Monday, October 26, 2009

Quality or quantity

I know I've been terribly neglectful of my blog as of late. I took Tristi Pinkston's challenge to try to write a book in a month (BIAM) so I have been busily trying to achieve that goal. I had given myself a little head start by beginning my current work in progress the last week of September and for the past several weeks, I have been working on the next installment of my Saint Squad books.

Knowing that my editor is sure to want me to edit Backlash (book 4) before too much longer, I've been hoping to finish the rough draft of this one before that work starts. Sure enough, I received an e-mail from my editor today asking a quick question as she was beginning the editing process. In the publishing world, I take it that I'll have a week (give or take) before I'll start getting the e-mails that remind me that it's time to spend some quality time with that project.

So today after spending the last four weeks focusing on just getting the words down on paper (or in computer as the case may be), I realized that I'm nearing the climax of this book and I still haven't quite got it figured out. Now, this isn't really anything new for me. I often don't know who the bad guy is until a scene unfolds, but this does get problematic when I'm trying to tie up loose ends.

Today I decided to take a day and not worry so much about quantity, but rather focus on the quality of what I have down so far. I skimmed through the first 200+ pages, tweaking a few inconsistencies and even giving a few nameless characters an identity to call their own. My word count was low throughout the morning, slowly building as the day went on as I added little pieces here and there. Ironically by the time I finished up, I actually had over 3,000 words, which is around what I shoot for each day.

I'd like to say that quality and quantity don't have to be mutually exclusive, but I also know that I still have a lot of editing to do before this current work will be ready for submission. Rather what I found was that by slowing down a bit, I rediscovered the enjoyment of the story and the excitement of looking forward to what happens next. Now if I can just figure out who the bad guy is!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crossfire Cover

It's here! I know this book isn't scheduled to come out until January, but one of the wonderful editors at my publisher (Covenant) sent me the cover image for Crossfire today and I thought I would share.
This is the third book in my Saint Squad series, although I will admit that I keep getting confused which book is which. The first two are easy enough to keep straight, but I was doing the final proofs for Crossfire at the same time I was doing the first bit of editing for the next book, Backlash. That and the fact that the timelines for the two books overlap a bit have definitely forced me to stay on my toes.
With Crossfire ready for print and Backlash ready for editing, I've turned my attention to the fifth book in the series I have been diligently working on it since school started two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I managed to write the first fifty pages only to decide that I didn't like it at all. I figure that if I'm not excited to get up in the morning to write it, no one is going to find themselves staying up all night to read it. So I went back to page one, literally. And I'm glad I did. I only have the first fourteen pages written, but already I like the way it's going. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will keep on moving!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Twenty years ago today...

Twenty years ago today I drove through the front gates of CIA Headquarters. It was the first time I did so as an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was a strange feeling, being stopped by the guards, having them find my name on the list of new employees, and being directed through the multipe layers of security to ultimately find my destination: new employee orientation.

At the time, I thought the CIA was going to be a lifelong career. It definitely could have been, but after six years, three months, and two children, I ultimately decided to shift my priorities. Still, I enjoyed the work at CIA, both the challenges and the feeling that I was living history as it was being made. I also loved the atmosphere in those halls and the way the employees seemed to connect so well with one another. Perhaps it was because we had all been so carefully screened to get there, or because we all knew that when we passed through those gates each night we could no longer speak of what we had seen or what we had done that day. Whatever it was, many friendships were formed and many confidences were shared.

As I look back on the years I worked at the CIA, I find myself a bit nostalgic. I miss the energy of those halls, the feeling of unity of the employees, and the shared ambition to keep this country safe. Mostly, I miss the people.

So I have spent today remembering my early days with the Agency and the wonder of being a new employee. And when the school busses dropped my children off in staggering intervals, I was reminded of what was important enough to make me want to give up that part of my life.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kids in school! All of them!

That's right. For the first time in my life, all four of my children are in school at the same time. Four kids. Four different schools. But they're all at school all day. That's right. All day. Of course, I'm already amazed at how short "all day" is.

Starting time for the schools here in Virginia are staggered so that they can use the same buses for the different age groups. This basically means that I start shuffling kids out the door at 6AM (for early morning seminary) and don't actually get the last one out the door until almost 9AM (the kindergartener.) Then the first one arrives home at 2:30.

