Northern Comfort

Sisters Willi and Lorna in Northern Comfort

Willi Miller has a difficult time after her young son dies when his sled slips away from her and into the path of a truck. But fortunately she has her rough-and-tumble younger sister, Lorna, to help her pull through. Willi and Lorna are characters in my new hilltown release, Northern Comfort.

Life hasn’t been easy for Willi. Her childhood was marred by the death of her father, then being raised by her insensitive mother and the abusive man she married. She made a bad choice marrying Junior Miller, who left her and their disabled child. Willi got a break when her kind grandfather took them in and left her his cabin. She did her best by Cody, cutting hair in a country beauty shop.

Then tragedy struck. 

Fortunately, Willi has a tough-as-nails ally in Lorna, who still lives at home and works in a bakery. “Lorna took after Daddy’s side of the family, the Merritts, tall and husky. Willi felt childlike when she stood beside her.” Her relationship with their stepfather, Joe, is vastly different than the one Willi has.

When her sister needs help, Lorna, is there, like a protective guard dog. She accompanies Willi to see her boy’s body for the last time and stands beside Willi at his funeral.. Lorna is the one to call Junior to tell him about his son’s death, tracking him down at a bar. Lorna stays with Willi until she says she can be on her own and even after she is there to help. There are later scenes in the book that show them even having sisterly fun.

I so enjoyed creating Lorna’s character. She reminds me a little of Annette Waters in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. The two of them would have a great time together.

Here’s a scene that shows Lorna’s mettle. The chapter is called No Better Than Us. 

Lorna parked her beat-up Ford near the general store. Willi had stayed home since the funeral five days ago, and now she didn’t want to leave the car. Her clunker didn’t start, the battery drained from sitting so long in the cold. Lorna volunteered to take her. 

Her sister made puffing noises as she leaned inside the car.

“Willi, there’s nothin’ to eat in your house. You can’t just live on the stuff I bring you from the bakery. Come on, get your butt out here.”

Willi peered up at her sister.

“I think it’s time you went back home, Lorna. I can manage now. Really.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. It’s cause of what I said last night about packin’ up Cody’s things. How I said it was too depressin’ to see all of his stuff all over the house. I’m sorry I said it and the other stuff, too.”

Willi winced.

“I know he’s gone, Lorna. I just can’t do it now.” She blinked back tears. “Please, Lorna, I just wanna be left alone.”

Lorna gave her sister a square, hard look.

“I was gettin’ tired of that lumpy bed of yours anyways. And you snore.” She paused. “Now get your ass in the store. We’re here already.”

“Okay, okay, I’m comin’.”

Willi reached into her jacket pocket for a white handkerchief to wipe her eyes. She opened the car door and slowly followed her sister inside.

The store was filled with customers. Some stopped to offer their condolences, but a few stayed away, suspicion playing on their faces.

Lorna saw it, too.

She spun toward a woman, wife to one of the town’s selectmen.

“Did you say somethin’? No? Could’ve sworn you did. My mistake.”

Willi was embarrassed and grateful when the woman went to another aisle. She stood in front of the shelves of canned foods, trying to decide what soup to buy. It was too hard. Lorna dumped one of each kind in her handbasket until Willi got tearful.

“Please, Lorna, that’s enough, please.”

Lorna took the basket from her sister’s hand.

“Shush, I’m only tryin’ to help. Let’s get some milk and cold cuts. Do you need food for that mutt of yours?”

Willi couldn’t keep up with Lorna. The woman had ticked off her sister, and now she was walking and talking fast. Then Lorna was out the door, with three grocery bags in her arms. Willi ran from the store to get to the car before her sister.

“That snotty bitch. Who does she think she is?” Lorna muttered as she dropped the bags on the back seat. “You should see how she is when she comes into the bakery. Talkin’ about that precious son of hers. The architect.” Lorna sneered. “She’s no better than us. Don’t you ever forget it.”

“Oh, Lorna.”

Link: You can find Northern Comfort on Amazon in Kindle version. It’s only $2.99. Paperback readers will have to be a little patient.

