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 our 2017 Grand Prize Draw to win Eleven Exciting Ebooks in one go! closes Dec 25**


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

Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Year Tally


I'm so excited to be a part of this great new blog and I am humbled by the terrific company I get to keep here! For my first post I totally lucked out and got to hang out here on the last day of the year.

Now as much as I love suspense, I also have a burning desire to know what the future holds for me. I've always been one to look ahead to the coming year on New Year's Eve. It's a brand new start, a shiny new coin waiting to be spent on some wonderful surprise. It's also a time to set goals. For me, that means giving myself a daily calorie maximum, a weekly word count minimum and a monthly spending limit.

But 2010 has been a pretty awesome year for me so I want to look back as well. When I started counting the ebooks I released I was pleasantly shocked to discover there were nine of them. I also signed with a terrific agent and sold a book to Carina Press. It'll be a challenge to outdo 2010 but one of my goals is going to be to do just that -- to make 2011 even better than 2010.

I think it's important to look back from where I came in order to figure out how to get where I want to go. I've seen what works and what doesn't.

So here's my challenge to you: Post your two or three biggest goals for 2011 in the comments. Sometimes saying it aloud -- or in this case, tossing it out into the blogosphere -- puts extra pressure on to get it done. I'll go first.

In 2011 I want to:

1. exceed 7,000 words every week or 350,000 words for the year.

2. lose at lease one pound a week - every week.

3. exceed my 2010 savings goal by $100 per month.

And since I've seen some great recipes here, thought I'd throw in one of my family's favorites, a Wynter original I've never shared before, although I've been asked. (You should feel honored:-)

Wynter's Famous Hummus

1 - 15 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained
2/3 cup fat free sour cream (can use low fat instead)
3 tablespoons tahini (optional - to make recipe fat free, leave this off)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced (more or less, depending on how spicy you like it)
dash salt (optional)
dash cumin

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with pita chips.


I'm looking forward to blogging with all the talented authors here. My first book with Carina Press, Protective Custody, comes out in May, but I'm not a brand new author. I have many books with Ellora's Cave as well as a couple with Red Sage and Loose Id. You can find me on the web at www.WynterDaniels.com.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Festive Lull

I always think this is one of the best days of the year. We’ve (hopefully) had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends and we’re preparing to welcome in the New Year. In our house, we enjoy the ‘lull’. Me? I love to curl up in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of something tasty - wine, whisky or a long gin and tonic - and lose myself in a good book. 
It has to be a very special book though.
Over the course of a year, I snatch the odd hour here and there to read. I might read for an hour or so in the evening or a couple of hours over the weekend. Today, though, it’s ‘me’ time. It’s still the holiday so I can read all day without thinking of chores or writing. That, for me, is the height of luxury. 
Today’s special book is THE LONG DARK TEA-TIME OF THE SOUL by the late, great genius, Douglas Adams. It features holistic detective, Dirk Gently, and is a comic fantasy mystery. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read this book, but it makes me cry with laughter and is my favourite book of all time.
So think of me today, sitting in my armchair in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of something tasty to hand, enjoying THE LONG DARK TEA-TIME OF THE SOUL. Again.
How will you be spending today? Will your day be as restful as mine? And if you had to choose a really special book to read, which would it be?
I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and I wish each and every one of you a very happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

THE INDIGESTION TABLETS MAY BE A VITAL CLUE...

Good God, am I the first blogger up after Christmas? LOL

I’ve only just managed to roll off the sofa after two days of three full meals, turkey sandwiches, too much Christmas pudding with cream and custard on top, and ALL the orange creams from the selection boxes, to be able to crawl to the keyboard. Catch me quickly, before I fall back to sleep in front of the TV and yet another re-run of Singing in the Rain.

Clare London here... the post-Christmas blob on the straining computer chair.

Hello to you all, and I hope you’re making the most of your Christmas/New Year break! I’m lucky that I have the whole week off from work, though at the moment all I’m managing to do is to watch TV and sleep, but I’m hoping to be more productive as the week wears on.

Right
. LOL.

So… all this TV watching over Christmas has given me food for thought about some of the things I most like to watch, and that’s mystery/crime. And of course, I read and write it too! Funny that, eh?! And if we start to investigate just WHY I like it so much, I wonder if it'll be the same for any other readers?

I like the gradually building suspense - the once-removed shock of sometimes grisly murder - the slow and devious display of clues and conclusions - and the underlying reassurance that the Bad Guy (or Gal) will eventually get their come-uppance.

But most of all, I love to guess WHODUNNIT. Are you the same? How many shows and books do we follow where the crime is investigated - and often solved - by the enthuisiastic amateur? I love the idea that Joe Average can spot the clues that pass the eyes of the trained professionals, that he/she can go where the politically-restrained cannot go, that he/she may pursue truth and justice despite threat to life and limb, and especially if it's to save the one they love.

