All posts by EilisFlynn

About EilisFlynn

Elizabeth Flynn, who writes as Eilis Flynn, is an editor and writer. Find her on social media.

Story Behind the Story: Crazy, Stupid, Dead by Wendy Delaney

The truth and memory are two important parts of all writing, especially so in the mysteries of Wendy Delaney. The seventh novel in her Working Stiffs mystery series confronts Delaney’s heroine with a death that may not be what it seems to be. Her goal as a mystery writer is to provide the reader with a story that keeps them guessing as they follow her “human lie detector” heroine all the way from the first clue to the solution. (And it kept me going, too, as her editor.)

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme behind Crazy, Stupid, Dead (Working Stiffs Mystery #7)—and all the books in my Working Stiffs Mystery series—is that things are not always what they seem. So the truth can take some time to reveal itself, even when you’re a deception detection expert (a.k.a. “human lie detector”) like my amateur sleuth, Charmaine Digby.

What’s the logline?

Drowning in your own bathtub is a stupid way to die—the recurring line that causes Charmaine to question how such a thing could have happened to a friend of her grandmother who was in relatively good health.

Nothing is as it appears in a Working Stiffs Mystery by Wendy Delaney, even with a “human lie detector.”

What were you thinking about when the idea occurred to you?

I’m always on the hunt for ways in which a well-motivated person could get away with murder. One afternoon, while combing through dozens of news stories on the subject (yes, I have an interesting search history!), I read a detective’s comments about how murder by drowning can be easier to get away with. If there are no witnesses and no evidence to suggest that it’s anything other than accidental… So it’s a murder that doesn’t necessarily look like a murder? Perfect! I already had the title I wanted to use—a twist on the movie title, Crazy, Stupid, Love—so all I had to do was to drown my story’s victim in her bathtub so that Charmaine and several other characters could think it was a crazy and/or stupid way to die—and maybe just a little bit suspicious! 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story?  

My mystery series is set in Port Merritt, a fictional popular retirement town located an easy ferry ride from Seattle, so I typically populate my stories with senior citizens whose middle-aged children live close by, and this story was no exception. The whole gang of recurring characters introduced in book 1, Trudy, Madly, Deeply, is back, so it’s always fun to explore those interrelationships as well as come up with likely suspects for them to interact with. I often draw on personal experience when I populate my stories. In Crazy, Stupid, Dead I feature a secondary character with dementia. That wasn’t my original intention, but seven years of caring for a mom with a failing memory taught me that similar nice old ladies can serve as delightfully unreliable witnesses—perfect for a light-hearted mystery. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story?  

Overall, I’m very pleased with how the story turned out. Many of my readers commented about how I kept them guessing, so mission accomplished in terms of the main plot. Really, what fun would it be to read a mystery that is easy to solve? On a personal note, I love my main characters and want to do right by them in their personal lives. Char has some emotional wounds from the past that need to heal, and I feel like good progress was made in this story for her personal growth—something that leads nicely into book 8, A Kiwi Before Dying, which will be coming soon.  

Who would play your leads in the movie if you make a deal? 

That’s a tough one. I have pictures up on my wall of actors and actresses whom I’ve “cast” for my earlier books. I’d need a time machine for some. For example, Jill St. John. In her fifties, she would have been perfect as Charmaine’s actress mother. Same with Lou Diamond Phillips—the thirty-five year-old version could have been a great fit for Detective Steve Sixkiller. As for Char, since she looks a lot like her mom, the casting could present a challenge, but if Emma Stone would like to gain twenty pounds to play her, fantastic!

What else do you want readers to know?

Since Crazy, Stupid, Dead is the seventh book in my cozy mystery series, I always suggest that readers start with book one, Trudy, Madly, Deeply, not only for a good introduction to Char and her special ability as a human lie detector but because story threads run from book to book. And, yes, her ability is steeped in real science. I became interested in Dr. Paul Ekman’s work way back when and interviewed one of his test subjects, who was kind enough to help me when Char’s character was at the “what if my sleuth could do this” stage. I’ll always be grateful that she was so generous with her time.  

Bio 

Wendy Delaney writes fun-filled cozy mysteries and is the award-winning author of the Working Stiffs Mystery series. A longtime member of Mystery Writers of America, she’s a Food Network addict and pastry chef wannabe. When she’s not killing off story people she can be found on her treadmill, working off the calories from her latest culinary adventure. Wendy lives in the Seattle area with the love of her life and is a proud grandma.

Buy Link

Crazy, Stupid, Dead is available at Amazon and is free to read for Kindle Unlimited subscribers: 

Story Behind the Story: The Way Home by Eliana West

Eliana West writes romances in which mistakes are forgiven. Writers can take heed from her own approach as an author for her forthcoming novel, The Way Home, which required her to rework an unsatisfactory first draft to redeem its promise. The result is a novel of which she’s totally delighted, providing a happily ever after for two characters whose heritage is completely different – and yet tangled in America’s history.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

The theme for all of the books in my Heart of Colton series is forgiveness. These are stories about forgiveness, redemption, and, of course, love.

