Writers: You Always Have A Choice

Choice. Many artistic people, whether they are writers or in another creative field, are prone to thinking that is destined to cause them significant grief. It is the same thinking even those outside of creative career fields are prone to believing. The belief that they have no choice.

Recently I read a post on social media that prompted me to write this blog because as an author and creativity coach, I don’t want anyone to lose their creative drive. The social media post hit a nerve with me, I’ll admit. It was one of those posts where one author tells other authors what they should be doing with their career, which publishers to submit to, etc. Advice is fine, and everyone gives advice to other people sometimes. I’ve given advice to other authors in blogs and in person. What worries me is when anyone insinuates that there is one right way to approach a career or a creative endeavor. “You should” was stated in this social media post over and over.

All of these shoulds give the impression there is only one way to have a writing career. Numerous articles, magazines, conference workshops and various other situations give authors continuous advice on the ins and outs of a publishing career.

If shoulds destroy creativity, what do you do? You have a choice. Always. Define for yourself what maintains your creativity. If you don’t have your ability to create, if you allow other people (no matter who they are) to define what you want to happen in your writing life, you’ll never be satisfied with your writing life. You’ll constantly be following trends, chasing someone else’s dream because you believe it “should” be your dream. You’ll stop writing because something bad happens in your career. You’ll throw your hands up and give up. Maintain your creativity. Fiercely defend it agains the shoulds.

You always have a choice.

99 cent sale for Halloween! Forevermore

For Halloween many of my self-pubbed books are on sale, but I wanted to remind you about Forevermore, my reincarnation romance set in Scotland which is 99 cents through at least Halloween. I hope you’ll stop by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo and pick up your copy for some spooky good reading!


Ebook Sale! Paranormal Titles In Time For Halloween

I’m having a massive ebook sale on all my self published titles, but wanted to get a head start on telling you about the paranormal books just in time for Halloween. I hope you’ll check out each title on sale, read the blurbs and pick up a few for your Halloween reading. Links are for Amazon and Smashwords only at this time but I’ll have others added as soon as I get them. Thanks so much!




(post apoc/paranormal romance)




Asylum Trilogy (Boxed Set)

Pardon me not having the boxed set cover. It’s gone missing for a bit it seems. So I have the cover for the first story here for you. You can also buy the books individually on sale.)

(Paranormal Romance)





(Paranormal Romance–only 99 cents for limited time.)



Take a peek at all these titles and fill your ereader with some chilling reads for Halloween!

Favorite Quotes From Anne Lamott

One of my favorite books on writing is Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, and today I’d like to share my favorite quotes from the book. Anne hits so many places that I can really relate to in so many ways. In particular I love the last two quotes. Enjoy!

* *

Bird By Bird Quotes

“The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published.”

“Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.””

“Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

“I talked earlier about the artist who is trying to capture something in one corner of his canvas but keeps discovering that what he has painted is not what he had in mind. He keeps covering his work over with white paint each time that he discovers what isn’t, an each time this brings him closer to what it is.”

“If you find you start a number of stories or pieces you don’t ever bother finishing, that you lose interest or faith in them along the way, it may be there is nothing at their center about which you care passionately. You nee to put yourself at their center, you and what you believe to be true or right. The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing…Telling you these truths is your job.”

“The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole.”

“We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”

“You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”

One Chance With You Releases Oct. 2

Howdy all. Good news. One Chance With You, a short novella with a hint of adventure tucked into a lot of romance, will be released October 2. Here’s a sneak peak!

One Chance With You_PROOF yellow


Sometimes being who you really are means taking a chance.

Amber MacMillan has survived abuse and misunderstanding over her empathic abilities. Being true to herself has set her free but most men aren’t interested in a woman who can sense their feelings.

Jim Clay’s time in war left a mental scar—a fear of flying. When Amber rescues him with her gentle touch and understanding, he thinks he might have a chance to defeat his phobia. An unlikely crisis brings them unexpectedly closer. Amber and Jim may have found the chances they’re looking for—in each other’s arms.

