mice. men. whatever.

Sometimes plans go awry. Mice and men and all that. Earlier this year I published a short story, Abbot, to introduce my new romantic adventure series, Avenging VIII. Then I wrote the first book, Elder. Then I sent Elder to my developmental editor. Then I got the bad news. There were parts that did not work. Enough parts that I needed to step away and rethink the story.

This story, remember, was written DURING A PANDEMIC. Yes, we’re all writing during a pandemic. But I’m also still writing with grief as my constant. It’s not easy but things are getting better and as of today, I’m honing in on the end of a different book that will be coming to you in early September… as long as my editors say it’s okay. I have high hopes. Higher than last time.

Here are two brief teasers. First of all, PLEASE enjoy the size of this man’s hands. (You’ll get to see the rest of him on the full cover.) Then enjoy the brief excerpt.

 

Inside the entrance to Keller’s, on either side of the restaurant’s front door, sat two antique-white oval side tables that had once belonged to May Wise.

One held the original cigar box long ago retired from Two Owls Café. On the other sat the fat ceramic owl Kaylie Keller had found in a flea market before her return to Hope Springs.

May had been her foster mother, the cigar box the lunch spot’s original cash register, the owl symbolic of the wisdom instilled in her while living in the Wise home.

Two Owls was now a bed-and-breakfast, the spot perfect for those in need of a Texas Hill Country retreat. Rustic pergolas strung with tiny white lights invited visitors to relax and enjoy the property’s wildflower meadow. The shaded areas, accessed by winding pebbled walks, offered gliders, swings, and ornamental fire pits circled by clusters of chairs.

Kaylie co-owned both operations: the bed-and-breakfast with her father, and the restaurant—a roomy log cabin with a covered front porch and a fireplace crafted of river stone—with her sister-in-law-to-be, Thea Clark. The wedding was fast approaching.

Thea split her time between the family restaurant and her original business, Bread and Bean. She was also involved with Butters Bakery, as were all the women who lived with her. Because Thea was still the driving force behind the house on Dragon Fire Hill.

The past year had seen new developments there too. Especially for Frannie Charles.

After twelve months spent living inside Thea’s safety net, Frannie and her boys had finally moved out of the shelter. They’d only been in their new place for two weeks and were still adjusting to the change. It was a good change, the adjustments a day-to-day challenge, but that was fine with Frannie. Because for the first time in her entire life, she felt as if she belonged.

Hope Springs had become home.

Here is what I have learned about writing with grief, knowing everyone’s healing process is different. 1) Walt hated it when I wasn’t writing. HATED it. He told me more than once that he fell in love with my words. We met online and I sent him a copy of Call Me. He read it and told me I could not put a treehouse in the type of tree I’d put it in; I changed that when I re-released the book, heh. He would be thrilled at the book’s second life, but not having that personal fire under my heels is a serious impediment to my forward motion. Serious.

The other is 2) Bird by Bird. Just do it. Five words at a time. Ten words. A whole paragraph. A whole page. This is how a book gets written, through grief or not. It doesn’t get written by arguing on Next Door or getting embroiled in nonsense on social media. Sure it’s fun to visit with friends but scrolling through a feed for an hour? That’s an hour of no words being written. Some authors easily make that time and balance and can split their focus. I have a really hard time doing so. Until I’ve got a better handle on writing in a new world where I don’t have my sounding board in the next room, I really have to limit distractions. I haven’t been very good at putting that into practice.

I’m going to do better because after Frannie’s story, I HAVE PLANS!!!

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. )