And yes, many of my books follow that path. I’ve had one release at Carina in 2010 and another scheduled for Feb 2011. Both full of crime, mystery and suspense, though in rather different ways
:)


In Blinded by Our Eyes, the murder happens in Charles Garrett's art studio, and the victim is a man he knew and mentored. He's never faced violence like that before, has always found beauty in life, with its own honesty and rationalty. But all that changes when he starts to investigate just what lay behind the crime. And during his reluctant but determined journey, he discovers both the shocking truth ... and a kind of love he's never found before.

In The Tourist, Ace is a very different kind of explorer - he's a spirit! As a self-confessed sexual adventurer, he "visits" men for fun, joining in their life without them ever knowing he's there. Then comes the day he jumps right into the middle of Ricky and Dan's passionate but troubled relationship, and discovers they're facing danger from Ricky's ex-boyfriend. Will Ace just move on, or will he be tempted to make a proper connection for once, and help them out?

So how many mysteries will you be dipping into this holiday? Hpw many evenings spent in front of TV detectives or reading brooding heroes in blockbuster thrillers? And what do you like best about it all?

Let us know your favourite show this Christmas, and even more importantly - did YOU spot the killer first? :)

Enjoy the rest of your Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all!
 

Clare London - Writing ... Man to Man
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Plainville Police Department Report



Case #: 012242010-000467

Date: December 24, 2010

Incident Time: 23:15


Assisting Officers:
Officer Jack Frosty; Officer Cindy Lou Who


Details:
Officers were directed to the scene by 911 call.
Victim female, age 68. Found on front lawn outside 222 Mistletoe Avenue. DOA. Marks present on forehead; consistent with deer hoof track visible near body. (see photo exhibit 7)
Witness #1, GRANDPA, claims victim drank eggnog in quantity before she left house. (Toxicology report ordered.)
Witness #2, GRANDSON, claims victim left house seeking medications.
Witness #3 UNCLE MEL, claims heard sound of sleigh bells and voice calling, "Ho, Ho-no!"



Reporting Clerk: Officer J. Wachowski, author "In Plain View"

Christmas can be murder

At least it can be in this house. There are so many conflicting pressures on parents (and normal people): financial, social, family, time. It is easy to forget the joy and succumb to the oh-my-gawd-the-turkey-isn’t-big-enough or running-out-of-paper-with-4-inches-of-Santa’s-gifts-left-to-wrap

But what I love about Christmas is not the madness or the electronic noise, it’s keeping up the traditions or creating new ones. It’s the smell of the turkey roasting in the oven. It’s prepping the sprouts and potatoes on Christmas Eve and feeling like you have everything under control. It’s leaving out mince tarts, sherry and carrots for Santa and his Reindeer. It’s going sledding on Christmas Eve with friends and having sherry with breakfast on Christmas Morning. It’s remembering all the people you’ve loved and all the history of your life and passing on as many happy memories to your kids as you can.

Christmas can be murder but I LOVE it.

Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours. 

Please tell me what’s special about your holiday traditions and I'll gift a copy of one of my ebooks (SEA OF SUSPICION or STORM WARNING) to one of the luck commentators. Your choice! 



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Couch Potato

This post is rated PG-13 for strong language.

As I'm writing this post, outside is -22 degrees Celsius (-8 degrees Fahrenheit), which is kind of balmy for this time year in my neck of the woods, and everything is covered with a layer of the white stuff (the kind that melts, not the kind that goes up your nose). It's the perfect weather to start up the fireplace, cozy up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate made with milk, real chocolate shavings, and mint leaves, and pop in a few Christmas flicks. Oh, yeah. I'm getting all warm and fuzzy inside from the anticipation.

For most people, It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story are their go-to feel good movies for this time of year. Me? Not so much. Being the twisted person (how else would you describe someone who thinks about how to kill people?) that I am, I'm more of a Die Hard kind of fan. For me, nothing embodies the spirit of the season quite like Alan Rickman saying detonators with a deliciously wicked German accent and Bruce Willis delivering John McClane's iconic "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker."

Between now and the 25th, I'll go through a slew of DVDs from my collection. If you want a quick trip inside a disturbed suspense writer's mind, check out some of my holiday favorites:


  • Bad Santa. A Christmas movie produced by the Coen Brothers. 'Nuff said. Besides, how could I resist the title?

  • Blackadder's Christmas Carol. The nicest man in Victorian England learns the true potential of greed and selfishness. Isn't British humor the greatest?

  • Die Hard and Die Hard 2: Die Harder because...well, what I said above. But it's worth repeating: Nothing embodies the spirit of the season quite like Alan Rickman saying detonators with a deliciously wicked German accent and Bruce Willis delivering John McClane's iconic "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker."

  • Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. A tongue-in-cheek crime/dark comedy with Val Kilmer as a gay PI and Robert Downey, Jr. as a bumbling small-time thief. They meet, they fight, they kiss and make up, and I laughed all the way through.

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas. A skeleton going through a mid-life crisis wants to lead a town of ghouls, goblins, vampires, and other monsters in a takeover of Christmas. Plus, music AND singing by the über-talented Danny Elfman. No wonder this film's a cult classic. (Honestly, I watch this film several times throughout the year, not just in December.)


So, any of these titles on your list? Or is it just me?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amazon.com: Aztec Gold eBook: Caridad Pineiro: Kindle Store

Amazon.com: Aztec Gold eBook: Caridad Pineiro: Kindle Store
Six months ago, Cynthia Guerrera's lover and fellow archaeologist Rafael Santiago trekked into the Mexican jungle in search of one of the fabled Cities of Gold—and never emerged. Guilty over their parting, Cynthia won't rest until she knows what happened. When the discovery of a conquistador's journal corroborates Rafe's intended path, Cynthia is determined to finally leave the safety of the museum to rescue him, despite the conquistador's dire warnings, and her own traumatic past.

Arriving at a remote village deep in the jungle, Cynthia is both elated and angered to find Rafe alive. But he is far from well, having watched his team be decimated by a bloodthirsty demon-goddess. When Rafe reveals he has been gifted with supernatural powers—powers he plans to use to kill the beast and save his brother, still held captive in the temple—Cynthia must face her own inner demons to fight alongside the man she loves.

Slippery When Wet


Hola from sunny Southern California!

Well…come to think of it, maybe not so much of the sunny. We’re experiencing torrential downpours and record rainfall here in the Southland. It’s looking like we’re in for a grey Christmas, which -- believe it or not -- is fine by me. I love the rain. And since I’m lucky enough to write fulltime, I can usually postpone getting my feet wet if I’m not in the mood to venture out.

Anyway, wet or dry, I’m Josh Lanyon and I write m/m or gay fiction, usually mystery or adventure -- but always with a strong romantic subplot. I have a couple of stories out with Carina Press. One is Fair Game, the bestselling novel about a former FBI agent turned history professor who gets into hot water when he starts looking into the disappearance of a student. The second story is part of the new anthology His for the Holidays. The novella is called Icecapade and it’s about the frosty relationship between a former uptown cat burglar and the FBI agent determined to see him behind bars.




There’s always a little bit of a mystery in everything I write, even a holiday romance like Icecapade. After all, isn’t romance -- why we fall in love with the people we do -- one of the biggest mysteries around? I think so. I think the meld of mystery and romance is a very natural one. But then I grew up reading mysteries.

I wonder if it’s true that we are what we read?

Anyway, I just popped in to introduce myself and wish you a very merry holiday season -- and health and happiness in the New Year. I’m looking forward to getting to know you all -- both my partners in crime at Carina and you our willing accomplices -- better in the months to come!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Travel and Romantic Suspense

Holiday Travel and Romantic Suspense...

Greetings! I am a new fish in this talented pool of authors. My romantic suspense novel, ENDLESS NIGHT will be released by Carina Press this spring.

I am about to embark on the long trek home for the holidays, which brings me to my topic...what brings holiday travel and romantic suspense together?

The easy answer is that you read romantic suspense to get away from the stress of holiday travel. You read on the plane to avoid the meddlesome person in 14C asking where you are going, who you're visiting, and what you're having for your holiday feast. You read to ignore the fact that the gentleman in 14A has just inserted his elbow into parts normally reserved for your husband.

You read in the car to tune out the litany from the back seat. "I'm hungry. This car is lame. Are there any french fries left? I'm going to be sick," and yes, the resounding chorus, "are we there yet?" Once at your holiday destination, you read on the couch to avoid doing dishes because even though you are now mature, you still lack incentive to participate and are old enough to figure your way out of it.
In the evening, you read because most likely you are staying at the in-laws who believe that one pillow can be shared per couple—and that pillow has now been claimed by your other half.

But why romantic suspense?

Maybe now you’re sitting with your back against that stiff headboard, and you want to taste what life would be like if you weren't sleeping at the in-laws. You want to dabble in danger and fantasize that this handsome man under your blanket isn't actually your husband, but rather a government operative who has just scaled the side of the three story colonial house and climbed in this attic window to seek refuge from military forces. Tomorrow, as you sit on the couch and the kids play Wii, you hear their odd cries and envision them as a band of Navy Seals sent to rescue you.

As much as you may enjoy the escapism of romantic suspense, when you finish your book and look around the in-law’s diminutive attic room, you rehash the past twenty-four hours and come to the conclusion that your life is perfect, and you wouldn't have it any other way.

