by Wendi Zwaduk
There are a lot of things that inspire my writing, but one of the real-life things that I love to add to my stories is racing. In Right Where I Need to Be, the heroine and her best friend go to the dirt races to watch the team she sponsors race.
When I lived in another part of Ohio, we had a little dirt track not too far away from our house. On Friday and Saturday nights in the summer, we’d go over and watch the races. There’s something exciting about seeing controlled chaos. The cars or trucks racing on the dirt surface are on the verge of losing control as they round each corner, but still they keep racing. Now keep in mind, as a spectator at one of these races, it gets dirty. Yes, the dirt from the track flies through the air and all over the crowd. So instead of jotting down notes in my notebook, I make mental notes and hope I remember for when I get to my truck and the clean notebook.
My experiences at the track paralleled the story with the hero and heroine in Right. Not only does Cass watch the races, but she’s on the verge of losing control each time she’s in Logan’s arms. She’s scared to fall in love with him because he’s such a consuming type of hero, but she continues on her journey, regardless of how messy things can get.
The drivers are in their comfort zone because they know what they’re doing as they drive, yet at the time, the possibility that another driver could wreck and cause upheaval for everyone is in the back of their minds. It’s the same for Cass. Logan’s a movie star. At any moment, the scepter of his celebrity can force into their relationship and screw everything up. Instead of throwing in the towel, she hangs on for the ride of her life.
Another thing I write about that pertains to racing and romance is the excitement of meeting that one driver that’s the favorite. When I met my favorite driver, Clint Bowyer, I was thrilled, scared, excited, and ready to run. Why? He’s a celebrity. Sounds odd, I know, but that’s part of what was scary. I didn’t want to come off as a dork or something when I asked for his autograph. This translated over to Right because when Cass first meets Logan, she’s nervous and ready to get away from him. But because I’d been in her shoes, I understood her situation and could write it in more of a convincing manner.
Maybe most of the things involved in my stories aren’t things I’ve lived through or that I have personal experience with, but those I do have experience with, I feel more capable of writing about. So I’ll keep going to the races, meeting drivers at the Auto Show, totting around my notebook. I never know where the next great story idea might come from, but I’m not about to stop going to the races.
Sometimes the love of your life isn’t the one you expect, but he’s the one you need.
Cass Jenson needs an actor for her made for TV movie. The previous actor dropped out, leaving her stranded. Her savior shows up looking sinfully sexy and totally right for the part, but what part is she auditioning him for? Her movie or her bed?
Logan Malone needs an acting job and fast. With his string of broken hearts, his professional life lies in shambles. To resurrect his career, he must audition for a television role which could be the job of a lifetime. That is, if he can work with distraction and Cass is a major distraction with a heart of gold. Is their budding relationship enough to survive separation, lies, and a couple zany fans?
by Jean Hart Stewart
I’m starting a new book where one of the heroines is charming, but ruled by her superstitions. There are two heroines since the two heroes are twins. This one is going to be fun. And I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother.
My grandmother insisted her grandchildren call her Kate. It was surely the only modern thing about her. She so strict I hardly dared call her anything at all. Once I came home from the corner store with a carton of root beer. I had to take it back because it had ‘beer’ in the title. I hope she’s in heaven but hasn’t bothered to check my current life style! Oh, and if one gave you a purse you better find some money in it, although even a penny would do. If we went out the door, forget something and turned back, we had to circle a chair three times and then sit in it for a moment for being allowed back out. Oh yes, and you didn’t give anybody a knife because that would cut your friendship in two.
The one thing I remember with pleasure is that she had beautiful white hair which fell to her waist when she set it free from its tight bun. She occasionally let me brush it, and as a child I dearly loved doing that. She seemed a little fey at times. Once when we were on a visit she took my mother aside and told her to get me to a doctor, something was wrong with Jean. We laughed about it on the way home but a few days later I suffered an acute appendicitis attack which necessitated an emergency operation.
Mostly she was such an aloof figure I had little interaction with her. But I certainly remember that austere, aloof woman who somehow had my best interests at heart.
I’d love to know your superstitions. We all have some, even if we try to dismiss them as nonsense. Come on, tell me yours. Please?
I feel I’m very much a Californian although I was born in Ohio. California has been home for a good many years. Life changed drastically when I was six and my father died, incredibly from an errant golf ball. A dishonest insurance agent left us with little income and forced my sheltered mother to seek work, and she became a teacher. Her hours required me to be alone in the house most of the afternoon, and since I was forbidden to leave till my mother got home, I became an avid reader. The local library supplied most of the books and I fell in love with both Jane Austen and King Arthur.
Reading is still one of my favorite activities, although I often have to push it aside to make room for my compelling love of writing. My journalism degree wasn’t much use to me until recently. Marriage and raising two children pleasantly got in the way. After twenty years of being a real estate broker and with the kids raised I could finally devote my time to writing, my first love.
