Evolution of a Novel – Part 2 – Perilous Waters – What didn’t make the book

Perilous Waters is set aboard an Alaskan Cruise inspired by the cruise my husband and I took in 2012. It was our first ever and there was SO much to see, experience and discover.

So much that could be wickedly twisted into spine-tingling suspense situations

or passed off as red herrings

or that would provide rich backdrops and tapestries to the story.

Far too much to use in one short novel!

Is that man REALLY just taking a photo of his companion?!
Is that man REALLY just taking a photo of his companion?!

I wove in as many tidbits as I could–tidbits you’ll discover when you have the opportunity to read the book–but in the meantime, here are a few of the details that didn’t make it into the book.

-There are almost as many staff members as passengers on the cruise ship, from dozens of different countries. We enjoyed fascinating discussions with several of them, providing a window onto much different worlds than our own. Many dream of one day being able to immigrate to North America. You can imagine, I’m sure, how my mind played with the idea of using that in a suspense story.


-We took part in a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship that included everything from massive kitchens and walk-in freezers to the engine room to the helm to a visit behind and beneath the stage in the theater. I saw tons and tons of places for fictional people to slip into and cause mischief or be kidnapped and hidden away or to sabotage and cause havoc. Hee, hee, hee.

-Then there was the spa. Ah, massages, massive showers twenty times bigger than the telephone- booth-sized one in the cabin, and every kind of salon or spa treatment you can imagine, including one or two, if you’re anything like me, that you don’t have a clue what they are. It seemed like the perfect spot for a nasty villain to catch an unsuspecting heroine unaware.

-On our ship, we were introduced to the “most traveled passengers” aboard. From Phoenix, Arizona and well into their retirement years, the couple had sailed with the cruise line for a whopping 946 days. A couple like that could help a detective out quite a bit, don’t you think? Although somehow, they seemed more like the perfect characters for a cozier mystery. 

-At various points during the cruise, forest rangers or special speakers/comedians etc came aboard to do a presentation or show. Many embark and disembark at ports, but the forest rangers of Glacier Bay came along side our ship in their own boat to climb aboard from the water. I snapped a few photos, my mind whirring with ideas of how I could use that little opportunity in the novel. Sadly, I never got the chance. 


Or should I say, happily for the heroine, I never got the chance? 😉

I hope this small window into “possibilities” has given you an enjoyable glimpse into the myriad of choices I faced as I plotted this novel. If you’d like to see a few more photos of our Alaskan cruise, you can find them under the book’s bonus features.

Your Turn: What is the scariest thing you could imagine facing on a cruise ship? (Aside from an iceberg  😉 )

P.S. I mentioned this last week, but for any who might not have seen that post…

Perilous Waters is available now directly from Harlequin in print or Epub, with free shipping to first time customers or on minimum orders, and… receive an additional 10% off their already discounted price with coupon code: SB14SL3 There’s also two Love Inspired Suspense giveaways happening this month at the Suspense Zone, including Perilous Waters, you can check them out here: http://www.thesuspensezone.com/contests/current-contests/ 

The Evolution of a Book – Perilous Waters – Part 1 – Milestones

I recently celebrated a birthday…

Yes, the glow of the candles was so bright that the camera didn’t know where to focus, but in my defense, my son’s candles were on there, too!  Blowing out birthday candles

Any how, forget the candles already…the celebration got me thinking about my April release, Perilous Waters.

Stay with me. There is a connection!!

Although a number of elements in the story had been rattling around in my head for some time—namely the setting of a cruise ship, a plot involving stolen art, and an FBI hero—the plot came together during the Alaskan cruise my husband and I took to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me that “family” became a key theme of the story. Or that the celebration of important milestones, like anniversaries and birthdays, would cause the hero and heroine, Sam and Jennifer, to reassess the importance of “family” in their lives.

After all, birthdays and anniversaries are a natural time to pause and reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re headed and possibly how you’d like to change in the year ahead.

