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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Year Without A Book


So many of my readers continue to ask me when something new is coming out. My last new book was Cold-Blooded and that was released in 2015. Before that, I had something new at least once a year. 2016 was my first year without a new book. Not because I wasn’t working on stuff, but because other crazy stuff was happening in my life. So, if you’re interested in the real reason that 2016 was my year without a book, read on.

In February of 2016, my daughter, husband and I were sitting down to dinner when my daughter reached up to brush her hair behind her ear and realized her earring was missing. On further examination, we realized it hadn't merely fallen out of her ear--the earring had been pierced too low and had actually worked its way out of her ear altogether, leaving her with a cleft earlobe.

We had no idea the crazy path that this small moment would set us on.

We took her to the plastic surgery department at our local Children's Hospital to have the earlobe repaired. During one of the visits to plastics, a nurse practitioner there noticed that her head was an unusual oblong shape. We were approached by the staff there and asked if we would be open to having a CT of our daughter's head performed. We met with the head of craniofacial surgery to discuss the shape of her head. They suspected she had something called CRANIOSYNOSTOSIS. You can Google if you want, but be careful. There are some unsettling surgical images that come up. It's mostly found in infants but occasionally, it can be found in older children. Our daughter was 8 years old.

The skull is made up of plates, the surgeon explained to us. They fit together along these openings. The openings are called sutures. There are several. They all have different names. They're supposed to stay open for various periods of time--each suture closes at a different time. The main point is that they're supposed to remain open for a good deal of time--especially when you're a child--to allow room for your brain to grow. This way, as your brain grows, your skull expands. The sutures accommodate all this glorious brain growth when they stay open. When a suture closes early, it can cause all sorts of neurological problems. Developmental delays, cognitive deficits. If you can imagine walking around all day in a shoe that is too small for your foot, that is essentially what happens to the brain, the skull becomes too small to accommodate it.

Now imagine all the things that the brain is responsible for--it's everything, right? Walking, talking, seeing, thinking . . . everything! So imagine all the things that can go wrong if your brain is being constricted. Believe me, I've thought about it. A lot.

By the way, there’s only one remedy for craniosynostosis. That is surgery. The kind where they take your kid’s skull apart and rebuild it. (In some cases of infants with cranio, they can do a less invasive, endoscopic surgery but for a child my daughter’s age, that’s not an option.)

We agreed to the CT scan. We reassured our daughter that her head was just fine. We would just get this one scan, you know, just in case. Two long, horrific, torturous weeks after the scan (during which I fell and broke my foot; my daughter fell and broke her nose and had to get surgery; and I went to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack to find out I had gallstones and needed surgery) we finally sat down with the surgeon for the results. By that time, blessedly, our daughter had forgotten all about the entire business so we let her go to school while we met with the surgeon.

"Her sagittal suture is completely closed," he told us.

I remember those were his exact words. I remember because the bottom of my world fell out from under me in that moment. I had known. Of course I had known. I had been Googling the hell out of craniosynostosis 24/7 since the first time I heard the word. I hadn't slept or eaten in two weeks, had cried every time I was alone, had been a hot fucking mess the entire time, wondering if my kid was going to need surgery. But hearing it, finding it out, knowing it was real was a terrible feeling.

Our daughter was lucky that she had no cognitive deficits or developmental delays. She had had headaches since age 6 that were becoming worse, more frequent, and debilitating—but the cause of which couldn’t be pinpointed. There was some clumsiness that couldn’t be explained and a few things we didn’t even realize were cranio-related until after the surgery. But the CT told us all we needed to know. There was scalloping on her brain. Her brain was already looking for room that simply was not there.

Then they talked to us about the surgery--the doctor and his nurse practitioner. The words "disassemble the skull" were actually used. They typically did two surgeries--one to address the back of the skull and a second six months later to address the front of the skull although it was possible, at Morgan's age, that she might only need the first surgery. That remained to be seen. They would start with the back. They would have to shave a strip of hair. She would have a very large scar from ear to ear, but they'd open her up in a zig zag fashion so that when the hair grows back, the scar would be less noticeable. (About a week before the surgery, when the surgeon told her it would be like Harry Potter’s scar, only bigger, that sealed the deal for her.) They estimated it would be a five hour surgery. Five days in the hospital. The neurosurgeon would take the skull apart and our craniofacial surgeon would rebuild it.