Theoretically, this means that I should have 5 1/2 hours to myself. If only it weren't for those pesky dishes and laundry that seem to breed every time I turn my back on them!

The good news is that I have started a new book. Or at least I'm trying to start a new book. Beginnings are always tough for me. Okay, the first fifty to a hundred pages are tough on me, but who's counting? In three days, I'm only up to page 20, but I'm trying to be optimistic. After all, that's 20 pages I didn't have last week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that next week I'll get past the 50 page mark and I'll figure out what this book is actually about. :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Okay, so I know I have been terrible this summer about keeping up with my blog, but this morning really showed me how crazy things have been and I thought I would share. About 7:30 this morning, my five-year-old son came in determined to wake me up. I had been up late last night gathering and organizing school supplies so I was hoping to sleep in. No such luck.

I was barely even coherent when my son asked me what day it was today. I rolled over, tried to open one eye and mumbled, "Thursday." To this he responded, "No, I mean what DAY is it today?"

I managed to open both eyes, which was quite an accompishment since I was still half-asleep, and I told him again, "It's Thursday."

He just shook his head and said, "But what do we have to do today?"

Yeah, we haven't had a lot of sit at home and do nothing days this summer. Today's answer was going to meet his kindergarten teacher at open house, watching a friend's child for an hour or so, and getting one of my older daughters to soccer practice. All of this has to be done without a car, mind you, because my oldest daughter picked up an extra shift at work and will be in Fredericksburg all day with my car and my husband won't be home until everything is over.

As my week was beginning, I counted everything up that I had to do including the three open houses, two trips to the airport, four soccer practices, a piano lesson, a coaches' meeting, various dentist and doctor appointments, etc. And of course, with only two cars right now, my oldest has my car more than I do since she's trying to squeeze in as much work as possible before she leaves for college this weekend.

So the real question is, what am I going to do with myself NEXT week when everyone is at school? Hey! Maybe I'll write a book!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The waiting game

Yesterday I completed my first writing goal for the month, to submit my latest manuscript to my publisher. Now I begin the waiting game to see if it is good enough for publication. Every time I submit a manuscript I go through the same thing, the worry that what I've written won't be well received or that somehow I will disappoint the editors who have been so supportive of my past efforts.

Books like this one are the hardest to send, ones that are different from what I've done before. This novel isn't my typical boy meets girl while overcoming some outside forces together. Rather it explores the challenges a married couple face when adversity comes knocking on their door. I'm pleased with the results, but will my publisher feel the same way?

Even more difficult is the fact that I'm not already in the middle of a project. It is so much easier to press the send button when I have another novel started, one that is demanding my attention. My problem is that I have too many options and I still haven't figured out which of those possibilities are the most compelling right now. Not to mention that I have to start naming characters again. I hate that part!

So my goal for the day is to make a list of possible names for some of the novels I want to write...and to write something, even if it's only a page. Maybe that will help me forget that I'm playing the waiting game. :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What next?

I can't ever resist a challenge. With that said, my friend Tristi Pinkston is doing another BIAM (Book in a Month) this month on her blog Tristi's Challenges, so of course I had to sign up. I'm already a little behind since it started yesterday and I'm still trying to figure out what my goals should be.

The first thing I want to accomplish for the month of July is to submit my next novel to Covenant. It's written, it's approved by the CIA, and now it's in the hands of my very capable sister-in-law (Rebecca) for that last edit or two. So today, instead of trying to start a new project, I've been working on the submission materials that will accompany my manuscript.

My second goal is to complete the edit of Crossfire. My editor at Covenant e-mailed me to say I should be getting that back from her next week, so I will definitely make that a priority when I receive her edits.

My last goal is the hardest. I have to decide what to write next. Do I write another Saint Squad novel? Do I start a sequel to Royal Target? Should I try something completely new? I'm not sure what the answers are to these questions, so my final goal will be to start something. I don't know what I'm going to start, but I hope to have at least a chapter or two written by the end of the month. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great surprises

I love long as they're the good kind. For the past week, I've been trying to improve my novel, Crossfire, in preparation of it being considered for publication. I had submitted it to my publisher back in April, and finally all of the evaluations were in.

I always look forward to reading the evaluations. Usually the evaluators have at least something positive to say, but more than that, they also point out what I can do to make my book better. And I'm all about trying to get better.

