Please welcome Donna as my guest blogger today. It's always interesting to hear how an author got started and where inspiration comes from.
When I was a kid,
I loved to read. And once I’d worked my way through the children’s section of
our local library, I begged the librarian to let me read from the adult
section. I read Jack London and others who wrote about animals, moving on to
Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour because I loved horses. The librarian made sure she
approved every book I checked out.
And then I
discovered Agatha Christie, which ignited my passion for mysteries. Everywhere
I went, I looked for the baker’s son who pulled wings off flies, or the mailman
who kicked dogs, or the housewife who wore her negligee to hang clothes—all of
those peculiar mannerisms Miss Marple mentioned in solving the crime. And I
worked on triggering “those little grey cells” like Hercules Poirot said.
In writing class,
I was the kid who got A+ because of word count. I loved to write. I’d make up
stories about anything. The last leaf on the tree in the fall—what was it
thinking? Why didn’t it want to join its friends? How about the one bird
sitting by itself on the telephone wire. What had it done to be excluded from
the flock? Or did it think it was an eagle and not a pigeon?
Stories from my
childhood like The Ugly Duckling
and The Prince and the Pauper
if. . . ?” questions. What if I’d been born in a different family? What if I
wasn’t the oldest? What if I had a twin?
Perhaps because I
was the oldest and I got blamed not only for what I did but for what my
siblings did as well, I have a strong sense of justice. Right is right, and
wrong is wrong, and there isn’t much grey area between the two. So writing
mysteries seemed like the way to ensure that my world was always in alignment.
2002, after writing short stories and other short pieces for a while, I
wondered if I had a full-length book in me. I heard about National Novel
Writing Month, and decided to find out if I could write 50,000 words about one
thing: solving a mystery. I started late, had only the barest bones of a story,
and ended up writing myself into a corner because I didn’t know who the
But I persevered,
decided who would be the killer, and wrote 7,500 words on November 30th,
bringing my word count to just over 50,000 words.
Did I mention I’m
also very badge-driven?
So on December
1st of that same year, I went back in and put in red herrings and clues as to
the killer’s motivation, because I hate it when a television show or author
springs the solution without offering any clues along the way.
After about ten
more revisions through the years, I independently published that book, now
renamed No Accounting for Murder, the
first in a series. Number 11 came out the end of December under my pen name of
Leeann Betts. Along with three volumes of three novels each, appropriately
named By the Numbers Omnibus 1, 2, and
So what inspires
me? Well-written stories ignited the passion to prove myself worthy of reading
and dreaming and imagining along with the author. The characters and stories
tumbling around in my head cry out to be written down. Seeing my father hold
the story of his life in his hands as a book published for the family confirms
my calling. And finishing the story of his life as he wanted, even after his
passing, reminds me that time is short and we aren’t always guaranteed
tomorrow. Hearing readers say they enjoyed a particular book confirms that I
have a gift that shouldn’t be wasted. Teaching at conferences and online
courses, and hearing students say, “I finally get it” keeps me working at my
craft. And sharing my story with you reminds me that this isn’t all about
me—it’s about what God is doing in me and through me.
The way I figure
it, others have their way of touching people’s lives, through their speaking,
their service, their preaching. I touch lives through my writing. But that
writing is still only a tool. The message I bring is that God offers second,
third, fourth and more chances. I’m living proof of that. I’ve messed up more
times than I have fingers and toes. Yet here I am, being used by Him to share
inspiration do I need?
Set in 1880,
Becky Campbell leaves her wealthy New York lifestyle in search of her father,
only to learn he was murdered in the small town of Silver Valley, Colorado.
Unable to return to her mother in humiliation and defeat, she determines to
fulfill her father’s dream—to make the Double Jeopardy profitable.
Zeke Graumann, a
local rancher, is faced with a hard decision regarding his land and his dream.
After several years of poor weather and low cattle prices, he will either have
to take on a job to help pay his overhead expenses, or sell his land. He hires
on with this Easterner for two reasons: he can’t turn his back on a damsel in
distress. And he needs the money.
certain Zeke is all he claims to be, and after a series of accidents at her
mine, wonders if he isn’t behind it, trying to get her to sell out so he can
Zeke finds many
of Becky’s qualities admirable and fears he’s losing his heart to her charms,
but also recognizes she was never cut out to be a rancher’s wife.
overcome her mistrust of Zeke, find her father’s killer, and turn her mine into
a profitable venture—before her mother arrives in town, thinking she’s coming
for her daughter’s wedding? And will Zeke be forced to give up his dream and
lose his land in order to win Becky’s heart?
Join us on
January 7th, 2020 as we celebrate the release of Double
1880 Silver Valley,
Dead. Dead as her
dreams and her hopes.
Dead as a doornail
, as her mother would say.
Just thinking about the woman
drove a steel rod through Becky Campbell’s slumping back. Perched on a chair in
the sheriff’s office, she drew a deep breath, lifted her shoulders, and raised
her chin a notch. She would not be like the woman who birthed her. Pretty and
pampered. A silly socialite finding nothing better to do with her days than tea
with the mayor’s spinster daughter or bridge with the banker’s wife.
No, she’d much rather be like her
father. Adventuresome. Charismatic. Always on the lookout for the next big
Now her breath came in a shudder,
and down went her shoulders again. She tied her fingers into knots before
looking up at the grizzled lawman across the desk from her. “There’s no chance
there’s been a mistake in identification, is there?”
He slid open the top drawer of
his desk and pulled out a pocket watch, a lapel pin, and a fountain pen, which
he pushed across the desk to her. “He was pretty well-known around here. I’m
really sorry, miss.”
Becky picked up the timepiece and
flicked open the cover. Inside was a photograph of her family, taken about ten
years earlier when she was a mere child of eight and Father stayed around long
enough to sit still for the portrait. Her mother, petite and somber, and she,
all ringlets and ribbons. She rubbed a finger across the engraving. To R. Love M. Always.
And the lapel pin, a tiny silver
basket designed to hold a sprig of baby’s breath or a miniature rosebud—a
wedding gift from her mother twenty years before.
She looked up at the sheriff,
tears blurring her vision. “And his ring?”
The lawman shook his head. “No
ring. Not on his body or in his shack.”
“But he always wore it. Never
took it off.”
He shrugged. “Maybe he lost it.
Or sold it.”
“I doubt he’d do either. My
mother gave it to him when I was born.”
She peered at him. Had he stolen
her father’s ring?
Or maybe Sheriff Freemont was
correct. Maybe something as important as her birth hadn’t meant much to her
father. Maybe she didn’t either. Was that why he left?
Donna lives in Denver with
husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her
own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and
has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She
is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters
In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and
teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits,
and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels
extensively for both. Donna
is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.