The Rayburn Mysteries Book 1
by Ceeree Fields
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Josephine 'Jo' Rayburn has no luck with love. Between the demands of her job as a homicide detective, finding the perfect yarn for her knitting projects, and her nosy family, she doesn't have time to find her happily ever after, nor does she really believe it exists. Until she's assigned to the Gravedigger task force where she meets Rhysian 'Rhys' Harrison, the sexy Coroner's assistant.
Rhys Harrison thought he had found love with the perfect woman. But his parents' deaths forced him to choose between his fiancée and caring for his brother, he chose his brother. His only regret, the medical degree he abandoned to work in the Coroner's office. When the Gravedigger leaves his latest victim at the gates of a cemetery, Rhys and Jo are thrown together, her prickly personality interests him, but it's her deeply hidden romantic side that captivates him.
After one of the task force members is shot, Rhys's fears of losing Jo, like he's lost so much already, threaten to rip them apart. Can she convince him that love is worth having no matter the risk? Or will he play it safe, leaving before his heart becomes too attached?
“Hello, I'm Rhys.” His voice wasn't deep, but not light either. It drew her in, made her want to see what it'd take to make that crisp, proper tone break and heat. What would turn it into a growl?
Holding out her hand, Jo smiled. “I'm Jo.”
“Karma said this stool was empty, mind if I join you?” He tipped his bottle toward the stool Karma had vacated.
He turned to face the pool tables and propped his elbows on the counter behind him. Both sipped their beers and watched Sullivan break. Jo hid a smile at how distracted her sister was with Abe. Of everyone in the bar, she'd never have pegged Abe as Karma's type.
“Heard you had the date from hell.” Rhys turned in his seat and focused his unusual gold eyes on her.
“Don't get me started, seems like I'm drawing them like flies to shit right now.”
Rhys grinned. “Weird analogy, but okay. I saw you and your sister in the ring yesterday.” As perfect as the man seemed on closer inspection, it was not only reassuring to see the slight gap between his front teeth but endearing as well.
Heat stole over Jo's face and she twisted around to face Rhys. All her friends and co-workers had been talking about that fight.
“Who won?” he asked, interrupting her rambling thoughts.
Shrugging, she smiled. “Depends on who you ask.”
“I'm asking you.”
Jo leaned toward him, the heat of his body seemed to reach out to envelope her. It was odd how much she wanted to move even closer, wrap herself around him. Shaking off the feeling, Jo focused on their conversation. “Oh, then the captain won.”
Rhys's gaze darkened with confusion. “What?”
“See, Sullivan, my partner, he says I won. Maker says if they counted the hits by MMA rules, then Karma would've won because some of my hits weren't kosher. Karma says the match was a draw and I say the captain won.”
Rhys scratched his shadowed jaw. “I'll bite, why do you think the captain won?”
“Oh, that's easy. Because when we were going at it, the captain stepped into the gym and with one shout cleared the entire area out.”
That drew a surprised laugh from Rhys. He was gorgeous when he laughed, the brackets around his mouth deepened and his eyes crinkled at the corners in happiness. “I thought I saw a lot of on duty cops down there.”
His expression turned pensive. “Do you often fight like that with your sister?”
“First, Karma's my half-sister. Second, we had a lot of things to work out. Sometimes it's better to deal with our feelings in the ring rather than let it fester.”
“You had a lot of anger to work out, but she”—Rhys pointed his beer bottle toward Karma—“wasn't working out anything.”
“What?” Jo’s gaze darted between her sister and Rhys. He motioned at Karma again, it proved he'd seen the fight. “How can you say that? She came at me with everything she had.”
Tipping the bottle to his lips for the last swallow, he set it on the counter with a hollow thump. “No, she didn't.”
Jo finished her own beer and set her empty bottle next to his, debating if she wanted the answer to the questions he'd raised. But that was why she had become a detective, to protect those she loved with her most valuable asset. Puzzles, they were her addiction and people were the most complex puzzles on the face of the earth. “Okay, I'll bite. What makes you think she didn't fight just as hard as I did?”
Another grin flashed across Rhys's sharp planed face. “Because when you're angry you have several tells that she could easily have used to her advantage. She didn't. Instead, she defended herself and let you work out your frustration on her.”
Bullshit, Jo thought and then said, “Bullshit.”
“What tells?” No way did she have tells. She worked too damned hard to make sure she never telegraphed her moves.
“When you made the roundhouse kick, you shifted your left foot before you followed through.” Leaning toward her, he continued, “And when you went to change up your punch to use your left fist instead of your dominant right one, you lowered your shoulder.”
Distracted by the subtle cologne he wore, it took Jo a second for her brain to latch on to what he said. “The hell I did.”
He shifted away from her and she wanted to growl at her stupidity. Dammit. She wanted him closer and now she'd run him off. Then he was back, a phone in his hand and the fight on the small screen. “Watch.”
Her eyes followed the action. “Son of a bitch. She's not even trying.”
“That's not true, it takes a good deal of concentration to keep someone as determined as you from doing a lot of damage.” Rhys tucked his phone back in his pocket. “And as both of you are highly trained, it took her even more effort.”
“How do you know how well trained we are?” Suspicion curled into Jo.
He smiled again. “When is your next day off?”
“I'm not sure with this new case.” She struggled to keep up with the rapid change of subject.
“Okay, how about I call you next week. Maybe you can get an evening or afternoon off and we can go out to dinner or do something else.”
Surprised, she took too long to answer, and he continued, “Or not.”
A flash of something that looked like disappointment appeared in Rhys's golden gaze but disappeared so fast Jo could've been mistaken.
“I'd like that, but I thought you were interested in Karma.”
