When Characters Go to the Dogs


Some things were quite a bit different in the original version of RESCUED BY A STRANGER. In fact, a couple of characters got their parts downsized substantially if not cut completely.  For example, if you’ve read THE RANCHER AND THE ROCK STAR, you know The Sisters Gladdie and Claudia basically saved the day for Gray toward the end of the book. They are definitely back in RESCUED, but one scene in which Claudia played a major role got cut because it just didn’t move the story forward.

Another character whose role is so important to Jill’s life in RBAS is Dr. Ben Thomlinson, Jill’s boss at the vet clinic where she’s an assistant. Ben showed up in a dozen scenes originally. Now he’s in two or three.

But one character whose “screen time” got cut almost completely—Chase’s grandfather, Delaney Preston, or Poppa, as Chase calls him—still needed a presence of some kind in the story.  Poppa is Chase’s conscience throughout the story. It’s he who all but raised Chase, and it’s Poppa who Chase worries about pleasing. And Poppa does make it onto the page for one scene. But, because his presence is still so important, I gave a lot of his face time to a delightful new character. Who just happens to be a dog!
In the original story, called “Angelwings,” Poppa’s favorite phrase whenever he said ‘good-bye’ was, “Go with angelwings.” Angels and references to angels were prevalent, too, but I removed all those little bits. Still, I wanted to keep a sense of Poppa and his angels watching over Chase. The little black-and-white dog that Jill nearly hits on page one and finds again several chapters later fit the bill exactly. From the moment I met her, I knew this dog was important to the story. And when Jill named her Angel, I knew there was something a little extraordinary about her.

For the most part, Angel acts like a pretty normal dog. But there are moments when she just plain seems too canny. She fusses and barks at the right time. She gets in someone’s way just at the perfect moment. She gives comfort exactly when its needed the most. Is there something just a little “angelic” about her? Or is she just a sensitive dog attuned to her new humans?  I’ll leave that up to you the readers. But maybe it’s a hint that you might find Delaney/Poppa’s reaction to Angel when the two finally meet, a little bit interesting.

I love a little touch of that spiritual in my stories—the sense that even in everyday, slightly off-kilter lives, there’s something greater than we are helping us when we make a decision—right or wrong. You have to search for it in Angel—but maybe it’s there. At any rate, I sure hope you enjoy looking! And, I really hope if you read RESCUED BY A STRANGER, you’ll let me know how you like the story!

Exclusive GLIAS excerpt:
Cast of characters:
Chase: Our Hero
Jill: Our Heroine
Dee: Jill's sister
The Creature: Jill's Chevy Suburban

     The dog weighed fifty pounds tops, but with her shoulder still painful Jill couldn’t quite get herself and the dog into her truck alone. She offered to drive, but Chase insisted the job of holding the mutt fell to her and hoisted the little stray onto Jill’s lap. Once they were all safe in the truck, it became immediately clear the dog had been somewhere other than civilization for a long time.
     “Whoo-eee. She stinks enough to kick a rat off a gut pile.”
     “Eeew, that’s disgusting.” Jill’s laughter shook the dog, and the odor of dank hair wafted through The Creature’s interior.
     “We aren’t gonna hide the fact we had a critter in that room if the dog smells like this all night.”
     “And all the guest house has is a shower. Not too good for bathing a dog.”
     “Let me know when you’ve got a plan, Miss Greenpeace. You’re head of rescue operations. I’m just the driver, and I like it that way.”
     “Gosh, thanks a ton.”
No interior lights shone when they pulled into driveway close to 10:30 p.m. The Creature’s windows were fully down and the dog sat on Jill’s lap with her head hanging ecstatically out in the wind.
     “Did we put ’em all to bed?” Chase asked.
     “Doubt we’ll be that lucky,” she replied. “Mother reads before turning out the light. Dee could be anywhere.”
     “We could give the dog a shower in my room.”
     “We could, I’ve done dog showers before. Got a bathing suit with you?”
     “Why would I need one? It’s your dog. You’ve saved it twice now.” His lip lifted in the now-familiar curled-lip smirk, and it made her laugh. She was back in high school again, sneaking in after curfew, and suddenly having the most fun she’d had in months.
“If I’m in charge then she gets a proper bath. All you have to do is help me sneak her into the bathroom upstairs. Got any experience as a cat burglar?”
     “I stole my share of apples when I was a kid, but I’ve never broken something into a house before.”
     “Heck, I’ve been sneaking animals into the house all my life. Mostly bugs and baby rabbits and stuff.”
     “Then why are we worried?”
     “I didn’t say I was usually successful.”
      One light over the sink softly illuminated the kitchen when Chase carried the pungent dog into the house. With her finger against her lips, she ushered Chase up the stairs and peered down darkened halls for a clear coast.
     “C’mon,” she whispered. The dog gave a tiny whine and Jill wrapped her fingers gently around her muzzle. “Shhh, baby. Don’t get yourself tossed out now. Here.” She held the bathroom door open. “Stick her in the tub, and I’ll get some towels.”
     The only towels she’d get away with using were from her mother’s rag pile, and the two she selected would have been decent in almost any other home. A line of light shone from beneath Elaina’s bedroom door, but she was as far from the bathroom as any room on the floor. Dee’s light right next door was more worrisome.
     “Everyone’s still awake.” She knelt with Chase beside the tub. “This has to be the quietest dog bath we’ve ever given.”
     “Not a problem.” His whisper came close enough to touch her cheek. “Since it’ll be the first dog bath for me. If the farm dogs needed cleaning, we threw ’em in the creek.”
     “You did not.” She muffled her laughter in one arm.
     “Might turn a hose on ’em if they refused to swim.”
      She slapped at Chase, wincing when the turning motion tweaked her shoulder. “Stop it.”
     “You oughta be the one taking a hot bath.”
     “Is that your official prescription, Doc?” She eyed him in exasperation.
      The grin fled his face, and his arm froze on the faucet knob. “Just making sure,” he said quickly, and the moment passed before she could wonder about it out loud.