Northern Comfort

Meet Miles and Junior of Northern Comfort

My new book, Northern Comfort, starts with a tragedy — a child’s sled sends him into the path of a truck despite his mother’s attempts to stop him. For this post, I wanted to write about the two men most impacted by this tragedy. One is Miles Potter, who was driving the truck. The other is Junior Miller, who abandoned little Cody and his mother, Willi Miller.

Both men are natives in the hilltown of Hayward, but their backgrounds are so different. The same is true for the lives they lead. Let me explain.

Miles Potter could be described as a man of means and opportunity. His educated parents had high hopes for him, but college didn’t work out. When he returned home, he found work with a carpenter, Linwood Staples, who became his mentor. Working with his hands was more to his liking. Now on his own, he usually works on high-end homes. He and Willi may have been in the same class in school, but until this accident she was just another person living in the same town.

Junior Miller’s divorced parents had no ambitions for him. He loved Willi enough to marry her, but after their boy was born brain-damaged, he didn’t put any effort into their homelife. Then after he left Willi, he didn’t bother paying any child support after the first year or even be a part of his child’s life. When the book starts, Junior has a rather aimless life, driving truck for a lumberyard and crashing at his current girlfriend’s mobile home in New Hampshire.

But all of this changes that wintry day.

At the start, Miles does the right thing, leaving money for Willi and going to Cody’s funeral. But after Linwood advised him to think deeper, Miles tries to give more meaningful support. Eventually, he finds he and Willi have more in common than just this tragic accident.

Junior has a bigger challenge because of the longtime neglect of his responsibilities. His ideas of reparation at the start have little meaning to Willi, not surprising given the lousy role model his own father provided. It takes him longer to face his failings and make amends that have meaning to Willi.

These are two of the characters in Northern Comfort. As I do for all my novels, I create characters that feel real to me. I hope that’s true for you.

In this scene, Miles and Junior have a confrontation at the Bull’s Eye, the local watering hole. Junior is there with his brother, Mike.

Miles lurched forward as a hand slapped him on the back so hard his chest hit the edge of the Pine Tree’s bar.

A man’s voice said, “Hey, there, buddy, how you doin’?”

He looked into the face of Junior, who took the stool beside his. Junior’s brother Mike sat on the other side, grinning like he’d won big at cards and couldn’t wait to tell somebody. Both were high or drunk or both.

Now was the reckoning, and Miles was unsure how to proceed. It didn’t matter what he said or did, he was going to get it. Mike was heavier than Miles. He carried the weight of someone who liked booze and greasy food. Junior was short and always trying to make up for it.

Miles put down his bottle. He ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth. He wasn’t fooled. 

Mike’s friendly comment was definitely fake. But Junior? Yeah, he, too, but he’d cut him a break. 

“I’m sorry, Junior, about what happened to Cody.”

Junior fingered the front of Miles’s shirt. “You mean hitting him with your truck?”

“That’s not the way it happened. I tried to save him.”

Junior glanced toward Mike. “That so?”

Miles nodded solemnly, but Junior snorted. “I know what you’re thinkin’, Miles. I’ve got brass balls pickin’ on you ’cause I didn’t give more to that boy or Willi. He was my blood, and I loved his mother when he was born.” Junior brought his face closer and gave Miles’s shirt a tight twist. “And another thing. I don’t want you bothering Willi no more. She’s been through enough.”

“Get your hands off me, Junior.” His voice stayed calm, although his heart had a steady pound. “If you wanna keep this going, let’s take it outside. What’s it gonna be? The both of you?”

Junior loosened his fingers.

Miles stared at one brother, then the other. When Mike made a snorting laugh, Miles gave him a quick, light shot on the shoulder. Both brothers got to their feet. He stood, too.

“I’m gonna say it again, asshole,” Junior said. “Stay away from Willi.”

Miles drew his eyes tight. “Don’t tell me what to do.”

“You’ll listen to me if you know what’s good for you,” Junior said before he and his brother moved to another part of the bar.

Miles drank face forward. He focused on the mirror behind the three shelves of booze. Junior and Mike sat far from the mirror’s reach, but by now he didn’t care. The two brothers wouldn’t be back. They had made their point.

