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The City of Dreams
The iconic Hollywood sign was more garish in the bright California sun than Beth expected. She’d dreamed of this moment for so long, it didn’t seem real.
She reached for her cheap Polaroid camera, hesitated, then shrugged and quickly snapped the photo before the tour bus chugged out of the view point. Her parents might not care, but her young sister, Sara, would. She’d begged to come with Beth, but their father wouldn’t hear of it.
“If your sister wants to run off and get herself into who-knows-what kind of trouble, that’s up to her. She’s old enough to do what she wants. But you ain’t, and I say you’re not going anywhere.”
Yep, that was dear old Dad. Cripes, would it be so hard for…
This month’s featured blogger is Jacquie Biggar . Jacquie is a writer of romantic suspense novels. She writes tough, alpha males and strong, contemporary women. Jacquie lives on Vancouver Island with her husband.
When did you start writing?
I wrote a few short stories in middle school that were well received by my teachers and fostered my dream of making it a career one day.
Unfortunately, I set it aside for many years while working and raising a family. I didn’t get serious about writing until 2012. I signed up to Romance Writers of America, took numerous classes to learn my craft and joined a couple of critique groups. One year later, I published my first suspense novel, Tidal Falls.
Did you always have a gift for writing hot guys?
Lol, I don’t know about that, but I do like writing about strong, alpha males with protective instincts. I think it stems from a love of Harlequin. I’ve read their books since my pre-teen years and used to race for the mailbox each month for that subscription box filled with romantic heroes.
Tell us about Count Daffodil?
Count Daffodil is kind of a funny tale. I was a bit of an over-achiever in school and hated to get any bad grades. I’d been sick for a week or so and when I returned to class it was to learn I had a short story assignment due within two days. I stewed over it for more than a day; there was no way I could finish in time and disappointment rode me hard. I’d flopped onto the couch and was staring into space when suddenly a bouquet of daffodils I’d bought my mom for Easter jumped out at me from the kitchen table.
The story came to me almost fully formed (I’ve almost never had that happen since) and I turned my fantasy/mystery in on time. A few days later, when we received our grades I was stunned to learn I received the highest mark in class and was rewarded with a narration over the school loudspeaker at lunch the next day! So exciting!
What was it like to own and manage a diner?
The diner, The Blue Jay Café, is a landmark in our small town of seven thousand. It sits squarely in the middle of the business district on Main Street and seats fifty people. There are big bay windows, blue bench seats, a pass-through window to the kitchen, and old-time pictures on the walls. Every day it’s filled to the brim with my regulars—as I like to call them. People I’ve grown up with, ones who know my parents and grandparents, family and friends. It’s not work, it’s more like a social gathering J
When I was fifteen, I worked there as a server and dreamed then of owning a restaurant just like it. Gordon—my boss—had found and installed those individual jukebox machines on each table, had old-fashioned sundaes, and made the best trapper fries. (Thin sliced potatoes deep fried) He never had an unkind word for anyone and instilled loyalty in his staff.
Many years later, the restaurant came up for sale and my husband, knowing my vision, cashed in his RRSPs so I could put in an offer. You can’t imagine how thrilling—and frightening—it was to receive ownership!
I had no idea how to run a business, much less bookkeeping and payroll. And then, the cook I thought I had quit do to a knee injury and I was left to learn that aspect as well. What a steep learning curve! It took a few years to get into a smooth rhythm, but, gosh, I loved it. I miss it still.
What caused you to make the leap to writing as a full-time job.
When my daughter was accepted to university, she moved over twelve hundred miles away, but had trouble finding daycare for my then five-year-old grandson. I came out to the island with our RV to help until she could get organized. Then, winter came, and I had to stay—there was no way to haul the RV over the mountain passes with the snow. Hubby was back home working, the kids were in school (I’d do pickups here and there) and I was at loose ends, so I decided to try my hand at my old dream of writing.
