I’m often asked where I get my story ideas.Sometimes it’s a character that pops into my head with a story to tell. Other times a scene plays out in my imagination and I need to write the book to see what happens next.
For my newest book, Love Proof, (releasing June 26, 2019, available now for pre-order) I’d heard about a new series my publisher was launching — a small-town romance (any sub-genre) centred on a historic bed & breakfast in Vermont. Ideas for characters and plots ping-ponged immediately — a bookstore owner? A waitress in a café? A missing husband?
I read the series bible (established characters, occupations, and businesses, along with a map of the town, as well the synopses of the already contracted stories) and noticed a gaping hole. Where was the bakery? Zounds! Every town needs a bakery!
Since I’m a home baker who bakes to relax (and maybe procrastinate <grin>) my heroine had to be a baker with her own shop. I didn’t want her getting up at 2am in order to have breads and rolls ready by opening time. That would be problematic for romantic sleepovers. So, Fiona specializes in cupcakes and bar cookies. As we all know, a cupcake is sad without sprinkles and the name of the bakery became Love Sprinkles.
I think it would be unfair, perhaps cruel, to fill a book with descriptions of yummy treats without giving readers the chance to sample the treats, and I included a couple tried and true recipes I’ve been baking for years.
Location and occupation were the easy parts of story development. Discovering the hero and heroine’s internal struggles — what will draw them together and what will keep them apart — required more work.
I determined that they had known each other in high school (they are now in the mid-30’s) and I set the cause of their conflict back in their angst-riddled teen years. So much fun! I was not one of the popular kids and could relate with Fiona’s less-than-fond memories of not fitting in.
I’m sure we all remember that one guy in high school — captain of a sports team, class president, talented musician — on whom all the girls had a crush. That was my hero. Except Raynor has a secret — he’s lousy at relationships, and has declared a moratorium on dating.
Until he walks into Love Sprinkles and sees that the girl from high school is all grown up.
Unemployed photojournalist Raynor Elliot stops at a bakery near the famous Deerbourne Inn. Not only does he get a lead on a job but the bakery’s owner is that awkward kid he knew in high school, only now she has fabulous curves and an irreverent sense of humor. The cozy bakery, with its aroma of sugar, vanilla and spice, has more to offer than tasty cookies.
Fiona MacLeod has been plagued for years by the need to make amends for telling The Big Lie. When the lie’s victim strolls into her bakery with his icy blue stare and killer charm, she feels like she’s standing too close to a hot oven.
Between running her bakery and frosting cupcakes for the Mad River Garden Party, she’s pretty sure she’s falling in love with this infuriating, sexy man. Can Fiona dredge up the courage to confess, face the consequences, and hope for forgiveness?
“I remember those days.” She pushed the calculator to the side, too tired to worry about planning the week’s baking schedule. “Why’d you study journalism?
“Truth is important to me. I was tired of all the lies in government, at every level. I wanted to change that. Ultimately make the world a better place. Easy peasy, right?” His lips quirked and he shook his head.
“That’s why I decided to be a baker. Brighten someone’s day with a special treat.”
He scooted his chair closer and pointed at the column of numbers on the page. “You want me to do the rest?” His arm, bare to the bicep, lightly tanned, dusted with blond hair, a little lighter than on his head, rested less than an inch from her own spindly pale arm. Not spindly compared to other women, hefting bags of flour and moving trays of baked goods did take some muscle power. But spindly compared to his manly toned muscles flexing under skin that she’d bet her last jar of sprinkles was smooth and warm. She clenched her hand.
No touching allowed.
“We have cupcakes to frost.” She bounded from the chair and rushed into the kitchen.
Holy moly, the guy oozed sex. In a good way. A very good way. She pulled a clean apron off the shelf and cinched it around her waist. An extra layer of armor between her and temptation in the form of Raynor. The seeker of truth. The man whose mission in life was to expose lies. The reporter who thought liars were not decent human beings.
Luanna Stewart has been creating adventures for her imaginary friends since childhood. At the tender age of twelve she discovered her grandmother’s stash of romance novels, after which all plots had to lead to a happily-ever-after.
Luanna spends her days writing sexy romantic suspense, steamy paranormal romance, and spicy historical romance. When she’s not torturing her heroes and heroines, she’s either in her kitchen baking something delicious, or protecting her garden from the chickens. She lives in Nova Scotia with her incredibly patient husband and two spoiled cats.
Hey there, Delilah and friends! I’m so happy to be joining you this Friday.