He finished the beer, and although he would have liked another, he fished for a buck in the front pocket of his jeans and flattened it on the bar’s top. He made a slow but straight path to the door.

Curious? Here’s the link for Northern Comfort.

Northern Comfort

Only Days to Go for Northern Comfort

Northern Comfort, which has a July 19 release, is my next book set in the fictional hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. That’s only days away. Perhaps you’re wondering why I continue to choose that setting. Frankly, it’s because I have had a long fascination with the real ones. Let me explain.

After living in a number of cities, Hank and I decided a better place to raise our family would be in the country. And with the encouragement of new friends, we found ourselves moving to the town of Worthington, population around 1,200. Before the move, we checked out the town, camping in our friends’ yard. That night the sky was alive with Northern Lights, which I took as a positive sign.

We rented a funky, little house for $150 a month. Actually it was less than that for several months since we helped clean and fix up this house, which had belonged to the owner’s grandfather. Just like those Northern Lights, we got a welcome from the people who lived in town, in particular one of its largest families, the Donovans. Hank and I immersed ourselves in the town. Two of our six kids were born here. They all went to the local schools. Hank established himself as a skilled woodworker.

Eventually, we were able to buy a small piece of land and build a house, thanks to the generosity of so many people in the local construction industry who gave us great deals and even worked for free.

I got a job as a freelance reporter, a correspondent, actually, who reported on Worthington for the local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette. I covered selectboard meetings, fires, storms, accidents and other emergencies, basically anything I thought readers would want to read about. I wrote features about people and the things they did like truck pulls, hunting, farming, maple sugaring, etc. I was paid by the word.

Eventually I expanded my coverage area to two more hilltowns. 

Hank and I also enjoyed the nightlife, which meant drinking and dancing at the town’s watering hole, Liston’s. (Before that, it was the Drummer’s Club.)

As a reporter, I listened to the way people talked and how they behaved. I heard so many stories, some of which weren’t printable, but they gave me insight and inspiration. I am also grateful for the experience because it broke a 25-year writer’s block. But it wasn’t until I was hired by the same paper as an editor, that I turned my newfound writing skills into fiction. Among those is my new book, Northern Comfort.

So what’s Northern Comfort about? Willi Miller and her son are a charity case in a NE town that holds dear to the traditions of making maple syrup, playing old-time music, and keeping family secrets. They live in a cabin left to them by their grandfather, who took them in after Junior Miller abandoned them. Then, on a snowy day, Cody’s sled sends him into the path of a truck driven by Miles Potter, a man of means. Willi and Miles have known each other since they were kids, but until the moment her son dies, they are separated by their families’ places in town. 

This is a story about the haves and have nots in a small town. Over the next couple of weeks I will share more posts about the book in my attempt to entice you to buy it. As of July 19, it will be available in Kindle for $2.99. (Paperback readers will have to be patient.) My thanks if you do.

Here’s the link:

Character Traits

Meet Rosalie Giordano of The Secret Cure

Next in my Character Traits is Rosalie Griordano, created by author JD Spero, for her romantic suspense novel, The Secret Cure. JD says she was inspired by a real life observation to create this character. Intriguing. Here. I will let her take over this post.

A brief introduction to your character

In The Secret Cure, Rosalie Giordano is as fiery as she is beautiful. In her mid-30s, she and her hot hubby start to plan for a family … until she is struck down with a mysterious illness that leads to temporary paralysis. From the first chapter, readers experience the dichotomy of her spunky, strong personality despite her not being able to move. 

How did you come up with the character and his/her name?

I don’t remember. My parents had a friend named Rosalie years ago and it came into my mind as I started writing and I went with it. I like both the full and short version, Rosie. Though now I keep running into other book characters named Rosie. It’s like when you buy a new car and then keep seeing it all over the highway. 

Tell us more about The Secret Cure.

So, while Rosie is immobile, she learns her perfect husband is cheating. As she heals and gains mobility, she keeps her progress a secret from her husband in order to observe her dire situation and weigh her options. Turns out, his cheating is just a small aspect of his betrayal. So when he has the audacity to invite “the other woman” on their long-awaited anniversary trip overseas, Rosie weaves a plan for revenge.  

