Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Guest Blogger: Marian Lanouette, Author of Burn in Hell

A botched missing person’s case.

A nervous mob boss.

Lt. Jake Carrington’s gut tells him Phil Lucci is being cagey—with good reason. Jake can see this case has been mishandled from the beginning. Sloppy police work? Or does Lucci's hand reach as far as the WPD? It’s Jake’s job to find the answers.

Then Jake meets Kyra Russell, a woman with an unusual job—she runs the local crematory. Despite the heated attraction between them, Jake becomes more and more suspicious of Kyra. Her gambling problem has already cost her a marriage and custody of her son. More than that, she also happens to be friends with Phil Lucci. Kyra assures Jake that it's just coincidence, but Jake's experience and his instincts warn him not to believe in chance. Can Kyra be burning bodies for the mob? If she is, what will Jake do about it?

Challenges of Writing a Series
by Marian Lanouette

When you write a book, you develop your characters, create the story (plot) and sub-plots and then solve or resolve all the characters' issues in that book. When you write a series you have to love your characters. Why? Hopefully you'll be spending a lot of time with them. And it's not just important for the hero or heroine, you have to love/hate your secondary characters as well.

I know in my Jake Carrington Series I have already outlined five books. Each book targets not only Jake Carrington, it highlights a secondary character's life, wants and needs. I think it makes it more interesting than always focusing on more the main hero.

Is it easy to make all the characters human? Loveable? Loathsome? Again the answer is yes and no. So far I've been lucky. Readers have told me they really hate my bad guys and they give them the creeps. Why is this so good? I portrayed them as human beings with flaws that drew emotions from my readers, yet at some point in the story the villain might have been likeable until his/her true nature showed through.

It's also important that you keep a bible or in my case a OneNote file on all the places, descriptions of places, historical points of interest, clothes, character descriptions and so forth. You can't have your character being six-one in one story and six-three in another. Your readers will call you on those little facts
The more time you spend with these characters the more they become real to you, like your spouse. They will grow with your story, change over time and hopefully become better people—just like real life.

I also do character studies. I might never use that Jake loves baseball but I know he does and would jump at the chance to see a Yankees game. Or in another book I might have him run up against a Red Sox fan. That always makes for a good confrontation. Mia might like a certain brand shoe. All these idiosyncrasies are what make us individuals along with the characters.

Writing a series has its challenges, but I love it and I love I get to know my characters inside out.

Read an excerpt:

“Son of a gun,” Kyra whispered.

Life’s not fair. In the last two hours she’d dumped over three thousand dollars into the Goddamn machine. This bitch sits down right next to her and hits the jackpot on the first spin. I’ll never get my son back this way.

Kyra Russell wiped away the tears that rolled down her face. Why couldn’t she hit the jackpot? Ten grand—she only needed ten grand to pay her lawyer. Taking another hundred-dollar bill out of her purse, she stuffed it into the machine and hit the maximum-credit button, anticipating the results. Loving the rush, her stomach jumped with excitement. Each time, her mind cheered ‘this is it.’ As the wheels rolled into place, a cold chill raced through her veins. One by one, they landed. By the second symbol, she realized she’d lost again. Kyra’s heartbeat increased, pounding in her chest, beating in her ears like African tribal drums, causing her anger to spike. It’s the next one, she told herself, banging the maximum-credit button again. Lord, she needed to take a pee break, though didn’t dare leave her machine for fear someone else would hit the jackpot after she’d primed the machine.

Watching the attendant pay the woman, Kyra counted along with him. The
bitch won seventy-five hundred dollars. After the woman received her payout, Kyra tried signaling the attendant.

“Excuse me,” she called.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I need to use the restroom. Can you watch my machine or lock it down?”

“I need to call a supervisor over. It’ll be a few minutes.” He pressed the button in his earpiece.

She watched him whisper into it. After ten minutes, the supervisor came over and locked down the machine for her, letting her know she needed to be back within the hour or they’d release the machine.

“Thank you.”

“Not a problem, Kyra,” the supervisor said.

He read her name off her reward card, addressing her like he knew her. Well, screw him.

