NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

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!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . 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, 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!




Monday, October 9, 2017

Going for the Juggler: The Art of Multitasking



Recently, I had to face a hard, highly inconvenient truth: I am not a multitasker. In fact, I'm not the best single-tasker, either. Believe me, I try. But the time has come to admit that I may never be like those perfect people out there who color-code their zillions of to-do lists and zip through them while I'm stuck in the drive-thru lane at Dunkin Donuts. Do I really, really hate these overachievers? Of course I do.



Okay, I lied. I don't hate them, because many are good friends of mine. They're always sympathetic and do a really good job of hiding their pity.  Whenever I whine or beg them for advice--usually when I'm under some desperate deadline--they try their best to help me mend my scattered ways. "You just need to focus," they tell me. "You can do it. Block everything else out. It's not that hard. Really."



I'm always psyched up after these cheerleading sessions. I have the best of intentions. But usually, I'm back to ground zero before it's time for that second iced tea. That's why, after my last self-imposed-deadline debacle, I vowed I'd become a champion multitasker. After all, everyone is busy these days, right? People have jobs and kids and parents and pets to take care of. They cook and clean their houses and volunteer and hit the gym. And somehow, they manage to get those fingers flying on the keyboard and get their manuscripts in on time. Do I qualify for special dispensation? Sadly, I think not.

I decided to waste/spend a bit of time researching how exactly I might become a model of efficiency. I was delighted to find there were plenty of helpful articles out there. But guess what? Technically, there is no such thing as true multitasking. The brain can only handle one task at a time.  Some people even claim that our minds can actually explode (okay, deteriorate) over time from cognitive fragmentation overload.


(via Giphy)

Of course, that's not the full story. There are ways to work around that single-task thing. You can work on making your brain work faster in switching between tasks. And if you pair a challenging task (say, writing a book) with a less-difficult one (listening to music), it can work out okay for some people. (Side note: Agatha Christie famously claimed she did her best book plotting while doing the dishes.) Oh, and shocker: creating to-do lists, color-coded or otherwise, is extremely useful.



The most important thing I took away from my "research"--not to mention real-life experience--is that Stress is Bad. If you're frozen and frazzled with worry about getting everything done at once, your productivity decreases. Breaks are necessary, and so is pausing briefly to set your intention for each new task. It's good to get up and move around, and chances are excellent you may have a solution for a problem (say, a pesky plot point) when you return, because you'll probably be approaching it from a different angle. Even nutrition and hydration are important (I'm including snacks and additional iced teas in here).

So I may never be a multitasking queen, but I guess I'll keep trying.  Maybe I've just been a little too hard on myself all this time. Baby steps, right?


(via Giphy)

LISA Q. MATHEWS lives in New England but sets her series The Ladies Smythe & Westin in sunny Florida. She is currently polishing her multitasking skills by writing several new mysteries at once. Her titles include CARDIAC ARREST, PERMANENTLY BOOKED, and the very latest, FASHIONABLY LATE.

So who has helpful multitasking pointers or--even better--crushing tales of defeat to share in the comments?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Take a Chance on Urban Fantasy


I write Urban Fantasy.

Maybe you’re thinking, eh, I like cozy mysteries and I didn’t get that whole Harry Potter/Twilight thing so I’m not going to read it. Or maybe you figure it’s all about vampires and weird stuff and it’s not real fiction so you don’t want to go there. There are lots of reasons to come up with to avoid it.

Then again, maybe it’s worth taking a chance on something new.

Because Urban Fantasy is really just mystery/suspense with magic.

A few more things about the genre to consider:

1. Urban Fantasy is about breaking rules, not following them. 
We can create universes with our own beings, languages and rules. Why follow what someone else has already done?



2. Although sometimes Urban Fantasy follows rules anyway.
Because the lore exists, and not everyone wants to break all the rules all of the time.

Lucifer

3. Urban Fantasy features strong heroines. 
They may not always start out that way, but they usually do get there.

Lost Girl

4. Although even if the lead is guy, there’s usually a strong female close by.
And there's nothing wrong with that.

Lost Girl

5. Urban Fantasy isn't limited by reality. 
While the setting for urban fantasy is recognizable – in the case of my Mark of the Moon series, I set it in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (a real place) – it can also be about what’s just around the corner from the normality you can see.

