Monday, December 30, 2013

Milestones

I’m sure I’m not alone, but for me, this time of year always inspires reflection and self-evaluation. I find myself looking back at what I’ve accomplished, determining what I have yet to do, and then looking ahead toward where I want to be. This applies to all types of goals—physical, career/skills, social, and spiritual. I look at several things: Do I still want to meet those same goals? What has changed over the past several months that should have me re-prioritizing? What do I want to focus on in the new year if I have limited energy and resources? What have I learned in the past year that I can apply to the next one?

It is also a time for looking at how far I have yet to go to meet my major (or long-term) goals. Yes, they say life is about the journey, not the destination, but I'm not one to leave everything to fate. I'm a planner. An organizer. I can't help myself, and checking things off my goal and to-do lists makes me all giddy inside. But I often have to remind myself that it's not all about the big milestones (publishing a book, making a bestseller list, etc.). Milestones can be more subtle than that. (And sometimes we don’t know we’ve been on a journey until we’re well underway.) So don't forget the smaller mile markers in between the bigger, flashier ones. And make sure you celebrate each appropriately.

Speaking of milestones, hubby and I will celebrate our anniversary on New Year’s Eve. It’ll be number nineteen, and we’re already looking ahead to how we want to celebrate the big two-oh. We’re talking about traveling, maybe to a warm beach somewhere…and possibly renewing our vows. The excitement of thinking of these possibilities and marking time in special ways is what had me thinking about milestones today, and about how these celebrations are necessary. (And sometimes, just making it through the day with the whole family intact is worth noting.) Big or small, achievements must be celebrated.

In this new year, I hope you find many reasons to celebrate, and enjoy the journey along the way...


Where would you go or what would you do to celebrate a big anniversary? How do you mark the milestones in your life? Where do you see your journey taking you in 2014?

Friday, December 27, 2013

LOOKING BACK AT 2013 - by Kathy Ivan

As we come to the end of 2013, I want to take a moment to look back at this year and what we've accomplished.

As a group, Not Your Usual Suspects has grown, not only in size, adding a few new members, but also in our outreach. We have the blog site (of course we do, here you are visiting with us).
Each of us continued writing throughout 2013, sending work out to agents and editors. Some entered contests. Many of our members had multiple books come out, with more available next year.

As authors, we believe in what we do. We love writing, telling stories. We love sharing those stories with you, the readers, hoping and praying with each word we write you will become engrossed within our storytelling and when you finish the book, you'll smile and say, "Yes, I loved it. Let me see what else this author has out there." That is the biggest compliment you can pay an author, letting him or her know you enjoyed the book they've poured hours and hours toiling over with blood, sweat and tears. (As a side note, I'd like to suggest that if you like a book, post a review. It can be on Amazon, Goodreads, B & N, wherever you're comfortable posting one. Word of mouth is the best way to let others know about new and upcoming authors they may not have previously read. Yes, people do read reviews and buy based on them. It's also a small way of saying thanks to an author who has brought a few hours of enjoyment into your life. Okay I'll get off my soapbox now. LOL)

We dream big. Hopefully we'll have new and exciting things happening in 2014 and you can come on the ride with the authors at Not Your Usual Suspects as we continue growing, writing, and generally having a great time spreading the word that reading and writing mysteries and romantic suspense is fun.

My wish for 2014 is that you have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year and may all your dreams come true. I'll be aiming high, shooting for the stars, and continuing to write, because I love it and I know if I dream it and believe it, everything I wish for will come true.

And since I'm the one writing this post, I'm going to add a personal note here: From now through December 31, 2013, books 1 and 2 in the Destiny's Desire Series are on sale (at Amazon.com) for $0.99 each. So if you haven't read the first two books in this series, here's your chance to get both books at a great price.

Second Chances (Book #1)

Losing Cassie (Book #2)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

We wish you the merriest of holiday seasons and hope you're looking forward to a bright and shiny new year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas Adam!

