Back to Then with Jillian Chantal


I did it! After nearly twenty-five years of plotting and ripping off nearly every movie known to man, I’ve turned my Prius into a fully functioning time machine. Thanks to my ZJ-mod-U-lATeOR, run exclusively on zombie juice stolen for a parallel dimension, I can now travel through time and space. I even painted it a nice shade of TARDIS blue. So, where should I go first? The Jurassic Age? 1962 so I can buy a mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15? Nope, since I’m a writer, I’m going back to meet some of the greatest literary giants of all time! Brahwahwahwa!

Unfortunately, I blew all my zombie juice going back to spy on the making of Star Wars IV. So, I’ve only got enough power to go back in time three days, give or take. Since, I’ve got to make this count, I’ve decided to go back and meet none other than Jillian Chantal and talk to her about her latest release, The Gambler’s Daughter. Sure, I could have just talked to her back in the past when it came out, but I was too busy worrying about going back to the past from the future that had been now, but is now then. Don’t worry. I’m confused too.

Any who! Time to go back to when Jillian was eagerly awaiting the release of her book. Cue time travelly music.

Boooooshhhhhhhhh ta bashhhhhhhhh da bossssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhh dum de dum dum boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooossssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhh.

And we’re then!

Jmo: Jillian, come with me if you want to live!

Jillian: I want to liveeee! Grab my arm. Don’t let me fall and die!

Jmo: Not on my watch! First off, thanks for not beating me up, but this was the only way I could talk to you then about now that was then. Never mind. I’m still confused. Why don’t you tell my readers about yourself?

Jillian: I was born in England to the oldest son of the last king and am the real heir to the throne- Oh wait, I can’t tell that part- they’re still looking to assassinate me- the truth is, I’m an American CIA agent working undercover infiltrating the Mafia – No wait- I can’t tell that either or I’d have to kill you. Okay, here’s the truth… ready? Wait for it….  I’m a romance writer. I know- it’s shocking but there you go. That’s who I am.

Jmo: Not as shocking as you’d think. Mainly, because I set the Prius to seek out romance authors and because I know your Historical fiction is quite simply amazing. ‘Redemption for the Devil’ totally blew me away when I read it. What sparked your interest in this genre?

Jillian:  Aww. Serious thanks for that, Jmo. I love that story still. When I wrote it, it was like taking dictation. In fact, I woke up one day with the thought, “My name is Liam Cormac and you’re going to tell my story.” Who could ign ore that command? I had to do it.

I love the early 20th century and the ocean liners of those glory days of pre-airline travel. It fascinates me how people came over the long way, so to speak. I have long been fascinated with the British Isles from reading Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a kid and since it’s part of my family heritage. I’ve also always been a fan of murder mysteries and combining those two interests led first to Redemption for the Devil.

I decided to write The Gambler’s Inheritance series when I heard that the Queen Mary was a floating hotel now and that I could actually stay there. I did stay onboard for two days and the story ideas came calling.

Jmo: Wow! Amazing to see how it all falls into place like that. I have to ask. How much research do you put into your stories before you begin writing? Because, reading you is like being there? The sounds! The sights! The huddled masses on ships to America! Sorta like this trip back in time.

Jillian: Haha. Yep. This trip is full of huddled masses. I see a few of them over in the corner. Maybe they’re merely terrified masses.

Jmo: No, I think they’re waiting for the train to Hogwarts. I get that a lot.

Jillian: Interestingly, the Irish story didn’t take much extra research since I’ve read extensively about the Irish fight for independence and Michael Collins and his death. I had also read a bit about the old ocean liners since I have a dear friend who’s enamored of the lore of the Titanic. She got me interested a few years ago. So, most of the research was fact checking. I did have a moment of panic when I wanted my hero to witness the building of the Empire State Building but I was too early in time.

For the Gambler series, I grabbed (and paid for) a couple of books while I was on the Queen Mary and those jump started my research on dates of sailings and various celebrities who traveled on her from it.

Jmo: I hate to admit this, but I’ve not had the chance to read The Gambler’s Inheritance series. Bad of me I know. Building time machines take up a lot of well time. Do you mind telling us a little about this series and especially the latest book, The Gambler’s Daughter?