“No, she's too flashy for me. I prefer a woman who's a bit more subtle.” He tipped his head to the side.
She turned to see Karma arguing with Sullivan, as usual. “She can be a tigress.”
It was true, proven when Karma had leaped to her mother's defense. In retrospect, Jo realized that was also why Karma had instigated the fight earlier. To help Jo release her anger constructively and get her on an even keel to accept Karma and Maker onto the case. The revelation caused her sister to rise higher in Jo's estimation.
Rhys hummed, his cell phone back in his hand. “Give me your number.”
She loves writing, building worlds that her characters can explore and break if they feel the need. Action, adventure and love are her favorite things. And when stuff gets blown up who says the guy is the only one who gets to do it?
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Oh, Lord we'll need a whole month of blogs for this. Let's see. I don't consider myself unique, just average, but gosh do I have a lot of quirks. =D But so do others so again... average.
Let's start with my love of gaming. I love games and am willing to try any of them at least once. Card games, board games (though I hate Monopoly because I played it daily at my grandmother's house as that was the only board game she had), gaming station games, games that use your imagination like Snake and I-Spy, and computer games.
I even met my husband on a game we've been playing for almost fourteen years.
I'm also addicted to books. I LOVE a good story, heck I LOVE a bad story if the world building or characters are fun. I've been reading by myself since I was eight/nine when my grandmother gave me Kabumpo in Oz. It was the best story ever with moving countries and gnomes turned into giants wearing the Emerald City as a hat. That in turn led me to the entire Mrs. Pollifax series which led to David Eddings and moved along from there. If I'm on vacation, I can read a book a day. I don't get tired, don't get bored unless the world building or the characters throw me off then I might swap out books and come back. Otherwise, leave me in a corner with my ebook and I'm golden.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you.
Probably the biggest thing people find interesting is I moved from a small town in Alabama to the Netherlands to marry and live with my husband. I've also, taken the equivalency test for Dutch (Staatsexamen I) series in order to become a dual citizen of the Netherlands and America. And that test is not easy, especially, the speaking portion as you're in a room with 20 other people, everyone has headsets on with built in microphones. And your neighbor is probably taking a TOTALLY different Staatsexam/test than you are. So you listen and have to respond to either what is said or what you see on the computer while your neighbor and 20 others are doing the same and you have to do it within a set time frame in almost perfect Dutch. Almost perfect as you need a score of at least 400 out of 500 to pass. I passed that section with a 401, while the writing, reading comprehension and listening were all well above 400.
I will share a secret... Dutch grammar is NOTHING like American English grammar which I'm sure drives my editor nuts. Probably drives my critique partners nuts too, now that I think about it.
What are some of your pet peeves?
My biggest pet peeve is when I'm gaming with a group and one of them needs a bathroom break.
Now, I don't mind if they need the break, however, my issue comes in when they take the dang headset into the toilet and chatter while they're doing their business. Do NOT do this when I'm on the headset. I hang up immediately. I don't care if we've paused the game halfway into a dungeon. I won't get back on the chat at all. I just won't. I'll do the same thing when someone calls me and are on the phone in the bathroom, because ew... just ew.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in the Roebuck/Woodlawn/East Lake area. The hospital isn't there anymore, but I still hear stories.
I grew up in Birmingham until I was about seven/eight. My family and I used to go to Cascade Plunge which is also not active anymore, but OMG the pool was HUGE olympic size with these three diving boards, a baby pool attached to the big pool and around the entire thing were lounge chairs, refreshment stands. It was amazing. I've never seen anything like it since.
After eight my mom remarried and we moved out to Cropwell, Alabama and lived on Logan Martin Lake where my parents still live for those who know the area they live near Harmon's Island. It's gorgeous as they live in a sort of inlet so where their pier is located, not many boats can drive past as there's a sandbar before you hit our pier. It was hilarious when we'd get boaters who didn't know the area stuck on the sandbar because they'd drive like mad through the inlet and swing around our way. Our dad would have to wade out and help free them.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I live like I'm always going to die since we never know when that will happen. So everyday is a fun adventure from chattering with shop owners to teasing the nieces and nephews and checking in with my online friends. I make sure to tell my hubby I love him even when I'm angry, it might come out in a snarl, but I said it so it counts. And I tell my mom to 'Have a cow' because in Dutch to say 'I love you' is 'Ik hou van jouw/je' and my mom heard 'Have a cow' from it, so we roll with it.
As you can see I try to always find the positives, there's enough negatives floating around.
Who is your hero and why?
I have no idea how to respond to this as I don't really have a 'hero' per se. I have a husband who's amazing and rescues me from online trolls along with our group of online friends.
But if I had to choose someone I look up to... that would probably be the cast of Star Trek and Star Trek:TNG as both of these groups had strong female leads, pushed the boundaries of acceptance and always tried to handle things peacefully until the gloves needed to come off.
Otherwise, it'd be my family. They're quirky, loud and total rebels and I learn a heck of a lot from them.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I'd totally kick rear as my group, from mine and my husband's online gaming friends, would say. We've led a social group within the game for going almost thirteen years now. I think what makes a strong leader is loyalty, consistency, and knowing when someone is just having an absolute horrible day and acting out. Then confronting them about it in a separate conversation. We've had explosions within the clan chat, we've had other clans attack us, or our members, verbally and we've been trolled on forums for some of our thoughts.
However, even in the thickest fight the four hundred members of our group constantly pop on to help, if one of us is being bullied. Whether we have what's called a froob-busting event. This is when high level players are doing the bullying, the members of our group, that can, will go to the place it's happening at and intervene. Sometimes it's not pretty. Sometimes the bully is having a bad day and is taking it out on our member. Usually between our core members we can calm the waters and get the other guy to apologize, or if it turns out it's one of our members... get him/her to apologize. There have been one or two instances where the bully is just that... someone who just has to make everyone miserable because he thinks it's funny.
