One of my favorite things about being a fiction writer is exploring different worlds. For the Return to Jenkins Cove series I wrote with Rebecca York and Patricia Rosemoor, I got to explore a different world in the literary sense AND in the literal.
Most of my books are thrillers (the Val Ryker series and the Codename: Chandler series) and romantic suspense with an emphasis on the suspense (Small Town Secrets and Rocky Mountain Thrillers). So when Rebecca York and Patricia Rosemoor approached me to write a series of paranormal romantic suspense trilogies with them, I jumped at the chance to do something a little different. The result was three serial stories (Gypsy Magic, Renegade Magic, and New Orleans Magic) and two novel trilogies (Security Breach - available in 2018 - and Return to Jenkins Cove, which will be released November 1, 2017.
For all five of the projects we did together, we took research trips to explore our settings. Our trip for Return to Jenkins Cove took Patricia and I to Rebecca's neck of the woods (Maryland). We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, and plotted out our series using St. Michaels as a loose model for our small town of Jenkins Cove, Maryland.
Christmas… Ghosts… Mystery… Romance…
Something evil lurks in the charming town of Jenkins Cove. When Sophie Caldwell devotes a room in her B&B to communicate with spirits, dangerous secrets rise to the surface, and the lives of three couples will never be the same.
Christmas Spirit by Rebecca York
Michael Bryant is sure he doesn't believe in the supernatural, but when Chelsea Caldwell's life is in danger, he must trust the words of a ghost to save her.
Christmas Awakening by Ann Voss Peterson
When Marie Leonard returns to Jenkins Cove for her father’s funeral, she never expects to rekindle her romance with billionaire recluse Brandon Drake…nor to be haunted by the ghost of his dead wife.
Christmas Delivery by Patricia Rosemoor
Haunted by ghosts, Jenkins Cove will now have to deal with Simon Shea who has “returned from the dead” seeking revenge...only to reconnect with Lexie Thornton, the girl he loved, and the daughter they conceived thirteen years ago.
Return to Jenkins Cove: Christmas Spirit... Christmas Awakening... Christmas Delivery... To get the whole story, read all three!
I have two brothers, one older, one younger, and they are both spectacular guys. Growing up, our parents took us on epic road trips across the U.S., and the three of us continue to enjoy traveling as adults. But where my younger brother and I have always found our way back to our native Wisconsin, my older brother has lived several places throughout the world. A few years ago, my older brother decided he wanted to live in the mountains. So after his sons graduated high school, he moved to Cody, Wyoming.
I visited Wyoming several times as a child (Yellowstone and Grand Teton were my dad's favorite national parks). But it was my brother moving to Cody and my subsequent trips to visit him, that inspired me to write three romantic thrillers set in that part of the world. And that's how Rocky Mountain Thrillers was born.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN THRILLERS are fast-paced novels with a dangerous edge. Each stand-alone story is set in the brutal and beautiful Rocky Mountains and contains intrigue, romance, and break-neck action. Read all three!
When single mother and accountant Shanna Clarke goes on her company's big game hunting trip in Wyoming, she never dreams that her boss intends to hunt her.
Wyoming rancher Sarah Trask is on the run from the law after a dirty sheriff shoots her brother, and the only man she can turn to for help is her unborn baby's father... a man unaware he is about to become a dad.
Denver cop-turned-investigator Melissa Anderson was on the job for years, but she’d never fired her gun... until a drive by shooting in front of the courthouse sends her and a child witness under her protection on the run to Wyoming... and into the arms of the child's rancher father.
New Orleans is magic. The music. The food. The energy in the air. Every part of the city is alive with creativity. From the strains of a zydeco band drifting from an open door on Frenchmen Street, to the scents in the Quarter--good and bad--to the sweat trickling down my back on a hot day, the city makes me feel alive.
Rebecca York, Patricia Rosemoor, and I tried to capture a little of that atmosphere in our serial romantic suspense series, New Orleans Magic.
Of course, it's tough to truly capture a place like New Orleans. It tickles all the senses, including some of the sixth kind. So if you get a chance, take a trip to the Crescent City and experience the magic for yourself!
And be sure to read New Orleans Magic before you go!