Jillian: This series is a set of three separate stories. They’re all people from the same family but each story is a stand-alone. There’s a beginning, middle and end. This is important to me since so many stories these days seem to end with cliffhangers. I don’t dig that at all. I want answers for my money!

There’s at least one murder to solve in each of these stories and lots of romance and flirting going on. The first story, The Gambler, is based when the Queen first took to the seas. It’s set in 1937 and the title character is Dirk McSwain who gambles for a living (imagine that!). The second one, The Gambler’s Brother, is set in 1946 and the title character is Dirk’s brother, Beaumont McSwain, who is a former RAF officer onboard the ship during the time the ship was transporting war brides to America.

The last one in the series is the story of the daughter of Dirk, Bernadette McSwain-  called- of all things- The Gambler’s Daughter. Beaumont’s son is also a central character. This one is set in 1967. That was when the Queen Mary made her final voyage.

These were all super fun to write, but I have to say that the last one was really a blast since it was the only one of the group that takes place when I was on the planet. Now, mind you, I was very young, but I loved that I could picture Bernadette in her go-go boots and mini skirts as well as talking about pop culture television shows I could remember seeing in reruns.

If you like the sixties, afros, go-go boots, high seas, cruises, mysteries, murder, romance and ghosts, this is the book for you.

Jmo: I do! I do! Before I go back to the Future! Man, I’ve been dying to say that. I have one more question to beg of you. What is the one thing you hope your readers take away from reading your books?

Jillian: I hope they find that my characters are realistic and are able to grow and learn from the adversities they undergo on their journeys. I hope they also find some humor in the stories as I try to inject wittiness and banter in the midst of tragedy. I also want to stump them on the whodunit, of course.

I know, that’s more than one thing, so before you go back to the future, Future Boy, let me narrow it down to the most important thing that I hope readers take from my stories:

An escape from the real world for a bit of time.

Jmo: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me, but I really must be going. The zombie juice is starting to degrade at an alarming rate and I’d like to get home before Jenn discovers I’ve blown up the Prius. Please, feel free to give everyone some buy links for The Gambler’s Daughter and all your books. While you’re at it, tell them where you can be found all over the net.


Jmo: Thanks, for posting those links. Now, I’ve got just enough juice for one more ju….

‘Pzzt bloop fzzzzzzz!’

Well, that didn’t sound good. Exit the Prius in an orderly fashion. Zombified meltdown in minus ten seconds.

Jillian: Thanks Jmo for the fun visit. I hope the Prius got home in one piece and Jenn lets the travels through time continue. If you see Doctor Who, send him by. I’d like to hitch a ride in the Tardis to ride on an old ocean liner. It sounds safer than the Prius.

Jmo: Bye, Jillian and the rest of you guys. Until next week, ‘To Insanity and Beyond’.

The End, as Jmo sees it

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end…

I know. I stole that from the Doors, but it applies. It also happens to be the perfect lead in for my last blog on Writing the Jmo Way. Just like you only get one chance to make a good first impression, you only get one shot at leaving a reader either breathlessly wanting more, or saying to themselves, ‘I wasted three days of my life reading this drivel for that!’ I’ve been there and said it, so know it’s true.

So how do you write that one amazing ending that totally leaves jaws dropping and with that eternal of I wonder what happens next burning a reader’s lips? There is a simple answer to that. It ain’t easy!

Too many factors go into the equation to give a pat answer. Each book is different, with its own set of problems. If you’re working on a single book, it narrows the field. In Romance, we strive for a ‘happily ever after’ most of the time. Other genres might not be so forgiving. Or, giving, as the case may be.  I write series. Series gives you the option of continuing the story so you can draw out that HEA. In the case of Love Bites and Bite Marks, I get to play with the best of both worlds. You get the individual happily ever after of my hero and heroine for that book, while you get to keep wondering what happens next as the plot that runs through the series keeps unfolding.

Why a continuing plot? Because, I hate to turn characters loose. Savannah and Donatello kicked Love Bites off. I loved them so much, I wanted to keep visiting them. They’ve popped up in nearly all of the books. Not only do I get to glimpse inside their continuing and growing relationship, the reader does as well. With Book three’s hero and heroine, I found something special. Deme and Dela have a specific role to play with their continuing and definitely growing relationship. And, no, I’m not telling you what it is. If you’ve been reading the series, you know. If not, consider that a tease to make you start reading. This is a writer’s blog after all. Just a spoiler, Book Two of Bite Marks will mark a big event in their relationship. Ebil ain’t I?

