A Cruise Into the Past – Starting with Mailboat I!

 

Have you always wanted to know how the Mailboat Suspense Series got started?

    • No, I didn’t grow up in Lake Geneva.
    • No, I wasn’t a mail jumper.
    • However, I did start developing the story while I was trapped in a life of emotional abuse and depression that nearly led to suicide… and creating this story helped me survive.

By popular demand of my fans over on Patreon, we’re going back to the very beginning of the Mailboat Suspense Series for the ultimate Story Behind the Story—starting with Mailboat I: The End of the Pier.

If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to give my Patreon a try, this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment to climb aboard. I’ve made the first two posts open to the public just so you can sample what we’re all about.

What Is Patreon?

I created my Patreon page in response to the most frequent complaint I hear from my fans: Waiting for the next book to come out!

My Patrons get some incredibly cool perks:

    • Access to every chapter I write, the minute I’m done writing it
    • Book Club Questions to discuss every chapter together
    • Behind-the-Scenes posts revealing details like my inspiration, writing process, and thoughts and feelings behind every moment in the story

A lot of my current Patrons followed along as I wrote Mailboat V, and they now know the Mailboat Suspense Series on a crazy intimate level. They’re currently waiting, breathless, to repeat the experience with Mailboat VI.

Why Are We Launching This Cruise Into the Past?

Right now, I’m wading into the lengthy but vital planning, research, and outlining phase for both Mailboat VI and Mailboat VII, and it’ll be a while before I have new chapters to release for the Patrons.

We were all sad about letting our community go dormant. In addition to the delights of reading and exploring the story together, we’ve created an incredibly tight-knit community around our passions for reading, Lake Geneva, and creating a safe space to discuss mental health.

Rebecca—both my untiring publicist as well as one of my loyal Patrons—had an idea. (Yes, another one. It’s like a garden spigot that doesn’t turn off.)

She suggested we could go back to Mailboat Book I and explore the very beginning of the Mailboat Suspense Series together.

I put it to a vote for the Patrons—and they approved it unanimously.

Schedule of Activities

Approximately once a week, I’m going to re-release a chapter from Mailboat I, followed by Book Club Questions to help the readers go even deeper into the experience.

My Patrons say they’re looking forward to the excuse to re-read the series, as well as to learn what their fellow readers think of each moment of the story.

With every chapter, I’ll also include a Behind-the-Scenes Post telling the story behind the story. And I’m planning to go deep. 

Way deeper than I’ve ever gone before.

If you’ve been to one of my readings, you may think you know the backstory.

But there’s more.

Patreon has become my safe space to talk about my own experiences with trauma and abuse, and my own mental health journey. And if we’re going to talk about the very beginning of the Mailboat Suspense Series… we’re going to talk about some of the darkest times of my life…

But most importantly, the beauty that grew out of the ashes.

That first behind-the-scenes post is live now, and it’s free.

More Than Complimentary Soaps and Shampoos

The first chapter has already released, and it includes a lot:

    • The Prologue of Mailboat I: The End of the Pier
    • A sample audiobook narration of the prologue, performed by my former Montana employee, the amazingly talented Nathaniel Brown
    • Book Club Questions to launch the discussion with our online book club
    • A Behind-the-Scenes Post talking about how I encountered the idea for the Mailboat Suspense Series in the first place—and what my life was really like at the time. (Spoiler: It was pretty freaking awful.)

All of that is available now—and yes, I made it available to the public  for free as a sample of everything we do over on Patreon. If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to give my Patreon page a try, I can’t think of a more ideal time to come aboard.

We can’t wait to welcome you to this deeper-than-ever Cruise Into the Past. It’s almost summer, and the water is fine. Come join us!

~ Danielle


Writing the Climax of Mailboat V… with the Lake Geneva PD!

Currently, I’m writing like a mad woman, trying to wrap up an epic climax sequence for Mailboat V. Guys, I think even *I* underestimated how epic it’s gonna be.

So, earlier this week, I enlisted the aid of my friends Sergeant Jason Hall and Lieutenant Ed Gritzner of the real-life Lake Geneva Police Department to draw from their expertise.

To be honest, I used to feel guilty about asking them to take time away from their real-life duties just to make-believe with me.

And then came the day Ed and I were working through the climax sequence for Mailboat III: The Captain’s Tale.

“One last question,” I said. “Where would you set up your command post?”

“The parking lot of the state park,” he said.

I thanked him for his time, and we hung up.

Two minutes later, he called me back. “I change my mind. The parking lot at the state park is too close to the action. Let’s put it at the middle school.”

I laughed, even as I updated my notes. The way he called me back so fast–he was acting like this was real.

And then I realized… he was basically treating my climax sequence like a training scenario.