Those we handle much differently and usually with a lot of force in that, again depending on the resource or area our clan member is in we might need 20-30 people. Then we spread out and literally take all the resources the bully's trying to get until he either changes to a different server/world or leaves the game altogether.
I'm not sure if I answered the question, but that's how I'd rule the world. And yes, we do have alliances with other clans in the game the same as each country in the world have alliances/agreements with other countries. It's just beneficial in my opinion.
What are you passionate about these days?
Writing and gaming.
Mostly writing. I love writing. I love creating worlds and then thinking... huh, how can my character break this and which character would do it with some attitude?
Gravedigger, that's my current release, is set in Birmingham, Alabama and even though it's a Romantic Suspense set in present day, I still have the characters break things. Totally my imagination at work, but I like action.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Read and game and sometimes watch a movie.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Quiet. In person I'm quiet. I like to sit and watch people interact, it fascinates me. What the different cultures do compared to how I was raised, I like seeing the differences and finding the similarities that connect us. My husband on the other hand is a talker. He loves to interact and chat, so we balance each other well in that respect. There are times when I'll talk quite a bit, but for the most part I love to sit in a corner and take notes on body language, idioms and so on.
Fun. I'm willing to try anything once. I've bungee jumped and I'm terrified of heights. I've parasailed even though the theme music to jaws played in my head the entire time. I love playing with the kids, we'll do various versions of Let's Dance and when we hear the songs in public we end up doing the dance steps from the video game. Which is hilarious.
I'm friendly. When I'm in town, while my husband teaches, I do the shopping. In the Netherlands, they have shops you buy different things at so for instance to find the specific vitamins I need to take I have to go to a vitamin shop (that's not what it's called, but essentially that's what it is), for a larger selection on bath products I go to shop that reminds me of the old Big 'B's not sure if anyone will remember those stores... lol. And for groceries we go to anywhere between 2-4 shops depending on what we're buying. So for a lot of it, I walk with a backpack and get the small things. As I do this I talk to people, my Dutch is decent. I studied for two years, so I can communicate, however when I get flustered I'll literally translate English into Dutch. So instead of saying schoonmoeder for mother-in-law I've said moeder in de wet several times which literally means mother-in-law as wet means law.
Dependable. I try to always do what I say I'm going to, sometimes life interferes but for the most part I'm there.
Imaginative. When I'm doing chores around the house I can get lost in my head easily. It's why I don't cook, there've been many a times when I'll get a story in my head and forget to flip the hamburgers or set the dishtowel too close to the gas burner. Luckily, my husband's a chef so I do the cutting, cleaning and fetching and he does the heavy lifting.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I first considered myself a writer when I wrote my first story. I finished it at seventeen and then spent the next year trying to get it published. It didn't work out back then, this was the early nineties and none of the publishers wanted a strong female character.
Do you have a favorite movie?
I have movies I gravitate towards, the Lethal Weapons series are among my favorites. Demolition Man I broke three VHS tapes re-watching it. And A Christmas Story, I'll watch it over and over without blinking an eye, my little sister loves this one as well.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Any of them. I write them as a movie that plays in my head. I can see the characters move and interact, I can see them spring into action or their facial expressions when they're snarky. The majority of mine are action/adventure with romance so there's shooting, fights, death, more fights and drama as the villain is unmasked.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I'm not sure I understand this question as life is my journey. I take bits and pieces that I've experienced and sprinkle them throughout the story. It's why Gravedigger, my latest release, is set in Birmingham, Alabama. I know that are, I know the hole in the wall Chinese restaurant with the absolute best food. I know the Harbert Center, I used to meet my mom there for lunch.
It's also why I set my futuristic series in America. It's a VERY different America, but I left some landmarks scattered through it so readers can imagine where the Mutant Free Zone city of Icaria is, near Norfolk where the Lonely Sailor statue is. There are a few other 'Easter Eggs' to be found in the books as well.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I've no idea, but it'd be purple and maybe have some bright pink polka dots as a warning. Aren't things you warn kids about brightly colored? =D
What inspired you to write this book?
Gravedigger was an interesting book with offbeat characters. I was actually researching a serial killer based out of California for a different series I'm working on when an odd link popped up in my Google search. I love those kinds of random happenstances as it always leads to adventure, so I clicked it and it opened into an article from a British paper talking about 'the Mad Russian'. After reading this then digging deeper into the entire series of events, my imagination went into overdrive as I'd been toying with Josephine and Rhysian's story, but could never find a good villain to start the series off with... this was the one.
Gravedigger isn't like the other baddies in that he doesn't bury people alive. I liked the concept of him being a modern day grave robber, so that's how I set it up. I took a small piece of the Mad Russian in terms of him digging up the graves, but that's as far as it goes. My gravedigger has a history for why he's doing this and instead of keeping the bodies, he returns them with little to no forensic evidence. It's as if he's wrapped the victims in plastic kept them for a week and brings them back to the cemetery he took them from.
This is the link to the Mad Russian, there are more, but this gives you a general overview ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Moskvin#Motive
There were several moving pieces to the story as I wanted the characters based in Birmingham, Alabama. So, I needed to know the cemeteries. You asked about my literary pilgrimage above, well I guess you could say this ties into that as when I was a teenager my friends and I would cemetery hop looking for ghosts. It was something to do on Halloween. It never frightened me as my great grandfather used to live in a cemetery as a caretaker, Oak Hill, and even now they have Halloween events in the cemetery. I wanted to include Elmwood Cemetery for sure in the book as it's historic and holds one of the most famous SEC coaches in Alabama history as well as one still celebrated today, Bear Bryant. Alabama fans still come by his grave and pay their respects, leaving flowers or mementos.
My favorite picture is of Oak Hill cemetery overlooking the Birmingham city skyline. They have historic tours and it fills me with pride to know my great grandfather not only helped care for this place, but is now buried there. As if he's still looking after it even now.
Oak Hill Cemetery ~ https://www.oakhillbirmingham.com/home
Elmwood Cemetery ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmwood_Cemetery_(Birmingham,_Alabama)
Elmwood Cemetery is very well protected and it isn't possible to get into at night, so I took a bit of creative license when I included it in the story.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More action and adventure. It's what I enjoy, so it's what I write. I've got another book set to release in November for my futuristic series and am editing the sequel to Josephine and Rhysian's story at the moment the title is Skinned and they become engaged in this story as Josephine is chasing a killer linked to her past as well as uncovering the mole within their department. Then the third is next up for the editing block and the working title is Slenderman, this story will have Josephine pairing up with her half-sister Karma and Interpol as she and Rhys try to plan their wedding. Of course, Jospehine's colors of choice are the colors of her guns which sets her mother in a tailspin, so Rhys has to step in and smooth things out before Jo puts her foot down and they elope.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
I'm working on a few blog stories that I want to do with the characters. Especially, Josephine as she always gets into trouble when Rhys isn't around.
I've also got a spin-off series I've been working on which will feature Josephine's half-sisters Karma, Jenna and Juliette.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Gravedigger?
I can talk to... I mean about my characters all day.
Josephine 'Jo' Rayburn is a homicide detective, it's all she's ever wanted to be when she was growing up. Her adopted father, Carl Rayburn, is who she calls Dad and in my story he was the Chief of Moody Police. So from an early age she's learned to be a cop, the majority of the Rayburns are in branches of law enforcement from the Sheriff's Department to the various precincts around Alabama to County Deputies. And there are a lot of Rayburns which you'll see as the story progresses as well as through the next few books in the series. The Rayburn clan is a large tight-knit family.
Josephine has a lot of siblings, I mirrored this a bit with my family, but not completely. She has two older stepbrothers, from Carl's previous marriage, and a younger half-brother and sister which are Carl and Jo's mother, Maddy's biological children. All of her siblings, except the younger brother, has children which makes for large gatherings.
Again this is a mirror of my family as I have two older sisters and a younger brother and sister all with anywhere from 1-5 kids and as some of the older nieces and nephews are married with their own spouses and kids family holidays are a madhouse and a LOT of fun, at least for me to watch. It's like having my own television show with no commercials... And if my mom's siblings and their families come, or my stepdad's side of the family, then it's mass chaos. Which again is a lot of fun to watch quietly from a corner taking notes, especially listening to the various conversations which can be HILARIOUS.
What I added into Josephine's story was three additional half-sisters, Karma, Juliette and Jenna who grew up with Josephine's biological father. I don't have these, they're a figment of my imagination. I have a half-brother somewhere, but I've never met him. And as my father is no longer among the living, I can't ask for details.
I chose to add Karma, Juliette and Jenna because I wanted a group that were off-beat and they throw Josephine for a loop quite a bit. I don't want to give too much away about the three as I'm writing a spin-off series with them as main characters.
Rhysian 'Rhys' Harrison has a brother, Rian. Their parents died in a car accident and the two brothers are the last of their family. A reader won't be able to tell it completely, but Rhys and Rian are rich, the area they live in is one of the richest suburbs in Alabama and one of the second, or third, wealthiest in the South. Rhys doesn't reflect this except in the house they live in, as it's been in his family for a few generations, and a car his dad had bought. He doesn't do flashy clothes, though his clothing is well-made and he has a few tailored suits and leather shoes.
Rhys's brother Rian is mentally challenged, which I left a bit ambiguous in the beginning because Rhys would never think of his brother that way unless prodded. But Rian was involved in a hit-and-run while on his bike at the age twelve. Due to the impact and not being found right away, Rian had brain damage. This is the primary reason Rhys's ex-fiancée left him. Rhys fills Josephine in on their first date as she presses him for answers, she is a cop after all, so of course some of that comes out in her personality when she wants to know something. Sometimes it's over the top as she just keeps digging which makes for a tense date.
And just a FYI, Josephine is NOT based on me. She's actually based a little on a friend I had in high school who was snarky, snarly, and kicked rear end when it was needed. Don't worry, she knows who she is... =D
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I can't tell you where I came up with Josephine's name as it's a reveal in the book. I can tell you she hates the name and her middle name is my mom's middle name. The story she tells Rhys about why her middle name is Lavette is the same story my grandmother told me when choosing my mom's name. Because the name sounds like Love-it when Josephine's family says it, she will never use her middle name, which is why she goes by Jo.
Rhysian's name came from my imagination. I wanted something sci-fi since his parents met at a Star Trek convention. I also, wanted Rian's name to be unique as well so I went with Lorian and turned it into Rian for short. I've been to several Star Trek conventions and even joined a starship club the USS Defiant. It was EPIC as I wanted to be ranked, so I had to study one of the division and I chose the Science one. So, I thought it was fitting to mix that a bit with Rhys's background.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
All of it. I like the interaction between the characters and how Jo can show her extreme annoyance with a raised eyebrow or an icy gaze that sends perps fleeing. I like how Rhys sees something in her that is warm and he draws it out of her. I think couples in love do that, they bring the best out in the other person and Rhys definitely does this for Jo.