Back to what this blog is all about. The End!

What goes into crafting an amazing ending? First and foremost, it has to be satisfying — and true to the heart of the book. That last bit is the important part. The most important part! If you slap a kiss and a walk off into the sunset at the conclusion just because you think that’s what readers want, you’re cheating three sets of people. Yourself. Your readers. Your characters. Sure, you want your characters to have that, but is that the end result of what they’ve experienced? Some relationships take more that the span of a single situational experience to reach an ‘I love you forever’ moment. They might get to the ‘I love you,’ but realistically does every book deserve the wedding, and horse drawn carriage to end it. It’s an easy fix, but is it always the right fix?

In my Southern Werewolf Chronicles, Were Love Blooms ends with the I love you, but I hold off on the I love you forever. The characters feel it, but I leave room for them to explore their relationship before thrusting either of them into a big wedding and a future defined by the heat of the moment. I, personally, as the author went into the first book wanting to write a story about two people who find each other, then get into discovering if the ‘I love you’ means they can spend their lives together. Because love does not always equal compatibility.

Each book, there’ll be three, has a different theme. Were Love Blooms was finding true love. Were the Moon Don’t Shine was about what you’d do to keep true love alive. Book Three, which is still brewing in my head, will be about those two people discovering if they can survive all those little irritating things that all couples have to work through. To me, that’s what love is all about. Not the heat and passion, but the ability to love someone enough to stick around and let that love grow in spite of the constant nagging that someone left the toilet seat up again. It was the cat, and I’m sticking to that story.

Another key ingredient to a satisfying ending is remembering to tie up all those pesky loose ends. Subplots can get lost along the way. In the rush to finish a book, it can be easy to forget that you left Timmie in the well or whatever. A first draft is the race to finish. A second draft is the jog to finish well. Third draft? Well, that’s the slow walk to finish grammatically well. When we inevitably fail on that last one, we become an editor’s headache before we become a reader’s comma spliced migraine. Okay, maybe I need to reverse that. Editor’s migraine does sound more to the truth. The thing is as an author we need to remember what we’ve set in motion and make damned sure we finish what we start, no matter how small that might be. The devil, or in my case, the werewolf is in the details.

Even though my worlds are paranormal and exaggerated comically in nature, I attempt to base them on the real world. What each of us has gone through, or are going through, every single day of the week. In that way, I hope readers can relate to what I’m peddling. That means when they close the book, the end might be the end, or the end for now. How satisfying that is, I leave up to them to decide. For me, it’s as satisfying as I can make it limited to my observations of the human condition.

That’s the thing. Books are only as good as an author makes them. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I’m left wondering what I did there. That’s the reason we do multiple drafts, and if we’re smart, have people in our lives who read it before it reaches the online bookshelves. If it doesn’t satisfy them, then we know we need to go back to the drawing board. In this case, honesty is the best policy, so surround yourself with people not afraid to hit you where it hurts. Egos are made to be bruised. From personal experience, that drawing board can crack down the middle before we finally get what we want. Nay! Need.

All this basically means this. The End is hard work. It isn’t something that just falls into place magically. It should be the first thought you have when you type out that first line. Where am I going? How do I get there? How does all this lead to where my characters need to be? Hey, what happened to my bag of Oreos? Those are some other good questions you should ask yourself throughout the course of writing your book. Especially that last one. Those bags come up missing an awful lot.

To sum up this whole blog series, writing isn’t about telling a story. It is about totally immersing yourself into a story from beginning to end. For me, if you’re not living the story as much as your characters are, you’re not doing it write. I’ve probably said this before but it bears repeating. Writing is acting on paper, or its modern age’s equivalent, on the screen. I am my characters. I cry when they cry. I bleed when they bleed. Most of the time, I snark when they snark. And, when it’s all said and done, I’ve told the best story I’m able to. If I didn’t think that, I’d be even later on my deadlines than I already am. Because, for me to send a book to my editor, I have to honestly believe I couldn’t do it any better. If you can say the same, when you type out ‘The End’, then you’re not a writer, you’re an author.

