Today Wednesday Writers Welcomes Leeann Betts, author of Five and Twenty Blackbirds. Leeann has an excerpt and a chance to win a copy of Five and Twenty Blackbirds if you leave a comment on her post. Winners will be chosen on Tuesday, April 26. Leeann, tell us the story behind the story on this book.
Have you ever visited a location and thought, “This would make the perfect setting for a book”? I’m sure you have. Perhaps the ambiance of a restaurant made you think of a romantic dinner for two scene. Or a mountain trail set you back in time to when wagon trains crossed the country in search of something better.
But has that same location ever spawned two completely different book ideas?
I had just that happen to me.
About four years ago, I visited the place where my father and my stepmother, who I dearly love, were married. About an hour north of Phoenix, Arizona, Cave Creek is a quaint, if slightly old-fashioned, small town. The main street is an eclectic blend of old and new, with lots of boutiques mixed in with used book stores and a great “junk” shop where you can find all kinds of neat things. Across the street is a touristy Wild West Town that has also been turned into boutiques that sell crafts, local art, jewelry, and pottery, to name just a few.
This town sparked an idea for a story, which I’ve turned into Five and Twenty Blackbirds, the fourth in the By the Numbers series, featuring Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant. That book releases the end of this month. I changed some details, including the name of the town, its location within Arizona, and the fact that it’s home to a small university (which Cave Creek isn’t).
The second story, which will actually be written by my real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, concerns one of the buildings on the museum grounds–a tuberculosis shack. Back in the 1800’s, people with TB came to Arizona believing that the dry air would heal them of this terrible and usually terminal disease. But that’s a story for another day.
Here’s a snippet of the first scene of the book, Five and Twenty Blackbirds:
Carly studied Harrison. Although he’d aged—hadn’t they all—he’d changed only in superficial ways. A much better-dressed scarecrow than during their college days, he still watched everybody else as though he was looking for someone more interesting, or powerful, or beautiful, to be with. She sighed. At one point in the past, she’d been flattered that he’d paid even a minute’s attention to her.
Until they danced and he spent their entire three minutes eying the other women in the room.
“So, Harrison, if you’re not here for the reunion, what are you doing in Central Arizona? Not exactly Chicago, is it?”
His smile slipped a millimeter before he plastered the grin back on. “Like I said, I’m here on business. Until the end of the week.”
“What a coincidence we should be in the same place for the first time in over twenty-five years.”
“You don’t think I’m chasing you, do you?”
No, she didn’t think that. He hadn’t when she was twenty-five years younger and twenty—okay, twenty-five pounds lighter. “More likely you’re chasing something in a mini-skirt.”
His jaw dropped, his mouth creating an O. If he’d pointed his thumb at his chest and mimicked Miss Piggy’s ‘moi?’, she wouldn’t have been surprised.
While he’d majored in accounting, he’d minored in drama.
And not the university course.
He leaned in closer. “Actually, I saw you at the airport. Recognized you right away.”
He batted his eyelashes.
If he was trying to appear innocent, he failed miserably.
Carly resisted the urge to step back again. She’d spent three years in classes with Harrison Dyer at the University of Northern Indiana, trying to ignore his sexist innuendos about the other women in their classes, repeatedly turning down his pleas for help. He wasn’t going to chase her off again. “Why didn’t you say something at the airport?”
“Couldn’t catch up with you. You and—is the guy on your arm the mister in Turnquist?”
Harrison nodded, his lips pursed. “Thought so. There is something different about couples who have been intimate, don’t you think? You can tell by their body language. A familiarity, perhaps, that you don’t notice in friends. Even friends with benefits.”
A blonde glided to stand beside Harrison. She looped an arm through his, pressing against his side. Her low-cut dress revealed more skin than Carly thought proper, and her too-red lipstick appeared harsh in the dim lighting. “Are you done here, Harry? I want to go to our room and get more comfortable.” She giggled in a little-girl manner that contrasted with the sun-induced wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. She held out a hand to Carly. “Hi. I’m Misty.”
Yes, you are. Transparent and irritating. Carly returned the greeting. “Carly. Harrison—Harry and I went to college together.”
Misty’s eyes opened wide. “Wow. I’ve never met anyone who knew Harry before he came to Chicago.” Her Midwestern accent sharpened the r’s and rolled the o’s. “Maybe we can get together over coffee and Danish and you can tell me all about this bad boy.” She mock-punched Harrison’s arm. “What do you think, Harry?”
Carly gritted her teeth. While the response might be merely annoying when shot from the mouth of an angst-ridden teen, coming from a man of his age, the word grated on her sensibilities. Still, she wasn’t going to see them again, so she could be pleasant. In short spurts. “Good to see you, Harrison.”
She nodded at his companion then glanced at the woman’s ring finger.
Probably one of his friends with benefits, judging by her body language.
And based on the way she clung to him, Misty would like to make their relationship more than that.
Harrison sidled away a step, putting some distance between him and Misty.
But not him. He’s already scoping out the next one.
Harrison laid a hand on Carly’s arm.
Her bare arm.
She glanced at his hand then at him.
He snatched back his hand as though she’d threatened to bite him.
Which she might well have done if he hadn’t made the first move.
Where was her husband? “What?”
“Can we get together tomorrow? I have something I need to talk to you about.”
“Again, what? We haven’t seen each other in years. We’re not going to be friends in the future any more than we were in college. We don’t run in the same circles, Harrison. I follow the law.”
She left the accusation hanging in the air between them.
Misty huffed, her bangs lifting with the exhalation, then wheeled on her four-inch stilettos. “I’ll be inside when you’re ready to leave.”
He turned toward Carly. “And I follow the money. I have a problem that I think you can help me with. I’ll make it worth your while.”
Please leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for Five and Twenty Blackbirds. I’d love to know if you’ve had an epiphany while visiting a place.
About the Author:
Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. No Accounting for Murder and There Was a Crooked Man, books 1 and 2 in her By the Numbers series, released in the fall of 2015 Book 3, Unbalanced, released in January. Book 4, Five and Twenty Blackbirds, is due in April, with more planned for later dates. Leeann and Donna have penned a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, and you can follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com. All books are available in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital.