I am thrilled to have been invited to participate in the “Death & Damages” box set anthology with a stable of talented bestselling authors like the one you are about to meet.
These amazing writers have graciously agreed to let my blog readers share in an exclusive interview AND get a sneak peek at the book they have contributed to the Death & Damages box set – 25 stories for 99 cents!
Today, we sit down with Jane Blythe, author of “Burning Secrets”
DAN: Tell my readers briefly about the story you are contributing to the Death & Damages anthology. What inspired your story?
JANE BLYTHE: Burning Secrets is a story about a family who all had secrets who were murdered. One of the detectives working the case has recently adopted two little girls after an attack by a stalker left her unable to have children of her own. The family in her case also had adopted daughters and her fears about being a mother and one day losing her children start to get the best of her.
What inspired this story?
This book has the same characters as my Count to Ten series, and throughout the course of writing that series a character who was always intended to be a secondary character kept shoving herself forward! I thought she really needed a book o her own especially since she now has the family she had dreamed about for so long, I felt they all needed there time to shine!
How long of a piece is it?
Burning Secrets is approximately 45,000 words
Tell me a little bit about you. Where do you do your writing?
Usually when I write I sit on the couch with my two Dalmatians one on either side of me, laptop on my lap, with a favorite TV show, one I’ve seen before so its not too distracted, playing in the background.
What does writing success look like to you?
Writing books that people love! And secondary to that being able to make a living writing so that I can do what I love!
Do you ever collaborate with others?
I’m currently working on a book with a friend, we’re hoping to turn it into a series releasing one book a year, so far we’re about half way through the first draft
Tell me a little bit about your process. What is the path from idea to finished story? Do you use critique partners? Do you have a favorite editor?
I start out by writing my story in approximately 50 words, this helps me know exactly what the main plot is. Then I write my story in approximately 250 words, this helps me know the secondary story threads. Then I plot it out scene by scene, this helps me make sure I space out my information reveals so I don’t do an info dump, it helps me see any plot holes, and makes sure the story flows. Then I write my first draft, send it to my beta reader team, do my editing making any necessary changes, then it goes off to my amazing editing team, Mitzi Carroll and Marisa Nichols. When it comes back to me I always give it one final read through!
What do you do for your cover? It’s always hard to find a good cover. How do you find yours, or the artwork?
I have an amazing cover designer, Amy Queau, who does all my covers for me! Sometimes I have an idea of what I’d like and she works with me to make it a reality, other times I just give her the title and let her go for it!
What about your blurb and tagline? What is your process for arriving at a really killer tagline and then a blurb that makes readers want to buy the book?
I usually go back to my 50 word story summary and take something from there for my tagline, and use my 250 word story summary to help me write my blurb. I usually ask a few people what they think of the blurb to see how engaging it is, often in my reader group
Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
A gift! Being able to weave a story that takes people out of their regular life and transport them to another world is an amazing thing to do!
How do you choose character names?
Thankfully most of main characters come to me with names because I hate naming characters!! For secondary characters I either ask my readers to pick names or I go on one of those top baby name websites and just randomly choose names!
How often do you write?
I write every day, unless I’m editing a book. If I don’t stick with writing at least one scene a day I get out of the habit of writing and I find it really hard to get back into it. So I set myself the goal of writing a scene a day, sometimes I’ll write two or three or even four or five, but so long as I get my one scene in I’m happy!
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Reading of course, and playing with my dogs, I also love to bake! I particularly enjoying decorating cakes and am the official cake maker for all family birthdays and Christmas!
How long did it/does it take you to write a first draft of a novel?
Depending on the length of the book and how many scenes if has, anywhere from two months if I only write one scene a day for an 80,000-100,000 word book, to about two or three weeks if I write a couple of scenes a day for a 60,000-70,000 word book.
Plotter? Or Pantser? And prepare to defend your position!
Plotter!!!!! All the way!! I have OCD and so my brain is very organised, for me planning is the only way I can write. I have a very detailed system that works for me and I couldn’t imagine writing without it. Sometimes there might be small things that I’m not sure of all the details but I have to know the main story, beginning, middle, and end, and how the scenes will play out. For me doing a detailed plan means I rarely have to do much editing because I’m able to work out any plot holes or problems in the panning stage so that when I start writing I’m able to just get going and write!
