You can check out my books on, and at Barnes & Noble too.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Whenever North Georgia makes the national news, it's usually for a bad reason. This time, it's because the whole metro Atlanta area is shut down with the weather. It's insane. The snow turned, like it always does, to black ice on the roads, and no one was prepared for it. Thousands of kids spent the night at their schools. School buses with students on them got stuck on the side of the road. So, so many stranded drivers spent the night along the shoulders of the interstate; tractor-trailer rigs sliding sideways on the ice blocked whole chunks of roadway. There's even a story of a baby being born on the side of the road because her parents couldn't get to the hospital.


I'm feeling so thankful that I got snowed into the house, rather than out of it, and that I'm home with the horses and the family is safe. My dad spent the night downtown in his office - yuck - but at least wasn't on the side of the road! I won't complain a bit about tracking snow into the house! I've got a fresh load of hay, and lots of hats and gloves, and have been watching the news with absolute amazement to see how ridiculous the situation is. Sending thoughts and prayers out to everyone who is stranded.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snow Day Pic Spam

It's snowing! And sticking and swirling and cars are off in ditches and no one in Georgia has any salt/gravel trucks ready to go. Ha. It makes for a pretty day on the farm, though.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Insert Catchphrase Here

Sometimes, it feels like we live in a world of catchphrases, and everyone's just throwing them at each other like rotten Easter eggs and no one really means anything anymore. It's like there are magic words that open doors for those in the know. "Edgy" is the new "open sesame."

If you're hunting for a job, it's all about "dynamic work environments," and "excellent communication skills," and so forth.

If you're dating, it's all about being "up for anything," and "unique," and "adventurous," and, "stylish," and, my personal favorite, it's about "not wasting time."

And chances are, if you've read a romance or romantic thriller in the past few years, you've encountered the following phrases:

- Undeniably male (also: unquestionably male, irrefutably male, or completely male)

- So on board with that.

- (Some part of the brain/body) got with the program.

- And how sexy/hot/erotic was that?

- An overuse of "that/those". Those lips, those hands, that...etc.

I really can't stand catchphrases. It saddens me that acceptance into all the many cliques in grown-up life depend on one's ability to catchphrase all over the place. Mainly because I've never been any good with repeating overused lines that feel dishonest and out of place in my mouth.

Me on a date: "Yeah, I'm totally up for any...wait, sorry, that's a lie. I just want to snuggle up and watch Sherlock and have a nice talk about non-trendy things."

Me pitching a new book: "Yeah, this is totally hot and sexy and thrilling and my hero is so undeniably male...wait, actually, that's a lie. This has got action and ambiance and sassy Southern girls who take no crap and my hero is cool and masculine enough that I don't have to tell my readers that he's 'undeniably male.'"

See? I can't hang with the trendy crowd. So logic would dictate that I stop trying. Logic would dictate that I venture back to my roots. I don't want to pretend to be a stylish, girly girl in real life, and I don't want to try and pitch my work as on-trend in the writing world. I mentioned a week or so ago that I wanted to work on some fantasy stuff, and I really do. I love my Walkers - they are my babies, the ones who pulled me out of a three year funk, the ones who made me want to write love stories - and I love my Russells - they are so Southern and slick and Steve McQueen-inspired - so I don't look at it as leaving them behind, but trying something new. Seeing if the paths are easier to tread over different terrain.

So here's the thing: God Love Her is the second book in a set. And it could for sure turn into a series. There's a nebulous third installment kicking around in the back of my head called Keeping Bad Company. I want to write it - and I may - but I need to see how God Love Her performs, first. Made for Breaking has been my best seller, and I'm really proud and excited about that. But I only want to keep writing these characters if people want to keep reading about them. So I'll let readers tell me. The third installment is in your hands. If you want to see more Russells, tell your friends, get them hooked, spread the word. Because once people get past the lack of catch phrases, they really, really enjoy the books. :) So I'd love to keep writing them for readers...but otherwise...magic is calling...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gearing Up for the Debut - Sneak Peek

There's just a couple more weeks until release day! God Love Her comes out 2/14 and I'm excited to get it out there and in readers' hands. If you're like me, and you like to read new material before a book is available, then tonight's post is for your. Enjoy the first three chapters! And if you haven't read Made for Breaking yet, it's still just 99cents for Kindle.


            “Do you have money for popcorn?”

            Charlotte tapped her purse where it hung from her shoulder. “Yes.” She rolled her eyes; he’d asked at least two dozen times. “For popcorn, Twizzlers, Cokes, and Sour Patch Kids. She’ll have ten cavities by the time we leave.”

            Aaron smiled. “Just making sure.”

            “Uh-huh.” His wife stretched up on her toes and pressed a fast kiss to his lips. “You ready, princess?” she called as she pulled back.