So, assuming that it would be a couple of weeks before my book would be presented to the committee, that group of individuals who would ultimately determine the fate of my new book, I set about incorporating the advice that had been passed on to me.

A few obstacles had appeared this week, so I wasn't as quick in my editing as I had hoped to be, but this morning I finished up the latest version of Crossfire. Knowing that I should read through it one more time, I decided to e-mail my editor to let her know that I would be resubmitting my novel to her tomorrow. Then I opened my e-mail. Among the two dozen other new unread e-mails was an e-mail from guessed editor. The subject line: woo hoo!

Of course, I had to open it up. Sure enough, it was the good news I was hoping for without even knowing it was possible yet. Crossfire has been accepted. Although publication dates are always prone to shift throughout the year, it looks like it will be coming out in January 2010, which is more than I could have hoped for.

So now I'm going to get back to reading through Crossfire one more time. And if all goes well, my editor will enjoy reading it tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mr. Sticky Guy

A question was posted to my online writers group today asking for advice on how to have a successful book signing. I am certainly no expert on how an author should act at a signing. When I have one, I see it as an opportunity to meet people. I might sell a book or three, or I might not, but I typically enjoy myself because I see signings as a social event.

Still, the question got me thinking...and remembering. Often when I go to a book signing, I take a little treat for the bookstore staff. After all, what success I've had is due largely to these people who have taken the time to familiarize themselves with my book and who are interacting with customers day after day.

Last August, I visited a lot of stores in Utah and Idaho. In the goodie bags I made up for the bookstore staffs were those little sticky men that you get in the party aisle in Wal-Mart. One of the books I was promoting was Freefall in which one of the main characters was literally trying to climb up the side of the building during a hostage rescue situation. I thought the little sticky guys would be fun and they actually had something to do with my book.

It turned out, I wasn't the only one who had fun playing with these little toys. Booksellers, store managers, other authors, patrons, and, of course, yours truly had a blast throwing these sticky guys at windows, walls and doors. Perhaps the best adventure with my creative gift came after I left a signing at the Seagull Bookstore in Taylorsville. Someone was playing with one of the toys and threw it too high...and it stuck to the ceiling. And didn't come down.

After a few days, I received an e-mail from Paige who was on staff there to tell me about a poll they were having about how long Mr. Sticky Man would stay up on the ceiling. Crystal, the manager, won that particular contest with her guess that he would stay there until he was removed by force. As far as I know, he's still there.

Ironically, when I went to a book signing in Spanish Fork in April, I looked up and guessed it...another Mr. Sticky Guy. Apparently, he too and ended up on their ceiling, also refusing to come down without being physically removed. I laughed when they opened up the latest goodie bag and found a second sticky man. This time I hadn't even left the store before Mr. Sticky Guy, Jr. had joined Senior up on the ceiling.

If nothing else, I have fun at book signings. And I'm remembered long after I'm gone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The light at the end of the tunnel

Every few days I see that light at the end of the tunnel. I think to myself that if I can just survive another day or two, if I can just get these few more things done, that I will be able to put my life in order and find two minutes to sit down and relax. At this point I would settle for 30 seconds...make that 15.

My sister-in-law who has graciously edited for me for years has fallen prey to cancer again. She was widowed several years ago when her youngest child was an infant. Her two oldest children are away from home now, one on a mission and the other at college, so we are blessed to have her living close by so that we can help out with her seven-year-old. Unfortunately, this sister doesn't ever do things the easy way. No she didn't just get cancer, she keeps getting other diseases to overcome at the same time...shingles, nasty viruses, and the lastest, pneumonia.

Unfortunately, my husband and I also have been managing my mother-in-law's former residence since she moved into the house next door to us last summer. We finally decided to rent it out since we weren't able to sell it. We found a renter, and were within ten days of the renters moving in when the basement flooded. The new residents are supposed to move in this weekend and we are frantically trying to get wallboard and flooring replaced so that the inconvenience to these renters will be minimal.

Both of these situations are overwhelming in themselves, but we have a few other challenges we also have to deal with over the next few weeks and still others that are finally starting to wind down. The problem is that each time I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel, the train turns and it disappears again. Does this train that I'm on not understand the whole concept of the straight and narrow?!?!

I look and my husband and kids and see the exhaustion in their eyes that matches my own and I can only hope and pray that we're about to come around that corner that leads to the light. Can anyone spell SOON???!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fun, fun, fun...and research

Sometimes you just have to have a lot of fun. Last night was one of those nights. I was invited to go to Norfolk to visit a book club there. I generally have a good time when I meet new people, but I didn't expect to have THAT MUCH FUN! Everyone who came was wonderful and made me feel so welcome.

This picture was sent to me by LeAnn, but more pictures are up on Deborah Henseley's blog here.

My hosts, Hap and Vicki Cluff, had me over for dinner before the book club which was wonderful, complete with my absolute favorite vegetable...asparagus. I know some people aren't big on asparagus, my mother-in-law included, but I love the stuff and don't get to eat it nearly as often as I would like.

After dinner, about a dozen people arrived and I had a great time answering questions and finding out more about them. Among the attendees was another author (Greg West) who will be visiting the group next month.
One of the fun things about the trip was the fact that the book I'm currently working on has some scenes in Norfolk. In a way, I guess my trip served a dual purpose...having fun and doing research.

As for the members of the book club, what great people! We talked, we laughed, we ate crepes. The crepes were a spur of the moment thing, at least on my part. The ladies in attendance had made plans to kidnap another friend and take her out for her birthday. I was lucky enough to get invited along and everyone had a great time. Yes, we were sometimes a bit loud as we talked and laughed together, and we were all a bit overdosed on chocolate by the time the evening was over. I decided not to think about the number of calories I consumed...especially since our waitress insisted that all of the desserts were zero calories. Instead, I considered dessert just one part of an incredible evening, one with great food, fun conversation and the best of company.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Life is why is everyone else falling apart???

Everything has been going great for me lately. I have a new book out that's doing well, another finished and submitted, and yet another one in progress. My family is healthy and happy (most of the time) and my oldest daughter is FINALLY at college where she is happiest.

So how can my life be so great when everyone around me is going through such huge trials? I'm not talking about the little bumps in the road either. One of my closest friends is facing stage 4 cancer, again. Another is dealing with a child's serious illness, one that has the child in a top hospital located almost two hours away. Several other friends are facing serious financial difficulties.

Seeing my friends' struggles, I desperately want us all to be on the same plane of happiness...MINE! I keep hoping and praying that they will all get their miracles. I want the sick to be healed, the weary to find strength, and the distressed to find hope. That isn't too much to ask, is it? Oh, yeah. And I want my life to stay great!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


unread e-mails. This is what I found when I booted up my computer after being away for several days. While on my trip to Utah and Idaho last week, my internet access was limited to what I could accomplish on my cell phone. I thought I was being so clever to check my e-mails every day to make sure there wasn't anything critical that I needed to take care of. I just never realized exactly how many I was skipping over.

So yesterday I opened up my inbox and was stunned at the number of unread e-mails in my inbox. I mean, I know I get a lot of e-mails, but normally I check it a couple of times a day and clean everything out as the day goes on.

I started reading e-mails at 10AM yesterday...and finished cleaning out the new ones around 5PM. Yes, I did have a few I needed to respond to, and I admit I did delete many without reading them. I think the next time I travel, I'll figure out where the delete button is on my cell phone BEFORE I leave town!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whitney voting

The Whitney Award voting is coming to a close. The Whitney Committee, comprised of various authors, reviewers and bookstore owners and managers have all been frantically trying to read the last of the finalists, hoping to find a clear favorite in each category by the end of this week.

As for me, I had to pick and choose which categories to vote in. Living in Virginia where I don't have easy access to LDS books, I was faced with a choice. Buy the majority of the books on the finalist list (except for the mainstream ones that are available in my library) and stop writing for two months so I would have time to read them all, or I could keep writing and read what I could. I chose the second option.

Last year I tried the first. The result was no new novel written by me last year. Lockdown, which came out this month, was written in the spring of 2007. My previous three novels (The Deep End, Freefall, and Royal Target) were written in the spring of 2006. In the spring of 2008 I didn't write. I read.

I don't know what it is about springtime that gets the creative juices flowing for me, but I've decided not to fight it...or postpone it...this year. I'm excited to have finished a rough draft of my next novel and have started on another one that I hope to have drafted by the end of April. If all goes well, I will have something to submit to my publisher within a few weeks as I edit the first.