Just as Jo teaches Rhys that he needs to live in the moment and trust that just because his ex-fiancée left because of Rian's disability Jo's family will accept them. And if given a chance, her family will help so Rhys can achieve his dream as well.
It was a balancing act as I wanted Rhys to be laid-back, but also have issues with the danger inherent in Josephine's job. He almost lost his brother when Rian was younger, then they lost their parents and his ex-fiancée bailed the second life got tough. So, he has issues with losing those he lets into his life and trusting they'll stay. But I also wanted him confident, so I tried to make him comfortable in his own skin when dealing with Josephine.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
My first novel or my first published work, or my first work with a publishing house?
My very first novel, I wrote it when I was seventeen, was called Onyx. It was never published, I don't even know where the printed version is as that was done on a wordprocessing typewriter (which is a nightmare trying to edit, but was way easier than a standard typewriter to write on. Lord, I'm showing my age... look away). I named the book after the main character.
My first published work I self-published as two publishing houses wanted me to totally change the book. One wanted to strip a lot of the adventure out and beef up the romance and the other wanted me to turn it into a YA. Neither worked for the characters, nor for the world they were in, so I went the self-pubbed route and it's called Birch's Faith. I used the female MC's name and Faith came from how far Birch needed to go to allow herself to trust in Zev again. I started out with the name Mist as that's what Zev ends up calling her as a unique nickname between them, but it felt confusing so I settled on Birch's Faith. This series, there are four now split between two series Woven Destinies and Scavenger's Bonded, is set in future America and was a lot of fun to write as I used a few landmarks to show the section of the states the groups live in.
My first work through a publishing house is Gravedigger. It's a present day romantic suspense based in Birmingham, Alabama. I came up with the name as it's what Josephine and her team refer to the bad guy as. It felt right and when I tossed it into my critique group they liked it as well. They thought it was unique as well as conveying a hint of danger while alerting the reader that it's probably going to have some cemetery action. My husband and I toyed with a few other names, but that's the one that stuck. I actually originally called the book Digger, since the bad guy dug the victims up and didn't bury them. But it morphed into Gravedigger.
Who designed your book covers?
For Gravedigger, I had an AWESOME designer. Her name is Fiona Jayde. She captured Josephine perfectly as well as what the book is about with the menacing trees, foggy cemetery and a great feel as if Jo's spotted her quarry her gun in her hand ready to be used if needed.
For my self-pubbed works. I did the covers myself and I think they look great, if I do say so myself. I've actually updated all of them to better fit the genre as well as the stories.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes, I didn't catch it. No one did until I received an email from one of the ladies reviewing my book. She pictured the cemeteries small as if the police were within shouting distance of each other.
That's not the case, and I should've caught that. These cemeteries are MASSIVE. Elmwood is 482-acres which is 1.67 kilometers, or 1 mile. The other cemetery where the story opens, the cemetery I used to help me navigate that area, is maybe a quarter to half the size of Elmwood, give or take, there's nothing on the internet that shows me the exact size of it. But there is an aerial map I used since the cemetery is in the middle of a heavily wooded area that surrounds it on three sides. So I took the idea of that cemetery, but changed it so it fit what I needed for my characters and story to work.
The other cemeteries around Birmingham are just as large, even Oak Hill is over 200 acres and it's within the city limits of Birmingham.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned a good bit writing the book. I had to delve into the psychological aspects of my bad guy which was interesting. I read a lot of information and studies about what would press someone into going to these extremes.
I also refreshed my memory about brain damage and the causes to make sure I got Rian's character just right. I based him off of a person I knew ages ago who also had severe brain trauma when she was a child. She was fully functioning except for a few tremors sometimes. Her body was that of a thirty-year-old when I met her, but her mind and the way she processed information was that of a twelve- to thirteen-year-old. She was a lot of fun to hang with, always positive and upbeat unless something hit her wrong. Then she'd frown and if we didn't get her out of the mood asap she'd throw a temper tantrum that was very hard to control.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Someone like Mila Kunis as she's small and feisty like Josephine, she has the snarky personality as well based on some of her previous work.
When I wrote Gravedigger, I was re-watching the Mentalist, because that show ROCKED. So, when I picture Rhys for some reason I had an image of Simon Baker. Though Rhys isn't as sarcastic or mischievous as Patrick Jane, the laid-back persona Jane turned into when something serious happened was what I was looking for with Rhys. That trait that showed he cared and would do what was needed to make it right.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I'd have to say the Thanksgiving piece. Just writing it made me tear up as living in the Netherlands I miss my family, so adding that scene and how I had Carl taking Rhys into the boat house/garage for some bonding time. It happened somewhat that way when my husband came over to visit before we were married. My dad and him went to the three car detached garage and Pop showed Meint, that's my husband, all the fishing equipment and his boat and so on. The only difference was it wasn't at Thanksgiving, Meint came over in January, and there weren't any massive family events. It was pretty quiet.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I'd have to say Rian. He's a trip (that's slang for funny... I know, I'm showing my age again. Avert your eyes, it'll pass) and I'm working on a few blog stories with him featured in them.
I can see us going to my parents' house and getting them to take us tubing on the lake. Maybe stop at Fat Man's BBQ, just thinking about their pulled pork sandwiches with a side order of coleslaw is making me hungry.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
It's a mixture. My characters start with characteristics of my crazy family and friends, usually, and they morph from there into their own person. Other times, the character is just there screaming to get on the page and they resemble only themselves.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?
It varies. With Gravedigger, sometimes Jo and Rhys ran the show and sometimes there were certain points that needed to be reached so I held up the cuffs and was like 'You can come peacefully or we can do it the hard way.' I'm glad they agreed to play along and pretend I was in charge at those times.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I'd hate to force anyone to read anything. I swear I just had a flashback to high school English where I spent the summer reading seven or eight mandatory books. One of the positives was reading Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. I liked that one. I did not like Lord of the Flies, it was disturbing and gave me nightmares.
So, instead of saying it's a MUST read. I'll say this, the characters are fun, there's snarkiness to be had by all scattered throughout the book. If you like action with a little mystery, a lot of first love stumbles and watching as a couple learns to merge their lives, then this is a good fit.
This is my trailer as well... maybe it can convince you... **snaps a mind control device on the trailer**
There we go... Are you convinced yet? =D
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Yes, I've got the next two books of Josephine and Rhysian's stories written. I just need to have a good read through and edit before I ship them to the publisher for review.
Other than that, I have the fifth installment of my futuristic self-published series written and am working on editing now.
I also, have Karma's story almost finished.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Hahahahha. I have no idea. Sandalwood? Definitely NOT lavender as one, I'm allergic to it, and two that scent puts you to sleep. Oh, maybe jasmine. Or ginger. Now, I'm thinking Chinese and as Jo loves Chinese food, let's choose that scent.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
I only get to choose 10? Crud-o-la...
Robert Jordan the Wheel of Time series would go at the top. Then would probably come Carol O'Connell, John Sandford and Michael Connelly as I thoroughly enjoy good mysteries. Then pretty much any romance author, I have a LOT of those from historical to contemporary I've read a lot of different authors. Contemporary: Daryl Devore, Liza O'Connor, Viviana MacKade, Linda Howard, Julie Garwood, to historical Jenna Jaxon and Gina Dana to offbeat steampunk with zombies by Meljean Brook and Egyptian gods and goddesses by Tmonique Stephens or haunting contemporaries set in France like Sara Claridge's books.
Like I said, I read a lot. I don't have 'favorites' exactly since I re-read the stories. Even mine. I've got all my books loaded onto my Kobo and I read them. Not to edit, but to read and enjoy. It's why I wrote them in the first place.
What book do you think everyone should read?
One they enjoy. I am not a mandatory reading person. I think people should try different genres, kind of like trying different foods, it broadens the mind.
I try different genres, just because I like the experience. Horror is the worst for me though. Stephen King's IT totally freaked me out when I read it, I swear I slept with all the lights on for a week. And every drain in my bathroom was plugged and covered before I fell asleep. So the movie didn't even phase me, because the book was so much more intense. This genre I limit myself as my overactive imagination immerses me in every little detail like I'm there. Like Thinner, again by Stephen King. I've read Dean Koontz too, Tick Tock was spine-tingling for me.
I don't like a lot of true stuff. Biographies and autobiographies, those aren't my thing. I've tried to read them, but I just can't get into them too well. I do like some of the old ones, like Anne Frank's diaries, because I've visited the attic Anne Frank lived in during the German invasion, so I can better picture her life there as well as the village since my husband and I walked through it and asked questions.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since I was fifteen. I finished my first book, it was about two-hundred pages, by the time I was seventeen and spent the next two years trying to get it published. I had the sequel written when I was twenty, then between college and a full-time job I couldn't carve out the time for anymore. And after all the rejections I realized the market wasn't ready for a female fighters, females needed to be secretaries, office workers or managers. But never heads of security or rulers of a world.
So, I put the stories aside and focused on life in general for a while and I feel as if it made my stories richer. I can draw from certain experiences that I just hadn't had at seventeen yet.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
By the time I'm writing my stories, the worlds are fully formed. There might be some secondary characters that'll pop up every once in a while. But I know what my characters ate for breakfast, which shoe they put on first, what music they listen to and so on.
For instance, the cast of characters in Gravedigger all have their own likes and dislikes which sometimes clash. Rian, he'd eat Fruity Pebbles every morning and twice on Sunday if Rhys didn't watch him. Rhys prefers bagels or scrambled eggs. Jo loves raspberry pancakes. Sullivan, Jo's partner on the force, hates donuts, while his daughter, Arabelle loves them. Arabelle is addicted to frogs in all shapes and sizes and buys any clothing with the creatures on it for her father to wear. Hence the various frog ties and shirts Sullivan will come out proudly wearing. Karma is addicted to French Fries and will literally cross into oncoming traffic to get to a food cart selling them.
So, I'd say they come to me all at once with all their foibles and flaws.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
It depends. Some books beg to be written and I'll highlight areas I need to research more in depth just so I can get the story onto the page.
Gravedigger, I researched quite a bit before I wrote it as I wanted to understand if it were possible to dig a body out of a grave and what would it take. It actually takes quite a lot of work, but if someone was determined it could be done. The Mad Russian was able to do it alone and based on my research he got away with it for quite sometime as he gathered twenty-seven bodies before he was ever arrested.
I also needed to know how secure cemeteries were, which I used my mother for as well as my knowledge of visiting cemeteries on Halloween with my friends. Now-a-days cemeteries are very secure with all the turmoil surrounding them. Back in the early 90's I could drive through most of them looking for ghosts and such. We never did find any, but it made for a great Halloween experience as well as for scary stories to tell my nieces and nephews.
Then I delved into why the Mad Russian did what he did so I could mirror this for my character. I didn't use everything I learned, but I used some of it to help round out that character.
If you're interested in the Mad Russian here's one of the links I used ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatoly_Moskvin#Motive
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I see writing as a part of my life. I think, now that I've learned how to manage time more effectively I'll never stop writing. I'll always be working on one story or another for the rest of my life.