Was a real person your inspiration for this character?

Yes! When my husband and I were vacationing at a resort in Taormina, we witnessed a man toggle between his hot mistress at the beach and his lovely, disabled wife at the pool. The story idea came to mind instantly. 

Is your character likable or not?

I’m not sure I should answer this question. Ha! Let’s just say, she is not a victim. (I like her very much, BTW).

Extract from the book in which the character appears.

All Vin’s attention is with my homecare nurse Cate now, his hand tucked in his pocket. My skin tingles from where he touched me. “I’ll try to be home at a reasonable time,” he says. “But I do have an appointment after work.”

All those tingly vibes fall away. The black hole wants to swallow me. Rage breaks out in my pores. Because I know all too well Vin’s ‘appointment’ is with his therapist, Anastasia, whom he’s been seeing since I got sick. Their therapy sessions have become more common the longer I’m immobile. Always at the end of the day, always a good, generous hour. Who is this Anastasia? And what is she up to with my husband, really? 

So, Vin likes his secrets. Well, I have my secrets too. They live in my blood and run through my veins, filling me with a bulletproof drive to get through this thing. Because I will get through. My god, I was a dancer. My body knows how to move. And it holds a muscle memory stronger than any diagnosis. I will move again. And when I do, no secret is safe.

I can feel it now, the slow, satisfying burn of a buried secret emitting steam from my ears, fire from my nose, laser beams from my eyeballs. 

Cate nods, still about the ice cream, still puffing her chest, a dopey half-grin on her chubby face. Vin clomps out of the room like a brontosaurus. 

I hate them both. 

Johannah Davis (JD) Spero

Author’s Bio

Johannah Davies (JD) Spero’s writing career took off when her first release, Catcher’s Keeper, was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. Her small-town mystery series, Boy on Hold, has won similar acclaim—IPPY Gold for Best Mystery/Thriller. Check out her bestselling romantic suspense, The Secret Cure, and her contemporary romance, The Muse Next Door. Stay tuned for Hack Ware, a cyber thriller coming August 2023. Having lived in various cities from St. Petersburg (Russia) to Boston, she now lives with her family in upstate New York where she was born and raised.

Links to books and social media

Twitter @jdspero

IG @johannahspero

TikTok @jdsperobooks

Character Traits

Character Traits: Meet Lily West of Bleak Waters

In this next installment of the Character Traits series, Lily West, a creation of author Gary Kruse, is featured. Gary describes himself as a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to discover themselves. That includes Lily West. Now, I will let Gary take over on this post.

Lily West is the main character in my new supernatural mystery, Bleak Waters. She’s in her early 20’s and when we meet her in the book, she’s standing on the water’s edge of Hickling Broad in the middle of winter, struggling to process the suicide of her father the previous summer. 

As a child, Lily used to get severe migraines which bought on ghostly visions, but these faded after a vicious intervention from her mother, Hetty. 

She lives and works in the Whippet, a fictional pub in Hickling village, and the villagers are like an extended family to her, and some of them stepped in to help after her father’s death. It’s a close-knit, rural community.

But like all villages, it has its secrets, and one secret in particular will shatter everything Lily believes. 

How did you come up with the character and his/her name?

Lily was one of the first characters I came up with for the book. I was on holiday in Hickling with my sons in spring 2019, and as with Badlands, the more time I spent in the area, the more my writer’s brain started whirring and I started getting ideas for a new story. 

In the first serious brain-storming session, I decided that the MC would be a barmaid in the village pub as she would be able to naturally interact with all the characters and also face conflict with them when she started asking questions about the central mystery. 

Initially, I struggled to come up with her name. I brainstormed a list of about thirty names, and as I was making notes and developing the character, Lily was the name that stuck.

Tell us more about Bleak Waters.

It’s part ghost-story, part mystery, part crime novel. A stranger, Theo Sinclair, arrives in the village of Hickling in the dead of winter asking questions about the disappearance of a young woman called Claire Baldwin twenty-five years earlier. At first Lily doesn’t trust Theo and won’t help him. She’s already got enough on her plate dealing with the questions raised by her father’s suicide, questions that make her wonder how well she really knew her Dad.

