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The Method to the Madness

One of the most common questions I'm asked is "where do you get your ideas?" The answer is pretty broad, so as an extra, I thought I'd share with you the inspirations behind the books. Each of the titles in the list here is clickable and will take you to the section for the inspiration behind that title. Titles are listed in order from my latest release to my first release.

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Epitaph 7: The Garden

There is a beautiful arboretum near where I live that boasts a hedge maze. They had a troll exhibit when I visited, which got me to thinking about what other exhibits a public garden might show. I'd just been to Disney (for the first time!) and they had beautiful animal topiaries, which led me to the exhibit in this book.  I also drew inspiration from another public garden that I visited that summer. 

Epitaph 6: The Sculptor

This one was character-driven. I knew Thad, and I knew a little about Maggie, but the more I learned about Maggie, the more the inspiration grew.  She loves to read, and one of her favorite books is Wuthering Heights, so that helped to inspire her. When she happens on Thad in his "man cave," the first thing that came to mind was Lady Chatterley's Lover.  This book became sort of an homage to Ms. Bronte and Mr. Lawrence. My thanks to the talented authors of those works for providing me with the inspiration for my own.

The Sculptor
The Selkie
Epitaph 5: The Selkie

When I started the Epitaph series, all those darn McCormicks ended up with red hair (as is somewhat common among the Irish) with one notable exception. Liam's hair was black. I always knew Liam's story was going to involve Selkies -- yes, it's a genuine Irish legend and NOT something I made up. 


I've always been fascinated with fairy tales and folk tales - even the "Grimm" ones. When I set out to write THE SELKIE, I checked deeper into the legends, including watching an excellent movie called The Secret of Roan Inish (I would recommend it!). Naturally, I added my own spin to the legend, a little something known as artistic license.

Man in the Mirror
Epitaph 3: The Mirror

The third in my Epitaph series that has meddling ghosts as background characters. The Mirror is a carryover from a horror movie I watched as a child - a movie I haven't been able to track down and only remember in snippets. The movie was about a couple who was involved in a car accident and the man was killed, but he haunts the woman by showing up in mirrors. The side mirror of the car, an old fashioned oval mirror in her bedroom. That's about all I remember about it, but it's enough to inspire a ghost in a mirror.

Epitaph 2: The Twins

The second in my Epitaph series that has meddling ghosts as background characters. "The Twins" was inspired by two things. I was recovering from surgery, and I was given an app to monitor my progress. One day, I wrote a note in the app to remind myself to check with the doctor, and later that day I got a "push notification" in answer to my note from the nurse who was monitoring on the other end of the app. My first thought? "COOL!" Just like YOU'VE GOT MAIL, or the old movie with Jimmy Stewart (The Shop Around the Corner) who picks up letters at a post office box and falls in love via mail. As part of my therapy, I take walks every day. During one of my walks, I noticed two trees that had grown together - two trunks connected by a branch between them. My first thought was "what if two people were buried beneath those trees and that branch was their way of staying connected, even in death? (I know, gruesome, but when you're writing ghost stories, you need dead people, after all.) And then I thought of twins. So between the app and the conjoined tree, the story was born.

...Read an excerpt

The Twins

The first in my Epitaph series that has meddling ghosts as background characters. I started writing EPITAPH years ago, when I got the idea to walk through a cemetery to find character names from tombstones. The story started out with a woman who was more at home in a cemetery than anywhere else, but I struggled to get it right. She has a "special ability" to hear the dead as they pass on, as if she's tuned into a radio frequency the dead talk on. I stopped and started on this story more times than I can count, but I finally "got it right." After doing a cemetery walk one autumn, I was impressed with the beauty of the setting, the different types of monuments and the symbolism everywhere. I also went back to watch THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE, a made-for-tv movie I watched growing up as a way to draw on seances and other supernatural haunting kind of things. 

...Read an excerpt

Cookie Therapy

The fourth in the Northwest Suburbs series that follows a circle of friends (and family), I discovered I liked redeeming antagonists. Matt, the hero of this book, was a lout in Living Canvas, and also not very likeable in Return to Hoffman Grove. After Cinda got a chance to show who she was in Hoffman Grove, I figured it was Matt's turn. I needed a foil for him, and I tapped into my addiction to cookies and my inner klutz to bring Elizabeth to life. I ripped her conflict from the headlines, the horror and trauma of school shootings, and gave her a troubled childhood that fit in perfectly to give Matt something heroic to do. Because of the nature of his job, he had a unique perspective to her experience, and she had a unique perspective on his life, as well. Loved writing Matt's story, and learned some great stuff in the research phase.

Cookie Therapy
Rising Mist

The third in the "Mist/Kundigerin" trilogy, Rising Mist had a purpose. To defeat the demons. Once upon a  time, I visited Sedona, Arizona and visited the vortexes with the expressed purpose of writing a novel about them. I have to say I was uninspired after my visit. The landscape is spectacular, and we did encounter an "albino pygmie coyote" (also known as a Shi-Tzu dog) while hiking, but I couldn't come up with a story to fit. After the trip, I wrote a story that died a natural death. It was boring and uninspired, and so I tucked it away where it would never see the light of day. When I got to this third in the Mist Trilogy, however, I found my inspiration. What better place to call on the forces of nature than Sedona?  Max was an easy hero. As Marissa's younger brother, it was his turn, and Robin was inspired by pictures of 3D art I'd seen. As an artist, it was easy to have her be a native of Sedona, where art and mysticism abound. I have to confess I had a great deal of fun with Wolf in this one, even though it wasn't his book. Some heroes refuse to be silent, though...

Rising Mist
Heart for Rent, with an Option

This standlone was inspired after a trip to France. I walked through an outdoor  French​ market and knew I had to find a way to put that in a story. I was also in a phase where I was struggling with editing a story, and secretly wished for elves to show up and do the edits for me. Editing can be rough sometimes. As I thought about the Shoemaker and the Elves, I revisited that Grimm's Fairy Tale, and while considering different aspects of making it another "paranormal elements" novel, I ended up NOT using that as the basis. Instead, I borrowed background for Michelle from a dear friend who had gone through IVF, borrowed a spoiled sibling who didn't appreciate the gift she was given, and finally, an episode of CASTLE to bring the story of a missing father into the mix. The hero needed a niche, he was an author, so I decided he wrote art theft mysteries, and that gave me more inspiration for Michelle - I drew her based on a renaissance painting. We don't always know the motives behind what makes people act the way they do, and that was the message in this book.

Heart for Rent
Return to Hoffman Grove

The third in the Northwest Suburbs series, I was a determined to redeem Cinda. While I was writing LIVING CANVAS, my heroine had a best friend who wasn't a very good friend. People HATED Cinda. I tried my best to tone Cinda down in LIVING CANVAS, but it wasn't enough, so I decided to stretch myself and find a reason for readers to like her. Explain why she was so hard to get along with. I'm pretty pleased with the end result. I had to provide her with a worthy foil, and in walked Brody. I created their backstories as a means to present why they were the way they were, and I think I made two unlikeable sorts somewhat likeable (although Cinda wasn't likeable in COOKIE THERAPY, either, but hey, that's who she is). 

...Read an excerpt

Hoffman Grove
Gathering Mist

The second in the Mist/Kundigerin series, this is a story about "the one that got away." I'm not even sure where this one came from, other than a trip up to Door County and this continuing saga of "someone who knows." What do you do with a gift you were born with and want no part of? A gift that scares the people you love away? For Giselle, you ignore it, until you can't. 

Gathering Mist
Mist on the Meadow

The first Mist/Kundigerin book. I was inspired by a stag, standing on the side of the road one morning on my drive to work. I had always wanted to write a Christmas novel, and I couldn't quite get there. The stag gave me the right time of year, and the Mist trilogy began. Have you ever experienced a moment of grace? That moment when something you see makes the world around you disappear for a minute and its just you and that vision in front of you? That's sort of what this stag did to me. I knew I wanted to write a series around the moment, but I wasn't sure where to go. Then suddenly I found myself doing a family tree and an inherited gift. Another of those "oddballs seek each other out" type books. Wolf's family harbors secrets that affect who he is, and now that Marissa has come of age with her gift, the two of them gravitate toward each other. This was the first book I read where the hero argued with me. Wolf has a temper and he wasn't afraid to let me know it!

Living Canvas

The second in the Northwest Suburbs series, this book ties to the first based on family. As I was looking for a hero, Greg showed up and I realized he was Kira's brother from Touched by the Sun. Problem number 1: he was married in Touched by the Sun. Makes it hard to be a hero in a romance when you're already married. My apologies to his wife, I had to kill her off. Oh, and those two sons? Perfect conflict for a heroine who isn't sure she wants to inherit someone else's kids. I wrote this story after visiting Scotland. Traveling always inspires me, and I HAD to share some of the gorgeous things I'd seen on a very short, but very impressive trip. I also drew on my experiences visiting B&B's. I'd just gotten remarried, and we had decided we wanted to get married in a B&B. The place we chose was very much like Castle Valley Inn, although I've used editorial license to make it into something completely different. It was the visceral reaction that I used to describe the inn. Oh, and let's not leave out the antagonist. I was dealing with a very difficult man at work - we still refer to this period as the reign of terror. I'm not afraid to tell you I introduced him to karma by killing him off in this novel. Ultimately, the model for the villain was fired in real life, and we all went back to our daily routines. In order to make him more menacing in the novel, he was elevated to a more frightening caricature of the man.

Living Canvas
Intimate Distance

Another standalone, I wrote this book while I was struggling in an unhappy marriage. Back in the days where people were leaving their spouses in favor of "the perfect relationship" they'd established with an invisible online person, it was pure escapism, a way for me to get away from my life for a few hours.  Sort of a Cinderella story, Julianne gets her prince in the end. I'm not sure where I found Uncle Vinnie, but he's my favorite character in this book.

Intimate Distance
Touched by the Sun

Originally titled "The Treasure of St. Paul," this was my first book. Oh, I'd been making up stories all my life, but the inspiration for this novel sparked me to get serious about those stories. It wasn't originally intended to be part of a series, but when Kira's brother showed up in the next novel, well, the series was spawned. This novel started with oral surgery. I'd had a wisdom tooth pulled and I was curled up in front of the television watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. Immediately after that, I switched to a special on Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, and the two shows, in my drugged state, crashed together. St. Paul visited Southern Italy. He did "magic" things on his stay on Malta. What if he took the cup from the Last Supper on his journey, left it in Ercolano and the volcano buried it, along with two other cities when A.D. was just beginning to mark the time after Christ's death? And then there were the miracles - When Saul became St. Paul. This had the earmarks of an inspirational novel, but I kept getting lost in a brooding hero and a spunky heroine and the romance took over. I put hours into the research, learned Italian, and spent long nights writing the story. This story reminded me how much I love writing and pushed me to become the author I am today.

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