Lots of stuff went on after that but the short story is that a retinal exam didn’t show any pressure on our daughter’s optic nerve so we were able to wait a few months for her to have the surgery. She was able to finish second grade and have a pretty good summer before we dropped the bomb on her that her skull needed to be reconstructed. We kept it secret from her—and from just about everyone else we knew—for nearly 5 long months. It was hell. I could go on about the feelings my husband and I cycled through. Not just knowing that our child had to have this serious surgery but knowing that until she did, she was a ticking time bomb of sorts. (“I don’t want to upset you,” another cranio mom told me at one point. “But one day she could just wake up blind.”)

Don’t get me wrong. We understand how lucky we are. This was something that was caught before any irreparable damage was caused by the cerebral constriction. This was something that could be fixed. We weren’t looking at an uncertain outcome. We weren’t looking at a terminal disease or an illness or syndrome that would negatively affect her for the rest of her life. We weren’t looking at putting her on a transplant list. There were so very many other things that could have happened to her that would have been a million times worse. Believe me, we saw the parents of children with much more serious health issues every time we went to the hospital. We are grateful—so incredibly, unbelievably grateful—that this was the hand she was dealt. But still, all surgeries come with risks and possible complications. No parent wants to hear that their child’s skull needs to be disassembled. You just don’t. That’s not fun. Not a good time for a parent, much less the poor kid who has to endure it. So let’s just say that it was stressful.

We didn’t tell her until about two weeks before the surgery and she took it better than we could ever possibly have imagined. Of course she did. Because she’s pretty awesome. What she actually said to us after we explained everything to her was, “It’s not cancer.” Even at 8 she had perspective about it. She was brave beyond belief. I’ve never seen anything like it. As an adult, I was struggling with the fact that she had to go through this but she was pretty cool about it. I think what made it easier on all of us was knowing that if she didn’t have the surgery, things could be so much worse. I actually had a dream right after we found out that she was thirteen and having all kinds of neurological problems and we were taking her from doctor to doctor trying to get answers and finding none. That could have been our life. Her life.

The surgery took place on 8/18/16 and it took longer than expected. The pressure in her brain was so great that her skull plates had adhered to the dura covering her brain. So when they took the skull plates off, it lacerated the dura in several places. Thank God and the Universe that our neurosurgeon was able to stitch everything up just fine and she had no complications from that. Still, it was quite scary.

The brilliant craniofacial surgeon reconstructed the back of her skull. Also, they told us that when they took the plates off, her brain was “really squished down in there” and it expanded once the plates were off. So her brain definitely needed more room. We went into the surgical waiting room, surrounded by several members of our amazing family, at 8:30 a.m. and the doctor met with us sometime around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. to tell us everything had gone well other than the dural lacerations. We had to wait until 7 to see her in the ICU. The scar was something to see. But on the whole, she looked wonderful. It was amazing what these surgeons had done to her skull.

She spent four days in the ICU struggling with pain; noise and light sensitivity; and lack of appetite. She was so weak by the time we brought her home that she couldn’t walk on her own. But her spirits were intact. It was a tough recovery. I won’t lie. The first ten days were especially hard. But then like magic, she turned a corner and things became more manageable. Suddenly she was back to her old self, dancing and playing and joking like nothing had ever happened. Three weeks after the surgery she was cleared to return to school—with some restrictions. She wore a hat over her scar until the hair grew in somewhat and she just got tired of wearing the hat.

We saw the cranial surgeon for a follow-up on Tuesday and he said everything looked good and he will see us in a year. On August 18, 2017, we’ll celebrate her one year cranioversary.

We were able to get through all of the insanity—getting the news, living with it, preparing for surgery, her having the surgery, and the recovery—because we have the most wonderful family and friends anyone could ever ask for. The show of support we received from everyone we know was nothing short of astounding. I can’t even count the moments of love and support that took my breath away—there were so many. It still takes my breath away to think about it. If I spent the rest of my life thanking our incredible loved ones for everything they did for us during that time, it wouldn’t be enough. I wish they could know how grateful we are, and I hope they do. Any time I lose faith in humanity or the fate of the world as we know it, I think about that time in our lives and the way people supported us and lifted us up and I think, we can’t be doomed if there is that kind of love, kindness, compassion and generosity in the world.

So yes, 2016 was a year without a book. I was working on one—little by little when I could concentrate or find time. That book is called Losing Leah Holloway and it will come out in October of this year. But I didn’t release anything in 2016 because the year was so full of blessings, good luck, good fortune, wonderful people, courageous nurse practitioners, amazing surgeons, and one awe-inspiring, fiercely brave 8-year-old that there just wasn’t room for anything else.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

$120 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Ends December 18th


A few of my favorite authors invited me to be a part of this awesome holiday giveaway. So we're giving away one $120 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner. This giveaway ends December 18th. All you have to do is sign up to be on one or more of our newsletter/mailing lists. Each author's newsletter counts as an entry. So if you sign up for just mine, you're entered to win the gift card once. If you sign up for six newsletters, you'll be entered six times. Plus, each author is giving away some of her ebooks to some lucky readers! This giveaway runs till December 18th so please enter and share the word!