Theo’s arrival also seems to stir Lily’s long-buried curse of seeing the dead as the night after his arrival, she experiences the first twinges of a migraine and senses a shadowy presence haunting her room. 

Theo persists in asking Lily for help, and as Lily learns more about him and why he’s come to Hickling, gradually her reluctance breaks down. She starts to help him and as she and Theo dig deeper into Claire’s disappearance, the ghostly visions grow stronger, and Lily finds disturbing links between her father and Claire.

Already harbouring suspicions about her father after his suicide, she starts to realise that finding the truth may destroy everything she loves and holds dear, and force her to finally confront the ghosts that haunt her. 

Was a real person your inspiration for this character?

No, Lily, like all of my characters, is a mix of different influences and inspirations, not one real person. When I look back at the first notes, as I say, the character came from a need to have someone who could act as a go-between for the stranger arriving in the village, and the villagers themselves. 

The Whippet, the Pub in the book, was inspired by a real Pub in the village of Hickling called the Greyhound, and what struck me about the Greyhound was how it seemed to be a hub of village life so that naturally suggested making the main character someone who worked in the pub.

From there, Lily’s character evolved first through the notes and planning, then through the drafts. And naturally, the main character has to be the one who hurts the most, who suffers the most, and by the end of Bleak Waters, Lily has certainly done that.

Is your character likable or not?

According to the beta readers, yes! It’s interesting because when you read the reviews of my first book, Badlands, a lot of people felt that Willow was a tough character to like, but that characterisation came from her harsh back-story. 

When we meet Lily, she’s not world weary in the way that Willow was. She’s haunted, and guilt-stricken yes, but she’s still living at home, in her cozy village with people she loves, and she’s got a big heart. She cares and in some ways she’s an emotional open book, whereas Willow is more guarded and more defensive. But none of that was deliberate for either character. It all evolved naturally from the respective story’s needs.

Extract from Bleak Waters

Lily threw her phone down on the bed. Eyes gritty, the need for sleep clouding her thoughts now, she stripped and slipped on a pair of thick woollen pyjamas. She cleaned her teeth, peed, washed her hands then slapped out the light. In the dark, she crossed to the bed, yawned, and stretched wide. As she lowered her arms, a sharp pain stabbed over her brow. 

She winced, pressed her fingertips against the bone and rubbed the skin. The pain made her stomach squirm. It bought back memories of the migraines that had plagued her early adolescence. 

Back then, the migraines had gotten so bad they left her speaking in tongues and seeing visions, seeing people that were not, no, could not be there. Still, she had been migraine free for almost ten years now. This was probably just tiredness. Lowering her fingers, she turned to draw back her bedclothes. 

The pain flared. A shadow moved in the corner of her eye. Vague and blurry. Heading for the door behind her. Sucking a gasp, she spun to get a better look. Saw nothing but the door locked and latched. 

The pain faded but didn’t vanish completely. She blinked in the dark but saw nothing now. 

Skin crawling, but convincing herself she was overreacting, she turned back to the bed. As she reached for covers again, she sensed a movement in the dark behind her. And a sound. Like a footstep on the laminate floor. 

She froze. The pain in her brow throbbed. A scent lingered in the air, faint, and ephemeral. It smelt like the ghost of a memory. It was the smell of sweat and sun-cream. Fists clenched tight, Lily turned and peered into the darkness behind her. 

“Dad?” she whispered. 

Her voice broke the silence. The pain disappeared and the feint scent vanished. Lily stood in the dark, heart trembling, breathing quickly, two questions consuming her thoughts. 

Had she imagined that sense of movement, the footstep, the ghostly smell? Or were the migraines, and the visions that came with them, starting again? 


Authors Bio

Gary Kruse is a writer of thriller and horror fiction about people on the edge of society struggling to find who they are, where they come from and where they’re going. He has won and been shortlisted for several short story competitions and his debut novel, Badlands is an Amazon bestseller. 

Bleak Waters is his second novel. 


Bleak Waters:

Author Website: