Click on the link to head to a fabulous book fair which includes my stand alone novel “Broken”!
Click on the link to head to a fabulous book fair which includes my stand alone novel “Broken”!
I’m so sorry I’ve been gone for a while, but my life is finally calming down a bit. Even thought I’ve been quiet, I haven’t stopped working on the series or getting book 24 ready for publication!
I am so happy to present the beautiful cover, featuring one of my favorite characters.
More information will be coming shortly and preorder links are on the way.
As always- if you have any questions for me, please ask away!
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I get asked a lot about my inspiration for these characters and I have written a few blogs about where it comes from. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my main story inspiration always come when I’m driving and listening to music.
I know it sounds weird, but music talks to me. It tells me what I can’t hear sometimes. It speaks for the characters and through listening to lyrics, I hear their stories.
I’ll explain a little, if I can.
I think I’ve said this before, but Tommy comes directly from a Kenny Rogers song, “Coward of the County.” I grew up listening to Kenny and this song always spoke to me. I was confused. Why was he still considered a coward? He stood up for his girl? I didn’t get it.
The song revolves around a boy named Tommy who is considered a coward because his dad (who died in prison when Tommy was 10) told him not to follow the path he did. When three boys went after Tommy’s girlfriend, (in what can be inferred as a rape) he takes them all down. He learns that sometimes it’s okay to fight when it’s important.
That’s my Tommy. He is sweet and tender and loving, but if you hurt who he loves, he will stop at nothing to protect his family.
I have never brought that song into the series, but maybe I will one day.
Another character who comes from a song is one I have brought into the series. “Billy Don’t be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson. I have that record on a 45 and I used to listen to it growing up all the time. My dad’s name was Bill and my mom played that song. I loved it and I still do.
It was fitting that the Bill in my story was a soldier and was ALWAYS trying to be the hero. It’s just who he is. Julie singing him that song on the day they first met was a strategic gamble.
Important to who they became as a couple?
There are a few songs I have that I use for inspiration on the couples.
Tommy and Brittany have the one that means the most to me.
Rascal Flatts “I won’t let go” is their song.
I remember hearing it for the first time early on in the development of their story. The lyrics were spot on and it was almost as if it was written for them.
“I will stand by you
I will help you through
When you’ve done all you can do
If you can’t cope
I will dry your eyes
I will fight your fight
I will hold you tight
And I won’t let go”
I listen to it a lot when I struggle writing their story. It’s kind of a reminder to me of who they are to each other, and to me.
Sometimes, I use songs to help me when I write flashbacks.
Tim McGraw wrote a song a long time ago called “Can’t be really gone” which was about a woman leaving a man. There is a lyric from that song that has always stuck with me.
“Her book is lying on the bed
The two of hearts to mark her page
Now who could ever walk away at chapter 21
So, she can’t be really gone”
I used this to create the flashback after Julie and Tommy’s parents were killed and Julie found her mom’s book. It was such a simple moment, but it hit me. Her mom was in the middle of the book. How could she be gone when she was in the middle? Julie read each page out loud each night until she was done, so her mom would know the end of the book.
When you lose someone without warning, so many of the minor day to day moments seem suffocating. This song always brings that up for me. How many people find such simple things after a loved one dies?
And it must stop them in their tracks.
Jack and Stephanie are my sexy duo. I don’t know why, but their songs always revolve around sex.
Maybe it’s the whole “Penis and chocolate” issue 🙂
I don’t know.
Joe Cocker “You can leave your hat on” is my favorite for them.
Also- there is a newer song out there that is amazing.
Eric Church “Like a wrecking ball”
Listen to it- you won’t be sorry 🙂
I have a few others, and I would be happy to share. Evan and Liz have a lot of songs and Mike and Jade are pretty creative, too. (I’ll give you a hint…Mike has a Warrant song attached to him).
What are some of your favorite songs?
Also, do you have any questions on how I decided on certain scenes?
“I just don’t like Brittany. I didn’t connect with her at all. I didn’t care what happened to her.”
I’ve been thinking about this word a lot lately, and today, things kind of came to a head.