I would like to wish everyone happy holidays and safe travels. I hope to be offering you escapism for many books to come, and as a great fan of romantic suspense, I'd like to ask what draws you to this genre?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

CELEBRATION

Hello: I'm Elise Warner, the author of Scene Stealer, a cozy mystery published by Carina Press as an eBook and produced in an audio version by audible.com. I'm hard at work on a new novel that includes murder but more about that in another blog. Since it is the Twelve Days of Christmas and Christmas is our anniversary, I'd like to tell you about a celebration.
We were young and we wanted to celbrate our very special date with a memorable dinner. Our pockets were fairly empty, at that time chorus dancers and singers didn't earn much, so we scrounged and saved for a few months in order to reserve a place at The Russian Tearoom, a restaurant on 57th Street in Manhattan that gives its address as "Slightly to the left of Carnegie Hall."


After the Russian Revolution, dancers, musicians and actors-once stars in St. Petersburg and Moscow-began to emigrate to New York City and the Tearoom became a hangout for White Russians, who, like most newcomers, were looking for a taste of their former home. They were homesick for the gossip, intrigue, intellectual discussions and of course, the sweets and pastries of the Czar's Russia. Feodor Chaliapin, a commanding Russian opera star, and Michel Fokine, who introduced Americans to the Imperial Russian Ballet werre among the newly arrived talents who enjoyed the food and the ambiance.


I don't know why I wanted to eat at the Tea Room-it's still a mystery to me. Though my grandparents came to America from Russia, they came to escape the pogroms-family legend says a countess hid them from the Cossacks-they were poor and they traveled in steerage. They dreamed of America and couldn't wait to arrive at Ellis Island, study and become American citizens. Perhaps it's just something about royalty that intrigues Americans. We do like to dress up and pretend to be a lovely princess waiting to be discovered by the prince.


The Russian Tearoom's setting, warm and welcoming, greeted us with green walls that served as a backdrop for to vivid, scarlet leather banguettes displaying tablecloths and napkins pink as the first blush of spring wine. Christmas decorations-brightly colored ornaments that would remainb all year-garlanded the room along with highly polished samovars perched on pillars that sparkled and ignited my imagination with dreams of Tartars-nomads who traveled across Asia brewing tea to slake their thirst. Buffed wood and gleaming mirrors reflected images of the elegant clientele seated around the restaurant and promised a dinner we would never forget.


The waiters, dressed in Red Russian tunics and the busboys in green paid attention to their guests without being intrusive; we settled down and each ordered a Bloody Mary. A Russian restaurant-vodka was and is the specialty of the bar.


We began our dinner with the Tearoom's traditional hot borsht made with red beets, shredded cabbage, and the freshest vegetables of the season. The borsht, flavored with dill, was crowned with sour cream. Piroshki-little meat filled dumplings made with puff paste and filled with beef, parsley, onions, eggs and Tabasco attended the borsht.


The main course, Chicken Kiev-rich with sweet, herbed butter stuffed in a boned and breaded chicken breast, then deeply fried came next. the dish is thought to have been created by a French chef who served at the court of Alexander I.


We pricked the chicken and marveled at the stream of butter that rose from the plate. The first succulent bite was about to be placed in each of our mouths and then...and then...we heard a soft moan that gradually increased in volume. We put down our forks and exchanged a glance. The sound became louder and we looked at the adjacent banguette. A sweet, baby-faced woman was moaning much to the concern of an equally young and helpless appearing man who sat by her side. Soon everyone in the Tearoom stopped eating and began staring at the couple. From our banquete I could see the woman was pregnant and leaned over to ask if there was anything I could do though my experience consisted of watchig movies where someone boiled water.


A flutter of her hand said, "Go away."


The maitre d escorted a distinguished fellow to the table.


"Madam, I am an obstetrician. May I help you?"


"Not yet," she said. "Not yet."


The Tearoom grew silent. No sound of fork, spoon or knife could be heard. No glasses clinked in tribute to Christmas. No one was sure what the proper etiquette was. Does a caring person keep eating when someone may be about to give birth? The doctor looked as confused as everyone else.


The young woman stoppped moaning and slowly sank to a prine position in her booth. She couldn't be seen and she couldn't be heard-conversation resumed. We relished each bite of our Chicken Kiev and ate every last bit of our dessert-Baklava made with sheets of thin phyllo pastry and sweetly layered with walnuts, honey and connamon.


We've never forgotton that Christmas anniversary dinner and I've often thought about that woman. Did she give birth on Christmas? In the Russian Tearoom? A boy? A girl? And did the doctor finish his dinner?


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Brits Rule!