In the middle of this productive time for me though, I am waiting anxiously to know who will win this year's Whitney awards. I am realistic enough to know that even though I wrote two of the five finalists in the suspense category, I am expecting to lose. Really. Even if I win, I lose. So, knowing that the honor really is in being nominated, and even more so being selected as a finalist, I have to wonder: If the choice was only between my two books, which would win? Royal Target or Freefall? Opinions anyone?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pretending to be a celebrity

The fun thing about having a new book out (Lockdown was released this month) is that I get to pretend to be famous for a little while. I've been very fortunate that Lockdown has garnered some positive press in the past few weeks. Today an interview with me was posted on LDS Bookcorner, which is mostly a get-to-know-you kind of interview. I even admit what kind of music I listen to when I have control of the radio.

Besides this recent interview, I also found out that Lockdown has been reviewed by Deseret News (a duplication of a review in The Mormon Times), the Association of Mormon Letters, and Meridian Magazine. I was even featured in an article in my dad's home town newspaper (The Verde Independent.) I know for a big-name author, this might not seem like a lot, but for me it's pretty exciting. Normally, the only time I get this much attention is when I'm fixing dinner and all of my kids are starving (or so they say.)

In addition to the interview and articles, Davis Bigalow recently honored me with an award called the “Premio Symbelmine” which means "Sublime Award". So thanks Davis!

I'm supposed to pass this award on to seven other blogs that I feel deserve "sublime" status so, in no particular order, here it goes:

Stephanie Humphrey's Write Bravely - Stephanie has a wonderful way of looking at things and so often she gives encouragement with her gift of words without even realizing what a talent she has.

Kersten Campbell's Life on the Funny Farm - Kersten's book Confessions of a Completely (In)Sane Mother was released recently as is gaining some great reviews.

The Dashner Dude (aka James Dashner) - How could I not mention James? Besides the fact that his second 13th Reality book is out (which yes, my daughter Christina says I have to get an autographed copy for her), he cracks me up. Check out his blog and you can't help but be entertained. I'd add that he's a talented writer too, but that might go to his head.

Twas Brillig - Another blogger with a fabulous way of stringing words together to evoke emotion and bring life into focus.

Scattered Jules - I met Julie Wright last summer at Booksellers in Sandy, Utah and found out first hand what a fun person she is. She not only has a great way of looking at life, but she also has a way of making people face their own vulnerabilities and learn how to laugh at them.

My Paige - Michele Paige Holmes is a very talented writer and I'm hoping she'll get to sleep soon (her newest addition is still denying her that luxury) so she can produce another novel that will keep me turning pages late into the night like her Whitney Award winning book, Counting Stars.

And last but not least, Mamablogga -Jordan's blog helps me keep life in perspective. After all, the most important job I'll ever have is that of a mother. This blog reminds me that even when I'm pretending to be famous, I'll always just be the keeper of the bandaids and the finder of clean socks.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I kept putting it off until last night I couldn't stand it any more. I did my taxes. I kept thinking I should do the taxes for a family trust that I manage first, but I finally decided that I needed to shorten my list of things to do and one of the big ones looming over me was my own family's taxes. So I started yesterday evening...and kept going until 3AM this morning. But they're done. YEAH!!! I was so excited, I even did my daughter's taxes. I don't think she'll be quite as excited as I was to have them done since she's only getting about $10 back from the federal government, but still, any money is worth having these days.

I'll admit that the hours sitting at the computer making friends with TurboTax were more painful that I would have liked (have you ever put in 16 years worth of dividend reinvestment income before?), but I can't believe how much more focused I feel now that it's over. I know that I'm not very good at procrastinating. That's not to say that I don't procrastinate, but rather that I'm really bad at getting away with it.

I have a book that has been just begging to be finished (and I want desperately to get it done!) but I know that with these kinds of obligations, the things I enjoy doing always end up at the bottom of the list. So my goal this week is to finish up the trust taxes, get my mother-in-law's taxes done, and just maybe reacquaint myself with those characters that have been impatiently waiting for me. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 9, 2009


Life has been moving so quickly, I've barely been able to take a breath since swim season ended. For those of you who read my last post, we did have a few adventures, but not as many as expected. Armed with my new GPS-capable cell phone, we only endured only six U-turns and a lot of laughter.

