O’Dell and simply row out to sea with a jug of happiness?


Jean Harrington is the author of the award winning, tongue-in-cheek, Murders by Design Mystery Series. The five books in the series star an interior designer, Deva Dunne, who never met a house she didn’t love or a cold-blooded killer she didn’t hate. Jean’s books are available through Amazon.    



Friday, January 20, 2017


So, I have a new release in eleven days time. I have to say that there were times when this book made me cry. Some of it was the awful things I did to my characters--apparently I am a closet sadist. Thankfully, most of the characters survived the experience. Most of them (told you, I'm a sadist!). 

The other reason it nearly brought me to tears was the hair-pulling frustration of trying to write while in the same room as two teenagers :) The reason I was in the same room as my awesome kids is my family spent three months of the latter part of 2016 in Tokyo. While the kids were doing schoolwork, I was busy running federal investigations and having red-hot sex on the page. Yeah, how to totally turn yourself off, LOL. Thankfully the kids did occasionally leave for French, Japanese class and swimming, and that's when I got the more intimate scenes polished. 

It wasn't easy writing on the move and I am so looking forward to going absolutely nowhere if I can help it this year. 

Here's the information about COLD SECRETS. I hope you enjoy!


Lucas grabbed a wooden chair from beside a vanity.
“Stand back.” Time to signal his need of assistance. He slammed the chair into the old sash window, and glass exploded into a million different pieces.
That should do it.
The men on the other side of the door went silent as they reevaluated the situation. Six agonizing seconds later, he heard the sound of a truck pulling up outside and a series of shouted instructions. Then the unmistakable sound of a breacher busting the front door out of its frame.
The troops had arrived.
“I’m an FBI agent. Help is on the way,” he told the two girls. They held onto one another as he went to the bedroom door and listened. He couldn’t hear anything on the other side, so he unlocked it and eased out, just in time to catch sight of one of the men he’d seen in the kitchen, fleeing into a bedroom at the rear of the building.
Dammit. There had to be another way out. He looked at Mia and Becca. He couldn’t leave them behind—but he shouldn’t take them with him, either.
No choice. He wasn’t letting them out of his sight, and he wasn’t letting these assholes get away.
“Follow me. We need to move fast, but quietly. Understood?”
Mia and Becca nodded, both desperate to get out of this hellhole.
He sprinted down the corridor and slid the last ten yards to the room where he’d seen the men disappear. For once his luck was holding, and the door had caught on the latch rather than closing completely. He peeked inside but the room was empty except for a couple of unmade beds. Where the hell did they go? He wedged the door ajar with a chair so his colleagues would know which direction he’d taken. A silk robe swung back and forth on a metal hanger inside the walk-in closet. He shoved the robe aside and ran his hand over the wood. A hidden door sprang open when he pushed against the panel. Bingo.
The opening on the other side was as black as Hades.
“It’s like Narnia,” Mia whispered.
“Only scarier,” Becca agreed.
“Keep close. Hold hands,” he instructed quietly. Lucas turned on the light of his cell and felt his way along. He found a handrail, his foot searching out the first riser of the stairs as they began their descent. They crept down the twisting staircase. Suddenly the thundering sound of footsteps got closer and closer. Then he realized it was the cops pounding up the stairs on the other side of the wall.
Becca tripped and he turned to steady her. “Easy.”
“Where are we going?” she asked, as if starting to doubt the wisdom of blindly following a strange man down a lightless tunnel.

Smart girl.


When an international ring of sex traffickers kidnaps an eight-year-old girl in Boston, FBI Agent Lucas Randall heads undercover. But his rescue operation goes disastrously wrong and Lucas barely escapes with his life. Now the ruthless traffickers are hunting him down, along with everyone else who threatens their operation.

Computer expert Ashley Chen joined the FBI to fight against evil in the world—evil she experienced firsthand. She has mad skills, and deadly secrets, and once she starts working with Lucas, she also has big trouble, because after years of pushing people away, she’s falling for the guy. The feeling is more than mutual, but as Ashley intensifies her online pursuit of the trafficking ring, her traumatic past collides with her present and suddenly Lucas can’t tell which side she’s on. And as the case escalates into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, it turns out Ashley isn’t the only one with something to hide.

If neither can trust the other with their secrets, how can they trust each other with their hearts?


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Wednesday, January 18, 2017


Many writers I know talk about resolutions, about the New Year being a New Start. They seem to be re-energized by the turning of the calendar page and the fresh year unrolling before them.

Me? Not so much. At least, not this year.

Not that I’ve ever been good at resolutions. I’d make one, and some perverse little part of me would start rubbing its hands in glee, looking for a way to sabotage it. I’ve learned not to make hard-and-fast resolutions, and to never, ever, write them down.

Still, I do have a rough idea of what I’d like to accomplish during the year, at least writing wise.

For one thing, I’d like to finish the two novels I’ve started in two separate series. I like both series, and the characters who live in them, and I really want to find out what happens to them.

I’m also part of several bundles coming up this year, for which I promised to write short stories. (Have you heard of BundleRabbit? Great bundler—check them out.) And I keep coming up with good ideas for more short stories. There’s lots of work to do.

So… why can’t I buckle down and do it? Life rolls.

An instructor used to call major life changes, life rolls. Something you couldn’t avoid that would have an impact on your writing. The life roll could be good or bad, but it resulted in you not producing the number of words you were used to.

A life roll can be anything from a death in the family, to a wedding, a new baby, or building a house.

My friend recently relocated to a wonderful community by the sea. For over six months, pre- and post-move, she did very little writing. Life roll.

So, here I am, flitting from partly-finished novel to partly-finished novel, stopping along the way to jot down ideas for other novels I’d like to write. I start writing one short story only to abandon it and start work on another.

It’s discombobulating, but there’s no point in panicking. I’m going through a transition time (see my last post). Eventually my mind will settle and I’ll get back to normal.

And when I do, watch for more book launches. J

Monday, January 16, 2017

Virtual Friends Helping IRL

While reading SECONDS TO SUNRISE, my latest Black Ops: Automatik romantic suspense, Elizabeth Lane (@elisabethjlane) book blogger at Cooking Up Romance ( tweeted: “I realized while reading @Nico_Rosso's book that if I were hiding from hired killers, my online girlfriends would make excellent choices.”

I responded that the women of the online romance community were the inspiration for that aspect of the story. The circumstances are different for April Banks, but the way her friends help her is definitely the same. She is a war widow who, in order to pull herself from her sadness, created a website and forum for other war widows. It’s grown so large, including a having a financial option where the women can support each other, that it attracted the attention of hackers. If not for April’s hand written encryption, the sensitive financial and personal information of the widows would be exposed.

But it’s just a matter of time until the hackers break through, and April’s doing what she can to track them down. Once her efforts threaten the hackers, they send goons to convince her to stop. Neither the goons or April expect James Sant, former SAS soldier and current member of the underground Automatik network to be there to protect her. He thought he’d just be watching her for a few days until the hackers were caught, but he has to step in to fight off the goons.

Because April designed the security for her website, she’s the only one who can keep it intact and trace the hackers. James is forced to take her on the road and into the dangerous pursuit.

They’re not without their allies. James has the aid of the other former special ops soldiers of Automatik. April’s support comes from the other widows on her website forum. It’s the same kind of thing I’d seen on Twitter among the women in the romance community. Readers and writers come to each other’s aid. Sometimes it’s just a book recommendation, others it’s about promoting the latest release.

But the relationships go beyond that, and the emotional support the community shows each other is inspirational. People rally around others going through a hard time. Yes, it isn’t always perfect, and there is friction and areas where people misstep with each other, but I’ve seen more good than bad from it. These women are amazing, and they’re one of the big reasons I love working in this genre.

I’m wondering, do you have any examples of your online friends helping you IRL?

For more information on Seconds to Sunrise, visit my website.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Using Your Past to Build a Story

Under the Christmas tree, my hubby put a little white and green box. He is the family ancestry person and has done well with his family tree, but now wants to delve more into mine. Thus, the little white box. It is a DNA kit for one of the online ancestry sites.
DNA kit to analyze where my ancestors lived and to find links to others who have sent in their DNA.
 I picked up the box and started to unpack it, all the time thinking about how it could lead to interesting places. In our house, whenever we look back, we seem to find little mysteries that are fun to hunt out and solve. Hubby uncovered a direct ancestor who was one of three commissioners who started Texas A&M. Who knew? Pretty cool, eh? There just might be a good story in how creating the college came about.
Texas A&M in 1902
Then there is the ancestor from Georgia whose husband died in the Civil War. Oddly the husband left his estate to their infant daughter. Hmm. The wife was named as executor, but the grandparents had to put up a bond for the money (likely in confederate dollars). Within a year, the mother had married, moved to Mississippi, and drowned in the Mississippi River. So many possible stories or version of a tale could come from this. Did her mother perhaps have mental issues? Did she commit suicide, have an accident after finally finding love again, or was she drowned? And how did the daughter’s inheritance fit into the picture? The young daughter then lived with her stepfather who remarried and had more children. The girl lived with them to the legal age of sixteen. The next data we discovered on her showed her married that same year, and back in Georgia where her grandparents lived. What would it have been like for the daughter living with two step parents…perhaps one who may have been the cause of her mother’s demise? Or was it a simple case of the daughter not wanting to babysit younger step-siblings so fled at the first possible moment. And last, but not least, was there any money left for her to go back to…or was it all worthless after the war.

Several years ago, I also had fun with another mystery related to an old photo dug up by husband that related to one of his distance cousin. He gave me a photo of a lovely woman (cousin) standing with a dapper young man holding a round straw hat in front of a biplane. No one knew when or where the photo had been taken, what kind of biplane it was, or even why they were posing in front of it. Oh, I do love a mystery. With a online investigation leading to little info, I put a call out to aviation friends. Responses led to photo enhancement, which triggered the first clues. From then on, the internet uncovered a history with a great story and only a possible two-year window. Eventually I followed up with a trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space museum to get photos of a similar (but newer model) plane, and a few good guesses from aviation hubby filled in the blanks as to what the couple might be celebrating. We still don’t know everything, but the story related to the start of Airmail service and the first planes that flew it. You can read more about The Case of the Mysterious Biplane in another blog. Seems like this tale belongs to the past, but just this last week, my blog was discovered by a relative of the family that built the biplane. He is still a biplane enthusiast/pilot today, and I learned only one of these planes still exists. So many ways to build a story from that one photograph.
A biplane with a lovely couple likely from the 1920s. Who were they and why the photo?
An observant character might also see something that triggers a story. We were visiting our son at the Air Force Academy in Colorado years ago and took him to a local restaurant in an old train station downtown. I got talking about my great-grandfather who had been a tailor on one of the main streets in town. Later my son and I noticed the decorations on the old wall were posters of photographs from the city in the 1920s. Didn’t take long to find one with a sign that had great-grandpa’s name. Each of his great-grandkids have at least one or more of his tailor tools and now a copy of this photo I obtained from a city library archive. What if your character was left something from a past ancestor? What might it be and why?
Son in front of a photo of his great-great-grandfather's tailor shop he discovered on a restaurant wall.

Then there was a grandfather’s half-brother who had two children, both who went to hubby’s alma mater where we discovered their photos. We wondered why no one in the family had mentioned them before. After two years at the university, the younger brother joined the Army-Air Corps and died during the war. Again, with some investigation, Facebook, and email with military historians, the history of his life and time in a flying unit came to life…as did his heroic death. A unit history documented the mission when the cousin died. They were flying a bombing raid on a rail yard in Hungry when the plane was hit by flak and the pilot killed. As the flight engineer bailed out, he could see the co-pilot (hubby’s cousin) was still alive and flying the plane so the others could get out. Only the flight engineer survived to tell the relate the details. What a great story! What drove a young engineering student to go to war, learn to fly, and die in battle? Who did he leave behind?

Whether you write mysteries, thrillers, romance, or a mix, true life can create wonderful background for characters, give ideas for plots with plenty of twists, or even lay out family logistics for a novel. There is no better way to create a character’s blessings, heartbreaks, and mysteries than looking into your own past. Good hunting!

Friday, January 6, 2017

To Series or Not To Series...

by Janis Patterson

Yes, that is the question! And a fairly knotty one it is. There are those who say you can’t make money writing today unless you do a series. There are others who say that series are repetitive and creativity-killers. There are still others who bore easily and on the whole find series a great bore.

Then there are people like me who believe a little of all of the above. Of course, like the Red Queen I have been known to believe three impossible things before breakfast!

