Four Writers, Three Besties, Two Time Periods…and a Ghost?!

Today on the blog, Julia Justiss is paying us a visit to discuss how the new Whiskey River Christmas series came to be! 

What happens when four long-time writer friends get together at a writers conference? They dream up a series!

It all began two summers ago when Eve Gaddy, Katherine Garbera, Nancy Robards Thompson and I were attending the national Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego. We had all worked on various projects for Tule, and over lunch one day, we talked about how much fun it would be to do a series together.

“Julia can write one of the ancestors, and we can write about their descendants,” Eve said.

“Why don’t we make it a Christmas series?” Kathy said.

“Yes, let’s!” Nancy said. “Christmas stories are such fun to write.”

That started us off. Kathy, Eve, and Nancy decided that the story would take place at at an inn just outside Whiskey River (a fictional town in the Hill Country of Texas set on a tributary of the Pedernales River.) Their three heroes and three heroines would be best friends, the guys “bad boys from the Barrels (the “wrong” side of town,) the girls all professional women who work together in the Whiskey River women’s charitable association. By the end of the lunch, we’d not only come up with who we thought our hero and heroines would be, we’d decided that, in a spin on Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” our stories would feature a matchmaking ghost. And as the “ancestor” writer of the group, we decided that I would get to create her.

Although my earlier story about Whiskey River founder “Booze Kelly” (SCANDAL WITH THE RANCHER) was set just before the turn of the 20th century, for this one, I decided to move to the next generation, just after the World War in which so many of them served. The hero would be Drew Harwood, a friend of Booze’s son, “Baron” (who plays a part in this story, but will get a starring role in his own—later.)

We had our besties and our time periods—contemporary and World War I. Now we just needed the ghost.

When my hero is wounded in the battle at Chateau Thierry, the image of the beloved fiancée waiting for him in Whiskey River carries him through the pain and months in hospital. He finally returns from France just before Christmas—only to lose Felicity, a victim of the world-wide Spanish flu epidemic.

But wait, don’t stop reading now! This tragedy has a happy ending.

Certain that warmth and joy have gone out of his life forever, Drew hires a friend to manage his ranch and turns his Victorian home into an inn, grimly ready to live a solitary life of duty to his land and family. But determined not to depart until the man she loved so much finds his way to a future full of the love and satisfaction that was denied them, the essence of Felicity remains at Harwood House.

When Red Cross nurse Audra Donaldson returns from France to stay at the inn the following Christmas to visit her brother, Drew’s ranch manager, Felicity suspects she might be just the woman to pull Drew from his misery—and bring both her beloved and this lonely widow to a happily-ever-after.

It’s not an easy task, helping a woman who doesn’t want to risk loving again and a man who’s set his face against happiness overcome the tragedies of their pasts. But, after a few subtle pushes, Felicity sees her hopes fulfilled as Drew and Audra gradually allow themselves to respond to the growing affection–and fiery attraction–between them.

Felicity’s satisfaction in seeing her love happy again is so fulfilling, she decides to return each Christmas and help other deserving couples find their way to true love.

Fast-forward to Eve, Nancy, and Kathy’s stories, in which this Christmas ghost, a charity ball, a freak ice storm and some hot chemisty create happy endings for three more lovelorn couples.

So, come along and spend Christmas in Whiskey River! I hope readers enjoy all the activities– and our Christmas ghost–as much as we did in creating them!

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