Perilous Waters Not that Jennifer and Sam had ANY time to pause with someone trying to kill her, but you know what I mean. 😉

They each boarded the ship purportedly to celebrate an important milestone. For Jennifer, she was there to celebrate her 25th birthday with her twin sister, a birthday which also marked the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. For at 25, they would finally gain control of the family art gallery bequeathed to them by their parents who’d died tragically when the girls were still teens.

In reality, Jennifer agreed to the cruise in order to get her sister away from the art gallery and the influence of the curator, who has also been their guardian and the estate’s trustee, in hopes of convincing her to agree to sell.

Sam, on the other hand, is purportedly there with his parents, his brother and young nephew to celebrate his parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. He booked and paid for the trip for every last one of them. But in reality, he’s there to spy on, and ultimately arrest, Jennifer and Cassandra Robbins, his prime suspects in an art smuggling case.

He naturally invites Jennifer to spend time with him and his family, and for a woman who hasn’t enjoyed “family times” for many, many years, the allure is irresistible. 

This was a scenario I could easily relate to.

Although I didn’t lose my parents at a young age, it sometimes felt that way. I was the youngest child by four years so by the time I was twelve, family vacations and evenings playing games together became a distant memory. cockatiel playing chessI well remember how I fell in love as much with the idyllic-seeming family camaraderie of a couple of the guys I dated in my teens as the guys themselves.

Of course, Sam, being the God-fearing, honorable guy he is, feels terrible about how fond Jennifer grows of his family. Not that his emotions remain untouched.

ContemplativeNot by a long shot. 😉

By seeing his family through her eyes, his appreciation for what he has, and what he’s been missing out on by choosing to live and work thousands of miles away from his family, begins to grow.

But…I can’t give any more away. You’ll have to read the book to see how he digs himself out of that hole.

Your Turn: What are some of the ways you have celebrated important milestones?


Giveaway & Specials News: Perilous Waters is available now directly from Harlequin in print or Epub, with free shipping to first time customers or on minimum orders, and… receive an additional 10% off their already discounted price with coupon code: SB14SL3

There’s also two Love Inspired Suspense giveaways happening this month at the Suspense Zone, including Perilous Waters, you can check them out here: http://www.thesuspensezone.com/contests/current-contests/ 


Ah…Young Love

This past Friday I received the awesome news that my November Love Inspired Suspense, the yet-to-be-named firefighter story that we’ve talked about here before, looks good and will go straight to line edits. I only had to tweak a couple of things.

And as I read through the epilogue, I came to this line:

“Jake hoped he never stopped getting that fluttery feeling in his stomach every time he turned on his street since asking Kara to marry him.” 

Do you know the fluttery feeling I’m talking about? Do you still get it when you think about the one you love?


My hubby has this way of smiling sometimes that gets me every time.

Anyway, for some reason reading that line got me thinking about our relationship with God.

I remember how eagerly, as a new believer, I devoured the Bible and every study book I could get my hands on. Just like the getting-to-know-you time of a new relationship. Then after a time the shine of the newness wears off a little. Doesn’t it?

Yet, when you persevere, you truly experience the truth and depth of meaning of Lamentations 3:22-23:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Now, my hubby happened to be away on business this past weekend, and although I honestly admit that after 26 1/2 years of marriage, I don’t experience that fluttery “new love” feeling every time he comes home, I sure did when he came home after being away…and driving back in a blizzard!

But while the fluttery feeling is fun, it’s the abiding love, the deep-seated knowing that this man, who’s seen me at my best and at my worst, is here for me no matter what.

Just like God is.


Introducing new Love Inspired Suspense Author ~ Maggie K. Black

pic of author Maggie K. BlackI’m delighted to introduce you to Maggie K. Black, another Canadian author new to Love Inspired. Although I’ve never met Maggie, she actually lives only a couple of hours away from me! And we hope to change that not-meeting part very soon. 😉

Here’s what I’ve learned about her so far…

Tell us a little about yourself:

I moved around a lot when I was growing up. There was a lot of instability, and not a lot of access to good books. So I started trying to write my own. When I was in my late teens I decided to go into journalism, because I love meeting new people and telling stories. I’m really thankful for 15+ years I spent as a journalist, because of the people I got to know and the places I got to go. It gave me a lot to write about. I’ve always known in my gut that my deepest dream was to write novels, but it wasn’t until my daughters were born, that I finally took the time to really do it.

