I’m excited to say that this November is the month for release of my latest Harlequin Romantic Suspense book. I love them all, of course, but this one has a special twist to it.
It’s my first in the long-running Colton series for HRS.
What’s that? Well, the Colton family has been around for many years as part of HRS. It’s large and has branches all over the country, and it seems that many of its members get involved as either heroes or heroines of romantic suspense stories, usually one a month.
My book is Colton 911: Caught in the Crossfire. In it, the hero, Casey Colton, is the family member. He’s also a Deputy Sheriff in Sur County, Arizona, the story’s setting. Casey is told to go help find some cattle rustlers who have stolen some very valuable black angus cows from the town selectman.
And who’s going to help him? The story’s heroine, Melody Hayworth, a ranch hand who works on the ranch from which the cattle were stolen.
You can guess how the two of them have to get along together during many days—and nights—alone on the cattle’s trail. And… well, it is a romance, after all, despite there being suspense in the story. They need to stay careful and professional and… well, help to take care of each other.
I’m also particularly excited this month to be the Author of the Month on A Slice of Orange.
Gee, this November is one fun month!
Linda O. Johnston’s first published fiction appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for Best First Mystery Short Story of the year. Since then, Linda, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer, has published more short stories, novellas, and over 50 romance and mystery novels, including the Pet Rescue Mystery Series, a spinoff from her Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. She currently writes the Superstition Mysteries and the Barkery Biscuits Mysteries for Midnight Ink, and also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries for Harlequin Nocturne.
I’ve been friends and reading author Linda O. Johnston for many years and it’s a pleasure to do this Q & A with her today. Welcome Linda to Jann Says . . .
Jann: I remember reading your first novel, A Glimpse of Forever, in 1995. What is your writing process and how has it changed since then, if it has?
Linda: My process has changed a lot from what it was back then. When I started getting my novels published, I was a full-time lawyer with young kids. Back then, I would get up an hour before anyone else in the household and write for an hour, then bring printed copies to edit at lunchtime. Now, I’m a full-time writer, and my sons are grown and living elsewhere. My dogs will often tell me what to do—time to eat, time to go out—and occasionally my husband interrupts for something important, but otherwise I spend most of my day on the computer writing, editing and promoting.
Jann: If you could go back in time, is there one thing you would do differently with your writing career?
Linda: Not really. I feel as if I’ve been very fortunate. I’m still working on turning my stories into best sellers, but I’m happy with where I am, too. I’ve had more than 50 books published!
Jann: Many authors, including you, have a deep love for animals, but they don’t necessarily have them play such big roles in their books. You write in several different genres—mystery, romantic suspense, paranormal romance and romance. Throughout all of these genres, animals are a focus. Why?
Linda: I love dogs! I’m a dogaholic. A cynophilist. I didn’t always include dogs in my writing, although one of my favorite time travel romances from way back when is Once a Cavalier, where Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the breed I particularly adore, were the avenue that allowed my heroine to travel in time back to the court of King Charles II of England, where the ancestors of today’s Cavaliers were lap dogs to the courtiers to take the fleas off them. And my own Lexie was the model for the Lexie in my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet Sitter Mysteries, my first cozy mystery series. Kendra was a lawyer who lived in the Hollywood Hills with her Cavalier Lexie. At the time, I was practicing law, I live in the Hollywood Hills, and one of my Cavaliers was Lexie. Unfortunately, dogs’ lives are shorter than ours, so Lexie is no longer with us, but I still have two Cavaliers: Mystie and Cari. They always inspire me to write—and to give them treats!
Jann: Book #5 is a Barkery and Biscuits mystery, For A Good Paws, which is coming out this month. Tell us about the series, characters and story.
Linda: In my Barkery and Biscuits Mysteries, protagonist Carrie Kennersly is a veterinary technician. She bought a bakery, Icing on the Cake, from a friend who had to leave their town of Knobcone Heights, California, and Carrie turned half into a barkery, Barkery and Biscuits, where she bakes and sells healthy dog treats she developed as a vet tech. In the first book, Bite the Biscuit, Carrie became a murder suspect and had to figure out whodunit to clear herself. In the subsequent stories several of her friends also become murder suspects so she has to help them, too. Since I always include romances in my mysteries and suspense or mystery in my romances, Carrie has a romantic interest, Dr. Reed Storme, a veterinarian at the clinic where she still works part time as a vet tech. Her brother Neal lives with her in her home, and one of her closest friends is Councilwoman Billi Matlock, who owns a day spa and Mountaintop Rescue, an animal shelter. Carrie also has several assistants at her shops who are also her friends, and several other townsfolk appear a lot in her books including the head vet at the clinic, Dr. Arvus Kline, and the owners of Cuppa Joe’s, a coffee shop.