Happy Christmas Adam! (If the 24th is Eve, our kids decided long ago the 23rd was Adam)

I thought about writing something profound for today, reflecting on the season. Instead, I found myself looking back at an astonishing year and forward into the Great Unknown.

Mostly I thought about our mountain property.

I wrote my very first blog post (ever) almost exactly two years ago - I Didn't Get a Tractor for Christmas.

Since then, I've shared bits and pieces about our adjustment to rural life. My husband and I actually enjoyed clearing the property (for a while there, we were in a close personal relationship with the guy at the county dump!) and loved watching the birds and critters who showed up on the new paths through the woods or at the pond and river. We've met most of the people in our valley and enjoy the genuine friendships that aren't looking to further a career or do anything other than get to know you.

This fall, we've begun working on house plans. Sure, we have a small weekend place that will one day be a guest house (fabulous for the two of us). It'll be interesting to have both kids, spouse, and multiple dogs here for several days. Let's just say the sleeping arrangements will get creative. :)

The further we got into the planning process, the more the reality of the transition took hold. In order for us to live here full-time, my husband has to take early retirement. With my day job, I can work anywhere, as long as I can access the internet. Not possible with my husband's career.

That Next Great Transition is what taps at the back of my head as I wrap the last presents, grocery shop and plan meals. Part of me leaps at the opportunity for travel, for not being tied to his work schedule. Another part worries, have we saved enough money. And another part thinks, Oh my (fill in your own blank), he'll be home All The Time.

So, what transforming events do you see on your planning horizon?


Writing news update – the MysteryThriller Horror Box Set is still on the Amazon Top Ten in its category and For Love or Money will be included in Entangled Publishing's Valentine's Day.
Boxed Set, releasing January 27,


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CHRISTMAS IN JANUARY


I love Christmas and all its fevered trappings.  So this isn’t ‘bah humbug’ piece.  But for John and me, Christmas with midnight service, carols, gifts and eggnog will be nostalgic this year.  Friends have moved, children have grown up and the tree has shrunk to a table topper.  Even fruitcake has gone the way of the dinosaur.

On the plus side, nobody around here has to get up at four a.m. on Christmas morning to see if Santa ate the cookies.  Still, what I’m really looking forward to this holiday season is the New Year.  That’ll be a special celebration time for me and for Deva Dunne, amateur sleuth extraordinaire.  Rooms To Die For, the fourth book in my Murders by Design Mystery Series is launching on January 27! 

Here’s a slice—not from the last fruitcake on earth—from the romp: A dealer searching for drugs forces Deva Dunne and Beatriz, her elderly friend, to strip at gun point. 


He eyeballed the pile of handbag contents on the desktop then waved the gun in my direction. “Nothing there, huh? All right. Now strip. You first.”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “That’s insulting. Do I look lumpy enough to have bags of cocaine strapped to my body?”
“That’s what I’ll find out. Maybe you use them for implants.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Come on. Hurry up. Let’s see what you got.”
With the gun inches from my face, I knew he meant business. So I stood and undid the top button of my shirt.
“Faster. Speed it up.”
“I do better with music.” Why let him know how scared I was?
“Forget the comedy act. Get on with it.”
For some stupid reason, I was glad I’d worn my lilac bra and matching panties today. When I was down to them and nothing else, he whistled, then, grabbing my arm, whirled me around. “Okay. Get dressed.” He turned to Beatriz. “You next, grandma.”
“Shoot me. I will not disrobe for you.”
“Yeah, you will.”
He strode over to her and . . .

Rooms to Die For.  An e-book at Amazon and Carina Press. Can be pre-ordered on Amazon! For a first chapter excerpt, take a peek at my website: www.jeanharrington.com.