Tell us about your latest book. What inspired you to write this particular book?:

Book Jacker of Killer AssignmentKiller Assignment is about a journalist named Katie who is being pursued by ruthless kidnappers. Our hero is a war-zone engineer who’s running from his own past.

The whole concept actually started as a bit of a dare from my former coworker Paul. My writing work has taken me all over the world, and at the time I was with for a technical charity that works in the Middle East and Africa. Some of the engineers were sitting around talking about their most dangerous moments—kidnappings, robberies, stuff like that. (Truth be told, I probably put them up to it). One of them dared me to write a romance book where the hero was a dashing engineer who’d gone through all these things. … and wouldn’t you know, the idea stuck with me, so I did.

That’s where Mark comes from. Katie is based more on me, and on the struggles I’ve had feeling trapped in a situation which wasn’t quite right for me.

Her name comes from Taming of the Shrew actually, because while I deeply love Shakespeare I have always hated how that particular play strips the heroine of her strength and voice when she finds love. I’ve always been determined to create women who find love, healing, security and faith without ever losing their strength and determination. One of my favorite things about Killer Assignment is where we know Katie is headed at the end of the book. I’ve gotten more comments on that than on anything else in the book.

What are you working on right now?:

I’m very excited to announce my next book—DEADLINE—will be out in the summer of 2014 from Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense. Our journalist is a disgraced journalist who’s in a race against time to expose a ruthless serial killer. Our heroine is the killer’s intended target. But she’s carrying secrets of her own, and was warned by police not to trust her life to the handsome, daredevil reporter. It’s set on Manitoulin Island.

How do you get to know your characters?:

I actually assign each of my characters a theme song, which, for me, sums up how they’re feeling. Then I listen to that song when I’m trying to get into the character’s head.

Oh, wow, that’s cool. I just started doing that with the last book I wrote. Could you share an example?

For Mark that song is actually Africa by Toto.

“Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.”

Mark is willing to battle an entire army to protect Katie if that’s what it takes. In Killer Assignment the threat keeps escalating, until they’re alone against an entire group of armed kidnappers. In that moment Mark makes the one call he’d sworn to himself he’d never make, because it’s the only way he can think of to save Katie’s life.

That’s a pivotal moment in his story.

Do you put yourself into your main character, or do you find yourself borrowing from family or friends as your characters develop?

Usually each character I write is based on a handful of real people I know, including parts of myself. And I tend to know the characters so much better than ever appears in the book. I could write a whole book just on Ethan for example—I know him that well. Celia and Sunny as well.

(Oh, and while “Katie” came from Shakespeare, and both “Armor” and “Shield” came from the sense of closing yourself off from others for your own protection—“Randall” comes from the purple monster in Monsters Inc!)

Is there any scene in your book that came from a real-life happening?

The attempted kidnapping Katie survives at the beginning of the book is based on something terrifying that happened to me as a teenager.

For me, writing is one of the tools I’ve used to transform terrible memories into something awesome and life-giving. One of the things I particularly wanted to touch on in Deadline is how we can be held back from living the life God wants for us by traumatic things in our past, and how to get the help we need to move though them.


That is an awesome testimony to how you’ve done that yourself, Maggie.

What are your favorite themes to write about?

I am passionate about people figuring out who they were meant to be, and learning how to love and accept themselves. There’s nothing I love more than writing about people learning who God has designed them to be, and the absolute joy which can come from that. At the end of Killer Assignment, Mark and Katie haven’t just found love, they’ve find a new purpose and calling for their lives. That excites me.

Does your faith affect your writing? How?

Faith affects my whole life, and in turn my life affects my writing.

When I first started I was really held back by always questioning what God wanted me to write, as if God was on the loudspeaker and I was just the secretary taking down dictation.

More recently I’ve come to realize that God designed me to be a person who writes, and that when I write I am pouring myself into doing what I was made to do.

I now think of God more like a parent who hands us this amazing craft and paint box full of talents and gifts, and then actually has faith in us as we learn how to use them to create amazing things.

