When I was little, I had a recurring dream about an old truss bridge that spanned the White River in Newport, Arkansas.  The scenario and even the structure itself would sometimes change, but the terror I felt in crossing that bridge was always the same.  I still have a thing about bridges and overpasses and often have to fight back panic as I approach the incline.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a lot of changes, some of which I’ve brought upon myself.  I’m winding up a remodel of my office and when I began looking for photographs to hang on the wall, I found myself drawn to bridges.  I think this might be a good thing.  Because what is a bridge if not a transition?

Some bridges from my past:

bridgebradford, ar bridgejudsonia bridge 4Augusta

An Update and an Apology

So many of you have been writing to ask when the next installment of The Graveyard Queen will be out and the best answer I can give you right now is…probably next year.  I know, I know.  That’s way too long.  The truth is, the book should have already been out along with the other two titles in the series.  The delay falls entirely on me.

I’m a very private person and I rarely talk about anything beyond my writing life on social networking sites, but you all have been so kind and patient and have hung in there with me for so long, I need and want to give you an explanation.  And if I’ve neglected to respond to an email, blog or Facebook comment, I sincerely apologize.

Last April I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly.  Needless to say, my children and I were shocked and utterly devastated.  In the ensuing months, not only did I have to deal with the loss, I also had to become involved in my husband’s business.  The fate of the company and its employees rested squarely on my shoulders.  Eventually, I found a wonderful buyer, all jobs are safe and the legacy continues, but the stress, as you can imagine, took a toll on my creativity.

I wrote a blog post a couple of months ago entitled “Back to Writing.”  It hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped it would be.  My mind is still a bit too cluttered, my heart still heavy, but each day gets a little easier.  My son and daughter and I spent ten days in Los Angeles over the holidays, and when I got home, for the first time in months, I felt ready and maybe even a little excited to find my new normal.  It’s what my husband would have wanted for sure.  He was my biggest supporter and I can say without a doubt that I would never have become a writer without him.

Let me tell you a little about him.  He was tall, dark and handsome, the embodiment of my every hero.  A successful businessman, an extraordinarily gifted artist and a brilliant father.  He was funny, smart, fearless and cool.  In short, the perfect companion.  These days, I’m trying to learn to celebrate what I had rather than mourn what I lost.  Because until last spring, I lived a truly charmed existence.  For thirty-eight years—most of my adult life—I got to live with the most interesting person I’ve ever known.

Just wanted you all to know.


A man and his art:

Scan 1



Back to writing…

cemetaryI’m not an autumn person.   There is always something a little sad about the end of summer.  :(  I do love Halloween, though. :)

So I’m finally back to writing full time as of this week, but it’s taking much longer than I anticipated to get back into a routine.  Right now I’m trying to once again immerse myself in Amelia’s graveyard kingdom.  I’m so close to finishing the fourth book, and yet the end still seems so far away.  But I’ll get there.  One page at a time, one day at a time.  Amelia’s life has taken an unexpected turn (as has mine).  She’s coming to discover that there is more to her gift than she ever dreamed.

I was an Asher by birth, a legacy that came with great wealth and corruption, but Papa’s people were simple mountainfolk.  It was from the Grays that I had inherited my dark gift.  Caulbearers, we were sometimes called.  Those of us born with a veil.  It happened every generation or so.

But as more of Papa’s secrets came to light, I was starting to suspect that my legacy ran far deeper than the ability to see spirits.  I had been born dead to a dead mother.  My grandmother, Tilly had pulled me back from the other side by cutting away the veil of membrane covering my face and forcing air into my premature lungs, and now I sometimes felt that I belonged to neither world.  I was a living ghost, a wanderer who had not yet found her purpose or place.  But every new discovery, every broken rule brought me closer to my destiny. 

If only I could peer through the keyholes of my eyes and know the future, perhaps I could somehow change my course.  But how did one fight preordination?  How did one combat fate?

 It was a question I pondered often in the dead of night as ghosts drifted by my window.

Dead of Night

Dead of Night

My name (tiny though it may be) next to Charlaine Harris’s.  OMG!