I joined a local group here for inspiration and encouragement and found a new focus in romance writing.
When my grandson was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes a year later, we made the decision to sell everything back home and stay nearby to help our girl. That’s the key reason I decided to pursue a career in writing. I could work to their schedule and be on call whenever I was needed.
Who inspires you?
That’s easy—my daughter.
She’s a single mother, working her way through a double major in university for chemistry and biology (She’s been on the Dean’s list three times so far!), and has sole care for her son who is diabetic. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a life-threatening disease and takes 24/7 care to control. There’s special training required, not just for the family, but also for his daycare and school administrators. He’s athletic, which is great, but unlike other kids, has to be closely monitored for blood sugar highs and lows with the increased activities. He can’t go to other children’s homes for events like birthdays without a LOT of planning, and even then, she tends to go with him for safety. Sleepovers are rare and filled with worry. And, over all that she’s somehow managing a high-grade level.
She’s my hero!
How do you organize your workday?
I tend to start my morning by going through the blogs socializing. My website is my home base and the best way to build recognition there is by commenting and liking other blogs. A side benefit are the connections and friendships gained along the way J
The afternoon is spent promoting to Facebook groups (a free and easy way to get noticed) and Twitter, reading my e-mails, and doing critiques. I belong to two critique groups and believe their input on my work is the single best way to edit. By the time ten or twelve sets of eyes have gone over my chapters they’ve caught most of my errors.
I take a break from six to ten for the news and my favorite television programs, then write until midnight-one o’clock. I realize this is short compared to some authors, but it works for me. If I’m on a role I can do a chapter a night, otherwise it might take a couple of days.
Writing is important, but for indie authors the business aspect has to take precedence. Not much sense writing that award-winning novel if no one sees it, right?
What was the biggest obstacle for you to overcome?
I’m an introvert and find it impossibly hard to put myself out there for people to pick apart. One piece of advice you hear is to read your reviews and learn from them. I rarely look at any of my poor ones. It hurts too much. I put a lot of myself into my work—it’s like being flayed alive when I get negative feedback. Yes, I understand it’s bound to happen. My stories aren’t going to resonate with everyone, the same way some customers didn’t like how I flipped their eggs—it doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.
How does a story idea come to you?
Most of my ideas come from something I’ve seen on TV or read on the news. The Wounded Hearts series stems from hearing about a lawyer who was gunned down in his driveway and was later found to have ties to a Mexican drug cartel.
How much of your ‘self’ goes into your novels.
There are a lot of my family ideals in my books. That’s an underlying trope in every story. My grandmother passed away after suffering years of dementia, I’ve touched on that and how it affected the characters (and us). I’ve talked about Juvenile Diabetes and the dangers involved. Most of my stories revolve around family dynamics because that’s what’s important to me. Family is everything.
What advice do you have for beginners?
Be true to yourself. When you hear write what you know, it means from the heart. Locations can be faked or investigated, jobs learned, but emotion? Emotion comes from within and it’s priceless—it’s the thing that will set you apart, your voice.
Will you share a section of your favorite or most recent novel?
This is an excerpt from a new romantic suspense novel I’m currently working on. I’m hoping to turn it into a series in the future. It’s set in the world of NHL hockey and is titled Skating on Thin Ice.
Will a killer accomplish the greatest hat trick of his career?
Sam Walters has made a deal with the devil. In order to win a much-needed contract as physical therapist to one of the NHL’s leading hockey teams, she must delay the recovery of their sniper, Mac Wanowski. The trouble is, the more she gets to know the taciturn hockey player, the more she aches to help him.
Mac ‘The Hammer’ Wanowski has chased the Stanley Cup dream for too many years. Last time he was close it cost him his wife. As injuries continue to plague the team, Mac works to catch a killer and keep the woman he’s come to love from the hands of a madman.
Hockey can be a dangerous sport, especially when millions of dollars are at stake.