Do you have a favorite scripture? If so, why is it your favorite?

When I was writing Killer Assignment I had Psalm 139 running through my head—especially the line “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” Today, the passage on my mind is from Matthew 12 and also Isaiah 42. In The Message, referring to Jesus, it says, “He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and he won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but he’ll steadily and firmly set things right.” I love that aspect of God.

Could you share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.

I have two amazing daughters, who are both in elementary school. Every morning, after I walk them to school, I walk my dog through the park to this little creek which runs behind my house. I try to pause on the bridge long enough to still all the nagging, negative voices in my head, and focus my heart on who I am, and who God has called me to be. Then I go home and plug into writing until it’s time to pick the girls up and be a mom again. At night, I usually try to go to Curves or Zumba right before bed. There’s something about dancing badly but happily with a group of other ladies at the end of the day which really energizes me!

Where can fans find you or your books on the internet?

I just got a new blog up at www.maggiekblack.com, and I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/maggiekblack.

Readers can find Killer Assignment at Amazon and elsewhere. 

Your Turn: Has anything happened in your life that would make a great story?

My newsletter with this year’s Christmas romance mini-novella went out to subscribers yesterday. The link didn’t work so I sent a second email with one that did, and…I’ve since fixed the other so that both should work now. I’m sorry for any frustration that caused! If you’ve subscribed and don’t see the email in your inbox, please check your spam folder. And it’s not too late to receive the story. Click here to subscribe

Swapping House Stories

Do you love old houses?

They certainly give one lots of stories to talk about when strained for a conversation starter!

We’ve lived in a 100+ year old house for 15 years. And do I have stories!

 Signed WallOur house was the inspiration for the house Becki Graw inherits from her grandparents in Fatal Inheritance. Except I didn’t have enough space to include all the fun little tidbits I could have.

From the first night we moved into our house, we knew we were in for an adventure. My daughter, then nine, discovered a deer mouse in her room after bedtime. She caught it and showed us her new pet in the morning.

 imagine image of mouse here

I didn’t want to make anyone squirm 😉

We were a little freaked, because this was not long after a farmer out east had died from a disease carried by such mice, soooo we explained that deer mice belonged outside.

And then adopted a cat. 🙄

Of course that meant by spring—Easter day to be exact—we had kittens! We even got to see them being born. My children were thrilled.

kittensOther wonderful surprises came with spring. The former owner had been an avid gardener, so the property soon bloomed with crocuses and tulips and hyacinths and daffodils and forsythia and honeysuckle and lilacs and fruit tree blossoms. Every week it seemed we were treated to the beauty of a different flowering tree or shrub.

tulips2Being an avid gardener myself (at that time), I set to work preparing a front flowerbed for annuals and had a not-so-nice surprise!

Our basement walls are constructed of farm stones, which means lots of little holes. As I’m on my hands and knees in my flowerbed, snakes coming out of hibernation began to drop from the wall into the bed. Picture the snake scene in Indiana Jones here.

You don’t need a picture, right?


I’m not fond of snakes so let’s just say I waited a few days before finishing that flowerbed. 😕

Of course, having snakes in the wall meant that occasionally they’d find their way inside, too. One spring I went downstairs to find a three-foot, 1 ½ inch diameter, black snake lying in my path. I’d never seen such a big one outside of a zoo. Luckily hubby was home. So he donned leather gloves and carried the guy out to the woods…after admiring it for awhile. <shiver>

Our wildlife adventures weren’t limited to mice and snakes either. We had the requisite bat in the belfry, but we also had bees—wasps to be precise.

They apparently hibernated in our attic and would invade the rest of the house through light fixtures in the spring. They tormented us for several years, until one year I opened the door to my daughter’s bedroom and found a three-foot long swarm of them covering half her window.

Whoa, talk about freaked out!

If they’d been honeybees, I would probably have called a local honey guy to come smoke them out and save them, but wasps are downright vicious. We’d been stung enough times to know!