Seriously, I was never a fan of series since I outgrew my passion for Nancy Drew… though I still enjoy one of her books every now and then. As I bore easily, I always want something new, new people, new places, new situations… All of my novels since the beginning a couple of decades ago have been standalones with no crossover characters.

So why am I now writing not only one, but TWO series?

I have no idea.

I have always been a pantser who has characters walk in and start dictating to me instead of being one of those lucky ones who can outline stories and create personality sheets delineating each character in the book. They are creators; a lot of the time I feel more like a simple scribe.

My first series is about Flora Melkiot, an elderly widow of a jewelry store magnate who likes to live life just as she wants and is convinced that she could be good at anything if she just puts her mind to it. Usually she is, too, despite the fact that others regard her as a menace and a meddler. One police detective called her the ‘dark side of Miss Marple.’

Flora first appeared as a minor character in EXERCISE IS MURDER. Once the book was finished and out, though, she refused to leave me alone and – Flora-like – she eventually got her way. Of course. Her new adventure is profiled in MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM, where after what she called a minor traffic accident (only a broken wrist) she has been put by her painfully conventional daughter into a rehab facility… against her will. Of course there are murders, and it’s a lovely romp. Her next book will be called MURDER AT FIVE TO ONE and set in Las Vegas and she is nagging me mercilessly to get started on it.

MURDER IN DEATH’S WAITING ROOM released this week in ebook format at the four major retailers. There will be a paperback version available as well, as soon as I can get past some technical difficulties.

I can’t give in to Flora now, though, because I am halfway through a brand new series start called A KILLING AT TARA TWO. This is about a contract archaeologist named Dr. Rachel Petrie (no relation, as she has to tell everyone, to the famous turn-of-the-last-century Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie) who is currently on the dig of an old plantation house in Alabama. She is much less pushy than Flora, but she too is urging me none-too-gently to get her series going. As a contract archaeologist she can work anywhere, and I already have ideas for stories in Peru, Boston and Bavaria.

In addition to this I am contracted for a couple of romances as my Janis Susan May persona. These are standalones – at least, I think they are. With my demanding characters one can never be sure. Plus, a darling friend of mine is enthusiastically urging me to write my memoirs as I have led such a varied and 'interesting' life. I haven't told her yet that I can't do that because some of the statutes of limitations have yet to run out!

So many stories, so little time. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Being Healthy

This kinda ties in with Anne’s post about being healthier. I find I’m not able to separate my mental/emotional and physical health. They seem to be all blended together in an industrial sized Ninja. When I feel bad physically, emotionally I’m not so hot. I feel better physically this time of year because I have no allergy or asthma problems. I can get out and about easier and my sense of smell returns. Then about the third week of January it all goes to hell in a hand basket. Why? Where I live in Florida the pollen starts. Cedar first, then pine, the three different kinds of oak. And last, but not least, the palm pollen. It would be nice if they all did it at once, but noooo. They take turns. On occasion it has been so bad I see greenish yellow clouds drift by. Cars left out are covered each morning. Black cars glow eerily. Some years I am more sensitive to the pollen than others. Better living through modern chemistry is not an option for me as I’m super sensitive to many medications. Being outside just a few minutes can do me in. I can’t go out to walk and if I don’t walk I gain weight. No exercise and excess weight effects lung efficiency. If I don’t walk… Gah. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Since the first of December I’ve been working on the whole me feel better package. To get started on a feel better path I joined a group of like-minded people, (Eeep. I hate the image that conveys. Like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I’m not. I can’t have sugar) walking, and in hopes of reining in the allergies, eating differently. No, I still use utensils to take food from the plate to my mouth. I’m eating things that are supposed to be healthier.  I take local honey every day. And bee pollen. How they get bees to give up their pollen is still a mystery to me.
I do my best to eliminate grain from my diet as it causes joint inflammation. Yeah. Eliminating grain is not for sissies. No wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn or any products made from them. That includes some adult beverages. Sigh. 
Can only have grass fed beef. Sure. I’ll be getting a steak out of lay away in a couple of weeks. Organic chicken. I have to say I can taste the difference. I make a killer turkey meat loaf using the wild rice I can eat instead of bread crumbs. I’m one of those people who loves Brussel sprouts. And kale? Gotta say I love it also. In salads, mixed with quinoa, stir fried with crispy bacon pieces and hard boiled eggs.   
                                                In a soup with garbanzo beans. 

