Contest Alert

I’ve teamed up with more than 45 fantastic women sleuth mystery authors to give away a huge collection of novels to 2 lucky winners, PLUS a Kindle Fire to the Grand Prize winner! You can win my novel A Gift for Murder, plus books from a variety of other authors. Enter the giveaway by clicking here or on the graphic below

Good luck, and enjoy!

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A Tuesday Treasure Post

erasersI did a guest blog post at Pam’s Wild Rose Blog for her #TuesdayTreasures feature. Check out my unusual souvenir collection.

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There’s Always Another Rung on the Ladder

When I first began writing seriously, many years ago, I dreamed of being published. That was the goal, the Grail, the thing all my effort was directed at. Then in 1988, I got “the call” from Avalon Books. The editor wanted to buy a novel I’d written. This wasn’t the first novel I wrote. It wan’t the second or third or fourth either. It was the sixth.  I made a few small changes the editor suggested, and I got a contract.

The book came out in 1990. By the time it was released, I’d sold a second book to them. I thought I had it made. I’d sell a few more books to Avalon and then I’d move on to a bigger publisher with bigger advances and wider distribution. I did in fact sell a couple more books to Avalon, but then the editor I was working with left and the new editor wasn’t as enamored of my writing.

But I planned to move on to bigger things anyway. At least that was the plan. The reality was that I had four teenagers living at home and a full-time job. There was no writing time. When I finally did have the time, the publishing industry had moved on without me and I was basically starting all over again.

It was hard. The track record I had was too old to impress agents and editors. I did eventually gain some traction just by my writing. Since then I’ve sold books to three New York publishers. One of them shut down the line before my book came out; one of them was bought out by another company that shut down the line; and finally I sold a mystery to Five Star, which brought out the first book in my Market Center Mysteries series, then shut down the mystery line while the second book was in the editorial process. It’s not an unusual story in this business.

By the standards of an unpublished author, just starting out, I’ve had considerable success in publishing, with something like a dozen or so novels and novellas published by companies large and small. I’ve had books released in hard cover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, and ebook. I’ve won a few awards and been a finalist in quite a few contests, including some fairly prestigious ones.

Do I feel like a success? Heck, no. I’ve never had a book go into widespread distribution. Meaning I’ve never seen my book in an airport bookstore or the grocery store book rack. I’ve never gotten a five-figure advance. I’ve never made a bestseller list.

And when I look at it objectively, it’s pretty ridiculous. I’ve had all those books published. I’ve won awards. I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews and positive feedback. I haven’t earned a fortune, but I’m made some money on my books.

But what I have come to realize after twenty-some years as a published author is that success is all in how you define it. The business is like a ladder more than it is like a platform. There are lots of rungs and lots of levels. There are always some below you and some above you. Even for the unpublished who are trying to sell their book, there are the many writers who’ve never finished one, who are below them on the ladder. Only you can decide which achievements spell “success” for you.

I’ve decided to try to remind myself of all that I have achieved and how successful that looks to many others. I’ve worked hard for that success. I’ve shed tears for it and spent countless hours at the keyboard banging out stories I was never sure anyone else would read. But others have read them. Many have paid to read them. And that’s good enough for me.

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New Cover for Wizard’s Bridge

As explained yesterday, Bell Bridge Books, which bought ImaJinn Books, publisher of my two romantic fantasy novels, Wizard’s Bridge and Witch’s Journey is republishing the books, with fantastic new covers! By the way, Wizard’s Bridge was originally published as an ebook by Dreams Unlimited,  with the title, The Rainbow Bridge. It won an Eppie Award in the Fantasy Category, and was a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, and Rising Star awards.

Here is the new cover for Wizard’s Bridge:


Click on the cover for a larger image – it’s worth it. Read more about Wizard’s Bridge here, and order it from Amazon here.

This book features a dragon as an important character in the story.

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New Book Covers

Bell Bridge Books, which bought ImaJinn Books, publisher of my two romantic fantasy novels, Wizard’s Bridge and Witch’s Journey. is reissueing the books with fantastic new covers!  Below is the new cover for Witch’s Journey.


Isn’t it beautiful?  Click for a larger version. Read more about the book here!

I’ve long planned a couple of sequels to Witch’s Journey. I even have outlines for two subsequent books, but those plans got derailed by the illness and passing of Linda Kichline, the owner of ImaJinn Books, who was enthusiastic about them. Inspired by the new cover, I got out those outlines and now I’m pretty sure I’m going to write those sequels.  But first, I need to finish the Market Center Mystery I currently have in progress.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the new cover for Wizard’s Bridge. It’s even more gorgeous.


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Lessons From the Olympics

Watching the Olympics a couple of weeks ago left me thinking about what we could learn from them. Here are a few quick thoughts I had about the games:

1.      Winning is relative. I know that sounds like a strange thing to say about games that reward a clear winner. But despite what the press often seems to be trying to sell us, winning means different things to different people. You had to look closely (and sometimes watch the live streams of various events) to catch some of those nuances. But I did see a swimmer who was absolutely thrilled just to make the finals of his events, swimming a personal best in a semifinal heat. He was dead last in his final, but he’d done better than he’d ever done before in his life, against the best in the business, and was totally thrilled about it, despite the lack of medals. A little-regarded runner in the track and field events won a bronze medal against all expectations. He was so excited you couldn’t tell he hadn’t won gold. My takeaway – compete with the best but celebrate all achievements, no matter how small, and keep striving to do better.