Well, they may not rule exactly but two Brits are taking over this blog for the day. I’m Shirley Wells and my partner in crime, for today at least, is Clare London.
My mysteries feature reluctant private investigator Dylan Scott. He’s a city boy who had to be dragged, kicking and cursing all the way, from Clare’s neck of the woods up to Lancashire. Dylan, you see, is a bit of a chauvinist. Okay, he’s a lot of a chauvinist. He drives his long-suffering wife and his dope-smoking mother mad. So although his heart’s basically in the right place, and he’s a damn good private investigator, he needs to learn a few of life’s lessons. So I brought him north to the lovely east Lancashire Pennines where I’m lucky enough to live.
He’s skulked off home now so he’ll miss the traditional Christmas serving of Black Pudding or Lancashire Pudding as it’s sometimes called. The soft southerners, if they eat black pudding at all, will eat slices that have been fried or grilled as part of a full traditional breakfast. The more hardy northerners will eat it boiled, and served with malt vinegar out of paper wrapping. Soft southerners will sit down to a Christmas lunch of turkey whereas, in the north, we could easily tuck in to chicken stuffed with Black Pudding and Lancashire cheese.

What exactly is Black Pudding, I hear you cry. It’s a sausage made by boiling blood (sorry, that’s not a typing error), usually pig or cattle blood, with a filler such as meat, fat, suet or sweet potato until it’s thick enough to congeal when cooled. Sounds delicious, right?
Dylan will escape this year. Next year, however, I’m determined to drag him north for Christmas and force feed him Black Pudding.
Me? Ah, well. As it's the season of goodwill, I may just be generous and give my helping to my dogs. I'll probably have to settle for an extra helping of cake instead or maybe more chocolate.

What about you? Do you have a favourite Christmas food? We’d love to know.
As it’s Christmas, we’re giving away copies of our latest books to one lucky commenter. My gift will be Dylan’s first outing, Presumed Dead. 
I’ll hand you over to Clare now and she’ll tell you about her gift.

*********

Hello all, from the *south* of England, I'm Clare London, pen-named from where I live, love and write. I'm looking out of the window, awaiting our next heavy fall of snow and wondering if it'll be a white Christmas in London. It's a rare occurrence down here in the "soft" south :).

I've been writing for many years about romance and mystery, but a lot of my work has been Americanised for its main audience. It's fun, but I feel the time has come to find my roots - in fiction of course, because I've been a London girl since I was very young, and proud of it.

My Carina mystery murder Blinded by Our Eyes is based in London around fashionable Kensington and the lively, cosmopolitan area of Earls Court. My hero Charles Garrett is a young gay man facing the pressure and excitement of starting up his own art gallery - until one shocking night when he finds the dead body of Paolo, a young sculptor he's been mentoring, dead in the gallery in a gruesome murder scene.

Charles considers himself calm, discreet and practical, not prone to the melodrama and violent passion of the artists he sponsors. A very British man, you may say. But his search for the truth draws him into investigating Paolo's murder. He discovers his friends and lovers all have secrets to keep, and his cool view of the world is about to be rocked to the core. And when he meets Antony Walker, an aggressive, rudely handsome sculptor and a previous close friend of Paolo, Charles is in danger of a very different kind. Is he losing his heart to a new lover - or a killer?

Charles may be fictional but he's drawn from a very traditional background and is London born and bred. So what are the favourite Christmas foods we'll be looking forward to in London this year? Shirley may well have her black pudding - which, actually, I like! - but I'll be serving the traditional turkey with the trimmings: roast potatoes,  vegetables like carrots, broccoli and the infamous Brussel sprouts, lots of gravy and then the side sauces, cranberry and bread.

I remember sending a food parcel to a friend in the US a couple of years ago because she wanted to make a Brtitish Christmas dinner and couldn't easily get the ingedients. All was fine until I tried to send her suet to make a Christmas pudding. It was confiscated by Homeland Security because it had a beef base!

Then we'll have Christmas pudding with custard and cream, followed by watching the Queen's message on TV at 3pm, then it's a race to see who falls asleep first :).

This year, I discovered a warming recipe for London Pie from the 1950s. I've included it below in case anyone's tempted to make one over the Christmas period? Though heaven knows, we shouldn't need any more food ... LOL.

So share the guilt and delight with us this Christmas and let us know what *you're* looking forward to cooking or eating, whether it's turkey, taters or taramasalata :).

And don't forget, as Shirley says, if you comment on this post you'll be entered in the draw for not just one free book but TWO. My gift will be a copy of Blinded by Our Eyes, and you can follow Charles on his scary but determined journey to discover the truth behind murder.

Thanks for visiting and a very Happy Holiday period to you all.