Tags:  cozy mystery, interior design, Naples, Florida  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Murder at Christmas

It’s almost as Christmassy as turkey and Santa – the Christmas murder mystery. An old country house with lots of visitors, a celebration, a scream in the night and Hercule Poirot, or Albert Campion or Inspector Wexford on hand to solve it. No way of contacting the outer world, but there’s a murderer on the loose, and who knows who is going to be next?
Delicious.
These days that kind of murder mystery, aka the Christmas whodunit, isn’t around as much as it used to be, but it could be. After all, we still get romance stories where the participants are snowed in—one of my favourite romance tropes, if done properly. Snuggling by the fire on a fur rug wrapped in a comforter purloined off the nearest bed, toasting marshmallows—perhaps not the last bit if they’re naked.
I’ve never had a country house Christmas, with or without a murder. Maybe I should put it on my list. I won’t call it a bucket list. I just have a list of things I want to do. Next year I get to fulfil another one when I go to New Orleans. I’m going to the RT Convention, but I’m also going to have a wonderful touristy time with a friend from Glasgow.
But back to the country house. They are beautiful at any time of the year, and rightly so, because they were designed that way. There are lots of nooks and crannies, plenty of places to get up to nefarious activities, like, oh, a bit of murder. Or a bit of clandestine loving. But in reality, the larger country houses these days aren’t really isolated. They have helipads, satellite systems and lots of staff. These days, unless it’s royalty, the staff are more involved in looking after the house and its treasures than they are the occupants, but with most of the treasure houses open to the public, there are fewer opportunities to get snowed in. Blenheim, Chatsworth, Longleat—these places are businesses. Mind you, a murder at Longleat would be interesting, because it’s a wildlife park with lions and giraffes and elephants. A wonderful place for a murder, but only a fictional one, you understand!
However there are lots and lots of private houses of a good size, places that could conceivably be cut off for a few days. More likely in the early months of the new year than Christmas, but a bit of poetic licence and some unseasonable weather would take care of that.

Makes me want to go and write one. A bit too late for this year, but maybe I should think about next?

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Highland Dreaming

Last night I dreamed I was in Scotland again. 


I'm sure it was because of the book I'm writing, currently called Too Far to Fall because it involves a fair amount of falling. Off high, twisty highland roads. Off high horses. Off the beaten path and headlong into love. In my case, I'm having an ongoing, passionate love affair not only with my hero, who's very hot indeed, but with the Scottish highlands themselves. I may be obsessed.

I've been fortunate to visit some stunning places. Santorini, for example, a Greek island that held me mesmerized with its beauty. And Bryce Canyon in Utah, with rock formations so otherworldly I decided I wanted to carve a little house inside one of them and just live there, completely off the grid, and make up stories about the other strange inhabitants… The Louvre at night when it's all lit up and the glass pyramids feel like crystal palaces planted in the wrong century. 

These are all places I hope to see again, but something about Scotland calls to me.  If this is an obsession, I don't want to be cured. Truth be told, I adore those sweeping Scottish historicals where the clans are all at war with one another and the handsome laird wins the heart of his enemy's woman. I can't get enough! 



In my book, two wounded but very different people meet by chance at the top of a treacherous highland road, brought together by a tragic accident that might have been murder. There are no clans at war, but Ben and Fiona must fight an elusive enemy to find the truth and
save an orphaned baby, nearly losing their lives in the process.

Have you ever visited a place that resonated with you so deeply you literally couldn't get it out of your head? —Ana


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Wonder Skills Of Our Heroines

I can't cook.

There. I confessed it.

I can cook, but Gordon Ramsey will not be giving me any endorsements any time soon.  This weekend I attempted something as simple as a yellow cake.  I took it out of the oven and it looked beautiful. One second later, the middle caved in and I had Kilimanjaro on a platter.  Yes, I did the logical thing and filled the crater with icing, but the observation  made later was that my cake was 'chewy'. 

Sometimes I feel that I am a failure to my sex, but I keep trying.  I do have a select menu of items that I can prepare and am quite good at. Some of the mundane things, though--ehh--still working on it.


