Behind the scenes of Gambling on Her Panther

Ruthless vampires. Passionate panthers. Valiant lovers. Heroic hedgehogs. Gory gladiators. If you’re wondering, “How on Earth did Anna come up with this?” read on to go behind the scenes of Gambling on Her Panther!

The characters

This story has its roots in Gambling on Her Bear (Book 2 of this series), which ends with Tanner and Karen riding off into the sunset with the winnings they earned with the help of Dex, a blackjack dealer in the Scarlet Palace casino. That published way back in 2017, when I wrote the first two books intending to go straight on to the third. But, like the characters in these stories, I ended up taking an unexpected detour along the way. A four year detour, give or take! Still, all’s well that ends well, and I’m delighted to bring you Book 3 now, with sexy panther shifter Dex and former stunt woman Dakota. They’re quite the duo, don’t you think?

Dex’s character was already established back then, with several mentions of Tanner’s panther shifter buddy who has Denzel Washington’s good looks & class with a little hint of Brad Pitt. I was smitten with this hero who is a person of color, and since I love feline shifters, the best fit in my mind was a sleek, sexy panther. (This was before the movie Black Panther came out in 2018, by the way.)

Like a lot of my heroes, Dex is a good man in need of a good cause and a good woman to make him complete. And that’s where Dakota comes in. Having grown up as a hearty ranch kid, she’s tough, adventurous, and outspoken. In many ways, she’s Dex’s opposite – from opposite sides of the country (Florida versus Montana) to being a planner versus Dex’s more reckless, spontaneous style. But she’s open-minded too, and since she recognizes her own mistakes, she’s willing to forgive Dex his. Of course, she has no clue about shifters, until she finds out the hard way…

For a while now, I’ve wanted to write a stunt woman heroine, and that fit Dakota to a T. I had a lot of fun making up action movies she starred in and the way others get star-struck about that. But Dakota keeps her feet on the ground, so she’s more than ready for a change back to a quieter, more genuine lifestyle. So, like Dex, she’s ready to leave Las Vegas. If only that would be as easy as it sounds!

As for other characters, I had a hoot bringing back Bob the hedgehog shifter, Randy the bartender/unicorn shifter, and the feathered Vegas showgirls – all except Amber, who left town at the end of Book 2, bound for better things in life. (In my mind, she heads back to her home town and to the young son she left behind with her parents, then happens to find herself a sweet, hunky contractor-type with whom she lives happily ever after with. Cue happy sigh!) And while I couldn’t resist bringing back the vampires and Igor Schiller, I also enjoyed pitting them against Alon, the vegan vampire activist. It’s all part of the zany fun that characterizes this series, don’t you think?!

The story

Writing the last book in a series is a lot like cooking a meal on one of those TV shows where they give you a funny combination of ingredients: certain elements have to appear in the story, and all the loose threads have to be tied. But there are countless ways of combining them, and that’s the fun part. I started by listing locations I wanted this story to feature: the casino, the beauty of the open Nevada desert at night, and backstage at the underground fighting pits from Book 1, Gambling on Her Dragon. Figuring out how to connect those places with events is especially fun in a crazy, zany series like this, so the story sort of wrote itself from there.

My favorite scene

I have so many favorite moments in this story, it’s hard to decide on just one. Mostly, they’re the ones that make me laugh out loud, like when movie fans gush on about Dakota’s movies, or when a wobbly water bed forces our passionate couple to move to the floor for their next… er, activities. I get a hoot out of picturing the funny characters at Hot Shots, and I love the serenity of night sky at Painted Rock. But most of all, I love the happy ending which brings together all three couples of this series in a beautiful place where their shifters sides can roam while their minds and hearts can be at peace. A real happily ever after, don’t you think?

What about you? What’s your favorite scene, character, or book in this series?

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch & Blue Moon Saloon series

Like the previous books in this series, Gambling on Her Panther! ties in loosely with the Twin Moon and Blue Moon Saloon series. That’s because I really enjoy re-visiting my favorite couples who are busy living their happily-ever-afters in the beautiful and unique places they work and call home. For example, Trey Dixon, the hero of Gambling on Her Dragon (Book 1), is a cousin of the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch. (He made a brief appearance in Desert Rose before going on to star in his own story with Kaya.) Gambling on Her Panther closes the loop with Kaya and Trey mentioning their recent visit to Arizona and the Blue Moon Saloon. And who knows? Maybe someday, I’ll write a story linking the other way, with the bear and wolf shifters of Twin Moon Ranch and Blue Moon Saloon traveling to visit Dex, Dakota, and everyone else on their ongoing adventures at Flying Aces Ranch!