Question Grab Bag: Tommy, Jen and Amanda in The San Francisco Mystery Series

By ALEXI VENICE

My blog post is about books this week because I was immersed in finalizing Stabscotch, The San Francisco Mystery Series, Book 3. I just emailed it to my professional editor, Rob Bignell, for the final substantive review and smackdown. He’ll return it in a few weeks, then I’ll spend the rest of my life incorporating his edits, regretting that I started writing books in the first place.

No seriously, I’m thrilled. Grab a glass of wine before you read the rest of this post. Yes, I’m writing this after a glass of wine. (Don’t expect too much. I’m as deep as a 12-foot pool.) Let’s get comfortable in our favorite chairs and answer some questions readers have emailed me recently.

I love getting emails, whether it’s about books or personal stuff. So, it’s about time I answered them in a post, right?

The most popular question after someone reads one of my books is: Will there be a sequel? Is this part of a series?

I guess I’m into writing a series. There’s the Pepper McCallan Series, and now The San Francisco Mystery Series. I thought Australia’s Starr might turn into a series, but I’d have to go back to Australia for a month for that to happen. Plus, it’s a weird little book steeped in politics and contemporary fantasy. (I don’t hear the muses talking to me in fantasy lately.)

When a storyline populates my imagination, I don’t know how many books it will fill. I’ve mistakenly thought I could tap out a story in one book, then learned it would take two. Personally, I feel like I don’t get to know the characters as well as I’d like to in only one book. I’m curious to see how they’ll confront internal and external conflicts that life throws at them. So, the answer is yes, most likely there’s a sequel around the corner.

A few weeks ago, someone asked: After reading your Author Bio and Blog, I learned you’re not gay. Why do you write LGBTQ mystery fiction?

It’s true. The love of my life and object of my sexual desires (pause for a drink of wine here) is Bill. We’ve been married 28 years this month.

Napa Wine

However, here’s why I love writing about Jen, Amanda and Tommy. I have less control over what I write than what you might think. The analytical side of my brain seeks out mystery and adventure with tricky twists and turns. The creative side of my brain goes with the flow of characters, their feelings and relationships.

I’ve read quite a few books in the LGBTQ genres of both romance and mystery, and I think I can bring something to the table in terms of substantive plots, complex characters and an original turn of phrase.

I love writing romance about a variety of people. (It can’t all be about the 30-year-old cowboy in tight jeans who pins the 28-year-old cowgirl in a halter top against a wall in the dusty barn.)

After tiptoeing into a relationship between Jen and Amanda in Bourbon Chase, I knew I had to continue following their love affair. I barely explored the depth of their characters in the first book, and I hold their relationship dear and sacred.

I respected and admired Jen so much for her discipline and courage. Then, I wondered whether she would be emotionally labile in her relationship with Amanda or emerge as the more level-headed and balanced person of the duo.

When I pivoted to Amanda’s perspective in Amanda’s Dragonfly (Book 2), I was shocked at what a sea of misgivings, doubt and insecurity she swims in. Amanda is also prone to obsession and addiction. As fabulous and powerful as she is, she’s horribly vulnerable—to what? Stay tuned for Stabscotch. Writing about how she loses her way when under pressure, then fights back, thrills me.

Accustomed to being the prettiest woman in the room, and having both men and women hit on her, I also wondered how Amanda would deal with temptation when in a committed relationship with Jen. Sometimes you have to walk to the precipice to see what you’re about to leave behind. Maybe Amanda does. Her tough exterior conceals a lot of scary decision-making going on inside, as she lives life more on the edge than what appears to Jen, Tommy and the cast of characters at the Hall of Justice.

Initially, Jen came across as indecisive and emotionally labile. I’ve learned through the years, however, that a person’s attitude can adjust to those around her. As it turns out, Jen is pretty stable compared to Amanda in both Amanda’s Dragonfly and Stabscotch. It’s all relative, right?