Whether my stories sell or not is a whole different thing. But I write what I want to read, so I'm always entertained and anyone who's read my books have enjoyed them, so that's a win as well.
The second I started writing again, I realized what Confucius meant when he said 'Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.' Marc Anthony said it as well 'If you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.'
These two understood job satisfaction.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I like romance. Give me a good romance and I'm happy. It can be sci-fi, fantasy, suspense, futuristic or any other you can think of and I'll read them. I enjoy high Fantasy as well.
I re-read an amazing indie author the other day named Will Wight and his Traveler's Gate series. It's almost like reading about the video game I play the way the first book is laid out in terms of the house the MC has to traverse to gain his powers. It was well thought out with a great balance.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
My fight scenes I write with music that has a heavy beat or is very dramatic like Florence and the Machines No Light, No Light I listened on repeat as I wrote a scene in Birch's Faith where she rescues the male MC. The music helps me focus and gives me a beat to work from as I get the scene on paper.
For Gravedigger, my latest release, I listened to Halestorm quite a bit and ended up incorporating the band into the first date scene with Josephine and Rhysian as they both love the band's music and it helps smooth the first date foibles they'd run into in the car.
Arguing scenes, I write those in silence as I'm most times talking it through to myself when I'm writing them. The same with the breakup scenes. Most of the other scenes it just depends, sometimes I listen to light Jazz, classical, sweet romantic songs.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I have several. There are some scenes I know what I want, but it's not translating on the page, so I'll work on another story and let the scene stew a bit.
Gravedigger wasn't like that, though. That story, the second I had everything laid out, flew onto the page without a problem. The sequels were the same way.
But my upcoming release, Naktmerié's Monster, I had a few challenges. I wanted my hero in that book to be different from the predecessors. The reason being, in all the others the couples meet and they fall in love... well except for Sara's Kaos, Kaos was my MC in that one and he wasn't too impressed with Sara, but he was still drawn to her. I didn't want that with Nakt. I wanted him to be a total alpha-hole, I didn't want him to want to be bonded. I just wanted him not to fit a mold, so I broke it.
It was a hard balance keeping him sympathetic to the reader while still making him a total tool. It was also hard showing his redeeming qualities, so Shae could still fall in love with him. It doesn't help their relationship at all when Shae sets Nakt up to be kidnapped by a sadistic villainess, but in my opinion you can't have a hero that's dark and brooding and have his lady love be lily white and singing about the bright sunny day... Nope, she's gotta have a dark side as well.
If you could have been the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
My own books. If I was someone else, I wouldn't be me and my stories might never be written. So I'll choose me. I might not be famous, nor rich, but I love my characters and my worlds and I absolutely LOVE talking about them with anyone who'll listen. Captive audiences are the best, because then they can't run away, it's why we keep duct tape around though my hubby swears it's to repair stuff.
Pen or type writer or computer?
All the above... Any of the above... Might as well add ebook annotations and cell phone notes app. And grocery receipts, napkins at restaurants, and children's menus. If my muse is rocking then I'm writing and I'll use whatever is at hand... even if it is my hand and I can only make a few notes.
Though I'll give some advice here, men's hands are bigger which makes being married rock as you can borrow your husband's hand. The key is having him sit still long enough to transcribe the notes. I've not tried this method yet as usually I can find something else to write on, but I've been keeping it in the back of my head just in case.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
I'd probably go with Aviendah from Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. She's one of the MCs paramours, but is fierce in her own right as she was a Maiden of the Spear and later a Wise One who wields the female piece of the One Power. I like her indomitable spirit, she doesn't like change but when there's no other choice she does what's needed. She merges her time as a warrior with what she needs to be a Wise One to help guide her people and Rand through the war that's coming.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?
I've always wanted to be an author. It was my husband who encouraged me to take the opportunity when I first moved to the Netherlands and publish my first book.
So, that's what I did, I wrote Birch's Faith and the rest as they say is history.
A day in the life of the author?
A day in my life... Oh dear, as my husband would say. I try to get up between 330 and 430 every morning as that's when it's quietest. I make a pot of coffee and do my best to write for about an hour. Then I check emails, Facebook, Twitter, my website, YouTube and various groups I'm in which can take a few hours give or take and as my mom-in-law wakes anywhere from 730 to 930 I have to listen out for her so I can get her ready to start her day.
Then the kids might come over, school here is a bit different than in the states. And the kids all have bikes as that's their primary mode of transportation usually until their mid-twenties when they take driving lessons and then get a car. Since we never know when the kids are coming I try not to write during the day as I can be interrupted quite a bit. Instead, I'll work on graphics, listen to music selections to try to find one that fits my next book so I can make the trailer. I'll work on critiques for other authors, beta reads, or reviews as these I can fall in and out of pretty easily. Or I'll record tutorials for my game, which I still need to edit, tutorials for various programs I use, or I'll record game play just for fun.
The reason I'm recording the videos and such is I want to reopen my blog, but in such a way it helps other authors and is also enjoyable to readers who stop by and want a few minutes of entertainment.
So, I'm working on several blog stories as well as incorporating my love of gaming. In that vein I've decided Fridays will be fun and games day. Which I'll post my game play on or a game like Snake others can join in and play if they want. I'll make sure to post the rules, there won't be prizes as this is strictly just for fun and to connect with those you might not connect with otherwise.
Advice they would give new authors?
Don't give up. If writing is truly your dream and your passion, then keep going. It's easy to listen to all the negatives, we get fed that every day in this world. You need to learn to filter it out and focus on the comments that will make you a better writer so you can succeed. Maybe you write something that's offbeat and others don't get it. As long as you enjoy the story, the world and the subject you're writing on, then keep going. There are so many people in the world, it will click with someone, somewhere.
