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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Good Day of Writing

I had such a good day of writing. You've got to celebrate the small things, you know? The Russell series is going to be such a departure from the Walkers...but just as fun to read, I hope.

Right now I'm working on the first draft of the Made for Breaking follow up, God Love Her. Book two definitely ups the drama.

          Her pulse gave a little leap and settled into a shallow rhythm in her ears. “Who…who would want to hurt him?” She took a breath. “Kill him. They were trying to kill him.”

            She risked a glance at Sly and saw that his hand had tightened on the wheel, forearm tensing, the thick cables of veins under his tan skin standing out in stark relief. An energy moved through him. He knows, Layla thought. He knows exactly who’d want to kill Dad. The realization slammed into her, frightening and shudder-inducing.

            But Sly shrugged and said, “No idea.”
~God Love Her


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rosewood Short - Part 1

*Spoilers for Fix You. Jess and Chris-centric short in several parts.*

Rosewood Short – Part 1


Rain murmured over the house, sighing in the eaves, whispering against the window panes, chuckling through the gutters and spilling over where autumn leaves had gathered. The roses – all her pretty, thorny roses – bowed low, rich blossoms heavy with crystal drops, thorns scratching at the side of the house. Over the top of Chris’s head, through the window, she watched Lake Allatoona, its surface slick as brown glass, its edges lapping high in the grass, overflowing its banks. It wouldn’t end, the rain. And no one wanted to do much of anything except drink, and talk, and play billiards. Her inn was full. She heard the muted clack of pool balls from far down the gallery. Caught a snatch of laughter from the sun room, the music of it heavy with wine. Old floorboards creaked overhead. Footsteps thumped on the grand stair. She imagined she heard the pages of books rustling, the shift of ice cubes melting in glasses, the crackle of fire logs, the contented sighs of guests warming their toes in front of the hearth. Her inn, her beautiful Rosewood Inn was at full capacity. The place Chris had resurrected for her was thriving. But he, her man, looked more broken than she could have thought possible.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Which Way do I Go

I'm not quite sure of the direction in which to take this blog. Blogging doesn't come naturally to me. I don't like to talk about myself. I don't have anything - on a personal level - to offer anyone. I refuse to talk politics and religion. My humor is usually taken the wrong way. What I like most is to tell stories. Fictional ones. And to go on for unnecessary paragraphs of narrative description. There are afternoons I could talk about the clouds for pages and pages. Just because the words that form in my head are pleasing to me, and I want to write them down. I could write short stories that collaborate with my novels, even if no one wants to read them, just because it feels like visiting with old friends.

I like to write unfinished lines of poetry, knowing there's no ending to be had. I like to choreograph scenes around songs. I like to listen to music that isn't considered "inspirational" to the writing world at large. I like to sit, for long silent stretches, thinking. This past week, I took a break from blogging and book-writing to put some effort into literary mag submissions, and that's been the devil. When I write a book, I'm totally relaxed. Writing a short story for an intended audience - a high brow audience, no less - makes my palms sweat. I doubt and doubt myself until the story ends up being something clunky and slow, because I was too nervous to write like I always do.

I would love to find a wider slice of my audience. I want to find the people who want to read my books - find more of them. All my blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting...that feels like standing in the center of an empty auditorium and shouting at no one through a bullhorn. Distinguish yourself, the pros say. Distinguish myself among thousands of others distinguishing themselves? The trick is to find the people who want to find my books. People like me. When I discover an author I like, I read all of her books. I don't ever want anyone to feel obligated to read my books - I want people to be curious, and to be touched, and to want to read the rest. There's no joy in coercion, only in the true smiles of readers who found a moment of enjoyment in something I've written.

So I guess what I'm saying is bear with me. I would love to post more fiction pieces on here and I'll probably be brainstorming out loud. I should be editing Made for Breaking right now, but it's the loveliest morning - not at all like July. And I have this little scene in my head I want to put on paper...

Monday, July 22, 2013


He felt her heartbeat against his shoulder, through his jacket,
 light as raindrops.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Instagram Fish

For the record, fish are really hard to photograph. The water distorts things, which can result in smudged shots. But I get some cool ones too.

These little orange and white guys (below) are too small to go into the pond with the rest of the fish. They have their own little rubber tub under one of the pear tress. I love the reflections in the water - looks like they're swimming in the branches.

Friday, July 19, 2013


A horse's height is measured in "hands." It refers to the width of an actual hand when held this way. (Note: my hand looks really weird in this picture. It doesn't look that weird in real life, but on film...weird). But, since not all hands are uniform in size, a horse-measuring "hand" is four inches.

You measure from the ground, to the highest point of their shoulders, or, withers. Their heads are higher, but not included in the measurement.

The withers are at the base of the mane, where they are grooming one another. Markus (left) is 17.2hh and Skip (right) is 15.2hh
Notation is the number, followed by two lower case Hs. 15.2hh, for example. This stands for "hands high."

Average horses are between 15 and 16 hands, or a little above. Ponies are under 14.2hh. My Cosmo was 18 hh. So, let me test my terrible math skills...

18 hands x 4 inches = 72 inches
72 inches / 12 inches (in a foot) = 6

Cosmo, 18hh at shoulder

So he was six feet at the shoulder. He was a big dude. Markus wears the same size blanket and saddle - which is great because I didn't have to buy new stuff for him - but he's only 17.2 hh. Only. Ha! He's still giant compared to me.

Markus, 17.2hh

It's Here!!

It's here! Available on all the Amazons: UK, Japan, India, Canada, France, Italy, Spain...all of them.


Whatever Remains digital download just $3.99 is HERE.

Whatever Remains in paperback, $10.95,  is HERE.

Happy reading, everyone. I hope it's as fun to read as it was to write. I'm so glad I had a chance to tell Ben's story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Whatever Remains - First 2 Chapters



            A night. It felt like the first cool fingers of October; tasted like the last strawberry bite of July; fell somewhere in the middle with a smell of burning leaves.

            Death walked into that night, dragging through the wood, rending the quiet with its inhuman hot breath: panting, poised and terrible.

            Deer crashed through the underbrush; round yellow eyes watched. And Death left its offering on a bed of soft white sand, scalloped and pocked as beach dunes. Under the great black bowl of the sky, a face tipped to the stars, sightless and waiting, washed in light flickering with moth-dance, almost alive if you squinted, just sleeping.



Deep down, Ben had never expected to end up with a sister-in-law. His brother had been a non-restless, wholly satisfied bachelor for so long…right up until it hadn’t been enough. It had been sudden. Chris had gone from indifferent to invested in just a few short months, acquiring a stepkid and impregnating his honey before the rest of the family had even been introduced to her.

            “Cheesecake, Ben?” Jess asked him from her kitchen counter. Her tone was a coolly polite, detached reminder that the two of them would never be friends; he couldn’t blame her, he guessed, after their first meeting. She turned to regard him over her shoulder, expression removed; she was in little white slip-on sneakers and a pretty blue cotton dress. It hugged her hips in just the right way; provided a backdrop for the thick spill of honey blonde hair down her back. The line of tension down her bicep made him think she could have used the knife in her hand for something more sinister than slicing cake if he gave her a reason.

Oh look. Advertising.

Good morning!

That was too perky, wasn't it? I don't feel that perky, trust me. Anyway, it's morning, and it's blazing hot, and I'm really excited about tomorrow because it's the release day for Whatever Remains!!

Releasing a book is both terrifying, and gratifying. There's an immense relief about sending a story out into the world...but there's that underlying fear of critique. This novel has become a personal favorite for me, and, like Fix You, it wasn't anything I ever planned on writing. After I finished with the Walkers, I was supposed to launch full-tilt back into the Russells. But I got stuck on Ben, and his girls, and I've learned that it's always best to listen to those nagging curiosities. I almost didn't write Fix You and it's been my best seller. So, here we are.

The official book summary will be up on Amazon and is under the "Whatever Remains" tab along the top of the blog. So I thought I'd welcome release day with the unofficial lowdown.

Title: Whatever Remains
Genre: Mystery
Page count: 343
Words: 109,000
Adult language: Yes
Sexual content: Yes
Violence: Yes - as pertains to the murder

I like to say that this is a character-driven mystery. It is a murder mystery, but the focus is on the characters, and all their various relationships - romantic, parental, familial, etc. I wanted to be literary and emotional with this one, and take a step back from the rote police procedural formula.

While there is sexual content, this book is not, repeat, NOT, erotica. When I say that Ben and Jade have a "grown-up" romance, that does NOT equal bondage. They're adults dealing with a real-life situation and things are always complicated. These days, "grown-up" means something very different in the book market, but I don't mean it the new way. Sorry - just had to stress that.