Come Visit Tomorrow

Tomorrow is RESCUED BY A STRANGER’s actual birthday, and release day here at GLIAS will be super exciting because I'm going to introduce you all to one of the stars of the book. It’s not unusual to have a hero stop by—and Chase might do that. But officially I’ll be hosting Jill Carpenter, the heroine of my story.

Jill is an amazing person—innately kind and good, strong and smart, and so multi-talented. Her journey over the course of this novel takes her through lots of emotions, and the decisions she must make will affect her entire life. I can’t wait for her to tell you about some of those .

So please come back tomorrow for RESCUED BY A STRANGER’s book birthday and our last day of celebrating here on GLIAS.  The two winners of an e-book from last week are listed just below. Remember, there will be another winner today and one tomorrow, and there’ll be a grand prize drawing for a RBAS goodie basket after midnight on Tuesday. 
THURSDAY: Marcy Shuler
I will contact you and make arrangements to get you the book as soon as it’s released.


Rescued by a Stranger -- The Journey to Publication

Thanks to everyone who joined me here yesterday at the start of my launch party for RESCUED BY A STRANGER. Angi asked some great questions, and I heard some amazing travel mishap stories. I hope the trip I’m about to lead you on—through the creation of RBAS—is far from perilous. I love this book for so many reasons, not the least of which is, it’s my first one. Not many authors are lucky enough to see their first manuscript in print, and I couldn’t be happier.

Not that the finished product is exactly the same book I started with. The original, begun in the late 80s and finished at a pace slower than a sleepwalking tortoise, was called ANGELWINGS, and while the basic storyline is still the same, the characters’ road to a HEA couldn’t be more different.

Many years ago, I wanted to be a short story writer.  I will never recall exactly what convinced me to start an actual novel. I’m pretty sure LaVyrle Spencer had something to do with it. Her books just brought romance alive to me—and, as a writer, I wanted to write something that evoked those same emotions for someone else.

Meet Elvis -- as Chad Preston
I also watched, for the umpteenth time (did anyone else’s mom count to umpteen?) Elvis Presley’s A Change of Habit. I was captivated by the idea of falling in love with a ghetto-based doctor—especially one who looked like Elvis.   A man with a job that difficult just seemed so heroic to me. The seeds of a story grew once I named my doctor:  Chad Preston.

I gave him a tragedy—a young patient whose death he blamed on himself—and gave him my heroine, Jill Carpenter, with her own set of highly angsty problems.

I finished my masterpiece and let it sit a while (translation:  several years).   When I finally picked it up to go through edits and send it off into the world, a funny thing happened. A very good friend found out I’d written a book and asked if she’d ever mentioned she was personal friends with LaVyrle Spencer! Long story short (no pun intended) my friend sent the book to LaVyrle, who sent it to her agent—with some decent comments on the first couple of pages. And … it sold immediately.


Nothing came of that except an awesome story. My friend got a huge hug for her amazing support, and I readied the book for submitting.