Go HERE to enter!

Below you'll find a bit about the lovely ladies hosting this giveaway!




Katie Mettner writes inspirational and romantic suspense from a little house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. She's the author of the four part epic family saga, The Sugar Series, Sugar's Song being runner up for sweet romance in the eFestival of Words contest. Her other romance series, The Northern Lights Series and the Snowberry Holiday Series, are both set in Minnesota and are a mix of new adult and romantic suspense.







MK has always been a voracious reader. After hitting a dry spell of reading material, she decided to write the kind of book she'd like to read. This resulted in the creation of her debut novel, Intentional. (Award for Best Sweet Romance - eFestival of Words- August 2014) Unintentional, the second book in the series, is based on the life of one of the characters in Intentional (Cade - an engineer/rock star). Unintentional was written as a stand-alone book.Breaking Braydon, another stand-alone book, is now available on Amazon. Taking Tiffany (A spin-off) is available now.When she's not writing novels, she likes to spend her free time traveling the world, splashing in mud puddles (She lives in Seattle, what can she say?), watching movies and reading.





Dana Mason is happily settled in a small valley amongst the California grapevines with her husband and three children. Author of the romantic suspense, Embrace Series, she's written about a group of friends from Northern California who learn just how short life can be when you don't hold on to what's important. Second chances don't come easy...but sometimes love is worth the risk. When not writing, Dana specializes in professional development and training. She's also a board member on the local Art's Council and does what she can to support the art community.





Nancy S. Thompson is the double award-winning author of two dark romantic thrillers, The Mistaken, her debut, and Leverage, the sequel. She is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband and son, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. Besides moonlighting as a freelance editor, she also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing, editing, reading, or designing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

                                                      

Lisa Regan was born in Philadelphia, a product of two large Irish Catholic families whose roots run deep in her neighborhood. From the moment she was able to put words onto the page, she was writing: poems, stories, and even novels. In 2002 she finally finished her first adult novel, which remains on a flash drive in her nightstand. In 2006, she finished what would become her first published novel: Finding Claire Fletcher. After being passed over by more than 150 agents and then more than a dozen publishers, her first novel was published in December 2012, followed by her second novel, Aberration, in June 2013. Finding Claire Fletcher won Best Heroine and was runner-up for Best Novel in the 2013 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards. It was a finalist for the Kindle Book Review's Best Kindle Book Awards in 2014. In December 2013, the novel reached number one on Amazon's Bestselling Kidnapping Crime Fiction list; in the same month, her second novel, Aberration reached number one on Amazon's Serial Killer Crime Fiction Bestseller list. Lisa currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter where she works full time and works on her future novels while waiting in line at the local post office.




Julie writes romance from her home in Melbourne, Australia where she lives with her hot romance hero husband and two sons. She loves a good story, pumpkin pie and lots and lots of coffee.



Sunday, December 6, 2015

A $120 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway!

A few of my favorite authors invited me to be a part of this awesome holiday giveaway. So we're giving away one $120 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner. All you have to do is sign up to be on one or more of our newsletter/mailing lists. Each author's newsletter counts as an entry. So if you sign up for just mine, you're entered to win the gift card once. If you sign up for six newsletters, you'll be entered six times. Plus, each author is giving away some of her ebooks to some lucky readers! This giveaway runs till December 18th so please enter and share the word!



Go HERE to enter!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Taking the Leap Into The Romance Genre: Nancy S. Thompson's STIRRED



I am thrilled to welcome Nancy back to my blog as part of her blog tour. Today she'll be discussing transitioning from the thriller genre to the romance genre with her new book, STIRRED. I really loved her new one. I think it has a little bit for everyone and I hope you'll check it out. You can read my review of it on Goodreads here.

And now, Nancy:


I’m so excited to be here to chat with you all about my newest book, Stirred, a contemporary erotic suspense and my first foray into real romance. My first two novels, The Mistaken and Leverage (books 1 and 2 of The Mistaken Series) are dark romantic thrillers, and although they revolve around the romance between the male and female protagonists, both books are thrillers at their core.

While chock full of suspense, Stirred is definitely a romance at heart. The plot is centered around the relationship between Eden MacLaird—a wealthy, forty-one-year-old owner of an elite Montessori school, as well as a newly-minted best-selling author of dark erotica—and Sean Bennett—a whip-smart, twenty-four-year-old grad student on the cusp of finishing law school.



