We Have a Winner in my Blog Comment Contest

I put all the names of people who have commented here in a hat and drew. And the winner of a signed copy of GONE FROM THESE WOODS is Patricia Cruzan! Congratulations, Pat! And thanks to all of you who have commented on this blog. I appreciate your support. Look for posts about other authors in the coming weeks, as well as frequent articles about what I’m reading and writing. Better go ahead and subscribe so you don’t miss anything!


Today was the official publication day for my debut novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS. I’ve received congratulations all day long from many different people and I appreciate everyone’s messages. Having your first book published by Random House after writing for over twenty years is totally WONDERFUL! I feel like the luckiest writer in the world!


Only four more days to go until publication of my debut novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS! Today, I’m going to talk about counseling, and more specifically about the school guidance counselor who inspired the counselor in my book who helps Daniel deal with the results of the horrible tragedy that happens in the woods.
Her name is Becky Kelley. She works at an Oconee County School, Malcom Bridge Elementary. I met with Becky one day about a year ago in her school office and we talked about my fictional character, Daniel, and how he could overcome and learn to live with what had happened to his beloved uncle.

Mrs. Hardy, the counselor in GFTW, first appears on page 36: “I’d like you to meet our school counselor, Lisa Hardy,” Mrs. Pettibone (Daniel’s teacher) added, gesturing toward the red-haired woman in a rumpled denim jacket.br /br /”I hope it’s okay for us to talk to Daniel now,” Mrs. Hardy said in a cheerful voice, making me sit up straight on the couch with her sharp, intelligent look.”

Here’s an excerpt from chapter fourteen, when Daniel goes back to school:

“The walls of Mrs. Hardy’s office were turquoise. At first I didn’t like the color. But the more I looked at it, the more it pulled me in, until I felt like I was standing in a big aquarium.

On the wall behind her desk hung a giant picture of a kid walking hand in hand with a woman who looked like his mom. In one corner, there was a kid-sized octagonal table and eight blue plastic chairs.

A futon with a wrinkled tan cover was next to the table. A bright yellow flower made from clay jutted from the wall over the futon. I could tell it was clay because the paint didn’t go all the way to the edges, leaving the rough orange clay exposed.

I walked over to the wall behind the table and studied a poster called “The Chart of Faces.” The heading was “Stages of Grief,” and each face had a different expression. The last face smiled at me.”

I smiled on my way home from my meeting with Becky Kelley. She was exactly the kind of counselor my imaginary boy Daniel needed to help him go on with his life. I think the advice Becky gave Daniel that day could help anyone dealing with grief and I thank her for sharing her expertise that day so I could weave it into my book and offer it to the world.



Today is August, 19, 2009, five days until the official publication of my debut novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS. Of course I’m getting excited and I hope you are, too.
In celebration of the publication, I’m going to talk today about the woods in GFTW. My inspiration for the woods in my book came from my early morning exercise walks around my neighborhood, and especially from my own yard. One of the reasons my family bought this 3 l/2 acres of property back in 1992 was the woods in the front yard. There’s a pine straw covered path through those front yard woods. We walked there when we were considering our purchase and felt as if we were walking in a secluded, private woods, even though the main road was close by. The tall pines, dotted with a few hardwoods, were (and are) home to three different kinds of woodpeckers, plus many other birds and other wildlife. The sounds of the trees, the scent of pine in the air — we found all this and more in our outdoor sanctuary. So, when I needed woods for my book setting, I found them in my own front yard.

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of chapter seven of GONE FROM THESE WOODS:

“The woods took me in, hiding me in pine-scented darkness as I ran, my moccasins crunching pinecones on the path, my ears full of night sounds from unseen animals.

After a while, I had to stop. Panting hard and hugging myself to keep warm, I strained my eyes, trying to see where I was. All around me, trees swayed, making soft sounds in the air, like they were breathing.

Somewhere up ahead, something — maybe an owl — screeched. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled. Maybe I should go back to the house . . .”

If you want to read more, pick up a copy of GONE FROM THESE WOODS starting August 25, 2009, at your local bookstore. If they don’t have GFTW in stock, ask them to order it, or order it yourself from your favorite online bookseller.

GONE FROM THESE WOODS: Six Days till Publication

Today I’m continuing to count down to the official publication date, August 25, 2009, for my debut novel, GONE FROM THESE WOODS, by writing a note. Today’s note is about the Tennessee connections in my book.
Daniel’s mom is a native of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, a real town near Chattanooga. Over 30 years ago, my parents and younger sister, Leanne, moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, about 30 or so miles from Chattanooga, when my dad was named postmaster there. This is where my Tennessee connection in GONE FROM THESE WOODS comes from. I’ve been visiting the area for many years and love the mountains and natural beauty there. And the beautiful town and road names, many from the area’s Indian heritage. Sadly enough, my mom and I follow some of the Trail of Tears route when we take the back way to Chattanooga for shopping at Hamilton Place Mall and McKay’s Used Bookstore. I always feel sadness when I see the historic maker on the side of the road and remember the history of that time.

In addition to the Tennessee native mom in my book and the town name, Soddy-Daisy, there are two Tennessee Road names transplanted into my Georgia setting: Mouse Creek Road and Hooper Gap Road. Sure, we have lots of great road names in Georgia, too. But I couldn’t resist “borrowing” some of the Tennessee names I’ve admired over the years for my debut novel.

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