What’s the logline?

A letter from the past will change their future.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

I was talking with my sister about our family history and the story came to me almost fully formed. I also wanted to figure out a way to tell a story about the complex relationships between the descendants of enslaved people and the descendants of those who enslaved them. 

Eliana West says interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

My hero’s backstory changed quite a bit and new characters that evolved as the story went along, secondary characters that really became crucial to the story. Otherwise, the bones of the story have always stayed the same. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

Taylor Colton is kind of a combination of the Property Brothers and Ben Napier from Hometown on HGTV. For all of his success, he’s pretty insecure. When I had the idea for Taylor, I pictured him as a hero who struggles, not wanting to be the hero at first. For Josephine Martin, I wanted a heroine who worked in tech and a character with a strong will and a big heart. Ada Mae is based on my great aunt, and I drew a lot of inspiration from her personality and life. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

The first draft of this story was just terrible and I had a point where I didn’t think I could salvage it. I took my time and did a major rewrite and now I’m so pleased with the result. I’m not sure at this point that I would do anything different.

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Oh boy, that’s a good question. Maybe Chris Evans for Taylor Colton, and Jaylen Barron for Josephine Martin.

What else do you want readers to know?

What I’d like readers to know is that interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers. Interracial romance is for any reader; diverse romance is just that diverse. If you haven’t read an interracial romance, give one a try. 

My books may be a challenging story for some people. I write stories that confront some uncomfortable aspects of race and history. But at the end of the day, these are romances. Love always wins.  

Bio

Eliana West writes contemporary interracial romance. Her first book, The Way Forward, establishing the Heart of Colton series, was published by Tule Publishing in 2020. When not writing, Eliana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband, traveling around in Bianca, their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia. She is the founder of Writers for Diversity (https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersfordiversity), a community for writers of all genres writing, creating diverse characters and worlds. Check out www.elianawest.com

Your general time period of preference for post

April/May

Buy link

https://books2read.com/u/38RpRZ

Story Behind the Story: Lady Rample Steps Out by Shéa MacLeod

Apparently, when you dream a book, you should write it! Shéa MacLeod did just that, with a protagonist, Lady Rample, who burst from a midnight reverie as did Pallas Athena from Zeus. You might want to get into your head just as MacLeod did, because what she transmuted from dream to manuscript was a fun jazz-era English detective who was all parts Katharine Hepburn, no parts stodgy, and every bit feel-good solver of murders. (Or maybe solver of feel-good murders. Or both.)  If what’s in your head is anything like what’s in MacLeod’s, by all means, get it down on paper!

Lady Rample Mysteries feature Shéa MacLeod’s character from a dream.

What’s the theme behind your story?

I rarely have a conscious theme when writing. I simply start out to tell a fun story and somewhere along the way a theme sort of weaves itself in. If Lady Rample Steps Out had a theme, it’s about friendship, acceptance, and the wages of greed. 

What’s the logline?

When Lady Rample steps out, murder steps in.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea for this series occurred to you?

I was dreaming. No, literally! I dreamed the character and two of the titles. It was incredibly clear, and I woke up just knowing I had to write about this woman’s adventures. It was about a year later that I put out the first book. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

As I mentioned, the main character, Lady Rample, appeared to me in a dream. She looked like Katharine Hepburn when she was young. She had zero forks to give, a cocktail in one hand, and a smirk on her lips. I’m not sure much has changed since then, except she does have more of a propensity for a bit of klutziness now and then. Other characters like Aunt Butty (of the crazy hats) came along later as I thought about the people who would occupy this woman’s inner circle. They wouldn’t be usual or ordinary. They would be quirky and a bit odd and thoroughly wonderful. 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I love the story and I doubt I would do anything differently if I had the chance. I’m not the sort of person who dwells on stories already told—I’m too busy writing the next one! Besides, the beauty of a long-running series is that I can explore different aspects of personality, different characters, different experiences, and different locations. If I didn’t spend enough time on something as I wanted, I have the chance in the next book. It never gets boring!

Who would play the leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Well, since Katharine Hepburn is out, and so is Cary Grant (who would have played her best friend, Chaz), I shall have to search among contemporary actors! I think Evan Rachel Wood (although a bit young) would make a marvelous Lady Rample. Dame Judi Dench could play her eccentric, hat-loving Aunt Butty, and Dame Helen Mirren would be Aunt Butty’s BFF, Louise Pennyfather. Meanwhile, Lady R’s best friend Chaz would be played by Harry Lloyd, and her paramour, jazz musician Hale Davis, by Idris Elba.

What else do you want readers to know?

