Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Not-so-random acts of kindness

Yesterday marked the end of this year’s Random Acts of Kindness Week ( 

The newscasts are so full of bad things, and internet comments are so often angry and mean-spirited, it’s all too easy to get jaded about humanity. But as I’ve posted before, my family has often been blessed by random acts of kindness from both friends and strangers. After our older daughter’s stroke, during my mother’s drawn-out passing from pancreatic cancer, after a tornado hit our home, many times an act of kindness has brightened our day and made our everyday-life burdens seem lighter. Our older daughter tells stories almost daily about strangers who have rushed to open a door for her in her wheelchair or when she’s using her crutches, or friends who offer to drive her to the store or to help her with laundry or other household chores that are more difficult for her now. After each report of a natural disaster or man-made tragedy, a spate of stories often follows about spontaneous donations of money, toys, food and household goods from strangers across the country who just want to do something to help, even if only in a small way. I search out those feel-good stories, needing the frequent reminders that most people are good and well-intentioned despite the sensational headlines.

In my last post, I told you that our family was blessed with a new addition in December, our precious grandson. When my husband and I first saw him minutes after his birth, he was wrapped in a hospital blanket and his head was covered by a sweet green-and-white snowflake-patterned hat made by a talented volunteer. His parents loved that cute hat; a nurse told them all babies there are warmed by those little hats that are individually crocheted or knitted then donated to the hospital nursery by members of the local community. 


Two weeks after his birth, on Christmas Eve, our grandson was readmitted to the hospital for surgery, only a few hours after a diagnosis of a pyloric stenosis. Those first two weeks had been difficult and they’d had little sleep. Because our daughter is a doctor, she soon realized the baby’s feeding problems signaled a stenosis and it was caught very early. Even though the procedure is fairly common and generally considered low-risk, it was still very stressful for our daughter and son-in-law to watch their new baby wheeled off for surgery. My husband and I had returned home a week earlier, so they were on their own 1400 miles from their Arkansas families. The procedure was successful and mom, dad and baby spent the night before Christmas in a hospital room. They woke Christmas morning after a much needed rest to find that “Santa Claus” had visited while they slept. The room was filled with gifts for the baby — stuffed animals and toys and bibs and books and handmade blankets and even a baby monitor system! Every child in the hospital that night had been visited by Santa, who delivered donated gifts. My daughter gave me permission to post this photo of their “goodies:”


As much as they appreciated every item in the gift pile, it wasn’t the “stuff” that touched their hearts so deeply. It was the realization that there were people who cared enough about families spending Christmas Eve in a hospital room to go to all that trouble. The pleasant surprise had brightened their day, providing them with a good memory of that Christmas Day after such a difficult day before. Following a Christmas lunch provided for patients’ families – again by volunteers – our kids returned to their home with their healing baby and their cherished mementos of the kindness of strangers.

It doesn’t have to be just for Christmas. Or a formal “Acts of Kindness Week.” Compassion and generosity are needed year-round. I’m going to try to keep my own eyes open for opportunities to brighten someone else’s day as so many have done for me and for my family. Join me, won’t you?

Do you have a story of a random act of kindness that was especially meaningful to you? Tell me about it on my Facebook page (click the link at the right to be taken directly there).


Coming Soon: THE RIGHT TWIN, available in March from Harlequin Special Edition.

Click the home page above for details!

