Please help me welcome my friend and critique partner Jennifer Zane to my blog today. Be sure and leave a comment to be entered into the prize drawing.

How did you get started writing? Years ago my co-workers and I were talking about romance novels and how it would be easy to write one. We figured since there is a specific plot sequence and always a Happily Ever After, how hard could it be? I took this discussion seriously and considered it a personal challenge. I quickly joined the local Romance Writers chapter, was plopped into a writing group with the most diverse hodge podge of ladies, and started writing. I have to admit, my first book, a Western historical, was terrible! But, after over ten years, my writing group is still as hodge podge as ever, but we’re the closest group of friends and each others’ best (and worst!) critics. I will whole heartedly admit I wouldn’t have kept at my romance book challenge without my group to coddle, harass and push me. (If you read between the lines here it screams, ‘Hint, hint- Get a writing group!’)

Tell us about your current series. My current series are called the Gnome Novels. The first is Gnome On The Range, the sequel, Gnomeless. They are contemporary romances set in Bozeman, Montana. They are romance, mystery and humor rolled into one. I lived in Bozeman for five years and the stories are based loosely (you’ll see what I mean when you read the books!) on myself, my family, friends and neighbors. Like any small town, it’s quirky and full of book fodder.

I’m excited to say Gnome On The Range won two awards at RomCon 2012. It was the Readers’ Crown winner for Best Contemporary and Best First Book! Knowing READERS gave me this award is very special to me.

Where do you get ideas for your stories? My ideas come from life experiences, friends’ life experiences, the news, etc. Just observing others. I’ll give some examples: My next door neighbor ran the local adult store. Goldie is based loosely on a different neighbor. My son really did get his arm stuck in a patio umbrella stand. I love going to garage sales. I used to work for the local volunteer fire department. I’ve been to more county fairs than I ever thought possible—and wore flip flops. Once. My kids and I had contests watching the thermometer in the car drop down, down, down on the way to school in the morning. The lowest we saw was -23 F in March when the rest of the world was on spring break in their bikinis. My dad towed a trailer with a car on it across the country that came loose. It wasn’t funny for him but works well in a book!

If you look around you, there’s lots of book material. Everywhere.

Excerpt from Gnomeless:

When little girls play make-believe with their dolls, most pretend they’re mommies or princesses or teachers. Have little tea parties with them, play dress-up. That’s what my sister, Violet, did with hers. Me? I played plumber with mine. I dressed my little Betsy Wets-Alot up in a pair of gray coveralls stolen from a male test pilot action figure I’d found at the toy store. He’d been tossed, naked, into the back of my closet until my sister found him and used him for the groom in her pretend weddings.

Not only did I dress my self-wetting doll in menswear, I ran a straw down the pants leg to divert the faux pee away from her anatomically-incorrect little body. No potty for her. I was five and knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I, Veronica Miller, wanted to be a plumber. Just like my father.

Now, over twenty years later, I’d fulfilled my childhood dream. I was the plumber I’d longed to be, working with my dad. Soon to be working on my own. One last payment to my old man stood between his official retirement and my small business owner status.

I smiled to myself about this almost-upon-me momentous occasion while lathering my hair in the shower. I squealed when the spray of water I was standing beneath went cold and quickly rinsed out the strawberry scented shampoo.

“Stupid hot water heater,” I grumbled to myself as I yanked back the plastic shower curtain and stepped out into the steam filled room. I longed to get back to my own house as Violet’s plumbing system needed some serious work. Even in the thick humidity, goose bumps popped out all over my body as I quickly toweled off and snuggled into my ratty, yet wonderfully comfortable flannel robe.

While I leaned over and rubbed my wet hair with a bright pink towel, I heard it. The sound of a key in a lock, the front door opening. I froze in place upside-down, staring at my knees between the edges of the robe, towel tangled with my long hair. Since I was a plumber, not a law enforcement officer, I lacked the training to keep panic at bay. That hot, adrenaline-induced fear rose up inside me between one heartbeat and the next. I swear the little wet hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Help. I needed to get help, but my cell was in my purse, which I’d dropped by the front door, one room away. No house phone.

I stood up, flipped my dark hair back over my shoulder, held my breath and listened. Rustling and a little mumbling was all I could make out. Who was in the house? Sure, they must have a key since I hadn’t heard a window break, but the only other person who was supposed to have one was Violet, and she was in Utah.

I tiptoed over to the door, bit my lip and winced as I turned the knob and hoped it didn’t squeak. I slowly opened the door as I held my breath. Peeking into the bedroom, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Barely made bed, dirty clothes tossed haphazardly at the wicker hamper. Something heavy thumped onto the floor from the vicinity of the front door and I looked in that direction as if I had x-ray vision and could see through the wall to the person in the living room.

I squeezed through the small gap I’d made in the bathroom doorway, afraid if I opened it anymore, the old hinges would give me away. Breathing as quietly as possible, which was pretty hard in panic mode, I bent down and grabbed the first thing I could get my hands on to use as a weapon. What I held didn’t register. I knew it was solid wood like a baseball bat and as good as I was going to get for protection.

Violet’s house was small, with only one floor and a scary basement I rarely visited. Living room, kitchen, bedroom and bath. That’s it. Which also meant there wasn’t anywhere to hide.

For breaking and entering, the guy wasn’t Mr. Stealth. It was the middle of the afternoon, he’d come in the front door and he was awfully noisy for someone being where they weren’t supposed to be. Even if he was the worst robber ever, that didn’t mean he wasn’t dangerous.

My palms were sweaty as I peeked around the door jamb into the living room. His back was to me and he appeared to be looking down at something he held in front of him, probably a cell phone. It appeared he was texting, or reading one. Tall, around six feet, maybe a little more, and solid. He wore jeans and dark leather shoes. His black jacket was a lighter weight than one would expect for the dead of winter in Montana in the throes of a bitter cold snap. A gray knit cap covered most of his dark hair.

I didn’t recognize him, but I wasn’t in the mood to wait for him to turn around and see me. I decided to use the element of surprise. I tiptoed over to him and whacked him on the arm with my wooden weapon. Hard.


I’d aimed for his head, but nerves and slick palms messed me up and I hit his shoulder instead. The reverberations tingled in my fingertips.

“What the…?” Mr. Intruder said, his voice deep, full of surprise, the cell phone dropped to the floor at his feet. He raised a hand to his upper arm. As he started to turn to face me, I hit him again, this time on the back of the head.


It wasn’t the sound of his skull breaking, but my weapon instead. The wood broke into two, one piece clattering to the floor.

Intruder grunted, fell to his knees with a thunk, then fell face first onto the floral area rug in front of the fireplace, his face turned toward me.

I stood there motionless, stunned, holding half of my broken weapon. Huh, varsity softball had paid off. It appeared I’d hit a home run. I looked down at the prostrate form on the floor. One leg moved a little, which, combined with some groaning, indicated I hadn’t killed him. Even with his eyes closed, I instantly recognized him.


  1. These books sound really humorous. I will put them on my TBR list. I love a book that will make me laugh out loud. Jennifer herself is apparently very funny. I can tell just from reading the interview. I love that in a person.

  2. I have Gnome on the Range and have to say I think the titles of the series are genius. I really loved your response to the question of where do you get your ideas. Sometimes when reading an interview I will skip a question that I think will not provide new info, but I got caught up in your response and I love it that you are able to take personal experiences and rewrite them in such a fun and original way. Congratulations on book two and looking forward to the ride 🙂

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