In short, I'm excited - I've said that a hundred times, I know - and I hope my readers are excited. It goes on sale first thing tomorrow!! I'll post links - it'll probably be up late tonight or in the wee hours, actually.
He held the door for them. Jade folded up her umbrella and left it in the airlock. “Wait here,” he told her, and went in search of Trey. He cast one glance over his shoulder as he left, just to torture himself. They looked brave, his girls, one a miniature of the other. Under their white faces and trembling, linked fingers, they were very brave. They had to be, to live with what he’d done to them.
~Whatever Remains

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dressage - Jade and Jeremy's sport of choice

The most frequent critique I hear of dressage from non-dressage riders (both from non-horse people and horse people who ride in another discipline) is that it's "fancy." It is fancy. It's ballroom dancing on horseback. It's also very complex and nuanced, and the slightest mistake on the part of the rider is reflected in the horse's movement. It's no more expensive than any other equine sport, though. And the riders are no more snobby - you should see some of those western pleasure princesses with their silver trimmed saddles. With horses, talent is talent and snobbery is snobbery. Different horses are suited for different sports, and as riders, we tend to gravitate toward one in particular. Dressage is detail-oriented and can seem tedious to riders who prefer the thrill of jumping. But dressage riders love the tedium. The sport is all about the level of communication between horse and rider, and maximizing the horse's natural athletic ability.

In Remains, Jade and her BFF Jeremy are both riding instructors, both dressage riders. I know I mention these three movements in the novel and wanted to provide visuals.

Extended Trot

Anky van Grunsven riding Salinero at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Canter Pirouette
Silver medalist Adelinde Cornelissen on Parzival (© 2012 by Nancy Jaffer)


Needless to say, I don't have a horse of this caliber, nor do Jade and Jeremy. But that's the thing about dressage - anyone can participate, at any level. It's all about fitness and knowledge and it's no less fun just because you know you'll never compete at the international level. In my case, not even the national level. I hate showing, actually. I'll compete vicariously through my characters instead.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Garden Doors

A cool find at the Scott Antique Market: old garden doors. Going to use them to frame the back door of the house like shutters.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Release Date

It's set!

Barring any setbacks, Whatever Remains will be available in paperback and ebook Friday, July 19th. More info to come.

Gluten-Free Pasta with Homegrown Tomatoes

I love pasta - it's the ultimate comfort food - and I love this recipe because you can put anything you want in it. And it's easy - no exact measuring of anything. It's essentially season to taste and cook as much as you need.

Start with chicken:

Drizzle olive oil in your pan, season chicken tenders with salt and pepper, cook till done.

Next, slice your veggies:

These are my homegrown yellow cherry tomatoes. They're orange when ripe and the centers around the seeds are neon green. They're so pretty.

These and steamed broccoli florets went into the pasta.

Next, you can use regular pasta, or, if you're like me, rice or corn gluten-free penne. The corn tastes worlds better than the rice and has a better texture, but whatever floats your boat.

Slice chicken and add to al dente pasta along with tomatoes and broccoli.

Add sauce:
Butter (1/2 to whole stick depending on amount of pasta)
pinch garlic salt
pinch red pepper flake
lots of black pepper
juice of half a lemon
basil (fresh if you have it. Dry works well if you don't. Add to taste)

Microwave or heat on stove to melt the butter and stir in dry ingredients. Then, pour over pasta, toss, add lots of parmesan cheese, and garnish with more parsley. It's a great alternative to red sauce and it tastes great leftover. And best of all, it's gluten-free friendly if you have an allergy like I do.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Look What Came in the Mail...

It's always a good day for a proof to arrive in the mail!! It would be an even better day if my hand didn't shake every time I tried to take an Instagram pic.

It's so different editing from a proof copy as compared to the document on the computer. I do two rounds of computer editing, and then read the whole thing through as a proof  - twice myself and then with beta readers having their own copies - before I make the final edits. The story feels different in book form. Flipping pages is magic. For me, anyway. But then again, I like the smell of book ink. I'm weird.
I'm so excited about this cover because I used Photoshop and made it myself! The forest shot is a photo I took of a path through our little patch of woods on the farm. I was taking pictures of something else, and happened to snap one spur-of-the-moment shot of this tunnel of leaves. It ended up being my favorite pic of the day. And it coincidentally fits a particular scene in the book to a T, so that was a happy accident!


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Monday Rundown

Happy Monday, all. Oxymoron, though it is. I hope everyone had a fun Fourth and enjoyed lots of fireworks for me. It's been raining here for five days straight and it was soggy holiday. There's peeks of the sun through the cloud haze today, and it's a welcome sight. The one upside to all the rain, though, was that I had plenty of writing time.
I finished the rough draft of Made for Breaking this morning. Yay! Let the trumpets sound. It only took me a year, but hey, it's done, and I couldn't be happier about it. The editing process seems like a cakewalk considering the teeth pulling it took to get the thing on paper. But it's done. One more "yay." It's such a departure from the Walker Series, and I really hope readers dig it. I'm hoping for a late July release date, so be on the lookout, because hopefully I'll make the announcement soon. After, I'll start working on its sequel, God Love Her.
On the Whatever Remains front...I don't have anything definite yet. I should have news about it soon, hopefully, because I'm really excited to share it.
I think that covers everything for the moment. Fair warning, there might be an inundation of photo posts while I'm editing. My head's already in snarls just thinking about it.
Here's to brighter weather.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rosewood Roses

And everywhere, shifting shadows in the fading light, were flowers.