Scenario training is something emergency personnel do in real life—and they make it as authentic as possible. The below photo isn’t a real car accident; it’s a training scenario I attended in 2016, put on at an event called the Writers Police Academy.

They pulled out all the stops for this, even landing a helicopter to carry away one of the “patients.” The entire thing unfolded as if it were real, and gave the emergency personnel involved a chance to practice their skills and use their equipment. That way, next time it is real, they’re ready.

Now that I equate my fictional emergencies with scenario training, I don’t feel so guilty about asking Jason and Ed for their time. And frankly, they’re usually delighted to help. (I keep having to remind myself that other people find authors cool.)

And after all the emergencies I’ve written into the Mailboat Suspense Series… you should feel very safe in Lake Geneva. I’ve prepped your PD for the literal worst, LOL.

But for the climax sequence of Book V… I might have thrown them a doozey.

When working through these “scenarios,” I’ll start by telling Ed and Jason what information they have at their disposal, and they’ll in turn tell me how they’d respond, what tactics and resources they’d deploy, etc.

Let me just say, the climax of Book V has a lot of moving parts–what my cop friends would call “a dynamic situation.” From an author’s perspective, I’m rotating between quite a few points of view, as well as multiple, constantly-changing locales; and in real time, everything would be unfolding in a matter of minutes. This scenario is pulling in more law enforcement officers than I even have names and call signs for. (Random name generators have been my friend. Don’t worry, I only use the good ones, and I lean towards German surnames, cuz southeast Wisconsin, amiright?)

How big is the climax sequence for Mailboat V? I think Jason’s reaction sums it up best:

I gave him the opening scenario. In response, he established a perimeter and sent in additional units.

I threw him a hard left.

“Oh, shit,” he said. “I lose my job.” Despite his initial pessimism, he adjusted quickly, creating an inner perimeter and calling in additional resources.

I gave him another hard left.

“Oh, God.” He considered a moment, then asked—hopeful, almost begging— “Is my outer perimeter in place yet?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell him… probably not.

Jason’s most frequent comment throughout the scenario? “It would be chaos… It would be chaos…”

LOL. I have too much fun with these books.

Also, don’t get any ideas about calling the LGPD so you can grill Sergeant Hall or Lieutenant Gritzner for spoilers. I haven’t even told them everything–like, the final, final showdown, which I felt confident to write without their input. In fact, I didn’t even tell them which characters were involved.

“I’m trying to think who’s who in this scenario,” Ed admitted.

Secretly? I’m really hoping to blow their minds once they read it.

So… Definitely tired over here from all the last-minute writing. Definitely feeling like my arm’s about to fall off. Definitely wish the writing was done already. And definitely watching the calendar and observing that this release is going to be down-to-the-wire.

But that’s pretty typical, TBH. I have no idea how I manage to release a book every year. Magic is real.

But now that the climax sequence is finally coming together… I’m more certain than ever that this could be my favorite book so far. If you haven’t reserved your pre-order yet, better get it in now! Or come meet me at one of the book signings on the 2022 Lake Geneva Book Tour. When you see me, you’ll know I put 110% into this release.

~ Danielle

P.S., if you want to help me over the finish line in a very real way… you can buy me a coffee! I can’t tell you how much that lifts my spirits, warms my heart, and fuels my writing.


Blue Pinwheels and Child Abuse

This week, my local county courthouse lawn was glittering with hundreds of small blue pinwheels. I assumed it was symbolic of something, but I wasn’t sure what.
I later found a story by one of our local news outlets explaining that the pinwheels are there to bring awareness to the fact that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
My attention was caught. As you know, child abuse is a primary theme in my books, the Mailboat Suspense Series. And as I recently shared, I was myself emotionally abused as a child, into my adult years.
I love that it’s “Prevention” month and not “Awareness” month. The more I research broken families, foster care, etc., the more I ask what we can do to prevent children from ever being removed from their families in the first place.
In other words, what can we do to stop child abuse and neglect at home? What can we do to get help for the parents so that the children don’t have to suffer?
I know not every broken family situation can be saved. But speaking from my own experiences of childhood emotional abuse, I can’t help but believe that my life could have been markedly different if my mother had accepted the mental health options that were available to her. Instead, it somehow became more acceptable to ignore the problems than to address them.
That’s why, for me, the problem of child abuse begins with normalizing mental health care for adults. An unhappy parent cannot raise a happy child. An unbalanced parent cannot raise a well-balanced child.
But with proper mental health care, the future could be far brighter for both the adults and the children.
So… take care of your mental health, yo. If not for you, then for the kids in your life.
P.S., for more information on National Child Abuse Prevention Month, check out the resources at the Children’s Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And see if there are any events in your town where you can listen, learn, and/or volunteer.