The Lady Rample Mysteries are set in 1930s London during the jazz era. Be prepared for lots of afternoon tea, vintage cocktails, lovely parties, madcap capers, and the occasional feel-good murder.

Bio

Shéa MacLeod is the author of over 65 titles including the popular cozy mystery series, Lady Rample Mysteries, and the bestselling urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, Sunwalker Saga. She has dreamed of writing novels since before she could hold a crayon. She totally blames her mother.

She resides in the leafy green hills outside Portland, Oregon, where she indulges in her fondness for strong coffee, Hopepunk, lemon curd, and dragons. She can usually be found at her desk dreaming of creative ways to off her characters. She quite loves a feel-good murder. Fictionally speaking, of course.

Buy Link

https://books2read.com/u/4Aw2vk

Story Behind The Story: The Highlander’s Rescued Maiden by Anna Campbell

How many times have you been inspired by a photograph, maybe of a place that made you wonder about its history? In Anna Campbell’s novel, a place was the inspiration, and she included photos of Coroghan Castle to demonstrate (and you’ve got to admit, it’s a beautiful, though forbidding spot!). 

What’s the theme behind your story?

True love can come unexpectedly, but when it does, it’s worth any risk. 

What’s the logline?

The Highlands just got hotter!

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

In the spring of 2019, I visited the gorgeous Hebridean island of Canna in Scotland and found myself intrigued by what I thought was a ruined castle on the coast looking straight out across at the Isle of Skye. When I asked about it, I was told that it was called Coroghan Castle, and it was originally a jail! In the 17th century, a jealous husband locked his beautiful wife up in this small cell to keep her out of her lover’s reach. As you can imagine, this got my writer’s imagination working overtime. 

So my Rapunzel story was born. I changed the jealous husband to a tyrannical father and the beautiful wife became a lovely maiden, banished from her clan. The rather grim castle on Canna turned into a luxurious tower on a tiny islet out in the ocean. The guesthouse where I stayed looked out over the Atlantic toward an isolated lighthouse called Hyskeir, which became the basis for my heroine Ellen’s world.

You can read more about Coroghan Castle and the events that inspired the original idea for my story here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-14837405

I’ve included a couple of pictures of Coroghan Castle that I took on Canna. While the setting is beautiful, it’s a rather sad and forbidding place and not really a setting for romance. You can see why I turned Ellen’s lonely tower into a haven of luxury! 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

My original concept for the story was as a grand adventure with much derring-do and swashbuckling, but when I sat down to write it, it ended up becoming something much more intimate and sensual. For most of the story, it’s just Will and Ellen learning how to trust each other and falling in love. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

My heroine, Ellen Cameron, was always a strong and intelligent woman who was a victim of unspeakable injustice. As I wrote her, the effects of ten years of lonely exile became clearer, so the final product is more complex and rounded than my original idea (that always happens!). I first thought of my hero as a dashing, cynical rogue who stumbled into true love much against his will. On the page, though, Will Mackinnon was much more emotionally aware than I’d planned. He’d scoff at the idea of anyone calling him a hero, but he definitely ended up being one! 

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

The story ended up being more of a poignant emotional journey than I originally thought it would be, and I’m pleased with that. There’s an intensity between these two characters that I hope readers will like. The love story is always front and center. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to follow the flow of the characters and events, even if that takes you a long way from your original idea. The good stuff is what comes up unexpectedly! 

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal? 

Oh, I’d love this to be a movie! For Will Mackinnon, the dashing hero, I think I’d go for a younger Ewan MacGregor (although he’s still pretty appealing now!). He’s got that combination of humor and intelligence that would suit the character. I must say as I was writing it, Errol Flynn was in my mind, so if they invent time travel, there’s my hero! For my heroine, I had Michelle Pfeiffer in mind when I wrote her. She has the intelligence and beauty. Out of the current crop of actresses, perhaps Emilia Clarke in one of her blond incarnations. 

What else do you want readers to know?

This is the last of my Lairds Most Likely books (there’s a tenth coming out, but it’s already been part of an anthology). While The Highlander’s Rescued Maiden can be read as a standalone, it ties up themes and characters in The Highlander’s Defiant Captive (currently only 99 cents!) and The Highlander’s Christmas Quest

Bio

Australian Anna Campbell has written 11 multi award-winning historical romances for Avon HarperCollins and Grand Central Publishing. As an independently published author, she’s released 27 bestselling stories, including 10 in her latest series, The Lairds Most Likely. Anna has won numerous awards for her stories, including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice), and the Australian Romance Readers’ favorite historical romance (five times). 