Sam removed a full container of eggs, a tomato, onion, a bright yellow banana pepper, and a block of cheddar cheese from the refrigerator and used her butt to close the door. She juggled her armload past the cat and dumped it on the granite countertop. “Okay, Cleo, your turn.” She stooped to scratch her between the ears, then returned to the fridge. “Does Dad give you milk, hmm?” The carton was in the door, the seal broken, so she gave it a sniff before deigning it good enough for her new four-footed friend. A quick search of the pantry later and Cleo the cat was daintily eating her dinner, ears flicking at every little sound.
Sam frowned. How long did it take to start a fire? Maybe Mac was taking his time so she’d do the cooking. Not happening. She wandered down the hall, expecting to see him relaxed on the sofa—instead, the fire was little more than a flicker and the room was empty.
Puzzled, she was about to leave the room when a glimmer of light caught her attention. She moved closer to the bay window and hugged herself against the draft coming off the glass. What is that? She leaned forward, squinting through the swirling snow into the pitch-black night. There. There it was again. It almost looked like…
Her heart catapulted into her throat as her brain caught up to her eyes. Horror stories of vast tracts of forest going up in smoke fueled her fear. What could she do? The phone. Hurry, hurry, call for help. She scrambled to the handset thrown carelessly onto the sofa and dialed the emergency number, her fingers trembling with nerves.
“Come on, come on,” she chanted under her breath, but no amount of wishing could get the phone to connect. The storm must be playing havoc with the lines. Another glance out the window showed the lick of flames climbing up the outer wall of the garage Mac had pointed out earlier.
Mac. He must have spotted the blaze, as she had, and rushed outside to put out the fire. He would need help. Giving up on getting through, Sam dropped the phone and raced for the kitchen. She’d noticed a fire extinguisher in the pantry while searching for Cleo’s food. Yes, there it was, tucked into a corner and hooked to the wall. She wasted precious seconds figuring out how to undo the clasp before hefting the surprisingly heavy canister into her arms and racing for the door.
A noxious stench of gas and rubber permeated the air. Thick black plumes of smoke drifted above the dark outline of the trees, obscene against the virgin white of the snow.
“Mac,” Sam yelled, shocked by the strength of the fire. The heat slapped her chilled skin and she realized she’d run out of the house without a jacket. No time to change that now, the sliding doors of the garage were totally engulfed, and the hungry flames were eating their way to the only other exit—the side door. She had to do something.
She pointed the canister at the door and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. Vibrating, she looked at the stupid canister. Why had she never taken the time to learn how to use these blasted things? Just as she was about to fling it across the yard, she noticed a ring sticking sideways from the top of the handle. She jerked the pin out and aimed again, and this time a thin spray of foam exploded from the rubber hose. The fire hissed, angry at the creature seeking to destroy its fun. But it knew it would lose against this foe, and baring orange-red fangs, leaped to the roof in a bright burst of sparks.
Relieved, Sam yanked the door open, wincing when the knob burned her palm, and stepped inside. She covered her mouth against the smoke sneaking in through the cracks and gazed nervously around the packed room. The dark outline of a truck ghosted out of the gloom. Hoping against hope, Sam edged her way between ATV’s and skidoos, keeping low to avoid the haze creeping down from the ceiling. “Mac,” she choked. Where are you?
The past few days I have been stunned and saddened by the catastrophic events that have taken place here in Canada and in the United States.
Instead of belabouring the senselessness of these acts of violence I want to focus on the first responders who stepped up to help when it would’ve be easier to look the other way.
Humboldt, Saskatchewan was the scene of a horrific vehicle accident three weeks ago. Sixteen people died and many more were injured. The hockey community, the country, the world mourned the senseless loss. But, the heroics of first responders on the scene and at the hospital filled my heart with gratitude. I can’t imagine the trauma they endured, and I hope and pray they can find peace in those they were able to help.
A man, half-naked, opened fire on a Waffle House in the Nashville area and if not for the…