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!

**Visit this link for the WINNERS of our 2017 Grand Prize Draw**


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, February 14, 2018

Sad Valentine's Day

by Janis Patterson
It is common wisdom that most murders are committed for either love or greed. It is also pretty much accepted that deaths increase around holidays, especially those celebrating love and/or family such as Valentine's Day and Christmas. All of this, while being pretty depressing in real life makes things a lot easier for us mystery writers.

Today is the Day of Saint Valentine, the patron saint of romantic and courtly love. It is a day of flowers, cards, candy, dinners out, gifts and - in most cases - a whole lot of kissing. It is also a day of loneliness, despair and sorrow. When you have someone to love, Valentine's can be a time of joy and shared affection. When you want someone to love and don't have anyone, Valentine's day can be a day of gloom and loneliness and sorrow. Most people have experienced both kinds of day.

What's truly sad, though, is the person who wants a particular person... and that person doesn't want him. Now this happens all the time - but this situation can turn real scary depending on how unstable the rejected one is. Just how far will he (or she) go to prove he is worthy of love? What will he do to convince his object of desire that she must return his feelings? Or will he decide instead to punish her for not responding to him? (I'm not being deliberately sexist - either position of this scenario can be taken by either sex, though statistically more women are victims than men.) It can go either way, and most of the time neither alternative is pleasant.

We see a similar situation around family-centric holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. As on Valentine's Day there are preconceived notions of how we should feel - happy family reunions, fabulous meals, presents, good cheer, decorated trees, peace-on-earth-and-good-will-to-men and all that. Unfortunately, even though so many people have the outward trappings - trees and presents, for example - they don't feel like people tend to think they should feel. The holiday is not a panacea that makes everything in their life all right; in fact, it often makes them feel worse.

There are more suicides around Christmas than any other day of the year. I don't know the exact statistics for murders, but I do know it's generally higher than on the average day.

So how does this help us as mystery writers? If you write about a murder on a July beach or a Halloween murder, not much. Neither the Fourth of July or Halloween are really family- or romance-centric. Of course, any holiday can be used, as can any day of the year, but in general it doesn't carry the same emotional weight as the romantic/family holidays.

The emotional stress of holidays cannot be discounted. If holidays can make the normal ones among us crazy, imagine what they can do to the unstable. These holidays and their often unreal expectations are something pushing at the villain not only from outside but from inside. This offers the writer all kinds of opportunities to give depth and reality to their characters. Good characters aren't just composed of height, weight, eye color and occupation; they are all of that, but what makes them individual are their hopes and dreams and disappointments.


There is no disappointment worse than an unrealized holiday feeling.

Monday, February 12, 2018

PINS AND NEEDLES

Do you have a character who needs just the right little black dress, or the proper 16th century doublet, or maybe a Confederate officer's uniform? Well, for historically correct clothing from the Middle Ages through World War II and later, have you tried one of the historical clothing blog sites?  If not, you might want to give them a look. They can easily be Googled and include The Fashion Historian, The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, The Costume Society of America . . . the list goes on.  And for the writer, these sites are a mine of useful information. Some of them feature images, others historical vignettes and fashion anecdotes. Some even include sewing information.

The fact that I spent an afternoon exploring these blogs, especially the ones highlighting sewing, is a surprise even to me. For while I can play with commas, verbs and sentence structures all day long, if you hand me a needle and say, "Shorten my pants," my eyes cross.

But sewing angst aside, and even if your characters don't need to be garbed in vintage duds, these blogs are worth reviewing with their fabulous, intricate (to the point of being mind-boggling) clothing, most of which was made before the invention of the sewing machine. But hand, stitch by stitch, pleat by pleat, someone, somewhere, patiently and with great artistry created gorgeous dresses, blouses, skirts, suits, hats, etc.  And they are well worth admiration. Case in point:




And another: 



Oops! Sorry, couldn't resist, though this one was machine made (outfit only!)

Actually, as I scrolled around, I realized that creating a gorgeous garment, using little more than fabric, thread and a needle, isn't so very different from creating a novel using nouns, verbs and other parts of speech. Both endeavors weave threads into a whole: a gown, a book, a sweater, a short story. A stretch, you say? Maybe not. How about this? Every creative process takes something nebulous--threads, notes, colors, ideas--and with imagination, persistence and very hard work produces a brand new something. Hopefully, an object d'art. To reinforce my theme here, isn't a good story often called a good yarn?

Okay, I'm done. Preaching is over. I'm off to pour a glass of wine and look for an 1890's harem outfit. In red.

Jean Harrington is the author of the award-winning Murders by Design Mysteries and the listed and Lethal Mysteries. Murder on Pea Pike, the first Listed and Lethal book is also due out on March 21 in a large print edition. Jean's mysteries can be found in both print and e-books at Amazon.  

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Romance Me



Love is a powerful force. Romantic love has been the topic of endless songs, poems, stories and plays for as long as mankind can remember. It’s that combination of love and romance that spurs us on our journey to achieve enduring and loving relationships.

I’m a hopeless romantic. One of my favorite films is Casablanca, but I love Romancing the Stone, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, and many others with a similar feel-good romance. I love romances of all genres because I like becoming invested in the character’s lives. I’m intrigued by the passion and feelings that happen to us when we’re falling for someone. Sometimes it’s a hard, breathless fall where you dive in headfirst, and other times it’s a slow burn of friendship that turns into something more. Regardless of how you move into romantic love, the start of a new romance is a celebration of many moments, including those that are tender, exciting, sexy and even endearingly awkward.


Love can be temperamental and fierce, as many of us know. But romance in its purest form, is uplifting and pleasurable—something that rescues us from the routine of everyday life and the isolation we may feel when we’re alone. Having said that, and remembering that Valentine's Day is next week, here are some things that represent the power of romance to me.

(1)  Time. When your partner gives you time—clears his/her schedule to be with you—that’s romantic. It means you matter. That is powerful.
(2)  Attention. When your partner spends that time with you. Not with a project in the garage, watching the ballgame or catching a movie with friends. Romance is when the attention is on you, the partner.
(3) Consideration. Being considerate of someone’s time and responsibilities is important in a romance. Splitting chores, helping where needed, cooking a meal together and sharing a burden (physical or emotional), is romantic in my book.
(4)  Kindness/Tenderness. Kindness/tenderness is special and romantic. A person with a kind heart is a good person. Rest assured, you, too, will be the beneficiary of this tenderness. Kindness can go a long way in changing a mood or even a life.
(5)  Respect. I respect you as a person, and I expect the same from you. When you share a romance someone and are respectful of their differences and quirks, you are reinforcing their worth and uniqueness, and reflecting it back to them. This is perhaps the most powerful element of romance.



So, what represents the power of romance to you? J



Julie Moffett is a bestselling author and writes in the genres of mystery, young adult, historical romance, and paranormal romance. She is the author of the geeky, fun Lexi Carmichael Mystery Series and the new young adult series called White Knights. Get more information about her books at www.juliemoffett.com.

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?

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