Few things in my life have been so satisfying, especially when all my books have a happy ending. Wonderful to make that happen. It only gets more interesting when a secondary character demands his very own book. Sometimes a new character is so noisy I just have to give in. Shouting inside my head gets my attention, believe me, and those guys usually turn out to be fun to write about.
Most of the ideas for my stories grow out of specific incidents, places, activities or people I meet in life. A case in point is my Havana Series of thrillers.
The idea for the series popped into my mind while watching my ex-wife, a successful and highly skilled plastic surgeon, perform a complex surgery. As I observed her nimble hands undermine aging skin and chisel a bulbous appendage into a perfect nose, I said to myself, “Why don’t you write a thriller based on a face-disguising plastic surgery to Fidel Castro?”
I picked Castro instead of Hugo Chavez because I was born in Cuba, so I knew something about the topic. I chose to write a thriller instead of a mainstream novel because the subject matter lent itself to the thriller genre. Besides, I love to write thrillers.
Another interesting anecdote about the Havana Series of books is how I came up with the idea for the beautiful but ruthless female assassin, Marcela.
I wasn’t happy with my first draft of the manuscript. The basic story of a widowed doctor lured to Cuba after thirty years to perform plastic surgery on Fidel Castro, in the process rekindling his love affair with the childhood sweetheart he left behind and meeting the son he never knew, was interesting but plain vanilla. I felt that it lacked punch and needed a counter-point subplot. So I came up with another idea, “What if Raul Castro sent an assassin after the doctor?”
So I developed a male assassin named Marcial and stuffed him in the book. My problem was that I felt no empathy for Marcial. He was simply a muscular and mean lump, lacking energy and excitement. Marcial gave me writer’s block. One day, commiserating with my wife during dinner about my problems with Marcial, she gave me a great suggestion. “What if you made the assassin a woman and called her Marcela?”
And, suddenly, I had an epiphany. The character of Marcela exploded in my imagination. I could see the entire storyline, in vivid detail, in front of my eyes. It was an incredible moment of illumination. Hollywood couldn’t have done it better. Marcela would be Halle Berry on steroids but with yellow eyes, a lethal professional killer with a strict religious and moral code. I wrote the rest of the first book of the series in three months of furious writing.
Most of the ideas for my stories come to me like that, from unexpected sources. That’s why I try to be always alert and observant to the world around me. I don’t want to miss anything. Culling ideas from life is hard work.
When an old fisherman is gunned down on a Mexican beach, prominent Miami surgeon Raymond Peters becomes the prime suspect. The dead fisherman is believed to be Fidel Castro whom Dr. Peters had helped disguise through clandestine plastic surgery on a trip to Cuba two years earlier. But is the body really that of the Cuban leader? In order to save his own life, the beleaguered physician must solve the murder, find the killers and retrieve a mysterious journal. And this has to be done while outwitting a sensual but ruthless assassin named Marcela, sent by Castro’s brother Raul.
To Marcela’s delight, Tula arrived promptly at eight. She paused at the
door, scanning the crowded bar. Her red halter dress and black spike
heels with ankle straps did the job she’d obviously intended them to do.
Marcela waved from her small table in the back of the room, her heart
quickening. Tula waved back and started skirting the tables. Men and
women stared at her as she passed by, triggering in Marcela a strange
She rose when Tula reached her table, and both women greeted each
other with the customary exchange of kisses on the cheek. Tula’s eyes
“Something wrong?” Marcela asked, sitting down again. “You look—”
“Sad?” Tula said, sitting down next to Marcela.
“A friend of mine died recently,” Tula said. “A very good friend. We
used to come here sometimes. It made me sad when I walked in.”
“Sorry,” Marcela said. “You want to go some other place?”
“No. This is fine. I need to get over it.”
“What did your friend die of?”
“He was murdered.”
Marcela raised an eyebrow. “Miami is a violent city.”
“You can say that again.”
“How did it happen?”
“He was shot in his apartment.”
“My God!” Marcela said. “A thief?”
Tears came to Tula’s eyes. “Who knows? He was such a good person.
I can’t imagine anyone wanting to kill him.”
“Poor thing. Did they catch who did it?”
“Do the police have any leads?”
Tula shook her head and suddenly started sobbing.
“Now, now,” Marcela said, leaning forward and patting her hand.
“You need a drink.” She waved to the waiter. “What would you like?”
“Just what I was going to order myself,” Marcela said as the waiter
arrived. “Two mojitos. And when you see these glasses empty again, you
bring some more.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the waiter said.
An hour and four mojitos later, Tula had to go to the bathroom.
Marcela got up to go with her. When Tula’s head was turned, Marcela
slipped two roofies into her drink.