From bestselling author Charlaine Harris and rising star Amanda Stevens come two otherworldly tales sure to haunt readers well after the last page is turned.

Dancers in the Dark

#1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris

Layla Rue Le May is no ordinary dancer—her partner, Sean McClendon, is a three-hundred-year-old redheaded vampire. When Layla Rue acquires a stalker, she’s forced to face the music…and wonder if this will finally be her last dance.

The Devil’s Footprints

Award-winning author Amanda Stevens

Years after her sister’s unsolved murder, Sarah DeLaune is haunted by the mysteries of her past when two mutilated bodies are found near Sarah’s New Orleans home, the crime scene desecrated by cloven footprints. Sarah has always believed that her sister was killed by a man named Ashe Cain. But no one else has ever seen Ashe. Until now.

Audie Nomination

armchairaudies-borderI have to confess, I was unaware of the Armchair Audies until Khristine Hvam Kies, the narrator for The Graveyard Queen series, posted on my Faceback wall that we had been nominated.  Now that I’ve done a little research, I realize what a very cool thing this is!  And I also recognize that much of the credit belongs to Khristine for her amazing interpretation of Amelia.

Yay, us!

You can see a complete list of the nominations at AudioFile Magazine.

Guess Who?

Turns out, the Graveyard Queen isn’t going to make NBC’s fall lineup.  :cry:   However, all is not lost, it can still get picked up for another season.  It just depends on what the network is looking for at that particular time.  The writers assure me they and others still believe in the project and are not giving up on it.  So for now my fingers remain crossed and no matter what happens, I will always get a little giddy every time I receive paperwork from Touchstone. :-)

Whenever I talk to the writers (who are awesome, by the way), I start imagining who I would cast in the various roles.  I’ve done this before with Amelia and Devlin so this time I thought I’d concentrate on the secondary characters.  And to give it a little twist, I’m just going to post the photos of the actors and see if you can guess the role I’d have them play.

Caleb Etta Gray LynroseDr. Shaw templeMacon

What Is That?

whatisthat6No surprise, I love old graveyards.  My husband travels a lot for work so now and then, when he comes across an interesting cemetery, he’ll stop and take pictures for me.

Here is a photograph from an old graveyard in Texarkana, Texas, that he shot on his way back to Houston from Arkansas just after Christmas.  He doesn’t remember the name of the place, but I looked it up and, fittingly, I believe this photo is from Rose Hill Cemetery.

Notice the tiny form lurking beneath that large hanging branch and behind the wrought iron fence (to the far right in the first photo).  For obvious reasons, we’ve titled this one, “What is that?”

Click each image for larger view.

Just For Using My Imagination

Blur Collage4_ppSo this is pretty cool.  I was interviewed today by the Houston Press for their “100 Creatives” feature, which they describe as 100 of the most creative people in Houston.  Not gonna lie, I’m totally stoked.  How fun to be recognized just for using my imagination.

Some of the questions got me thinking back over my twenty-five year career path and I had an epiphany of sorts.  I’ve come full circle.  I’m now writing exactly what I set out to write lo those many years ago—a Gothic romance.

Like my protagonist, Amelia, I’ve always loved Gothic novels, starting with the classics that I read back in high school and continuing on with contemporary authors like Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney and my beloved Mary Stewart.

Those are the kinds of stories I had in mind to write back in the eighties when I first started in this business but naively failed to take into account the changing times.  Publishing houses were looking for something edgier and sexier while I was still stubbornly trying to rewrite Nine Coaches Waiting.  I even had an editor ask me once why I wrote with a British accent.  lolol

So I adapted.  And I wrote fifty-something romantic suspense novels and a few thrillers along the way, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. But with the Graveyard Queen series, I’ve finally been able to revisit my first love, the Gothic.

What genre or even a specific book made you fall in love with reading/writing?

When Male Characters Become Too Chatty

clintI’m not the best person to blog on the subject of writing because I mostly do everything by instinct or trial and error.  I never stop to analyze why, when or how, and I don’t like to follow a lot of rules.