After naviagating through the state swim meet, I thought I would have time to catch my breath, but that wasn't to be. My youngest turned five that following weekend so I had a lot of preparations for that. (The main obstacle was figuring out how to get his new bicycle home now that I don't have a van, but luckily it fit in the backseat.) Then I found out a friend had a shorter deadline than anticipated for finishing off her basement.

My husband and a friend have been doing the work for her, but then we realized that her carpeting is coming any day now, ready or not. So we spend the past week building walls, and then mudding, taping and sanding. I wish I could say it was done, but at least the walls are up!

Now with tax deadlines looming (did I mention that I'm the poor soul in my family that does everyone's taxes?), a dozen books to read before voting for the Whitney awards, and a almost finished novel, I almost don't know where to start. I suppose I should get to planting my garden soon too. Maybe it's time to make a list. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I can start checking things off!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Upcoming Adventure

I feel an adventure coming on. Tomorrow I will head to the Northwest Regional Swim meet here in Virginia. Two coaches, one bus driver, eighteen teenagers. Sounds simple enough. The only problem is that Murphy tends to follow me on away meets. (You know, that guy that invented Murphy's Law?)

I am fortunate that most of my regular season meets are at the pool around the corner from me. My team typically only travels at most twice a year except for post season. And we almost always get lost. Sometimes we don't realize that the bus driver was given the wrong destination until after we miss our exit. Some pools are incredibly difficult to find...and the bus driver won't ask for directions. And other times, no one has directions and we end up relying on some 16 or 17-year-old to help us find the pool. Now that's adventurous.

Yet, with all of the times we have taken wrong turns, chewed our fingernails as the bus tried to do a U-turn on a residential street, or placed our faith in a teenage driver's sense of direction, we never get lost during our post season. (Well, maybe a wrong turn on occasion, but not really lost.)

I expect this year might be a bit different. You see, we are swimming at a new a town I haven't visited since before I started coaching thirteen years ago.

The funny thing is, I'm kind of looking forward to getting lost. All throughout this swim season something has been missing on my team: a sense of unity. Most of the swimmers advancing to regionals are underclassmen, and many of them swim on year-round teams in the area. The thing I've always loved about high school swimming is that sense of team. I love the way these kids who have been trained to think only of their own personal times start stepping outside of themselves and start thinking about their teammates. I enjoy the strategy sessions when these talented teenagers start understanding my sometimes far-fetched logic that helps us win as a whole even when it doesn't make any one of them the superstar.

Looking back on this season, I realize that we didn't have any real adventures. Sure, we had to rely on a teenager to direct us to our one away meet, but we didn't really get lost. The swimmers were so talented that they breezed through their regular season undefeated without having to understand how we did it. And as a result when we faced a uphill battle to go for the district championship, they didn't know how to reach for the goal as a team. Could we have won? I don't know. We were supposed to lose by forty or so points and these kids narrowed the gap down to less than 10. I'm proud of them individually, but I can still see so much untapped potential for them as a unit.

So as I prepare myself for the next championship meet, I find myself actually hoping for a wrong turn or two. Maybe some shared experiences will help them all see that we can succeed as individuals and still reach for the same goals.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Trophy seeking

The past few days have had some interesting ups and downs. On Saturday night I was at the district swim meet. My team was the long shot to win, but I was hoping and praying we could pull it off. My swimmers did great, they dropped time everywhere, and even broke a school record. And we still took second place. Oh, well. There's always next year.

Though I would have loved for my team to have walked away holding that trophy, I got just about everything else I wanted on Saturday night. Nearly everyone who had a shot at advancing to Regionals did so. Several kids outperformed even my expectations and we walked out of the meet knowing that as a team we had done our best.

Yesterday, I was playing the underdog role once more. You see, the finalists for the Whitney Awards were being announced yesterday morning. I was extremely fortunate last year to have my novel, The Deep End, named as a finalist and I admit I was hopeful that at least one of my novels would earn me that honor once more.

What I didn't expect is what actually happened. BOTH of my 2008 novels were named as finalists...and they are competing AGAINST each other. That's right. Freefall and Royal Target are both finalists in the mystery/suspense category for the Whitney Awards.