Coffee addict? Name your poison.
No coffee for me, I hate it, even the smell of it, but I am a huge fan of Diet Coke and might possibly be a little addicted to it!
What’s your favorite food?
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
My Count to Ten series, which has the same characters as Burning Secrets my book for the Death and Damages box set, has just been picked up by an Italian publisher, so the books will be getting translated and published in Italian!!
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
I think it chose me! I’ve always been interested in psychology and the way the mind works, and why we do the things we do, so I think that drew me to the mystery/thriller/suspense genre, as I really love thinking about why my villains do what they do. And because I’m also interested in the journeys of the victims and how they rebuild their lives and find their own way to move on, for me it was a natural progression to combine the crime genre with the romance one, so I write romantic suspense!
* EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PREVIEW *
Silence could be the loudest—and most frightening—sound there was.
It was full of unknowns, and the more time you spent in it, the louder it got.
She carefully eased open the back door and crept inside.
It squeaked a little as she pushed it closed behind her, and she froze. Her ears strained for any signs that someone had heard her. If she was found sneaking into the house in the middle of the night, her life would be over.
Several seconds ticked by and nothing.
No footsteps sounded, no lights switched on, no one appeared.
She was safe.
For now, at least, but tackling the stairs was going to be a lot harder; the house was old, and those things creaked if you looked at them wrong.
Step by painstakingly slow step, she crossed the kitchen, then began the even slower climb up the stairs. This wasn’t the first time she’d done this, so she knew which steps were the noisiest, and where the best place was to put her foot on each one to avoid the creaks and groans.
There was always the temptation to rush, but this was a case of slow and steady wins the race. It took close to ten minutes, but finally, she had made it all the way upstairs and into her bedroom. She closed the door, then leaned back against it and sighed in relief.
The longer she kept sneaking out after everyone else went to bed, the higher the chances that she would eventually get caught. Was that going to stop her? No way. If it was the only way she could get what she wanted, then she was going to keep doing it.
Besides, she kind of liked the adrenalin rush.
She liked to live life on the edge; it excited her, and she hated to be bored. Excitement was the spice of life, and she liked her life very spicy. Taking risks was as common to her as breathing; the bigger the risk, the better. Her mind was constantly spinning thinking up new ideas, new ways to push the envelope. Sooner or later she’d end up crashing and burning, but why worry today about something that wouldn’t happen until tomorrow?
It was her motto for life.
If she wasn’t scheming or plotting, then she may as well be dead.
Smirking to herself, she tiptoed to the en suite. She might be in the safety of her bedroom, but there were still several people in the house, and any one of them might be awake and hear her walking about. Her family was a nosy bunch, and if someone heard her up and about, they were likely to come and find out why.
She brushed her teeth, shimmied out of her clothes—leaving them where they fell—then stepped into her favorite pair of pajamas and ran a brush through her hair. On her way to bed, she paused to run a hand over her Halloween costume. There was only ever one person she went as, a character who was just like her, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. She’d loved the over-the-top, irrational, unreasonable queen and her off-with-their heads mentality ever since she could remember. When she was little, and all her friends were playing Disney princesses, she always gravitated toward the villains. Why be the good girl when you could be the bad guy? Bad guys always had so much more fun.
A giant yawn nearly split her head in two. She needed to sleep.
Leaving the costume hanging on the closet door, she went and climbed into bed and snuggled under the covers. Although it was nearly November, the weather was still warm during the day. It was only when the sun set and night came that you knew winter was just around the corner.
Her eyes were just starting to fall closed when she heard something that nudged her out of her half-asleep haze.
What was that?
It sounded like glass shattering.
Was someone else up and about tonight?
That was her first thought, and her second was how much had they seen? Not everything she did was something that she wanted to be public knowledge. In fact, most of what she did wasn’t something that she wanted to be public knowledge. She was about to get up and see who’d been snooping on her personal business when she both heard another sound and saw something.
Her irritation was quickly replaced by fear.
The sound was a crackling noise, and there was an orangey red glow outside her window.
Was the house on fire?
The house was on fire.
She was dreaming.
That was it.
That had to be it.
Touching her fingers to her arm, she pinched herself as hard as she could, and yelped at the accompanying sting of pain.
She wasn’t asleep.
