With less than 10 days before the release of Against My Better Judgment, I thought it would be fun to give a little insight into where some names of characters and businesses in the story came from. To me, family and friendship is a very important part of life, so I decided to hide some shoutouts (or Easter eggs) as I developed the story. And to any friends or family reading this post who do not see their names listed, that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about you. The odds are, your name was in the original manuscript iteration but ended up on the proverbial “cutting room floor” during the editing process (remember, the first draft was 105K words versus the 68K words in the book). But guess what – it could still show up! Remember, there are a few other manuscripts already under development: book two of the Mauzzy and Me Mystery series, and my much darker mystery series currently referred to as the Bill Byrd Series (which will not be for the feint of heart, after all, the working title is…nah. I won’t tell you just yet 😊).
Back to the characters of Against My Better Judgment:
Sara Donovan (page 1)
Sara is the main character and she shares her first name with that of a great friend of my daughter, Maria. In fact, she has become a family friend and I have always referred to Sara as my second daughter. She and Maria met at the University of Alabama and share the same birthday (I believe Maria is two hours older), which happens to be—Halloween! And it is freaky how similar they are to one another personality wise, but not physically. Practically total opposites when they stand next to each other. We love Sara and I couldn’t be happier that the main character in my debut novel shares her first name.
I’m an avid tennis player, and since 2004 I have been hitting with Kevin Donovan, the head pro at a local tennis club here in Chattanooga. Kevin is also a wonderful friend of the family and the nicest person one can imagine. Over the years, we have had some hellacious, knock-down drag-out matches and games. Although I’ve never come close to taking a set off him, I have won my fair share of 11-point games (sorry Kev). Kevin always shares a genuine interest in the goings on in his friends’ lives, so it was during a hitting session in 2013 when I told him about this fun story I was writing. His interest in the story’s progress continued each time we met for a hitting session, so during one of our rare water breaks I said: “You know what I’m going to do, Kevin? I’m going to give your last name to my main character.” Good thing his name was Donovan and not some crazy name like Polcari, because I kept my promise and that “fun story” is going to be published.
Mauzzy (page 3)
Mauzzy is the only real-life character in the book. He’s been a fixture in Maria’s life (and therefore ours) since she rescued him and the personality portrayed in the book is the 100% true Mauzzy. Loving. Crafty. Scary smart. Savvy. Calculating. Fiercely loyal. Truly a real person disguised as a miniature red dachshund. I am beyond thrilled that he is published and will be the co-main character in a book series. He deserves it, and the material he gives me to write is pure gold.
Mauzzy looking out the actual cottage window
Harmon & Harmon Bookstore (page 3)
Bowling is a big part of my life and I have bowled leagues and many tournaments with brothers Ronald and Chris Harmon. Our friendship transcends the bowling center and includes their parents, Ann and Larry (Hi Ann!). When we are not battling it out on the lanes in championship tournaments across the country, we are engaged in a heated battle of one board game or another. Ronald did gift us a reminder of peace in the form of a wooden windchime he made himself. Every time I look out the kitchen window and see it, I smile.
Edna Martin (page 5)
Edna is the first name of my maternal grandmother and suffered through the original stories I wrote as an enthusiastic kid. There is nothing better than the encouragement of a grandmother to pair with a slice of her amazing pies.
Karen Allen (page 6)
Allen is the maiden name of our terrific daughter-in-law, Amy, who is also the absolute best mom to our two grandchildren (yes, they’re in here, too!).
The Bar Belles, Madeline and Ida (page 28)
Madeline is the first name of my mother-in-law, who I loved dearly and was a dedicated member of the Bar Belles, a group of ladies who met at the Stein Room to solve the world’s problems. Or so she said. 😉 Ida is my mom’s legal first name, although she will be very quick to point out “‘The name is Ida Lou’” in the sharpest of tones. SO, being the loving son I am who can’t resist having some fun, I’ve decided to immortalize only her legal first name in print. LOVE YOU MOM.
Ms. Mona Barth (page 83)
Tennis comes into play again! Another great friend of the family is Jonathan “JB” Barth, the fantastic Director of Tennis at Kiawah Island in Charleston, SC, which year after year earns top accolades for their facilities and instruction. JB and I have had some great hitting sessions, and yes, I have taken my fair share of eleven-point games off him too. Sorry JB—deal with it, man!! 😊 On the courts, he has also worked with my wife, son and daughter, and off the courts we have enjoyed some delicious dinners together. If you play tennis, check his tennis program out at https://kiawahresort.com/tennis/. You won’t be disappointed.
Maria (page 86)
I had to have a little fun with my daughter, so I have her making a cameo appearance on page 86. When you read the book – think she’ll be mad? SMILE!
Dr. Valerie Mitchell (page 90)
Prior to writing, I spent my career-years working on complex projects with an incredible team. After I became president of the company, I had a handful of sharp, motivated people that I considered my “eagles”; I could always count on them to make things happen no matter how daunting the challenge. It felt only right to give such a high-ranking character the last name of Cara Mitchell, one of my eagles. Despite her fanatical love for the Baltimore Ravens, we have become dear friends over the years and I have never questioned her judgment.
H&L Bank (page 137)
It was during a visit at my son’s when I needed to come up with a name for a bank. As I watched my little granddaughter, Lucy, entertain her baby brother, Henry, it hit me. I thought they were so cute together that I gave them their own bank, H&L.
Fiona (page 147)
With Mauzzy getting all the attention in the book, I couldn’t leave a subsequent addition to Maria’s family out of the story. And so, Fiona, her scruffy dachshund-mix (also a rescue), became the virtual assistant on Sara’s phone. Don’t worry, Maria is significantly nicer to the furry Fiona 😉
A rare sighting of Mauzzy exercising
Doctor Mike’s Sandwich Shoppe (page 147)
This is named after my son, Michael, and yes, he is a real doctor. (Or so he’s led us to believe.) And the boy can EAT, so why not give him his own chain of sandwich shops? Writing fiction is so much fun!
Agent Jackson Walker (page 191)
Since I got my daughter’s pups into the story, I had to get one of ours in, too. Jackson is our black-and-tan dachshund and his life revolves around breakfast, snack time, and dinner. And—the ball!!! Yeah, he’s either sleeping, eating, or fetching the ball. And we love him.
Mike, the Federal Building’s Security Guard (page 202)
If you know my brother Mike and his penchant for impersonations, then you know why he’s the inspiration for the Federal Building’s security guard’s name.
Angelina’s Restaurant (page 267)
This is my daughter’s middle name. And no, not “restaurant.”
Lucy Donovan (page 283)
Lucy is our energetic, precocious, and thoroughly entertaining granddaughter.
Jack Donovan (page 284)
If Mauzzy’s full name is mentioned 101 times (to Sara’s 103), then my pup Jackson should at least get a second character! When he is feeling less formal, Jackson goes by Jack and that is how Sara’s dad got his name.
Jackson is not amused
Well – that’s all I’ve got for today! You’re now “in the know” and will get to see all these little Easter eggs hidden throughout the book in just 8 short days.
Be safe, be happy, and have a great week.