In the tiny town of Shelley, Idaho, my grandparents owned a potato farm…and a bar. I was only four when I first ventured inside the kid-friendly pub, as it was the “Cheers” of our tiny town. I don’t remember singing along with the jukebox and becoming a crowd favorite, as rumored, but I’ll never forget how the place made me feel. Everyone there was a part of one big family—where people not only knew your name, but all your business too.
Those early, impressionable days became a part of my being, and something I definitely miss living in big cities, which I’ve done all of my adult life. Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Madrid. Now, I live in Atlanta, so bringing an imaginary small town to life in the charming state of Georgia brings me to the place where my heart lives.
The biggest thank yous go to the reasons I get up every morning—my husband, Dave, and my daughter, Alexa. I love you both to the moon and beyond. To Dave, my best friend, my biggest supporter, and my rock, thank you for everything. Always. To Alexa, I couldn’t be more proud of you, not just for all the gifts you have, but for your tenacity and kind-hearted soul. I lucked out getting the best kid in the universe. All my love and thanks to my writing and brainstorming partner, my biggest fan, and my example—my wingmom, Elaina. I love you, Mom. You’re the best mother anyone could ever have.
Many thank yous to Dad, Craig, who has always made sure I had everything I needed—love, encouragement, support, and more allowance than I ever earned. Thank you for setting an example and making sure I grew up happy and so truly loved. To Terry Ann, my step-mother who supported me through those tough teenage years and showed me how to fall in love with books. And a big thanks goes to my mother in law, Philippa Strum, who’s encouragement, editing, and example made me believe this was possible. Thank you to my in-laws, Herbert and Sevana, who read my earliest works when they were not a joy to read. An ocean of thanks to my sisters, Christina and Paris, who have supported me every step since my very first one. A thanks with a cherry on top to Christina, who has powered through my books and encouraged me. Love you, my sisters.
Endless thanks to the people who are, officially, my critique partners. Unofficially, they are my inspirations, my personal therapists, my cheerleaders, and my good friends.
To the Sassy Scribblers. Shelby Van Pelt, Deena Short, Jill Cobb, Brenda Lowder, and Jenny Ling. Shelby, who I call Merlin the Writing Magician, puts life into my books and fun into my life. I’m beyond thrilled that the world will get to enjoy her magic now too. She’s one of the biggest influences on the writer I am today, and an inspiration for the writer I hope to become. She provides continuous support—day or night. Unfortunately for her, I utilize this. Shelby, thank you for being my friend. Deena, the master of conflict and characterization, is a real-life superhero. Her powers include, but are not limited to, taking books to the next level and reading through countless pages, more times than anyone should. She also keeps me on track and answers my constant barrage of emails, with pep. Jill, who makes me laugh harder than anyone ever has with her writing, is always there for an honest critique, any question—writing related or not—and sage advice. I can only hope that someday I’ll be as funny and talented as she is. To Brenda, who I follow like a duckling, hoping to imprint her talent and wild success and talent onto myself. (Hey, it’s worth a try.) Thank you for being such an inspiration and showing me how successful self-publishing can be. To Jenny, who shows me that it’s possible to break every writing rule there is and still knock it out of the park. A true gift. And a big thanks to her constant support and plotting sessions, which I so desperately need. (Always).
To Tory Bunce, the wisest and kindest soul, who’s my brilliant partner in crime. Tory, you are like family to me, and it’s hard for me to imagine the days when I didn’t know you. You always say what I’m thinking before I do, a level of understanding of me that makes me feel I’ve known you my whole life and beyond. May we take over the world some day (which we will, together I’m sure!), preferably not in our volunteering t-shirts.
To Grace Wynter, who believed in me before I believed in myself. She shares her countless gifts with me, which has made me a better writer, a better marketer, and a better human. She’s that person that teaches me something new—about writing, self-publishing, the world, beyond the world—every time I interact with her. Grace, thank you for caring so much about me that you have those hard conversations with me. You’ve opened my eyes to experiences beyond my own. And I know with all my heart you will get precisely the success you deserve: all of it.
To Katina Ferguson, who, from day one, taught me how to be a writer and set an example of how to be a good person and a better friend. She’s a rare gem who’s book smart and street smart. She’s a natural-born leader, something I’ll never be, but she always inspires me. She also makes me pick up the phone and actually talk to someone instead of texting. Katina, thank you for being there when I need it most, and talking to me for hours at a time. I always treasure our meaningful, honest, and heartfelt conversations, probably more than you’ll ever know.
To Eliza Peake, for always being there with a listening ear, a huge heart, and the answers to my endless questions. She knows everything self-publishing, and I don’t know where I’d be without her help managing this quagmire of a thing that is Indie publishing. Eliza, I’m so truly glad we’re friends, you were certainly the best thing to come from that wild ride of a contest we ran together. You made it all worth it.
To Deb Lacativa, the talented writer and friend who’s never afraid to give me the kick in the pants when I need it. She’s an inspiration. Deb, thank you for sharing all your wisdom—about books, life, and otherwise.
I don’t know what I’d do without each and every one of you. I can only raise a glass, preferably filled with alcohol, to toast the luck of having such amazing people as my people.
To Curt Shannon, who’s been pivotal in my growth as an author, especially with male characters, who, at times, weren’t very male-like. And thanks to many of the members of Atlanta Writes who are good critique partners and folks to share a coffee or drink with. To DeShawn Raines, Micheal Bernhart, Evan Tyler, Jyll Thomas, Jake Miller, and the rest of the AW crew.
To those amazing writers who have helped, supported, and inspired me—Mel Todd, Roger Johns, Kay Heath, Sarah Zureick-Brown.
To my beta readers, especially who had those early versions (bless your hearts). I can only be eternally grateful. John Carlisle, Linda Clompton, and Adrianna de la Torriente.
A gigantic thank you to my wonderful and amazing editors, The Happily Editing Anns, Reina from Rickrack Books, and Anna from Victory Editing.