LONDON PIE:
Ingredients: 1lb of extra lean minced beef
1 large onion, peeled and grated
1 coarsely chopped cooking apple
1 tablespoon sultanas
1/8 pint of stock
2b potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 dessertspoon curry powder
Fresh tomatoes, cut in half
Method: Mix the meat with the curry powder, onion, apple, sultanas and stock. Put into a square ovenproof dish. Spoon or pipe the potato on top in squares like a chessboard. In the spaces between the squares, put a half tomato cut side upwards. Cook for 1 hour at 375 degrees F.

Friday, December 17, 2010

CROWDS, SHOPPING AND BLACK FRIDAY

I'm thrilled and excited to be a member of Not Your Usual Suspects blog and to be part of the 12 days of Christmas blog. The Christmas holiday is probably my favorite time of year. Starting around Thanksgiving I'm stoked for all the merriment and excitement that comes. I'll usually take off the entire week of Thanksgiving (vacation from the day job—yeah), in preparation for the holidays. All the cooking, baking, putting up and decorating the tree—all of these things start my heart racing. It's getting ready for that all important day, the day after Thanksgiving. Not for the leftovers, although that's probably my favorite part of the meal (I love eating turkey and all the trimmings the next day), but Christmas shopping.

Black Friday. Now I know for most people the thought of Christmas shopping can have them breaking out in hives. All the crowds, the noise, the pushing and shoving. Any other time of year, shopping is not my favorite past time. In fact, most times I can truthfully say going to the mall ranks up there a trip to the dentist. But for some inexplicable reason that one shopping day after Thanksgiving tells me Christmas is close.

Getting up when it's still pitch black outside. Bundling up in warm sweaters and coats because you know it's gonna be freezing outside (although sometimes here in Texas freezing is a relative term—it drops into the 50s here and it's considered frigid). Then we all pile into the car and head for the stores. Jam packed, bumper to bumper cars line the parking lots. Driving round and round waiting for somebody to pull out, so you can snatch that spot, one space away from the very back corner of the lot, but inside you're shouting, WhooHoo!! I got it.

Then we head inside the store and start milling around, looking for the perfect gifts for each person on your list. Sometimes I can find it right away—I know just what I'm looking for. Other times, something will surprise me and wind up being the perfect present for that somebody special.

Christmas shopping on the other days following Black Friday is still fun and exciting, but nothing is quite like the rush you get that first morning after Thanksgiving, knowing Christmas is just around the corner.

Writing suspense, in my case romantic suspense, like most writing in general can be a solitary endeavor, being isolated away from friends and family for long stretches of time while you pour your heart out onto the page, trying to make sure that your "whodunit" is filled with intrigue, excitement, drama, where ultimately the villain is caught and the hero and heroine have a satisfactory and happy ending. Most of the time I'm fine with the self-imposed solitude. But for this one special shopping day, being around the noise and the crowds, the hustle and bustle, just spells out the holidays for me.

As my special holiday gift, one person who leaves a comment will get a copy of my Carina Press romantic suspense with paranormal elements, Desperate Choices.

Wishing you the warmest and best holiday—may your shopping be plentiful and may you find everything you're looking for.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holidays & Homicide


Welcome to the launch week for the Not Your Usual Suspects blog! I'm so happy to be here blogging alongside such talented Carina Press authors!

Well, it’s that time of the year again! Christmas is right around the corner, as is my much-needed Christmas vacation. Yay! But murder never takes a holiday.  In fact, just like the sweltering summer heat can cause the murder rate to skyrocket in the summertime, the stress of the holidays can also cause some people to snap! Even I, one of the most laid back people on the planet, have on occasion had to suppress the urge to whack someone with a nutcracker. How do I relax and calm myself? By reading!  To me there's nothing better to calm those frayed holiday nerves than settling down with an  eggnog martini and reading a good old Christmas mystery. Here are a few of my favorites:

Kissing Christmas Goodbye By M.C. Beaton: Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: Christmas, and her ex, James Lacey. This year Agatha’s sure that if she invites James to a splendid Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log…but that fantasy will have to wait for now. A wealthy widow—who sent Agatha a letter before her death saying one of her family intended to kill her—has been found dead. Now Agatha must set out to find the murderer, even though, in her heart, she’s still dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones she and James used to know….

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie: The wealthy Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons—one faithful, one prodigal, one impecunious, one sensitive—and their wives return home for Christmas. But a heartwarming family holiday is not exactly what he has in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults and finally announces that he is cutting off their allowances and changing his will. So when the old man is found lying in a pool of blood on Christmas Eve, there is no lack of suspects. Did Lee's taunts push one of the boys to a desperate act? And how did the murderer escape from the locked room? Intrepid Belgian detective Hercule Poirot suspends his own holiday festivities to sift through the motives and evidence surrounding the crime.

