Behind the scenes: Salvation

In some ways, Salvation, (Blue Moon Saloon, Book 4) was my most ambitious work because of the raw emotion of the story. The funny thing is, I never intended to write this book. Read more to find out just how this amazing story came to be.

The story

As I originally planned it, the Blue Moon Saloon series would have ended after Book 3, Redemption. But then the craziest thing happened – one of my star beta readers/ARC reviewers, Renee, wrote to me saying, wouldn’t it be something to bring Todd back in for Book 4? Todd, who everyone presumed dead – including me, the author! I’m not sure if she was joking or not, but the second I read that message, I knew I had to write Salvation. And thus a story was born!

And a heck of a complicated story, because how do you bring back a baby’s biological father without ruining the happily-ever-after of a deserving couple like Soren and Sarah? And how do you grant Todd his own equally happy end? The only easy part of this story was deciding on the bad guys, because I knew the last of the Blue Bloods were still out there, ready to stage their final ambush. Bit by bit, though, the story almost wrote itself. And for all the pain and suffering Todd and Anna go through to earn each other, I think they’d agree it was worth it. Don’t you?

The characters

I love heroes who have to overcome a dark and tragic past to find love and hope again. The hero of Salvation, Todd, nearly died defending his cousin Soren’s mate. He’s fiercely loyal, all heart, and SUCH a sweetheart inside. (Not that he lets it show often. After all, he’s a bear!) And of course, when Todd arrives at the Blue Moon Saloon, things get complicated. Gut-wrenchingly, heart-achingly complicated. So it’s a good thing Anna Boone comes along with her soft touch and understanding eyes.

The foundations of Todd’s character were already set in Redemption, but Anna was entirely new. She’s got a little bit of me in her as an East Coast girl who longs for a home in the wild, open vistas of the West. Anna is a bit like Todd – she’s a little lost in life until she meets her mate and finally gains that feeling of completion we all seek. She’s every bit as fierce and loyal as Todd, too, and she sure shows it when the Blue Bloods appear and threaten everything she holds dear.

One reason why Todd and his situation strikes such a powerful chord in so many readers is that it’s based on a true story (with a sadder ending). My mother’s uncle was a POW in World War II who was presumed dead. His wife remarried and her second husband adopted the baby (the biological son of the POW presumed dead). But then the POW came back, shocking everyone that he was still alive. It was actually a fairly common occurrence in that awful post-war era when so many lives were destroyed. So I thought a lot about what it would feel like to be him. What happened in that case was that the woman stayed with the second husband. The first husband/former POW started a new life in South America. His son (my mother’s cousin and my uncle) went to meet him for the first time when he was 40 and it was a very emotional experience. I guess it’s hard to have a happy ending in a case like this, but I hope you felt happy at the end of SALVATION. I sure did!

My favorite scene

My favorite scene is the one in which Todd and Anna are lying on their backs, looking at the stars. I love the subtext of Todd’s comments about the Great Bear and Anna’s curiosity about why he has such a thing for stars. A lot of Todd’s heartache comes out in that scene even though it isn’t written in his point of view, and I think that makes it a powerful one. That, and the fact that looking at the stars is what finally pushes them to go all the way for the first time. That’s a great moment, too, especially considering all the wistful, heated moments they endured earlier!

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

I guess you could say the biggest change is that this story was written at all, because it never occurred to me that Todd might have survived the attack in Montana in which he saved Sarah’s life. But other than that, the main change from first to final draft of this story were minor ones, such as exactly how Anna first met Todd when he was lying injured in bear form. Another detail that changed along the way was the setting in which Anna confronts the Blue Bloods. I quickly discarded the idea of a direct attack on the Blue Moon Saloon and eventually worked out the details of how the Blue Bloods might lure Anna out to a remote location. Surprisingly, yet another out-of-the-blue character developed as a result. That’s Summer, another character I hadn’t originally imagined but immediately fell in love with once the idea cropped up. She came about as a result of conversations I had with my amazing Plot Wizards team (a group of readers I turn to when I get stuck with a plot point, and thank God for them). But sometimes, out-of-the-blue is the best type, as Todd’s story shows.

And guess what? Summer has her own story, too! That’s Deception.

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch

I can never resist a visit to Twin Moon Ranch, so this story, like others in the series, has plenty of connections with my favorite wolf pack. The scene in which Todd travels to Twin Moon ranch with Soren is loaded with the characters you’ll probably recognize. You’ll see Ty Hawthorne, gruff as ever yet tamed by the magic touch of his mate, Lana (both from Desert Moon), as well as Tina Hawthorne in her role as supportive older sister not just to her real siblings but wayward shifters like Todd, too. I love how Tina and Lana believe in Todd long before he believes in himself. You’ll also catch a few glimpses of Zack (of Desert Hunt] and Kyle (of Desert Fate), because I can never get enough of either of those men! And if you read closely, you’ll catch hints of Roy, who stars in his own story in the Twin Moon series. Desert Destiny is unique in that it takes place after the events of all the books in the Blue Moon Saloon and Twin Moon series! The timelines overlap a little. Check it out and see for yourself what I mean!