october 31

October 31st. The date. Not the holiday. Three years ago on this date, 10/31/2015, I turned in final proofs on RITE OF WRONGS, my procedural thriller. That book was the last one I finished.

Yes. You read that right.

Oh, Walt and I wrote ICEFALL, had our agent shop that, then published it ourselves in 2017. (It’s currently unavailable as I get ready to relaunch the series with book two.) But that had been an ongoing project for years. As far as my solo writing career, I have not published a new book… wait, no. I have not FINISHED a new book for three years. Until now. THREE YEARS.

To. The. Day.

That’s especially telling when you realize my first published book was released in 1993 and I’ve managed to write around 60 of the things. Apparently, it took twenty-two years for me to forget how to write. Or to burnout. Which is what happened. Sure, I continued to write. A lot. No, I mean, A LOT. I’ve got thousands of words on dozens of unfinished projects sitting in Google Drive. Romance. Suspense. Young adult post-apocalyptic. Women’s fiction. Science fiction. I tried everything to get back my mojo.

I still don’t know where it went. I think it was a combination of pure exhaustion and trying to keep up with the changes in the industry. I self-published my first backlist books in 2010 when the options pretty much were Smashwords and KDP. I kept up with what was going on as the indie world exploded, but I was under contract to Berkley and to Apub which ate up all of my time. I couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities. My brain’s plate didn’t have room for more.

When I was in a position to write exactly what I wanted without a gatekeeper to tell me it wouldn’t fit in their lineup for whatever reason, I couldn’t do it. One would think the freedom would make it that much easier. One might be right in other cases.

Not in mine

And, yeah. I tried every trick anyone could think to offer. Most of which I’d already tried on my own. I’m an old hand at this gig, remember? Actually, a VERY old hand, ha. August of this year marked my quarter-century anniversary as a published author. That’s a LONG time.

Now I can only hope (heh, hope) the release of HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS signals an opening of the floodgates and that more words will come rushing out because there is no way I’m going to get a real job. I’m no longer qualified to do anything. This is all I’ve known for that quarter century. At least I’ve already got enough ideas worked out to keep me busy for another!

I hope (heh, hope) you enjoy HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS and the trip down memory lane through the Hope Springs series. You can get a copy at Amazon or read it for free (along with the entire series) in Kindle Unlimited.

(I included a bit about the writing process and what I went through during this one and losing Walt in a note to my readers. )



I’ve been writing in Google Docs for a while now. I started in WordPerfect for DOS, moved to Word for Windows, migrated to Scrivener and loved it, but have settled now on Google Docs. I still dictate. I still use pen and paper, though not as often these days because my eyesight requires I use a Sharpie and that means I need different paper than the billion notebooks I have.


I started using Google Docs when writing Icefall with Walt. It was the easiest way to write together because we could do it live. He did most of the drafting and I would come behind and edit him. Other times he’d get stuck on something and I’d fix it while he waited, me in my office, he in his. He’d either grumble or yell, “Thanks,” depending on what changes I’d made. Lots of times he’d fix my fix to one that was better suited to his voice, to what he was trying to say even. Editing on the fly. Perfect. It was a lot of fun watching him, literally, grow into his writing self. Icefall was his first book, though he’d been writing lengthy blog posts for years, and he was a story guy from the very beginning.


As I do every day, this morning I pulled up My Drive in Google and went to my Books folder. It was sorted upside down which put two subfolders I hadn’t thought of in ages at the top of the queue. Both started with S. Curious, I opened one then the other and read the pages I’d written.


One of the projects was Walt’s idea. As always with Walt’s ideas, it was a good one but I couldn’t quite get a handle on it at the time. Reading through all these months later, a year or more really, I loved it. The narrator came alive on the page and surprised me. I’d let it slide because she didn’t feel right. And because I needed to do some research to figure her out.


The second was the same. That one needed to be plotted before I could dive in due to some intertwined storylines and some historical backstory details. In my chapter, my female protagonist was twenty-six and in my notes she was thirty-eight, so yeah. That one needs some work, too, but it sucked me in since I’d forgotten most of it. I read it as a reader, anticipating.