What does this confession have to do with writing? Only once did I abuse the privileges of fiction and make my heroine a culinary wizard. In WIDOW'S TALE, Serena Murphy ran a restaurant/bar in Maine.  She mastered lobster bisque.  God, I love fiction!  Any of my other heroines have managed to avoid cooking confrontations at least.

Aside from our heroines being strong, bright, determined, kick-ass--have you ever given your heroine a skill that you don't possess? Or as a reader, have you ever read of a trait a heroine had that you wish you possessed?


Monday, December 9, 2013

Gifts for Readers

The holidays are already in full swing at my house. Since we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, we started decorating and buying gifts weeks ago. But never fear. You still have plenty of time left.

Since we're all consumers here, ones who read, I thought I'd run down some of this year's best gifts for literature lovers!

The Book Clock - Put it in a spot far from your comfy reading chair so you don't realize just how much time you've spent indulging in your favorite pass time!


Personal Library Kit - For those who love to loan books out -- and to get them back!


Kindle Paperwhite - one of the ebook readers I'm lusing over. The other is the Kindle Fire.



Game of Thrones Book Collection - For my fellow GoT fans, the four-book bundle.

Front-Connect Reading Glasses - I admit it -- I'm at that age where I need them and I am forever hunting down one of the half dozen pairs I keep around the house. Better to keep them around my neck!

LED Book Light - Say you want to read in bed, but your partner wants to sleep. Voila! Now you can both get what you want!

Bed Rest Reading Pillow - Along the same lines as the book light, only better!

Nook HD - another ebook reader I'd love to own.

Floating Book Shelf - An inexpensive way to display your books.

What about you? Are there any items aimed at readers on your list this year?


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sunny Cole--I am a diabetic.

I am a diabetic. I felt it a nuisance the first few years I carried the family curse. But the more I've aged, reality that this disease is a killer has set in.

This headline hurt to read, because Johnny was a good friend and an inspiration for me. Thursday December 11, 2008, 8:10 AM OKLAHOMA CITY — Johnny C. Quarles, who wrote more than 12 novels set in the American West, has died. He was 62. His wife, Wendy Quarles, said her husband died Sunday after suffering a stroke on Sept. 24. He also had suffered from diabetes. His books included "Fools Gold," ''Black Creek," and "The Run." In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children.

There are other writers whose lives touched mine.
Judi McCoy, Cape Charles, died 02-18-2012. Went into a diabetic coma Thanksgiving, 2011, and was hospitalized until her death.
 Judy Russell Christenberry August 5, 1944 - November 8, 2013 Lived her last years in a nursing home.
Others in our industry who had/have diabetes:
Richard Bartlett - Screenwriter
 David Broder - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist (The Washington Post). Broder died of complications from diabetes on March 9, 2011 at the age of 81. In 1973, Broder won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Watergate scandal that caused President Richard Nixon to resign from office.
 Bryan Busby - KMBC Chief Meteorologist (Kansas City, Missouri)
 Fran Carpentier - Parade Magazine Editor
 Sylvia Chase - Journalist (20/20)
 Rodolfo Garcia - AP Reporter
 Linda Goodman - Horoscope Book Author
 Jim Hamblin - California Newsman
 Ernest Hemingway - Author (For Whom the Bell Tolls; A Farewell to Arms; The Sun Also Rises) Phebe Robinson Jacobsen - Archivist who worked with Alex Haley on Roots
 Nicole Johnson - dLifeTV co-host; Miss America 1999; author and diabetes advocate.
 Ken Kesey - Novelist (One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest)
 Larry King – Talk show host
 Lyle Leverich - Biographer
 Chris Matthews – News anchor and political commentator (Hardball with Chris Matthews and The Chris Matthews Show) 
Maria Marin - International Speaker, Columnist, Author and Radio Personality
 Steve McCaffery - Canadian Author, Poet 
Bruce Andrew Peters - Award-Winning Photojournalist
 Connie Pirner - Teaching consultant for National Geographic 
Mario Puzo - Author (The Godfather)
 Anne Rice - Author (Interview With a Vampire)
 Carl Rowan - Nationally-syndicated columnist and author
 Gary Scheiner - Author, Certified diabetes educator
 H. G. Wells - Author (War of the Worlds; The Time Machine; The Invisible Man) founded the British Diabetic Association
 Laura Ingalls Wilder – Author