2.     These are the best in the world at what they do. They’ve gone through rounds and rounds of trials that eliminated a lot of other candidates before they even got to the Olympics, and then they go through several more rounds of heats in many sports before ever getting to the final rounds we see on television.

3.     The performance in the spotlight is the tip of an iceberg that includes years of practice and work to get to that position. Not to mention an almost absurd level of talent. But raw talent will only take you so far. It has to be trained and refined through practice, practice, and more practice. More practice than most of us could handle. It takes a single-minded self-discipline most of us can’t even imagine.

4.     And even after all that, nothing is guaranteed. A badly timed injury or even a slight mis-step, a small wobble, a twitch, or a sniffle at an inopportune moment can make all the preparation for nothing. And if you happened to be born at a time when several other even better contestants come along, you can be out of luck, too.

5.     The best make it look easy. It’s not. I did some casual gymnastics in high school and college, so I know that what all the gymnasts at this level are doing is ridiculous. Ridiculously hard. Ridiculously risky. Damn near impossible to learn and harder to perfect. And yet they make it look like it’s no real effort at all.

Lots of life lessons here. I’m still working out what they are and how to apply them.

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An Amazing Christmas Present

quilt2In late April, I got a late Christmas present from my sister-in-law that was so incredibly awesome, it would’ve been worth a much longer wait.  I have to share it here.

I was just flabbergasted when I unwrapped the package and unfolded this.

Yes, it’s a quilt, with bookshelves and embroidered on some of the covers are the titles of my books, sometimes in the same font the publisher used for the title itself! How amazing is that?

The amount of work, time, love and attention that went into creating this still leaves almost speechless.  Lauren McCullough, you are awesome!

This actually has the titles of each of my published novels,  embroidered on some of the book covers.

I’ve included closer-up views of some of the books below.





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The Family Visit in May

Following our beach trip in May, my youngest daughter and her three small boys stayed with us for a couple of weeks while her husband went home to participate in a professional and work on his Ph.D. dissertation.

I love having them visit. It’s exhausting, exciting, and a reminder of what’s important to me in life.

These three little guys are little firecrackers, full of energy, high spirits, and a need to run, play, and learn. They can spend hours on the playground or in the backyard, running, jumping, drawing with sidewalk chalk on the patio, and digging in the dirt, but they also adore having someone read stories to them. Even the oldest, who at (almost) five is already adept at reading himself, still enjoys letting someone else read to him.


Family dinner with some of the crew. Several more were off screen right then.


A visit to the zoo!


Time out for an ice cream treat during the visit to the zoo.


The younger two boys playing in the pool.


All three had a blast playing with an upside-down garden cart.


The sandbox at the park down the street got much use.


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What You See in This Shell

This gallery contains 1 photos.

I found this odd bit of shell on Edisto Island beach. It grabbed my attention by its odd shape and the placement of the three holes worn through the surface of what had likely once been an oyster shell. I … Continue reading

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Two Types of Beach Trips

It’s almost old news now but back in May I spent a week at the beach with a large group of family members, including my husband, sister-in-law, oldest daughter, her two kids and her daughter’s current boyfriend, and my youngest daughter, along with her husband and three small sons.


Three small boys playing at the beach

Let’s count – a husband, a sister-in-law, two daughters, a son-in-law, five grandchildren (two grown and three under the age of five) and one boyfriend. Yup, including me that’s twelve people.  Fortunately it was a big beach house with more than enough room for everyone to sleep comfortably, but that’s still a lot of people.

Most years my husband and I do two kinds of beach trips. The late spring version with all of the family who can come, which is what this one was. In the fall, though, we do a quieter, just-us version, usually with just the two of us and my sister-in-law.

Need I say that they’re two completely different experiences even if the location remains the same?

A beach trip with the whole family is a riotous and noisy affair, filled with non-stop action, including a lot of time spent chasing after toddlers and playing with them in the sand.  (None of the three small boys would go near the ocean.  We had to get a small wading pool and fill it up in the yard of the house or on the beach but just below the dune to get them into water.)

Beach_2Meals are huge and complicated as we juggle feeding small children and a horde of adults with different tastes and food preferences. Everyone pitches in to help, but the kitchen, while large, will only accommodate so many people at a time. But we’re fortunate to be a family that has good humor as the default setting and tends to take everything in stride.

On the other hand, our adults-only version is much of a restful and restorative experience. With just the three of us, there’s time for long walks on the beach, reading, sitting around staring at the ocean with a glass of wine in hand, more reading, some writing (for me), lingering over good food, and just unwinding. I come away from it refreshed and recharged.

Both are good times. Both include plenty of sand, surf, and good food. I’m grateful to have the opportunity for each.

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