Funny part of this was that in both ideas there was a throwaway character named Bingo. No clue why because the name means nothing to me but now I’m thinking I’ll put a Bingo in all my books just for fun! My own personal Easter egg, and maybe readers who see this will laugh. In fact, I think I’m going to go all out and add a dog named Bingo to the book I’m working on now.  I’ve got the perfect spot to put him, the perfect role for him to play! And dogs always make books better!

word scraps

Today I’m going to scrap everything I wrote yesterday. I rarely do this. I can count on one hand the number of times in my career I’ve scrapped more than a paragraph or two. Maybe during final revisions, sure, but not while writing. I don’t draft. I never have. I write clean copy down to the sentence level because it’s just how my brain is wired. At the end of a writing day, I’m able to count my words because they’re net. I add and subtract throughout the day, going back to edit and reword and rework. I can’t move forward if something in the moment isn’t right because THAT MOMENT is the ONLY MOMENT that idea is alive.

But not only am I scrapping everything I wrote yesterday, I’m scrapping everything I’ve written on this idea so far. It’s not much so this isn’t terribly painful, ha. The problem is I revisited an old idea and what I’d been doing with it… eight (maybe?) years ago doesn’t work with what I want to do now. I’m using the characters and the world but the protagonist’s goal is completely different because she is completely different. She’s no longer a member of a military force but is an independent contractor, so to speak. The hero is pretty much the same but his story has also changed and for the better. There’s actually CONFLICT now where before there was not.

I’m horrible about conflict. I hate it in real life so tend to balk at putting it in my books. I never have BIG DRAMATIC black moments because I have a hard time pulling them off believably. I have an equally hard time buying into so many I read because they seem manufactured rather than growing out of who the characters are and what they want. I don’t like coincidences. Or conflict that can be solved with an honest adult conversation. Walt was always so good at helping me with this because he could propose a situation that actually made sense to me.

Last night, for example, I realized I was going to have to destroy something the hero had built and I just cringed at the idea of all that destruction. In fiction. Which is make-believe. So you see my problem, ha. But I’m going to do it because it works for this new story direction. I’m pretty excited about this story, in fact… sadly a bit more so than the one I’d decided to write this month. And this is where I diverge from more common writing sense: sticking with one project rather than hopping back and forth between several. That’s what I’ve been doing.

And I’m okay with that because I don’t have a contracted deadline with a publisher. I only have the deadline I’ve self-imposed for my five-year career plan, and that’s still in play. Hopping between stories means the word count will accumulate on several books and then all of a sudden they’ll be done and ready to release! Probably not the optimal way to manage a career but with all I’ve been through the last year, I’m lucky there are any words at all going on the page. I’m not going to mess with whatever muse is bringing them up from my basement.

Yeah. That’s what it looks like down there.


I’ve been food obsessed lately. Eating, yes, but just having everything I could possibly want within reach. I love having a fridge or freezer full of dinner choices. Walt always preferred to make a daily run to the store for fresh. We butted heads over this for years. When I was cooking, I won and vice versa. But having my own grocery store in my own house makes me happy.

Then there’s the thing where my eye doctor has me on medication that has my appetite in overdrive. Add that to the fact that I’m scrambling around like a madwoman up in here with construction and writing and grieving and running the household… Yeah, I’m doing a lot of eating my feelings.

When I was a kid, my mom would put in a pot roast with carrots and potatoes every Sunday morning before church. We’d get home and the house would smell amazing. On Saturdays, she’d often cook hamburgers, and with the hamburgers we’d have Ranch Style beans which to this day I love. My dad would dish his up on top of crushed potato chips, something I’ve been doing of late though my chips are a jalapeno queso flavor and I add a hefty serving of Rotel dip on top. Sometimes I’ll eat a bowl of chips, beans, and queso for dinner and call it a night. And no I don’t want to think about the salt content. It’s the meds at work. And the need for comfort food.

I’ve been thinking, too, about French fries. Those from local fast food joints: McDonald’s, Burger King, Sonic, Jack in the Box… who has fresh cut, curly, bacon & cheese covered wedges. I’ve been thinking about those from diners that are crinkle cut and drip grease and crunch in your mouth. About meaty steak fries with a coating of flavor and cornstarch. I’ve also been thinking about potato skins and loaded baked potatoes. One of my favorite dinners is a big fat baked potato covered with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, black olives, red onion, chopped jalapenos, and chili. I love all of these. Fast food. Gourmet. It just depends on what I’m in the mood for. Also gravy or ketchup or ranch dressing. Tots, even. Hash browns.

I’ve been thinking about potatoes because of several recent discussions I’ve read in writing groups about books, the quality vs quantity issue related to the author’s writing speed/production schedule… the fast food vs the gourmet when it comes to entertainment preferences. And these arguments or discussions or whatever just make me smile because of potatoes.

Is there really a bad potato to be had? Even boiled red ones with salt, pepper, and butter can be amazing if that’s what I’m in the mood for. It doesn’t matter how long the potatoes have taken to cook or how much work went into peeling, shredding, browning, etc., any more than it matters how long the book took to write. Not if it fits what I want at that particular time. I may want to sink into a big beautifully wordsmithed literary tome one day and rush through a nonstop thriller the next or make my way through a romance so thick with tension my heart pounds madly.

Potato. PotAHto. Just GET IN MAH BELLY!!



busy with new pages. writing.

I may not have Hope for the Holidays written before Christmas. This isn’t for lack of working but because of newly onset migraines interfering with my work, and post-Hurricane Harvey construction going on all around me.

It’s really hard to work in all the noise. Plus there’s the very boisterous and needy foster dog who’s young and energetic and doesn’t understand how to be lazy and do nothing but lay around in my office while I’m at my desk.

I’m taking December off. Not from writing but from the Internet. Social media. Blogging. I’m going to do my new words first thing every morning. That’s the only way Hope for the Holidays will get written whether now or later.

And if it turns out to be later it might also be a longer book than a novella, and that can’t be a bad thing, can it? Would you mind reading a holiday story in the spring? Or even in the summer? A bit of Christmas in July, perhaps?

Enjoy the holiday season, and I’ll see you again in January!

christmas romance novels. five.

With December arriving this week, you might be in the mood for a holiday romance and I’ve got five! All but one are available in KU.

KISS AND TELL and THE GRINCH MAKES GOOD were both originally published by Harlequin. KAT was a Harlequin Blaze in 2008 and TGMG was a Harlequin Temptation in 1997. KAT is definitely hotter!

WRAP ME UP was originally published as A Blue Christmas in the 2003 Kensington Brava anthology Jingle Bell Rock. (You can download that one for free at several retailers. Amazon hasn’t yet price matched.)

LOVE YOU MADLY was first published as Luv U Madly in the 2007 Harlequin Temptation anthology Red Letter Nights. Both are pretty hot!

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR can be purchased from all retailers as a novella, or in the HOLIDAY KISSES anthology.

oldies but goodies. reissues.

As I type this, I’ve just hit publish on the reissue of Kiss and Tell so it should be available at Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited in a day or two. Funny, I had totally forgotten this was a Christmas story as it was originally proposed for Valentine’s Day.

Candy Cane was Candy Hart. Mistletoe, Colorado was Valentine, Colorado. Under the Mistletoe was Valentine’s Flowers. But the changes worked, and I’m so glad I read through.

I read through everything before I reissue. I don’t do a lot of updating; sometimes none at all. For example, I left my Smithson Group books set in their original time because updating would require a big change in technology and ruin the suspense plots!

Most of what I update are pop culture references and overwriting. I’ve had readers e-mail about this one, wanting more about something that happened off-stage, and I’ve added a question about that to my reader letter. It might be worth expanding at some point!

Anyhow, it’s fun to revisit old books. Sometimes I cringe or roll my eyes. Other times I’m really moved by story elements I’ve completely forgotten about. There were a couple of scenes I could’ve sworn were in this one, but were not! The writing memory is a strange thing!


seven lines excerpt. three.