Thanks to everyone, who has taken the time to stick with me through this drawn out process. I hope I’ve imparted some knowledge to you, or kept you mildly entertained. Either way, have a great day, and happy reading!

The End,


Jmo’s Hump Day Writing Blues


You know in most cases when a person hears Hump Day, they get a euphoric cloud floating around their head. Sure, it still happens in relation to the day job most authors are forced to cultivate to do silly things like pay bills and eat.

But, when an author thinks Hump, it’s all about the middle of their current work in process, or something nasty that has nothing to do with the subject of this blog. Let’s just forget that, shall we?

Where was I? Oh, yeah. The middle of the book. Beginnings are easy. You’ve got the thrill of a new idea burning its way through your brain. You’re hopped up on some weird literary endorphins that course through you like an illicit substance and before you know it, you’ve written three thousand words with ten thousand more bursting from the seams that remain of your skull.


You hit the wall. That grand imaginary wall that stops the possibility of a single word getting through the thickness of your frantic thoughts. Yep, I’m talking about writer’s block. But, when you get right down to it, is it a block? I mean you’ve got the ideas. A ton of them, if you’re anything like me. You see so many paths that your characters and story could take. When you think about it, we shouldn’t call it writer’s block. If we wanted to get truthful about it, we should call it a writer’s traffic jam. We’ve got all these what ifs jamming against each other fighting to get past the broken down Pinto that’s been holding up progress. Because that’s what a writer’s block is. A bad idea that has blown a tire and is sitting in the middle of the interstate of our stories.


Trust me. I’m right.

When we start that blazing beginning, we are so sure we know what our story is about. Come on. We made up the characters. Molded them from the clay of our fevered imaginations. We’ve hijacked a brilliant concept for a story that is both original and tested against any type of storm. Then, both of those things do some crazy stuff, and evolve beyond what we thought they could be. They come alive and go Pinocchio on us. So, we’ve got to sit quietly and bang our heads against the dash…uh, screen, until we figure out where we went wrong and how to make it right.

That’s where all these ideas come from. The neural pathways are jumping with ways to work it out. I know! Have one of the Vamps get bit by a were opossum. Then they can hang upside down by a prehensile tail while they suck the blood. Okay, maybe not that one, but you get the idea. What ifs abound!

What ifs? What’s a what if? A what if is how I describe the act of brainstorming. What if someone does this? What if a zombie apocalypse breaks out? What if I’m losing my mind, and the book is really writing me? Call it literary math, a word problem with the characters represented by X and Y, with the next chapter represented by XY to the nth power. That would make it algebra but I don’t like algebra, so I refuse to call it that.

Let’s move on.

This is the time, if you hope to keep a shred of sanity, you’ve got to step back. Abandon the project, if you will. Not forever, but until you’re not taking things personally. Sometimes, all it takes to get that wrecked idea off the interstate is talking it through with a friend or crit partner. They aren’t emotionally invested. They can see past the hangups that you cling to. Because, you’re clingy, buddy. Hey, I am. You are. We know what SHOULD be happening. Notice the nice caps on that should. Just because you think the next step is an amazing idea, that doesn’t mean it is. Face it. Sometimes ideas suck. Most of the time, we can catch them before they get out of our head, but on rare occasions they just won’t turn you lose. That’s when a new perspective comes in handy. It’s also why as an author you should keep a file for deleted scenes. Just because the idea won’t work where you want to put it, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a perfect fit elsewhere.

Never throw out an idea. Consider that a Jmo Rule of Writing.

Ideas are too hard to come by to just toss one away. What might not drive one book, might be just the thing to shoot another to where it needs to go. This might sound crazy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. For me, if I can’t remember an idea, it’s not a good idea. I don’t beat myself up for forgetting this amazing idea I had when I didn’t have a pen handy to jot it down. If it’s good enough to stick in my brain, it’ll be around when I need it. Otherwise, it was just a hiccup in the process.