To my astonishment, in 2006 I managed to snag an agent in a small agency. She shopped the book for a year with no luck and we divorced amicably. Meanwhile, I’d written another book, won a couple of contests with it, including the RWA Golden Heart. ANGELWINGS went back to the shelf.

Fast forward to 2012. The Golden Heart garnered me an agent and a first published book—THE RANCHER AND THE ROCK STAR. I needed a story #2 for the series. I thought immediately that ANGELWINGS would take “nothing” to spruce up.

In reality, the actual process included much less sprucing than resuscitating. Somewhere between me creating a masterpiece and the moment I read it fresh after six years, Chad and Jill had turned whiney and annoying. The plot barely held together. The characters’ motivations seemed infantile. I very nearly slapped the pair of sad-sack lovers and put them away for good. But, my agent pulled me (perhaps unknowingly) out of the pit. She apologetically told me she didn’t like the name Chad—in fact, she hated it. I didn’t have to change it, but she thought I should know.

Meet Chase (not Chad)
Meet Jill
I didn’t want my agent to hate my hero. So, Chad became Chase, and the new name was a game changer. It allowed me to look at him differently and change his character by giving him some backbone.  To my delight, as Chase became stronger, so did Jill. She no longer whined about her first world problems at vet school. She got an offer to ride for the U.S. Equestrian Team coach. She made plans. She didn’t need a messed up doctor to zoom into her life.

And then came love. Nine months after RANCHER was published, RESCUED BY A STRANGER was born. Lots of edits and revisions later, I knew the book had turned out more beautifully than I’d dared dream.

It took me a very long time to get RBAS out. Too long in today’s publishing world. But the struggle with this book has a silver lining. I’ve become a much faster writer and a much more focused author. I really hope readers won’t be able to tell where I struggled with this manuscript, but even if they can see warts, the blemishes now belong to the story. And, happily, the next book will NOT take 25 years to finish. Promise!

Exclusive GLIAS excerpt:


     Three miles passed before Chase’s beautiful rescuee stopped fighting the motion of the bike. Once he’d adjusted her hold around his waist she hadn’t let go, her arms tightening with every curve of the road, relaxing when the Triumph straightened. Now, her torso curved against his back, finally following his movements and holding him like she trusted his ability.
     He didn’t want to admit it, but the girl had power over him. It flowed from her touch and through his body from toes to wind-whipped hair. Every dark memory he ran from, all his demons, had fled the instant her metallic-tan Chevy had slipped down the ditch. Every good instinct he’d honed over the years had kicked in. She might be scared of the ride she was on, but her arms clamped around his hips and her fingers clasped over his belly felt like they held his entire world together.
     Dangerous thinking. He hadn’t come here to meet anyone—especially not a girl likely a decade or more younger than he.  All this minor hero stuff would only be okay if he remembered this was a rescue of her.
     But, dang, she was great. Pretty as a daisy in the breeze. Tough and snappy even in trouble. And funny. Once upon a time he’d been funny, and she’d brought it out again. Along with a few other feelings that had been dormant for a very long time.
     He couldn’t afford such schoolboy hormonal surges and, yet, what red-blooded American boy with hormones could have stopped a reaction to a beautiful girl falling on top of him out of the blue?    
     A guy simply didn’t get that lucky every day.
     And her arms wrapped around him now felt good. As good as the wind tearing through his helmetless hair. It was hard to deny the breeze in his face was heavenly. He wore the helmet because he believed in it, and he’d given it to Jill because preaching such safety practices to patients and clients came automatically.
     Patients. Clients.
     Black thoughts reared their ugly heads slowly, like insidious little termites eating away at his temporary peace. Clara. Brody. Tiana. His breath hitched slightly.  Aw, shit. Tiana.
     Unexpectedly, the motorcycle hiccupped and jerked beneath them, banishing the specters before they could fully form. Jill’s arms constricted and every bit of her newfound fluidity stiffened into ramrod alertness.  When the bike coughed and popped a second time and then a third, she turned into a human vise grip.  

I AM GIVING AWAY an electronic copy of “Rescued by a Stranger” – each of the four book launch celebration days here on GLIAS. At the end of the four days, one commenter will receive a paperback copy of RBAS and a mini-goodie bag of fun swag. You’re invited to come back each day for new excerpts from the story! Please leave your e-mail address to enter the giveaway (see below).

Note: COMMENTERS are encouraged to leave a contact email address to speed the prize notification process. Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only.  Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.

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Join me next Monday for a super-fun blog post about how one human secondary character turned into a dog! I’ll introduce you to Angel—a little black and white wonder of a canine who might just have the most appropriate of names!

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