NEW ORLEANS MAGIC SERIAL
After a murder at a voodoo ceremony in a charming New Orleans bistro, three street cops, Jordan O’Reilly, Liam O’Reilly, and Zachary Doucet, have a personal stake in solving the case. But if they meddle in the investigation, they may get thrown off the force--or worse.
Part 1: Jordan
Jordan O’Reilly is first to take the heat. While moonlighting with a security company, he’s assigned to protect Camille DuPree, the restaurant owner. Six years ago, he and Camille were in love, and each thinks the other broke it off. Now they’re thrown back together and must cope with their shattered relationship as well as the murder investigation and an ugly voodoo charm that shows up on Camille’s doorstep.
Part 2: Liam
Liam O’Reilly doesn’t have to wear the uniform to be a cop, he is the uniform. Disciplined and skeptical, Liam doesn’t believe in voodoo any more than he does in lasting love. But then he meets brash defense attorney Simone Jones… and his carefully structured world spins out of control.
Part 3: Zachary
Officer Zachary Doucet arrives at a murder scene‒‒the victim another voodoo ceremony participant‒‒only to face his ex-partner Detective Rebecca Romero. Zachary sees this murder as proof that the wrong man is in jail and intends to clear his half-brother Jordan. From experience, Rebecca fears he’ll do anything to get what he needs, so she unofficially works the case with him. Their unconsummated attraction to each other flares anew, but with Rebecca a straight arrow and Zachary a maverick, is there hope for a future together?
New Orleans Magic: Jordan…Liam…Zachary…each of these compelling stories ends with an HEA for the hero and heroine. But only the full set will finally get to the bottom of the murder mystery. Be sure to read them all!
As part of my local fire department's citizen's academy, I got the opportunity to try my hand at some destruction. Here I am using a cutter and a spreader to dismantle an old car. Yep, a little Jaws of Life action! You wouldn't believe how heavy these tools are. I was sore for days. But being able to pull someone of a crashed car would be worth a little muscle soreness, don't you think?
I used this experience in a scene from Pushed Too Far. Check out the excerpt below the pics.
In 2014, I wrote a supernatural thriller with a touch of romance to be included in a box set with eleven fabulous authors. I'd had this story in my mind for a while, and although it was a departure from the police thrillers I write, I thought it would be fun. It was. :) My police chief, Val Ryker, along with David Lund, make an appearance in this creepy story about a kid who ventures into an abandoned school and disappears. His mother must face her own fears and haunting memories to find him. At the time I wrote The School, my old middle school was being torn down and replaced, and that was the school I had in mind when I was writing. Check out the pictures of settings in The School below.
Now The School is available as an ebook, and it will be part of my Small Town Secrets series, a collection of books set in the world of Val Ryker. Click here to get The School FREE on Amazon from May 27 through May 31, 2016.
The Val Ryker thrillers are set in Lake Loyal, Wisconsin, a fictitious town located among the Baraboo Bluffs. But many real locations make it into the stories, too. Here are photos of some of the settings I used in Dead Too Soon. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'm not going to explain the below scenes. But once you've read the book, I suspect you'll recognize them all.
It took Lund only seventeen minutes to drive from the Dells to the old Baraboo train depot, even without lights and sirens. And yet, by the time they stopped on the hill overlooking the red brick building, Val had a horrible feeling they were too late.
She eyed the hulk of a building along the tracks below and rubbed her numb hand and arm. Three stories of red brick and arched windows, the depot had been around since the 1800s. No doubt it had been bustling back then, when the most efficient mode of travel was by train and Baraboo had been home to the Ringling Brothers Circus. Now cinderblock filled spaces that were once windows, some painted red, some unadorned gray. The structure's west end held two graffiti-scarred garage doors, a small steel door tucked beside one. To the east, a single small door was the only way out.
She and Lund joined the county emergency response team at the edge of a scraggly clump of barren trees.
"We've been seeing far too much of each other lately, Val," Bobby Vaughan, the county's ERT commander, said. "Helluva bad day."
Read Dead Too Soon, available now!