How Not to Put in a Fish Pond

Remember the water trough pond that I posted about? With the old fashioned pump? We put it in my mom's garden for Mother's Day. it turns out, a brand new, galvanized steel water trough emits zinc into the water. And zinc no es bueno for fish. We saw that our fish weren't doing well, realized the problem, and yanked them out of there. You try to do something cute...

I'm pretty sure this only applies to new tanks, because fish farms raise their fish in water troughs. I've watched many a brood of tadpoles hatch and grow in water troughs. And we found other decorative ponds that were similar. So it must be a case of needing an old trough. Or lining it with something. We talked about lining ours, but didn't. So the fish lived in big plastic tubs for a little while and it was decided to dig in a goldfish pond.

I feel sure we did it the least efficient, most troublesome way possible. But it's in!

We started with a 135 gallon plastic pond liner.

We traced the shape into the grass, and then started digging.

And digging. Eventually, we had a pond-shaped hole. It took several hours to get it level on the bottom and ensure that the pond form fit down into it the right away. It would have been much faster to dig a large, shapeless hole and then backfill. We don't do things the fast, easy way around here. That would be and easy.

Then we dug up the grass around it so it wouldn't grow up through the landscaping.

The grass went to the compost heap to feed new plants.

The bottom of the hole was lined with sand.

We put pennies in the bottom, sort of a spur of the moment time capsule. One for our birth years, and for the year we bought the farm, and one 1976 penny to mark the bicentennial.

Landscape fabric was folded over the edges of the hole to cover the ring of grass we left - the grass roots will keep the wall of the hole secure and keep it from crumbling. After, sand was used to fill in the gaps between the sides of the hole and the form. This was tedious and messy, but the sand will mold to the form and not leave any air pockets. Those forms are really flimsy, and would buckle under the weight of the water if not supported.

Then the edge of the new bed was lined with landscaping bricks and bordered with sod.

Mulch was spread and the pond was lined with rocks.

Fill, plant, and add fish.

It's not the world's most professional pond. You can see the edges of the liner and we're still adding plants. There is a little fountain piece coming, and until then, there's just an ugly section of hose keeping the water circulated through a pond pump. But the fish seem to like it.

So in case you ever wondered how to put in a goldfish pond the hard way, now you know.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Snake

Sunday morning, I stepped out the back door on the way to the barn and saw something black and shiny in the grass. We have a few black garden hoses, so at first I thought it must be one of those. But then I got closer, and I realized this definitely wasn't a hose.


It was a snake.

About a five foot snake. He was creeping up the driveway, hiding behind the tomato pots and the crepe myrtles waiting to be planted. Sunning himself. He was super shiny and super lumpy. Maybe he just ate. Or maybe he was about to shed his skin - the layers of new and old start to look funny when that happens. I walked up slowly, because around here, shiny black snakes are either harmless rat snakes...or water moccasins.
See how lumpy he is? Ick. 
Thankfully, he was only a black rat snake. This knowledge was comforting...but I still wasn't ready to be excited that he was there. Go back out in the pasture and eat mice there, thank you very much.
Close up of the lumpiness.
He eventually moved along and I didn't see him for the rest of the day. But Monday morning, when I got back from the barn, I was leaning down to turn on the spigot and water the tomatoes, when Riddick went nuts. Growling and barking and jumping. The snake was back, and he'd wedged himself between the siding and the patio concrete. About six inches away from my face. Gah. Not a pleasant surprise.

It's funny: other animals hate snakes. Horses hate them. Dogs hate them. The barn cats hate them. None of them have ever been bitten, but it's instinctual on their part. The aggression is instant and automatic. Watch: if a horse can't run from a snake, it goes into stomping mode.
So, if it's instinctual for the mammals in my life, does that mean it's an instinctual aversion on my part too?
I always fall back on my gut feeling - on instinct. I was complaining to my mom the other day that I don't approach writing differently, and she reminded me that I do what feels natural - instinctual. And that I shouldn't fight it. I think she's right; she's right a lot of the time.
So, I'm writing and am still not a fan of snakes. Real dramatic, As the World Turns stuff around here, huh?