Though Eden is sent reeling after discovering her husband’s lurid affair, she balks at getting even by equal measure. Sean’s persistent though, and shows her what she’s been missing for the last twenty years while married to a controlling sociopath. What starts out as an impulsive, one-time hook-up soon evolves into a full-fledged affair of the heart, until the unthinkable happens. Then, not only is Sean and Eden’s affair exposed, their lives and freedom are at stake. With so much on the line, can either of them be sure the other hasn’t set them up to take the fall?

With two dark romantic thrillers under my belt, I was nervous about changing genres, but the heat level in Leverage was considerably high and well-received, so I thought, why the hell not? I will admit, I was a bit uncomfortable at first as some of the language often seen in erotic romance is a little on the vulgar side for me, but I adapted. And while Stirred is erotic, it’s not erotica, where typically, the only plot is for the characters to have sex—not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just prefer more substance.

I think readers will appreciate how the progression of the relationship between Sean and Eden drives the suspense and plot forward, that although the love scenes are explicit, they are also tasteful, and, most importantly, directly affect the story and overall theme of trust. So I feel pretty comfortable with my shift from thriller chick to romance debutante, and I hope you do, too!



***
About Nancy:

Nancy is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband of 23 years, their son, a student at Seattle University, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. She works as a freelance editor for her publisher and writer friends and also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing or editing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

***
Get it here:

 Paperback
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Find out more about Nancy here and check out STIRRED on Goodreads:

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GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Shameless Promotion of My Fellow Authors: Nancy S. Thompson's New Release, STIRRED

I'm so very excited to tell you about STIRRED by Nancy S. Thompson. Nancy is one of my favorite authors. Period. (Disclaimer: Yes, we are good friends but it was actually Nancy's writing talent and her first novel, THE MISTAKEN that drew me to her in the first place. It was that book that made me feel like, "Wow! I need to know more about this lady!" A friendship developed.)

Anyway, her first two novels, which are brilliant, were dark romantic thrillers. They are two of my favorite thrillers. Her latest, STIRRED is a bit of a departure from those two in that it is more focused on the romantic and sexual relationship between the two main characters but it had more than enough suspense, mystery and intrigue to keep a finicky suspense/thriller reader (me) satisfied and turning pages well into the night.

So I say unto you: Go forth and buy STIRRED! It's out TODAY!!!!!



I will have Nancy back here on December 1st for a guest post. But until then, here's the skinny on this awesome book:

I’m Eden MacLaird, and Fate screwed me good at the age of twenty-one, stole my first love, then my first child. Twenty years later, I still haven't found my happily-ever-after. Sure, from the outside, I have it all, including Declan, my gorgeous, rich-as-sin husband. But things aren't what they seem, and catching Declan in bed with my best friend destroys any dreams I harbor for love, much less sexual fulfillment. 

Then in walks Sean Bennett...

Just months away from earning his post-graduate law degree, Sean's smart, driven, and serious, but an unexpected encounter between us in a bar one night changes everything. His best friend, Trinitee, warns against getting too involved, but the heat between us is beyond intense, and neither of us are willing to walk away. 

With my marriage in shambles, I'm eager to make a go of it with Sean, despite our sixteen-year age difference. But while I relish my sexual reawakening, I fear giving up the posh life I've grown accustomed to. That life, however, and everything in it, comes crashing down as bodies start piling up around us, and all clues point to me and Sean. 

Secrets, betrayal, and revenge threaten to destroy not just my carefully-crafted reputation, but my very life. With our freedom at stake, Sean and I join forces to uncover those plotting against us. But as doubt and evidence mount, I must choose: give in to my suspicions and save myself, or trust our new-found love and save us both.



***
About Nancy:

Nancy is a California transplant currently living in Seattle, Washington with her husband of 23 years, their son, a student at Seattle University, their giant snow dog, Jack, and his kitty, Skye. She works as a freelance editor for her publisher and writer friends and also has her own interior design business within the model home merchandising industry. When she's not writing or editing, Nancy keeps herself busy by cooking and baking.

***
Get it here:

 Paperback
***
Find out more about Nancy here and check out STIRRED on Goodreads:

***
GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shameless Promotion of Fellow Writers: R. Mac Wheeler's Newest!

Book 3 of the 6 Ways Series

At eighteen it’s tough to decide a life path when the threat of pandemic hangs over the world, your brother is the genius who engineered the plague, and you’re repeatedly drawn into the fight against the terrorists spreading it. Plenty of people would kill an Abernathy on sight so it would be wise for Mar to visit the dojo, otherwise play invisible, but her brother is manipulating her into another adventure.