Grimm

6. Rescue fantasies go both ways. 
Urban Fantasy doesn’t always feature the white knight on a horse swooping in to do a swoon-worthy rescue. More likely? The white knight is a different species, easy on the eyes, and maybe he’s been enslaved for a century to a Big Bad. Enter our heroine, who sees him for what he really is, and rescues the guy herself. Because why not?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

7. Sexy fun times. 
Not a given, but it does seem to be a frequent feature of the genre. And come on, who's complaining?


The Vampire Diaries

Ready to give the urban fantasy a chance yet? Come on -- you know you want it. 😉


Beth Dranoff is the author of the Mark of the Moon series (Mark of the Moon and Betrayed by Bloodpublished by Carina Press/Harlequin. Shifting Loyalties, book 3, is expected out Spring 2018. Beth Dranoff lives in the Greater Toronto Area with her family, dog, and more books than she can count. Is it before noon? Then there’s probably a mug of coffee nearby. Follow her on Twitter (@randomlybibi), like her on Facebook or check out her site at bethdranoff.com for updates and news.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Love of Research

As a reader, I love to learn new things when I read fiction. I enjoy experiencing danger vicariously and seeing the world from a different perspective. As an author, I strive to craft that same thrill for my readers. Research is how to nail the details that create that you-are-there insider's experience.

We've all read stories that fail at this. I am an instrument-rated private pilot with a little training in aerobatics. When I encounter blunders in a story about aviation, the magic of being in the story falls apart. I don't want to be that author who breaks the magic.



Why write what you know when you can write about exciting things you are learning?

HEROS OF RESEARCH


Authors James A. Michener, Ridley Pearson, and David Morrell exemplify the serious kind of research that elevates their stories to the bestseller category. Michener's tome Hawaii presents the geologic formation of the islands to establish the setting for readers. Pearson's research in his crime stories is revered by detectives for thoroughness. Morrell spent 35 days carrying a 60-lb. backpack through the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming with the National Outdoor Wilderness School to research is book Testament.

Here's my process.

SETTING


Where does the story happen? For North of the Killing Hand, I drew on travel experience in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, and Columbia for the scenes in the Amazon. The photos taken in these remote places reminded me of the density and types of foliage. Journals reminded me of the smells, sounds, oppressive dampness, and dangers. Beyond personal experience there comes online research and trips to the library for demographics. How many people live there and who are they? What languages do they speak? How do they travel? How do they communicate? What cultural differences stand out? Crime? Education? How do people make a living in the Amazon? What are their religious and ethical beliefs?




For the upcoming West of Famous, I spent a week on a trawler because a huge portion of the story takes place on such a boat. All the library research in the world cannot capture the smell of diesel, the constant motion of the boat, the sounds of the engines, or how to find compartments large enough to stuff a body. The boat owners, Paul and Caryn Frink, went above and beyond in helping me. They took me to the oh-so-remote site in the Everglades where part of the story takes place and dropped anchor. They let me ride in the engine compartment while the boat was underway. I had to test if screaming could be heard over the sound of the engine.




I took copious notes and photographed everything at various times of day and night to nail the details. Online research cannot compare. Paul, retired navy with a strong engineering background, taught me more about boats and boat engines in a week than I learned from months of other research. Hands-on research beats online research any day! Fun, too! The rocking sensation stopped two days after I returned home.

CHARACTER


For each character, major and minor, I want to know who they are. What makes them behave the way they do? What does the character fear? What does the character want? For minor characters, the basic information reads like a police profile: height, weight, age, gender, race, education, and basic history. For major characters, deeper analysis works.

In South of Justice, the main character Dr. Terri Pinehurst-Clayton is a veterinarian. What does it take to become a veterinarian? The info uncovered during research appeared in the book, especially the items that grabbed my attention. Did you know it is tougher to enter veterinarian school than medical school? That tidbit of info led me to find out why. The answer found its way into the book because inquiring minds want to know. At one point in the story, Terri bolsters her courage by reminding herself that she graduated at the top of her class because of her intellectual tenacity. She then decides to begin her own investigation into her husband's past.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters empowers the author to leverage these traits in the story. I have interviewed experts to gain insight into the how and why of their work.

I suppose such research is similar to method acting. I want to learn so much that I can step inside a character to experience life from a new perspective in a new place under circumstances I pray I never have to experience in real life.

Which author do you admire for creating stories that make you feel you are there?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


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. 

For more information, see www.jonimfisher.com | facebook

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: www.vanessakier.com

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 area....as 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 Tonyakappes.com 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
GET WITCH OR DIE TRYING

Grandberry Falls Series

A Laurel London Mystery Series

A Divorced Diva Beading Mystery Series

Bluegrass Romance Series

A Ghostly Southern Mystery Series
A GHOSTLY SECRET

Kenni Lowry Mystery Series
SOUTHERN FRIED
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  facebook.com/groups/208579765929709

Join the Mailbox Love where I send snail mail and birthday cards! Click here or tonyakappes.com/kappes-krew-birthday-club

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

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 tonyakappes.com

Follow me on Twitter twitter.com/tonyakappes11

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