Today I am taking down the war board for my newest novel, Dead Too Soon (out May 12, preorder now). The war board is a tool for keeping track of the overall plot for the novel-in-progress, see the examples below. When writing a story that's 75,000 words (Burned Too Hot), 85,000 words (Dead Too Soon), or a really outrageous 150,000 words (Codename: Chandler's THREE), it helps me to write a brief description of each scene on notecards. I use a different color card for each character's point-of-view, so I can see the direction of the story with just a glance. I always have liked maps, and this is my way of mapping my book before and as I write it.
When fighting fires in rural areas, firefighters have to bring in their own water. As part of my local fire department's citizen's academy, I not only got to see how this was done, I got the opportunity for a little hands-on learning. Good thing, since Lund and the Lake Loyal Fire Department had a rural fire to fight in Burned Too Hot. Check out the pictures and how I used what I learned below.
Excerpt from Burned Too Hot:
Next to Pumper One, Dempsey, Johnson, Blaski, and Sandoval spread out what looked like a giant kids' swimming pool made of thick yellow rubber. The portable tank was used to hold water in rural areas that weren't equipped with fire hydrants. Each truck would empty its water tank, and then race back to town to fill up. Even now, Lund could hear two more sirens on the air, another truck from their district or one from a neighboring district bringing more water.
A truck-sized bucket brigade.
They caught up to Jerry Fruehauf as the fire chief circled back in front of Engine One.
"The fire is pretty far along. I don't think we'll be able to save the second floor," the fire chief said.
"There's a chance we can salvage whatever's downstairs and the outbuildings. But the fire is spreading, and with this drought..."
Lund stared at the house that was more a torturous prison for Kelly Ann growing up than a home until Lund had talked her into accepting his ring and getting the hell out. From here, he could see the farm yard where Old Man Meinholz used to keep his burning barrel, the one where Lund had discovered the scorched bones he'd thought belonged to his then estranged wife. A tilt of the head, and he could also see the rickety front porch where he'd gotten his last glimpse of a woman he knew only as Chandler—a mistake he'd been lucky to survive.
"Lund? Did you hear me?" the chief asked.
"Keep it from spreading."
"You realize that means—"
"Let it burn."
He could feel Val's eyes on him. "You sure?"
"Down to the fucking foundation."
Read the rest in Burned Too Hot.
As part of my local fire department's citizen's academy, we experienced a live burn. We prepared for this for weeks prior to the event. First we had to get outfitted with equipment that fit us, then we practiced putting it on and using it during search and rescue scenarios. Finally the big day came, and we performed our searches in a burn building with a live fire. Talk about exciting. And hot!
I've used this experience in my writing many times since. One of the most dramatic scenes is the opening of Burned Too Hot. Check out the photos and excerpt below.
From BURNED TOO HOT:
David Lund's gut clenched. No matter how long he'd been a firefighter, gasping for air in a vacuum always brought the same, visceral, thoughtless panic—then a whoosh from the SCBA filled the void. His breathing settled into a rhythm.
Vision limited by face mask and helmet, Lund turned to Kyle Blaski. "Ready?"
Still adjusting his air flow, the young firefighter nodded.
In this middle-of-the-night house fire where victims were likely inside, Lund would prefer to go in with a veteran like Dempsey. But thanks to an accident at one of the rash of small arson-set fires in recent weeks, Dempsey was limited to duties he could perform with a sprained wing.
At least what the young guy lacked in experience, he made up for in enthusiasm, showing up to every one of the recent fire calls, usually arriving before everyone but Bix Johnson. And it didn't hurt that the kid was strong as a mule.
A second truck screamed up the street and then a third. Soon the place would be swarming with firefighters, but there was no time to wait. Not when a fire doubled in size every fifteen to thirty seconds.
The clock was ticking.
He and Blaski headed for the house, the teams covering the basement and first floor following behind. Adrenaline dumped into his bloodstream, and the little tremor that said his body knew this was life or death hummed through his body. Too relaxed and he wasn't taking the situation seriously. Too tense and his hands shook, his reactions turned sluggish, mind dull. Over the years, he'd learned to handle the stress, compartmentalizing emotions, balancing himself, striking just the right note between fear and calm.
On the other hand, Blaski seemed nervous.
"We got this, man. Trust your training."