            Melissa, eight, blonde like her mother, came skipping into the foyer in her favorite pink ballet flats. It was a warm night, balmy at the end of summer, and Melissa was in white denim shorts with applique flowers and a pink t-shirt. Charlotte had pulled her blonde ringlets up in pink barrettes. “Ready, Mommy!” she said.

            “Okay, well say goodbye to Daddy.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WW - Planning a Paper

Last week I said I wanted to talk about paper-writing, so let's dive right in. I'll put the rest of the post under the cut so I don't clutter up the main page with teacher-y stuff.

Monday, January 20, 2014

On the Other Side of the Camera

Writing is a silent performing art. Watching someone write is like watching paint dry; all the drama unfolds on the page. That's perfect for me: I can't sing or dance; I'm not fond of public speaking; and most of the time I'd just as soon melt into the upholstery as be noticed by anyone. But, unfortunately, books don't sell themselves, and I have to have photos to use on all the various social media sites. Saying I'm uncomfortable on the other side of the camera would be a massive understatement. Yesterday, I had to grin and bear it, because I'm in need of some new headshots. I want to take a moment to acknowledge my mom's mad picture-snapping skills, the natural farm light, and my animals, for trying their best to distract me from what is always a painful process.


I love my camera. It's a Sony Cyber-Shot digital and was a college graduation present from my aunt, uncle, and cousin. The image quality, when I take garden pictures, is so clean and the colors come through so bright. If you're  looking for a slim, pocket-sized camera that takes pics as well as the hulking neck-strap kind, this is a fantastic one.

I'm glad that's over! Now I can focus on getting the book ready to roll out.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Worshop Wednesday - Thinking About Essays

It's Wednesday again, isn't it? It's hard to tell - I've got a bad case of applesauce-for-brains. Finishing up God Love Her, sending off my latest submission piece, helping my brother with a paper for college...and all the holiday crazy: I'm mentally wiped out. I need some serious R&R for my head. I had this neat idea for today...but it has to be pushed back, until I'm firing on all my mental cylinders again.

In my current vegetative state, I decided that the thing to do was not solider on and force any writing. I know what my next project is going to be, and I know that I'm in no frame of mind to go diving into it. So what's a gal to do? I think I'm going to do some journaling - and by "journaling," I mean write some essays and dive into all the geeky things I love and get super-into character study so that I'm fresh and sharp when I start writing my fantasy series.

Yep, fantasy series.

And also, yep, I love to write essays.

So, if anyone out there is in school, or has kids, nieces, nephews, friends, etc, in school, my Workshop Wednesdays are going to be my place for sharing essay-writing suggestions and strategies. The trick to an essay is making the material fun - and sometimes that's trickier than you want it to be, but it's possible. Next week, when I'm fresher, I want to dive into the paper I just helped my brother with, but for now, my brain dead advice is this: If there's a movie of the book, story, it. Always, always watch the movie; compare/contrasting it to the text is probably the most beneficial thing you can do. I had so many profs who would assign a novel, have us write a paper, and then show the movie after we were done. I think this is a mistake: visual learners will triple their understanding of the text if they see the plot unfold in vivid reality. And it cements, in my mind, the affection you have for characters - or the dislike - and you can't write a great paper without some sort of emotional investment.

I'll leave you guys with that, and hope to be feeling less zombie-like tomorrow.  I plan to use a sequence of characters and stories/plays to demonstrate my favorite essay strategies.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nerd Things - 1/13

Love this: Found it on Pinterest. I dig her books, and, obviously, books in general. Nerd-girl power.
source: pinterest

Indulging in: Five discs. Extended edition. I think people sometimes make the mistake of underestimating how much I love these movies.

Antique find: These gorgeous hand-painted tiles that came from - according to the seller - an English estate. I love the colors and the details; I think they might have been part of a larger set at some point. The two here are Hotspur and The Black Prince; so cool that they aren't random knights! I wish they were contemporaries of one another, though. Hotspur and Hal, duking it out in tourney colors.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Some Russell Things

Lisa's old iron bedframe
Built-in black shelves for the living room.
Atlanta in all its grimy glory.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sick Day

Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Dove. You're giving me a pep talk, one line at a time, one bite of chocolate at a time. And I appreciate it, I really do.

The weather and the stress have finally caught up with me, and I'm stuck with a cold. I think it's my body's way of forcing me to take a little break and stop being so anxious.

You know what helps? Thinking about spring.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Favorite Prompts

Wednesday again, already? That was fast. Since I'm still knee-deep in editing, I wanted to share some of my favorite writing prompts today. These never fail to get the brain working, and sometimes these exercises lead to plot points I want to include in my novels. I think the most helpful prompts are those that aren't super specific. They set the stage, and let you provide the performance.

From my teachers/professors:

- What does your character have in his/her closet?

