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Merry Christmas

There’s no place more beautiful at Christmastime than Amsterdam. None. Granted, this city is one of my favorite places on the planet so I might be biased, but take a look and decide for yourself.

Whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, I hope your days are filled with  love and laughter and joy.

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Do something that scares you

9780778317869_TS_prd_revI’ll admit, when I came up with the idea for The Ones We Trust—a story with a military bent—I was more than a little nervous about writing it. I didn’t grow up in a military family. I’ve never lived in a military town. The number of soldiers I have as friends can be counted on one hand. What did I know about war stories? And more importantly, could I do one any justice?

A military angle is one I knew would hit home with a lot of readers. Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends or neighbors… pretty much every American family has been touched in some way by war. What if I got it wrong, and offended people along the way?

Because war doesn’t just take place on a battlefield, and our soldiers aren’t the only heroes. What about the parents who send off their sons and daughters, the spouses and siblings and children left waiting at home? They are just as heroic and courageous, their sacrifices different, maybe, but just as great as the men and women fighting on the front lines. Above all, I wanted to be respectful to everyone, not just the soldiers but also the people who love them.

But I wrote the story anyway, and it was scary as hell, but The Ones We Trust is about more than just war. Yes, the story hinges around what, exactly, happened to the soldier on the battlefield, but the real story is about the people left behind. About how they cope and carry on. About how they find hope for the future. That’s what I hope sticks with readers the most–that even after great tragedy, there can be a better tomorrow.

A lesson in perseverance

My second novel, The Ones We Trust, comes out in less than three weeks. Three weeks! I have a million things to do before the launch, and less than three weeks to do them in. You’d think I’d be better prepared, seeing as I wrote the first draft of this book all the way back in 2009.9780778317869_TS_prd_rev

Yes, you read that right. This little baby hasn’t officially been born yet, and already she’s six years old. If she were human, she’d be walking, going to school, and reading at a third-grade level already. She’d have adult teeth! She was also the first novel I ever actually completed.

Here’s a harsh truth about getting published: hardly any writer ever sells their first book. The first one is generally considered a practice novel, the one where you learn as you go and make lots of mistakes along the way, the biggest thinking anyone would ever want to read it besides your mother. You’re supposed to write it, shove it in a box under your bed, and move on to the next one, one where you actually (kinda sorta) know what you’re doing. I was fully prepared to do that, too, except this story wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept whispering to me from under the bed. Fix me, it said. I have a story to tell.

So I rewrote it, and then I rewrote it again and again (and again). I fixed the tone and the voice, matured my main character, Abigail, deepened her backstory to intensify the conflict. I added a subplot and a whole slew of new characters. I killed my darlings and switched genres, multiple times. I lost a lot of sleep and I shed a lot of tears.

In the end, one plotline never changed—the slain soldier’s story. Though we never actually meet him on the page, The Ones We Trust is built around what, exactly, happened to him on the battlefield. His family needs to know in order to move on, and Abigail is determined to help them by uncovering the truth. This plotline was the crux of every single rewrite, a red thread leading the way.

We writers talk a lot about how some stories need to be told. This was one of them. The little story that could. It took me six years and a million wasted words, but when it hits the shelves in three short weeks, all the work will be worth it.

Lessons learned from a book launch

My debut, The Last Breath, has been out in the world for almost two weeks now. Anyone who has ever written a book will tell you, it’s a long, hard road with lots of bumps and twists. (Did I mention long? Did I mention the bumps and twists?)

But then after forever and all of a sudden, that day is here, your baby has finally made it onto bookstore shelves, that moment you’ve been dreaming about and working for and planning is really happening, and it’s everything you thought it would be and at the same time, completely not.

Here’s a few lessons I learned…

1. The world doesn’t stop. The dogs still need to be walked, the kids still complain there’s nothing to eat in the house, the laundry doesn’t get up and do itself. It’s your special day, but unless you put on a princess dress and tiara, nobody’s really going to notice or care.

2. Except on social media. Your twitter feed will blow up. Your Facebook notifications will ding at you all day. Here’s where you get to pull on that princess dress and tiara, only it’s virtual.

3. Amazon rankings are updated every hour, and they exist to make you crazy. Do not obsess about them. Do not compare yourself to other authors in your genre and wonder why theirs are higher, when your book is so clearly better. Whatever you do, do not refresh that page!

4. Nine out of ten readers are awesome. They are kind and thoughtful and careful with their words. They will gush and say all the right things about the baby you spent so many months crafting. But there will also be trolls. Do not engage with them! In fact, scroll right past their mean ol’ review, because just like the Amazon rankings, they exist to make you crazy.

5. Throw a party. Invite all those friends who’ve let you rant in their ears and cry on their shoulders, and feed them snacks and wine. They will come out for you in droves, and they will buy five copies of your book and tell all their friends to do the same. The bookstore will sell out and have to order (gasp!) more. But on your special night, your friends will bring you flowers and champagne and shower you with compliments, and you will feel like a real, live princess. With a tiara!

Ladd Fortune

The second installment of my 2013 Ladd Springs series is out! Ladd Fortune takes readers from the adventures of Nick and Delaney to the escapades of Malcolm and Lacy, all centered around one gorgeous piece of property ~ Ladd Springs.

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The forsaken children of Ladd Springs return home to seek their fortune, but no one is happy to see them. One is home for love, one is home for money.

Lacy Owens has come back to Tennessee for a return to the fold, only she’s done so on the heels of Jeremiah Ladd. He’s the prodigal son of Ladd Springs—a mecca of streams, springs and trails in the eastern Tennessee mountains—and he’s determined to reclaim the land as his rightful inheritance.

Lacy cares little about Jeremiah’s plan. She simply yearns for the comfort of family, but sister Annie Owens wants nothing to do with Lacy, though sees opportunity in Jeremiah’s return. With him in town she can finally prove paternity for her daughter Casey, and ultimately stake her own claim in Ladd Springs.

Trouble is, Jeremiah’s father has already willed the property to his granddaughter, Felicity Wilkins. She’s away at college, but fighting for her rights back home is Malcolm Ward, partner in Harris Hotels, and a man with a financial stake in Ladd Springs. It’s his job to see the land remains in Felicity’s possession.

But when Malcolm falls for Lacy without realizing her hidden agenda, his plans are put into jeopardy. In these parts, blood runs thicker than legalities and feuds aside, it’s a hard lesson for a city boy from California to comprehend.

Love and money are powerful forces but only one can prevail in Ladd Springs. Which will it be? Find out in the second installment of Ladd Springs

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