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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Street Team — Do I Need One?

Forming a street team is one of the hot topics that I came across at the Romance Writer’s National Conference two weeks ago in Atlanta. I didn’t know what a “street team” meant to me as an author, but there was such a buzz on this topic among attendees that I decided to listen to a panel of authors talk about it, so I could discover firsthand what was going on.

Three lovely authors in varying stages of their career ran the workshop, talking about how they had created their personal street teams and what these teams were doing for them in terms of sales and promotion. A street team is basically a cheerleading squad of fans who will promote your book in exchange for swag and perhaps direct access to you as an author. When forming their teams, all three of the authors put out a call on Twitter and Facebook for fans to “apply” for a position on their street team. Those fans who were selected could then earn exclusive prizes, free books, swag and personal chats with you in exchange for doing promotion for you to libraries, friends, family and even complete strangers. Team members get “points” for tweeting/re-tweeting info on you and/or your books, talking about you on Facebook, and promoting you via LinkedIn, blogs, websites, etc. The team members get prizes for handing out postcards, bookmarks and promo materials to people. At some point, all three authors gave away a yearly “grand prize,” which could be anything from naming a character or animal in their next book to a vacation getaway. 

Two of the authors were well off enough to have personal assistants run their adult street teams. The third author had a “ teen volunteer” help run her team as she wrote YA and the majority of her fans were teens. All three of the authors believed the street teams were instrumental to their growth and expansion in terms of both sales and career, but acknowledged that street teams can be very time consuming, expensive, and tricky to do right.

So, who should have a street team? The authors were all in agreement that you should have have a solid fan base before you try to form one. Starting a street team before you even have a book available might not be a good idea. But if you have a book or two under your belt and several vocal fans, you might consider one. If you are an author looking to break out of mid-list or blah numbers in terms of sales, then a street team might be for you.


What about you? Do you have a street team? Are you part of a street team? Are you considering forming a street team? Inquiring minds want to know your thoughts on this topical issue.  J

Monday, July 29, 2013

Blindsided by Love

I don't know about you guys, but I've discovered the universe works in mysterious ways. My mother used to say, "Everything happens for a reason." I'm sure you've all heard that one. It's just hard sometimes when something really horrible happens and you have to make sense of it. Why must horrible things happen and how can we begin to make sense of it? Those are always the toughest questions. I try to think that I learn from everything that happens to me every day. Be it a good thing, bad thing or mundane thing. This may not seem like the perfect segue into my topic, but actually it's very apropos. I was talking about the universe working in mysterious ways. How a random minute in any given day can change your life. (Be it for the better or for the worse.)

Let me give you a personal for instance. Twenty-something years ago, I had sworn off men. (I was all of nineteen when I did this. LOL.) The guy I thought I loved didn't return the feelings so I jumped into a relationship with a guy who I knew liked me... But I didn't feel the same way about him. It soon became apparent that relationship wasn't going to work out either. The last thing I wanted was to get involved with another man when I was feeling so lousy about my recent choices. (You can bet there was a lot of self-doubt happening at that point too!)

As I'm becoming comfortable with my decision to take some time for myself and decide what I wanted in life, I met a guy at work. I didn't think too much about it. Although I'd heard his name from the grapevine, it didn't dawn on me until after he introduced himself that he was the one everyone had told me about. (I will confess to thinking he had a great ass as walked away from me, up a flight of stairs. I do love a nice ass on a man...but I digress...<G>)



A couple of weeks after that meeting, a big group of us from work decided to go dancing when we finished for the day. If I remember correctly, there were supposed to be a dozen of us going to a dance club/bar in Hollywood, not far from work. The guy I'd met a couple weeks before offered to take me since he knew the place. I didn't see a reason to decline so together we went to the club. Well, after about 45 minutes it looked like no one else was going to show, but instead of bailing, we decided to make the most of the night and ended up dancing our brains out for the next five or six hours. Seriously, it was about the most fun I'd ever had. We really hit it off. Later, he drove me back to my car and I went home. No kiss goodnight, just a wave and a smile, which was fine with me because it really hadn't been a date. A few days after that the same group of people decided to see a movie together and I ended up up sitting next to the same guy. Long story short, at the very end of the night when I thought all was lost and he really wasn't as in to me as I was into him, I decided enough was enough and called it a night. He walked me to my car, kissed me goodnight and the rest is history. I've been married to the guy for over 24 years.

