I’ve always wanted to collaborate on a story, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to let go of my need to control everything.
And then Gemma Halliday Publishing made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: the chance to collaborate with one imaginary author on my manuscript and main characters, while also collaborating with five real authors on the creation of the world and the secondary characters. We get all the advantages of a story world rich in details that can deepen our stories, while not putting the burden of all that research and brainstorming on one person.
We’ve been working together for about a year now, and the first book in the series is about to come out. It’s Secret of the Painted Lady, by Christina A. Burke. I’ve read it, and it’s a great introduction to the series. Check out the map at the Danger Cove website to see where the story takes place.
Now, here’s Christina with all the details and an excerpt:
Thanks so much for having me, Gin. I am so excited to have the chance to discuss my new book, Secret of the Painted Lady. The book is the first in the Danger Cove Renovation Series and introduces Alex Jordan, owner of Finials and Facades Renovation and Restoration Services. Alex specializes in restoring and flipping Victorian-style houses. She lives with her grandmother and a bedraggled parrot in the family home of Rockgrove. Her latest flip is proving to be her most challenging. Dry rot, termites, and water damage have nothing on what hides behind these walls.
From the cover:
If these walls could talk…they’d scream murder.
Alex Jordan, owner of Finials and Facades Renovation and Restoration Services, has been living her dream of restoring Victorian-style homes in the town of Danger Cove. But her recent acquisition of the stately Marlton House has led to a showdown with the town real estate mogul, and now she needs to restore the old house and flip it before time runs out. But Alex gets more than she bargained for when a Hawaiian shirt-clad tourist with a bullet in his head turns up in the home’s bathtub. Pairing up with unlikely partner and town florist, George Fontaine, Alex vows to solve the murder before her flip becomes a flop.
As Alex worries over deadlines, she stumbles across another body on the cliffs of Danger Cove. However, this “body” is a super-sexy man with amnesia…or so he says. Throw in a stash of stolen diamonds, a matchmaking grandmother, a foulmouthed parrot, and a mysterious killer with Alex in his sights, and Alex is in a race against the clock to salvage the job, solve the murder, and save her own life.
“Sold!” yelled the auctioneer. “To the little lady in the ball cap. Hold up your number, please.”
I groaned inwardly. I’d just paid a small fortune for a Victorian over a century old. Would a little respect be too much to ask?
“Name?” asked the auctioneer.
“Alex Jordan, Finials and Facades Renovation and Restoration Services,” I replied with a glance around. The courthouse steps had cleared out, and only a few die-hard flippers were there for the last sale of the day. Aging Victorians (I preferred to think of them as Painted Ladies) registered with the exacting Washington State Historic Society were not sought-after properties with this crowd. Most of these guys were looking to make a quick buck.
Not that I wasn’t in need of a payday, but I wasn’t your run-of-the-mill flipper. Over the past two years, I had purchased three dilapidated Painted Ladies in my home town of Danger Cove, Washington, and painstakingly restored them to their former glory. I’d also sold them for a tidy profit. Two were now B&Bs, and one was owned by a wealthy antique dealer. Not too shabby for a little lady.
Danger Cove was the perfect place to find bargains in the Victorian market. It was a quaint little coastal town just enough off the beaten path to make it interesting but close enough to Seattle to keep the tourists coming. Main Street, lined with shops and restaurants, fairly hummed with shoppers during the fall and spring. The town had its roots in the fishing industry, and many a fortune had been made at the turn of the last century, spawning the large estates of the wealthy families. Over time, ups and downs in the town’s economy had eroded much of the old money, leaving the estates in disrepair. Opportunities abounded as long as there was money to invest.
A black Cadillac roared up to the steps of the courthouse. The remaining buyers and the auctioneer gave a collective groan. Local real estate developer and Texas transplant, Jack Condor, liked big talk and big hats. He was wearing a glaring white ten-gallon number today.
Jack stepped out of his car and waved a beefy arm at the auctioneer. “Current bid plus ten percent, Phil.”
Phil didn’t seem to appreciate the familiar use of his name. “Bidding’s closed, Mr. Condor.”
“Why, I say, Phil, that just can’t be.” Jack made a big show of looking at the time on his Rolex.
“Oh, it be,” replied Phil stubbornly. This wasn’t his first run-in with Jack Condor. “And Miss Jordan’s the new owner.”
Jack’s face went red above his loud, checkered sport jacket.
The man beside me tipped his I Brake for Brunettes trucker hat to one side and said to his partner, “Don’t he remind you of someone? A cartoon character?”
His partner cocked his head. “Nope, just looks like a big blowhard to me. Got his feathers all in a bunch.”
The man snapped his fingers. “That’s it! He’s like that big chicken from the Looney Tunes. What’s his name?”
I giggled and looked over at them. “Foghorn Leghorn?”
“That’s it! Big stupid rooster crowin’ around the henhouse.” Both men guffawed.
Jack Condor scowled in our direction. I was able to remain straight faced, until the guy in the hat said loudly, “Bawk, bawk.”
I laughed out loud and sucked in air with a snort.
Condor walked up the steps, saying, “I don’t see what’s so funny, Miss Jordan, about being party to an illegal sale. The auction was supposed to be conducted from four to five p.m. My watch shows 4:55.”
“I’ve been runnin’ these auctions since long before you came to town,” Phil cut in angrily. “I follow the letter of the law. Auction begins at four and continues until all properties are disposed of or five o’clock. Whichever comes first. Period.” Phil gathered up his papers and stalked back into the courthouse.
Condor turned to me, changing tactics with a sweep of his white hat. “Forgive me, Miss Jordan. I have a client who expressed a sudden interest in the property. A very wealthy client. I’m sure we can come to some agreement.” He smiled winningly. He had the sparkling white teeth of a TV star.
I tamped down another giggle. I just couldn’t get that big rooster out of my head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Condor, but I’ve been waiting to buy Marlton House for months. It’ll be my biggest restoration to date, and frankly, I stand to make a lot more than ten percent. Bring your client by when it’s finished, and I’ll consider an offer then.”
His smile faltered a little. “Twenty percent. Final offer.” He stuck out his hand for me to shake.
I shook my head.
Condor withdrew his hand and pointed a long finger at me. “You’ve gotten lucky on a few junked-up old houses. That’s not going to keep the wolf away from Grandma’s door for long, missy. The whole town knows you’re just one flop away from the poorhouse. This game’s for the big boys.”
I could feel steam coming from my ears. “That so? Well, I’d put any one of my restored Vics against all your two-bit cardboard condos. This is what actual work looks like.” I wiggled my calloused hands in his face. “You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? Too busy strutting around town, crowing about yourself, and suckering people into houses they can’t afford.”
The two guys behind me stepped up. The guy with the hat said, “You heard the lady. Now quit squawkin’ and get walkin’. Make it quick, ’cause I’m getting a taste for fried chicken all of a sudden.”
Condor puffed himself up and turned on his heel. As he opened the car door, he spun toward me. “You’ll regret this, Miss Jordan. I promise you.”
His threat hung heavy as the Cadillac roared away. The man in the hat patted my shoulder, saying, “Don’t you worry about that fella, sweetie. Those outta-towners are all the same. Come in here actin’ like big shots for a couple of years, and then the cove takes the wind out of their sails. We’ll send that one packin’ one day—mark my word.” He nodded sagely.
His partner added, “Yep. An’ if not, my wife makes a mean chicken pot pie.”
They laughed all the way back to their pickup trucks. I mounted the steps of the courthouse and wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
On sale March 24th!
Preorders available at:
Barnes and Noble