I went to a writers conference today and sat down with an agent who had critiqued the first 10 pages of If Only. I sent them ahead so she could read it and take notes and let me know what she thought.
I’ve never done that before. I’ve had so many people read the story, people I know and people I don’t. Obviously, it’s been out in the public for a while now, so many people I’ll never talk to have read it.
But I have never had an agent sit down and critique the story the way I had today.
I wanted feedback.
I need feedback.
But after listening to her speak, I came to a few conclusions.
Listening to someone pick apart your heart is soul is hard.
Writing is subjective.
I’m a really sensitive person.
When I sat down and began listening to her, I was happy that she felt my writing was well done. She commented on how I tend to be wordy, which is true. I think my students would tell you I like to talk. I guess I just have a lot to say.
However, sometimes less is more, and I get that. I’ll work on that.
She wasn’t even really upset that the novel begins with a rape scene. It’s jarring. It’s harsh. It’s intense.
She liked that.
I was happy. Things sounded like they were going well.
And then she punched me in the gut.
Okay, not literally, but you get the point.
“I just don’t like Brittany. I didn’t connect with her at all. I didn’t care what happened to her.”
I have heard people tell me that Brittany is cold. She’s harsh. She has too many walls. She’s a bitch.
I have also heard people tell me she is just like them. Guarded. Careful. Sensitive. Damaged.
I don’t always know how to handle criticism. I don’t always know how to be politically correct.
You see, each character comes from a part of me; even the villains.
Next to Jade, Brittany is probably the closest to me, to my personality, and her issues are my own.
For as much as I adore Tommy, Brittany is me. She came from my days of solitude; from my years of figuring out who I was. She was with me through college; through the ups and downs of life. She saw me through a few significant losses and she came to life when I needed her voice.
I know people aren’t always going to love my characters or my story. I know romance isn’t for everyone and certainly, the things I put my characters through can test any reader.
But her critique hurt.
She also had issues with the meeting in the conference room, and that really bothered me.
The conference room is so important to their story. It broke my heart that she didn’t see that.
I went through a few stages after walking out. I decided I was done writing. I figured nobody would ever want to read another word of this series. I was a loser. A fraud. A hack.
But then, I sat down and became aware of the many authors walking around the conference all around me and I did what so many writers do.
So many writers. So many ideas. So many opinions. So many dreams.
So many possibilities.
My stories aren’t for everyone. I know that. I write because I have a story to tell, and I want people to feel like they can relate to the struggles so many feel.
I have dealt with issues each and every time I bring up having a romantic heroine with HIV, and I deal with it because that’s simply not all she is, and if people can’t get past it that says more about them then it does Brittany.
I have dealt with people not liking the sexual assault angle and I have defended my choices more than once.
But this was different.
It was like my child had come from school crying because nobody liked her.
I became defensive. I wanted to list off all of the amazing qualities Brittany has and how many people love her.
I wanted to tell her about her strength and tenacity and heart. I wanted to show her Naomi and Tramp and the beautiful relationship Brittany has with Tommy.
But all I could do was thank her for her time, and leave.
It’s up to the writer to tell the story the best way they can.
I’m still learning. I’ll always be learning.
Today was hard, but it was important.
Tomorrow I’ll write again.
“Our Hero” is a story about Tommy, but not totally in the way you might think. It’s true; he’s in terrible trouble, but through his tragedy, I tried to show his life in a way that goes beyond the series. Beyond the Tommy you know.
He is one of those characters that I have multiple stories about. I know what he’s done every step of his life because he tells me. The more I write his story, the more his history becomes clear.
He is the reluctant hero, and I adore that.
It’s the strong silent types who sometimes doubt their worth that are the most fun for me to write. It’s fitting that he married the rock star, because it’s so far from anything he would have ever anticipated for himself.
From their pasts, one might think Jack is more suited to Brittany and Stephanie to Tommy, but that’s why this series is so fun.
One never knows what life has to offer.
One story that had an unexpected bonus, was bringing Desi into the fold. I knew, when I decided to introduce her to David, that she would have secrets.
Her health was the biggest, and I also knew that Tommy had been her doctor all along.