Speaking of beans have you had a black bean burger?  
Guess I'll find out if this helps with the allergies soon enough. I can say I'm enjoying my more varied menu.   
Hope this wasn’t too much TMI. Bottom line is, this year I’m hoping I’ll get relief from allergies without having to wear a rebreather each time I go outside.  If you have health challenges what are the things you do?
Be well.
Rita write suspense/thrillers and short stories. Visit her web home here 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I SPY: The Write Balance

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 ...

The Write Balance

(The following is a repost of an older I SPY from 2013, but seeing as we're at the beginning of a brand new year, and my attention always turns to goals and what I want to improve in my life, I thought it might be good to revisit it. All of us here at NYUS wish you a very happy—and balanced—2017!)

The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that a balanced life is the key to happiness. This is true for writers as much as anybody else.

The needed amounts will vary among individuals, but when I analyze the balance (or lack thereof) in my life, I basically look at four realms that impact each other and often overlap. 


  • Regular Exercise Routine – 30 minutes a day seems to be the recommendation, including a combination of strength-building and aerobic activities. 
  • Diet – While I grew up with the “food pyramid,” my kids are learning about the “healthy plate.” A combination of the two seems to explain what is considered a balanced diet. Drinking water is always a great idea.  Eating plenty of plants is also recommended, and they say half your plate should be plant-related sources.
  • Sleep – While 7-8 hours a night seems to be the immediate answer to “how much sleep do I need,” the National Sleep Foundation says there are many individual and environmental factors that can affect this. For more information, follow this link.


  • Express yourself – i.e., don’t bury emotions. When emotions threaten to overwhelm, writers can naturally channel them into their writing, but when that isn’t so easy, we are a creative lot. Consider other creative outlets such as scrapbooking, journaling, painting, or dancing.
  • Challenge your brain – I may be biased, but it is my belief that writers use more of their brain, and more parts of their brain, more regularly, than anyone else. We have the ability to imagine and create at the same time we are analyzing grammar and sentence structure. We are amazing creatures.
  • Coping with rejection – Nobody enjoys being told they aren’t wanted, needed, or desired. The business of writing necessitates hearing these words on occasion. Finding a way to manage the stress of being told “no thanks” is the key to perseverance.
  • Comparing yourself to others – Writing is often a solitary profession, where sometimes it feels the only way to measure progress or gauge success is to look at the sales, readership, or awards of others. But writing is also an individual journey. Each author’s path to success is different, and we would do well to remember that when the temptation to compare arises.


  • Family – While some people find safe harbor at home, others find family members might not be so supportive. As with any career, it’s sometimes difficult to balance the needs of spouses, children, pets, and extended family, but those same people can also bring a joy and satisfaction not found elsewhere.
  • Conferences, Writing Groups, and Critique Partners – Feeding the writer’s soul via gathering with other writers can be rejuvenating. As mentioned above, in such a solitary career, it’s important to find like-minded individuals with whom to share.
  • Get out and about (a.k.a., leave the writing cave) – Inspiration is often found from the real world, which is why you need to get out and do things. Step away from the computer and experience the world.
  • Get to know other people – This is another way of filling the creative well. Whether meeting new people, getting together with friends, or just interacting briefly with the barista at the local coffee shop, seeing other people reminds us what (or who!) we’re writing about. Inspiration for character abides in the real world.


  • Feeding your soul - Whatever suits your belief system - communing with nature (gardening, walking, etc.), meditating, prayer, church attendance – DO IT. It’s so easy to put these needs aside to squeeze in time for things that are more temporal, but your spiritual health is just as important as the other realms.

Disclaimer: There is rarely a time in our lives where all of these “boxes” are equal or proportionate. More likely, there is always going to be something out of whack. The key is to be in tune with your needs – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual – and adjust as needed.

How’s your balance? What things do you do to maintain happiness, and what things do you think you can change to work toward your own happy-ever-after?


Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. As a games hostess at Sea World, tutor, waitress, personal and family counselor, and high school counselor, she indulged her curiosity through sanctioned professions. Now, as a stay-at-home mom of three children, her passion for understanding the human race is satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and writer. She writes to reclaim her sanity. 

Connect with Anne Marie at her websiteFacebook page, or on Twitter.


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