Thankfully, I had a can of wasp spray in the house that could shoot ten feet across the room. I shut the door, ran downstairs for the can, then quietly reopened the door, and using it as cover, like a cop facing down a bad guy, I blasted the swarm. It worked. Best of all, it also took care of our wasp problem.

In the years since, we’ve only seen the odd wasp in the house.

I won’t even visit the construction issues we’ve faced over the years. From the first rainstorm, when I found myself literally taping heavy-duty vapor barrier over an entire window and half the wall to keep out rain and wind, we’ve affectionately (and sometimes, not so affectionately) called the place the money pit.

Did I mention it had no insulation?

And that I live in Canada? …you know, land of igloos.

Wow, now that I’ve shared these stories, I wish I’d gotten some of them into my book. The swarming wasps would have been fun to make my heroine face.

Your Turn: How about you? Have you ever lived in an old house? I’d love to hear your favorite old house story! In fact, I won’t post a new blog next Monday, but hope you’ll stop by to read the stories that others share throughout the week.

P.S. Guess what I just learned this past weekend?! RT Book Reviews gave Fatal Inheritance a 4 1/2 star review. Yee!

She said, “The suspense is laced with the right amount of romance to keep readers thoroughly engaged throughout this fantastic novel.” 

Sneak Peek of Fatal Inheritance

My favorite part of being a writer–receiving messages from readers–has picked up again with the release of Fatal Inheritance to the Love Inspired Suspense book club subscribers. Subscribers receive the book more than a month ahead of release.

Fatal Inheritance

But… if you can’t wait until it appears on store shelves next month or in your favorite online shop, you can order it now directly from Harlequin in regular print, large print, or Epub format.

Of course… if you wait until Friday, they usually have a special, in which if you order 2 books, you get a selected book free. (sometimes it’s an LI book, sometimes it from one of their many other lines)

For the benefit of book club subscribers I have made the bonus features for the book live ahead of the official release. Also hoping to tempt the rest of you. 😉

You’ll find:

Deleted Scenes

On Location in Serenity

Doesn’t that make you wish you could sit on the heroine’s back porch and enjoy the view?

Editor’s Cut with Commentary

Josh’s Tasty BBQ Veggies

Character Interviews:
Joshua Rayne   (picture Mark Wahlberg)
Becki Graw

If you haven’t read Fatal Inheritance yet, and want to whet your appetite:

Click here to read Chapter One

Your Turn: What’s on your reading list this summer? Do you tend to read “extras” from authors if they’re offered?

Sunday Update: Kav is the surprise giveaway winner. I’ll be in touch

My Answer to the question: I’ve been catching up on the Texas K-9 Unit with Love Inspired Suspense. They had me at K-9.  🙄 Aside from character interviews on blogs, I’ve never read extras from other authors, beside prequels or sequels. I’ve never heard of any. 

Brainstorming a Book

By now you’ve probably figured out that I have a lot of fun doing research for my books. 


Yes, I let my children and their friends (whose faces have been smudged to protect the innocent 😉 ) believe I was taking them on a school trip to the fire station all those years ago, but really… in the far recesses of my mind, I must’ve known some day I’d write about a firefighter and want to know what it felt like to wear all that stuff!

And since I have so much fun brainstorming new books, I thought I’d let you in on the fun, too!

And…if your suggestion makes it into the book, you will be rewarded! 🙂

So here’s what I need:

1) A famous person, such as a celebrity, that resembles my hero Jake.

If you can give me a link to an image online, all the better. Jake is a firefighter who lives in a small town close to Seattle. He’s a widower with a four-year-old son, Tommy. Jake is tall and lanky. His brother Sam, looks like Mike Fisher (Carrie Underwood’s husband-to-be) and Jake looks nothing like him. Any suggestions? Update: I’m leaning toward Amber’s suggested Paul Walker, but still open to more suggestions.

2) A name for the community program he wants to start to help Single Parents get through the Christmas holidays (things such as men helping put out Christmas lights or bring in a Christmas tree for single moms or women baking for single dads–stereotypical, I know, but they do tend to be the areas that each struggle with). This was his wife’s brainchild and he wants to name it something that will honor her memory. Her name (at the moment) is Stacey. Although if another name lends to a better name for the program, I can change it. If you have additional suggestions for the program that would be great, too!  I’ve decided to play with a variation of Dianna’s suggestion in the comments for this one!