If you haven't read Book 1 or 2, and like to start at the beginning...

BOOK 1
Alcoholic parents treated Margarite as an unwelcome stranger, then left her at fourteen with her thirty year old autistic brother. At sixteen, things really sour, thanks to her brother. A medical researcher, Reggie engineers the ultimate plague. Fanatics seek to control him. The government pursues them as terrorists. Margarite witnesses ruthlessness, compassion, and competence she couldn't imagine from her brother, but the world needs a miracle. The best she and Reggie can do is wing it.


BOOK 2
Nightmares. Panic attacks. Depression. Margarite is hammered by the typical issues of a seventeen year old loner, whose parents sympathized with insane people intending to collapse civilization. The few who care about Mar have more concerns. Her drinking. Fighting. Jumping out of airplanes.

Her brother engineered the plague that’s breaking out across the globe and she holds a little guilt for not stopping it. Or being one of the first to die. Still, conspirators behind what they call The Correction are not done with her.


The Author
R. Mac Wheeler writes about characters with a lot of baggage, men who make many men look like wimps, tough chicks that can whip most men...puts them in situations that push them to the edge...in worlds that don’t overly stretch the imagination.

A former IT professional,  he now focuses full time on suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and fantasy  that leverages the quirkiness and baggage of real life more often than the far fetched.

Visit his Home Page: WWW.RMACWHEELER.COM

Friday, September 18, 2015

Writing Tips from Author, Donna Huston Murray: The Best Advice You'll Ever Hear

I'm really excited to welcome author, Donna Huston Murray to my writing tips segment today. I met Donna at meetings for our local chapter of Sisters In Crime. She is so wonderfully gracious and kind and never gets annoyed with me for asking all kinds of questions. She is also immensely talented. I had the pleasure of reading her latest, What Doesn't Kill You earlier this year. It is truly fabulous. I love Donna's writing and to be honest, whenever I see her, I do have a little fangirl moment (on the inside, I don't want to embarrass myself!). Anyway, her post really resonates with me so I hope you'll find it useful as well.

Here's a bit about Donna:



Donna Huston Murray is the author of 10 mystery and suspense novels, including WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, the upcoming GUILT TRIP, and FINAL ARRANGEMENTS, which achieved #1 on Amazon in the Cozy Mystery and Female Sleuth categories.

Find out more at her website: http://www.donnahustonmurray.com

And here's Donna:

The Best Advice You’ll Ever Hear

Waiting at a stoplight, I amused myself by watching a guy saunter down the opposite sidewalk. He wore camouflage pants and was bow-legged as if he rode a motorcycle. When smoke blew into his eyes, his chin lifted with an attractive, alfa-male defiance. He seemed bemused, pleased with himself. I felt sure he was thinking about the night before, and it made me smile.

Since I write fiction, whether I was wrong or right really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was deliberately listening to my own thoughts. I recommend that you cultivate that habit, too. Here’s why:

Someone I know got married because he decided the woman he was dating would make a good wife. Yes, he may have had an inkling his reasoning was suspect; and yes, they are divorced. Clearly, this person talked himself into a bad decision. He could have prevented a lot of heartache had he been more inclined to acknowledge the nagging thoughts he allowed himself to ignore. We’ve all done it. Bought a dress we never wear. Sent an email we wish we could get back. Left that awful description in Chapter 3 just because it took so long to write.

Teaching yourself to avoid that sort of mistake is both difficult and easy. To start you simply tune into yourself as if you were a radio station, but instead of letting what’s going on in your head become mental wallpaper, you train yourself to notice what you’re thinking—whatever it is—more often.

The hope is that by recognizing more of your honest impressions, even if they are frivolous, you’ll be better prepared to acknowledge those uncomfortable or inconvenient thoughts—the ones, like it or not, you know to be true. And if that becomes a lifelong habit, theoretically you’ll be better equipped to make good decisions. Marry the right person, for instance. Choose the right career. Name your dog something you won’t mind shouting out the kitchen door for the next ten years.

In other words, the best advice you’ll ever hear just might be your own.

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Please check out Donna's latest book, WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU


Lauren Beck’s friends, phone, home, credit and credibility are gone, severed with surgical precision by an enemy intent on framing her for murder. Is it one of the insureds she was hired to investigate? The fellow employee she upstaged? Does the daughter of her landlady and dear friend, Corinne Wilder, hate her even more than she thought? Whoever targeted her should beware. A former cop and cancer survivor knows how to fight for her life.

Get it on Amazon now for only $2.99!