It was a minor connection, but it had major reach into the series.
Tommy was the doctor, but he was also David’s uncle.
Tommy had a wife who was attacked and because of that, he had special insight into what Desi was dealing with; and what her friends and family would struggle with.
Desi and Tommy were a new bond in the series, and I love it. She isn’t a child, but in some ways, having cancer at such a young age caused her to lose some of her innocence.
Tommy helped to give it a tiny bit back.
The following is a scene from “Our Hero” and it is a flashback to when they first met.
Desi sat in the conference room with her mom while they waited to meet the oncologist. She had been to a bunch of doctors, but finally got an appointment here with the best.
“Sweetie? This is Dr. Williams,” Ian said as he walked into the conference room with Tommy.
Desi sat with Cassie and they were coloring. Desi looked up and then looked back down. Her six-year-old fears trying to come out in tears.
“Hi Desi, I’m Dr. Tommy,” he said as he walked over and sat down next to her. “What are you drawing?”
“Why did you lie?” Desi asked.
“Desi,” Cassie said, surprised.
Tommy smiled at her.
“It’s okay. When did I lie? We just met.”
Desi looked up through her long blonde hair and twirled a piece with her finger. He had a really nice face, but he was still the enemy.
“My dad said your name was Dr. Williams. You introduced yourself as Dr. Tommy. My dad isn’t a liar, so you must be. I was taught to never ever lie.”
“That’s true,” Tommy said. “My name is Thomas Brent Williams. My friends and family call me Tommy. Adults call me Dr. Williams.”
“Am I your friend?” Desi asked.
“Well, we just met, but I hope so. You seem like a pretty cool person. Besides, I need some help with something,” he said as took out a small box.
Desi leaned her cheek on her hand.
“My daughter is a few years younger than you and I promised her I would be able to help her with this jigsaw puzzle. I’m a little stuck and I heard you’re pretty good at them.”
“You did? I totally am. I do puzzles all the time,” Desi said with excitement. “Let me see what you have.”
Tommy put the small puzzle on the table and showed Desi.
“This is pretty easy,” Desi said. “You just have the wrong piece here. If you move it over here, everything works out okay.”
Tommy smiled and nodded.
“Thanks. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure that one out.”
“Sometimes people need help.”
“You know what? That’s kind of like what I do.”
Ian held Cassie’s hand as they watched their daughter come alive while talking to Tommy.
“How? You’re a doctor, right? Aren’t you just going to give me bad medicine and make me feel yucky?”
“Nope. I have to look at the pieces first.”
Desi watched him.
“What do you mean?”
“Each patient I have is like a puzzle. I have to look at the pieces and find the right way to put them together so they can work. Sometimes it takes me a little while to figure it out, but I always do.”
She looked at him and her big blue eyes filled with tears.
“What if you can’t?”
“Then I find a way to figure it out. Just like right now. You helped me figure out the right piece of the puzzle. There is always an answer, and I will never give up until I find it. Now I know you’ve had many days where you feel yucky, but I hope to help you so that doesn’t happen anymore. Sometimes I might pick up the wrong piece of the puzzle, but I’ll always keep looking until I find the right piece.”
He took out a small trinket and handed it to her.
“I’ll tell you what, why don’t you hold onto this piece for me.”
She took the piece and looked at it.
“It’s not a real puzzle piece. It’s too small.”
“It’s a different kind of piece,” he said. “It’s a reminder piece for you to look at. Sometimes, the days you have to spend here will get a little scary. You might need a break from the nurses or doctors and sometimes, you might want me to leave you alone. All you need to do is pull out your special puzzle piece. It’s like a code for all of my friends. We will listen to you, Desi. You are the most important piece of this puzzle and I work for you, okay?”
“You’re going to put me back together? Like Humpty Dumpty?” she asked.
“Nope. You’re not broken and you don’t need to be put back together. You just have a few pieces that moved a little and we need to straighten them out. That’s all. It’s actually pretty simple.”
“Okay. I can handle that,” she said.
“I know you can. Now I need you to pick out a room for the night while we figure out the kind of puzzle you are. I have a helper who can walk through the hall with you and help sniff out the best room.”
“I don’t need a helper. I don’t like to talk to people,” Desi said.
“He won’t mind,” he said and called Enid. She came in a minute later and Desi grinned as Tramp trotted in.
“This is Tramp. He really likes doing rounds with me, but if you take him to your room, he’ll do anything for a belly rub.”
Ian and Cassie laughed as Tramp rolled over for a belly rub.
“You’re right. I think we should be friends,” she said and Tommy stood up.
“I agree. Come on, let’s go room shopping.”
“With you? I though the nurses did that,” Desi said and took his hand.
“Nah, I like to make sure my friends are comfy here. It’s important to me.”
Desi beamed and they walked out, Tramp trotting ahead of them.
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We are almost a week out from the release of “Our Hero” and I am so excited for you to read it. This book is unlike any others in the series and I am incredibly proud of it.
I will have another preview for you soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to do another interview with a character.
Anyone you want to see? Any particular questions?
That’s what Tommy has always been to me and for this series, he has been the rock.
It’s not that I like him more than the others, but he represents something different than Jack and Bill and Mike.
He is my ‘normal’ character.
Let me explain.
What I mean is that Tommy is a reluctant hero. He has always been the quiet type who lived to be the family man his father was. He takes immense pride in his work and his life has become everything he ever wanted.
Tommy represents hope and strength. He is the one who everyone relies on. Jack counts on him as his brother and Julie thinks of him as both brother and parent. Tommy was the first person to welcome Bill into the family and he helped bridge the gap between Jack and Stephanie when they met.
He would never say it, but seeing his family happy means that he did something right. That his parent’s would be proud.
That means the world to him.
It’s who he is.
When I started this series, Tommy was my voice. He said what I was thinking and he reacted the way I did in situations. I have had people try to fix me up like Jack did with him. I have had people think I was lonely when I simply preferred to stay at home. He represented a man who wasn’t lonely, but rather he was waiting.
Waiting for something extraordinary to happen.
He just didn’t know it.
This series has taken many characters through ups and downs. Some have had it a little worse than others, but through it all, the family has remained in tact.
It’s never who you expect. It’s never the one you plan for. It’s never fair.
Having Tommy be the victim at the end of “Defining Moment” was something that had been in the works for a while. Ever since Megan died, her brother was in the back of my mind.
It needed to be unexpected and the shock needed to hit all of the characters in a way that stopped them in their tracks.
Evan was consumed with his fear about Liz.
Mike was still coming to terms with what Jimmy had done and how it effected so many, and he and Jade were welcoming a miracle daughter.
Bill was trying to help his son navigate a budding relationship with Desi and he was helping his wife to get ready to go back to work.
Brittany and Stephanie were set on helping Evan and Liz, and Jack was trying to get his brother to let what Jimmy said to him, go.
They were all dealing with Rachel’s death and trying to move forward.
It was time to relax and calm things down.
It was the perfect time to attack.
Much of the drama in the series comes from what happened to Brittany and the people who have been intent on hurting her. There was always an end game; something they wanted.
With Tommy, there was nothing Megan’s brother wanted but to see him suffer.
That’s impossible to deal with, and when Naomi was brought into the situation, all bets were off.
Tommy will give his life for his daughter.
Everyone knows that, and Brittany and Jack and Julie know it’s a matter of minutes before they may be too late.
They have no idea where they are being held.
They have no way of getting help.
It’s a race against time to find them, and when they do, everything will change.
“Our Hero” takes the story to a dark place where the characters we have always counted on are the ones who need us.
The goal is not to break hearts, although I know it will be terribly sad.
The goal is to show strength and to remind us of the power we all have to move forward, even when we think we can’t.
Tommy is my hero. He is my passion and my fear.
He will always be my greatest accomplishment as a writer.
I hope you understand what happens.
Here is another preview…
“You need to eat something,” Stephanie said as she sat with Brittany.
“I’m fine. Do you know if they found anything?” she asked.
“Mike and Bill are going over some things. Jack and Julie are on their way from dropping off all the kids with Ron and Jenny. We will know more soon.”
