PLAYING HURT – REVISED EDITION

I’m thrilled to announce the forthcoming release of a revised, updated edition of my sports romance Playing Hurt.

Yep, revised and updated. The book even has several brand-new scenes. It’s truly been a delight to work on. I’m in the proofreading stages now.

Subscribe to my Steamy Romance Newsletter to be notified to the official release date.

Of course, we also have a new cover:

Playing Hurt Cover Final

Reading Confession

I’ll admit it: I can be a slow reader.

I mean slooooow.

Especially when I’m enjoying a book.

So often, it seems, we prize fast. If something is fast, it must be good: it’s a page-turner. Finished it in an afternoon! We even say time flies when we’re having fun.

The faster the better, we all say.

But is it, really?

I so love this quote from Barrack Obama on the value of reading:

“At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted, the ability to slow down and get perspective, along with the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes — those two things have been invaluable to me.”

This is exactly how I often feel about reading. I’ve done plenty of gobbling-down-a-whole-book-in-a-day (especially during summers at the lake). But there’s also such pleasure to be had in really spending time with a book, rather than speeding through it, gobbling up an initial impression, then moving on to the next volume. There’s joy in savoring turns of phrases. Really thinking about the characters or the overall structure. Letting passages sink in. Going back and re-reading portions.

Often, when I find a book I want to spend that much time with, well, then, that’s when I know I’ve stumbled onto something really special…

 

Where Do You Find a Novel’s Theme, Anyway? (A How-To for Young Readers)

I’ve been asked lately by a few elementary teachers and librarians to offer some advice on how to guide students through finding the theme of a book. It’s not always easy—in fact, by the time you get to the end of a book, and have sifted through the conflicts and the sub-plots, the major and minor characters and all their desires and fears and…

Yeah. Where was that theme supposed to be, anyway?

It can be a head-scratcher at times. Even to adult readers. So theme can be especially frustrating for our younger readers.

Really, though, theme isn’t an answer floating out there, separate from the rest of the book. It’s woven into the very fabric of the book. Everything in the book (and I really do mean just about everything) points to theme.

Some of the best places to start thinking about theme are:

The characters. In my MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, the main character, Auggie, is a plucky girl who sees beauty in the strangest places. Rusted pipes and broken-down cars and used-up appliances. It’s why she’s able to take the items her grandfather picks up as a trash collector and turn them into sculptures, becoming a folk artist.

The conflict. In THE JUNCTION, Auggie comes face-to-face with the House Beautification Committee, which does not in any way enjoy her sculptures. In fact, they’re going to pile on the fines if she doesn’t remove them—then blight her house if she can’t pay those fines.

The resolution. Again, in THE JUNCTION, we see Auggie deciding to sell her sculptures, freeing herself from the draconian rules of the HBC. (And, as it turns out, saving her entire neighborhood to boot.)

Okay, so clearly, there’s a beauty is in the eye of the beholder theme happening—we’ve got a girl who sees trash as art supplies, a House Beautification Committee that does not, and a resolution that involves the very sculptures the two entities are fighting over. You could also say there’s a power of the individual theme here, as Auggie uses her artwork, in the end, to stand up to the committee.

These aren’t the only solutions, either. That’s a big part of what I’ve always loved about literature. It’s not a math problem with only one right solution. The kicker is, you’ve got to be able to point to specific passages in the text itself to support your own answer. And these are three broad but really solid areas of text to start digging out theme.

HAPPY, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Hey, guys! I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you the merriest of holidays–and an absolutely lovely new year!

It was recently brought to my attention that 2019 marks the end of a decade. And what a decade it’s been–my first book was published in 2010. Since then, I’ve published with the Big 5 and my own imprint; short stories and novellas and full-length books. By far the best part of all of it has been connecting with readers. I so enjoy hearing from you, finding out how my work has been a small part of your holidays or classrooms or vacations. I’ve loved sharing the page with all of you.

I’m certainly looking forward to 2020–I can’t wait to find out where the new decade will take us!

In the meantime, may your days taste like gingerbread, the nights sparkle like twinkle lights, and may it all ring with love and laughter.

WRITING WHEN YOUR HEAD’S NOT IN IT

Holy moly, it’s been a long time since I blogged. More than a month! This, in all honesty, is the reason why:

Gus

I had to take Gus in for his neuter. I know, I know: it’s something the vast majority of pet owners do. It’s surgery, but it’s routine. Only, Gus’s wasn’t so much. He had a testicle that didn’t descend, so I really had no idea how it would go. On occasion, if the missing testicle is in the abdomen, it can require some exploratory surgery. (!)

Of course, Little Miss Type A spent more than a month Googling random testicle facts and watching cryptorchid neuters on YouTube. Long story short, the vet did an incredible job, the testicle was easily located, and we wound up with only one incision. Gus has completely recovered, healed beautifully, and is fully back to his zoomie-running, escape artist, silly, rambunctious puppy routine.