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

Going out with a bang


It’s been just over two months since I posted last (hard to imagine that much time has gone by!), so I have a lot of news to share. Not long after I made that last post, on the Monday before Thanksgiving, my husband and I got a call from our daughter in Massachusetts that she was in labor and was on her way to the hospital. So excited we were all but bouncing, he and I jumped in the car for the twenty-five hour drive, expecting our grandson to be waiting for us when we arrived. We’d been on the road for several hours when our daughter reported that her labor had slowed and she’d been sent home to wait for it to intensify again. Her doctor expected to see her again later that night. John and I began to hope that we would actually be there in the waiting room when our first grandchild was born. We spent the night in Virginia and checked in with them first thing the next morning — only to find that the contractions were still sporadic and not gaining in strength. A terrible accident ahead of us in Pennsylvania backed up traffic so badly that we moved seven miles in four and a half hours! Fortunately, we had snacks and a cooler of sodas with us, so we had a snack-food dinner, finally arriving at our daughter and son-in-law’s house at two a.m. There we settled in to wait for our grandbaby. And wait. And wait. Kind friends of theirs had us all over for Thanksgiving dinner with their families, and then the waiting began again. Almost three weeks after our hasty trip, our grandson chose to make his grand appearance on December 8. We were in the waiting room, as we’d hoped (another example of being careful what you wish for). We enjoyed those weeks with our daughter and son-in-law before the baby’s arrival, helping them set up the nursery, meeting many of their friends, enjoying some central Massachusetts Christmas festivities. We were able to spend one week with them after the baby’s birth before heading home again. Needless to say, we absolutely loved having that time with all three of them, and we got in lots of snuggles and kisses before we reluctantly left. The drive home was relatively uneventful, made to the soundtrack of Christmas music from the radio.


Because it was so close to Christmas, I did a minimum of decorating. I still had shopping to do, and my husband was far behind in the turned wood gifts he was making. He headed straight for his lathe while I put up just one of the two trees I usually decorate. Our other daughter from Seattle arrived the day after we got home. She is still recovering amazingly well from the stroke she suffered two years ago, and we were thrilled to see how much progress she had made just since we’d last seen her only a couple months before for a dear friend’s wedding. Christmas passed in a blur of family visits and traditions, including the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service we’ve attended every year since before our children were born. We spent a quiet Christmas morning with our daughter and our son, who had spent the night with us rather than returning to his apartment some twenty miles away. Christmas Day ended with us sitting in the cold and dark — a rare Arkansas snow storm had dumped more than a foot of snow outside and shut off electricity to more than 70 percent of central Arkansas customers! We were without power for a couple of days, without internet for a few more, but we were more fortunate than some in the area who lost power for a full week. Trees and branches fell on roadways, homes and vehicles and the damage was widespread, but we lost only one small tree and a few branches, so we were fortunate. 

After a lovely visit, a fun day trip with us and one of her former workmates to Hot Springs National Park, lots of shopping, eating and catching up with friends and family, our daughter will return to the Pacific Northwest tomorrow and the holidays will officially be over for us. 2012 ended with quite a bang for our family! Now we’re tired, a couple pounds heavier, and somewhat behind in work and other obligations — but all in all, it was a great year.

I have a busy 2013 ahead. Three new Harlequin Special Editions are scheduled for March, May and July — THE RIGHT TWIN, THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY and A MATCH FOR THE SINGLE DAD. Introducing the Bell family of the fictional Bell Resort and Marina on Lake Livingston in Texas, the books also include appearances by characters from my long-running Family Found series. Don’t worry if you missed that series; these are all stand-alone stories. I’ll have other news to share in coming months, so visit me here again soon! I’ll try not to stay away so long next time.

Happy New Year to all my friends and readers, and thank you for dropping by!

Posted in ebook reader, writing

All for a good cause

I’m a member of Diamond State Romance Authors, the Little Rock, Arkansas chapter of Romance Writers of America. A couple of years ago, some of the members of the group went on a retreat to Turpentine Wildlife Refuge in northern Arkansas and were deeply touched by the mission of the refuge. I didn’t get a chance to attend that retreat, but I loved hearing their stories about the rescued large animals, mostly big cats, they “met” there. I still plan to tour the retreat next time I’m in that area, though my schedule has kept me from doing so to this point.

The club members who were fortunate enough to attend the retreat were tossing around ideas for how they could help the cause and came up with the idea of writing an anthology of animal-theme short stories and donating all proceeds to Turpentine Creek. When I heard the plan, I wanted to be included! The project evolved into two volumes, Volume I filled with general-readership stories (rated G and PG), and Volume II a selection of young-adult short stories.

I’m in Volume I. My story is about a motherless boy’s instant identification with a tiger he meets at a refuge and how that encounter helps him come to terms with the new love in his dad’s life. It’s a very “me” story and I enjoyed the challenge of showing this critical turning point in a family and a romance in a short-story format taking place in only a couple of hours.

There’s something for everyone in these two anthologies — romance, suspense, paranormal, humor. And all for a wonderful cause. None of the authors involved will receive any payment; in fact, the club has been responsible for all expenses involved in the publication. We hope the proceeds will help fund more animal rescues for this worthwhile foundation! The books are only $3.99 in ebook format, providing both entertainment and the knowledge you’ve contributed to a noble cause. Paperback copies will be available soon at the refuge gift shop and for order from Amazon,  (I’ll update details as I find out – I’m a little behind this week!), but in the meantime if you have a Kindle or download the free Kindle reader to your PC or mobile device, you can support the refuge with your $3.99 purchase!

For more information about Turpentine Creek Refuge, check their website. I loved seeing the photos and reading the true rescue stories there.

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

The name game

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about names, carefully choosing names for the characters in my books. Heroes and heroines, family members and friends, secondary and walk-on characters — each name has to fit the personality of the person I’ve envisioned as I write. I peruse baby name books, on-line baby name sites, watch credits after movies and TV shows for interesting names that seem to suit the people I’m creating … and sometimes the characters just tell me their names as I write. If I choose a wrong name for a hero or heroine, one that just doesn’t seem to “fit,” it becomes clear to me fairly quickly. The story just won’t move until I find a name that makes both me and my character happy.

In my March, 2013 Harlequin Special Edition, THE RIGHT TWIN, I’ll introduce a new family, the Bells (and reintroduce a couple of characters from a familiar family, the Walkers from my long-running Family Found series). The Bell family got their moniker when a name popped into my head while I was in Seattle visiting my daughter earlier this year and started outlining a new book one day while she was at work. I envisioned a quirky family matriarch named Dixie Bell, a woman who wasn’t particularly happy with that name, so insists that everyone call her by her grandmother name, “Mimi.” Then I started naming her family members — her husband, Carl Bell, Sr., sons Carl, Jr., and Bryan, granddaughters Shelby, Hannah and Maggie (all of whom you’ll be meeting in the next three books), youngest granddaughter Lori and grandson Steven. Whew. Lots of time spent at the baby name sites — a pleasant diversion as I get distracted reading name meanings, etymology, frequency of usage and any other trivia available there.

John and I spent many hours deliberating over names for our children (but then, we’ve been known to deliberate for days over names for pets). Our older daughter was named after a character in one of my favorite books as a teenager, our  second daughter’s name is an alternate spelling of her paternal great-grandmother’s name combined with a middle name taken from one of my and my husband’s favorite films, and our son is named partially after his father — the fourth “John” in five generations of his maternal grandmother’s family — and partially after The Incredible Hulk (the TV one, David rather than Bruce). His older sister chose that name because she loved watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk and loved the name David. As it happened, so did we. Even our cat Izzie is named from a family-favorite film. It has meaning to us.

I enjoyed watching our daughter and son-in-law go through the process of choosing a name for the little boy they’re expecting in December. They considered and discarded dozens, running some past their friends and family, debating others together. Choosing a child’s name seems so momentous — how will it affect his life? His relationships? His self-esteem? How will it look on kindergarten papers, diplomas, job applications? Quite daunting, actually, and a big responsibility. They considered favorite books, movies, historical figures, ethnic origins. And yet when they finally chose the name they knew was perfect for their son, it came from a restaurant menu. They’ll have a great story to tell little Ephraim someday about his name. Our son-in-law amusingly chronicled the ah-ha moment in his blog:

Expecting our first grandchild has given my husband and me another challenge — choosing our grandparent names! Knowing how our parents became known to everyone by their grandparent names after the births of their grandchildren, we want something we don’t mind answering to often. I’ve had a name in mind for a few years (yes, I’ve planned for this event!), but John is still giving the matter careful consideration. It’s interesting to choose names for ourselves — the first time in our lives we’ve actually had that opportunity, come to think about it.