I hope everyone has been enjoying the summer. Home in New Jersey has been hot and I recently took some trips for my job which I hope will inspire some new stories in the future. Chicago and Seattle seemed like polar opposites, but I had the opportunity to eat some delicious food, visit friends, drive up to Mt. Rainier and sightsee the Bean and Navy Pier. It’s been busy for sure and I already have an idea for a second chance friends to lovers slow burn between those two cities already.
Sometimes readers ask me where I get my inspiration from and how do I fit in writing with a full-time job. It’s definitely not easy and time management can either be a friend or foe. I take my laptop with me on almost every trip and pack a fresh notebook to jot down ideas that come to me. My current work in progress is a small town series based in my favorite place in upstate NY. I got the idea for the series while I was visiting during their annual wine festival and fell in love with the town immediately. It has everything from small shops with local gossip, a farmer’s market, small University, wine festivals, and the main street that just invites you to park the car and get out to explore.
I love to slow things down a notch with these books and get into the lives of everyday heroes and equally strong women. My Love By Design series takes place in New Paltz with a group of friends all grown up and finally settling down. There are secrets from the past, second chance love, surprise babies, and house flipping adventures taken straight from the Property Brothers.
So if small towns are your thing, please check out the first book in my series, Love Under Construction, and if you visit my reader group this week, there’s a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
M.C. Cerny fell in love with books after experiencing her first real ugly cry reading, Where The Red Fern Grows. Her debut romantic suspense novel, Flashpoint was written in a series of post-it-note ramblings that would likely make her idol Tom Clancy and her mother blush. She is a post graduate of NYU and calls rural NJ home with her menagerie of human and feline fur-babies. When M.C. is not writing, you’ll find her lurking in Starbucks, running stupid marathons, singing Disney show tunes, and searching out the perfect shade of pink nail polish.
I love secondary characters. They can provide comic relief or be the villain of the story. They are trusted friends, someone the main character can confide in and use as a sounding board. They can do or say outrageous things that the main characters may not be able to.
And they are necessary to the story. I believe secondary characters help give color and depth to a story. Just as in real life, our fictional main characters don’t want to live in the world alone. They too have family and friends they love and depend on.
I recently released my Love at Solace Lake series about three sisters who inherit their grandfather’s decaying fishing lodge in Minnesota. They work together to try to bring it back to life. There are several secondary characters in the three books; some appear in all three books and some in only one. Here are three of my favorite characters.
Abby Hanson first appears in LIES AND SOLACE, book 1 of the series. She’s also an important character in book 2 (SECRETS AND SOLACE) and book 3 (TRUTH AND SOLACE). Abby was best friends with the Lindquist sisters’ deceased mother, and she’s always been someone the sisters have trusted and confided in. But Abby has secrets. She knows things, things she’s kept from Harper, Scarlet and Maggie. When she finally divulges her secrets, she’ll shake their world.
The kitchen was sunny and warm, though not terribly big. While Abby put the kettle on to boil, Harper took off her jacket and hung it over the back of her chair.
“What made you and Reese decide to come back to Minnewasta?”
Abby placed a couple of teabags into a pot. “It was time to come home. This is where we belong.”
Harper blinked at her enigmatic answer. What did ‘it was time’ mean? Time for what?
Tessa Hainstock also appears in all three books, but we learn a lot about her and her relationship with her father in book 2, SECRETS AND SOLACE. Tessa is the five-year-old daughter of Cameron Hainstock, the hero of book 2. Tessa is sunny and bright, and Cameron would do anything for her. Through her, we discover that tough-guy Cameron has a big, kind heart, even when some of the things he says might make us, and Scarlet, think otherwise. Tessa is also important in showing Scarlet that she really could love a child and be a mother, something she never thought possible.
He scooped Tessa into his arms and held her securely against his shoulder with one arm. She woke, her eyes at half-mast. “Love you, Daddy. To the moon and back.”
He kissed her forehead and repeated the mantra they used every night she spent with him. “To the moon and back, pumpkin.”
She went back to sleep, once more as limp as a ragdoll.
Phyllis Carlsson was a hoot to write. She appears only in book 3, TRUTH AND SOLACE, Maggie Lindquist and Luke Carlsson’s story. She’s Luke Carlsson’s grandmother and Abby Hanson’s mother. She can come out with funny, sometimes irreverent things that make Luke want to laugh. Or cry. Phyllis has been Luke’s rock since childhood and she continues to support him through the difficult times he’s facing now. But Phyllis is no pushover; if she thinks Luke needs to do better, you can believe she’ll let him know.
“Your mother says you haven’t been to see her in a couple of days.”
The wrench slipped and clanked against the copper pipe. Luke had no answer for her. The truth was he’d been hiding, either at the lodge or with chores at his grandmother’s house. He couldn’t make himself go to her.