I can’t say that I can control or direct where Jen, Amanda and Tommy go. Their stories come to me like scenes in a movie, and I try my best to write them into a coherent and interesting novel. Sometimes, I’m as surprised as you are when I transcribe their drama onto the page.

Some people wanted Amanda to make better choices in Amanda’s Dragonfly. I apologize if that’s what you were looking for, because that isn’t the way her destiny populated the pages as I wrote it. I simply followed her into the adventures and wrote her feelings and decisions, as she made them. Maybe they weren’t morally sound, but they seemed like good decisions at the time.

Another subject of multiple emails: Some people told me they felt like Jen never really grieved her relationship with Tommy—that she left him too quickly. (Pausing to pour a second glass of wine here. You get one, too, and I’ll meet you back here in a few minutes.)

I get that Jen dropped Tommy (and he’s a reliable guy), but she was so smitten with Amanda that she had to act on it. (Let’s not forget—she did spend a few hours swimming and crying over him at the beach.) However, hang in there because I predict that Jen and Tommy’s relationship will evolve and deepen throughout the series—starting in Stabscotch (Book 3).

Next Question: When does the next book come out? Will it be about Pepper McCallan or Tommy, Jen and Amanda?

Stabscotch, The San Francisco Mystery Series, Book 3, will be released in November.

To create variety for my readers (and satisfy my own curiosity), I wrote Stabscotch from Tommy’s point of view. I was scared at first about seeing the world through a man’s eyes, but one chapter into it and I was hooked.

Tommy’s a cool guy. Being a detective comes so naturally to him that he doesn’t have to think about what his next step should be during an investigation. Falling in love, on the other hand, not so much.

As he balances his intense career of solving grisly homicides with being a father, co-parenting with Jen and Amanda, and searching for the perfect girlfriend, he muddles through in a gentle but masculine way, always striving to meet the needs of the women in his life. His lovers have their own goals—usually at his expense—but he handles their disloyalty and indifference in such a classy, tender way. He’s not a vengeful man. He’s a loving father, struggling to spend time with his child, and I’m attracted to him based on that alone.

As for the Pepper McCallan Series, I have Loch Na Pollach half written, and I really look forward to cozying up in my recliner this winter to see how Brent and Pepper solve the next terrorist threat.

I could talk about this stuff all night, but since I’m at the bottom of my wine glass and it’s time for bed, I’ll provide you with the story description for Stabscotch. Thanks for your questions. Keep them coming!

Stabscotch Final

Detective Tommy Vietti isn’t happy about being interrupted on a Sunday morning while in bed with his new girlfriend, Sadie. He reluctantly leaves her for Muir Beach to inspect the murder scene of Jina Pak, a cyber security analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank. At least she was, until someone slit her throat as she sat by the campfire.

Tommy expects the Feds to take the case from him since it involves an employee of such a high-profile, international institution. Instead, they send Roxy MacNeil—a Scottish banking expert—to co-investigate with him. Smoking her cigarettes, using vulgar language and drinking scotch, Roxy gives the impression that she’s a sluff-off. However, Tommy notices that things aren’t quite what they seem when Roxy is around.

District Attorney Amanda Hawthorne nurses her gunshot wounds from her war with the Italian mob, wondering if she should have a baby, like her fiancée, Jen. As they consider who might be the perfect sperm donor, Amanda must turn her attention to Tommy and Roxy’s murder investigation as well as campaign for re-election to the DA position.

Juggling her busy clinical practice and raising a child, Dr. Jen Dawson is by Amanda’s side at campaign events. She can handle Amanda being a semi-celebrity, having a ton of old girlfriends, and even being hit on by strangers at events like the Dyke March. Roxy MacNeil, however, is Jen’s worst nightmare. Beautiful. Mysterious. Smart. Sexy. And powerful. As far as Jen knows, Roxy is more powerful than Amanda, and Amanda is drawn to power like a dog to raw meat.

 

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