I hope you’ll enjoy meeting the members of the Bell family, beginning with THE RIGHT TWIN in March, 2013 and continuing in THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May. In the meantime, many of my previously-published books are available in ebook format and from Click the Books tab above for details and links for Kindle and Nook readers.

Posted in ebook reader, Kindle Fire, writing

World building on a small scale



I’m always impressed by authors who can create entire worlds out of their imaginations and bring them to vivid life. As a reader, I believe in the the worlds created by Tolkien, Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling and so many others. In more recent years, I’ve grown intimately acquainted with the future imagined by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, and in the psychic-populated planets envisioned by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle. I love escaping into those fantastical worlds for hours of pleasure and adventure.

My own books have been more grounded in the present and in recognizable settings, usually in the South, where I’ve grown up and feel so comfortable, and often in my home state of Arkansas. As much as I love reading about those other worlds, my interest lies more in characters. I wouldn’t enjoy reading those otherworldly books if the authors weren’t equally as skilled at creating believable, fascinating characters for me to bond with and cheer for. My own writing focus tends to skew toward large, intricately interconnected families. Perhaps because I come from big families with complicated connections, myself. My parents were married fifty-four years before my mom’s passing five years ago, I had three younger brothers, my grandfather lived with us for a while before his death — which meant 7 people in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. I have too many cousins on both sides to count, some of them “double first cousins,” and my always-growing extended family includes stepchildren, adopted children, children-of-the-heart — in other words, the typical Southern American background with many, many real life stories to tell. I don’t base my characters on real life people or situations, though I’m sure I’ve been influenced by things I’ve seen, heard and read, but I’ve come to know most of my characters almost as well as people in my real life. I enjoy writing connected books including previous heroes and heroines because I like exploring what might have happened to them after the earlier books ended. For my Walker/D’Alessandro families (introduced in the Family Found series I started in the early ’90s and whom I will revisit in 2013), I have notebooks of family trees, character descriptions, progressive ages in each book, offspring names (yes, I’m now matching off the second generation, some of whom have started the 3rd generation). I’ve engaged cheerfully in SORA (soap opera rapid aging), but I’ve tried very hard to stay consistent with making everyone age at the same rate, which can be a challenge at times!

Still, on occasion I have created settings for my books — small towns, usually, which are always fun. The occasional private island (RAFE’S ISLAND and THE BORROWED RING come instantly to mind). For my next three Harlequin Special Edition books to be published next year (the first two featuring heroes from the Family Found series), I’ve created a resort set on Lake Livingston in Texas. The lake is real — the resort created wholly in my mind.

The scribbled sketch here is my conceptual map (obviously not to scale!) of the Bell Resort and Marina owned by the Bell family who will play such a big part of the next three books. As you can see, I’m not much of an artist — nor a cartographer. It’s not a real place and I’ve never stayed in such a resort — and yet, if you were to drop me at the gate of Bell Resort brought to reality, I could find my way around every inch. I picture it in my head as clearly as if I could step out my back door into the campgrounds. Once I’d crudely sketched it out, I’ve rarely had to refer to my map, because I know the place so well, just as I know the family who owns it. I’m sure those other authors are as intimately acquainted with their worlds, and that they enjoy spending time there as much as I’ve loved the hours I’ve spent at Bell Resort — without ever leaving the recliner where I do most of my writing.

I hope you’ll visit the Bell Resort and Marina with me next year and that you’ll enjoy meeting the family who lives there and falls in love there — with a few adventures along the way. THE RIGHT TWIN will be available in March, followed by THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May (the third book not yet titled or scheduled as I’m just starting to write it).

In the meantime, click the Books tab above for links to my titles available now for Kindle, Nook and other ereaders. And if you haven’t yet read WAKE ME, my paranormal suspense book available for Kindle and the free Kindle reader app, now’s a great time to get it for only $3.99! With fall rapidly approaching, this is a story guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.


“Like” my Facebook page (link provided at right) for on-going updates and discussions with me and my readers.