Buy link

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Highlanders-Rescued-Maiden-Lairds-Likely-ebook/dp/B08XW97KMJ/

Story Behind the Story: Family Skeletons by Josie Malone

The latest in the Story Behind the Story series is the latest in Josie Malone’s Baker City Hearts and Haunts series, about a town that is teeming in ghosts, and seems to be fairly comfortable about it. I did some early editing on Malone’s first entry in this series, and I remember thinking about the town, and how it must feel to be that close to its ancestors! Josie is also offering a free ebook raffle of the first book in the series, so drop a comment at the website and I’ll choose a winner.

What’s the theme behind your story? 

Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting.

What’s the logline? 

Baker City Hearts and Haunts, “Where love is real and so are the ghosts!”

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you? 

Family Skeletons is the third book in the series, and Tate Murphy, the career soldier hero, charmed me when his friends in More Than A Spirit (book 2) repeated what he said, that if he wanted a wife, the Army would issue one to him. He met the heroine, Sullivan Barlow, the night she buried her best friend, Raven, who’d died in combat. Neither of them immediately realize they’re being haunted by Raven, who plays Cupid for them.

How did the original idea change as you went along? 

Raven became a stronger character than I anticipated, but she was always enjoyable, especially when she began interacting with the town medium. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change? 

They both grew during the story, especially the heroine who learns to “embrace the suck,” as the hero says, and that she doesn’t have to give up her best friend, even if Raven isn’t what could be considered “real” any longer. Then again, what is “real”?

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not? 

I always love the books when they’re finished. For now, the story is perfect. Of course, in ten years when I know more about writing and crafting stories, I’m sure some error will jump out at me.

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal? 

Jennifer Lawrence and Sam Claflin. I could definitely see them kicking butt in a movie version.

What else do you want readers to know? 

Here’s the back-cover blurb:

Sergeant First Class Sullivan Barlow has plans for her future, and none of them include the guy she slept with in a night of weakness. Intending to forget the devastation of losing her best friend in Afghanistan, Sully woke the next morning still alone. Her only solace — she hadn’t told the man her real name. 

A career soldier, Tate Murphy has three more years in the Army until he’s eligible for retirement. Seven weeks ago, he met a woman in a hotel bar and spent the night with her. He hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind and can’t believe his luck when he finds her again.

Then they discover their first night together resulted in something they never expected. She’s pregnant and Tate immediately proposes. Pregnant and struggling with survivor guilt, the last thing Sully needs is to learn her best friend may have died, but hasn’t left yet. 

Tate says, “Sometimes courage is an act of survival.” Sully fears trust is a casualty of war. Will she and Tate ever find it again either by themselves, or with the help of those who have passed on before? 

Bio:

Josie Malone lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington state. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses since 1967, she finds in many cases, she’s taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master’s degree in teaching, being a substitute teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve — all leading to her second career as a published author. Visit her at her website, www.josiemalone.com, to learn about her books. To sign up for her newsletter, go to https://sendfox.com/josiemaloneauthor

Here’s the link to the Family Skeletons trailer! https://youtu.be/g1jE6gnvXQA 

Buy links:

Amazon-ebooks – https://amzn.to/2PHqBp3

Amazon Print – https://amzn.to/3cfKyeo

Nook Press – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/family-skeletons-josie-malone/1138969574?ean=2940162220930

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1072858

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/family-skeletons-5

Story Behind the Story: Snowbound with the Sheriff by Laurel Greer

With my background in Wall Street, Laurel Greer’s story about a Wall Street hedge fund manager coming home to Montana had me curious about the romance take on the financial scene—what do Wall Street whistle-blowers do when they have to get out of town? I was pleased to find out that they go home and find romance! 

What’s the theme behind your story? 

Can we find redemption after past mistakes, and if so, what does it look like?

What’s the logline? 

A humiliated hedge fund manager is trapped with her sheriff ex-boyfriend during a blizzard and must face the pain of the past to break down the protective walls holding her back from love and fulfillment.

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you? 

I really wanted to sell another trilogy to Harlequin Special Edition, and it was my first chance to sell three books in one arc and one contract. Starting with dogs seemed like a good plan, so I hung the trilogy on a family working together to start up a search-and-rescue dog training facility. Stella, the heroine of Snowbound with the Sheriff, is the angel investor. With her book coming third in the series, I was able to learn pieces of her history and dysfunctional relationship with her half-siblings while plotting the previous two books. One of the first things that came to me about her book was the title—I knew I wanted to call it Snowbound with the Sheriff. Forced proximity is a great tool for taking away a character’s ability to run from their problems, and a little cabin in the Montana woods seemed like a perfect place to make that happen to Stella and Ryan.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

I struggled with getting the beginning right for a long time. I originally had it start in New York with Stella deciding to come home. It just didn’t work. So I fast-forwarded to Stella arriving in Montana and getting pulled over for (marginally) speeding by Ryan on a snowy night. With the shorter word counts of series/category romance, it’s more effective to have the main romantic protagonists meet/interact in chapter one. My new beginning meant getting to the romantic conflict faster.