3) A Title for the story. The heroine is hiding out in Jake’s town (under witness protection). She was a kindergarten teacher and dog trainer, but now she works in a library. The threat of being found by the person she’ll be testifying against (kidnapper of a child) hangs over her head throughout the story. The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas in a small town called Stalwart. Update: I’m still collecting great title ideas! Thank you to those who emailed me additional suggestions.  😉

Your Turn: Let your creativity run wild! The more off-the-wall the suggestion, the more intriguing twists it sparks.




Christmas Countdown Giveaway

Good day, faithful blog readers!

Can you believe it’s December already?!


By this time next week, I hope to have my newly designed website up and running, and… have this blog transitioned to it. If all goes smoothly, even if you type in the old blog address, it should automatically take you to my website’s blog page.

To celebrate I’m giving away a copy of one of my Love Inspired Suspense books to a randomly chosen commenter on today’s blog. If you already have all my books and your name is chosen, thank you for being such a devoted reader! I will send you an advanced copy of my upcoming Revell book when it becomes available, or… I can gift one of my LIS books to a friend of your choice. Might even get there by Christmas!

I will announce the winner in the comments Tuesday morning, and…provide a link to another blog where I will give away another copy on Tuesday. Please stop by to check if you’ve won, especially if you don’t leave an email address (which isn’t required).

Your Turn: What’s your favorite Bible story?

Danger on the Mountain ~ Discussion & Giveaway

What a pleasure it has been to once again be working my way through my to-be-read pile! Last week, I read fellow LIS author, Lynette Eason’s newest release, Danger on the Mountain. 

I can always count on a fast-paced suspense with a satisfying romance when I pick up one of Lynette’s books, and Danger on the Mountain didn’t disappoint. It started with a shoot-em-up-bank-holdup-near-kidnapping and tensions remained high straight through to the explosive finale.

The hero Reese is a new deputy in the small town of Rose Mountain–a man still trying to heal from the loss of his wife and child.

I asked Lynette what inspired her to write his story. Here’s her answer:

Well, he needed one. 🙂 Reese was a character in a previous story, Holiday Hideout. I just loved his character in that book and decided he needed his own story. And sure enough, as soon as I started writing it, and brought a woman into his life, he just came alive. I really like Reese’s story and hope readers will too!

Lynette and I first got to know each other when we roomed together at the 2010 Writer’s Police Academy. We’re the ones on either end, and in true cop form, we’ve smudged out the faces in between to protect their identities. ~grin~

For those readers not familiar with Lynette, she’s the award winning, best-selling author of several romantic suspense novels, including Too Close to Home, Don’t Look Back, and A Killer Among Us. She writes for Revell as well as Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense line. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. Lynette graduated from the University of South Carolina and went on to earn her master’s degree in education from Converse College. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two children.

And…did I mention she’s very generous?

Lynette is giving away THREE copies of Danger on the Mountain. Just join the conversation below to be entered, then come back next Monday when the three winners will be announced.

Your Turn: Reese is determined to get the person who’s after Maggie and her baby. He couldn’t help his wife and daughter, but this is something he can do. He can catch the bad guy for Maggie. What does this tell you about Reese’s personality? Yes, I’m making you think to be entered in the giveaway. 🙂

Fun Friday ~ We have a title!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL this week, I’ve been working on proposals for more books ~grin~

To all those who helped me brainstorm titles for the Love Inspired Suspense I submitted last week…my editor emailed to let me know they’ve chosen:

Fatal Inheritance
It wasn’t one of the titles suggested by anyone on the blog, but your input was invaluable in getting to it. Thank you!
Fatal Inheritance will be released August 2013. Next, I look forward to seeing what kind of cover the talented members of the art department come up with for it. 
In other Fun News…
Critical Condition has been nominated for the
Monday, I’ll be back to regular blogging with a chat about Lynette Eason’s newest LIS, Danger on the Mountain…and a giveaway.