I find myself both excited and mystified. You see, while both of my books can certainly be categorized as suspense novels, neither one of them are purists in the category. Freefall would really be better classified as government action/intrigue with some romance thrown in. Royal Target I consider more of a romance with some government suspense thrown in.

With this said, and knowing that judges are likely to vote for a book that truly fits the category, I want to congratulate all of the Whitney Finalists. And until April 25th I will continue to wonder which of the other three authors in the mystery/suspense category is going to beat me out not once, but twice, to win the award.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


After months of waiting, we finally got our first snow here in Virginia. It was only an inch or two, but it was enough for the kids to want to bundle up, grab their hats, scarves and gloves and head outside to play in the white, wintery weather. My ten-year-old daughter took Luke, my four-year-old son, out to play while I tended to some things inside including putting the kettle on so that I would be ready with hot chocolate when my two youngest decided they'd had enough.

Not an hour after they had come inside, Luke decided that he wanted to go out again. This time I went out with him. I wanted to take some pancakes that I had made over to my mother-in-law's house next door so that was as good of an excuse as any to go out. While I visited with Mom for a few minutes, Luke happily played outside. He then helped me clear Mom's driveway and sidewalk even though he wasn't happy that we were clearing away the footprints he had made in the process.

I assured him that he had made plenty of footprints in the snow, and that he would be able to make plenty more. Later that afternoon, his sister took him out again, and they moved to the pristine snow in the backyard so they could make more footprints.

Last night when I went out to take the garbage to the curb, the road was a little icy so I walked through the snow to Mom's house to check on her and take out her trash. When I was walking home I finally slowed down long enough to really look at Mom's front lawn and the footprints that were streaked across it. Dozens of trails led from my house to Mom's house and back again. More were streaked across our adjoining back yards. I had to smile. Those tracks might not mean much to someone passing by, but to me they reminded me of what's really important: family.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Behind the scenes at Inauguration Day

We’re only hours away from the inauguration of our next president. Millions have come to Washington, DC and the areas surrounding the capital to see this historic event. People are talking about the high cost of the festivities, the historic significance of our first African-American president being sworn into office, and the record crowds.

Personally, living in the shadows of Washington, DC, I’m staying away from the city. And my heart goes out to those who have to be there. Several of my friends and acquaintances moved into their offices over the weekend, sleeping bags in tow, in preparation for the festivities. And I know they aren’t alone.

I’m talking about the FBI, Secret Service, law enforcement officers, and the many other individuals who are required to report to work on Inauguration Day, not only because that’s part of their job, but because their sense of responsibility is so great. What many don’t realize is that while the news may touch on the fact that there aren’t any hotel rooms to be had within forty (or more) miles of Washington, many members of these protective agencies are without a place to stay.

The road closures in the area, the expected high volume on the subway, and the lack of hotel rooms left many without any other choice but to go into work on Sunday night and not come home until Wednesday after the inaugural events have concluded. After all, these are people who are willing to throw themselves in front of a bullet to protect our new president. They aren’t about to take a chance of not making it to work on time.

I imagine President-elect Obama is only beginning to understand how truly great this country is, and how privileged he is to have such dedicated men and women working for him to ensure his safety and the safety of his family.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New release date

I know I've been telling everyone that my next book, Lockdown, is coming out in February. Today I found out that it's been pushed back a month and the new release date is March. My editor was very apologetic, but I think I'm the one person who isn't really going to notice. After all, I've already read the book. :) With that said, I really am excited to see Lockdown in print and have a copy in my hot little hands.

Every so often, I start writing and I am absolutely stunned when several weeks later, I have this manuscript on my desk that I can't quite figure out how it came to be. Lockdown was one of those books.

I can still remember the day I walked away from the television and started writing Lockdown. It was April 17, 2007, the day after the Virginia Tech shootings. The television was still on in the family room as other family members watched and listened. All of the people that we knew at Tech were safe, but our hearts broke for the families of those who hadn't been so lucky. I remember having a similiar reaction after the Columbine shooting. I wanted to watch the television to see what had caused this horrible event to happen, but at the same time I couldn't believe what I was watching.

Lockdown really was my therapy, my way of learning how I deal with those kinds of senseless tragedies. What I found is that through it all, there is always hope for a better day tomorrow.