Maybe she was just imagining the sound of the flames.
She did have an overactive imagination, as anyone who knew her would attest to.
On badly shaking legs, she wobbled her way from the bed to the window.
When she looked out, her brain still didn’t want to believe what it was seeing.
There were flames everywhere, and they were rapidly claiming more of the house with every second that ticked by.
She was going to die.
She was going to die.
She was going to die.
Her brain was stuck on that one thought. It couldn’t process anything else. It couldn’t try to move. It couldn’t formulate a plan. It could barely remember to breathe.
It wasn’t until that moment that she realized the room was already filling with smoke.
The fire shouldn’t be spreading this quickly, should it?
What did that mean?
“Eeeee!” she keened aloud. She was losing it. Burned alive was a horrible way to die. The best she could hope for was for the smoke to get her first.
The flames dancing around her house were mesmerizing.
She couldn’t take her eyes off them.
They twisted and turned and leaped about, as though merrily enjoying a party. Only the party was her impending death.
A hand clamped on her shoulder, and she let out a startled shriek.
“It’s me,” a hoarse voice whispered, and she relaxed.
Did it make her a horrible person if she was glad she wasn’t alone? She knew that meant that she wasn’t the only one who was going to lose their life tonight, but dying alone was everyone’s fear, right?
“Let’s go.” He put his hands on her arm and began to pull her toward the door.
He was right.
They had to go.
And yet for some reason, her feet disagreed.
They wouldn’t move.
It was like they’d been glued to the carpet.
“Come on,” he urged, tugging harder on her arm.
Her feet still didn’t move, but he was bigger than her, and his weight was enough to get her off balance and drag her along behind him as he staggered for the door.
As soon as they stepped out into the hall, her breath was stolen from her, and she broke out into an uncontrollable fit of coughing as her lungs protested the sudden onslaught of smoke. The others were out here too, down on their knees, coughing and wheezing, the sound rising above the crackling flames and adding to her growing fear.
Now that they were in the hall, the reality of how close she was to death became horrifyingly real.
The fire was everywhere.
It was advancing quickly and was much more prepared for this war than they were. How were they going to get out?
She knew that, but she was still clinging to denial.
Hope was a precious thing, an important thing, a vital thing. Without it, failure was inevitable, but as long as you clung to hope, there was always a chance.
So that was what she did. She grabbed hold of it with both hands and refused to loosen her grip.
The smoke was so thick out here that she could barely see more than a foot or so in front of her. It was like fog, and the only thing that cut through it were the flames.
She felt like she was trapped in hell.
A hand on her head pushed her down low. She’d forgotten that you were supposed to do that if you were trapped in a fire. The smoke rises, so the closer you stayed to the floor, the better your chances were of surviving.
Not that she thought their chances of surviving were very high.
As soon as she got down on all fours, she dragged in several ragged mouthfuls of the marginally clearer air, filling her lungs in preparation of what was coming next.
They all headed for the stairs, which were already partially consumed. The fire was spreading so fast. Like someone had doused the house in an accelerant then struck a match and thrown it in.
That was probably what had happened.
Who had done it, she had no idea, nor did it really matter. She was dead regardless.
Slithering along on her belly like a snake, she thumped painfully down each step. She couldn’t see, so she kept bumping her elbows painfully into either the wall or the railings as she tried to avoid the fire as it curled out toward her, trying to snag her in its burning grip. The heat was unbearable, and several times she got precariously close to the flames that were looking for any chance to latch on to her.
Somehow, against all odds, they made it down the stairs.
It was hard to find a safe path through the flames, but she had only one goal: make it to the back door. The door where less than an hour ago she had crept quietly through, hoping that no one heard her.
Now she wanted someone to hear her; she wanted someone to come.
The roaring inferno the house had become would no doubt have woken the neighbors, and she had no doubt that help was coming. Just like she had no doubt it would arrive too late. If she was going to be saved, it would be because she saved herself.
Remaining on her stomach now, she clawed at the floorboards with her fingernails to keep going. Every movement was an effort now.
Her body was sluggish.
Her brain too.
But now that she was so close, she was spurred on.
Her breath wheezed in and out of her chest; her eyes stung, and tears streamed down her cheeks. Her head pounded with a vicious headache, and she was coughing so much that it hampered her ability to move.