Getting over the hump, is frustrating, but nothing to go nuts about. That traffic jam is a vital part of the writing process. It’s your subconscious telling you that you’ve lost control of the asylum.  Take that exit and stop at Stuckey’s for a pecan roll until you figure out why that left at Albuquerque you shouldn’t have taken has landed you in a five mile backup somewhere around Dallas. Once you figure that out, you just might have a book on your hands.

One last bit of Jmo-therly advice before I go. Never let that traffic jam derail you from following your dream. Writers are patient enough, and smart enough, to realize that anything worth doing, is worth fighting to have. In the end, that’s what writing is. Fighting common sense to make stuff up. If that isn’t the definition of crazy, I’d like one of you guys to give me a better one.

Starting now…. Go!

Making a good first impression Jmo style!



ImageIt never hurts to make a good first impression. Bad impressions generally get you hit over the head with a beer bottles and rudely shoved out the door of your favorite watering hole. Since this blog is about writing and all writers want to make a good impression, we’ll be discussing my favorite first impression.


The first line of a book is your first impression. It’s the first taste a reader will get of your book. After honing my scan of a first paragraph, I’ve come to judge books by their first page and rarely by their covers. Sure, the cover sparks my interest, but if the first page makes me yawn, I slap it back on the shelf and mentally berate artists everywhere for tricking me. I grew up devouring books with covers by Boris, Frazetta and the Hildebrant Brothers, so I’m no stranger to picking up books based on cover art. It serves its purpose if the artist knows what they’re doing.


But, it’s up to me as an author to draw you past a cover with my writing skills. If you, or me, as a writer can’t back up that cover, we need to rethink a career in writing. That first line thing goes for chapters too. I’m also a big believer in last lines. The final line of a chapter should make you speed turn the page to find out what happens next. Most of the time, you have something to back that up, but not all chapters can leave you breathless. Some have to further the story in more mundane ways. But, this isn’t about last lines. It’s about first lines.


To illustrate my point, I’m going to use one of my favorite first lines from one of my books. This one is from Love at First Stake.


“Madam, are you aware you just shoved a sizable stake through my heart!”


Okay, see what I did there? That one line informed the reader of two things.  A. This book is about Vampires. B. This book just might be funny. Now, let’s see what tone I’d set if I went a different way.


            Her fist came down, slamming the ash hewn stake through the bloodsucker’s heart.


That sets a totally different tone. A. We still know it’s about Vampires. B. This book just might get gory and more serious than I intended. Another thing. It’s kind of boring. How many times have you read a vampire novel that is all about the mythology and mired in clichés? Love Bites was intended to be a different take on Vampires. A funny take. Something to set it apart from the horde of vampire books out on the shelves already. Hopefully, I succeeded in drawing in readers with that first line and keeping them entertained long enough to keep reading to the end.


One more first line. This is from Were Love Blooms.



Not to sound totally insane, but how much wax does it take to do a bikini line when you’re a freaking werewolf? 


Again, I’ve defined the subject matter and tone of the book in a comical way. We immediately know the main character is a werewolf and none too happy about the fact. By the way, if anyone can answer that question for me I’d really like to know how much it takes. I might not be a werewolf, but I’m quite hairy.


But, I digress. This blog is about writing, not my follicle issues.


If you’ve been following this blog series, you’ve got a grasp on the concept that characters and plot are your first concerns. Once you know both of those things, you can get to the fun stuff. And, that’s the real point of writing. Having fun doing it. If you see it as work, it’ll come across as work. Nobody likes work, least of all readers. We read to escape work, life and stress in general.


I’m in no way saying comedy is everyone’s favorite, but the first line first impression works no matter what genre you’re writing. Let me show you. This is from a current work in progress that I’ve been playing around with in my spare time. Ha! What spare time? Please forgive the language, but sometimes situations dictate a harsh response, especially if you’re dealing with a harsh type of character. The name of this work is Shadick’s Brand.


“Son of a bitch!” Jace Shadick let the curse roll across his lips, as he saw the plume of smoke painting the dusty blue sky.


What does the first line tell you? Probably not a comedy. Something bad just happened. Something worse is probably going to happen. The title of the book hints that it’s a Western, so I tailored his speech and the visual description to mirror his environment and times. Not only does the first line give you his frame of mind, but it allows you a look into the world around him. Dusty blue sky equals cloudy day. The smoke gives you an idea that a tragedy has occurred. The curse tells you it is something he doesn’t want to deal with. That’s a lot for a line to tell you. More importantly, does it make you want to read more? Feel free to tell me the truth. I would appreciate it.