- How does your character want to celebrate his/her birthday?

- Write about a tree.

- Pick a color.

- Yesterday was_______________.

From my brother:

- This is my personal favorite, and it came from my brother. At the time, I hadn't completed a single novel and I was struggling with a character. He suggested the following, and I call it "The Diner."

- Sit your character down in a booth at a diner. Across from him/her, seat an existing character you know well from a book, TV show, film, etc. Write their interactions from the perspective of the established character. (This prompt would lead me to fan fiction, and the realization that, make fun of it all you want, fanfic is an amazing writing tool for those of us looking to get our feet wet in the world of fiction-writing.)

I fall back on these prompts time and again. You never know where they'll lead you. "Pick a color" took me to Tam...and you see how far that went.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


When I discover a passage that has some real-life truth and I didn't mean for it to come out that way...

Layla was, by nature, quiet. She didn’t like to run her mouth unless she was confident she knew what she was talking about. The problem with this? She was constantly underestimated. People thought she was stupid, spineless, humorless. A fellow student in one of her college Spanish classes had gone so far as to suggest she was mute. She’d spun around in her desk and dressed the other girl down in Spanish. Being quiet was viewed as a handicap; she attracted men who didn’t care if she spoke at all. Her close friends, her mother and half-sisters knew otherwise, but to strangers, she was just a blank, brittle girl that didn’t leave much of an impression.
**The rest of the book is, appropriately, fictitious.**

I've Got My Book to Keep Me Warm

I've figured out my VS Pink leggings make for good long underwear.

I've figured out that wearing a scarf around my face creates so much breath condensation that my eye makeup liquefies and pours down my face Alice Cooper style...But...who doesn't wear mascara to the barn? You've got to be ready for Prince Charming to show up any second, right? Haha...oh, it's funny 'cause it's sad.

I've figured out I never want to live in Minnesota. Never ever.

I've figured out that I'd rather be outside in my double pant layers with raccoon eyes than proofread this book! And I'm almost not kidding about that.

How is everyone? Keeping warm, I hope. I'm editing today; almost time to get my proofs in the mail, and I can't wait to see it. That never gets old - seeing the book in actual book form. Absolute magic.

Sunday, January 5, 2014


In case you ever wondered what a geeky writer does when she's not geeking out or writing...well, you probably didn't, but I'll tell you anyway. This weekend, I've been winterizing the farm as the temperature prepares to drop down into the single digits over the next few days. What is this madness? I live in Georgia! So when do I get to have mint juleps on the porch and complain about the heat??

Listen to me, talking like an old lady about the weather. Thrilling stuff. Growing up on a farm sped up the aging process, I think. Summers were spent working. Holidays were tempered with responsibility. And snow days meant throwing the truck in four wheel drive and heading for the barn. At least now, with the horses at home, there's no driving involved. But there's still lots of work that comes rolling in with the cold.

For starters, all the water troughs and buckets freeze, and freeze thick. I pulled this off a trough yesterday morning.

It hasn't gotten down to 8 degrees in my memory, so for the first time, I'm trying electric stock tank de-icers. They're this heated metal coil with a cage around it, so curious horse noses can't touch the hot part. And they really add to the ambiance of the yard with all the orange extension cords running up the to the house from the pasture fence. Classy touch. Fingers crossed the horses don't get electrocuted. And that Markus doesn't pull the thing out of the water with his teeth.

Each stall has a heat lamp in it, and I figure they must help because the horses stand directly under them. And they make my barn look like a bordello. Red light district, baby.

I'm feeding warm soupy bran mash. Yummy.

And tripling their blanket layers.

Ah, winter. There's nothing like hammering through ice, little chips of it flying up and lodging in your eyes, your nose too numb for you to know its running like a faucet. Bundled up like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story. "I can't put my arms down!" I live a sexy life.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Film Review: The Hobbit

I said Thursday I wanted to write more reviews, so why not start with the movie I went to see Monday? I have what feels like an unpopular opinion about The Desolation of Smaug: I liked it. Thoughts below the cut.

Friday, January 3, 2014


“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
J.R.R. Tolkien born January 3, 1892. Thank you, sir, for your amazing contributions. For creativity the world won't see again.

Ice Sculptures


It's currently 26 degrees in the balmy deep South state of Georgia. January is here and she's not being shy about it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


I'm writing the epilogue. I am done. I am so done. Done, done, done. Well...almost.

Ooh, caramel popcorn.

Workshop Wednesday - Writing Reviews

Look at that - I'm late for my first day of the new series. Ugh. I'm so embarrassed! I've been working like crazy on God Love Her and time got away from me yesterday. And it wasn't like I was tired or anything. Nope. I can't see any reason why I would have had some champagne the night before. Can't think of any reason at all...