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

Ryan came to be as a tertiary character in Sutter Creek Book 3. Sheriffs make popular characters in series romance, and I knew I wanted him to be one of the heroes in my trilogy. With both Stella’s siblings being Sutter Creek homebodies, it made sense that she hadn’t lived in town in years, and that she had a past relationship with the now-sheriff that had ended in an ugly way. She needed a reason to have missed some big recent developments in her siblings’ lives and still be heroic—that’s where the whistleblowing came in. Another change for Stella was her having a different mom from her younger siblings. I had originally envisioned all three of them having the same parents.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not? 

I’m pleased with the results of this story. When I wrote it, I was going through a period of depression and was really disappointed with it. But my critique partners assured me it was fine, so I submitted it to my editor in order to make my deadline. Five months later when it was time for revisions, I was better managing my depression and was surprised to find I loved what I had done with Snowbound. I do have stories where I’d love to change things, but not so much with this one. 

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

Oooh, fancasting—always fun. My cover characters look a little like Brad Paisley and Emily Blunt, so maybe them? LOL. Other choices would be Timothy Olyphant with slightly darker hair circa when he was in Catch and Release(time machine!) and Rachel McAdams with blond hair.

What else do you want readers to know?

Snowbound with the Sheriff is the third in a trilogy, but all my Special Edition books are written as standalones and can be read without reading any of the others in the series. If a reader started with this one, it would be obvious that Stella’s siblings had recently had their own love stories, but nothing is lost from Stella’s story. Also, I’m now writing a third Sutter Creek trilogy, and the first heroine is one of the side characters in Snowbound—Emma Halloran. It’s so much fun to get to pull secondary and tertiary characters from previous books and give them HEAs of their own. My other big project this year is an M/M second-chance romance (another one, I know—it’s often part of my core story) set in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North, about a Montreal businessman who returns home to Vermont to save his dad’s struggling artisan letterpress business and has to work with his hot, Scottish, college ex-boyfriend. What to expect: competence porn, interfering family, groveling, and a large helping of artisan stationery geekery.

Bio

Desperate for a hot hockey-player fix during an NHL lockout, Laurel picked up her laptop and started writing. She branched out from hockey romance while on a research trip to Montana. As she traveled along the Gallatin River, the town of Sutter Creek came to life and is now the setting of her six-book (soon to be nine!) miniseries with Harlequin Special Edition. She is also working on second-chance, M/M romance to be released in May 2021 in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. She fills her creative well by staying up way too late reading romance novels, chugging vats of tea, and falling down Pinterest rabbit holes.

Buy link

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/snowbound-with-the-sheriff-3
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/snowbound-with-the-sheriff-laurel-greer/1137325557

Story Behind the Story: 1000 Kisses by Jody Wallace

Jody Wallace specializes in quixotic stories, mean kitties (but not really), and surprises around the corner. In 1000 Kisses, the second in her Fae Realm series, the unexpected is key in exploring a familiar trope of meeting your One True Love: You may have a destined mate, but what if you don’t like each other?

What’s the theme behind your story?

1000 Kisses is the second book in my Fae Realm series that has been on pause since I completed 1000 Kisses. In writing it, I was toying around with the popular trope in paranormal romance of “fated mates”—as in, what if you and your fated mate don’t like each other? What if your fated mate tells you no? What if there’s no biological drive toward a fated mate, but more of a philosophical one, and the mates in question can accept or deny it if they wish? I hadn’t seen that particular situation in paranormal or fantasy romance before, so that was all my brain needed to scooch off down the rabbit trail.

What’s the logline?

Magic might go by the book, but love doesn’t play by the rules.

How did the original idea change as you went along?

Well, the cat who plays matchmaker, kind of, took over and decided to be a major part of the story. Like cats do. And then the gnomes wanted a piece of the action, because they’re greedy little jerks, so the book did not end up where I thought it would. I am sure the cats guided me in the correct direction, though! 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

The characters were introduced in Book 1, Survival of the Fairest. SPOILER ALERT: In Book 1, our hero of Book 2 thought his “fated mate” was the heroine of Book 1, so he was the driving force behind chasing her down when she went AWOL in the human world. Turns out the fiery, spontaneous Talista from Survival of the Fairest was NOT his fated mate—it was her quiet, calm twin sister Anisette. The book then explored how quiet and calm and thoughtful can be just as strong and brave, if not stronger, than more obvious trappings of courage, as the hero himself, Embor, is kind of a stiff, uptight, quiet guy.

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

I’d have added more cats in Book 1 and sold more copies of Book 2 so it would be worth my while to finish Book 3! Does that count as doing things differently??

What else do you want readers to know?

To buy Book 2 and encourage me to finish Book 3? So far it is AMAAAAAAZING and also chock full of gnomes, cussing, kissing, cats, fighting, unexpected turnabouts, mystery, and adventure. The heroine is the sister of the hero from Book 2 and the hero is someone we haven’t met in the previous books. 

Bio:

Jody Wallace’s 30-plus titles include SF/F romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. Her fiction features diverse protagonists, action, adventure, and humor. Her readers frequently comment on her great characters, suspenseful stories, and intriguing and creative world building. When describing her methods, Jody says: “There are two sides to every story. I aim to tell the third. And I add cats regardless.” 

Outside of her fiction career, Jody has employed her master’s degree in creative writing to work as a college English instructor, technical documents editor, market analyst, web designer, and all-around pain in the butt. You can learn more about her at https://jodywallace.com

To buy:

Buy link https://books2read.com/u/mq0Zr9

The Story Behind the Story: Kolea by Russell Cahill

Russell Cahill’s stories about his Hawaiian ancestors always fascinated me, because they all had a touch of history, a touch of mystery, and a touch of the fantastic. Kolea’s story has a familiar grounding: a child of royal blood with a destiny to fulfill…but his destiny is not one that the reader may expect. (I have to state at this point that I was the copy editor for this story, so I got to be an early observer about Kolea’s journey!) 

Kolea: A child, born of royal blood, is spirited away and raised in isolation. Pursued by an older brother, he escapes and travels to new worlds but cannot escape his fate.

It’s hard for me to believe in magic. I am a product of two cultures. Mom was descended from people of Europe who came to North America in the 1600s. Dad was a Native Hawaiian. One set of grandparents were pragmatic Yankees. The other grandparents were closely related to the land, the sea, and the plants and animals of Hawai’i. They were comfortable with the unseen and were quite superstitious. I ended up with a degree in science and an itch under the skin regarding the supernatural. Writing Kolea allowed me to scratch that itch.

If you want to get close to the ancient culture of Polynesia, there is no better place than Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. Stories of shapechangers, ghosts, and spooky happenings are everywhere. I was fortunate to be assigned as superintendent of the park in 1970. I rode horseback or walked through that crater at least once a month for the four years of my tenure. 

There is good reason to believe the ancient ones believed the place to be a sacred location. There is a lava tube purported to be the repository of the umbilical cords cut from infants. I have seen the skeletal remains of ancient people hidden well back in the lava caves high on the mountain. And the workers I supervised refused to spend the night in areas of the back country that had disturbing Hawaiian spiritual significance. 

On one of my treks, I was climbing the steep trail at Halemau’u when I spotted a pueo, a Hawaiian owl, hunting on the steep slopes. It flew back and forth and didn’t seem to notice me as I stood quite still. The bird flew directly over me, perhaps five feet over me, and when it was just above me it recognized me and did a little hitch, continuing its flight. The magical part was that we stared into each other’s eyes for what seemed a long moment and I saw its eyes flecked with gold particles. I instantly felt calm, as if I had had a discussion with the owl. That evening I decided that although my father’s family aumakua (an animal god who is your relative and protector) was a shark, the owl had assigned itself to me. I went home that evening and began jotting notes about the pueo. 

A few years later I was living in a wall tent in rural Alaska. My little family and I were building a cabin in the forest at Gustavus. My wife and I had a disagreement about where the cabin should be sited. She liked one location and I, another. In the middle of one night, I got up to relieve myself and walked to the site I had chosen. As I prepared, a short-eared owl, the same species as the pueo, took off from a tall spruce tree and, with a lot of noise, swooped down from its perch and flew right above me, screaming its call. 

I took the nighttime event as a sign. The following day, we staked out the new cabin on the site my wife favored.

I began writing. Each evening after working on the construction of the cabin and having dinner, I sat by an oil lamp with a notebook and pencil and told the story of a boy, adopted by a mystical hula dancer and her blind warrior companion. Stories told about the battles between Maui and Hawai’i warriors were fresh in my mind from readings, and discussions with Hawaiian people in Hana, Kipahulu, and Kaupo. 

The idea of a canoe voyage to North America evolved from readings about the probability of prehistoric contact between Polynesians and the indigenous people of the Americas. The characters were formed from first-hand observations of people, and from the classic warring families found in all literature. I translated my own adventures in Alaska and the west coast of North America into plot points. After my sojourn in the Alaska Bush, I put the penciled draft in a file and set it aside as new work opportunities came up. 

The draft sat untouched for more than forty years. One day, one of my grandchildren was in need, and I gave her some money. She asked, “What can I do for you, Grandpa?” She was a good typist. I retrieved the notebook draft and said, “Put this in a Word file for me.” A couple of weeks later, the first draft came up on my computer screen and I went to work on a new draft. I pulled in research material on Hawaiian voyaging canoes and other materials and completed a first draft.