In For A Good Paws, Carrie takes notice when she hears that a local killer is being paroled. Mike Holpurn, the parolee, was convicted ten years ago of murdering Flora Shulzer, who was then mayor of Knobcone Heights. On his return from prison, Holpurn confronts Flora’s husband Henry Shulzer, whom he claims was Flora’s murderer. When Henry is found murdered, the town assumes the killer is Holpurn, but Carrie’s not so sure… and she gets involved once more in solving a murder.
It’ll be the last in the series, since the publisher, Midnight Ink, is closing. I might find another publisher or self-publish more… but I suspect I’ll go on to a new mystery series.
Jann: How do you stay motivated? What drives you to keep writing?
Linda: Writing is who I am. Even when I tell myself to take a rest, my mind still keeps churning and I take notes!
Jann: What are you dying to try next?
Linda: Another mystery series! And also a possible stand-alone story featuring dogs. My problem about doing that is a good one: time. I’m busy with deadlines, writing four new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books.
Jann: Do you ever run out of ideas? If so, how did you get past that?
Linda: My mind is always at work, whether I’m awake or asleep, at the computer or anywhere else. Ideas are never the problem. I’ve plenty of them. But time to do something with them is more of an issue with me.
Jann: Thank you Linda for sharing with us today. Looking forward to the release and reading For A Good Paws!
When the phone rang at 4:44 my husband answered. I sat up in bed and waited. Whatever news was to come, it wouldn’t be good. Tucker, my son’s dog, had died.
Ten years ago at Christmas time, against my advice, he got his then girlfriend a dog. The lady in question was not a homebody like my son, and I didn’t think she would like the responsibility of a dog. Still, poor as he was, my son wanted to get her this gift. Somehow he hooked up with a man in an alley who handed him a dog. He in turn proudly handed the pup to his girlfriend.
A few weeks later, the girl was gone and the dog was back. I advised my son to give him away. He couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. What if the dog got sick? What would the little thing do all day in a studio apartment while my son looked for work? Thankfully, my wise counsel fell on deaf ears, and Tucker became part of our family.
That dog grew from a terrified little mutt to a self-confident, joyful, loving pet. It took a year of patience and love for my son to convince Tucker that no one would beat him, no one would abandon him, and everyone would love him.
Tucker was polite. He waited patiently for everything – a walk, a treat, a cuddle – and showed gratitude for small kindnesses in a million little ways. Never a crotch-sniffer he spent weeks attacking mine, befuddling us all with this new behavior. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer a few weeks later and once I was operated on, he never did it again. I think that was a Tucker miracle.
He slept at my feet while I wrote, was underfoot when I cooked, followed me everywhere until my son came into the room. Then it was clear that Tucker’s heart belonged to him. The love between this rescue dog and this young man was glorious, and gentle, and kind, and loving, and caring. They were friends. They had each other’s backs.
If you think about it, all of us who write are striving to tell a Tucker story. In his little life there was drama and character building, joy and pain, courage and excitement, goals to be met, laughter to be shared and tears to be shed. If we as authors could weave a story one tenth as full as this dog’s life, our books would never be forgotten. So tomorrow when I sit down to work, I will remind myself to write a Tucker story even though I might shed a few tears along the way.
Next weekend is the February OCC meeting–and after missing so many lately I’m delighted to say I’m planning to attend it.
Never mind that my husband will have to take our younger dog Cari to her obedience class that’s at the same time, though that’s currently my job. He knows the drill–and Cari’s more inclined to train us than vice versa.
This will be my first visit to the new OCC meeting location. I think it’s even farther from my home in the Hollywood Hills than the Brea Community Center was, but hopefully it won’t take much longer to get there.
I look forward to attending more OCC meetings this year, too. It’s a busy year for me. I’m having four books traditionally published–and the first one, SECOND CHANCE SOLDIER, will be a March release. It’s the first in my new K-9 Ranch Rescue miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. In case you can’t tell, it has dogs in it. So do my other books coming out this year, and most of what I write these days. More about the upcoming books in future posts…
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the meeting and to seeing friends in person. Hope to see you there!
Linda O Johnston
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