What can we bring away from all this? First lines are windows to your book. It’s a hook to make a reader want to read more. The impact defines the tone of a book. A single line can give a complete overview of what a reader can expect. Finally, if you’re doing it right, first lines can be fun.


So next time you sit down to write, consider how important that first impression is. From there it’s up to you to either totally kill it, or get hit with a beer bottle. Figuratively of course. But, if it were me, I’d try to kill it, just in case. Beer bottles really hurt.




Writing the Jmo Way!

First off let me say Happy Easter! I hope you are all safe, happy, and blessed.

Now on to the business of the day. Last week I let my good friend Paisley take the heat off me with her guest blog so I could give myself an extra week to think on the second part of my writing blog series. Because, with this one, I really needed the thunking time.

Plot is never an easy thing to talk about. To quote a famous Doctor it’s all whimbly wombly. The spellings might be a little off but you get the idea.

To begin with, plot gets confused with story. Plot is the driving force of a story, not the story itself. The story is a direct result of how the plot guides the character through the twists and turns an author puts those characters through. Somewhere, there is probably a list of all the plots ever thought up by authors. There aren’t that many, but here’s a few just to give you an idea.

Man versus environment.

Man versus man.

Man versus self.

Man versus an intergalactic zombie horde bent on world domination and delectable human brainage.

Okay, that last one is mine and mine alone, but it’s still a viable plot, just one that not even a comic book would use.

The three plots about it though can be twisted to be used for just about every eventuality. I leave it to you to come up with those twists. In part one of this series, I told you I would be using the plot from my new WiP to illustrate my points. In it, we went over characters and how I came up with a story. Now that we have three different plots to base a book on, lets go over a few different techniques in developing a plot.

Character driven plots.

Story driven plot

Insane sadist author driven plot.

What do I mean by those?

Character driven plots tend to allow the characters themselves to determine how a plot will develop and unfold. Their reactions or actions dictate how the plot flows. This to me is a panster mentality. The writer discovers what happens as the reader does, by the seat of his or her pants. There’s a lot of room for error this way, but it also gives a spontaneity to the work that adds an excitement element that any other way just can’t compete with.

Story driven plots are more developed before hand. The author has a firm grasp on the book and knows the plot well enough to see how the characters will react to the story as he or she sees it. Usually, the author can envision the entire story with no surprises because the ending is already set in stone.

Do I really need to go into that last one? The author throws everything but the kitchen sink, and sometimes that, at his characters and rubs his hands maniacally while he does it. Yes, I used male pronouns, because most of the time that’s me doing it.

But, I have used all three techniques as a writer. Early on, I was the supreme pantster. Now, I use a combination of all three to achieve my nefarious ends.

Before starting Bite the Neck that Loves You, I had my plot already. In fact the plot for all the Bite Marks books are already set in stone. Franki would look for Alex, then they both would look for the Tome of Alabaster, a book they needed to find and keep out of the First Fallen’s hands. For those not in the know, The First Fallen is the first vampire birthed on earth. Not telling how, in case you haven’t caught up yet. I’d call that plot man versus environment, but I could be wrong because my characters need to battle their own natures to achieve that end. That’s the thing about characters, if they don’t evolve, you’re basically spinning your wheels. We craved growth in those we care about. Why shouldn’t people in books grow too? We love them just as much as people out here in the real world.

Here’s where things go wonky on a writer. Just because we have a plot, characters we pretty much know like second cousins and even a firm grasp on all the things that will happen between page one and the end, those characters will do things to totally screw up the middle bit. The plot doesn’t change but how the story develops changes because of how the characters begin evolving on you.

So, you have to step back and take a different look on things. This is where the term writer’s block comes from. Nothing twists up a writer’s mind like having their creations not do what we tell them to do. We’re a megalomaniac bunch, when it comes to stuff like that.

That’s all my secrets for this week. Next week, I’ll come up with something else to ponder on. Thinking something about first lines, or cliffhangers. Any who. Happy Easter and have a wonderful week.

Happy Reading!