"Damn straight." Blaski said, nodding like a bobble head.
Lund looked back in time to see a car jolt to a stop behind the security tape strung across the driveway. A woman jumped out and raced for the house, until she was intercepted by Dempsey. Light brown hair, pretty, she thrashed against the grizzled firefighter's chest, tears streaking her face.
There was someone inside all right. At least she thought so. Time to get them out.
Lund pulled open the door.
Smoke and heat swept out in a wave. Coats lined the right side of the small landing. Straight ahead, concrete stairs stretched into the basement. On the left, two steps led up to the main floor and into smoke, thick and black.
Movies and television depict structure fires with dramatic shots of flame. Although flame was there, running up the walls and spreading along the ceiling, in real life smoke was the devil a firefighter most often had to face down.
The devil that most often killed.
Lund took the two steps and dropped to the floor, ceramic tile hard under his knees. One hand tracing the wall, he moved at a crawl. Blaski fell in behind, his right hand keeping contact with Lund's boot and his left leg sweeping out into the room, feeling for what couldn't be seen.
Lund felt his way along the side of a refrigerator and a row of kitchen cabinets before reaching a corner, the hard tile under his knees suddenly replaced with pile carpet. A barely discernable glow of flame cut through the smoke at the back of the house. Lund noted the location and direction it was moving then followed around the corner to the right, his gloved fingers skimming built in bookshelves and steps leading to the second floor.
"Stairs," he called to Blaski.
Wasting no time, he started up, the kid on his heels. A child gate spanned the top of the staircase, and Lund ran his hand over its top rail until he located the latch.
Opening it, he moved through, then Blaski took position behind him, and they searched the landing. The smoke was thicker up here, leaving them to grope in the sweltering dark, even the bright lights firefighters had set up outside choked to a dim shimmer. Lund pushed a loveseat out of the way, groping behind it and underneath.
Satisfied the landing was clear, they headed down the hall to the bedrooms. With no furniture to contend with, they moved quickly through the narrow space, blind and on their hands and knees. Seconds and Lund reached the first room. "Door," he called out.
Following the wall around the jamb, they crawled inside.
"Is anyone in here?" he yelled. Holding his breath, he listened for an answer.
His respirator resuming its whoosh, he moved on, right hand tracing the wall, left sweeping the darkness. A chest of drawers, the leg of a piece of furniture, the drop gate of a crib. Lund pulled himself to his feet and swiped a hand over the mattress.
Nothing but a blanket.
In Lund's experience, frightened children often hid from the smoke and darkness in a place where they felt safe. If the little one wasn't in his bed, he was curled up somewhere else. They had to find where. Fast.
He dropped to the floor, checked under the crib, then moved on to the rest of the room. A diaper pail. A changing table. A bookshelf filled with books. Another filled with bins of big Legos and wooden blocks. He announced the closed and unbroken window to Blaski then encountered what was likely a closet.
He opened it and followed the perimeter of the tiny space. Except for a collection of stuffed animals and a jumble of plastic cars, it was empty.
Where was the kid?
Lund continued the search. Methodical. Thorough.
Stick to the wall.
Every hall. Every nook. Every closet.
Any place a frightened child might hide.
Lund crawled back down the hall, Blaski's hand still on his boot. He reached another door, bathroom this time, tiny. Sink, toilet, tub, closet, and they were back in the hall, on to the next room.
"Door." Lund turned into a bedroom. Hard wood floors. Bigger this time. He combed a walk-in closet filled with shoes and clothing, a woman's and a man's. Resuming his trek around the perimeter, he examined around, under, and on top of everything.
"I have a stuffed animal here," Blaski shouted. "Center of the room."
Lund continued forward, his hand hitting the side of a platform bed. No space to hide underneath. He rose to his knees and ran a hand over the sheets, touching pillow, touching flesh. The hair was short, and he could feel the rasp of a beard against his gloves. Under the blankets, the man's chest rose and fell in shallow breaths.
"Adult male. Unconscious." Lund said, both to Blaski and into his radio. He reached over the guy, rifling the rumpled sheets, expecting to find a little body.
Read the rest in BURNED TOO HOT, available on Amazon in ebook or paperback.