With no experience in publishing, I was flummoxed. But one sunny day, my wife and I were having lunch at our favorite little seafood place in Aberdeen, Washington, and I saw a note pinned on the wall for the South Bay Writers Group annual meeting to be held the following weekend at the Tokeland Hotel. A publisher would be there to hear pitches from authors. I drove south to Tokeland and reserved the last room available in Washington’s oldest hotel. “Do you mind the haunted room?” I was asked. “Of course not. I’m a writer,” I said.

On the following weekend, a representative of Booktrope, a cooperative publishing venture in Seattle at the time, listened to my pitch and agreed to publish Kolea. Along the way, I learned about editors, proofreaders, cover designers and marketing people. After the book was published, Booktrope folded. I was rescued by Gwen Gades, the publisher of Dragon Moon Books in Red Deer, Alberta. Gwen had designed the cover for Kolea. She agreed to continue to publish Kolea. And that, good reader, is the story behind the story.

Russell Cahill is a San Francisco–born child of a mixed-race family. His father was a Hawaiian seaman, his mother a descendant of Pilgrims. A former national park ranger in Yosemite, Alaska, Washington DC, and Hawai’i, Russell now writes from his home in a forest north of Olympia, Washington. His fascination with the native cultures of North America and Polynesia inspired him to write Kolea, a story of early Hawai’i and a voyage to North America.

Story Behind the Story: Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan

Alexis Morgan’s series about Snowberry Creek, and her amateur sleuth, Abby McCree, reminds us that there’s always murder in the most unlikely places. This Story Behind The Story is about the latest in Morgan’s Abby McCree Murder Mysteries and how characters can shape and grow. 

Cover of Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan

What’s the theme behind your story?

The theme behind DEATH BY INTERMISSION is the importance of supporting the people you care about, both in good times and bad. 

What’s the logline?

DEATH BY INTERMISSION—It’s a blockbuster whodunit…

What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?

I was trying to think of a very different location for a murder to take place when I came up with the image of someone sitting in a lawn chair just inside the tree line at a city park looking as if he’d dozed off. From there I needed a reason for both him and Abby McCree, my amateur sleuth, to be there in the first place. Since Abby is always getting “volunteered” to serve on committees in the town of Snowberry Creek, this was the perfect time for her to be in charge of the town’s movie-in-the-park night. 

How did the original idea change as you went along?

I like Abby to have a good reason for getting involved in solving a murder. Originally, it was going to be because she was in charge of the night’s festivities and that alone was enough to draw her into the investigation. However, as I started writing, I realized that wasn’t enough of a personal connection. To add additional depth, I had one of the chief suspects be dating Abby’s mother. In turn, he was trying to protect another possible suspect by withholding key information, which complicated the situation for everyone. That one change gave the story more depth and tension, especially regarding the relationship between Abby and her mother. 

How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?

This is the first time the reader meets Abby’s mother even though it’s the fourth book in the series. I’ve always pictured Abby and her mother being very close. But as the story unfolds, they have to confront their changing relationship. Abby’s life had changed dramatically since moving to Snowberry Creek, and she’s never realized that her mother isn’t happy about some of the choices Abby has made. Things get a bit rocky for them, but their relationship becomes much stronger in the process.  

Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?

Overall, I’m pleased with how the story turned out. Abby and her friends have come a long way from where the readers first met them in DEATH BY COMMITTEE, Book One of the Abby McCree Murder Mysteries. Abby’s circle of friends has expanded, drawing in more people from both her past and her new home in Snowberry Creek. At times I wish I had created more in-depth backstories for the major characters before I started writing the first book. That would make their reactions to different situations more predictable. However, as a writer, I really prefer getting to know the characters over the course of the series just like the readers do.   

Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?

I really love the idea “casting” my characters with real-life actors! I can just picture Abby, my plucky amateur sleuth, being played by Anna Kendrick. Tripp Blackston, Abby’s tenant and almost-boyfriend, is a former Special Forces soldier and would be played by Jai Courtney. Henry Cavill would make a perfect Gage Logan, Abby’s friend and the local chief of police. 

What else do you want readers to know?

I would like the readers to know that Zeke, Abby’s ninety-five pound mastiff mix roommate, is based on two of the dogs in my own life. My granddogs, Walter and Remus, are both bulldogs, so I have firsthand experience in dealing with the issues Zeke has with drooling and shedding. They are also both extremely fond of dog cookies.  I keep several flavors on hand for whenever they come to visit. 

Bio

USA Today best-selling author Alexis Morgan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. She is the author of over forty novels, novellas, and short stories that span a variety of genres. DEATH BY INTERMISSION is the fourth book in her first cozy mystery series, The Abby McCree Mysteries

Buy link

Here’s a link to the book’s page on my website.  It includes several buy links, the back blurb, and the first chapter of the book. 

https://www.alexismorgan.com/books/deathbyintermission.html

Story Behind the Story: My Sweet Enemy by Jenny Hartwell

Jenny Hartwell’s tale about pivoting to publish should be a familiar one to anyone who’s aspired to publish, whether it’s a novel, a short story, or even a blog post. And about chocolate. How could anyone complain about a love story involving chocolate?!