“I know it hurts. I know you feel powerless because I feel that way myself. And I’m angry, angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m so angry that Abby is leaving me that I want to spit. I want to hit someone. I want to break something. It’s not supposed to be this way.”
Luke’s heart thumped painfully in his chest. He didn’t want to hear about his grandmother’s pain. His own grief tore at him like a wild animal, consuming him piece by piece. He couldn’t deal with her grief as well. He fitted the wrench carefully on the pipe once more.
“But you know what, Luke? Every day I put on my big girl panties, and I suck it up to walk the two blocks to my daughter’s house. I help her wash her hair or take a bath, and I make tea and chat. Whatever she needs. But I always make sure I share a laugh with her. Because right now, it’s not about me and my suffering. It’s about Abby.”
Secondary characters are a necessary part of romance fiction. They add color and life, provide reality checks for the main characters, and offer a shoulder to lean on. And they are definitely fun to write. Who are some of your favorite secondary characters from favorite books and movies?
Love at Solace Lake Series
Love is worth the risk…
When their grandfather dies, the Lindquist sisters, Harper, Scarlet and Maggie, inherit the northern Minnesota fishing lodge that had been in their family for three generations. The inheritance is bittersweet. They were raised at the lodge by their grandparents. The natural beauty of the place hasn’t changed, but the building itself is crumbling and desperately in need of repair. The lodge also reminds them of what they lost.
Twenty-two years previously, their parents died there in what was ruled a murder/suicide.
As the sisters struggle to breathe new life into the failing lodge, old fears and questions rise to the surface even as new love presents itself. Why did their father murder their mother? What truths did their grandparents keep from them? The sisters must fight to keep the wounds of the past from putting their futures, and their fledgling relationships, in jeopardy.
She can’t live with one more lie. He can’t tell the truth.
Harper Lindquist is convinced she’s found the answer to her financial prayers. Unless she pours cash into crumbling Solace Lake Lodge, she’ll lose her family’s legacy. Her would-be savior arrives in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard and she’s determined to prove to her reluctant, and trapped, financier the lodge is a sound investment. But Harper isn’t completely honest with him. And she has no idea the lake is hiding secrets of its own.
Ethan James is a liar, but his money is very real. He isn’t convinced a broken-down inn is a smart investment opportunity. But the more he understands Harper’s dreams and desires, the more he wants to be the man to make them come true. The trauma in both their pasts means neither can fully trust the other. They must find the courage to love, to trust, and to accept, or yesterday’s sorrows will keep them apart.
Excerpt, Lies and Solace:
As she stared into his dark eyes she realized how much she trusted him, and relied on him. That was something rare for her. The only people she trusted as much were her sisters.
I’m in love with him.
The thought blasted through her brain with the force of a tsunami. The tension of the last few weeks, the insecurity, the mistrust, the fear, slipped easily from her shoulders. For the first time, her mind was clear. She was in love with Ethan and she didn’t want to wait anymore. She wanted him. She wanted him to be her first, her last.
Finding courage she didn’t know she possessed, Harper slid off the stool and walked around the island. She plucked the wine glass from his hand and set it on the counter, then placed his hand on her breast. “Make love with me, Ethan.”
A fire lit in his eyes, telling her he wanted her, too. But there was a question there, a hesitation. “Are you sure?”
She’d never been more sure of anything in her life. “Yes.”
“Shhh. Let’s not talk anymore.” She placed one finger over his lips, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed him.
Ethan’s reaction was lightning swift. He wrapped his arms around her and brought her close, his mouth descending on hers in a wild, warm kiss. Their tongues tangled, slid over each other. She’d missed his touch, his taste. She moaned, and in the sound she heard thirty-two years of longing.
No matter how deeply buried, secrets rise to the surface.
Scarlet Lindquist has agreed to help her sisters rebuild the dilapidated fishing lodge in Minnesota they inherited from their grandparents. Although the lengthy restoration is bringing the three sisters closer together, Scarlet’s support is temporary. Her leave of absence from her job in Chicago is temporary and she has no intention of staying at Solace Lake Lodge, where the lake holds dark secrets. When frightening childhood memories resurface, they are tempered by her fascination with an irritating contractor. If only she could trust her feelings for him. If only he could trust her.
Cameron Hainstock meets Scarlet at his brother’s wedding to her sister and their attraction is instantaneous. But Cam avoids the beautiful marketing executive. All his efforts are aimed at battling for custody of his only child. When the unimaginable happens and Cam faces the biggest challenge of his life, he’s reluctant to accept help to halt his downward spiral. Can they learn to trust each other and fight for a future together or will they go their separate ways?