But there is one trick I’ve learned over the years that I’m more than happy to pass along, although I have a feeling it may be one of those things that doesn’t work for, well, anyone but me.  Nevertheless, here we go.

Years ago I attended a workshop where the speaker claimed that female writers often over-write their male characters, especially when it comes to dialogue.  We have a tendency to have our pretend men speak the way we would like real-life men to speak, i.e. more like us.  I don’t know if this is true for most or even a few female writers, but it struck a chord with me.  My male characters do tend to get a little chatty.

So my trick is simply this: if I have a male character that is getting too verbose, I allow Clint Eastwood circa Two Mules for Sister Sara to slip into my head.  To be clear, none of my characters look like Clint or act like Clint or even speak like Clint.  I’m not even a big Clint Eastwood fan.  But hearing his voice in my head allows me to trim the dialogue.  Then I go back in and tweak word choice, phrasing and tags to make it true to my character.

Ta-da.  Tip of the day, for whatever it’s worth.

Oh, and Cillian Murphy seems to work for me, too.

P.S.  I love Shirley MacLaine

Blog Hopping

blog Welcome to my stop on the Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

Here’s the lowdown. This particular blog tour invites writers to answer ten questions about their current Work in Progress, or a forthcoming project. Each tagged writer answers the questions, and then coerces tags other writers to answer the same questions on their blogs, and then they strongarm beg bribe tag more writers, and so on and so on…infinity! It’s a fun way to bring new readers and writers together.

I was tagged by the fabulous Laura Benedict, whose books include Isabella Moon, Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts (one of my all-time favorite reads) and Devil’s Oven, as well as the tasty anthology Surreal South. Bestselling author JT Ellison says of Devil’s Oven: “…stunning and lyrical and all kinds of creepy. Benedict taps into our childhood’s grimmest fairy tales, and takes them in a delightfully spooky new direction. [She] has graced us with a sophisticated and thoroughly grown-up contemporary nightmare. I won’t sleep easy for days.” That description pretty much sums up Laura’s writing: stunning, lyrical and all kinds of creepy. I call it poetic horror.

Now to the questions!

1) What is the working title of your book?

Chrysalis is Book One of my new series for Harlequin Teen. I actually just finished the Art Fact Sheet and now I can’t wait to see that first cover.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The story has taken so many unexpected turns and I’ve added so many layers that I’m not sure I can pinpoint the original spark. I woke up one morning with the idea stuck in my head—a girl attacked and left for dead lingers in a coma, trapped in the chrysalis of her own body until her soul discovers a way to break free. It’s sort of Freaky Friday meets The Hunger Games.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

YA paranormal thriller.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

Hmm, I can see Willa Holland as Camilla (the girl in the coma), Shailene Woodley as Hanna (who becomes host to Camilla’s soul), Pierre Boulanger as Ethan (the love interest) and Alex Pettyfer as Atticus (a dangerous tracker with an agenda).

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young coma patient’s soul jumps from body to body, searching for her would-be killer.

6) Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

It will be out in February, 2014, from Harlequin Teen.

7) How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’m still in the process of writing it as well as finishing up The Visitor, Book Four, of The Graveyard Queen series.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think readers who like the Wake series by Lisa McMann will enjoy this series, as well as Alyson Noel’s Soul Seekers Book One—Fated.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The YA genre in general. I find the creativity and originality in so many of those novels completely awe-inspiring and not a little intimidating.

10) What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

Chrysalis is just the beginning of a much larger, deeper, scarier adventure. Once the details of Camilla’s past are revealed, she becomes the target of a powerful organization bent on returning her to the fold. Not only will she have to fight for her life, but for her very identity.

The next writers on the hop are…

Jordan Dane

B. J. Daniels

On Wednesday, January 23th, these writers will post about their own Next Big Thing. Both are amazingly prolific and terrifically talented. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know them.


Jordan Dane will give away an audio book in conjunction with the hop. Enter as many times as you want and there will be several simple ways to throw your name in. Open to international entrants, too. “Award-winning voice actor Michelle Ann Dunphy gives a stunning and emotional performance in this 8-hour 48-minute unabridged Audible recording of In the Arms of Stone Angels.”

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