As for critiques. Take these with a grain of salt. You know your characters best, the critiques are to help draw attention to something that might be a hiccup, however, maybe the hiccup is there for a reason that only you know but reveal later in the story. If you have a critique circle and several people are highlighting the spot, then you might need to step back and re-examine to see what can change to smooth the section out.
Never take a critique personally, it's not an attack on you, though sometimes it feels like it. It's not. These groups are there to help you get better at your chosen craft, some of the personalities might be blunt. It's never personal, it's just how the person might communicate.
I've had critiques where I literally cringe, because it's as if my page is bleeding with comments. It happens. It'll probably happen next time I post another chapter for my critique group to look at. It's just the process.
What makes a good story?
Anything can be a good story. Even a dripping faucet if it's told with a good flare, especially if the MC beats it into submission with a wrench to try to stop the drip... but then the liquid finds a way to wiggle out just to... ddddrrrriiiipppp one more time. Which leads to the demise of the faucet and sink. As the faucet pings onto the tiled floor, the water rushes out in joy as it sprays everything it can reach, effectively flooding of the kitchen. The click of heels has the MC turning towards the doorway in dread as his wife steps through, grocery bags in her hands. She arches a brow. “Tried to fix-it yourself, I see.”
There was a book, the name escapes me and Google isn't helping me today, but the entire story took place in the kitchen. The reader only saw snippets of the MCs lives based on the action in the kitchen and you had to fill in the rest using your imagination. It was a good story, just a bit odd.
What are they currently reading?
At the moment, I'm reading His Midnight Sun by Viviana MacKade. It's a great story, I'm halfway through and if you've read it... shhh... don't tell me the ending. =D
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
This varies for me. If I'm in the middle of writing a scene and it triggers something for another story, I'll stop and make a few notes. Then I'll finish my scene and return to the notes to flesh them out and set them aside.
I don't typically do chapters first or outline. I write scenes. For instance, with Gravedigger I knew how I wanted the first date to go with Josephine and Rhysian so that was the first scene I wrote. I put them at an outside craft show mirrored after Homestead Hollow that takes place twice a year in Alabama.
The next scene I wrote was the first scene of the book with Josephine meeting up with Sullivan in the parking garage and heading out to the crime scene on a case Josephine refers to as the 'Zombie Case'.
After I get done writing I put the story together, I know how I want it to go, but some scenes come to me faster than others so I grab them while they're fresh.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Before signing up for things that cost money, like software. You might not need some things right off the bat so wait, who knows, you might be able to pick it up when the company's having a sale, or vanity publishers that you pay upfront costs to publish your books. Check into everything, make sure it's what you need before forking over your hard-earned cash. A good writing group has no problem answering those kinds of questions with beginning authors.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Gaming and reading. I can get sucked into my various games in a heartbeat and easily lose track of time which is why I have a timer on my cell. If I'm taking a break from writing, I'll set my timer so I'm not away from it for longer than thirty minutes or so.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Neither. I write what I enjoy reading. All my books are on my Kobo and I re-read them through the year. My thoughts are if I'm passionate about it and I enjoy reading it, others will too. My mom, who doesn't read a lot of futuristic books enjoyed Birch's Faith and is now reading the next line in that series, D'Reaper's Destiny, so I call that a win.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don't quit writing. Even if it's just a few minutes every day jot a few words down. I wish I'd not given up after the sixth rejection, but kept on trying.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Making sure I have their reactions right. I don't want cookie cutter male MCs, so if I'm having issues I'll poke my husband and use him as a sounding board. Or I'll ask some of the guys on my game.
I feel like I've got a good representation with my latest release, Gravedigger.
I have Rhysian who's laid-back and relaxed, comfortable in his skin and doesn't mind showing his emotions. Compared to Josephine who's emotionally constipated, add in snarly and prickly and not many men are willing to give her a chance, at least not many sane ones.
Sullivan is older and has no problems expressing himself, he's confident and says what he's thinking. Sometimes he can be blunt, but then again Jo's the same way. In that respect, he's makes a good mentor for Josephine.
Webster 'Maker' Schumaker, Karma's partner, is a watcher. He's silent for the most part and even though he's big he tends to blend in the background. It's part of his military training and he uses it to his advantage allowing his partner, Karma Zwart, to draw the attention. The two together make a deadly team.
Then there's Rian, Rhysian's brother, with him I get to go a little crazy and be a kid again in a grown up body... oh, wait I do that every day. Nevermind. I just get to have fun with Rian. He's bright and sunny with some of the moody, angsty piece as well tossed in. Since he was brain damaged in a hit-and-run when he was twelve his brain never fully developed. With a body of an eighteen-year-old and the brain of a teenager, he can be a handful when he loses his temper, which is why Rhys does his best to navigate the minefield that are Rian's emotions without setting him off.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It depends. Gravedigger it took me two weeks when I sat down and began writing. I thought my hands were going to fall off trying to keep up with the typing.
With Birch's Faith it took me a month and then a LOT of time editing time. Whereas Naktmerié's Monster took me almost six months because I struggled getting the balance just right between alpha-hole and someone the female MC could love with my main male MC, Naktmerié.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe in stress and life. I think if those two things are hitting a writer it makes it harder to get into your characters' heads, or it can make your characters angsty as we as writers try to work through it. But overall writer's block? No, I think if a writer is stuck at a certain point in their book, go work on another one for a bit. Let your mind rest and then come back to the first story when you've got the ideas sorted again.
If that doesn't work go for a walk, listen to some music, meet up with some friends or go sit in the library and people watch. Get out of your head for a bit and let your imagination fill up again. Something will click and you'll be back to typing away in no time.
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