Excerpt, Secrets and Solace:
The shock on Scarlet’s face, the disbelief and grief, made him wish he’d kept his mouth shut. The last thing he wanted was to inflict her with the same hell he was going through. He turned away from her, pushing her hand from his arm. “Go home, Scarlet.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” She grabbed his arm again, preventing him from picking up the axe, the tool he’d used to keep himself from reaching for a bottle. “I won’t leave you alone.”
Ignoring the sweat and dirt, she wrapped her arms around his waist and held him tightly, resting her head against his chest. His body stirred to life at her touch, disgusting him. His world was crumbling around him and all he could think was that he wanted to bury himself inside her until she screamed his name.
“Go,” he said roughly. If she was smart, she’d run away and never look back. He was a bad-tempered, recovering alcoholic with nothing to offer her. He wasn’t worth the risk.
She looked up at him, her blue eyes clear and steady. “No. I won’t leave you.”
He pushed her up against the wall of the workshop, not sure if he was trying scare her away or make her stay. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
She shook her head. “You won’t.”
Cam closed his eyes and groaned. He wrapped his arms around her in a vice-like grip, unable to resist her any longer.
God, he needed her.
He lowered his head and kissed her. There was no subtlety in the kiss, no gentleness or finesse. Only passion and raw need. But she stayed with him, returning his passion, giving solace. He greedily lapped it up, taking everything she had to give.
But he wanted, needed more. He lifted her and she wrapped her long, slender legs around his waist. He buried his face against her soft, sweet-smelling neck, inhaling her clean, floral scent. At the same time, he snaked his hand up her thigh and began to pull down her panties.
“Tell me to stop,” he rasped. “Tell me now while I still can.”
Maggie Lindquist left Solace Lake determined never to return. Circumstances have pulled her back and she’s helping to restore her family’s dilapidated fishing lodge. When she agreed to the plan she didn’t expect to have to work side by side with the man who abandoned her ten years earlier. She didn’t expect to like him, or want him ever again. But can she trust him as she once did?
Luke Carlsson rushes home to tend to his ailing mother. Her lengthy illness means he needs to stay, at least temporarily. And to stay, he needs to work. Solace Lake Lodge offers him a job and an opportunity to work with the woman he’s never stopped loving. But the restoration is unleashing secrets hidden for decades and no one is left unscathed. Especially not Maggie and Luke, whose love needs to be resilient enough to forgive, and strong enough to build a future together.
Excerpt, Truth and Solace:
“Luke?” Maggie’s voice was husky with sleep.
“It’s all right, baby. Go back to sleep.”
The sheets rustled and the bedside lamp snapped on, creating a small pool of light that illuminated her tense face. “You’re leaving?”
He heard the disappointment in her voice, saw it in her dark eyes, even in the dim light.
“If I don’t leave now, my grandmother will know I’ve been with you all night. Harper and Ethan will see my truck here in the morning, and they’ll know we slept together.”
“Harper and Ethan are staying in Minneapolis tonight, but even if they were home, it wouldn’t matter. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks, not even my family. We’re grownups now. We don’t have to sneak around to be together like we did when we were kids.” She lowered her gaze, her hands clutching the sheet to her breasts. “Unless you don’t want anyone to know. Unless you’d rather not be here.”
“It’s okay, really.” She looked away and shrugged a small shoulder. “It’s no big deal.”
He couldn’t leave her like this. He sat on the bed beside her and stroked her hair. “It’s a big deal to me. There’s nothing I want more than to stay, but it wouldn’t be fair to you.”
Her eyes flashed in disbelief. “Wouldn’t be fair to me? What are you talking about?”
“In a few weeks, after my mother is…gone, I’ll go back to my job in California. And you’ll be here.”
“And never the twain shall meet?”
“It’s not what I want, but it’s reality.”
“What about what I want, right here, right now? Maybe we don’t have forever. Nobody does. If I’ve learned anything from your mother’s illness, it’s that we can’t take anything for granted. We can’t let uncertainty and fear stop us. If we only have a short time together, so be it. At least, we’ll have had that time. I won’t regret it.”
She was amazing. She was still the strong, forthright, vibrant girl he’d fallen in love with that summer.
And he had loved her. Deeply. They’d been far too young to sustain a lasting relationship. But that didn’t mean he hadn’t loved her.
I still love her. I never stopped.
The sudden insight rocked him.
About Jana Richards
When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist. In 2015 “Always a Bridesmaid” was nominated for a Rone Award in the Steamy Contemporary category, and though it didn’t make the finals, it was an honor to be nominated. “Always a Bridesmaid” did, however, receive Best Opening Hook from Trans Canada Writers in their Maple Leaf Awards.
In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg, Canada with an elderly Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.janarichards.com