* *

She’d noticed him the moment he’d sat down next to her while they were still on the ground in Denver but not before. She’d had her nose buried in her ereader, inhaling a great novel. Reading was one way she blocked crazy vibes that battered at her empathic senses. If she hadn’t been reading she definitely would have noticed his brand of masculinity. He was the type of man a woman with any libido would have to notice, to feel in the most primal part of her. The man was scary in that way that made a woman question her sanity if she found him attractive. In one glance she took in his physical appearance once more. Oh yeah. Prime choice male but not in that too-good-looking-to-be real way. Plastic men is what her sister called pretty boys but this guy was brutal-looking and definitely not fancy. He took up the whole seat with wide, muscular shoulders that filled out a black t-shirt. A broad chest tapered down to flat belly, trim waist and long legs in faded blue jeans. His booted feet looked big. He didn’t fit in this tin can all that well with his sense of barely controlled power. As for his face, she barely glanced at it, not wanting him to catch her staring. Longish black hair curled around his neck and over his forehead. A messy twist of this and that. She doubted he’d designed it that way. She had an impression that he didn’t care much what people thought of him. A prominent nose, tanned features and cruel mouth gave him the look of a Roman soldier.

She felt deep down that somewhere along the way he’d defended others. Maybe he was in law enforcement or the military.

She turned her gaze forward as another air pocket caused several female passengers to scream. She drew in one deep breath and then another. She felt the man next to her tense and that was when she understood. This new sense of fear truly didn’t belong to her. The man next to her struggled with real trepidation. She’d done such a good job of shutting him out until now. Another bump and her senses went on high alert. Yeah, the guy next to her was freaking out but he wouldn’t want anyone to know. Compelled to help, she dared look at him again. As he gripped the armrests veins showed on his very masculine hands and strong forearms. Another glance at that strong face showed a tight mouth and his gaze darting around. Maybe some women would have found his distress disturbing but it turned her “gotta take care of him” meter up several notches. Caution threatened to derail her wish to comfort him. After all, she’d learned the hard way that trying to change a man never turned out right. Then she saw how green he looked, that tan face more pale than moments before. Damn.

She couldn’t just leave him like this. Drawing in a deep breath and envisioning a white light surrounding her body, she made sure to block his anxiety. She couldn’t afford to take on that horrible feeling. When she was certain the white light cloaked her in protection, she opened her eyes.

“Hi. My name is Amber MacMillan.” She held out her right hand. “Hell of a storm, isn’t it?”

When he turned his face full toward her she almost sucked in a breath. In profile he looked intriguing but his entire face told the story. Not only was he handsome, he was scarred. Down his right cheek a thin line grooved his skin from cheekbone to chin. Not a horrible scar but one people would notice. Yep, if he’d been in the right costume he would have made an excellent pirate. His eyes were so dark they were almost black but they weren’t scary at all—they were filled with a valiant attempt to rein in panic.

His frown deepened. Crap. He didn’t look any too pleased. She almost drew her hand back but he presented his big right hand and she took it. His palm and fingers swallowed hers but he didn’t squeeze hard. When he drew his touch away the brush of his slightly callused skin made a tingle of pure feminine arousal dart low in her belly. Wow.

“Jim Clay.” His voice rumbled a little, a deep, rich texture.

“Nice to meet you.” Her mouth felt drier than sand. “Um…” Go ahead, Amber. You started the conversation. “Where are you from?”

“Right now I’m from Tucson.”

“I’m from Redemption Ridge. I mean, not originally. Originally I’m from Woodland Park, Colorado. I was at a retreat. Barely got out of Colorado Springs before the thunderstorm hit.”

“Hmm.” The sound that came from him was more grunt than acknowledgement.

“Redemption Ridge is in the Arizona mountains.”

“Yeah. I’ve been there. About four hours from Tucson.”


His gaze focused, as if he’d managed to leave the turbulence behind. She felt his anxiety decline and that pleased her. But the way those intense eyes swept over Amber increased her own awareness. He took her in with one accessing glance that said he approved. A lot. He practically blistered her with smoldering attention. Holy guacamole. A heatwave took her over and she almost fanned her face. When was the last time a man had checked her out like that? She couldn’t remember.



Cover Potpourri!

Because I’m rather lazy today, I thought I’d pepper you with some of the postcards I’ve made lately. These are simple little cards that advertise my books, especially on Twitter.



AsylumTrilogy copy

There are more, but I will show those later!

Have a fantastic day. :)




A Little Side of Scottish Hero: Instinct

So who doesn’t love a Scottish hero? With Outlander all the rage, I predict there will be even more Scottish heroes popping up in the next few months. I’ve written more than one Scottish hero, although many of them are contemporary rather than historical characters. In my erotic romance INSTINCT you meet Lucas Sloan a former Royal Marine. By the way, this story is available for 99 cents right now so pick up your copy at Ellora’s Cave (you can get all ebook formats at Ellora’s Cave.) Here’s a small excerpt, but beware. This excerpt is spicy. Apologies for the wonky formatting on the excerpt. I’ve tried fixing it but it isn’t cooperating. :)



Denise A. Agnew
(A SIA Special Investigations Agency story)

She can’t release the past…
But the past is about to take hold of her…
SIA scientist Mina Carling shies from contact with Scottish SIA soldier Lucas Sloan. After all, the gorgeous, tough-talking agent has a reputation for a voracious almost…animal sexual appetite. He’s arrogant, and she doesn’t like him.
He wants nothing to do with a permanent relationship…
Yet one relationship keeps finding him…
Lucas tracks evil entities in the dark places of the world and never seeks more than physical satisfaction with women. Yet something within Mina calls to his deepest male instincts to protect, even though he doesn’t really like her.
Sometimes there are human urges that are just so…animal.
When Mina and Lucas are thrown together at a conference, all the basic instincts they’ve tried to ignore find a way to escape. All the feelings they thought were dislike melt together, in one hot, unbelievably passionate discovery.

Soft moans of ecstasy pierced the night, and she gritted her teeth. Oh great. No, she had no intentions of enjoying this hump fest vicariously. She needed sleep. She tossed the covers to the end of the bed and switched on the lamp. Heat seemed to shimmer under her skin.
As she dressed in slip-on flats, jeans and a halter-top, Mina tried to rein in a secondary sensation. Built-up anger. Hanging around Lucas Sloan would do that to a person. She’d seen him date and drop several women since she’d started working with the SIA a year ago. She’d entered the Science Division and run into Lucas at several of the potluck events during the year. From his accent she’d quickly learned that he hailed from Scotland. Lucas had transferred from Scotland after a successful career as a Royal Marine. Unfortunately, he’d kept the hard mien of a military man, and Mina didn’t care for his edgy, know-it-all attitude.
Damned if she’d let him ruin one more night of sleep before this intelligence conference finished in three days. She grabbed her key card and stuffed it in her jeans back pocket and left her room. Brimming with indignation, she hurried to his door and rapped on it. She heaved a deep breath. The sound of a woman being fucked out of her mind stifled immediately. A scenario ripped through her mind. He’d come to the door with a towel around him and the woman he diddled would probably call out “who is it, honey?” Distaste burned in her stomach, a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction and something more insidious she refused to acknowledge.
The door snapped open and he stood in the threshold, wearing nothing more than immaculately tailored dark blue dress pants. No shirt. No shoes. No socks.
She never fantasized about a man wearing dress pants. But oh, oh, oh. He looked…
Everything female inside her stood up and took notice.
An obvious erection tented his pants. At least, the beginnings of one. She swallowed hard and looked back to his face quickly. Heat burned her cheeks.
Oh great. Great. Don’t look at his cock.
About six-two, he gazed down on her five-foot-five frame, his amber-brown eyes glinting with an animal intensity. Once this man caught her gaze, he mesmerized. She hated how out of control, how hot he made her with one glance. She already felt a little breathless and out of sorts.
Tousled, copper penny hair fell over his forehead, and a thick five o’clock shadow covered his upper lip and jawline. His face, a mixture of hard angles and intriguing planes, didn’t qualify as handsome. No, he defied description with the slashing eyebrows and hard mouth, his nose a blade of determination. He scowled better than anyone she knew. One frown from dour Lucas Sloan scared the shit out of law-abiding and not so law-abiding citizens. He was the walking, talking poster boy for repressed sexual energy.
Okay, Mina. When you return home, you might want to start dating again. Anything to take your mind off Lucas Sloan. After all, he isn’t even personable.
No. Lucas had a medieval, carnal handsomeness that qualified as gut-wrenching, knee-melting gorgeous. As she took in her view of the tall, broad-shouldered man’s chest, she gulped.
Lightly tanned, muscular chest was sprinkled with russet hair across his pecs and down over his rippling stomach muscles. His arms were carved, hard sinew. Oh. Oh man. A shivery, hot sensation wended through her body and pooled low in her loins. Just like it always did when she saw him. Just like it always did when he stood too near, like now.
No. No, I won’t allow him to do this to me. I won’t react like the silly women at the SIA who are constantly gushing about Lucas as if he were some heartthrob in the movies.
His gaze traveled with hungry interest over the stretchy, snug material of her flaming red halter and form-fitting jeans. His attention lingered over her full breasts for a few seconds before he jerked his gaze back to hers. Her nipples peaked, tightening against the material.
His nostrils flared, a sigh parting his lips.
Okay, so this wasn’t the first time he’d given her the once over, looking at her like he would love to dine on her rather than with her. Yet she put little credence in the gesture. He probably looked at other women like this all the time.
One corner of his mouth turned upwards until his lips curved in a heart-stopping grin she hadn’t seen often. “Hey, Mina.”
His voice sounded rough, gravely with sleep, and oh-so-sexy deep. Women at the SIA constantly made comments on how much they loved his Scottish accent. All except her, of course. So what if he had the sexiest freakin’ accent and voice she’d ever heard?
“It’s one in the morning. What are you doing up?” he asked.
Her glance flicked to the room and with a start of surprise saw his bed was made and not a woman in sight. “Uh…did you have…I mean there was a lot of noise coming from your room. I thought I heard…”
He cracked another grin, this one sly and knowing. His voice lowered yet again, the velvet and thousand-proof whiskey quality filling her with a slow, maddening heat. “Ah, bollocks. Sorry about that. The walls are thin in here, aren’t they? Yeah, I was watching a movie preview on television.” He crossed his arms over that magnificent chest and his biceps bulged. “I just came in from a meeting with Ben Darrock about twenty minutes ago. Did I wake you?”
Her gaze landed on his exquisitely carved chest, and she had to force her eyes back to his. “Yes. Most definitely. What on earth were you doing meeting with Ben at this time of night?”
He didn’t speak for a second then he reached for her upper arm and tugged her into the room. “Come inside and we’ll talk.”


Forevermore: Scotland and Reincarnation

With the popularity of Outlander on television lately, I was inspired to post an excerpt from a paranormal romance I wrote many moons ago. Forevermore was inspired entirely by a dream I used to have as a child. As I grew older the dream didn’t happen as often, and when I visited Ireland in 1983 the dream stopped. But that is a paranormal thing for another discussion…maybe during my October Halloween Spooktacular! I set Forevermore in Scotland and it was the first and only romance I’ve written in first person. Here’s a tidbit!


Sometimes one lifetime is not enough…

American Mae Sutton travels to Scotland to investigate tormenting dreams that have plagued her since childhood. Once in the shadowy, misty land, she discovers a brooding Highlander—and a secret that threatens her very existence.

A dark castle ruin haunts her nightmares…

Mae discovers Moor Castle is the same ruin in her nightmares, and knows she must learn why she’s been drawn to Scotland and the crumbling castle that whispers her name. She experiences an intense and immediate attraction to Aidan Ramsay, conservator of the evil castle. She’s shocked to find out she is the spitting image of a Ramsay ancestor, and that maybe her nightmares are past-life memories.

Mae and Aidan have lived before, and the dark legacy that destroyed them once, may destroy them again…


As I stared at the pile of stones high on the hill, familiarity tickled at my memories. I’d seen Moor Castle as an eighteen-year-old exchange student nine years ago. More than once I’d been drawn to the castle, but something always held me back.

Fear of something primitive and raw. Wounding and evil.

Now I had to take that first step toward showing myself that my dreams remained unreal. That I had made up horrible images in my mind that had no basis in fact.

I got out of the car and pulled my trench coat close about me. A compulsion drew me a few steps forward. Soon I’d discover the cold walls of Moor Castle held nothing baneful. Something stronger than apprehension, though, stopped me again.


Why had this place haunted my dreams for so many years? Somehow, somewhere, there had to be a reason, a meaning behind the demons that possessed my nights.

I’d taken a leave of absence from my job to investigate Moor Castle for myself. Maybe I’d find peace exploring this dilapidated ruin.

I forced myself up the hill. Daylight faded as rain fell like an icy blanket.

I pressed on until I reached the top, a wide mesa somewhat naked and barren, the scraggly trees surrounding it in need of tending to bring them back to life.

I noticed how light seemed to disappear into the arched entrance without means of escape. Suddenly the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Taking a deep breath, I pressed on, even though the trek up the steep hill had quickened my pulse. Or was that fear?

When the huge arch loomed above my head, cold penetrated my sweater, oozing into my bones with a chill, arctic and numbing. Trembling, I peered into the darkness, and as the rain lessened, shafts of weak light speared from a hole in the roof high above.

I proceeded. Up above, in the crumbling stonework, a fluttering sound echoed. I thought of the creatures of nightmares, flying on wings and snatching me away to dark lairs. A screech echoed all around me and I whirled, my apprehension escalating. Seconds later, a large black bird gave flight, turning away from the castle walls and sailing into the air until it looked like a tiny dark dot against the sky.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just a bird, not a bat…or…” I whispered.

I glanced around me nervously. Yeah, right. Big, brave Mae. What would Aunt Ethelfreda think of me now? I could see her crinkled brow and piercing blue eyes condemning me for cowardice. Since I was three and Aunt Ethelfreda had adopted me after my parents had died in a car accident, I’d endured her belief that I somehow wasn’t “worthy.” I fell short, continually, in her estimation. I fought back frequently, though my ego took a nasty blow. Many dents still remained. Deep inside I hated myself for trembling like a frightened pup. A litany ran in my head, the same thing unkind children had yelled at me in grade school: Scaredy cat, scaredy cat. Mae is a scaredy cat!

I shoved aside disturbing childhood memories. Those children weren’t here now. My aunt wasn’t here now. In some ways this journey to Scotland proved those children and my aunt wrong. I could and would conquer these fears. Strength filled my limbs as I glanced around at the haunting beauty of the castle.

I hadn’t gone far into the grand foyer when I knew someone watched me.

I turned, my heart thumping with renewed alertness.

The man stood several yards away, almost hidden in a shadowy doorway. He stood with arms at his side and feet planted apart. His white poet shirt opened at the throat, giving me an enticing view of muscled chest sprinkled with dark hair. Snug black breeches were tucked into tall black boots and molded his legs. His wide mouth firmed into a tight line. A brisk wind blasted through his cascade of long, wavy black hair. Welded to the spot, I stared with unabashed curiosity at the strong planes of his face.

I took a breath, ready to call out to him in greeting. But I didn’t have a chance because suddenly he looked straight at me. His gaze turned sultry, hot, and welcoming. The moment drew out, long and surreal.

Behind me a crack like a gunshot sent me spinning around, my heart leaping. I threw myself sideways as a large stone missed me by inches, bouncing away to break into smaller pieces. My heart pounded as I looked back to the mysterious man. He’d disappeared.

“Hello!” I listened to my voice echoing in the cavern of the castle, but no answer came.

I walked about, certain he must be somewhere close. Within a few minutes, though, I had to wonder how he could have vanished so completely. A thought slipped into that part of my mind reserved for negative thoughts. Had I imagined him? Seen a ghost?

I could almost see Aunt Ethelfreda’s disapproving moue reprimanding me for even thinking I’d spotted a ghost.

“Pfft. Bug off, Aunt Ethelfreda.” I gave a nervous chuckle, realizing that if anyone heard me now they’d think I’d turned nuttier than walnut pie.

Or, perhaps, a sane person would heed the pervading gloom and leave before whoever or whatever appeared.

The wind picked up again, whistling around the walls like the demented wailing of a banshee, her grief so deep it etched into the castle walls. That pain knifed into me, and unaccountable tears rose to my eyes. Sorrow filled these ruins, soaked with harsh deeds and horrors I couldn’t bear to ponder.

Deliberate, unbidden apprehension pushed me forward and I rushed out of the castle and down the path at a jog.

I didn’t look back.


Cooper’s Haven: A Little Side of Romantic Suspense

Like a little side of suspense with your romance? Cooper’s Haven definitely has that.  Here’s a tidbit of Cooper’s Haven. Enjoy!


Ten years ago Jilly Warren and Cooper Hawkins shared a night of devastating losses that almost brought them together. Now a new threat brings them together again in a fight for love and survival.

The man starting at Jilly Warren at the courthouse is up to no good and every instinct tells her to run far and fast. Instead she turns to marine reservist and sheriff’s deputy Cooper Hawkins. Cooper, who never forgot the comfort of Jilly’s embrace, knows that the only place she’ll be safe is in his arms.


She strode into Redemption Ridge’s premier bakery with a full-on need for sweets. After a long day at court nothing would taste better than her once-a-month treat. No one was at the front counter and usually Maggie Logan and her assistant Gayle Tracher were there. Jilly glanced at her watch. Only ten to five. The ladies didn’t close the bakery until six on a weekday. Jilly groaned and rubbed her lower back. She’d sat in that damn chair far too long today, both in court and later translating her work.

“Thirty-five and you’re already falling apart,” Jilly said.

The door swung open a second later and Jilly started. She turned around just as Cooper “Hawk” Dawson entered. Jilly’s mouth popped open in equal measures of surprise and pleasure.

Cooper looked disconcerted for a split second before his usual grin appeared. “Hey, Jilly. Didn’t expect to see you here.”

She swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly drier than the desert. She echoed him. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Cooper hadn’t changed a lot in the last few months since she’d last seen him at a city social function. He’d always been fit but now his wide shoulders looked even broader under his dark parka. His close-cropped mahogany hair revealed his military background but his jawline was darkened by a day or two of beard growth. His soulful cinnamon-brown eyes had always intrigued her and now they held distinct interest. Attraction jolted through Jilly and created a sweet, tingling pull low in her stomach. Damn. No matter how many months he was away, every time he returned from war she felt this incredible pull to this big, strong man.

“What’s it been?” he asked. “Five months?”

“At least. Are you…are you on leave?”

“I’m done with the Marines for now.”

“For now?”

“Unless I get called up again, I’ll be back with the Sheriff’s Department in a month. I’ve had three deployments to Afghanistan. I think they’re tired of seeing my ugly face there.”

She laughed softly and he joined her. Ugly? No way. His face wasn’t handsome in a conventional, pretty boy way. His nose had a slight dent at the top from a bike accident as a teenager and the rest of his face proved too angular for anyone to call him cute. No, he was a raw, masculine presence all the way. A little too rough-and-tough-looking, he had a dangerous edge that had always called to her.

She realized she was staring and he stared right back. Heat filled her cheeks. Oh crap. Now she was blushing. She had all the sophistication of a cheerleader pining over the football player.

* *

You can find Cooper’s Haven at:

Ellora’s Cave


Barnes and Noble


Before There Was You & Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Frequently authors who’ve been around a while are asked, “How do you decide what to write?” As an author of over sixty books, I still sometimes find that question difficult to answer. Most of the time…probably 99.9 percent of the time I create from simply getting an idea that pops into my head and just says in big bold letters WRITE ME. Often it is an event that propels me to write the book, something that happened in history that grabs my attention and won’t let me go. Sometimes it’s a situation I’ve seen or experienced or heard about. I don’t go looking for ideas because they come to me. As a result, I rarely fear that I’ll one day run out of ideas. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying if the idea is marketable. For me that isn’t the main focus of my writing. For example, when I wrote BEFORE THERE WAS YOU the idea for the book hit me like a ton of breaks and it screamed WRITE ME so loudly that I was able to write a full sized novel in a fairly quick fashion. First draft of course. The story morphed into BEFORE THERE WAS YOU, a story featuring a marine with PTSD and the heroine with PTSD. I had a great time writing this story. Here’s a blurb and an excerpt to give you a taste. In this excerpt, the hero makes a big step in recognizing some things about himself with the heroine’s assistance.

So if you’re writer, where do you get your ideas?


Kidnapped in a foreign country, Lana Burns’ faith in herself and the world has been shaken to the core. Once home, she finds her world mangled into nightmares and depression. Refusing to give in to fear and torment, she searches for answers. Now she must escape a dark mental place before it swallows her whole.

Former Force Recon Marine Aaron MacPherson made it through war without a scratch, but he doesn’t count thick scars carved into his mind, threatening to unhinge his happiness forever. His equilibrium teeters on the edge, his battle moving from combat to everyday life. One wrong word from a total stranger sends him on a path to destruction.

Both Lana and Aaron have seen hell, and group therapy might show them the way out. Forging a link between them could prove perilous to their hearts. When danger strikes without warning, Aaron and Lana must use their bond to create a way to survive the night.


He rarely drank, but tonight he decided a glass of whiskey wouldn’t hurt. He went into the kitchen and found the unopened whiskey in a cabinet. The bottle had been there three years, a birthday gift from Cruz who couldn’t think of anything else to get. Cruz’s words went through Aaron’s head.

Drink it to celebrate something or to mourn something.

He quickly opened it, found a glass, and poured a couple fingers of whiskey. After one sip he carried the glass with him and headed to the computer and sat down. He stared at the glass in his hand for a full thirty seconds. Which was it? Celebration or mourning? Maybe both. Celebrating that he’d recognized the big event that had made him so damned fucked up. Fillman’s suicide. Mourning his fellow marine, and maybe his parents’ divorce if they couldn’t work shit out. If it was both, he might need two glasses of whiskey. He snorted a laugh and put the glass on a coaster.

Master’s Degree application or writing the freaking letter? Which one to start first? Get a life. How the hell did you survive a war when you can’t make a decision?

He turned on the desk lamp and fortified himself with a slow sip of the amber liquid. He put the glass down and stared at the drink. He could slam it down. Maybe it would make relaying this shit easier. Yeah, it probably would. But he’d never used alcohol as a crutch, and he sure as hell wouldn’t start now.

Fuck, who am I kidding? He was using it as a crutch right now. He stared at the blank screen, fingers over the keys. He hovered. He took another small sip of whiskey. Yeah, go girly on the whiskey until you can get this puppy written. In a flash of clarity he understood if he didn’t write this with a clear mind, he wouldn’t tell the truth. He’d gloss it over. He’d pretend. He’d say what he thought others would want to hear. God forbid he freaking got dramatic.

Do the Masters application first. So he did.

He filled in the application and then started the process for having his Bachelor’s Degree transcripts sent to the program. Paperwork didn’t bother him. The military had improved his patience for filling out paperwork because God only knew the military loved freakin’ paperwork. He was refreshed and feeling good that he’d cleaned the house and was now working toward obtaining a Master’s Degree.

Finally he couldn’t avoid the letter.

He opened his word processing program. His fingers hovered over the keyboard. He didn’t know where to start. He decided to just jump and allow a stream of thought to take over. Stream of thought was always more honest.

I seriously considered not writing this letter. The skeptical part of me says this is stupid. The marine in me demands I follow through and not give up. I’ve never been much of a touchy-feely man, so this experience…this whole group therapy thing, is like fingernails over a blackboard. I’ve finally discovered, as I write this letter, what my biggest problem is. The thing that fucked my shit up—

Nope. He couldn’t be that honest. He typed a new sentence.

The thing that broke me and made me crave the need to beat the man in the restaurant.

Tears welled in his eyes. Ah, shit. Okay, this was going to be hard. As gut-wrenching as anything he’d done. He thought of Lana and what she’d say. The comfort she’d give him as he wrote it. Maybe the big bad marine needed a modicum of help. His cell phone was on the charger on his desk, and he snapped it up. Without giving more thought, he called Lana. The phone rang twice before she picked up.

“Aaron.” Her voice held sweetness and welcome. “How are you?”

Oh, hell yeah. There was that soothing, sin-filled voice making him want to kiss her, to lay her down and make love to her for hours. He cleared his throat. “Am I interrupting anything?”

“I’m grading some papers. Nothing that can’t wait.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Aaron, you sound a little funny. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah. Well, okay, that’s kinda a lie.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m sitting here trying to write this damned letter for therapy.”

“Oh.” The oh was filled with complete understanding. “It’s tough. I’ve already written mine, but I had to keep coming back to it. I wrote it yesterday.”

“I just got home and tried to start. I’ve written an entire paragraph.”

“Good. Don’t be hard on yourself.”

“I’m not sure I even understand how not to do that.”

“Start now.”

Longing hit him and tenderness hollowed out his gut. “You’re bossy, Miss Burns.”

She laughed softly. “Oh, I’m pretty good at telling other people what they need to do. Not always so good at taking my own advice.”


“Did something else happen today to make it worse?”

“Maybe. I visited with my parents today and some excrement has hit the fan.”

“Is your Dad all right?”

“He’s good. I guess the doctors think he didn’t do as much damage to his stomach as they first thought. But he’s on medication, and they’ve told him to lower his stress level or else.”

Another laugh came over the line. “Let me guess. He’s not listening.”

“Mom says he isn’t. She gave him an ultimatum.”

“Ultimatum? That doesn’t sound good.”

“She’s going to leave him if he doesn’t do something about his stress.”

“Oh, no. No.”


“That must feel…” She drifted off.

He filled in the blank. “It feels like if my parents’ divorce, that’ll be one more crack in the family. Craig dies, I get arrested, they get divorced. At this rate I’ll turn into a drama queen.”

She laughed, and this time it was full of volume. “Aaron, there is no way you could turn into a drama queen. You’re just human. Sometimes I think you forget.”

“Marines aren’t human, Lana. They’re marines.”

“Oh, please.”

“All right, I’m exaggerating. It’s just the training. Sometimes it bleeds over into the rest of our lives.”

“Of course it does. Transition to the civilian world from the military is hard enough, and then the experiences you had in war make it doubly hard to sort out. But you’re getting there just like all of us are. Step-by-step. The letter is just one more piece.”

“You’re right. As always.”

“What have you written so far?”

He read the short bit to her. “Maybe I should erase that.”

“Why? It’s what you feel, right?”


“Then keep it. Write what you feel. All of it.”

“Is that what you did?” he asked.

“Yes. Wadded up a few tissues too.”

“I’m not going to cry.”

“Uh-huh. Well, even if you don’t, you might need a catharsis afterwards.”

“Such as?”

“Exercise? Have you exercised already today?”

He stared at the whiskey glass. “Yeah. But I could do some more.”

“Do you…do you want me to stay on the line while you type it?”

Oh, man. “Yeah. Would you mind?”

“No. Go ahead and put me on speaker and type away.”

So he did. One agonizing word at a time. He checked once in a while to make sure she was there.

“I’m still here. Grading papers,” she said once.

Soon the words wouldn’t stop coming and he typed faster and faster. One tear made a track down his face, but he wiped it away and cursed it internally. So he increased the speed of his typing. If he could get this bad boy written up quickly, he could ignore the tears now flowing steadily down his face. The typos were racking up, but he could fix those later. Finally, he stopped. There was no more to tell. No more. He stared at the black letters on the white screen, but couldn’t read a fuckin’ word. It was blurred.

“Aaron? I don’t hear typing. Are you done?”

“Yeah.” His voice was hoarse. Fuck that too. Another tear rolled down his face. “Shit.” Okay, so there went his vow not to curse in front of women. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Did you say all you needed to say?”

“I think so.”

“That’s wonderful.”

Her voice had turned even more soothing, a quality that wrapped around him.

“Lana Burns, you’re one hell of a therapist.”

“I was hoping I was one hell of a friend.”

He laughed and realized he wasn’t sad. Not one damned bit. It was if the dam had broken and washed away the sins, the gnawing hurt that had pawed away at him for ages.

“You’re amazing, Lana, that’s what you are. I’m getting a handle on this crap once and for all. I’m trying to decide whether to celebrate with this glass of whiskey on my desk. Like I said before, I’ve already exercised for the day.”

“I thought you exercised all the time.”

“I used to. Maybe I’m over that too.” He grinned. “It gets even better. I cleaned up this sorry excuse for an apartment.”

“Wow. I’ll have to see that.”

“I wish you would. Soon.”

Silence hung in the air for a moment before she said, “Maybe next week.”

He closed his eyes, and this time when the tears came, it was out of happiness.



“Drink the whiskey, marine. It’s time to celebrate.”

So he did.