So anyway, welcome to the new year, and my new Workshop Wednesday series. I hope you'll enjoy - or at least find interesting - the writing tips, prompts, and candid discussions. Some writers blog writing advice under the caption that they have expertise. I'll be the first to admit that I have no such claim. Writing is such a subjective, creative endeavor, that to think any one person holds the "secrets," or "keys" is just...silly. My goal is to share some of what I've learned along the way, and talk about what works for me; and I want to talk about some more practical aspects of writing that can help in day-to-day situations.

Ready? Let's jump in.

Writing Reviews

How often do you leave a review for a book or movie online? I'll be the first to admit, I don't do it very often. But whether it's Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, iTunes...there's a chance on nearly every website to rate and write a review for the entertainment you buy. These are the opinions of real readers and viewers and listeners, not the jaded quips of professional critics. These are the opinions that help others decide if this book or movie is right for them. Rating a product and leaving a review are also two of the best ways to show love and support to the writers who've poured months' worth of blood, sweat, and tears into a product. It's always for the fans, and reviews are a way fans can give back and encourage.

Reviews come in varieties: gushing, glowing, positive, negative, and downright hateful. Some are full of spoilers. Some are paragraphs long, and others are a few concise lines. What to do? I say, above all, be honest, and be proud of what you love. This is in no way a tutorial, but here are my personal guidelines for review writing.

Number One: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." At twenty-six, I still lean on Thumper's mother's wisdom. If it ain't broke, right? I don't write hateful reviews. If I hate something, I just don't talk about it. I usually don't read it to begin with if I can tell from an excerpt I'm not going to like it. It's not my place to tell everyone how terrible I think something is. I keep my dislikes to myself.

Star Ratings: I use star ratings to gauge how much I enjoyed something. 5 if I loved it, regardless of genre or artistry. On the Goodreads scale, 5 stars is "It was amazing!"

If I couldn't put it down, couldn't look away, smiled and laughed and gasped throughout, it's getting 5 stars. Most books hit at a 3 or 4 for me. And if I would give it 1 or 2 stars, again, I don't rate it. I guess I'm pretty lenient. For instance, the new Hobbit is catching flak for deviating from the book, but I still enjoyed the heck out of it. 4 stars from me.

Composing the Review: I always start with an overall impression. I try not to summarize too heavily, but I like to mention the tense and POV. I then like to say something positive. I try to write negatives, or sticking points, in as polite a way as possible. And I try to give a few specifics that I really enjoyed about the way the author writes. Keep it clean, I say. Here's a review I wrote for Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos on Goodreads:

Touching and character-driven, “Love Walked In” is narrated by leading ladies Cornelia Brown (in first person) and Clare Hobbs (in third person). It explores both romantic, and parental love in a suitably dramatic narrative full of character.

Cornelia is likable from line one; she’s self-deprecating, sweet, and honest, and unlike most literary figures, has neither traumatic childhood nor closet full of skeletons. Her life – unremarkable on the surface as she serves coffee post-grad – is punctuated by her colorful, detailed view of everyone around her. Crossing paths with eleven-year-old Clare proves life-altering for both of them, especially once Cornelia realizes how badly Clare needs a real adult in her life.

While certain plot points were a bit “iffy” – Teo’s marriage, for instance, seems unlikely – the writing is rich and textured. Lyrical and witty in turns, the prose inspired me to pick the book back up for a second read. The story is, overall, touching and rewarding, if not a bit bittersweet. It was a very enjoyable read.

I’d recommend it for readers who enjoy women’s fiction, literary fiction, or a character-driven love story.

And for Faithful Place by Tana French:

I’m such a fan of Tana French and this is my favorite of hers yet.

I love Frank Mackey – for all the ways he insists that he’s escaped the black hole of crazy that is his family, his childhood street, it’s all the little things he won’t admit to himself that help the reader come to realize how deeply wounded he is by the family and street he refuses to claim. The inside of his head is an odd juxtaposition of nostalgia and contempt for the place that raised him, a reality that strikes a true chord.

French is a master of first person tense – a technique that can so easily make a story more superficial, but that only serves to make her novel more complex and suspenseful.

This book stayed with me for weeks. Faithful Place felt real – dirty and homey and alive in its imperfection – and Frank’s flashbacks about Rosie were touching and haunting. All the things Frank never says add up to an emotional sucker punch that’s better left subtle: “I held out my hands to her and she matched her warm palms against mine, and when our fingers folded together and I pulled her towards me I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe my luck.”

The ending killed me. This book is one of my all-time favorites, easily.

One of my goals this year is to write more reviews. I like supporting my favorites whenever I can. I don't ever want to be one of those writers who try to sound cultured by trashing books and movies. Those sorts of comments never help anyone. But thoughtful, heartfelt feedback is a great way to say "thank you," and I want to make a real effort to do so more often.