This is 55.

Today, I am 55 years old.

A dear reader wrote to me this week and said she hoped I wasn’t upset about getting older. “Not getting older is worse,” she reminded me. And how right she is.

I actually love adding a year to my age. For one thing, being the history lover that I am, I appreciate that I’ve lived in seven different decades (yes, I’m only in my fifties, but I was born in the 1960s, lived through the 1970s, 1980′, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and into the 2020s). When I consider that I was born just a little over twenty years past the end of World War II–and that my grandparents were all born at the start of the twentieth century–it’s really amazing how connected we all are to people and events that can feel so far away.

I also lost my parents and mother-in-law when they were still fairly young, so for every year I live, I am grateful.

A year ago on my birthday, I was looking forward to what looked to be a fairly serene and promising year. Books were selling so-so, but the writing was moving along. After a year of working almost exclusively on the Community Garden during the pandemic, Clint was excited about the plans for expansion and improvement. We had a new granddaughter on the way. So much for which to be grateful!

And then . . . and then.

Less than two months later, we learned that our rental home was being sold, forcing us to move. During the same week, the garden was taken from Clint. Doors were slamming shut all over the place, and we didn’t know what to expect next. The year I’d thought would be so calm and happy was suddenly unpredictable and a little scary.

Yet here I am, a year later, a year older, and all of those unknowns turned into blessings.

Our new home took quite a while to find, but once we did, everything fell into place with amazing alacrity. And we’re now less than four minutes from our oldest daughter and two granddaughters. Moving to this side of town–where we haven’t lived in ten years–has been a pleasant change, letting us rediscover old haunts and favorite spots. Clint has continued gardening on a more limited basis at several senior care facilities.

My fifty-fifth year has been one of reclamation and reunion. I’ve found my best friend from childhood–or rather, she found me. I’m also back in touch with several other friends with whom I’d lost contact over the past decade or more. And as I said, I’m enjoying some of my favorite parks, restaurants, and shops on the west side of town.

I find in this decade of my life that I both care less and care more. Some things that used to annoy or worry me no longer faze me at all. I’ve realized that getting anxious about what others do or think accomplishes nothing. At the same time, issues in the world–violence, war, intolerance, discrimination, pain, and injustice–make me cry on the regular. Even though I know these evils have existed since the beginning of time, somehow the older I become, the less used to them I become. My heart is becoming more tender instead of less. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad. Maybe it isn’t either–it simply is.

I’m grateful for work I love, and for friends who make me laugh, send me chocolate, dedicate books to me, listen to me rant, and drink tequila with me. Where and how I live makes me happy. My sister, my sister-in-law, my nephews, and my favorite niece all add to my sense of connectedness in this crazy world. Aunt Terry and Uncle John are two of my favorite people and show me steadfast, unconditional love.

I have four incredible children who are all out seeking to make our society better–and they all have the greatest sense of humor, which is the best thing they could have inherited from me. And the people they’re bringing into our family are only making us an even better, stronger family.

And then there are my granddaughters. They are gorgeous, so bright, super funny (on purpose), and the lights of my

life. Truly. Being a nana has been the life-changer I didn’t believe it could be.

The man without whom I would be neither wife, mama, OR nana is still the hottest, wittiest, sweetest man I’ve ever met. My fifty-fifth year of life is also our thirty-fifth year of marriage, and I love him more now than I did the day we said I do.

I don’t know how long I’ll be on this earth. None of us do. My parents were both 63 when they died, but three of my four grandparents lived to their late 80s or mid-90s (the one outlier had a bizarre cause of death). Each year is a gift and a victory–and I plan to suck the marrow out of them all.

(That’s a good thing, the marrow sucking. Trust me. And it’s figurative. I tend toward vegetarianism.)

How do you find new-to-you authors?

Authors talk. We share information, we vent, we cry and we rally.

Earlier this year, I was part of several different conversations all wondering how readers are finding new authors to read. This inspired me to put together a survey, which ran on my author page for about two weeks.

Here are the results.

This was far from a scientific survey. Although the link to complete the survey was posted on my author page, in an advertised post, and shared by many people on their pages, we only had 74 respondents. Since it was posted on Facebook, there has to be a preference for Facebook as a social media outlet considered. And since iBooks readers tend not to congregate on Facebook, that also should be taken into consideration.

Screenshot 2016-02-24 10.53.50

Respondents came from the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Of the respondents, 36.5% read 1-5 books  a month. 27% read 6-10 books a month. 36.5% read 15 or more books a month.

5% rarely read new authors. 57% read new authors 1-3 times a month. 26% read new authors 4-6 times a month. 12% read new authors more than 6 times a month. 