 Last Modified Date: May 22, 2013
 http://www.dlife.com/diabetes/famous_people/writers_reporters_editors

 This disease IS manageable! There is no cure as yet, but if you're living with diabetes, there are steps to take that give you a better quality of life. Don't become another statistic this season. Be a role model for children living with diabetes. Maybe...your own. Few things will lower glucose, but eating a heart healthy diet and exercising are both a must-do.

 Happy Holidays.
Sunny Cole.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I-Spy: Taking a Virtual Tour



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 ...   Taking a Virtual Tour


 Last July, I published my first book, In the Shadow of Revenge, with Carina Press. A lot of emotions accompanied that publication. There were the expected ones, pride, a sense of accomplishment, relief that it was done and pressure to do it again. But one emotion came on unexpectedly, and that was fear, more specifically, fear of marketing. 

As an introvert, the last thing I want to do is blow my own horn or be the center of attention in any arena. I’m more the sit in the back row type (behind someone very tall), the get lost in the crowd type and I always escape to the bathroom just before it’s my turn to introduce myself in a group meeting.

So along with all the excitement of getting published came the very real fear of having to put myself “out there” for people to see and get to know. This piece of the publishing process was intimidating, overwhelming, exhausting and most of all, unexpected. Give me a closet (I write in my walk-in closet) and a laptop and I’ll write for as long as you want, but please don’t ask me to talk to anyone about it.

But the inevitable was right in front of me and there was no escaping to the bathroom this time. I started with Facebook, as that seemed the least scary. My kids were all on it so at least my children would share the posts about my book even if no one else did. Then I graduated to Twitter, which I’d never used and knew nothing about. I still don’t really understand Twitter, even though I use it now I will admit that I’ve not yet reached a thousand followers.

Facebook and Twitter didn’t seem like enough so I started guest blogging on sites I contacted through the writing organizations I belong to. It still felt like I wasn’t doing enough so I kept looking for other venues and finally stumbled upon virtual tour companies. After researching four or five different options, I decided on Partners in Crime, http://www.partnersincrimetours.net/

PIC represents a network of over 300 bloggers and offers tailor made virtual tours for crime, mystery and thriller writers at every level, from newbies like me to the well known and well-published. All I had to do was tell them what I wanted. After perusing their different packages, I opted for a one-month tour with daily visits to at least one blog and sometimes two. It was up to me if I wanted to do an interview, offer a giveaway, get a review or do a post as a guest blogger. I opted for reviews and interviews. I was also offered the option of doing a radio interview with Suspense Magazine. And of course my book, In the Shadow of Revenge, was spotlighted on PIC’s website for the duration of my tour. 

Two months prior to the start of my tour, Gina and Cheryl, the owners, operators and resident geniuses at PIC began sending me the blog sites I’d be visiting along with each blogs interview questions. I had plenty of time to write up my responses and send them back to Gina, who packaged everything up and sent it to each blog owner. The package included my interview, or the blogger’s review of my book, depending on the site as well as my cover art, a bio and head shot, an excerpt and all links to my Amazon page, Carina Press, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and my website. Talk about getting myself out there… and all I had to do was answer interview questions in the quiet of my closet. Sales you ask? Sales doubled over the month long tour, not bad for a new author.

Doing a virtual tour with Partners in Crime was the best decision I made in my publishing process and with my second book near completion you can bet I’ll be touring with them again. 
  

FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!