But she made it.
She made it to the door.
She wasn’t sure how, but she managed to lever herself up onto her knees, and her hands flew like magnets to the handle, and although it was hot and burned her palms, she barely felt it. Gone was fear. Gone for the moment was pain. All she wanted was to get out of this burning, smoke-filled hell and out into the fresh air.
Her hand turned, but nothing happened.
The door didn’t open.
She leaned against it, letting her weight push against it, but still, nothing.
Whoever had set the fire had obviously made sure that they wouldn’t be escaping.
They were trapped.
They were dead.
“No!” she screamed, banging her fists on the door.
It was so unfair.
She had done the impossible and made it through the fire to the door, and now she couldn’t get through it. There was no way she could make it all the way through the house to the front door. Even if she could, she probably wouldn’t be able to get through it anyway.
Exhausted, she sank down against the floor.
There was no reprieve from the heat now. It was stifling; the smoke was thick, and there was virtually no oxygen left in the house.
It wouldn’t be long.
Her eyelids were too heavy to hold open, and her chest hurt from wheezing so badly.
The flames were licking at her.
Then suddenly, they latched onto her pajama pants.
She gasped in pain as they quickly chewed through the thin material and began to burn through the flesh on her leg.
The pain was unlike anything she’d ever experienced, but it gave her already teetering mind the push it needed to fall into the abyss of unconsciousness.
Her final thought was that it seemed only fitting that she go out in a manner befitting the villains she had always associated so closely with.
She was going down in flames.
About The Author
Jane has loved reading and writing since she can remember. She writes dark and disturbing crime/mystery/suspense with some romance thrown in because, well, who doesn’t love romance?! She has several series including the complete Detective Parker Bell series, the Count to Ten series, the Christmas Romantic Suspense series, and the Flashes of Fate series of novelettes.
When she’s not writing Jane loves to read, bake, go to the beach, ski, horse ride, and watch Disney movies. She has a black belt in Taekwondo, a 200+ collection of teddy bears, and her favorite color is pink. She has the world’s two most sweet and pretty Dalmatians, Ivory and Pearl. Oh, and she also enjoys spending time with family and friends!
Connect with Jane
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/janeblytheauthor
Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/jane_blythe_author
Newsletter – http://eepurl.com/cymhDT
Reader Group – http://www.facebook.com/groups/janeskillersweethearts
Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/jblytheauthor
Website – http://www.janeblythe.com.au
Gang, please join me in thanking Jane for sharing these authorly insights with us.
Click HERE to order your copy of Death & Damages TODAY and read the rest of this great story when it is released in the Death & Damages boxed set!
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Danger lurks around every corner as these courageous cops, adventurous agents, and daring detectives hunt for the answers to stop the crimes by vicious killers.
But what if the damage is already done?
Inside these pages, you’ll find 25 adventures full of captivating conundrums, hair-raising homicides, and suspenseful secrets from today’s USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning authors.
Become a private investigator yourself when you inspect plots of deadly assassins, cold-blooded killers, and bone-chilling suspense inside the pages of DEATH AND DAMAGES, an enthralling mystery and thriller boxed set.
Fans of Lee Child, James Patterson, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, and John Grisham will devour these puzzling mysteries and gripping thrillers.
Including Stories From…
- New York Times bestselling author Patricia Loofbourrow
- USA Today bestselling author Pauline Creeden
- USA Today bestselling author John Ling
- Award-Winning author Alexa Padgett
- Siera London
- USA Today bestselling author Shereen Vedam
- Multi-Award-Winning author, Deborah Shlian
- USA Today bestselling author Kelly Hashway
- USA Today bestselling author JB Michaels
- Maggie Carpenter
- USA Today bestselling author Tiana Laveen
- Angela Sanders
- Award-Winning author Karen M. Bryson
- Aime Austin
- Lisa B. Thomas
- USA Today bestselling author Fiona Quinn
- Kerry J Donovan
- Jane Blythe
- Bestselling author Dan Alatorre
- USA Today bestselling authors Muffy Wilson and Dariel Raye
- Ja’Nese Dixon
- USA Today bestselling author Terry Keys
- Bill Hargenrader
- Wall Street Journal bestselling author Judith Lucci
- Award-Winning author Maria Grazia Swan