Shakespeare’s Christmas By Charlaine Harris: Lily Bard is going home for the holidays. More comfortable in baggy sweats than bridesmaid's frills, Lily isn't thrilled about attending her estranged sister's wedding. She has moved to Shakespeare, Arkansas, to start a new life, cleaning houses for a living, trying to forget the violence that once nearly destroyed her. Now she's heading back to home and hearth--just in time for murder. The town's doctor and nurse have been bludgeoned to death at the office. And Lily's detective boyfriend suddenly shows up at her parents' door. Jack Leeds is investigating an eight-year-old kidnapping and the trail leads straight to Lily's hometown. It just might have something to do with the murders...and her sister's widowed fiancé. With only three days before the wedding, Lily must work fast to clean up the messy case before her sister commits...marriage!

Sugar Plum Dead By Carolyn Hart: It's getting to look a lot like Christmas on the sea island of Broward's Rock, South Carolina. At the Death on Demand mystery bookstore, owner Annie Darling's Yuletide preparations have to be put on hold thanks to several rather inconvenient distractions -- including murder. Across the windswept isle, in the spacious, spooky mansion of Marguerite Dumaney Ladson, a motley crew is gathering for the onetime movie star's gala Xmas/birthday bash. And when it turns deadly, it's Annie who has to prove the innocence of the most disturbing suspect: her own deadbeat dad.

So what are your favorite Christmas themed mysteries? Comment for a chance to win a copy of my  upcoming release The Paris Secret!

Happy Holidays!
Angela ; )

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Murder, Mayhem, A Good Beverage, & Chocolate

Fans are in for a treat today - TWO Carina authors in one blog post! First up, Bobbie (aka Sunny) Cole, followed by Caridad Pineiro!

Hi - this is Bobbie!  I am so jazzed at being a part of this fantastic group of writers. My first novel with Carina Press, Memories Of You, should debut approximately three months from now, and I am busy working on yet another romantic suspense for them called Lethal Lasagna.

I am often asked which writers or lines made me wish to pen my own romantic suspense stories. Remember the Silhouette Shadows? Sally Carleen aka Sally Steward was one of my first to read.

I also devoured anything by Maggie Shayne
and the fabulous Anne Stewart. Then there were the classics by the likes of Phyllis Whitney, Georgette Heyer, and Mary Stewart.

If heroes who are dark, dangerous, and bad to the bone plus spunky heroines with a penchant for landing in hot water and taming those heroes are your cup of tea, stick around, because the writers in here have those for you...and then some!

Ah, yes, the title of this post also includes the word
beverages. I love having a hot cup of cocoa, tea, or coffee while I write. It kills me that Starbucks' Casa Ciello is seasonal--absolutely pains me to have to wait for that to come out every winter. I'm also in love with the yerba mate an Argentinian friend, Jen, sent me - with a cool silver bombilla. With my favorite beverage of the day, I like chocolate. I'm not particular, although pal Anita tells me that we Americans use too much paraffin in ours! She says the Europeans have us beat on chocolate-making. Speaking of chocolate...I will leave you a recipe a friend sent at the bottom of the post!

So now you know who/what started me on the path to murder and mayhem and what it takes to soothe me as I write. Who are your favorite authors, and what is it about them that intrigues you and keeps you flipping those pages? (And inquiring minds want to know...coffee, tea, soda, or cocoa for you during winter months as you read?)

Now...here's Caridad!


*****

It somehow seems appropriate that I'm sharing blog duty today with Bobbie since my romantic suspense novel from Carina, THE FIFTH KINGDOM, has a link to one of her favorite things: cocoa!

You see
THE FIFTH KINGDOM is set in Mexico and it's a story about a professor, Deanna Vasquez, whose archeologist mother abandoned her years earlier to go in search of Montezuma's tomb. Nearly 15 years later, a sexy CIA Agent, Bill Santana, posts himself outside Deanna's classroom with news that her mother has been kidnapped by a fringe group of terrorists. Why? The terrorists believe Deanna's mother has discovered the tomb and a powerful weapon contained therein. So what does a suspense set in Mexico have to do with Bobbie's favorite cocoa? Well the Aztecs believed the cocoa tree had been brought down from the heavens by their god Quetzalcoatl. The Aztecs named the drink made from the cocoa "xocoatl" and since the Aztecs did not have sugar, the beverage made with the cocoa was sometimes spiced with hot chile peppers to add flavor. The Aztecs even considered "xocatl" to be a health elixir and I can't argue with that!
* * *
 
THE FIFTH KINGDOM will be available in the Spring of 2011, but in the meantime if you're looking for another taste of something spicy, my vampire novella from Carina Press, AZTEC GOLD, hits the shelves on January 3.
* * *
The inspiration for both novels came from a trip I took to Mexico several years ago when I was able to visit some pyramids right outside Mexico City. I loved getting the feel of those ancient structures and the excitement as I walked down the Avenue of the Dead where so many had walked for centuries before me.
* * *

Thanks so much for visiting today!
~ Caridad Pineiro & Bobbie Cole


CHOCOLATE CHILI RECIPE
(the quick version)

2 tbsp. oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 lb. ground beef
28 oz. can tomatoes
1 - 3 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. ground unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
16 oz. can kidney beans
1/2 c. chopped green pepper


In a heavy saucepan, sauté bacon; stir in oil and onion. Add meat and cook until brown. Add tomatoes, chili powder, ground chocolate, garlic salt, cumin, and pepper; heat to boiling. Add kidney beans and green pepper. Simmer covered 20 minutes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welcome to Not Your Usual Suspects!

Welcome to Not Your Usual Suspects! While our focus will be on murder and mayhem (with a healthy dollop of romance), during this lead up to Christmas, I'm delighted to focus on the holiday. As a thank you for visiting with me, I'll select a reader at random from the comments to receive a copy of On Her Trail, my suspense-with-ghosts, which was released by Carina Press in June 2010.
I love Christmas. I love the food, the decorations, the music. I love spending time with friends and family, love the way strangers on the street smile and wish me a Merry Christmas, and did I mention the food?
It's a joyful time, certainly, but it doesn't leave you with a lot of free time! Like many of you, I lead a busy life. Too often, the only time I have to read is just before bedtime. And I barely manage fifteen minutes before my eyes refuse to stay open any more.
But the week between Christmas and New Year... ah, that's my time. That's when I settle into my favorite comfy chair with my eggnog and read. This year, I have a grand selection to choose from, just from among my fellow Carina authors. I recently bought an e-reader and have downloaded a number of Carina mystery and suspense titles to keep me happy over the Christmas break. Good food and good books--does it get any better?
Now I'd like to know what you do over the Christmas break. Is the time filled with frenzied activity? Do you hunker down and stay warm?

Before I go, I'd like to give you a final gift, Dear Reader. This is a traditional French-Canadian recipe that IS Christmas to me. (Did I mention that I like food?) I hope you enjoy it, too. The quantities will vary according to the size of pot you have. Use a heavy pot with a lid. This dish is easy and delicious, but definitely not for vegetarians.


CIPÂTE

You will need:

  • Chicken, veal, pork, rabbit, moose (any kind of meat your prefer) cut into one-inch cubes NOTE: you will be limited by the size of your pot
  • Peeled and sliced potatoes - 1/4-inch thickness
  • Peeled and sliced onions - 1/4-inch thickness
  • Salt, pepper, spices to taste
  • Chicken or beef broth (your preference)
  • Pastry -- enough to cover the top and also to use in between layers (I use the ready-made stuff from the store)

Ready? Okay. Now, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom of your pot, followed by a layer of onions, then a layer of been (or chicken, or veal...). Season with salt and pepper and any spices you favour. Then add one-inch-wide strips of pastry in a criss-cross pattern. Repeat the layers with a different kind of meat until you are near the top of your pot. Don't forget to season as you go along. When you're close to the top, pour in about a cup of broth. Then cover everything with a solid layer of pastry, with slits for venting. Cover with the lid.

Cook at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for four to five hours. Check every hour or so. If it looks too dry, add some broth.


Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Welcome to 'Not Your Usual Suspects' Blog

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me …a super cool, hip new blog to share with fans, family and friends!

Welcome to our new blog run by a group of seasoned and debut authors of romantic suspense and mystery. We’re an eclectic group with diverse interests and a thrilling range of stories including procedural, humorous, sexy, nail-biting, romantic and cozy. For the next twelve days leading up to Christmas, each one of us will blog on a topic near and dear to our hearts. After that, we’ll be blogging three days a week, offering you interviews, freebies, writing insights, thoughts on the different sub-genres within mystery and romantic suspense, and tidbits from our past and forthcoming novels. Take a minute and peruse our bios, current novels and forthcoming releases. Several of us also have audio books available for your listening enjoyment.

To start things off, I’m interested in finding out what romantic suspense or mystery books were your favorites in 2010. I’m always on the lookout for new authors to read and I love to give books as presents for Christmas. I’m hoping one of you will suggest something perfect I can buy as a last minute present. As a thank you, I will randomly choose one winner from the comments to win a copy of my latest novel, No One Lives Twice, a humorous cyber-sleuthing mystery caper released by Carina Press in August 2010. 

Here are a few of my favorite romantic suspense/mystery reads for 2010: Fantasy in Death and Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb, The First Rule by Robert Crais, The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner, In Plain View by J. Wachowski (one of the bloggers on this site – woot!) and Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen. What great mystery and romantic suspense book(s) did you read this year that you would wholeheartedly recommend?

Thanks for stopping by and we hope to see a lot of you in the next year. Happy Holidays to all!
Julie Moffett

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