Whew.

Once it was all over, I began to feel like I’d finally gotten my brain back.

It really is amazing how worry can hijack your own thoughts–in a way that you don’t even fully realize at the time. It’s not the only emotion that taints a writing session, either. Frustration can. Disappointment. Even uncertainty. I’m a big, BIG believer that tapping into joy is key for good writing. Now, looking back on the last few weeks, I can definitely see how worry was impacting my ability to tap into the joy and fun of writing. And how that was impacting the work.

It’s not the easiest thing to tackle, though, is it? Far easier to carve a few minutes out of the day to get some writing done. You can’t exactly just stop being worried, turn it off so you can work.

All I can say for now is that it’s definitely something I want to pay more attention to, keep track of. Kind of an early 2020 resolution…

WHEN A LITTLE THING BECOMES A BIG THING

You ever have that happen? You think of something small, something you haven’t thought of in ages, and then suddenly, it’s everywhere?

It happened to me a while back with that old saying: “Cardinals appear when angels are near.”

I was drafting the first Ruby’s Place installment, and was working my way through the scene in which a cardinal knocks Angela’s knit hat off her head, forcing her to pause, take another look at the old Ruby’s Place bar. There’s really just something about cardinals and Christmas…In the first place, they’re so strikingly beautiful, those red spots on stark white snowy backgrounds. Almost like a bright warm ray in cold, brutal times. You can’t help but smile when you see a cardinal in the snow.

The cardinal–and the old saying–made it’s way into the first Ruby’s Place manuscript, and into the sequel, I Remember You.

This year, as I was drafting the new installment (Sentimental Journey), I began to see the saying everywhere. I’m not joking. Christmas cards and notepaper…I even got this T-shirt as a gift:

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It’s almost eerie when that kind of thing happens…but pleasantly so.

BTW: I’ve put the entire Ruby’s Place series (to date) in a single download–and it’s currently discounted to $2.99

Ruby's Place Collection

You can snag a copy here.

May cardinals brighten your windowsills all winter long!

NEW RELEASE: SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY: A CHRISTMAS AT RUBY’S PLACE

A few years ago—about the time my hometown of Springfield, Missouri decided to ban cigarette smoking in all public places—the local news ran a story of a small downtown bar and the woman who owned it. She was pretty upset about the new ordinance; her clientele came for affordable drinks and a smoke (and a bit of camaraderie and good conversation) at the end of a long day. She was older, and had been running this bar for I forget how many decades, and she insisted she knew how to do one thing really well—run that bar.

For some reason, the image that ran in the story—a closeup of her face peering from the front plate-glass window—really stuck with me. I kept coming back to that image, playing with possible scenarios for a story.

In 2017, I drafted a novella titled Christmas at Ruby’s, about a woman who had also been good at running a small-town Missouri bar…so good, in fact, that she was still running it, years after her own death.

My fictional Ruby’s Place is a bar populated by the ghosts of Christmases past. A nightspot where the term “spirits” refers to far more than just the top-shelf liquors…and it’s also a place where, on Christmas Eve, the living can enjoy one more evening with a long-lost loved one. Where it’s possible to connect with the dearly departed—to finally express what you never got to say. Perhaps to show gratitude. Express love. Explain a wrong. Even tell them you’re sorry.

After all, I thought—what would be a better Christmas gift that one more night with a loved one you had assumed you would never see again?

Readers connected with the Christmas at Ruby’s novella—so much so, I wrote and published another installment in 2018 (I Remember You). And now, this year, I’m releasing yet another Ruby’s Place novel, Sentimental Journey. The stakes are higher than ever in Sentimental Journey—the bar is in danger. A face from the past has returned to the small town of Sullivan, Missouri. And he’s determined to get his revenge…

sentimental journey final 7

You can snag your own copy of Sentimental Journey at:

Amazon 

B&N

Kobo

Apple

Each book in the Ruby’s Place Christmas series is standalone, and you don’t need to have read the other two releases in order to dive straight into Sentimental Journey. But for those who are interested in the full series, I have placed the entire collection to date on Amazon in a single download:

Ruby's Place Collection

You can snag the full Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection on Amazon.

TOTALLY OBSESSED

What’s the old saying? “There’s no good time to have a baby?” I always took that to mean there’s really no perfect time for any life shakeup: new relationship, a move, a new job, going back to school, starting that novel that’s been in your head for ages…

And so, when the opportunity appeared, I took the plunge. Even though I was in the midst of finalizing my Christmas novel. (Enter Gus the Peke puppy.)

And now, to be honest, I am completely obsessed with my new addition, who is a handful and a time consumer and a sleep stealer supreme.

(If you want to get off social media or do a digital detox, get a puppy. You have absolutely no time for scrolling.)

But seriously, though, who wouldn’t be obsessed?

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I love this pic. It’s like he’s looking out the door, trying to figure the place out. The world according to Gus.