I’m delighted to welcome back multi-published author of the recently released holiday novella, Noelle’s Surprise, Amazon best-selling romantic suspense writer, Merry Holly.
A few facts about our author: Merry Holly aka Marian Lanouette was born in Brooklyn, New York and is the seventh out of ten children. She 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, it didn’t take long for her to start creating her own characters and stories. The Jake Carrington Mystery 1st book If I Fail was released in 2013, followed in January of 2014 with Burn in Hell. She is now working on the much-anticipated third book in the series Mated for Life.
Merry/Marian has had many interesting careers throughout her life. The most interesting was as an office manager for a local cemetery/crematory. When needed, she also helped out with the cremations (thus, Burn in Hell was created from her vivid imagination.)
An avid reader, she discovered mysteries by reading The Daily News as a youngster. Real life crimes and how the police worked and eventually solved them intrigued her and ignited her imagination beyond the ordinary. She’s also a romance junkie who mixes both the mystery and romance genres with captivating results.
Marian is a member of Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America
Thank you for joining us at Scribbler’s today, Merry.
Tell us Scribblers a little about Noelle’s Surprise and what inspired this story?
Noelle’s Surprise is the third book in the trilogy. Right after their wedding, Chase and Noelle move to a tropical island, where Chase starts his next project. Noelle finds it hard to fit in with his rich clients.
What are the challenges of organizing an eight-author anthology?
Getting answers. LOL. I’m a—I need this right this minute kind of person. And you have to wait for everyone to vote or respond. But I have to say, this group is cooperative, fun and talented. I can’t wait to work them again.
With two Jake Carrington novels published, and with Noelle’s Surprise being the third installment of Noelle’s and Chase’s story, is the writing process different for you in writing a series vs. a stand-alone story?
No, each story in its own way is a stand-alone in that a reader can pick up any book and get the whole story there. What’s different about a series? The writer and the reader get invested in the lives of the characters and want more.
What is your heroine, Noelle’s, greatest strength? Weakness?
Her greatest strength is her loyalty, and her weakness is self-doubt.
What is your hero, Chase’s, greatest strength? Weakness?
He too is loyal, and loves Noelle to distraction. His greatest weakness is not realizing how difficult this move was for her.
How has their journey changed over the course of the series?
Interesting question. Chase and Noelle met by chance, at of all places the mall food court. He’s home for the holidays visiting family and she’s firmly rooted in her life. They’ve gone from the first heart grabbing chemical rush to married life in the course of three books. Each period presents different problems. The first book is the meet. The second the wedding, and the third is moving away from family and settling into married life.
How much influence do your characters have on which direction the story takes you?
A lot. When I start to write, I think the story is going this way and then a character stands up and says, “Oh no, this is what happened.” I love being surprised as I write.
Is there a secondary character you feel may deserve his/her own story?
I think Cassie deserves her own story. Noelle felt she was an adversary, but in the end she found a true friend.
Can we have an excerpt from Noelle’s Surprise?
In the months that followed she discovered a strange thing—time seemed to stand still, but flew by faster than she could ever have imagined. All settled in, she fell into a routine. One she loved. A morning swim off the dock, breakfast on the deck, painting new canvases, and then most afternoons she’d hang out with the women Chase had introduced her to when they first arrived on the island. The women made fun of her for wanting to celebrate her four-month anniversary with Chase, as she planned the quiet celebration for two. Maybe she was making a big deal out of nothing, but mostly it had been four glorious months in paradise. Exotic birds, flowers always in bloom, the ocean in her backyard, and sunshine every day, who wouldn’t want to live and love here? If only Chase wasn’t so wrapped up in his project, it would be perfect.
Standing on the deck, she surveyed the table. The white linen tablecloth with the exquisitely embroidered red roses her grandmother had painstakingly created as a gift for her mother’s bridal shower. Still in pristine condition, her mother had passed it down to her for her bridal shower. Something she’d treasure for years to come. She hoped her marriage lasted as long as the tablecloth had. The crystal sparkled in the setting sun and a light breeze off the ocean relieved the worst of the day’s heat. Noelle stepped inside and checked on the food for the third time. Let’s see, the table’s all set. The fish is seasoned and ready to roast. The side dishes and salad are made. The champagne’s chilling. What else do I need? Only Chase. Maybe I shouldn’t have made fish after that incident Saturday night. Second guessing herself had become a habit lately. What was wrong with her?
God, she hoped he was on time tonight. Each night he’d been coming home later and later. His late hours—are they a sign he’s bored with me?
Was Cassie right? Did she need a little nip and tuck here and there? The women he’d introduced her to she liked, but at arm’s length. Most were stretched so far over their bones she wondered why their skin didn’t split apart.
Could it be true? Did they really sleep with each other’s husbands? Call her old-fashioned, but no one was sleeping with Chase but her. Didn’t that ring on her finger give her exclusive rights to him? She didn’t know what had come over her, lately. Constantly moody, she’d been pigging out on junk food all day. Not able to stop, her bathing suits weren’t fitting right, and the headaches were colossal.
Put it to sleep, Noelle. You trust Chase with all your heart. He’d never cheat, especially with those women. Nice one moment, witches the next. Like cobras they’d strike out without warning. All they did all day, every day was shop, drink and dissect the women who weren’t there—a favorite sport of theirs. Liza, the worse of the bunch, cozied up to her in the beginning. When she realized Noelle wasn’t giving her any info on Chase and their relationship, she pulled away. Anytime she could, Liza would laser her barbs at Noelle to the joy of the other women. It meant she wasn’t picking on them. More and more, Noelle had started to pull away. Her tolerance faded the more time she spent with them. She came to the conclusion that none of them like each other. They’re a unit because of circumstances. She and Chase had a discussion about it. Boy, it still pissed her off. He insisted that she spend at least a day or two a month with them, reminding her they were his clients and their livelihood. The group never subjected him to their barbs. Sweet as pie, they kissed up to him, each hoping to be the first to conquer. No matter what, she did or said, he didn’t see it.
I understand he needs to get the job done. He promised me it would be like an extended honeymoon. Some honeymoon. I never see him. I’ve been spending my time with a bunch of catty women and not my husband. Things need to change, or I’m heading home.
At the end of the day he was exhausted and dehydrated from working in the hot sun all day. He barely got his food down before he fell asleep on the couch or spent the night going over plans, warding off problems, or solving them. It left no time for them. This morning she had told him she expected him at a certain time. She’d have to see if he respected her wishes.
Chase rushed in the door fifteen minutes late. Not finding Noelle inside, he stepped out onto the deck, and pulled up short. What did he forget? Candlelight glowed around the deck and the table was set for a special occasion. The late evening sun danced upon the rear of the house, creating an aura of mystique. He scanned the backyard for her. And found her sitting and swinging her feet over the dock overlooking the sea.
Rushing down the steps, he pulled her up into his arms and kissed her. “I’m sorry I’m late. What’s the occasion?”
If he wasn’t mistaken, hurt crossed her face. “It’s our four-month anniversary. I thought we’d celebrate it. We spend so little time together anymore. I wanted this to be special.” Cripes, he’d forgotten.
He heard the pain in her voice. More, he felt her loneliness surrounding her as it pushed out and into his heart. She knew before they came here he’d be working to meet the nine-month deadline. Deep down he really thought she would’ve adjusted better. Lately, he went out of his way to avoid her and her moods. She’d swing from Doctor Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in an instant. Chase never knew which one he’d find when he got home. On his last call home his mother suggested Noelle might be pregnant. How ridiculous. They used protection every time. In two years he’d welcome children but not now. It was important for the future of the business to grab all the projects he could like the Hendersons’. Success here guaranteed more custom jobs and his reputation as the best in the business, not to mention more money in their pockets. For the life of him he didn’t understand why she didn’t like the women he’d introduced her to when they arrived on the island.
“The table’s lovely.” Hugging her tighter to his chest, he kissed her on the top of the head. There was never any problem in that area of their relationship. Gliding her across the deck to the soft, seductive music playing in the background he danced her up the pier. Peace, love and quiet filled him. He didn’t want to break the embrace.
“Chase…” she said, breathy. “I’m sorry we fought last night.”
“Shush, we can discuss that later. Let’s just enjoy the moment. I love you very much, Noelle, that’s never going to change. You understand that, don’t you?”
“Guess? How could you doubt it?” Perplexed, he kept his arms around her, but stepped back to look down into her eyes. Eyes the color of emeralds, eyes he’d fallen in love with the first time he’d seen her at the mall back in Connecticut.
“I never see you. All day long I have nothing to do. I feel useless. And don’t even bring up those women. Not tonight.”
“Okay. Why don’t we make plans to discuss everything that’s bothering you tomorrow? Tonight, I only want to romance my wife.”
Nodding, she stepped into him and laid her head on his shoulder. He pulled her closer. He’d have to dig deeper, see if he could make her stay here better. Fear jumped into his belly, had it rolling higher than the waves offshore. Was she contemplating leaving—the island? Him?
“Let me put the fish in the oven. I’ll be right back.”
“It will hold.” He nibbled on her neck. Working his way down her throat, he stopped where skin ended and fabric began. “I love you, Noelle.”
A moan escaped her lips. Smiling against her skin, he continued to seduce his wife.
Dinner was late, really late. It was after ten when they sat down to enjoy the champagne with tuna sandwiches, something she’d thrown together quickly. Noelle had put the grouper away for the next night as they settled into a lovely evening.
In the morning he didn’t rush off. Instead, he had breakfast with her on the deck on the china and crystal she hadn’t put away the night before. She looked pale this morning, he noted, wondering if she was coming down with something.
“Excuse me.” She pushed away from the table and rushed inside.
After a few minutes he went in search of her. He found her hugging the toilet bowl. Concerned, he knelt down beside her. “Are you all right?”
“Yes.” It was all she got out before she gagged and threw up again.
“I’m going to call Doc Casey. You must have picked up some bug.”
A few minutes later, while Chase was on the phone with the doctor, she appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Tell him you were sick too on Saturday night,” she said. “It must have been something we ate. I’m fine. He doesn’t need to make a house call.”
Staring each other down, he continued his conversation with the doctor. After he hung up, she asked, “What did you tell him?”
“I told him you’ve been pale, cranky, and queasy lately.”
“I have not been cranky. And how would you know? You’re never here,” she accused, turning away from him.
After dropping the phone on the cradle, he crossed the room and gently took hold of her arm. She turned her to face him. Her remark struck with the venom of a snake. A direct hit, it pierced his heart. Didn’t she realize everything he did he did for them? “I asked him not to come this time, Noelle. Next time this happens I’ll take you there myself.”
“You worry for no reason at all.”
“It’s my job.” He grinned as he wrapped his right hand around her waist and tilted her chin up with his other hand and tried to read her. “Please, if it persists, give Doc Casey a call today.”
He pulled her tighter to his chest, afraid she thought she’d made a mistake. Stupid, he knew, but he couldn’t help himself. “It’s your fault I love you so much.” When she smiled he changed the subject. “Is today the day you hang out with Cassie’s crowd?”
“Yes,” she said on a sigh.
“Are you going? If you don’t feel like…”
“I’m fine,” she interrupted. “I understand me being nice to your clients is good for business. Don’t worry. I can be very nice when I try.” She smirked and turned out of his embrace. He pulled her back.
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to. If you dislike them that much, it’s not a big deal.”
“As I said, don’t worry. I’m getting the rhythm of the group. I only have to put up with them for six more months. I can handle it.”
He figured now wasn’t the time to give her his news.
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
I do read reviews. I think it is important to hear what the readers think. If it is constructive, I work on the problem in the next book.
What is the most difficult aspect of balancing writing vs. the need to promote and market your work?
Time. It’s a commodity. Over the years in my day job as a manager of a large department I took time management classes. It taught me how to allocate my time and get things done. Besides Season of Surprises, I’m also running Season of Thrills release this holiday season.
What has surprised you the most about being published?
That it happened so fast. I finished my first two books and within months I found my publisher, and she wanted the Jake Carrington Series.
What does your writing space look like?
A very cluttered desk. Though I do know where everything is. I can put my hands on it at once. I have three different books in various stages on my desk.
What was the first story you remember writing?
I loved the Clara Barton series as a kid. So naturally I wanted to be a nurse and solve all sorts of crimes.
Go-to snack when writing?
Is there a genre you’d like to try writing?
I write mystery and romance. Sometimes, I think science fiction would be interesting. I love Star Trek and Star Wars.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Take classes in the craft. I wrote my first draft and sent it out to every publishing house imaginable. A kind editor marked it up and gave comments. Her last comment was you need to learn the craft. Now I take four to five seminars and online classes a year to keep sharp.
What books or projects do you have coming up in the future?
I have the third book in the Jake Carrington Series, Mated for Life, with the editor as we speak. I also am rewriting a book close to my heart. And I’ve already outlined the fourth book in the Jake Carrington Series, A Demented Mind. So I’ll be busy for a few years to come.
Thank you for hosting me today, Bobbi. I enjoyed being here.
To keep up with Marian, or to purchase one of her books, go to:
Merry Holly Author page (includes all series of Books) http://www.amazon.com/Merry-Holly/e/B00OZR4JEC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1448745042&sr=8-2-ent