I almost forgot to post today, so here’s another quick excerpt!

Jeremiah Gale reached for a pair of wire strippers and told himself he was out of his mind. First, for even listening to the gossip in Color Me Crazy. Secondly, for thinking what he was.

The salon’s owner, Beattie Whittle, had hired him to refit one of the stylist stations that had been sitting unused for months—a job that meant spending a couple of days in the company of Touchstone, Texas’s most prolific busybodies while they speculated about the folks in town.

Folks like Allie Ellis.

He knew from the grapevine who she was, of course. Not many people moved to Touchstone on purpose. Fewer moved back having left years before. All of that was common knowledge: That she’d been gone a while. That she’d returned. Small nowhere dots on a map weren’t places where privacy thrived though he’d managed to do a pretty good job of keeping his past close.

What Beattie and the others were saying about Allie’s life during her time away, however… Nope. He hadn’t been aware of any of it and he was sorry to hear about it all. Still, he wasn’t particularly surprised by the revelation. His family could’ve written the textbook on cheating spouses and marriages falling apart—the very reason the institution had never tempted him.

So to hear that Allie had come to feel the same, that after ten years she’d sworn off further romantic involvement to live on her own, had a strange sort of buzz vibrating down his spine.

He did know the part about her house burning to the ground two nights ago.

seven lines excerpt. two. thanksgiving edition.

Here’s a project I’m working on (in all my spare time, ha!), a new romantic suspense series in the vein of my Smithson Group.

The last-call crowd in the Pitch and Roll was grating on Nate Elder’s last nerve. The dozen drunks were all one party and had been at it four hours at least. Someone’s birthday or some shit. He didn’t care. He poured the shots, mixed the drinks, filled the pitchers, took the money.

But he was ready for them to get out.

It was the noise. The voices. The girls screaming when laughing would do. The guys trying to one-up each other with loudly told tales and bullshit machismo. He didn’t know who they were trying to impress except each other. Not a one of them had the right-sized balls—Nate could tell—to survive a night on these streets. His streets. The grit. The grime. The gunshots.

Add to the human noise, the screech and boom of their music choices had clawed its way under his skin, burrowing deep, setting up an itch he couldn’t reach to scratch. His ears burned and echoed as if he’d had bullhorns suctioned to either side of his head. Usually, the tunes weren’t a bother. He enjoyed the bass slamming into him, the guitar stroking, the drums pounding.

Why the hell they had to drink here…

The Pitch and Roll had a rep for a lot of things, most of them not so good. But the burger baskets were almost better than a blowjob, even though they arrived with grease to harden more arteries than Viagra did dicks. The fries had gotten the place rated on Yelp. The reviews brought these uptown assholes to the hood for the food to go with their cold beer, loud music, and pool.

This bunch, however… They weren’t here to eat. A good thing since Junior had the night off and Nate wasn’t allowed near his grill. No, these assholes were slumming.

If they only knew…

seven lines excerpt. one.

There’s a hashtag making the rounds on Facebook where authors post the first seven lines or seven paragraphs of their work in progress.

I’m going to post several #sevenlines to carry me through the long holiday weekend. Ask any questions you have, and enjoy!

Cary Browning walked out of Bread and Bean, a loaf of warm sourdough tucked in a brown paper sleeve held to his nose, and nearly ran into Priscilla Reddy.

A very pregnant Priscilla Reddy.

“Excuse me,” she said, sidestepping before their feet tangled and one of them, or both of them, tumbled to the sidewalk fronting the Fourth Street foodie boutiques.

Bread and Bean, Bliss, and Butters Bakery occupied the same block—a block that stayed busy not only during the holiday season but year-round. Not a surprise considering the offerings: coffee, fresh-baked bread, artisanal chocolates, cookies, cakes…

It was a wonder there weren’t more foot-traffic accidents what with additional shops opening, others relocating to the growing business district, some, like Butters Bakery, being sold, the previous owners retiring, the new owners expanding into pastries and pies.

Cary didn’t mind the change but then he was part of it.