At a writing conference I attended a few years back, the entire panel of agents and editors announced to the crowded room full of eager authors that historical romance was a tough sell these days. 

Huh. Too bad I was pitching my historical romance to them the next day. 

After going nowhere slowly with my story of carriages, ballgowns, and duels at dawn, I returned home fighting despondency. What to write next? I took a long walk, thinking about the power of pivoting. Romcoms were just taking off. Could I pivot from writing about English ladies in the early 1800s to penning pithy tales of modern love? Could I make pop culture references? Could I be funny

The answer, surprisingly, was yes. 

Before I discovered this, though, I had to search the depths of my soul. What do I love? Truly, madly, deeply? Love enough to spend countless hours researching and writing and editing the topic? The answer came readily enough: chocolate. I loooooove chocolate. However, the sweet treat itself was not a plot. But what about everyone’s favorite chocolate story from childhood, Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? What if I slammed it together with the breakout enemies-to-lovers romcom, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne? I returned from my walk invigorated, pivoting, and ready to leap into something new. 

It turned out, I adored writing contemporary romance. I love pop culture, and now I had an academic purpose for my subscription to People magazine. Including references to Taylor Swift, Star Wars, Axe body spray, the Hemsworth brothers, and Lord Voldemort was fun. And more important, it was funny. 

I had to modernize the story of the impoverished Charlie Bucket, turning my main character into Charlotte Beecher, a twenty-something chocolatier who’s out of work and getting desperate as her bills and student loans pile up. Thankfully, she wins a social media contest for one of five internships at a gourmet chocolate company, my spin on Dahl’s five golden tickets. The interns compete in a series of challenges with the winner earning a high-level job at the chocolate company. One of the other interns, Mister Tall, Dark, and Haughty, is all spreadsheets and number crunching, and when he and sunshiny Charlotte go toe to toe, sparks fly! 

Once I’d worked out my plot, I had some serious research to conduct. And by research, I mean eating chocolate. Studying chocolate. Making chocolate. Let me tell you, it was a tough gig. Luckily, I live in the same city as two gourmet chocolate companies, so I set up tours, tastings, and a truffle-making class. It was extraordinarily delicious and educational. I even met the eponymous owner of one of the factories, and I gushed to her—perhaps a bit too gushingly, now that I look back with the distance of time—about how I was writing a novel based on a factory just like hers with a female owner just like her. I asked her for a selfie. I rambled. I preached on the transcendent joy of her salted caramels. And…I’m lucky there were no restraining orders issued. 

Writing the book was both easy and hard. The dialogue flowed. I could have my characters swear. I didn’t have to research how long a carriage journey from London to Bath on dirt roads would take. But…I was also living in my house while it underwent a six-month renovation. Jackhammers and writing are not boon companions. I loved this story, though, so I figured out how to write despite the construction. I wrote in my car. I wrote on friends’ back porches while they were at work. I hummed along to the member of the construction crew who was fond of belting out Cher tunes while I typed away. And at last, my enemies-to-lovers chocolate factory romcom was done. 

There is quite a bit that happened in between typing The end and the publication of my debut, but that’s a story for a different day. My Sweet Enemy was released by Entangled Publishing on February 8. Being published and seeing my book out in the world, the result of my career-changing pivot, fills me with more transcendent joy than eating a salted caramel.

And that’s really saying something.  

Jenny Hartwell has a confession–she loves People magazine as much as Pride and Prejudice. Her fun, pop culture–adoring side shines in her contemporary rom-com novels set in a gourmet chocolate factory while Jenny’s Regency romances feature strong damsels and swoony lords. Her writing has won or finaled in numerous contests including the Golden Heart, The Emily, Four Seasons, Fool for Love, and The Catherine. Jenny lives with her family in the verdant Pacific Northwest. She loves movies, travel, and staying up late with a good book. And, of course, chocolate. Jenny is represented by Lesley Sabga of The Seymour Agency. 

Blurb for My Sweet Enemy

Sunny chocolatier Charlotte Beecher is unemployed, in student debt, and on the verge of hawking her beloved copper pots just to make ends meet. So when a gourmet chocolate factory chooses her as one of five candidates to help re-launch the company in their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory–inspired competition, Charlotte begins to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Fellow contestant Luke Wells complicates her plans to win by a landslide with his flow charts and marketing projections. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Haughty is all about the bottom line and is as bitter as she is sweet. And when he snubs Charlotte in the first challenge, misunderstanding or not, she transforms from cream puff to jawbreaker. Bring. It. On.

But when these two rivals find themselves distracted by delicious attraction, will they let their passion get in the way of winning the competition?

Buy links: 

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble: 

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-sweet-enemy-jenny-hartwell/1138639226?ean=9781649371249