Behind the scenes: Gambling on Her Bear

A bear shifter security guard and a diamond thief she-dragon tangle with greedy vampires in Las Vegas. Ever wonder how that love story came about? Read on to hear all about Gambling on Her Bear!

The story

Some stories don’t change very much from first idea to final version but wow, Gambling on Her Bear changed a lot! By the time I finished writing the first book in this series (Gambling on Her Dragon), I knew there would be a sequel although I didn’t have a clear idea of what it would be. In fact, it took a while for me to nail the concept down and I went through several ideas before settling on a final plot.

My first idea was to bring the hero and heroine back to the fight pits beneath the Scarlet Palace, because I enjoy writing action and I love gladiators (think Russell Crowe in Gladiator – sigh!). But since the fight pits were the center of the action in the first book, I decided to go with something different for this story. So I came up with the idea of the Blood Diamond and a casino scene. Originally, I imagined the diamond as part of a pre-auction diamond exhibit in the Scarlet Palace and started thinking of an elaborate heist Karen could try to pull off. But I wanted to get the love story moving, too, so I went with Karen stealing the diamond from Igor Schiller’s penthouse instead and immediately bumping into her destined-mate-in-denial, Tanner Lloyd.

Once I decided on that, the rest pretty much flowed. Well, mostly. See below for the final change I made! And who knows? Maybe the next books in this series will build on all the ideas I couldn’t fit into this one!

The characters

The characters were about the only thing that didn’t change a dozen times before finally settling down to write this story. Karen was already clear (loud and clear, you might say) after her strong appearance in Gambling on Her Dragon (the story of her sister, Kaya). She’s brash, impulsive, and not afraid of anything – even facing down the vampires who keep her captive. She gets herself in a lot of trouble, and she gets herself out. Well, most of the time! In Gambling on Her Dragon, it was hinted at that Karen is only half dragon but her other half is left unstated – because I wasn’t even sure at the time what the other half might be! But the more I got to thinking, the more I realized a witch was perfect – not only for the break-in but also as a born enemy to bears. Being half witch also turned out to be a good thing in terms of making Karen’s backstory richer – she never really fit in with dragons or with witches and always feels as if she has to prove herself. Well, she sure does in the end!

Tanner was equally clear in my mind as Karen’s polar opposite. I’ve always imagined bears as tight-lipped introverts who look before they leap, and that’s Tanner to a T. He’s a quiet mountain man who is utterly devoted to his bear clan. He doesn’t like the dazzling lights and city vibes of Vegas, and he HATES vampires. This sets up a huge challenge for him because he has to endure months of living in Vegas/working for the enemy and he has to face giving up his destined mate because of his clan. Duty and honor is a huge thing with bears – even more than wolves, perhaps. Happily, he doesn’t have to give anything up in the end, except maybe his own inhibitions.

I love the way Karen and Tanner slowly rub off on each other as the story unfolds. That wasn’t totally planned – it developed as I wrote the book and realized how well that chemistry works. In real life, I have a bit of Karen in me while my husband is all Tanner-the-planner, so I understand the way they antagonize each other all too well. But opposites complement, too, as Karen and Tanner do by the end of the story.

Are you curious about Dex? His story, Gambling on Her Panther is the next book in this series. I won’t give anything away now, but I can guarantee it’s as fun, sexy, and zany as the rest!

My favorite scene

My favorite scene in Gambling on Her Bear is in the Golden Panda. I love when Tanner enters the restaurant and takes it all in – the leaf monkey shifters, the photographs of panda nephews in China, the mahjong game. I laugh myself silly at the idea of a Chinese restaurant being the last place vampires would go, too (credit goes to my husband for that great idea). I love the hot vibes between Tanner and Karen while they tiptoe around touchy subjects like her past, the diamond, his scheme, and the bear-witch issue. And yes, I adore the baby panda shifters. Wouldn’t you love to cuddle one?

The restaurant is based on a place in New York’s Chinatown my mom used to take me to as a kid, and the meals they order are tips from fellow PNR author Lexi Devereux (check out her great Winter’s Deep series). Lexi has lived and worked in China and she suggested which meals and beer to use. I love writing in authentic background details like that!

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

As I mentioned above, the plot of Gambling on Her Bear changed a lot from early draft to final product. In addition to some major plot changes, I also made significant changes to the casino scene at the end. Originally, I had a James Bond-like casino scene in mind in which Karen and Tanner are forced to stake everything on a game of poker played face-to-face with Schiller. I love that James Bond, staring-your-enemy-in-the-eye dynamic. BUT I wanted to give Dex and Amber more prominent roles to play (the dealer is always neutral in James Bond, right? You hardly notice him/her) and allow that holy %&’! moment when Schiller turns up. So I went with the blackjack-followed-by-a-chase scene instead and I’m glad I did, because that allowed Karen her ultimate shining moment at the end.

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch

It’s so funny to think that this entire Shifters in Vegas series started with a side mention of a corrupt wolf pack in Las Vegas. That came all the way back in Desert Hunt, in which the Westend wolf pack made its first ever appearance. At the time, I had no inkling that they would grow into anything else. Eventually, the Westend wolves went on to play a major role in Gambling on Her Dragon. That’s how it goes – one idea bridges to the next and the next! That’s also how Trey Dixon, the hero of Gambling on Her Dragon, came to be. He’s the cousin of Twin Moon Ranch’s Lana Dixon and he made a brief appearance in Desert Rose before going on to star in his own story with Kaya. Karen, in turn, was a side character in their story and now she’s the star of her own – rightly so!