She pushed off her seat, rushing to the ladies’ room. Kyra didn’t want to stay away too long, giving them a chance to re-program the machine against her or reset it. She hated the new system with the tickets. Since they’d installed it, she hadn’t won like she used to. How else could she lose constantly? Winning used to be the norm when she first started. It became addictive. She’d won twenty-five thousand dollars on one spin. On another night, she’d won eight thousand dollars.

Boy, the cash rolled in then. The feeling was indescribable when those wheels rolled into place and the bells went off. The noise the machine made when it hit a jackpot had crowds surrounding her. Though on that night she’d gone home with only twenty thousand dollars—she’d blown five grand trying to win more. Greed always took over. Winning excited her. It was the rush, the euphoria she got every time she pushed the spin button that kept her coming back.

The casino treated her like royalty, even gave her a host. He got her into the popular shows or restaurants anytime she wanted. Nothing was too good for Kyra, as long as she showed up and put her money into the machine. She became a regular at the players’ lounge—eat and drink for free. Yeah, free, her ass. The cost was extreme. Somewhere along the line, Kyra lost her self-respect—along with her marriage, her son, and her savings.


One of ten children, Marian took to writing to explore new and adventurous places. While her friends traveled on planes for vacation, Marian traveled in books. With an overactive imagination she started creating her own characters and stories. If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery is the first book in the series. Her second book in the series, Burn in Hell is now available. This month she released a novella called As the World Ends.

An avid reader, she discovered mysteries by reading the Daily News as a youngster. Intrigued by the real life crimes, and how the police worked and eventually solved them, ignited her imagination beyond the ordinary.

Marian has many plans (books) for Jake Carrington and his crew. The third book in the series Mated for Life will be out sometime next year.

Visit Marian online at:



Marian Lanouette said...

Cheryl, thank you for hosting me today.

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

I agree with you, Marian, that writing a series has definite challenges and great rewards. Getting to know the characters in depth, watching their fanbase build is wonderful. But on the flip side, there's the pressure of writing more books in the series, along with whatever else you write, and if you start another series - well, it can be complicated.

In this case, you've created some great characters, and I'm thrilled to be along for the ride with them, to see where you take them.

Alexis Morgan said...

Great post! I both love writing and reading series for all the reasons you mentioned, but especially watching the characters grow over time. I was talking to a reader once who looked at me in surprise and said, "Those characters are really real to you!" I told her if they weren't real to me, I couldn't make them real to her.

Marian Lanouette said...

Thanks, Julie, for stopping by. You're right it is a lot of pressure and there are so many stories in my head. I just need to make the time. I'm glad you're along for the ride too.

Marian Lanouette said...

Alexis, I also love reading a good series. You get so invested the characters it's hard to let go.
I joke with everyone that I go to sleep with Jake and when I wake up he's on my mind. :) Not too shabby a guy for company.

Tammy Lowe said...

Excellent points.

nutschell said...

great post!i love reading series. so far, I've discovered I love writing them as well. I do fall in love with my characters and have a hard time letting go!

Jackie said...


I think a second level is always good. I love that in a writer and I've done it myself too.

Marian Lanouette said...

Thank you, Tammy, for stopping by.

Marian Lanouette said...

Nutshell, I love reading them as well for the same reason, I don't want to let them go.l

Marian Lanouette said...

Jackie, I think the secondary characters add so much to a story, that they deserve pages dedicated to them.

Gerri Brousseau said...

I love the Jake Carrington and can't wait for the next (3rd) book to come out! I have just started outlining a series and am borrowing your idea to keep a "bible" of the character's little quirks. Great post. Thanks, Marian.

Marian Lanouette said...

You're welcome, Gerri. I can't wait to read your series. I love your other books.

Joy Smith said...

Thanks for the great tips. I could have used them before I completed GREEN FIRE. When I tried to write a sequel I realized my secondary characters were't strong enough to carry it off.

Marian Lanouette said...

I love your book Green Fire, Joy, and I think the characters in a second book could be developed more, it will just take a little more work if you didn't set them up in the first.

Pat McDermott said...

Wonderful post, Marian. I enjoyed writing my trilogy so much, I spun off some of the characters into YA "prequels." I suspect they'll let me know when it's time for something new. Your Jake Carrington sounds like a dynamic leading man. I wish you many happy pages with him and his costars.