It’s been a few years since I’ve given a book talk, and I miss that. During book talks, I often tell the story behind the story. Readers usually love to hear how a book originated, so I thought I would begin a blog series about how each of my books were born. Maybe other authors will share ‘book birth’ stories here, as well.

I’ll begin with The Handyman. It wasn’t my first book, but its birth has a particularly powerful story.

I began working on the book in December of 2014. My mother-in-law, Patricia (Grandma Pat) Finlay, had been diagnosed with lung cancer about five months earlier. She was starting chemotherapy right after Christmas. I wanted to write a story that wasn’t specifically about her but about a woman going through the same illness.

A few days into the new year, my husband got a phone call from his sister. Their mother was in the hospital and was extremely ill. Her body was reacting poorly to the chemo. We were about a six or seven hour drive from where she lived. Of course, he needed to go immediately. Luckily, although it was the middle of winter, there wasn’t a lot of snow yet. Normally, I would go with him, but I had clothes in the washing machine and in the dryer, cats that would need to be boarded, and we had no idea how long we would need to be away. We decided I should stay home.

He arrived in Chicago that evening. The following evening, his mother passed away. We cried together over the telephone. He ended up staying there for two weeks to help his sister make funeral arrangements, etc.

Through my solitude and grief, I continued writing. The characters in my book were fictional, the story was fictional, but the emotion behind them came from a real place. I chose to set the story in a small French village with troglodyte cave dwellings because it was far removed from Chicago. The character of Paulette was very different from Patricia, and yet she embraced a bit of her, too. I hope that Patricia was able to look down from Heaven and see the book and that she was happy with the way it turned out. That book was, in a sense, a tribute to her.

After I finished writing the book, my husband read it and edited it. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him, since he was still grieving. Patricia passed away on the sixth of January, 2015. The Handyman came to life on the twenty-sixth of November, 2015.

If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll give it a try.


Joshua Clayton abandons his lavish vacation in Paris when a terrible betrayal forces him to take inventory of his life. Avoiding going home, he accepts a temporary job as handyman for an elderly woman, Paulette Lapierre, in a small French village, but ends up as her caregiver in the final days of her life.

When he stumbles across human remains on Paulette’s property, the secrets she had hoped would die with her come to the surface. A decades old murder filled with lies, love, and twists draw Joshua into the investigation. But the deeper he goes, the more nothing is as it appears.

Joshua and Paulette must race to find the killer before the killer finds them.

The Handyman is the first book in a new women’s fiction/mystery, thriller and suspense series.