My whole point is that I never saw it coming. I was in a place of not looking for anything and love found me. (Actually, Sean found me...but you get my point.) Some of the best things in life happen when we least expect them, including falling in love.

The same thing happens in my latest release, Against The Wall. Jess St. John has to pair up with an ex-con to save her family and the last thing she expects is to fall in love with the guy. Not only is she not looking for love, but it comes at the worst possible time in her life. Tanner, too, has no plans to fall in love. The only thing on his mind is a little bit of revenge combined with a whole lot of retribution. Running into Jess and falling for her was never in his plans, but her presence changes things. These are two people who never would've been together if circumstances hadn't made them a team. Everything happens for a reason.

What about you? Did you see it coming or are you still looking for love? Or maybe you knew exactly when the love bug bit you. I'd love to know!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Writing Communities

Writing is a solitary occupation. Unless you’re co-writing a book, a writer must tackle the project alone, getting words on paper/screen until the work is done. Then comes the polishing and the submission process, which is also essentially something that is done alone.

If you’re feeling alone or lacking support from your nearest and dearest joining a writing community is the answer.

So why do I think writing communities are so great?

1. Networking – a community gives you the chance to meet likeminded people who are going through exactly the same trials as you. They “get” what you go through during the writing of a book.

2. Opportunities to attend conferences – writing communities often organize conferences with guest speakers and more opportunities to network with other writers. These conferences can be either in person or online.

3. Opportunities to pitch to agents and editors.

4. Market information – Communities pool information and are excellent places to learn about the various publishers or self-publishing.

5. Opportunities to learn with online classes

6. Opportunities to learn from guest speakers

7. Making friends and finding critique partners

But I can’t afford to join a community. What then?

While it’s true that communities like Romance Writers of America and the RWA chapters cost money to join, but there are others out there that are free or have a basic level of membership that is free.

Check out:

Absolute Write and the Absolute Write Water Cooler Forum—lots of information for writers of all genres.

Romance Divas – mainly for romance writers. The Divas forum is periodically closed to new members, so you might need to check back. Lots of market information for traditional and self-published authors.

Savvy Authors – they have basic membership for free and premium membership for $30 per year. They run excellent online courses and have lots of opportunities to pitch to editors and agents.

Other writing communities

Romance Writers of America - This is the biggest community if you're a romance writer. Once you join the RWA you can also join your local chapter or a special interest chapter as well.

If you live in Australia, Britain or New Zealand all have groups especially for romance writers.

Romance Writers of Australia http://www.romanceaustralia.com/
Romance Writers of New Zealand http://www.romancewriters.co.nz/
Romance Novelists Association http://www.rna-uk.org/

Are you a member of a writing community? If so, which one and what made you join?


Shelley Munro lives in New Zealand with her husband and a rambunctious puppy. Her next release is Past Regrets, an erotic contemporary romance from Samhain Publishing. If you would like to learn more about Shelley and her books visit her website at www.shelleymunro.com

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

RWA 2013 Atlanta, Georgia

Toni Anderson, Maureen A. Miller, Julie Moffett and Wynter Daniels do The Pips at the Harlequin party in the Ritz hotel, Atlanta!

Way back, when scheduling blog posts, I thought it would be easy to whip up a quick post about RWA national conference by the following Wednesday.

Er...not so much. I am still exhausted.

I've been trying to think about my experiences and condense pertinent information but it's impossible. This was my 3rd national conference and I took different things away from this one than from the previous two. Firstly, I feel *more* published now. I was pubbed with HER SANCTUARY from way back (it originally came out in 2005, I think, with Triskellion who went bust) and I was 'grandfathered' into PAN (Published Author Network) just as they changed the rules to stop all these small press authors getting in automatically. This reluctant admission into PAN made me feel like I didn't belong--this feeling seems to follow me around. Maybe it's part of who I am as a writer, never quite belonging, but I don't think I'm alone. Maybe it's just a writer thing.

However, just because you might not feel like you fit into RWA as an organization, don't make the mistake of thinking you won't fit into the RWA conference as a writer. I have found this conference to be full of the warmest, friendliest, most business savvy, empathetic group of people I have ever met (OK, except biologists and their families b/c that's just who we are). Romance writers talk to each other. Romance writers connect even if only in line for a sandwich or shuffling for space in the elevator. I think having an agent (if you want one) takes some of the stress out of being worried you're going to say something stupid (ha!) to someone influential. I know I was grinning almost daily with a lady, knowing I recognized her face. Pretty sure, now I think about it, she wasn't a writer but one of the big NY agents. I wouldn't have given her my toothy grin if I'd known. She probably wouldn't have given me hers in return if I'd been nervous and jittery. I do better in ignorance. Relaxed is good.

Linda Howard was stalking me :) Not really, but we attended at least 80% of the same workshops which gave me a very happy feeling. I love Linda Howard.

I spent a lot of time in the self-publishing track and the research track. I learned tonnes. I missed loads. I wish I had a clone who could have gone to all the other workshops I desperately wanted to attend. Thankfully most workshops are taped and I'll probably be downloading a bunch.

What did I take home (aside from books)?
I will develop a press kit. I will be looking at the metadata on my self published book THE KILLING GAME (those are the terms I heard most at this conference 'self-publish' and 'metadata'). I will try to follow the industry even more than I do already. I feel that self publishing is now an accepted route for writers although there are a few die hards refusing to acknowledge the huge shift in the industry. A few years ago they didn't like ebooks either so times change and things that were once new and scary become acceptable and the norm. I really hope RWA opens the RITAs up to self published books soon. This is a fantastic time to be a writer, so many opportunities!

I saw many dear friends and met many online peeps in person for the first time, including NYUS's own Maureen A. Miller, Wynter Daniels, DJ Adams, Ana Barrons, Julie Moffett, and Carol Stephenson. That was fabulous. Dancing at the Harlequin party was wonderful--thanks for letting me attend. Nora was there and dancing up a storm. I just realized I was dancing opposite Linda Lael Miller!--knew I recognized her face :) I had so many cocktail parties and meetings that most nights were crunched tight trying to squeeze it all in. This is a far cry to past conferences where I'd wave my roomie off to the Harlequin party and curl up on the bed for a much needed rest. I met my fantastic Montlake Romance editor and lovely agent. The awards lunches made me cry (I want to be Kristan Higgin's BFF--please invite me to lunch again and I'll fly out :)). My own award ceremony, the Daphnes, which I didn't win, was not evenly remotely nerve-wracking. I don't know if this is because of the alcohol I'd consumed (cheap date :)) or just the fact I was convinced Bronwyn Parry's DEAD HEAT was going to beat us all. Instead Cindy Gerard took the award, and I love Cindy so it was just a total buzz to be there.

OK--if I was analyzing this post I'd be convinced I am a total narcissist.

What else?

The RITAs. Oh boy. My roomie (Loreth Anne White) was up for a RITA and I was her date so we had VIP seats. We honestly had the best seats in the ballroom, I kid you not. I was mirror image to Sylvia Day's seat (RWA President) on the table on the opposite side of the podium. Seriously. The only way I would have had a better seat was if I'd sat on the floor in front of the stage. Totally awesome. :)
Eloisa James walking between me and Sylvia Day to get to the stage to accept her RITA. That's what I'm talkin' about :)

Another highlight was bumping into Eloisa James afterwards in the ladies' room and congratulating her on her first RITA win. It doesn't seem possible that she doesn't have a shelf full of the ladies. Eloisa was lovely. She is lovely.

Overall it was a very successful writers' conference. Positive and empowering. I liked that. Too often writers are beaten down by odds or the industry and it was wonderful to see a renewed enthusiasm for writing stories we want to write. Were there a few things that annoyed me? Sure there were, but why dwell on the negative. I want to absorb the positive and let it feed my creative soul. First, however, I need to recover... LOL

If you want to see more pictures I made an album on FB  https://www.facebook.com/toniannanderson/media_set?set=a.10152113669224762.1073741825.652504761&type=3

I loved RWA 2013!

And...in other news, the price of my Carina Press ebooks went down to under $2.99 so if you haven't read them yet, now's a good time :).... http://ebooks.carinapress.com/CBB76783-9B8F-46CF-AE13-E35F3C6BE2FD/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=9B637837-774F-4285-8E42-F5364B645096
Not sure why the images are removed...you can always try Amazon.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Eulogy


Warning: this may be a morbid topic for some, and it’s said with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. For me, it’s a normal day. ;) And I figure, if I can’t be morbid with my NYUS friends, where can I?

Today is a release day for me. DEADLY BONDS (Mindhunters, Book 3) released in digital form today. In fact, this whole month has been a busy promo month... AVENGING ANGEL (Mindhunters, Book 2) came out in print via harlequin.com this month. And the first book ONLY FEAR is on sale for 99 cents through July 31st. However, some may find it odd for me to choose to celebrate my release day with a eulogy.

I’m about to confess to a guilty pleasure: I’m a big fan of The Young and the Restless. It’s my lunchtime splurge. I watch it while I make my lunch and allow my brain to decompress from the morning routine and recharge for the afternoon. Or, while I’m doing mundane tasks like folding laundry or doing dishes, I’ll put Y&R on in the background.

Jeanne Cooper, Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
The show has been a staple in my life since I was twelve. Which is why I was so sad when actress Jeanne Cooper (who played the indomitable Catherine Chancellor) passed away in May of this year. It was like losing a friend you saw every week. A couple of weeks later, Y&R aired a tribute to this amazing woman, who’d been a constant presence on the show for forty years. Her fellow actors and actresses reminisced and shared stories of how she mentored and supported them.

And then my brain made a morbid leap (maybe you're not surprised?)... What if my characters (who are, essentially, my coworkers) had to give a tribute on my behalf? What if I died and they had to say something at my funeral? What would they say?

They’d probably say I put them through hell, but also brought them the best days of their lives when they found a happy-ever-after. Maybe they'd even invite me to their weddings.

They’d probably moan and groan about what I put them through, but laugh and smile about the outcome.

They’d talk about how much they learned because of their time with me.

So, as I work to give another pair of characters their happily-ever-after in the fourth book in my series, I’m encouraged to think what a gift I’m giving them. They’ll stretch beyond what they think is possible, face down their demons and survive. And they’ll be stronger, better, faster, happier.

They’ll thank me one day.

DEADLY BONDS (Mindhunters, Book 3)

A dedicated profiler. Dr. Holt Patterson has thrown himself into his work since his wife's death, and his relationship with his young son, Theo, is suffering. He's caught in an impossible choice—how can he make the world a safer place for his son without sacrificing valuable family time?

An unrequited love. Sara Burns, the director at Theo's prestigious academy, once loved Holt Patterson, but he was her best friend's husband. Now a decade has passed, and Sara realizes that her feelings are just as strong—but how can she act on them without betraying her friend's memory?

A terrifying killer. A violent man develops an interest in Sara, and sends a body instead of flowers to get her attention. Holt is determined to keep her safe. But the killer is much closer than they expect…


Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.  
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Find ways to connect with Anne Marie at www.AnneMarieBecker.com.

Friday, July 19, 2013

SUPERSTITIOUS?

    

Photo Courtesy of Neha Bhargava  Dreamstime.com
     Do you walk under ladders? Step on cracks in the sidewalk? Pat the rabbit that’s been eating your lettuce instead of giving the lucky foot dangling from your keychain a good luck rub? Adopt any black cat who walks in front of you? Declare number thirteen doesn’t scare you? Most airlines don’t have a 13th row and buildings usually avoid a 13th floor and it’s said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt always made sure there were more than 13 people at a meeting.
     Superstition is often thought of as silly—perhaps resulting from a mysterious dread of the unusual and exotic—and held at bay by good luck charms and comforting rituals. Claim you’re not, superstitious? Never? Not at all? Not the least little bit?
     That’s what I thought until I realized that I still snail mail articles to a publisher who has accepted many of my pieces. Though they’ve accepted work by email for years, I began working with them when they only read snail mail. Guess I’m...Yes...superstitious about breaking the chain. Superstitions are usually practiced in circumstances that entail possibility, uncertainty and luck. Submissions to an editor or publisher—known and unknown—fit that description.
     I’ve read that A.S. Byatt—the Booker Prize winning author keeps her collection of glass paperweights, pumice from Iceland, a collection of insects from North America and a dish of snail shells close at hand when she’s writing in her attic. Carson McCullers would write in the same lucky sweater—did she write every day? Isabel Allende is reputed to begin every book on January 8—her first novel, The House of Spirits was set in motion on that date. Before beginning to write, the poet, Edith Sitwell would rest in an open coffin. A bit extreme in my opinion but it worked for Sitwell.
     How about you? No chocolate, no matter how much you crave a bar, until your novel is under contract? Refrain from talking about the book with relatives and friends until every i is dotted? Must you drink from a favorite mug before you face your computer or laptop? Is what you wear important to you, can you create without wearing a favorite shirt, tie or piece of lingerie? Does the color matter? Do you finger a lucky charm while contemplating a character’s next action? Did you press a four leaf clover in your favorite book? Is Stevie Wonder song Very Superstitious Writing on the Wall a favorite recording?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

MY SECRET READING STASH by Kathy Ivan


Pssst! I'm going to let you in on a little secret.

Are you ready? It's a big one.

Writers—are also—readers!

Long before we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we read. And read. And read. At some point along the way, I'm sure most of us said . . . It can't be that hard, I think I'll write a book. (Or we read a book that didn't end the way we felt it should and decided we could do it better!)

No, this blog post isn't about writing. Today it's all about reading.

I've been trying to do more reading recently. For one thing, it stimulates the creative process. Plus there are just so many doggone good books out there right now; it's like a smorgasbord of reader goodness. Nirvana of the written word. Now some on this list aren't new releases. They were when I got them, but I'm just now getting them read. My to-be-read list is gargantuan and I just keep adding more and more. 

So I thought I'd tell you, my Not Your Usual Suspect blog aficionados what I've been reading recently. I've tried to provide an eclectic blend of all genres, not just mysteries. I have very diverse tastes.

GHOST STORY by JIM BUTCHER. I've had this one on the Kindle for a long time (obviously) and finally got a chance to read it. I've read every single book in the Dresden Files series, including those in the anthologies. The stories center about a wizard in Chicago who helps solve crimes. They are urban fantasy at its best and these stories just keep getting better and better. If you haven't tried reading about Harry Dresden yet, I highly recommend this series.

TEMPT ME IF YOU CAN by JANET CHAPMAN. I love all Janet Chapman's Highlander time travel books so I thought I'd give this one a try. This is a contemporary romance by this well-known author, the second in a trilogy (although I didn’t realize that at the time). The story centers about a man who gets an anonymous letter informing him he has a teenage son he never knew about. He tracks down the woman who raised him and all sorts of complications ensue. Delightful and filled with just the right amount of laughter and tears. I went back and got the first in the series to read, too.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS by Geri Foster. This was an action packed adventure that has it all, thrills, suspense, and a sexy-as-all hero (not to mention the kick-ass heroine). From the beginning you're drawn into the story. I liked book one a lot, but this (book 2) I think was even better. I hated to see it end, and can't wait for book three to come out.

FORGED IN STEEL by Maya Banks. I love the KGI series by this author. They're a group of ex-military brothers who run an elite security agency. They are all action packed thrillers with lots of suspense thrown into the mix. Plus the romance is smokin' hot (by you can't expect anything less than hot, hot, hot from this author).

These are just a few of the books I've been reading recently. So tell me, what have YOU been reading?

NOTE: This blog is not intended as reviews of the above-titled books. I just want to know what you've read recently that you liked. (I'm always on the lookout for new and exciting authors I may not have heard about and I'm sure my fellow blog followers want to know, too.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Ouija Board: Harmless or Harbinger


On Saturday nights, my parents always went out to dinner and my sister, Anne, babysat for the rest of us. Mostly we’d watch television and eat too much ice cream, but if my cousin, Jenny, joined us for the evening then she and Anne would inevitably come up with something more interesting. Often it would be prank calls, “Is your refrigerator running?” or “Do you have King Arthur in a can?” But every so often they’d turn off the lights, arrange candles around the dining room table and bring out the Ouija Board. I was never sure how I felt about this at eight-years-old. My mother always said it was just a silly game. But when Jenny and Anne sat at the table in veils and dresses confiscated from the dress-up trunk in the basement with the shadowy glow of candlelight dancing on the walls behind them and called on the spirits, I wasn’t at all sure that my mother was right.

As an adult, I’ve learned that the Ouija Board has been around for over a hundred years and most people, like my mother, believe it to be harmless fun. But there are others who question its use. Some fundamental Christians consider it the work of Satan. Many movies like Witchboard and The Craft have built on this idea and paranormal researchers won’t discount the possibility that it is a conduit to another dimension.

I’m still not sure where my opinion falls. I can’t deny that, as a kid, whenever I sat down to play and touched my fingers to the planchette, I felt a significant amount of adrenaline fluttering around in my chest.  And when the plastic disc moved along the board in answer to my questions, I honestly didn’t know if it was my subconscious moving it or if I was actually communicating with a spirit. In a poll I found on Paranormal Phenomena, 65 percent believe the Ouija Board to be a dangerous tool while 41 percent believe that the board is controlled by the user’s subconscious.

A couple of years ago, I found a board in an antique shop, one of the originals made by Hasbro, still in the box. Consciously or subconsciously, when I saw it, it brought back memories that made me stop and smile. And as soon as I held it in my hands, I knew I had to buy it. (Was that the spirit communicating with me?) The board now sits open, tilted against the wall, on a shelf above my desk and I sometimes wonder if, and how it influences me as I write.

In my new release, In the Shadow of Revenge, three young girls play out a ritual with their Ouija Board every Saturday morning. For two if them it’s harmless fun, but for Cecily, it’s much more….
The first time I knew that the spirits were truly in me had started out like any other Saturday. We’d met just like we always did. The board was laid out when Amelia and I arrived. Hilary started and then it was my turn. I placed the tips of my fingers on the heart-shaped planchette expecting to feel the heat that I’d become accustomed to. Instead, a jolt of electricity bit right into my fingertips, travelled through my wrists and up my arms until it was snapping against my neck like a shock collar on a dog. I snatched my hands away and looked at Hilary and Amelia, my heart clanging against my chest.
I’ve never told Amelia or Hilary that I have the Ouija Board, though Hilary assumes I do. I’d rather they think the police took it with them when they combed through the railcar looking for evidence on the day of the assault. And I’ve never touched it again since that time, except to pack it amongst my belongings when I moved from my mother’s house. But I’ve accepted that its spirit lives within me and that I need only touch the board to feel the current. And when it flows, I know the ground beneath me is about to shake.

How many of you played with the board as kids or maybe still do? Is it a harmless game or a dangerous tool? What do you think?

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