There were 26 options for the question “How do you find new authors?” The top four answers were:

Facebook posts by other authors I know about authors I didn’t know–74%

Free books on Amazon–72%

Word of mouth from readers I know in real life: 65%

Facebook posts by authors about their own books: 59%

The bottom four answers were:

Instagram: 11%

In real life book clubs: 9.5%

Best-Sellers Lists (NY Times, USA Today): 9.5%

Free books on iBooks: 7%

I’m planning on running another more comprehensive poll in the spring which will be posted here as well as on Twitter and in my newsletter. Please consider taking part in this; we want to know what  YOU think.


Why I’ll Be in Daytona in Early February



Way back in 2013, when I was still pretty much a baby author, someone told me about a book convention happening in St. Augustine. I don’t remember how I got signed up, but there I was, with a table assigned to me and a place on several panels.

Oy. I had no idea what I didn’t know!

The event was called Olde City, New Blood, focusing on paranormal literature, and since I had three YA paranormal books, off I went. I was excited; not only was I going to this event, but I was meeting up with a bunch of author friends I’d only known on-line, and my daughters were coming with me, as a mommy-daughter getaway.

That first year was . . . memorable. I still recall a few authors I met there (Carol and Adam Kunz, Damon Suade, Lea Nolan). There weren’t a ton of us indies, and in those days, there was still a lot of distrust and misunderstanding between indies and trads.

Plus, unfortunately the hotel was kind of a dud. There were huge, loud birds in the lobby, the rooms were sub-standard and there may have been bugs. But when I look back on that first year, I don’t think of the not-so-great parts; instead, I remember how cool it was to be with my fellow authors for the first time ever. To learn. To meet people who are still part of my author life today.

That’s why every year, I go back to what is now Coastal Magic. It’s a unique animal in the world of book events; it draws readers and a wonderful eclectic mix of authors. I always come away with new friends and new authors to read–and having learned more, too.  I drive home fresh, invigorated and ready to be an author for another year!

Coastal Magic feels like home to me. It’s the first con I do every year, easing me back into the ‘fun’ of author travel. I love the hotel. I love the people who come back every year. I love the readers, the bloggers, the staff and the organizer.

If you’re not signed up to attend Coastal Magic, you really should be. When people ask me about Florida events, it’s the first one I mention.

Come join me on the beach February 4-7!!

I’m Reading The All-Girl Filling Station Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

When I first began writing (seriously), I had a tradition of rewarding myself after each book I finished. The dangling carrot could be anything from a diamond ring (my very first book!) to a new handbag or a pair of shoes.

It’s telling that nowadays, my reward is permission to read a book I’ve been saving just for this occasion. Time for reading is much more precious than anything material, and reconnecting with my favorite authors is a special treat.

For this last book (I just finished writing ALWAYS MY OWN, coming January 26th–and yes, it was down to the wire. Long story, but it’s done), I sort of cheated. Christmas fell smack in the middle of writing this book, and under the tree I had a gift I don’t often see anymore: a real book. As in, a physical, hardback book with pages that really turn. My oldest daughter and I have a love affair with Fannie Flagg’s books, and she’d discovered one we hadn’t read.

So with this beautiful book tempting me, I just might have sneaked some reading time when I was in situations that precluded having my computer open to write. And as always, I fell in love with Fannie’s characters, her world and her unique and heart-rending view of family and history.

One of Fannie’s specialities is taking a family situation, tossing a quirky character into the midst of it and then giving the reader insight that goes beyond the knowledge of the main characters. We saw it in Fried Green Tomatoes, during one of my favorite parts of that book, when Evelyn, in the middle of her search for self-knowledge and direction, goes to an African-American church and ends up talking to a friendly church member. Evelyn doesn’t know it–but we the readers find out that the woman to whom she speaks is the daughter of one of the characters in the long and colorful story Evelyn’s new friend Cleo has been sharing.

In All Girl Filling Station, the main character is Sookie, a wife and mother of four in her late fifties. Sookie has just finished marrying off her three daughters (one of them twice to the same man). She’s exhausted and ready to dive into the next phase of her life. Complicating this transition is her mother, Lenore, who lives next door. Lenore is the kind of woman my grandmothers would have labeled a Handful. She’s demanding, attention-seeking and controlling, but she’s also the sort of woman outsiders find quirky and amusing, even when her own family doesn’t necessarily see the appeal.

Sookie is a wonderful daughter, much more patient that I would be. But everything in her life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from Texas that throws into question her past, her history and her understand of self.

Sookie’s long and complicated adjustment to this new information is juxtaposed with flashes from the past, giving us more insight and detail into what led up to the situation affecting Sookie.

All Girl Filling Station tackles a number of complicated themes: the fathomless and multi-layered relationship between mothers and daughters, the dichotomy of self knowledge vs. the world’s perception, family, the evolving role and understand of women in the twentieth century and the love between sisters. I was especially fascinated by the detailed history of the WASPs, an often-forgotten chapter in our nation’s history during World War II.

And as always, Fannie’s fabulous writing had me laughing aloud–and crying. Full-disclosure: I cried hard and ugly tears for about the last 30 pages of the book.

The story also made me think about my own relationship with my late mother. Like Lenore and Sookie, we had both our charming similarities and our extreme differences. I struggled for many years with the idea that because I was not like my mother in some ways, I was a disappointment to her. I made choices in my life specifically to win her approval, at times, and I dealt with the repercussions of the decisions of which she is disapproved. In the end, though, like Sookie and Lenore, I know that my mother loved me to the best of her ability, given her own history and struggles.

Laughter, tears and deep personal insight: what more could I ask from a book?

#Sunshine State Stories Blog Hop

This week, Books Make Me Happy blog and a handful of UF/PNR authors are celebrating stories set in sunny Florida. The authors showcased have offered excerpts, written cool blog posts, and are all participating in a blog hop GRAND PRIZE giveaway full of books and other goodies. Be sure to click on the header above to see the complete list of participating sites. Check out each day’s excerpt and the Featured Author’s site for fun posts and chances to win!! Today is MY turn to be featured!! You can find my excerpt on Books Make Me Happy HERE. Be sure to check at the bottom of today’s post for the rafflecopter entry form for the Grand Prize AND a special added rafflecopter to win an ecopy of THE KING SERIES. Hop around and check out all the Florida authors participating: 

8/4 Books Make Me Happy kickoff post with full schedule: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12p

 8/4 Tawdra: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12s

8/5 KC: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12x

8/6 Armand: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12B

8/7 Heather: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12E

8/8 Christy: http://wp.me/pOeF4-12H

I’m a relative newcomer to Florida, having lived here only seven years. But the state will always hold a place in my heart, since it’s here that I realized my dream of writing and publishing.

My bio says that I’ve been a writer since the invention of the pen, and sometimes it feels that long. I have been creating characters and stories in my head since I was a child. I had never set any of them in Florida, but when we moved to a small town in the middle of the FLmapstate in 2007, and some of my characters had time to be heard, it turned out that living in Florida was part of their story.

Most of my inspiration for The King Series, my YA quartet, came via long drives or day trips. Tasmyn’s last name came from a nursery alongside SR-46 between Lake County and Sanford. The setting for Michael’s family nursery also sprung from that drive. The lakes in Fearless, Breathless and Restless owe their existence to the many lakes around Apopka and in (duh) Lake County.

The town of King itself is nearly a character in the books. I hadn’t realized how important it was until Michael began talking to Tas one day, and it all clicked. King’s physical manifestation is very close to that of Mount Dora, a small and lovely town in Lake County where I spent a good deal of time in our early Florida days. However, the history of King is closer to another famous Sunshine State burg–Cassadega. I had never been there when I wrote Fearless, and once I did visit, much later, I was surprised at how much the two towns–one fictional, one factual–have in common. Both were founded by men who chose the spot based on the idea that it was a place of spiritual congruence. Both maintain the reputation of being somewhat supernatural.

A few of my other books have also found their home in Florida. Of course, Rafe begins his journey in King, though he ends up traveling out of state. Nell also spends some time in the northern part of the state, near the fictional Perriman College (where Tas and Michael attend). THE POSSE, a contemporary romance, is set in a Florida beach town.

Since Tasmyn is a transplant just like me, we decided to play a little game of quick-draw Q and A. I’m interested in some of her answers!

Summer or Winter in Florida? Wait, is there a difference? Juuuust kidding. Winter. Definitely winter. 

Disney or Universal? I have to choose between Mickey or Harry? Well, Disney is the favorite of my heart. I don’t love roller coasters, and Disney gives me more options that don’t make me puke.

Sharks or Gators? Sharks, because as long as I stay out of the ocean, they won’t bother me. Gators can turn up anywhere. gatorpic<shudder>

Seminoles or Gators? The Perriman Pelicans will always hold my heart, but I guess the Gators, since I have friends who attend U of F. 

Boogie boards or surf boards? Boogie boards. Goes back to the whole shark deal.

Lakes or oceans? Oceans, because I have a bad history with lakes. 

Bike Week or Race Week? Again, is there a difference? Well, Bike Week. I’m not a Nascar gal.

Miami or Clearwater? Clearwater. Love the Gulf, love the small-town feel. . .good memories there, too.

orangedownloadSeafood or citrus fruit? Citrus. I’m especially partial to oranges. 

Dolphins or Bucs? Dolphins, all the way! GO Fish!

Everglades or Osceola Forest? The Forest. Love the history there, and less chance of gators.dolphinsimages








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