Her knee shook as she sat there.
“I’m so sorry,” Stephanie said. “I wish I had more news.”
Brittany looked up when Jack and Julie walked in.
“Any news?” he asked.
“Not yet,” Stephanie said.
Julie walked to Brittany and sat down.
“My brother won’t let anything happen to Naomi. He lives to protect his family.”
“I know,” Brittany said. “He would give his life for her. I would do the same.”
Jack looked at them.
“Then we need to find them before he has a chance.”
Mike and Bill came in and Brittany stood up.
“I don’t care what it is,” Brittany said. “I want to know what’s going on.”
“I don’t even know if it’s a good lead, but Megan’s brother has been renovating a cabin near the others they had. The one Tommy was in before it burned to the ground, but he owned the land and has been rebuilding a much larger compound. It takes over more of the land than it did before,” Mike said as they sat in a conference room near Jade’s room.
“We need to go there right now,” she said.
Bill shook his head.
“It could be a decoy,” he said. “We need to be certain before we go in.”
“And what’s happening in the meantime? What kind of torture is my family enduring while we take our time?” Brittany asked.
“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now, but we have to be smart about this. If we go there and he has them somewhere else, we might be doing more damage than good. It seems awfully convenient that they would be there.”
“And if they are? We have to check!” Brittany said.
“We will. I sent people there to canvas the area and see if there has been any movement. In the meantime, we need to try and figure out who is helping him. He didn’t act alone. He had help and we need to figure that out.”
Brittany shook her head.
“I need some air.”
They watched as she walked out.
“I’ll go with her,” Jack said.
“Daddy? Please wake up,” Naomi said as she tried to rouse Tommy. She looked around for something to help and didn’t see anything. They were in some sort of basement cellar and it was covered with concrete. She went to the door and it was solid steel.
Turning, she saw him move a little and she rushed over.
“Dad? Can you hear me?”
He blinked and smiled at her.
“You okay?” he asked quietly, his body on fire.
“I’m fine,” she cried. “I don’t know how to get us out of here. I can’t find a way.”
“Shh,” he said. “We will get out of here, okay?”
She wiped her eyes and nodded.
“Can you try to untie my legs?”
She looked at the rope and tried to untie it. His hands were tied together and there was a rope connecting them to the tie around his thighs.
“It’s too tight. I need to try and cut it,” she said.
“Can you move it down my legs at all? Maybe try and slide it off?” he asked, fighting to stay alert.
She looked at his legs.
“It’s so tight,” she said through her tears. “Isn’t it hurting you so much?”
“I’m okay,” he lied.
“Can you squish my thighs and try to pull it down?”
She did and he saw stars as the pain ripped through his back. He tried not to make any noise, but he had trouble holding it in.
“I’m sorry! Did I hurt you? I’m sorry!”
“No, Mini Red, you’re doing great. I think it moved a little. Keep going, okay? I need to get free so we can get out of here. My legs will heal. It’s okay.”
She looked around and then leaned in and tried to use her teeth to cut the twine.
“It’s not working!” she cried as she sat up.
“Okay,” he said. “Can you try and help me sit up? Maybe it will help.”
She moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his upper arm and pulled with all her might.
“Stop, stop,” Tommy said, the pain intense.
“I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
He lay there and closed his eyes, breathing slowly.
“Don’t go to sleep. Please look at me,” she cried.
“I’m here, it’s okay,” he said and smiled at her. “I just needed to catch my breath.”
She looked around and then her eyes lit up.
“Are your keys in your pocket?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Check.”
She did and felt them.
“Okay, I think I can use this as a saw and cut the rope,” she smiled.
“Be careful. Don’t hurt yourself,” he said as she worked on the ropes holding his wrists.
“Did they hurt you at all? Before I saw you?” he asked her.
“No. They just put me in a room and I was blindfolded until they brought me here,” she said as she worked.
“Okay, good,” he said and tried to ignore his pain.
They heard someone coming and they both froze.
“Put the key back and hide. Please go hide,” he said in a panic.
The door opened and Paul walked in.
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